Monthly Archives: October 2011

Designing Spaces

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Last night husband and I started to put our future-home ideas down on paper. FUN! And surprisingly challenging! I can describe in words how I want my ideal home to look, but when I sit down with paper and try to sketch it things get weird quickly. The one plan I started had a long hallway down one side of the building … yeah. Not ideal. We’re scoping things out online, looking for tips, and continuing to dream.

One author who inspires me design-wise is Sarah Susanka, of the “Not so big house” fame (thanks to my sister’s mother-in-law for the suggestion!). She emphasizes right-scaling our homes, and concentrating on details and quality rather than size. There are lots of great ideas in her books – I’ve read 2 so far. I have to say, though, looking at the plans on her website, that we are thinking smaller than she is. Our goal size is still about 1000 sq ft on one level. To my mind, that gives us enough space to work with.

The challenge, of course, is what we let go to keep that size. Go back 60 years and 1000 would be generous. Since then we’ve been repeatedly super-sizing our homes and the logic says that another few hundred (or thousand) sq ft just makes sense. Of course you’ll want it and can use it! And I feel that logic on lots of levels. I do like space. I like large, well-built homes. I like lots of rooms. I like a big, open bathroom. I want a library. On and on. Space, though, comes with costs, and these are what we want to avoid. The basic aspect is building costs, though when you add our hopes for super-green, super-insulated, super-super construction, these do rise. Then comes utilities: heat and water costs grow as your space grows. In a global warming world, with an uncertain economy, I want my costs for these essentials as low as possible. Next comes time. More space = more time. Simply walking around and using the space! Buying things to fill the space. cleaning and organizing the space. More places to put things = more places to lose things. Bigger size = less control, more chaos. By so many measures, adding size decreases manageability and increases time demands. I want to simplify my life. I want our home to make life joyful and easy, not consume our lives. I try to keep this in mind when I crave another story or another spare bedroom or a separate sewing room.

We have agreed on a central living area for the home: kitchen, dining, living area connected. We want a wood stove on a central wall to heat the space. Lots of well-designed storage in all areas of the house. A proper entrance where you can pause and take stock, put down your coat and boots, and be in a space, not half-way into the living area. So far, the ideas are exciting. Looking forward to seeing how they develop.

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Celebration of Elimination

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The last few days have been particularly full. Of excrement. And related body fluids. Baby is not into diapers and often resistant to going to the potty of late. So we let her scamper across the bed and then have to change the sheets or duvet. Or wipe off the top of the table (mom, don’t tell dad!!). Or mop the floor. Or today, twice in a row, clean out the poopy diaper. I can’t tell you when the last time was that she went in her diaper. But today she would not, did not go on the potty.

The results of today’s incidents highlighted for me the reasons to use elimination communication. It is so much nice for everyone involved! Poop goes straight into the potty instead of being smeared ALL OVER the nether regions. Clean-up is faster, too, much better for a back-lying-resistant baby. And being diaper-free must be much more comfortable.

So I greatly want to make the leap forward to full positive potty use. However, I’m not sure how to do it. I feel like we’re stuck in the middle: missed doing elimination communication properly – we were never really diaper-free – but also too young for the reasoning stage of toddlerhood. On our side: she’s a smarty-cakes. And she already signs “potty”, usually at the right time. Against us: winter is coming, kind of cold for diaper-free; and she’s pretty independent.

Any suggestions welcome.

I have to admit that her assorted extracurricular potty activities really strained my inner peace today. WHY does she resist getting on the potty when she has to go??? WHAT do I need to do to communicate better with my daughter? WHERE did I go wrong so far? (okay, the third is maybe going a bit far. So I haven’t measured up to my expectations: things are still going fine. But still disappointing not to be where I want as a parental communicator. And note I didn’t say “so far wrong”).

Facing up to the situation; taking advantage of what feels like a transitional time to move ahead; and remaining positive and loving are my strategies for this issue. Interested to see how it unfolds!

Space Needs

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Husband and I watched a short PBS video today about tiny homes (under 400 sq. ft.). We are inspired! Probably the most exciting thing for me is imagining how we could properly downsize and avoid accumulating more and more clutter if we had less and better organized space.

Weekday mornings are a bit crazy around here. I end up dashing back and forth from the front to the back of the house (and this is WITH lots of help from husband). Baby might want to play in the bedroom, in the back room or the living room. I might need to move lanolin or bottles from the bedroom to kitchen or elsewhere, or go back and forth from the bedroom to the back to put in laundry, then to the front to load bags for the day. Then cooking, and figuring out where to eat, and tracking the constantly moving baby. It is not efficient unless I were trying to lose weight with 2000 steps before I leave the house. Which I’m not.

So I asked husband what he thought the minimum house size is that we could handle. He suggested 1000 feet. I’m coming in at around that number. We could do smaller, of course. But we do have a baby who likes to move, and we do want more. I want a writing area. We’d like to be able to accommodate a guest. So maybe around 1000 if it’s well designed. All space well-used, connected central living area (kitchen/dining/living/play area). Lots of built-in storage.

And then there’s the downsizing, too. I’m going to finish this Kyrgyzstan paper soon no matter what, and that’s a box of things gone. Next up will be the singles paper, and another mini-stack of articles into recycling or the fireplace. Then the Buryat article, and I’m home free paper-wise! One blogger downsized her family’s files to only a few papers and a memory stick – she scanned most documents rather than keeping hard copies. I’m tempted and considering something like that. As it is, I’m down to 2 drawers, and lots of those are family files. Well, okay, plus a box or two for papers :). But those will be gone soon. Eliminating a bushel of paper in my purging pre-baby was a remarkably good use of time.

Clothes is another, but that’s dropping. I’ve streamlined what we have and use for baby, not hanging onto fancy clothes we won’t use or things that don’t fit. For myself, it’s a question of repeatedly eliminating things that look bad or don’t fit, and then not replacing them with others. I’m closer than I’ve been before. Though I once again feel the need for a make-over and some clothes that actually look good on me – this blog is inspiring me in that direction.

And books. Some people can let go of them. I struggle. I have eliminated probably a box or two over the past year, which is amazing (oh … and bought at least a box 😦 – mainly second hand). I have probably several boxes of books that are to be read and discarded. If I were to move, I wouldn’t take them, but I’m not ready to get rid of them yet. Who knows when I’ll be unable to get to the library and desperately need something fun to read?! I would like to downsize there, too, though, because I do have reference books that aren’t useful and some books I simply don’t enjoy.

The other side of space is the environment and resource use. I’ve picked up Eaarth again (Bill McKibben) and am reading the solutions part of the book. The section on food is great – lots about organic, local and building community to create food where you are. I’m highly motivated to do a much better job growing and preserving food next year! Then the section on energy. #1 is conservation, though there’s lots more after that. The thing is, I like to be warm. I’m really not that happy or sociable when I”m cold. I want my house to feel comfortable for me in winter. Solution: well-built, well-insulated house with solar supplementary heating, wood stove, high-r windows. Small, easy to heat, easy to keep hot. 1000 square feet is sounding big when I consider that side of things!

101?

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Well. Another day, another post. Only 264 to go after today.

That’s still a pretty big number.

I had planned the afternoon off to write. However, I’ve been feeling behind on some of my case work and wanted to get out some replies by the weekend. I decided to work through the afternoon – and it was great. Well, good anyways :). I got some of my desk files cleaned out and organized which makes me feel better and makes it easier to manage workflow. I got through some of the papers in my “misc.” file on my desk – I’m not a fan of maintaining a file like that, but I just haven’t had time to get through the backlog. It’s articles to read, notes from last year, ideas for this year, etc. etc. It feels good to chip away at it.

I also got out the emails I wanted to for the cases; got some other things cleared up; and generally feel like I”m approaching getting on top of work.

The result: increased mental peace. Bonus.

I left by 4:30, also good, got baby home; we all had a nice dinner and fun playtime, and she’s down for sleep now after lots of wiggling.

Get the work done, relax and enjoy it (I took a bit of a break in the middle of the day to finish reading my book – fun!).

And, have pumped 3 oz for the past 2 days – that’s 50% more than usual. Not sure if it’s the glutathione-boosting NAC and bee pollen I’ve started taking; or more protein with lots of egg consumption; or what. But it’s great.

100

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100 days of blogging. 100 days (so far) of peace. How’s it going?

I can’t believe what a strong habit this has become, and with minimal effort. Once I started, blogging had its own momentum. I simply know that I will blog once a day, and I do it. My husband helps remind me and make time for it, but that’s not the main reason it continues.

The degree to which I reflect on the blog through the day varies – sometimes I”m super-aware, other times it’s just the occasional flash coming through. It’s there, though, providing some perspective on the bright and challenging corners of my days.

The writing here sometimes flows, sometimes doesn’t; is occasionally lightly edited but generally not at all. Though I will not hold up any of these posts as specimens of eloquence, the process of crafting a blog post, selecting words and choosing what to include and what to leave out is the type of art my brain loves. I suspect that writing each day has primed my writing pump, giving me a flow that’s aiding in my other writing projects. An unexpected and delightful result of something that’s fun in and of itself.

A few people have let me know they’ve read things here, and that’s delightful. One friend has called and messaged several times to let me know she’s enjoying my daily journey: thank you ABT! And sincere appreciation to all of you. Though I’m not doing this for others, the chance to share ideas and connect in some way is a great type of outreach for a busy mom (that’s me, I suppose). Anyone who wishes to comment is welcome to do so, and many thanks to those who have already.

Today I took my first real lunch break since starting work. I left my desk, stretched out and relaxed. I ate and read. Then continued reading (this is the REAL part of the break). I kept reading and didn’t check my watch. I actually have no idea how long I read – it wasn’t ridiculously long, but it might have amounted to the full lunch hour I’m normally scheduled to have. And yes, if I’d had a shorter lunch hour I could have either worked more OR left earlier to be with baby. It wasn’t what I chose today – with work stress and life busyness, I seemed to need the luxury of uninterrupted reading time. I certainly felt rejuvenated by the end of my break. I may even do it again.

And on the other hand: I’m supposed to take another half-day tomorrow for working on my paper, but I may not feel able to leave my work to do that. With some reading and research I did today I feel closer to catching up on one project that needs my time, and I might choose to continue this work tomorrow afternoon. We shall see. Fortunately, tomorrow’s the end of the week so I have 3 days off to look forward to.

And thus ends 100 initial days of blogging! 265 more to go.

Pretty peaceful day

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Today was a day off/writing day. Delightful!

Take-off in the morning took longer than usual, but we got off happy and calm. Delivered baby to mom: no problem.

Work on the paper went well! I cut it down to about 7500 words, including the reference list – I think that’s excluded from the word count, which means I’m on track. The revisions really do tighten up the writing and I was able to clarify some parts that were fuzzy. It’s still not everything I want, but it’s closer. I also had time to start reading through & adding a few more references to make sure I’ve covered most relevant materials, and while that can lead me down an endless trail of “just one more!”, I was better able to rein myself in today and recognize what was and wasn’t relevant.

I had to get to my parents’ by 4:30 as they had an appointment at 5. Baby was sleeping when I arrived, so I sat in the bedroom beside her, reading while she slept. After about 20 minutes she started wiggling, then wriggling, then her eyes started to open. I was there to watch her! She caught sight of me, and that was it: she was awake! Eyes opened, pushed herself up to crawling then sitting, smiling, ready for mama time.

We had some fun, funny nursing (there always seems to be something to laugh about when you’re nursing!), an awesome big pee, then serenely packed up, buckled up and drove home.

Once home, I took my time to play with her for a change instead of rushing around cleaning up and making dinner. We nursed more and played on the bed for a long time. Then eating (new favourite: corn. On the cob.). Then bed. She’s a super-wriggler when falling asleep: sit up, rub eyes, lunge for mom, arch back and roll off mom, side, side, tummy, RIP MAMA”S HAIR, pause … REPEAT! However, she finally wriggled the wrigglies out and fell asleep in sweetness.

And now it’s before 9, lunches are almost packed, blog almost done, can go to bed soon.

Pretty good.

Choosing peace

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I was going to blog tonight something about choosing peace in our lives. Just half an hour ago I was thinking through the post. However, it’s 9:35, I”m sitting down to write, and I have NO RECOLLECTION of what I was going to say. That’s right: complete writer’s amnesia. It might have been:

  • more about adorable daughter. Who is in love with her new socks, birthday gift from auntie, uncle & cousin, who wouldn’t take a bath because she couldn’t stand to be separated from her socks.
  • about my blech day at work, headachy, tired, miss my girl
  • About wanting to quit my job. Because my girl is growing up and I’m not with her enough.
  • about appreciating my job and the opportunity to contribute
  • about the weather, maybe? slow approach of winter?

Wait, I’ve got it! At least one blog idea today: reading Better Off, about life without technology, and appreciating the central lesson: (can you have two colons in one sentence? No. But i want to finish writing and go to bed. So here we go): reducing technology increases living. It increases our engagement with tasks. It slows us and gives us more time. The repetitive work of life without technology develops a new set of skills, and once developed, frees our minds to think, our mouths to talk wiht friends, promotes shared work, and can be more intrinsically rewarding. TEchnology exacts a price, something we forget too often. However, going without requires guides as there are so many skills which have been forgotten.

Now: to bed. With an angel. A little warm now-sockless, soft angel