Thursday, December 13, 2018

How to have minimalist (and environmentally friendly) holiday season

If you are like me, the holidays can really invoke stress and anxiety. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the holidays and everything (mostly) that surrounds them. I look forward to November and December, the parties, the food, the socializing, and the merriment. What I do not look forward to is the consumerism, the waste, and my personal overwhelmed feelings around clutter. As much as I love Christmas decorations, they overwhelm the crap out of me! They make the space feel extra cluttered at a time of the year when you are mostly inside anyway. And since having a child, this has gotten even worse. I think my number one reason in striving for a minimalist lifestyle stems from clutter/stuff and the stress and anxiety it makes me feel. I cannot function around so much stuff.


So that brings me to ways that I have developed and continue to develop in order to keep the holidays simple and fairly minimal. (Disclaimer: I am not a real 100% minimalist, though I do my best.)

Christmas Tree:
-Buy a fake tree and use it year after year. This saves the trees and allows you to select whatever size tree you prefer. For us, it is a small tree we keep in the back of our closet. In past years we had a real tree, but due to Andy's allergies and his environmentalist push (he does work in solar energy after all), we went the fake tree route and have been happy with it. (You can still go to a Christmas tree farm, take pictures, drink cocoa, and soak up the merriment without ever cutting a tree down.)


Decorations:
-Get ONE rubbermaid container and use that as your limit for holiday decorations and "stuff". I only have as many decorations as will fit into my rubbermaid. I bought the container for holiday decorations and if I acquire more decorations and they don't fit, then something else has to go. I have a strict one storage container rule for decorations.


Wrapping Gifts:
-Use newspaper. Wrapping paper is bought by the hoards only to be ripped, crumpled, and thrown into the trash. I bet most people don't even recycle it! Newspaper, or those grocery store ads that come in the mail are not only free, but are papers that have already been recycled. If you feel the need to jazz it up add a flashy bow, then save the bow to use again next year after the gift has been opened.


Door Wreath:
-Make your own from foraged greenery outside. Or, use a regular everyday wreath and just slap a red bow on it. When the holidays are over just take the bow off and continue using your wreath.


Gifts:
-This one really gets me going! As much as I love to give and receive gifts, the consumerism kills me. In fact, Andy and I haven't bought Hazel any Christmas gifts until this year because we knew she'd get gifts from other family members. (And she was/is too young to really care.)
So here are some less consumerist gift giving ideas:

  • White elephant - my family does white elephant but with nice gifts. Everyone has a $25 limit to buy one nice gift that most family members would enjoy. Then, on Christmas morning we play White Elephant. It is always so much fun, it involves great, often hilarious interactions with each other, and in the end everyone walks away with a nice gift. (Usually kids are excluded from this and everyone has the option to buy them individual gifts. Not ideal, but it works.)
  • Draw a name - then you are only buying a gift for that one person.
  • Draw a name thrift store version - this is what Andy's family does when the extended family visits for Christmas. Everyone draws a name, then we load up into cars and spend a few hours at one or two thrift stores. We each have a $15 limit to find our person something we think they would like. After the gifts are wrapped and given, we have the option to trade or re-donate the gifts back to the thrift store if we don't like them.
  • Thrift store gifts - only buy gifts from the thrift store. This year we bought Hazel gifts for the first time and they came from the thrift store! We found some really great games that weren't even opened yet.
  • Donate money or time instead of giving gifts.
  • Give gift certificates for experiences or subscriptions.
  • Use the 3 gift rule - Give something they want + need + wear or read. This is what Andy I usually do for each other.
  • Give one really nice gift. Andy and I did this last year and will do it again this year. 
  • Give food - this could be in the form of a gift certificate to a nice restaurant, or a subscription to a food service like Sunbasket. Or, just fill a stocking full of fun and unique food items. Andy and I like to shop at an international food store to find unique food stocking stuffers for each other.
  • Give handmade gifts - get crafty, go on pinterest and find a batch of something to make and give to everyone on your list. I have a friend that gets homemade vanilla from her brother every Christmas. My mom always sends a little box of homemade snacks, jewelry, and other fun things for Christmas. One year she made us cloth napkins with artsy napkin holders that represented each of us.

So try out one or all of these ways to keep the holidays minimal. Then, spend your days eating great food and having quality time with the people you love.


Monday, September 24, 2018

Hello world, I have ADHD!


You read the title correct, I have ADHD. I was just diagnosed after a year of trying to figure out "what the heck is wrong with me?".
          According to add.org: "AD[H]D is a brain-based syndrome that has to do with the regulation of a particular set of brain functions and related behaviors. These brain operations are collectively referred to as “executive functioning skills” and include important functions such as attention, concentration, memory, motivation and effort, learning from mistakes, impulsivity, hyperactivity, organization, and social skills. There are various contributing factors that play a role in these challenges including chemical and structural differences in the brain as well as genetics."


Within the last YEAR- I have moved from the countryside to Harrisonburg, started seeing a therapist, thought I had depression, tried depression meds but they didn't do anything, continued therapy, applied to UVA for a masters in teaching on a whim, got in, moved to Charlottesville, completed an intense accelerated semester of grad school, quit grad school, got hired at an inner city school for teaching special-ed, moved to DC, had a terrible time as a special-ed teacher, quit, and now here I am. This is how my whole adult life has unfolded.
I have jumped from one job, one aspiration, one business, one degree or grad program to another. I have done some awesome things like working on a farm, teaching English in South Korea, managing a Pilates studio, starting and running a chocolate business and a photography business, and taking care of alzheimer's patients through home healthcare.


Since I was a kid, I have always felt different. I chalked it up to my childhood growing up in Papua New Guinea. I have always been a great observer of people though, so I observed and followed the social norms that I saw. Being a good kid was important to me, so I did my best to behave and act like other kids. School was fun not because of classes, but because of the extra curriculars that I overachieved in. I never once studied in high school due to it being "boring". I got by with good grades through having general smarts. In college, I tried to study but found it terrible, soul crushing, and boring. I ended up finding the most creative and active classes that I could, in order to make it to graduation. There was one semester I was failing everything, so I dropped all but two classes. Focusing on only two classes helped me bring my grades up. That delayed my graduation by a semester, but luckily I was able to walk through graduation with everyone else. It was a relief to be done with college. I felt immense guilt, frustration, and lack of academic confidence in college, yet I never sought help because it was embarrassing to admit that I was struggling.


And so the story goes...I excel in the things I am interested in, and everything else goes by the wayside. This is one of the biggest hallmarks of ADHD in adults. When I was diagnosed, one of the three evaluating psychiatrist's said to me: "I can't believe you haven't been diagnosed until now!" The reason though, is because I am not obviously hyperactive. Most girls/women with ADHD go undiagnosed due to compensating for and covering up their symptoms. Which is exactly what I did as a kid in order to fit in.


So that leaves me here, once again wondering what to do with my life. I have learned that adults with ADHD get things done based on high interest or urgency. Paperwork- no way, emptying the dishwasher- no way, researching adult ADHD- yes, for hours at a time, spilled a glass of milk- I'm on it, and I may just clean the rest of the floor while I'm at it. So that's me, functioning on high interest or urgency. Andy says: "so it's like you are a cave man, you are only interested in the things that are going to benefit you or keep you out of danger". He also made an interesting point: "It's as though your brain is primitive and hasn't evolved like the rest of us". Maybe...?


So now that I have a name for being impulsive, overly sensitive, often bored, talkative, full of ideas yet low on motivation, lacking concentration, easily distracted, and all the other traits that make me- me, I have to figure out how to work with it. I am determined not to let this be an excuse, but rather a work in progress. I need to come up with techniques to help me do life better. I feel relief, but I also feel lost. And that folks...is my current truth.


[Side note: I want to thank Andy for dealing with me through years of indecisiveness, over 18 moves (though some of those were due to his career), my crazy moods, my impulsive decisions, and so many other quirks, oddities, and whims I've had. I truly could not have a better partner.]


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Isla Mujeres, Mexico (a guide of sorts)

We have now traveled to Isla Mujeres twice because it is such a fun easy place to go. Flights to Cancun are also incredibly cheap, at least from the DC area. (I'm talking $200 round trip.) Since coming back from the island this time, I have had an overwhelming response from people wanting to know more. So, here are a few things that we have found helpful and/or experienced on Isla Mujeres.


Travel
Getting to Isla Mujeres can be a bit tricky. There is an easy way and a more challenging/exciting way. You could always just fly into Cancun and take a taxi to Puerto Juarez, then catch the boat to the island. Or...you could hop on a bus from the airport into Cancun Central. The buses gather outside the airport, so it is easy to catch one. Make sure you have pesos though, because you'll pay in pesos before getting on. This bus ride is 30 minutes. Once at Cancun Central Station, head outside of the bus station to the main road. Start asking around for Puerto Juarez and soon people will guide you across the street where you will take the number 6 bus. The front of it should say Puerto Juarez along with a few other places. Once you catch the number 6 bus it takes about 15 minutes to get to the port. When the bus arrives at the port it will look like a hotel. You walk through a parking deck (there should be signs for the port) and will arrive at Puerto Juarez. When you buy a ticket for Isla Mujeres it is a round trip ticket, so be sure to store the other half in a safe place for your return. The boat takes about 30 minutes. Once on the island you can take a taxi to your hotel.


Hotel
Most of the hotels are on the North Island, while the resorts are on the South Island. We like to stay in a hotel because it allows us to get out and see more of the island and culture. The hotel we like to stay at is called Hotel Cabanas Maria del Mar. ($75-$130/night depending on when you go.) It is located on the nicest beach (in my opinion) of the island. The hotel is pretty basic. It is composed of a few different buildings (or cabanas) with hotel rooms. Each room/cabana contains a basic bathroom, fan, air conditioner, tv, and small fridge. The rooms are not exciting or luxurious, but they all have a great porch for outside lounging. The hotel grounds consist of beautiful gardens and a pool. The beach is directly in front of the hotel. Next to the hotel (and on the beach) is a swing bar and restaurant. The hotel gives you a free breakfast voucher for the restaurant every morning which consists of coffee, orange juice, and toast. Aside from that you can order more, or go elsewhere for breakfast. For lunch, I recommend their fish tacos. The restaurant also has a treehouse platform where they have 3 yoga classes a day.




Golf Carts
The primary mode of transportation on the island is golf cart. The island only takes about an hour and a half to get around, so renting a golf cart to explore is a must! We have always rented our golf cart at our hotel. You can have it for the day for about $50, and you will need a drivers license.


"Town"
If you stay on the North Island, the main part of town will only be a few blocks away. We always enjoy going into "town" for dinner and ice cream. On the main strip you can find just about any type of restaurant and food. Asian, Italian, Mexican, seafood, vegetarian...etc. Most of the seating is on the street, so you can enjoy people watching and various street performers and musicians. In this same area there are also lots of little shops. You can buy souvenirs, bathing suits, hats, sandals, sarongs etc. At the very end of the street you will find the town square. Local street venders like to set up there, and it is always fun to try their foods. That is also where the grocery store is located. The grocery store is great for sunscreen, beach toys, beverages, and snacks. We usually stock our fridge with drinks and snacks at the beginning of the week. That way we can sit on our porch at the end of the day and have a cool drink before heading out to dinner.



To Do
Even though Isla Mujeres is a small island, there can be a lot to do if you look for it.
Rent a golf cart - already mentioned above
Beach bar hop - if you walk along the beach you can find all sorts of fun little beach bars
Snorkeling/diving - there's a variety of this around the island
Turtle Refuge - you can take a taxi or golf cart and check out all the turtles
Dolphin Discovery First off, you have to pay for this. You can either pay to swim with the dolphins, or you can pay to enter the resort for the day. If you pay to enter the resort for the day it is about $30/per person, but that includes towels, all you can eat AND drink. Plus, you can walk out to where they are doing dolphin stuff and watch from the docks.
Ruins - at the very south end of the island there are a few small ruins and some fun trails to walk right along the cliff and water. ($5 entrance)
The Joint - this is a Rasta bar that you will no doubt drive past if you rent a golf cart. I HIGHLY recommend this place. They have the best/strongest drinks on the island and all of their food is great. Plus, they have a fun atmosphere.
Day Resorts these are scattered around the island and each offer different things. Some have water slides, others have snorkeling and stand up paddle boarding options. Some are free entrance and you pay for food and drink, others are a fee but everything is included for the day.













Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Spray Tan - I tried it


I am probably late to the game on this one, but figured I would write about my experience anyway. So I got a spray tan! Since getting skin cancer a few years ago, I have been trying to stay out of the sun. This means that I am pasty white all summer. I should care more about my life than being vain, but I love the summer glow that a tan gives. Recently, before a vacation, I was discussing this with a friend and she said I should get a spray tan. Duh! Why have I not thought of this before?!

Where I stood for the spray tan.
So I made an appointment! When I showed up it was a young girl, maybe 20 years old who was my spray lady. (Is that what they are called??) After discussing colors, we settled on a medium brown that she would mix specifically for my skin type. Then, she told me I could get naked, or wear my underwear. I opted to wear my underwear. She gave me large black stickers to put on the bottoms of my feet. After that I rubbed a special lotion on the palms of my hands and tops of my feet.

Just after getting sprayed.
She said she was going to do a few different sprays. The first spray would be to prime my skin. The second spray would be tanner. And the third spray would set everything. So, with my arms and legs spread out she started the spraying. After doing the front side I would turn around, stick out my butt, and she would spray my back side.

The room. It was dark with very intense lights shining on me.
The whole process was quite interesting and a bit nerve wracking. I'm not going to lie, I got the nervous farts. Let's just say it was a good thing that sprayer was loud, because I was tooting those nervous farts the whole time.

This is the tanning machine. It was very loud.
From start to finish the whole process took about an hour and cost me $50. At the end of it all, I was told not to wear a bra for the rest of the day. I was also not supposed to shower for 6-8 hours. This left me sticky and free-boobing it all day. Had I known this, I think I would have gone later in the day, rather than first thing in the morning.

This was immediately after being sprayed. I was glowy and sticky.
Overall, it was a positive experience and the tan worked! I smelled like coconut for about a week, and that is also how long the tan lasted. I was able to stay out of the sun AND still show off a tan. I don't know if I would do something like this all summer long, but I'll definitely do it again before a vacation.

All tan, yet safely shaded on the beach.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Complications of Motherhood


This blog post is being written as a procrastination to writing a literary analysis on Hamlet for a literature class I am taking right now. How is it that whenever I have a lot to do, I end up doing none of the important stuff, and instead, find my way back to things like this blog? I am going to blame it on my unruly mind.

It has been a long time since I have written anything here. Motherhood, life, and depression have consumed me. I have lacked creativity, drive, and passion. That is something that I hoped I would never say. Creativity, drive, and passion have always been the core of my being, so to be without those has been like wandering in a cold, dry desert. To my recent realization though, this is quite normal for moms! How did I not know this?! Probably because people don't talk about it. Admitting that you are struggling is one of the hardest things to say.

There is a lot of talk about postpartum depression and even postpartum anxiety (I struggled with this), but there doesn't seem to be much talk of general motherhood depression. Maybe it is just a known fact? Maybe I am naive to these things? It is interesting though, because the more brave I get about mentioning my depression to people, the more I hear other moms saying the exact same thing! I had no idea that so many people I know are on medication, or in therapy. I will admit to being one of those people now. In fact, going to therapy has helped me realize all of this, and has given me the strength to speak up. I am struggling. There, I said it.

My child is over 2 1/2  years old, so I figured I would have things figured out by now. I don't. In fact, I feel more lost than ever. In the beginning of motherhood I felt like I had lost my identity due to life being centered around my child rather than myself. I got used to that and I grew into the new "normal" for my life. Somewhere along the way though, I started descending. Down, down, down. All of a sudden I felt like I had no purpose. My child is no longer a needy baby. She can dress herself and feed herself. So where does that put me? All of a sudden I needed a new purpose, but I have struggled to find it.

Upon mentioning this struggle for purpose to other people, I have realized that I am not the only one. A LOT of mom's struggle with this. Some go back to work, but struggle with their new role as mom and professional. Some stay at home and have more kids, but I've heard from friends that this just delays their need to find purpose. Then, there are some like me, who are at home part time, and then part time trying to figure out what the next step in life is. I cannot be a stay-at-home-mom, I just don't have what it takes. But, I also don't have a career. This puts me into limbo, thus the down, down, down.

As spring comes though, I feel a newness in the air. Spring for me has always felt like a fresh start. What will I make of this spring? How can I simplify my life and dig myself out of this deep, desert-like ditch? I honestly don't know, but I do know that writing this here and talking about my struggle helps. So here's to speaking my truth and helping others speak their truths too. As moms, lets start these conversations and make them ok things to talk about. Let's help each other get into therapy and take meds if need-be. Nothing is wrong with that. We need to remember that taking care of ourselves is necessary and important.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Take Me Home Country Roads!


We have done it again, we've moved! I know our moves are old news because they seem to happen every 6 months or so, but hopefully this is the last move for a while. We have been searching the past few years for a property with acreage so we can start a little homestead, and we have finally found that property!

We've moved back to the Shenandoah Valley and are so excited to call Linville, Virginia our home now! It is a property with 6.5 rolling acres. We also have a (distant) view of the mountains bordering West Virginia. Our hope is to grow a giant garden, get chickens, sheep, maybe pigs, maybe a cow, plant a variety of apple trees and grape vines, and get some wildflowers growing in the unused "meadow".

We have big hopes and plans, but of course no experience, so this will all be trial and error for us. And of course with everything, this will all take time. This year we are focusing on a small garden and hopefully chickens.

We have named the "farm" Whimsy Acres and I have started a separate Instagram account to document the property's beauty and of course our experiences. Feel free to follow the Instagram account: whimsyacresva. Also, I hope to write more about it here along with pictures. What an adventure we have gotten ourselves into!





Thursday, March 23, 2017

Millennial Motherhood


A while ago a friend of mine posted an article about why millennials are refusing to have kids and I read it, enjoyed it, and agreed with a lot of it. What I didn't agree with though, was the part where they said:

"Not all women are preprogrammed with maternal instincts."

You see, I WAS pre-programmed with maternal instincts. My dolls were my babies growing up, my younger brother was my baby growing up, and at a ripe young age of probably 6 I remember begging my mom to have more babies so that I could take care of them. Yep, that was me. Obviously I grew out of that baby obsession long enough to make it through high school and college, plus 6 years of marriage, but that was as long as I could last.

When I turned 30 I could take it no more, the urge to procreate was strong and I finally gave in. I had a baby for selfish reasons, curious reasons, and biological reasons. It all seemed like a happy-go-lucky great idea at the time. That was well before the reality of blow out diapers, colic, breastfeeding struggles, sleep depravation, body exhaustion, toddler messes, screaming tantrums, etc...had time to take root in my life. Well...I've had a good solid year and a half of those things and I am drained! Exhausted. Pooped.

I was sure that the maternal instinct that I mentioned above would make it IMPOSSIBLE to stop having babies. I was convinced that I'd have one and that would fan my fire to have more and more. I'd start a whole farm with the fruits of my loins! Before having a child I could see it well and clear, Andy and me, and our house full of children all happily and peacefully running around while we had tons of creative energy.

These days the story is very different! I am so thankful that times have changed and I, in fact, do NOT need (or want) to have any more children, (despite the occasional baby-fever.) Like the Millennials article mentions, times have changed and children are no longer needed for populating the earth and helping to farm the family land.

My maternal and biological instinct does not need to rule my life. I can rule my life and make the decisions that are best for ME. And I am realizing/have realized just how draining children are. I love my child, but she drains me. Any creative, healthy energy that I have is absorbed by taking care of her. She has taken over my life. It is exciting to see her grow and develop, but along the way I can't help but feel like I am losing myself. Where have my hopes and dreams and creativity gone? What about my social life and career aspirations? This millennial mother is exhausted!