I'm a mom, a wife, and a part-time college instructor of writing. Our household is focused upon God and family. We work hard to respect God's creation and nurture creativity & learning in all that we do.
Today, I am giving thanks for sunshine and warm temperatures after many gray, cold days. We took a big walk with the dogs, and we made a trip to our neighborhood Little Free Library. (We washed our hands afterward.)
Everyone was in a good mood! It’s hard to be grumpy when the weather feels perfect and an outing was much needed.
I also want to say THANK YOU to YOU! I have been back to weekly blogging for over a month, and I have loved your warm welcome. I love knowing that someone is reading! Some of you have been part of my little audience from the very beginning, and others are new. I am grateful that you are here, learning and growing alongside me and my family.
We are in the middle of winter when days can seem awfully dark. Here in western Pennsylvania, skies are gray, gray, gray. Add in almost a year of a pandemic and a contentious political climate, and a gloomy attitude is totally warranted. We each experience difficult times differently, and those emotions are valid.
I feel the heaviness, too. However, I was built to be optimistic. I experience grief and sadness acutely, but I seem to be hardwired to find a silver lining, to look on the bright side, and to push my rose-colored glasses up my noes and get on with it. I am a sensitive person, but I also go through life assuming things will get better and all things are temporary.
Social media during the quarantine taught me a new concept: toxic positivity. Truthfully, the term scared me! Was I toxic? When I point out a potential good side effect of a terrible event, am I dismissing others’ experiences? Am I indicating with my own rosy outlook that my way is the best way or only way? I certainly hope not!
My work as a doula is all about encouraging new or expectant parents to examine emotions and own their experiences. I am teaching people to value their needs and to advocate for those needs. Through out this pandemic, I have been afraid to voice my experience for fear of splashing my “toxic positivity” all over my friends and family. Messy stuff.
And then a thought occurred to me. Toxic positivity is real, but it is also a concept that comes out of world that has been hurt and shamed for all kind of things. The term itself shamed me! I started to examine the many things I say from a very genuine place, and I can’t let this word, this worldly term, take away my joy or the joy that I share with others.
I will continue to be mindful, of course, to let people claim their experiences and dig into the ramifications of them. But I will not hide my light and my good cheer. Mathew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (ESV) God put a certain kind of light inside of me. I have experienced people noticing ME and being encouraged by who I am, and I have also felt the twinge of being pushed aside because my cheerful ways bring out something different–not so positive–in someone else. As a people-pleaser, not connecting with someone feels like a major FAIL, but I know that the Lord doesn’t want me to hide my light under a basket, especially when that feels like the easy thing to do.
Our family appreciates coziness and downtime. I wrote about it a little bit here in a previous post. We love our home (in all its imperfection), and I think most of my gang would choose home over any other place. This was confirmed in a sweet little moment we had last Sunday.
I was in the kitchen with my nine-year-old daughter and twelve-year-old son, making a very typical lunch of grilled cheese and soup. My daughter asked, “Mommy, what was your favorite age?” I named a few that I liked — 11, 17, 26, 30. She seemed satisfied with my quick descriptions of these important years in my life. Then her brother chimed in. He responded sincerely, “I liked 11 best because we got to do the quarantine.”
GOTto do the quarantine.
My boy wasn’t being cheeky. For him, the quarantine was fun! We played more games, watched more movies, and even bought a virtual reality headset for which he had pined for over a year. More importantly, the best thing that has happened to him in his young life was a nationwide quarantine that gave him permission to stay home and just be–to enjoy his room and his Legos, to stop having his mom nagging him to hurry all the time, to get his shoes, to find his jacket, and to go out to some place he didn’t really want to go or some activity he didn’t really want to do.
Maybe we can learn from a twelve year old’s perspective. Certainly, I understand the complexities of the shutdown more than my son does. I understand the losses that many people experienced–the loss of health, the loss of loved ones, the loss of “normal,” the loss of financial security. With those losses come many valid emotions of grief and fear. This is the reality, and it is on-going.
Despite the difficulty this pandemic has presented, I experienced an unprecedented stillness that allowed me to think. Why have I not valued my need (and clearly my child’s need) for downtime and solitude until the world gave me “permission” to do so? Why have I always scolded myself for not really wanting to hang out with friends or go out to dinner when home seemed so much more inviting? Why have I decided to ignore comfort for all the “shoulds”? Why did it take a PANDEMIC to make it okay for me to value downtime with my snuggly kiddos and recognize that as a real NEED in my life? Not just a preference, a need.
I have learned that our brains need periods of relative inactivity in order to form memories. Our brains can consume and consume and consume, but if we don’t sleep or have periods of “wakeful rest,” that information will not become part of our long-term memory (“Mental Down Time Affects Learning,” Psychology Today).
For me and probably others, the pandemic and its subsequent shut down, allowed a kind of hibernation that opened my eyes to the need for quiet. I live with five active children. Obviously, I don’t mean quiet like a hushed library. I mean a state of not being socially taxed, a time of not taking in every headline, Facebook post, and news broadcast at any and all hours of the day. Yes, I am an introvert, and that fact becomes more and more obvious as I grow older. But I believe the lesson I learned is bigger than just my enjoyment of occasional solitude. I am off balance if I consume but do not rest, and I am finally realizing that I need to deeply examine why I so easily set aside my needs when faced with probably imaginary pressures to be more social or more…something…
It is almost laughable that I needed a world-wide virus to show me that it is okay to speak up for my needs, and as I navigate a half-open world with the virus still doing its thing out there, I am getting more and more practice at standing up for what my family and I need. As of this publication, it still isn’t easy.
A few years ago, I shared my journey back toward simple living. I thought I had finally found the motivation, the resources, and the overall wisdom to declutter FOR GOOD. I was excited and relieved to finally be on the right path. You can read those posts here:
Here I am five and half years later, and I am still struggling with this area of my life. I love simple spaces. I love the idea of living more fully with less stuff. At the moment, I have one decluttered space in my home — the master bedroom. It is my favorite place. It is my refuge, and the thought of having other rooms where I can rest and enjoy my family is pure bliss.
I certainly have moments where I wallow in discouragement (it was tough seeing that those posts were written in 2015!), but I am never one to stay there long. Instead of moaning about the fact that over five years have passed and I am still struggling with clutter, I am ready to dig in! My first blog post of each month will be about my pursuit of a simpler life with fewer belongings and less stress. I believe these steps are necessary for my family’s mental, physical, and spiritual health.
I know I can’t do this alone. I have a few tools in place to help me make progress.
I turn to YouTube for BIG motivation. My favorites are The Minimal Mom and Natalie Bennett. The videos themselves get me all excited! The comment sections on these two channels are full of positivity and great tips.
I joined a community on Instagram. At the beginning of 2021, I decided it was time to get serious. I joined a lovely group of women called the Minimalist Mom Community, and I have been turning to those gals for support and encouragement. You don’t have to have “made it” to minimalism to join, and I am certainly not there! Yet I feel a sense of belonging that has been incredibly helpful and reassuring.
My dear friend Karen runs a “Clutter Club” within our sorority chapter. She sends an email each day with a task to conquer. These daily reminders of the ever-present work of decluttering drive home the fact that this process isn’t about the big finale–it’s about the little steps forward.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by your belongings or maybe an overfilled schedule, join me!
I have this little fear that is always with me. I fear that I am not a “fun mom.” When my oldest boys were tiny, I was most definitely a fun mom. I neglected every chore for a chance to play with my kids. After dinner, we never cleaned up. We played! We usually plopped on the floor with Little People and cardboard swords. Sometimes we sat around the table with paper, scissors, glue, and Play-Doh. When I got home from my grad school classes or teaching freshmen how to write essays, I dropped everything to play and read with my two sweet boys.
But now…there is always a chore to do, and waiting until after bedtime simply isn’t an option! I’m too tired. When someone wants to play, there is always a sibling to take my place in Candy Land. And brothers and sisters are more fun than me anyway. When we go on an outing (pre-COVID), I’m the one shouting out orders or making sure nobody leaves a hat or water bottle somewhere. I’m not the fun one.
I also have this little voice in my mind that tells me that because I’m with my kids almost 100% of the time anyway, they don’t need my direct attention. I’m a mostly stay-at-home-mom, so they certainly get more of me than they would if I were working. Right? I’m learning that the answer is WRONG. A mom who scurries around cleaning all day or has her face in front of a computer is not the same as a mom who looks into her children’s eyes, puts on silly costumes, and plays endless games of Go Fish. That’s the mom I want to be.
I’m trying though! I want my grown children to remember that they were more important that clear countertops or an empty sink. (Besides, my countertops are rarely clean anyway! Who am I kidding?)
I said YES to sledding when we had a nice big snow before Christmas. I insisted that Charlotte take pictures to prove that I can be a fun mom, too. This is important! It is as important to me as anything else I do to create a healthy, safe, and memorable childhood for my children.
I am trying to embrace my kids’ interests, even going as far as joining Fletcher in his sword lessons (which I love!) and having a lovely hand-me-down flute refurbished so that I can learn along with Charlotte. I am trying to show my whole family (husband included!) that being with them is better than any task I could complete. If COVID has shown me anything, it has taught me that home with my crew is my favorite place to be. Now I need to simply demonstrate that with real action that they can see and feel.
I am a fan of COZY. Like a paint-yourself-all-over, throw-some-confetti, and wear-a-crazy-hat kind of fan! I love tea, blankets, slippers, and jammies. I love fireplaces, potbelly stoves, and candles. I love snowy days and gray skies, mittens, scarves, and tossle caps. Snow and ice might not seem cozy, but for me, all the cold, wet things outside simply act as crisp backdrops to all the wonderful, warm things inside. They make the tea and slippers necessary and appreciated. When winter shows up, I’m ready and waiting!
Today felt like a perfect winter day. We woke up to a light layer freshening up the weekend’s snow. The morning gave us pretty sunshine that glinted on the new snow and seemed to cut straight through our sunroom windows. I, a forty-one year old woman, did a little spin where the rays of light dappled the hardwood floor. My fifteen year old laughed at me as he did his Chemistry lesson, and I didn’t mind one bit!
We jumped into our school day–everyone in jammies. We sat around our dining room table, and I noticed that the little tea roses I bought spontaneously on Friday are opening and doing their part to brighten our home. The three older kids had music lessons over Zoom this afternoon, so our house was also filled with the sounds of a young fiddler, a pianist, and a flute player.
I stepped outside only once to feed the chickens. I crunched my way up to the coop in my “chicken boots,” breathing deeply and savoring the clean air. I took the moment to feel the sharp contrast between a snuggly day indoors and the sharpness of January air. It’s a good juxtaposition. A comfortable place. I blew out a breath and turned back toward the door where the smells of dinner cooking invited me inside.
Welcome back to Warm As Pie. When I posted in July of 2019, I did not anticipate that I wouldn’t come back until 2021. I did not anticipate that in the meantime, our world would experience a pandemic that would change life for every single one of us in some way.
So many days during our lockdown, I thought about writing on this blog. I wanted to record our experience and remember the strange time of quarantine. But…it felt complicated. I realized pretty early on that I was not having the same experience as my friends and the rest of the world. I worried that my cheery posts about board games and pajama parties and learning the cello would only hurt the feelings of folks who experienced job-loss, illness, and fear. I learned a lot through 2020, and perhaps I will share some of those lessons here and there. But I am cognizant of the fact that my joy can exacerbate others’ pain, and that is the last thing I wish to do.
What have we been up to? In the last few years, some things have definitely changed. When I started this blog in 2009, I was a grad student in Education with two very small boys. Now, I am a professional birth doula with five wonderful kids. Those tiny boys are 15 and 12! My baby girl is 4 years old. Ack. I can’t take it!
In these years, our commitment to our faith and our church family have grown many times over, and our family is deeply involved in martial arts now. Almost all of us. (Just haven’t convinced Cory yet!) Tang Soo Do and Haidong Gumdo (Korean sword) are regular parts of every week. We are taking classes over Zoom these days, but it is still a lot of fun and hard work.
In all of our moves and changes, we have learned that some things never change. The moon still hangs in the sky. The sun rises in the morning. God is faithful. Love remains. We can learn together in any and all circumstances.
Homeschooling is still our education of choice. I was never more thankful for that decision than I was in March 2020 when schools closed, and teachers and parents had to scramble to find a way to make learning happen during unexpected and challenging circumstances. We kept on as usual, minus our amazing homeschool co-op. Like many homeschoolers, I reached out to help people trying to find their footing, and I watched as people dug deep and pushed up and over obstacles. New relationships were made and communities formed. New skills were discovered. We kept plugging on, aware of the blessing of norms staying normal!
Now, what? I hope to be back here at Warm as Pie each week, finding my writer-self and getting to know her again. I still have dreams in the realm of writing. I can feel that drive again. I see it peaking over the horizon, sending a few pale rays up into the blue. I hope you will join me as I figure out what that means and where it might take me.
I have been feeling the itch to write for a long time! I’m journaling more. Noticing more. Thinking more. It’s a good feeling. The urge to write brought me to a moment of scrolling through this old blog of mine, treasuring the moments I captured here and remembering how it felt to sit down and record my life and my thoughts. The act of writing was rewarding; the resulting collection of memories is a treasure.
I am back to blogging for selfish reasons. I don’t want to lose these memories! But maybe the side effect will be positive for you. Maybe you will like what you see here and want to stick around. Maybe you’ve been with me for a long time, and you like the way I see the world. If so, great! I’m glad to have you. Let’s do life together…
I will be following along with Kristin and Heidi as we purge our clutter and get our homes clean and tidy for the holiday season. My hubby and I have been getting rid of bags and bags of stuff throughout October, so this is a continuation of our efforts. To be fair, all of our time has gone to cleaning out the basement, so we don’t have a lot to show for our work. The Big Purge is just what I need to transform our living spaces, too.
If you would like to join in, visit the YouTube channels, grab your free printable, and comment on this post.
I love the back-to-school season! I get so excited about all the big possibilities. I love the return to a settled routine. I love reconnecting with friends and trying new things in our homeschool. When we made the decision to educate our children at home, I wondered if we would miss out on the excitement and festivities associated with returning to the school year. What about school shopping and new school shoes and photos before jumping on the school bus? Would I regret giving up those things?
I quickly realized that the traditions of back-to-school are easily mirrored in homeschool life. We go back-to-school shopping, but we aren’t following a prescribed list. We get new shoes (Thanks, Grandma!), but we aren’t worried about having “the right” shoes based on peer pressure (at least not yet). And I love snapping first-day-of-school pictures and comparing them to previous years. Boy, these kids grow like weeds. Here’s a quick look at our start to school for 2018-2019: