Friday, December 11, 2015

Lifemarked.

We've made it to another Friday! And while it's my turn for the weekend rotation at work, I'm still celebrating the week's end.  It was a good week; a productive week. A week where I tried to be present, thankful, and to see the opportunities all around me. To focus on the good moments, as opposed to all the little annoyances that so easily influence a person's mood and thinking.

I work hard to remind myself of all the things I'm grateful for. It takes more effort than it should to concentrate on these things, but I suppose what's important is my knowledge of their presence and place in my life. I don't spend my days with a little black rain cloud over my head, but I've come to acknowledge that I am not a particularly cheerful person. (Not to be confused with being an unhappy person, which is something else entirely.) I'm optimistic, always, and most people would describe me as friendly, witty and pleasant, but I seldom naturally wake up with a smile on my face and am prone to flustering in my personal life (though I am actively working on becoming a morning person).

When I watch clips of Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, I always admire how easily and honestly he laughs. He sees humor in everything. I wish I was that genuinely amused and delighted by the world around me. (I have a friend, Angy, who is the most cheerful person I've ever met. I aspire every day to see the world as she does.) My disposition is not likely something I can change dramatically, as it's an innate part of what makes me Me, but I can work to sway grumpy thoughts when they enter my consciousness. One way in which to do that is to acknowledge moments of gratitude. Verbally, in writing...it doesn't matter. As long as I put it out there.

As such, I'm combining a post full of things I have seen, heard, and bookmarked recently with a life lately post. Which I will call... Bookmarked Life. Or Lifemarked. Or Blately. (I clearly missed my calling as a professional product namer.)

Side note: Did I mention this is my third blog post this week? I know.


Grateful ... For a husband who hangs Christmas lights while I am at work, so I returned to a house brimming with holiday cheer.


Grateful ... For these simple and inexpensive wooden hoops, which have helped facilitate my new love of embroidery and piqued Kiddo's interest in cross stitch. After recently finishing a little robot kit we picked up in Seattle a year ago, he's moving on bigger, bolder things like a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy pattern. It's fun to see him explore different creative outlets. (Etsy is chock full of talented cross stitch + embroidery pattern artists.)

Also on my must-learn list: knitting giant blankets


Grateful ... For fresh ground coffee and a simple French press, which have rekindled my love of good old fashioned coffee. When it comes to my morning brew, a minimalist approach always turns out the best. Honorable mention: leftover whipped cream impulsively plopped on the top. (We've had our trusty French press for over a decade, but the same exact model is still available.)


Grateful ... For this boy, who draws by lamplight and (occasionally) lets me drag him out of the house for some mother-son quality time. Motherhood is fleeting, and I try my hardest to make the most of those small opportunities for togetherness. (Even if he is smack dab in the middle of the moody teenage stage.)


Grateful ... For this plastic lion from Target's Dollar Spot. It gave me an excuse to use copious amounts of glitter and put my restless hands to work. (I see a silver brontosaurus in my future...)

Also:
// Love this DIY house-shaped shelf which would be perfect for getting knick-knacks up and off of surfaces.


Grateful ... For this soup recipe, which I'm currently making on a weekly basis. It's simple, garlicky, and oh so warming + satisfying. (Prawn and Corn Soup from Top with Cinnamon, always doubled and tweaked to our liking.)


Grateful ... For an instructor at the hospital who did the impossible: make an 8-hour class interesting, inviting, and thought-provoking. She also brought along colored pencils, coloring books, and crayons to encourage doodling. I kind of wish I'd used a blank piece of paper; my creation is fridge-worthy.


Grateful ... For this amazing Pyrex dish, complete with original brass candle warmer/stand which I nabbed for just $12. (!!!) I haven't collected much over the past year, as our current kitchen doesn't have storage space beyond our everyday dishes. This sweet find rekindled my love of collecting unique pieces of Pyrex. (Because they bring me joy, and one day we will have the perfect place to display them all out in the open.)

In other Pyrex news:
// Learned about JAJ/England Pyrex. It's real Pyrex with amazing patterns I had never seen before.
// A Pyrex museum in my own backyard? How am I just finding out about this?!


Grateful ... To have some beautifully handwritten recipe cards from my grandmother and great-grandmother.  Especially this time of year when I'm drawn to the kitchen and the consumption of comfort foods. (A cake recipe, handed down, on this walnut cake stand = dreams coming true.)

Also:
// Debunking the water consumption myth.
// Living in a real life IG feed. (Sign me up for that class.)
// Goodread's Best Books of 2015 list was just published and I'm taking notes.
// Serial 2! and other great podcasts (via Erin)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas, simply.


The past few years I've been a bit curmudgeon-y about Christmas. Well, not Christmas itself, but the societal spectacle that has accompanied the holiday season. This year, somehow, seems better. Less hoopla about Black Friday, more emphasis on Small Business Saturday, and the overall feeling that a little civility has crept back into the season. I'm feeling the call to decorate more simply, to give generously but gift prudently, and to bring some tradition back into our holiday season.

Chalk it up to less free time or a desire to decrease stress or less attention paid to pretense than past years, but I'm feeling more of the jolly and less of the ugh:

// I worked a 12-hour shift on Black Friday so it was as if it never happened. (I also worked Cyber Monday and didn't order a single thing.)

// I devoted all of November 27th to Small Business Saturday and participated in Portland's Little Boxes program. We bought a few small but thoughtful gifts for family at locally owned shops. (Less is more is my motto this year when it comes to gift buying in general.)

 // I enjoy baking during the holidays, but don't want piles of sweets daring me to eat them all. Solution: gift my confectionery creations. I've baked cookies for neighbors and teachers, of course, but I've never really put together treat bags in lieu of a purchased item. Last year, for the first time, I made an extra batch of the almond roca I always give Husband and gifted some to friends and family. It left me feeling like I'd restored some tradition to the holidays. I've been wanting to add a few things to my repertoire, so I'm collecting recipes that look delicious and are easy to package and pass out as gifts.

// Mario and I agreed to an eight-gifts-or-less holiday. An arbitrarily chosen number (ten seemed too many?), but it will keep things modest. When you love someone and want to thank them for all the times they let you sleep in on school mornings or spared you homework duty or washed your underpants, it's hard to put limits on giving. But I'm voting for quality time instead of material things as a show of gratitude. Also, Kiddo is getting lots of books, not a single electronic-related gift, and we are officially done shopping for him. A new record.

// After spending an hour trying to design a holiday card online, I realized my heart wasn't in it. So for the first time in over a decade, we're not sending out a formal family card. In the process we are saving stress, oodles of money, and the pressure of writing an impressive What we've been up to! essay which always feels awfully self-indulgent anyway. (Were our lives more interesting, I might feel differently. But probably not.) Instead, a select group of close friends and family members will receive heartfelt, handwritten correspondence. I bought a pack each of Rifle Paper Company's Holiday Snow Scene and North Pole Map postcards from a local shop. They fit the simple + meaningful goal perfectly.

// Most years we've participated in a giving tree. Last year we were out of town and didn't know where to find one. I've always enjoyed giving more than getting (I am an awkward gift receiver), and I'd like to instill that same quality in Kiddo. I picked a person from our tree at the hospital and found out today that Kiddo's school has a giving tree of its very own. Getting back to this tradition feels very right.


// Husband and I were discussing when and where to set up the tree, and after a bit of hemming and hawing, we finally both came out with it: setting up the tree is a chore we don't look forward to. The hours spent assembling it, unwrapping and hanging box after box of ornaments, and untangling + hanging lights takes away from the joy for us. Why were we never honest about this before? Last year we set up a mini tree since we were spending the holidays in Montana, and it was such a relief to excuse ourselves from the effort. This year we are taking a less complicated approach to trimming the tree so we may spend more time enjoying it and less time hanging ornaments. Our halls are still decked, just more simply. (And only if it brings us happiness to do so.)


// Every year for the last 7 or 8 years, I've made a handmade ornament for Kiddo's teachers, friends, and family. More often than not, they became these overwhelming endeavors whereby I poured every ounce of the Type A tendencies I didn't know I had into making some Pinterest-worthy creation. Late nights spent holding tiny bottle brush trees with tweezers so they'd stay upright in the glass bottle I was trying to glue them into. Hours spent on the internet trying to find miniatures that often ended up costing a small fortune. (Exhibit A)(Exhibit B) Yes, people loved them. Yes, they were cute, fun to give, and earned me the admiration of others. But looking back I realize it wasn't worth the hardship. (I've since learned my value as a mother isn't tied to how much the teachers love me or how many elaborately decorated cookies I contribute to the Christmas program. The crappy overbaked and store-bought cookies others brought were consumed just as quickly; people aren't that picky.) This year I combined my ornament project with my desire to learn embroidery. Two birds, one stone. I downloaded some simple holiday patterns, bought a bunch of 3" wooden hoops, floss, and some muslin. Each one took less than an hour, cost just a couple dollars, and could be worked on while binge-watching Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel. I put a limit on how many I was going to make, which made each ornament feel more personal than in years past. I've enjoyed embroidering so much, in fact, I'm using the extra supplies to make a couple of handmade gifts for family members. (I also hauled in my glitter library from the craft tote in the garage and made my very own shimmering wreath, shown above. Husband is so supportive of my crafty impulses that he barely mentions the dusting of glitter on every surface of our home. Maybe next time you could keep the vacuum hose running next to you when you craft with glitter? You know, to catch the stray stuff?)

// I RSVP'd for the company cocktail party, but opted out of the cookie exchange. I'm contributing an ornament to the department tree, but I'm foregoing the ornament exchange party. Message to the me of years past: Don't be a hero, Sarah.

Here's to putting some sanity back into the holidays. And to letting things be a little less perfect. More handmade and less obligation.

Cheers!




Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Solitude.


Today was one of my most anticipated days off in a long while. Nothing special is happening: Husband is (still) out of town, Kiddo is at school, the house is (mostly) clean, and I've no plans until Kiddo's 3 o'clock orthodontist appointment.

So far I've watched the first hour of the Today Show; started and half completed a simple but pretty embroidery project for my sister-in-law (homemade gifts are always appreciated, even if constructed with an inexperienced hand...or so I tell myself); brewed and leisurely consumed a pot of French press coffee (I'm steeping my second pot as I write this); and scooping up packages off the front stoop as they are delivered.

As I recount the minutia of my day off, one might think, Is this blog-worthy?. I, myself, have wondered the same thing. Then I am reminded that these moments of solitude are rare and lovely and should be recognized. I love my boys, but hours spent in peace and quiet is what fills my bucket. Not shopping or crafting or listening to music, even. Times when the house is silent, my clothes are soft and warm, and there is a hot drink in my hand are the best times, the most rejuvenating times.

Lately I've been wondering what my goals are. Not the ones I set for myself so many years ago; the ones that occasionally have me feeling trapped in some sort of educational pigeonhole (of my own making, I admit). No, I'm talking about the goals that reside deep in my soul. The ones that seem crazy and impossible but just may be my destiny. You see, now that I'm knee-deep in the medical field, do I really want to make it my life's work? If it were just the practice of medicine, yes. Of course, yes. But hospitals are businesses. Clinics are businesses. And with businesses come budgets and bottom lines and bureaucracy. Many years ago, in the early stages of my return to academia, Mario admitted he questioned my ability to do what I set out to do. Not to excel in my studies, of that I know he has not had a moment's doubt, but rather the wherewithal to treat a patient, a human being, according to policy as opposed to innate instinct. Because the two are not always mutually inclusive. At the time we had one hell of a row—I was pissed. But mostly hurt. So hurt. We were driving home to New Hampshire from a road trip to St. Louis, and hours of tense silence ensued before we had it out in a random Starbucks parking lot. How could he not believe in me? Had he always felt this way?

Fast forward all these years and I find myself asking the same question: Can I stomach practicing medicine as part the machine healthcare has become? There are different fields of medicine, of course, but there will always be the numbers game no matter where I go. Will I spend my career feeling held back by my chosen profession? Was I meant to go through this so I may find my true calling? Was this my true calling all along and regular emotional hurdles are just another means of proving it? Is this yet another phase I must go through in order to discover my deepest potential? My one hundredth call to self discovery? I don't know. So while Husband's comments may have been poorly timed way back when, they weren't necessarily wrong. (For the love of god, don't tell him that.) Still, these are questions one must answer in those quiet moments alone, as opposed to defending their life's calling to their significant other. On an 18-hour drive.


And so on this rainy day, I am thankful I have nothing to do. Last night, after a 10-hour shift at the hospital, I made a grocery store run to stock up on ingredients to get us through the week's meals. Because I didn't want to start today with a to-do list. The gray skies and rainy weather, which have left the area with localized flooding and snarled traffic, kept me at home. If I had any inclination to run into the city to cross gifts off my shopping list, the dreary day squelched them. It gave me permission to perch at my kitchen counter with fingers to keyboard and that one last cup of coffee. I don't expect the answers to come to me today. But it's days like today, the silent and still ones, that will boost morale and usher in a fresh perspective.