Clearing my mind. (Minimalism, post 6.)

In a warm comment the other day, a new subscriber (hello!)  wisely noted that “everybody’s version of minimalism is going to be different.” I loved that she wrote that. Her words inspired me and got me thinking about minimalism in a broader sense, leading me to ask myself:

What am I hanging onto in my mind that might be creating clutter? My answers:

  • The past… those negative parts of my past with nothing left to teach or offer me.
  • People… those who do not share my belief – sometimes long-held – that we’re connected in some meaningful way.

Getting at the heart of it, I’m becoming aware of the difference between decaying memories vs. thriving ones, and true, lasting personal connections vs. insincere or transient ones. Am I hanging onto rotten memories? Am I holding onto the belief that there’s a relationship where there isn’t one, or where there was never one?

Sour memories… I’ve been working to put them at rest.

Relationships that have been chimeras all along… I’ve been realizing and processing the illusory nature of them. It’s painful, somewhat, but it’s time to minimalize.

I write this without bitterness, in the spirit of realism.

 

through the water glass

 

Decluttering my mind has become a part of my minimalism journey. Just as I need to let go of things without personal value, meaning, and purpose, I need to let go of memories without without value, meaning, and purpose. I need to learn to let go of people, too. I need to work on clearing my emotional cache.

To me, minimalism is really about that… letting go. We’ve been hanging onto things, and now we’re striving to free ourselves from those attachments. Making this endeavor in a realm beyond the physical feels just as cleansing. To clear the mind of clutter is to make more space for treasured memories and real connections.

 

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Writing and writing space updates! (REVISED office tour.)

Writing updates, in brief: I’ve been working through my second draft, mostly polishing, but also doing more extensive re-writing where I see the need. I’m loving this part. There’s nothing like a good chunk of time to clear your vision. 18 months later, I can really see this manuscript, and I’m going to town with it, just having fun. It’s exciting.

Office updates: I’ve got a bunch of pics to share for those of you with a penchant for seeing other people’s spaces. I get you. I’m one of you.

Main changes I made to my office since “office tour May 2017”: I snagged my old desk from its spot in the guest bedroom, added two small console/bookcase things to fit in the corner behind the desk, and acquired three more houseplants.

I loved sitting on the floor at my old German trunk, but the anti-ergonomic nature of that set-up became apparent. It was a matter of time, I suppose. I enjoyed it while I could! The books came up off the floor at the same time that I did (enter the small console/bookshelf things behind the desk). In the process of minimalizing, I removed the wall clock and the Luche Libre poster, and the only thing left hanging behind the door is my pair of boxing gloves (covered in dust, since I never use them).

About the houseplants: I’m up to five. I haven’t decided whether this counts as a minimalism fail. Does it? It doesn’t feel like it does. It feels like the energy within my ring of plants encourages my creativity. I would like to add one or two more, in fact.

Here’s the view from my window:

 

view to the front yard

 

…and here’s the interior:

 

looking in from the doorway

 

I keep the room neutral and plain. Only the plants add color.

 

where I write (same as before, except at an actual desk)

 

Nenette often naps on the futon. I can easily see her when I look up from my screen.

 

view from the desk, left of center – Nenette on the futon

 

Here’s a better pic of Nenette:

 

Nenette napping on the futon

 

To the right of the futon:

 

3 plants (Holder, Icarus, Barclay)

 

Behind my desk, right side:

 

another plant (Linden)

 

Behind my desk, left side:

 

another plant (Jerome)

 

Back of the door:

 

boxing gloves I love, but never use

 

That’s it for now! I hope you enjoyed this. I love peeking into other people’s offices, so this was fun to do.

 

Brought to you by my bookcase. (Minimalism, post 5.)

Going through my bookcase the other day, I came across the literature that rooted the notion of minimalism in my mind years ago. It’s a book by Meryl Starr called The Personal Organizing Workbook: Solutions for a Simpler, Easier Life, published in 2006. Starr had published its prequel in 2003: Home Organizing Workbook: Clearing Your Clutter, Step by Step. Starr had already been an internationally renowned expert in this field.

The passage in Starr’s book that interested me the most was this:

When you walk into a room or open a closet door and you can feel your energy just drop, that’s your signal that you’ve found a perfect place to begin. Enter this problem area, close your eyes, and imagine what that space would look like with nothing at all in it. Just thinking about that empty space, you may notice your spirits beginning to lift already. Next, ask yourself: if you lost all that stuff, what would you really miss? Make a mental list… no peeking!

Based on this philosophy, she succinctly advises on various areas. The closet, for instance. She offers step-by-step guidance:

  • Get some boxes
  • Empty everything completely off the racks in your closet, and throw it all on the bed where you can see it
  • Divide your clothes into categories: shirts, pants, dresses, etc.
  • Pick out your favorites in each category… you can put them back in your closet.
  • Pull out items you don’t like, things that need repair, and clothes that don’t fit
  • Look at the pile you have left over. This is your pile of maybes – maybe keep, maybe donate, maybe sell. To help guide you when going through the items, ask yourself these questions: “When was the last time I used this?”, “Do I love this?”, “Do I have another one similar to it?”, “How does this make me feel?”

 

Meryl Starr’s book from 2006 (my minimalism journey inspiration)

 

I bought Starr’s book in 2006 and did absolutely nothing with it except take her initial quiz, acknowledge that some minimalizing was in order, and then fantasize about doing it. I may have made a false start or two; something held me back from getting started in earnest. Starr’s book lingered in the back of my mind, though, as her book has lingered on my bookshelf. It all came back as I encountered my post-its while flipping through the book the other day.

It’s funny that the one thing I (so far) refuse to minimalize is books, and that’s why I still have Starr’s book encouraging minimalizing!

That bit of personal history aside, on with my minimalism updates! I don’t have many. Since my last update about a month ago:

1). I replaced the high-tops I’d given away; the new shoes provide much better support with their thick, quilted ankles. They actually help me to keep my balance while doing lunges.

2). With reluctance, I went to Target to look for a dress (needed for a specific event), and I DID NOT allow myself to be lured by the camo bomber jacket that Target obnoxiously positioned between the dresses and the fitting rooms. I recognize a trap when I see one. I did not fail at minimalism that day.

3). I combed through our coat closet and identified five pieces of outerwear I can do without. I’d attempted this area before with no success. Meryl Starr’s book helped me over that hurdle.

With the holidays upon us, our house looks less minimal than before. We’ve got our Christmas tree up and decorated, wreaths, string lights, and other bits of festive decor. It’s cheery and fun, but I’m looking forward to baring the house more than ever in the new year.

It’s that time again. (November Favorites!)

I’m back to share some “little things” that I enjoyed or actually loved in the last month! November brought significant “big” things to appreciate, such as visiting my family and finishing the first draft of my manuscript, but as always, this list is all about the fluff in between.

We’ve got a couple of T.V. series, a horror flick, some vegan processed (junk) food, some other edibles, and, of course, a few cruelty-free skincare products.

Without further ado, may I present…

 

1). Godless (T.V. series)

 

 

This series, in my humble opinion, is rave-worthy.

Westerns aren’t my favorite genre, but I do enjoy the genre; my all-time favorite movie – Tombstone – is a western. We thought we’d give Netflix’ new western mini-series a try. Godless did not disappoint. From its quintessential sweeping vistas to its characters who are badasses merely by virtue of existing, this one captivates for the reasons fans love westerns. One aspect that sets this western apart from others, though: in this traditionally male-dominated genre, Godless is female-dominated.

Add to this the story’s extravagant application of symbolism and metaphor (also characteristic of westerns), the quality of the production, itself, and the actors’ fine performances, and we’ve got a binge-watching hazard on our hands.

 

2). The Good Doctor (T.V. series)

 

 

Truth be told, we’re just entertained enough by The Good Doctor to keep watching it. The main attraction, for me, is Norman Bates in the lead role. I’m sorry, but hapless Freddie Highmore will always be Norman in my mind. (Bates Motel remains one of our favorite series.)

Callaghan feels the same way. While watching it, we’ll say things like, “Norman will figure it out!” and “Poor Norman is going to get blamed for this,” and “FINALLY Dr. Melendez recognizes that Norman is a genius surgeon!” Also, “But does Lea know that Norman is autistic?” because we’re rooting for Norman and Lea to become “Norman and Lea,” and the two of them are continuously confused by each other’s behavior communication-wise, and, well, you can see how this hospital drama closes in on soap opera territory at times. Maybe this explains why I’m only borderline super into The Good Doctor… generally-speaking, I don’t dig soap operas. We love Freddie Highmore’s character, though. We giggle every time he sums up his assessment with his emphatic, matter-of-fact “He’s dying” or “She’s dying” (right in front of the patient), which he does in almost every episode.

That being said, it’s Norman’s (I guess I should say “Sean’s”) personal journey and challenges that intrigue us. The Good Doctor is ultimately thought-provoking and well-wrought.

 

3). As Above, So Below

 

 

I don’t have much to say about As Above, So Below except that we enjoyed it. We’re not too discriminating when it comes to horror, especially since horror is sometimes at its most entertaining when it’s cheesy, low-budget, or just plain bad. Horror’s found-footage sub-genre is usually guilty of one or all of the above. As Above, So Below is no exception. We liked this one more than most, and definitely enough that we’d see it again.

Also, we’ve walked through those catacombs beneath Paris, and let me tell you… I believe these movie people 100% when they say that As Above, So Below was filmed down there. That the story unfolds in a familiar place made it even more creepy and entertaining.

 

4). Gardein Mini Crispy Crabless Cakes.

 

Gardein Mini Crispy Crabless Cakes

 

This is Gardein’s third consecutive appearance here. This time, it’s their crabless cakes, my friends. These little tidbits of doom are delightful. I don’t think they taste like crab, which is good if you like crab cakes that don’t taste like crab, if that makes any sense. Haha!

We bought these for my parents to try, and they liked them, too. We always find ourselves looking for more, so next time we’re in the mood for these junky, processed vegan treats, we’ll get two bags. (They’re not cheap, so they are treats.) Our preferred prep method is to bake them in the conventional oven. Oh… and they’re amazing with vegan chipotle “mayo,” in our opinion!

 

5). Simply Balanced Organic Agave Nectar Light.

 

Simply Balanced Organic Light Agave Nectar

 

I ran out of coconut sugar for my coffee and had to fall back on something else until we could get to the store. That “something else” turned out to be the unobtrusive bottle of light agave nectar we’ve had in the pantry forever. Now I remember how I used to love it! This might even be the second time I’ve featured it in a “favorites” post. For me, light agave nectar serves as a great middle ground (sweeter than coconut sugar, not as sweet as Truvia). I love its light smoothness, too.

 

6). Raw unsalted mixed nuts.

 

Raw unsalted mixed nuts

 

I love salted nuts, but in November, I cycled into my raw-unsalted phase. I leave a big jar of these mixed nuts out on the kitchen counter, and I grab a handful of them at random times… often with breakfast, actually. I’ll still have the salted nuts and seeds later in the day, so yeah, I’ve been doubling down on the mixed nuts. If you count the peanut butter I eat almost every day, it’s a triple-down. I have nothing against a daily mega-dose of healthy fats, though. They’re delicious.

 

7). Apple Pie Larabar.

 

Apple Pie Larabar

 

I’ve also cycled back into a Larabar phase! Lately, I’ve been enjoying this apple pie version as a spicy-sweet refined-sugar-free alternative to fall desserts. Ingredients: dates, almonds, unsweetened apples, walnuts, raisins, cinnamon. That’s it. Yum.

 

8, 9, 10). Yes to Coconut Ultra Hydrating Cream Cleanser, Yes to Coconut Ultra Hydrating Overnight Eye Balm, and Yes to Coconut Naturally Smooth Lip Balm.

 

Yes to Coconut Ultra Hydrating Cream Cleanser, Ultra Hydrating Overnight Eye Balm, and Naturally Smooth Lip Balm

 

Okay, I think it’s safe to say that I’m a huge fan of this entire line of products by Yes To. I’ve already talked about (and continue to use) Yes to Coconut cleansing facial wipes and Yes to Coconut moisturizer. It’s all wonderfully rich and hydrating, and I can’t say enough about it, really. If you have dry skin like I do, then you might do well to try out the Yes To Coconut line for your skincare!

 

That’s it for November! Happy Friday, friends.

Milestone reached. (Writing updates!)

I’m alarmed* thrilled to be able to share this update on the state of my novel! IT’S DONE.

The first draft is done, that is. It was very nearly done when I posted about it recently. Now it’s done-done.

It ended up at 84,590 words. Remember how my targeted word-count crept up from 50,000 to 60,000 and stayed there for a few months before I realized that I was going to need more words? Not long after I raised my target to 75,000 words, I laughed at myself and ditched the insanity of trying to approximate a word-count. Yeah.

I completed the draft on Tuesday last week, two days before Thanksgiving. It’s 398 pages long, but it’s the word-count that lands it in the widely-accepted “standard novel length” category. To think that I’d started with the idea that I was writing a novella-length piece shows how stories can tell themselves, unfolding in their own time.

*Needless to say, writing “THE END” came as sort of a shock. I went outside to take a deep breath and also a commemorative selfie. Somehow, the sun and the breeze and the warmth heightened my sense of accomplishment. It was a beautiful day.

 

Nov. 21, 2017 – wind-blown and done with draft 1.

 

Neither was I expecting this dual sense of exhilaration and melancholy. I’m at a loss trying to explain where the melancholy part comes from. Maybe it’s just the fact of reaching this milestone after 18 months… to have exited that world.

What’s next?

1). The second draft!

I’m starting work on draft 2 this week. This will mainly involve combing through the book from beginning to end, smoothing out any technical inconsistencies, and deciding whether to keep the novel divided into sections. As of now, I’ve got the manuscript marked with parts 1, 2, 3, and 4, the latter comprising the (hefty) remainder of the novel, which makes no sense. I just got to a point where I gave up on sections. Now I have to decide whether I even want them… and if I do, whether I want to name them or just number them.

2). Reading!

I’m eager to catch up on reading. I’m looking at Matt King’s superhero trilogy (I have the first book; the second and third should arrive this week), Lee Child’s new Reacher novel coming in the same Amazon order (can you believe I didn’t run out and grab it on its release date?!), and another novel that’s been sitting here for what seems like a long time.

That’s about it for now. I’m thinking I’ll post pics of my office in my next writing updates post, because it’s changed slightly since the last time I invited you in for a look. I know that some of you are like me in that you enjoy seeing other people’s spaces.

Happy Tuesday, Friends!

CAKES ON A PLANE.

Today, we spent four hours between an unanticipated airport and an unanticipated airplane, so here’s an unanticipated travel pic in an unanticipated post:

 

cakes on a plane

 

Apologies, friends. I had to amuse myself somehow on one of those planes.

My plan to post here at a reasonable time today fell through when our airline changed our returning flight to Phoenix. Everything is fine! We had an amazing time with family, and we’re home now, but I missed Blog Friday. [insert sad emoji]

Watch this space for a proper post on Tuesday!

Happy Thanksgiving (week)!

We’re all over the place this week… mostly out of town… so we just wanted to say:

 

!!!!!

 

I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving feels extra-special this year. I appreciate Thanksgiving as a holiday to honor family, friends, and loved ones. While I’m grateful for my family every day of the year, I’m happy to have this one day to dedicate to them, to honor our emotional connections, and to reflect on what’s truly important in life: each other.

Thanksgiving, I guess, is a personal holiday, meaningful in the ways that matter the most to us.

We wish you all a happy holiday this week. Thank you, friends.