Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Routine.

Let me say something unpopular. I think routine is an incredibly brave way to live.

I don’t mean stay in a job you hate forever, come home exhausted and sit silently across from a partner you despise every night. I mean nobly work toward a job you love, do things that add value to your life and put effort into the people you cherish. Routine looks different to everyone, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful.

My husband and I made the decision to set down roots for our little family and buy a home a few years ago. Have we felt stifled by our mortgage or trapped by our inability to move on a whim? It’s a simple no. When I’ve had a long day, my little home fills me with peace and inspires me to dream a little bigger and sometimes a little smaller.

When my husband and I are fortunate enough to take trips, we love our time away but I don’t feel more alive. I feel just as brimmed with life when I’m snuggled on my couch on a Thursday night, or when I’m having an argument with the man I choose to love everyday, as I do when we’re adventuring through new places.

These things are not majestic and they do not push me into a manic state of joy but they deserve attention. These moments deserve to be felt, they deserve to be lived and they deserve to be honored.

One of my biggest fears — one that I think many of us can relate to — is that I’m not enough. That how I choose to live my life is not enough. That if I watch that second episode of Scandal instead of picking up a book, it somehow means I am diminished. That if I go to bed at 9:30 on a Friday night, I am somehow not living.

My favorite quote is very uncooly from Bono and it says “where you live shouldn’t determine whether you live.” How wonderful it is to think that there is beauty in every routine, and that what and who you choose to devote your life to matters.

My last thought on the matter is that, in my experience, when you’re in the throws of routine, it’s hard to ignore what you’re unhappy with. There’s nothing fluffy or new to take your mind off of what’s wrong. I find that when I slow down and examine what’s hidden behind my feelings of restlessness, it’s usually not the desire for something new, but the claws of something old holding onto me and trying to burrow its way out. What’s your routine and what does it say about you?

This post is dedicated to my challenger, my love and my favorite routine, JD. 

Living with Less: The Nostalgia Edition

I grew up thinking that in order to remember something, I had to hold on to it. This cluttered my shelves with boxes of ticket stubs, old CD’s, porcelain cats on cats on cats, and so much more. But with each item came a memory, and I was terrified to let it go, thinking that it somehow meant I didn’t value that memory any more. Then I read this article on one of our favorite blogs, and something clicked.

While I may seem crazy for parting with a faceless man holding a tooth by a string, JD and I "both" agreed it was time.
While I may seem crazy for parting with a faceless man holding a tooth by a string, JD and I “both” agreed that I could remember that my Grandpa was a dentist without it.

It wasn’t that my rusty nail collection really resonated with me as a 20-something, it was that I had placed meaning in those nails instead of the actual memories of my sister and I scouring my grandparent’s old farm sheds for treasure to proudly display on our shelves. Once I came to terms with that, I’m happy to report that I have maintained the memories of our family trip to Mount Rushmore just fine without the cornhusk doll and unicorn windchime (cue JD’s praise hands).

Who doesn't want to dump salt onto their steak through the gilded horns of a porcelain cow?
Who doesn’t want to dump salt onto their steak through the gilded horns of a porcelain cow? Amazingly, I still remember that my family and I had dinner together every night without these beauties.

JD and I have moved seven times in four years and each time I have gotten rid of a little more me and gained a little more us. It’s not that I don’t hold on to little mementos anymore. I’m perfectly happy with three Celine Dion mugs to commemorate a few of my trips with Dad, but I’m more careful about where I place my value, and that’s helped me view my memories as what they are — so much more than trinkets.

I Wasn’t Good At My Passion

Welcome to my comeback post, after what will most likely be the first in a great many predictable blogger drop-offs.

I truly believe that being healthy and happy means removing toxins from your life. Whether that’s too much stuff, unrealistic expectations or a job that you’re deeply unhappy with. Life is too short to spend eight hours of your day in an environment that makes you miserable.

On that note, let me just say that I don’t necessarily believe in following your passion. For many years, I was convinced that I wanted to work in eastern African policy or humanitarian aid. I worked several refugee resettlement jobs in Egypt and DC…and I HATED them. Realistically, I didn’t have the education or skills necessary to thrive in that field. I only had passion — and that wasn’t enough.

Then, I found a nice office job. I had a quiet private office with a mountain view and unheard of benefits (pension, anyone?), and while I was thankful for it…I HATED it. This job had everything that was supposed to make me content, and that made me afraid to move. For three years I stayed in a job that I disliked because I didn’t want to give up what was safe, and I didn’t want to fail in the process. When JD sent me a copywriting position, my impressive self-confidence told me that there was no chance anyone would pay me to write. I was wrong.

...and even then, sometimes they change.
…and even then, sometimes they change.

Almost nine months later, I am thankful that, with my husband’s unfailing encouragement, I was brave enough to try something that seemed altogether impossible and totally uncomfortable. I took a job that offers me less money but abundantly more happiness.

Writing is not my passion. It doesn’t light a fire within me like the struggles that face resettled refugees and asylee’s in our country. When I’ve finished writing copy for a class on French pastries, I am under no illusion that I’ve done something equivalent to helping a newly settled refugee understand their health insurance (or lack thereof), but I feel happy, fulfilled and challenged. I wasn’t great at my passion — and that’s actually OK.

It wasn’t always possible for me to chase down (read: reluctantly apply to) a job that made me happy. Sometimes I’ve worked jobs just to pay the rent, and more than likely, I’ll have to do that again. It took me four years to work my way into a job that brings me happiness, but it was so worth it.

I got rid of a toxin that consumed almost 2000 hours of my life every year, but there are so many other opportunities to — at the risk of going full-on GOOP on you — “cleanse,” from eating less junk to watching less junk (except for the bachelor, always watch the bachelor), the list goes on. What are the toxins in your life?

This post is dedicated to first world problems like finding a job that makes you "happy."
This post is dedicated to first world problems, like finding a job that makes you “happy.”

 

Transition, and Other Things I Don’t Love

I hate transition. I tend to greet it with resistance and a middle finger. As my sister enjoys recalling, I cried when my family got rid of the first refrigerator I had ever known. A traumatic childhood, I know.

JD and my first few years together have been marked by a lot of joy and a lot of change. We’ve followed each other to Cairo, DC, and Denver. We’ve had jobs, we’ve not had jobs, we’ve lived in one room, we’ve bought our first home, we’ve adopted a dog, and we’ve adopted another dog. For someone who likes stability and routine (hello 9:30 bedtime and sleepytime tea), this has been both uncomfortable and challenging.

Change - Martini in Hand

I would like to say that I now welcome transition with open arms but that would be a lie. I accepted a lovely job as a copywriter last week (Someone is actually going to pay me to write about cooking, painting, etc…What?!). I spent two weeks agonizing over the interview process and hoping that I wouldn’t recreate my worst interview ever (an experience that included such an immense amount of sweat that it dripped into my eyes and mouth making me so self conscious that I broke into hives).

They did not need to mop up after me in last week’s interview, and I got the job. You might assume that my suffering ended with the euphoria of a dreamy job offer, but don’t worry, I can find something to worry about in even the best of times. I switched gears to dread of the inevitable two weeks notice meeting now before me. When that too was over and my soon-to-be ex boss and I were drying our eyes and eating chocolates, I decided that perhaps some of this worry that I continually carry around is a little excessive.

The whole ordeal was a good reminder that while I can now control at least the outpouring of sweat that accompanies me in stressful situations, I still have a long way to go in my acceptance of change, possible failure, and the constant transition that is life.

Our home has been a huge exercise in patience. It will be months before we finish some projects and years before we finish others. In the mean time, I’m practicing loving the imperfections in our home and in our lives. Because, as my husband tells me over and over, the imperfections are what life is all about (or something like that, I’m usually rolling my eyes).

Change can be painful and transition, slow. You may not be to the point of embracing the change in your life, but maybe start by shaking hands with it.

Change 2 - Martini in Hand

Images via here and here

Resolutions, More or Less

martini drinker . mih

I didn’t grow up making New Years resolutions. That and flossing were things we just didn’t really do. Especially as one half of a marriage, I find myself constantly considering ways to grow as a better partner and a better individual. The start of a new year seemed as good a time as any to wrangle all of those thoughts and plans into one place and gain a little accountability.

1. More Satisfaction With Less – Crushing that constant desire for more. More clothes, more furniture, more space, more, more, MORE! Living in a house that slaps you with simplicity every day helps (oh, you thought you needed another martini glass? my shelves reject thee!).

2. More Gardening – Renting isn’t very conducive to garden tending. We planted in our very first Denver duplex but moved right before our tiny crop started to yield. We only snuck back once to steal squash…

3. More Simplification – Hand-in-hand with number one on my list, I’d like to continue to shed layers of unnecessary ‘things’. There is still kitchen cabinet space to be cleared, closet space to be opened, and everything in that room of shame that we haven’t been using for 6 months.

4. More Experience – We’ve spent the last four summers moving to DC, Denver, around Denver, and finally to our own little nest. It’s costly, time consuming, and exhausting. I’m excited to have our first official summer to ourselves! We have no excuse not to enjoy summer in the mountains and take little trips. I’m sure our movers/friends are relieved as well.

5. More Patience – I tend to want everything to be done at once. When we move (which we got very efficient at), I have the house completely unpacked within two days. When we moved into our first home, I took a week off, unpacked, and expected everything to be perfect. This was not the case. Tables, art, and rugs that had been fine before, were not fine now. Patience has been less of a choice and more of a commandment since we can’t afford to completely redecorate our first home overnight, so we’ll call it an automatically successful resolution!

6. More Yoga – I started practicing a year ago and it completely turned my body upside down. In many ways it’s the exact opposite of how I was trained as a classical ballerina. I’m forever in love with what ballet has given me but my year of Yoga has shown me a whole new way of viewing strength, health, and healing. I’d like to make it to my mat more often.

7. More Painting – I’m horribly horrible and I LOVE it. I could sit for hours and move the same paint around on my canvas. For the sake of my sanity, and not having too many paintings hanging around that make people wonder where we keep our invisible four year old, I’d like to take a class and create something a little prettier and less finger painty.

8. More Writing – That’s what this blog is for! Hooray for another resolution safely underway. A way to channel the thoughts in my head into something mildly entertaining and informative. You’re welcome.

9. More Curtains – Seriously. JD and I took down the Christmas tree in front of our floor to ceiling den window and realized we’ve been living completely exposed for six months. The previous owner, a mid-century purist, bless him, didn’t believe in window coverings distracting from the natural lines of the windows. We have a canvas cloth that appears to have been covering our bedroom window for the past 70 years and that’s all folks. While I don’t want to hang leopard tapestries all over the house, some simple shades might do the trick so that our neighbors don’t actually know we’re watching House Hunters nightly.

10. More Relaxing – I tend to way overthink and dwell on things (omg, i announced on the interweb that i like to paint badly. everyone is laughing!). I decree this the year that I take it down a notch, worry a little less, and enjoy a little more.

Here’s to a year of less stuff, more love, and plenty of martinis. martini

 

On the Holidays

I hope your season was Merry, Merry! Ours was full of gift making, movie watching, bourbon sipping, and the fun of having our first Christmas in our very own home.

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I don’t believe in Santa, but I do believe in John McClane.
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Decorating your own home is pretty cool.

Since we weren’t going home for the holidays this year, JD and I decided to host an orphan Christmas dinner. What began as six quickly grew to fourteen and we found that there is only time for a little homesickness when you’re surrounded by old and new friends, an abundance of good food, and a little Cards Against Humanity.

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Cards Against Humanity topping off the evening.

Entertaining for fourteen also put my tiny kitchen to the test. I cooked all of my pies and sides in an impressive baking marathon the day before so that my two whole counters would be uncluttered and ready to host guest’s dishes. Drinks needing chilling spent the night in our room of shame (isn’t it lovely that part of our house doubles as a walk-in freezer!) and lived, the day of, on our patio for guests to grab at their convenience. Overall, my little kitchen pulled through with a wink, a smile, and two grateful vacuums called Utah and Charlie.

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The house, all dressed up.

I initially panicked that I didn’t have matching plates, linens, or accessories but finally decided to embrace my hereditary love of bright colors and all things mismatched. What are the holidays without a little chaos, even if it’s (hopefully) only in your decor. I used what I had instead of buying new plates or linens that didn’t really feel like me and would have spent the next year taking up valuable shelf space. I brought out wedding linens that we had haggled over in an Egyptian souq, embraced paper plates (My ego was against paper but my husband wasn’t, and I must admit that they kept me out of the kitchen and able to spend more time with guests.), and pulled existing accessories out of hiding. I bought a big bunch of pepper berries from Wholefoods and called it a day on decor.

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Thanks to JD for snapping this pic before chaos decended.

I think dealing with a little imperfection, especially around a time of year driven by spending, is good for the soul. It allows you to focus on time spent with loved ones, making new traditions, and eating lots of leftover pie for all three meals. I hope you found meaning in imperfection this year and maybe learned to embrace it a little more.

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Happy Holidays, From the Prater’s!
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I was totally serious about pie for all three meals.

My Not-So-Secret Shame.

The artist’s studio is one of the features that most drew us to our home. The original house was about 800 square feet with an attached garage. A little over a decade after it was built, Edward Hawkins drew up designs for the garage to be converted into a large den with an artists studio in the very back of the house. The addition almost doubles our square footage, making it large for a mid-century modern home. It also gives us our favorite room. Boasting a door to the patio, a wall of windows, and a wood burning fireplace, it’s the most inviting room in the house. Want to see it? I’ve made it sound so lovely. Are you ready?

DSC00630
Look at the avantgarde way we’ve tipped over the ottoman, as if to say, “We’ve completely given up.”

It’s really living up to its best self at the moment, isn’t it? Unfortunately, the artist’s studio has neither heat nor air, making it virtually unlivable in the winter (Thanks, Hawkins, you old pal). The studio will eventually be our master suite, but for now, when I put on a coat and gloves to grab something from storage, it’s just my not-so-secret suite of shame.

Before things turned ugly.
Before things turned ugly.
Little known fact. In several Arapahoe Acres homes (including ours), the fireplace chimneys are made of (unused) sewer pipes!
Little-known fact. In several Arapahoe Acres homes, including ours, the fireplace chimneys are made of (unused) sewer pipes!
Looking into endless possibilies before they were crushed by lack of HVAC.
Looking into a sea of endless possibilies before the crushing blow that was no HVAC.

Well played, Hawkins. Lesson learned. Never assume that your entire house has heat and air if some of it does. To be fair, we knew about this issue before buying the home, and forged fearlessly (fearlessly, right?) ahead with an offer.

This room is another practice in patience for us. While it’s tough to wait, I can’t help but feel like this house has given us endless gifts to open. We’ve been able to open some sooner than others, but they’re all equally sweet. This room will feel like such a gift when we’re able to move in, enjoy its beauty, and feel the warm breeze of central heat and air on our faces. I think it might just be worth the wait. 

Living Small(er).

I grew up in Oklahoma under big skies and wide-open spaces (Dixie Chicks, anyone? Reunite!). I love my homeland. You’ll never find kinder people, better sunsets, or more red dirt. It also boasts an insanely reasonable cost of living. Care for a kitchen as wide-open as your Oklahoma sky? You can probably find it well within your price range.

When JD and I felt ready to buy in Denver, we knew we had to quell our inner Okies and approach our search with realistic expectations. It helped that we were looking at mid-century homes that are generally smaller and more compact than modern builds. When we walked into our future home for the first time, we were floored. It blew away all of our expectations…and then I saw the kitchen.

My lovable kitchen cube.
My lovable kitchen cube.

Our kitchen is a 5×6 cube with a built in cooktop and economy size fridge. It also houses our economy size washing machine (Our two black labs have totally stopped shedding to accommodate this new twist). My initial thought was no way. But then I stopped and asked, “why?”

Mid-Century Kitchen - Martini in Hand
Are you jealous of my brown carpet? I knew it.

Obviously, the kitchen did not deter us from buying the house, and I’ve got to be honest, it’s one of the things I love most about our home. It forced me to trim down to what I considered kitchen necessities. Gone were salad spinners, veggie choppers, and steamers. I purged what I didn’t need, and I haven’t missed any of it.

Our economy fridge never reaches capacity. I meal plan every week and buy exactly what we need. It keeps our produce fresh and cuts down on waste. I’m happy to report that we live just fine with five different types of mustard instead of eight (crisis averted).

I mean, who doesn't love a good bamboo backsplash but JD and I installed blue tile to liven things up a bit.
I mean, who doesn’t love a good bamboo backsplash, amiright? JD and I installed blue tile to liven things up a bit.

Counter space was my biggest concern, and I’ve learned to adapt. In our previous kitchens, I always used the same small stretch of 3×3 counter to work with and that hasn’t changed. I store larger appliances (Kitchen-Aid mixer, food processor, etc…) in cupboards when they’re not in use.

I have to admit that there are still times when I’m a little self-conscious about my modest kitchen. But when I’m dancing around my stove within arms reach of everything I need, I feel a little less crazy.

Sometimes it’s uncomfortable to give up what you think you need or want. We’ve made adjustments that work for us. What could you do without?

It can be tough to fight the draw of “more”, around the holidays. Don’t be afraid to live a little smaller this week. You might be surprised what you gain. For me, it was a pretty bitchin’ home.

Can we talk about how easy stainless steel counters are to clean?
I dedicate this post to my stainless steel counters. You are a beautiful breeze to clean.

Wait, What?

To be clear, JD and I love our house. When we set out to buy our first home in Denver, we never imagined we would end up in Arapahoe Acres in a 1951 Edward Hawkins home. It’s a dream.

That said, living in a historic home has it’s challenges. We were blown away by the home when we viewed it on a whim with our realtor. It was a lovely spring morning, the vented windows were thrown open allowing a cool breeze to pull through the house, the lawn was impeccably landscaped and cared for, the furnishings were period and well-placed. This was (and is) our dream home and not a tiny kitchen, nor lack of a dryer, nor absence of heat or air on one half of the house would deter us from at least putting an offer in.

When we went under contract on the house, we were ecstatic. I had visions of living, blogging, and generally being glamorous in a home that photographed and looked like this:

My home will look like this, right? RIGHT?!
My home will look like this, right? Obviously!

Then we moved in and I realized that the $24.99 Ikea lamp that seemed edgy and modern in our duplex looked, in our new place, like, well, a $24.99 Ikea lamp in a house that is certainly not a duplex. I also found that with natural, wood-beamed ceilings and large awnings over the windows (smartly designed to keep us cool in the summer), coupled with my lack of photography skills, most of my photographs emerged looking like this:

Look at that alluring pot of boiling water framed by absolute darkness!
Look at that alluring pot of boiling water framed by absolute darkness and misery!

There are challenges, like not being able to install a dog door for our pups because the doors are made of beautiful glass panels. There is fog, condensation, and hardcore ice that form inside our single-paned windows most cold mornings, and the fact that if we get enough snow this winter, you will find JD shoveling our sleek, flat roof to lighten its load. But, though our home has gifted us with many quirks, groans, and the experience of line drying clothes in the winter, it has also given us the pride of owning and caring for a work of art, and for that, we are truly humbled.

Home.

Charlie's favorite spot.
Charlie’s favorite spot.

When I decided to start blogging, I struggled with a theme. My writing in college was prolific (if not cringe worthy at times) and I ached to have a creative outlet again. I thought about strands connecting past writing and about what I treasure most theses days. It didn’t take long before it struck me quite simply – home.

I grew up in a loving family where great value was placed on home. We cooked and ate together every night, snuggled on the big bed listening to my Mom read “Little House on the Prairie” and “Nancy Drew” books for the hundredth time, and went on pioneering adventures in the backyard.

Unwinding in my tiny mid-century kitchen.
Unwinding in my tiny mid-century kitchen.

Now, I love to make home for my little family. After a long day, slicing onions for a sauce is as therapeutic to me as a good soak in the tub. My favorite evenings are spent snuggled on the couch with my husband, JD, and our two 65 pound lap dogs wading through our Netflix queue and sipping cocktails. It’s not glamorous, but it’s challenging, rewarding, and full of so much life.

Martini making.
Martini making.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing a moment of your day with me as I embark on the very humbling pioneering adventure of creating home and life, martini in hand.