Thursday, November 16, 2017

Saying Yes (to Mickey Mouse)



Last Thursday I was scheduled to interview at a prospective grad school in the Southeast. However, having been offered a spot at one of my two Dream Programs, I ultimately decided to cancel any upcoming interviews. (I still haven't decided if I'll interview at my other top choice program, given the opportunity.)

And though I'm absolutely sure of my choice, and have formally accepted and financially secured my seat in the program, it felt wrong to turn down an opportunity. Any opportunity. When you've worked toward something for so very, very long, taking all those classes to earn that degree, years spent working in the field, carefully considering and writing each and every admissions essay—pouring your heart and soul into all of it—writing a Dear John letter to a prospective grad school (who wants you!) is a scary thing to do. About 10 days of anxiety + mild wretchedness ensued.

But I believe in the dream. It's happening. Now it's time to relish the relief and profound honor that comes with a) achieving your biggest life goal thus far and b) having the admissions board of one of the top programs in the country unanimously decide that you should attend their institution. (so.much.gratitude.)

These next 7-8 months before life gets turned on its head, as it has many times before in our journey through life, are precious and I'm treating them as such. Family time comes first these days, over work and those niggling obligations that arise in everyday life. Let's be real: Life + parenting + work + marriage can be taxing, and it's easy to get caught up in all of that. I'm making a concerted effort, everyday, to put tradition, motherhood, love, and creative endeavors first.

And while I'm working very hard to say no to commitments that are not mutually beneficial (going  into work at dinnertime, without notice, because they are short-staffed—no), I'm working equally hard to say yes to opportunities that will bring about joy (a friend calls and asks if I can come over and talk + needlepoint with her for a couple hours one evening—yes).

So instead of racking up 5000+ airline miles in 36 hours going to an interview I no longer needed to attend, we used that time to take a mini family vacation. In less than two weeks my solo interview morphed into 3 days at Disneyland with the boys. (A shout-out to Mario for being like-minded and supportive when it comes to whimsical vacation planning and unscripted adventures.)  We used those 5 days to reconnect, unplug, and focus on being with each other. There was plenty of bickering, as travel can often bring about, but for the most part it was just plain magical. (Spontaneous hugs + impromptu conversations about life with a teenage boy is the definition of magic.) It was the reset we needed both as a family and as individuals.

Here's to saying yes to those moments that could easily pass you by. Here's to saying yes to a little extra expense and a little time off for the sake of family. Yes to family, always. 



Oh, and yes yes yes to edible sequins on your churro. 




Saturday, November 4, 2017

Neede + Craft: How the love affair began


A couple Fridays ago I hosted Craft Night at my house. A group of nurses/coworkers and I decided to start getting together on a regular basis to work on existing projects and teach each other our respective hobbies. This was our second meeting, and we've yet to craft a single thing. The conversation flows, as does the wine, and before we know it the night is over. It's rather wonderful.

Since it was my turn to host, they got to see my various embroidery projects for the first time. All the hoops I've kept for myself are hung around our room and the upstairs loft area; colorful reminders of the evolution of this craft in my life. I'm thankful every day that I finally (!!!) found my ideal creative pastime; seeing my embroidery projects from their perspective was a reflective experience.


It all started two years ago when I decided to take on little 3" hoops for my annual Christmas ornament project. Only, I'd never embroidered before.

I came across some Sublime Stitching patterns and floss at my favorite craft store in Portland, snagged some muslin remnants, and went to work. They were so simple! I read a couple tutorials + watched a few how-to videos and back-stitched my way to some very cute little works of art by mixing and matching different elements and tracing over handwritten words I lightly etched on the fabric with pencil. The Sublime Stitching patterns can be found here and here, but the deer pattern is no longer available from Amelie Henrie on Etsy. (Though maybe she'll relist it for the holidays?) Fortunately my iPhone photography skills have improved since that time as well...

Feeling confident fresh off my ornament-making success, I also decided to stitch a sweet 6" deer hoop for my mother-in-law as a Christmas gift that year. It was still beginner-level, but a good way to expand on what I'd already learned.

Wild Olive's ornament patterns are also a favorite!

I'm posting this now not because Christmas tunes are are already playing in our home—I'm an after Thanksgiving holiday season purist—but because now is the time to start these sorts of projects. Especially if you're a total novice like I was.

Email me your suggestions and favorite pattern artists and I'll add them to the list! Also! I'm certainly not an expert, but I'll tackle any questions you send my way.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Seen, Heard & Bookmarked: Embracing Fall Traditions


The last couple years I've scaled back on the hubbub around holidays. Fewer presents, less decor, more handmade, and simpler celebrations. This year, however, I'm focusing a little more on traditions. As a result I found myself in the garage digging out the holiday decor bins. I put up a few Halloween-related things. Then a few more. Our house is pretty darn festive right about now and I'm not the least bit sorry.

I think this craving for holiday traditions stems from the realization that this is Kiddo's last year at home before he adventures into relative adulthood—whether that be work or college has yet to be determined—and I want to squeeze every last joy out of this phase in our lives. Grad school acceptance means tunnel vision for the next few years; all the more reason to enjoy these moments in the meantime.


Here are some fall-related things on my mind:

Our neighborhood participates in "You've Been Booed," where you leave a basket of goodies on a neighbor's doorstep and they do the same for others. It's such a fun tradition!

When the weather gets cooler, cozy house clothes are my jam. Especially when I can run Kiddo to school in them and still feel somewhat put together. These joggers and this pullover are the newest addition to my comfy clothes arsenal. (so soft!)

Husband will be out of town on Halloween, and Kiddo is too old to trick-or-treat, so we'll be passing out candy together. I decided we should dress up just because. LLama + The Flash...hold on to your hats, kids!

I made this easy peasy pumpkin french toast a couple times last fall and it is bonkers good. It's back on the menu.

Watching Gilmore Girls for the umpteenth time, as I often feel drawn to do in the fall, and adoring this mug. (Am I dating myself to admit I watched all the seasons for the first time when they were on television?) Also, this mug!

An adorable DIY paper haunted house. (Made into a pumpkin diorama!)

Trying this Slow-Cooker Butter Chicken. (Thanks, Bridget!)

Putting together a skeleton paper doll kit by Paper Source. (Bought locally and not available online...similar here.)

Searched high and low for the perfect couch blanket—a binge-watching-Netflix kind of blanket—and I finally found it! Garnet Hill's Plush-Loft blanket is the winner. We love this blanket! I routinely have to stop Kiddo from smuggling it upstairs...

A sweet autumn embroidery pattern I'll leave up on the wall year-round.

Stopped into a shoe store in Portland the other morning after pottery class and bought a pair of Joules Wellibob ankle rain boots. It was love at first wear and they've been on my feet almost every day since.  (Mine are the Clematis floral print, but I also love the other color options. Bees!)


Happy (early) Halloween!


Monday, October 23, 2017

Never give up on the dream.


The last 8 days have been a whirlwind.

Literally and emotionally.

Last Sunday I woke up much too early and boarded a plane to make the 2500+ mile trek to a grad school interview. The one I was invited to back in June. The interview that was postponed by 5 weeks due to Hurricane Irma. The one that I had thought about every single day for over 150 days.

Irma didn't care that I had been anxiously awaiting that interview for four months. Or that I'd been rejected by one of my backup schools and waitlisted at another. It was the only invitation I had lined up at the time. And it wasn't just any program: it was one of my Top 2. The pipe dream school; the Ivy League of my chosen academic program.

The universe, in this case a violent weather pattern, has a way of putting your priorities into perspective. Of reminding you that your problems are First World, at best, and that there is real suffering. By the time my interview date rolled around I had a much healthier perspective regarding my chosen path and the inherent obstacles associated with it.

Monday morning I woke up bright and early, ate dusty hotel eggs, put on a suit, took a few deep breaths, and headed into my interview.

And for the very first time I felt like I could be myself. I talked about my life, my loves, and my passions. I may have even joked a time or two. Just like that the fire was reignited and all those rough patient care experiences, late night study sessions and days spent away from my family melted into the background.

I was pursuing my life's dream and had nothing to regret.

That evening I boarded a plane and flew back home. The next day I worked. And the day after that.

Those fancy interview shoes, though comfortable and well made, didn't hold up to an exceptionally long campus tour involving steep stairs, hills and a lost sense of direction for our poor tour guide. As a result I've spent the last week nursing some painful foot injuries. We're talking toes wrapped in blisters and many layers of skin sacrificed. (A shout out to Husband who has been an AMAZING medic and a coworker who patched me up after I bled through my socks on shift. They are my heroes.)

Thursday morning, while Husband and I sat chatting in our room, my cell phone rang. On the other end of the line was the director of admissions: By unanimous board decision, I had been accepted. There is a seat with my name on it.

And that's when the tears started.

That first day I burst into tears no less than a half dozen times, and in the days since there have been many more. While driving in the car, while laying in bed at night, while taking a shower, tears. Happy tears, of course, but also healing tears. Tears of reconciliation: I deserve this. My best was enough. My dreams are coming true. The past 9 years of hard work, struggle, mom + wife guilt, of feeling pulled in too many directions . . . it was all for something.

I did it.

(Tears.)





Friday, October 13, 2017

Seen, Heard & Bookmarked: Loving the in-between.



This week has been calm. Parenting is parenting, of course, but otherwise life has shown me a quieter way to live over the past few days. Less work, lots of embroidery, creative learning, and plenty of baths. No complaints here.

Tuesday was my birthday, and although I'm a year older and eager to move on to the next phase, I'm not sweating my advancing age or the passage of time. Time is fleeting, always, but my burgeoning appreciation of the present has led to a greater focus on the everyday. Lately I've spent less time waiting for something to happen and more time exploring opportunities as they arise. And although I have a long way to go in terms of personal growth and fulfillment, life is already a lot sweeter without the anxious anticipation that comes with always looking ahead.

Here are some things I've seen, heard and bookmarked over the past week:

Wishing I could sew a quilt right about now. (I took my very first sewing lesson on Tuesday! I made that drawstring bag!)

Been coveting these shoes for years, finally took the plunge. Worth every penny.

Husband bought  me Half Baked Harvest's new cookbook a couple weeks ago and it may single-handedly end my dinner rut. (Making this beer bread to go with tomorrow night's dinner.)

The new "it" tree? (I still love you, Fiddle Leaf Fig.)

I was terribly sad I couldn't make the Makerie weaving retreat this month. (I attended the April 2017 retreat and it was magical.) In the meantime, this DIY weaving loom tutorial looks like a great project to pass the time and get me weaving again sans retreat.

Finding your flow. (Thought-provoking.)

I impulse-bought a Plexus wheel to stretch my stiff back muscles after seeing it on IG. The sensation is intense, but holy moly does my back feel better! I'm telling you, it's legit! Has anyone else tried it?

An unlikely pairing which produced a beautiful, moving performance.

A portable facial peel for those times when my skin is looking dull but I'm a) traveling or b) don't have time for my trusty 3-step brightening system. (Sampled two packets and loved the simplicity + results.)

Homemade sprinkles!

Happy weekend!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Needle + craft: A love declared.


These days I am actively practicing the art of letting go. And by active, I mean it's work. When your default response to adversity is anxiety, changing a fundamental, ingrained reaction is no easy feat.

Kiddo's math grade has slipped into failing territory for the umpeeth time. Breath; don't yell. Don't go to that place where you imagine him failing out of high school. (Which he is not in danger of, by the way, but fear is fear and motherhood is fraught with it.)

The barista forgets to make your latte with almond milk and you're a mile away and running late before you realize. But you desperately need the caffeine . So you drink it despite the likely onset of belly discomfort and spend the morning wondering why things can't just be easy. For once! (A lot goes right, but in the moment it all feels hard and yucky.)


I'm not sure if I can reprogram a mid-thirties brain, but I'm sure trying. Better sleep hygiene, a meditation app, and the near-constant quest for personal and creative fulfillment are all steps toward less anxiety and stress. Let it go has become my mantra.

A major contributor in my quest to be less angsty has been hand embroidery. It started two years ago when I decided to create mini hoops for my yearly Christmas ornament project. Only, I'd never embroidered outside of the (very) occasional cross stitch project in middle school. In the process I fell hard for the craft and, unlike all other crafts that came before it, my interest hasn't wavered for nearly two years.


Since that time the projects have become more complex and I've mastered at least a dozen stitches, but there is still so much for me to learn! (As my husband often says, "Sarah isn't happy unless she's learning." He's so right.) Etsy is overflowing with patterns and YouTube has a plethora of awesome tutorials. The options are endless, yet it's a very unassuming hobby. It can be as easy or hard as you want to make it; is incredibly portable; and you can embroider while watching television, standing in line, or flying through the sky.

I find that when I embroider I engage the part of my brain that tends to ruminate on stressful topics when left to its own devices. Using my hands to create something intricate yet simply composed occupies the section of my subconscious mind that likes to focus on the What Ifs and worst case scenarios. And unlike dinking around on my phone, it doesn't increase my anxiety or take my attention from the room and the people around me. I can embroider and still fully engage with my family and friends. Oh, and when something goes awry or doesn't look quite right, you simply snip out the offending strands and start over. No harm, no foul, no stress.


I'm so enamored with this craft that I sold everything but the bare minimum craft box essentials at last spring's yard sale. I didn't need all those supplies pertaining to other crafts anymore and it felt good to purge all the stuff I had long since neglected (but likely hung on to out of guilt). And, bonus!, not only is embroidery compact, it's also super affordable. Hoops are a couple bucks, embroidery floss is about 50 cents a skein, and fabric can be next to nothing and a little goes a long way. It takes up very little space in my home, tucked into an end table drawer for instance, but also looks nice when displayed. (More on the storage aspect soon.) And if you need to walk away from a project for a while, it'll keep. It's one of the few things you can seamlessly pick back up when the mood strikes.

I keep most of my creations and hang them collage-style on my bedroom wall, but embroidery hoops make for lovely gifts. I've given them for nearly every occasion: holidays, baby showers, and during times of encouragement. People are so touched when you create for them!


In the two years I've been developing my love of embroidery, I've found some favorite products, stores and influencers that inspire me to step outside the lines and use my creative intuition. Although this is a niche topic, I would love for this to be the first in a blog series celebrating this craft. A place where I can share my favorite people, places and things associated with embroidery.

I wrote a post early last year with some of my favorite tools of the trade. You can find it here.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Gratitude

https://quotefancy.com/quote/872025/Neale-Donald-Walsch-The-struggle-ends-when-gratitude-begins

It's so darn easy to focus on the little inconveniences that go hand-in-hand with being human. A human who works, parents, loves, and makes life goals. Dreams take time to become reality, and if you don't appreciate the in-between, which comprises the vast majority of the present, one can easily get bogged down by the minutia while waiting for something to happen. Then those special moments, which are often small and easy to discard, get missed.

And that's where the real tragedy lies.

Those inconspicuous moments make life beautiful and worthwhile and special. A dream comes true and then you live in it; it becomes your new normal. And pretty soon you're wondering what's next. Familiarity, no matter how delightful, can breed stagnation.

Or maybe that's just me. (I doubt it.)

I'm working very hard not to discard the everyday. To not spend it waiting and wanting. I've historically wasted a lot of time fretting about the future and arbitrary timelines of my own making. That is slowly changing. (Thank goodness.)

Grad school limbo aside, I'm in a really lovely period. I'm working 2 days a week, more or less if I choose. Which leaves much fewer conflicts when it comes to being around for Kiddo's daily activities and comings and goings. (I took him to get his braces off Thursday. In the middle of the day. I was the first to see his adorable new smile!)

Mom guilt is no joke.

I'm also taking time to learn new things: long awaited goals relating to personal fulfillment are finally being realized, and I didn't have to wait until the "right" time. Because as it turns out, right now is as much a "right" time as any. As such, I signed up for a sewing class. And a candle making class. And for my birthday Husband gifted me a pottery class at a local college. (I took a pottery class in high school and fell madly in love. This has been a dream ever since.) I've been terrified to commit to anything, lest it conflict with a potential grad school interview invitation, which has left me in a holding pattern. It felt good to say yes to a 8 week creative endeavor.  And as Husband reminded me, if an interview does come up I'll miss a class. It's that simple and not worth fretting over.

In keeping with this resolution to really, truly appreciate the present, while making the most of it, I'm going to start a blog series where I give a shout-out to those little (and occasionally big!) things that make life joyous. The ones that could easily be ignored should I decide to not to get out of my own head.

Because happiness is a choice, always.

These days I'm grateful for, among other things: 


The way the morning light streams through our bedroom window on a sunny day. Fall = rain in the PNW, so I'm coveting these lovely rays while they last.


Foot reflexology. Because operating room floors are made for sterility, not comfort. Sore feet for daaaays, gone in an hour. (I go here.)


This tiny man bun, worn for the first time, made me smile. It was adorable. (I'm also digging the greys.)


Kitty paws. Especially when they burrow back under the covers after breakfast. Oh, to be a cat.


Breakfast dates with a young man. They used to be a more regular thing when he was little, but I'll take what I can get. (+ three cheers for a new [to us] brunch spot! To die for.)


Seeing Cirque du Soleil: KURIOS. It was fantastic. (In Portland until 10/8!)


A husband who still buys me flowers on a regular basis. (Even after I was terribly crotchety with him.) + Chinese Lantern plants which are a visual delight.


Embroidery. I'm so grateful to have found this craft. It keeps idle hands occupied and those niggling subconscious thoughts from invading the everyday. After years spent dabbling in every hobby under the sun, this is the one for me. (Monceau Fleurs pattern by le Kadre)