"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: simplicity

2015 . . .

an ornament "branch" over the kitchen table. . .

an ornament “branch” over the kitchen table. . .

To commemorate Christmas, 2014, here is a photo of the lovely branch chandelier that hung over our kitchen table on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Its presence took away the arduous task of setting up the traditional Christmas tree (and having to take it down after the holidays.)

Following this lesson learned that less is indeed so much more than before, I’m also simplifying my life significantly in the new year that has just begun. Here’s to acknowledging what’s real and to fostering renewed contentment in ourselves and in our home.

Happy New Year!





simplicity (again!) . . .

DSC_0003Here’s a link to an interview with Jess Lee, the CEO of Polyvore on keeping it simple in a corporate culture. Her advice is to make lists of what you are doing, weed out those which are not important and focusing on what is, in a more focused way. Sounds simple, right? Actually, getting to simplicity is not that hard to read or talk about. Think about things. Prioritize. Focus. Weed out.

But it’s not so easy to carry out in action, though. What I have found in my journey to simplify is that it’s usually easy to start out and hard to maintain as a lifestyle. Being human, we go up and down about buying and accumulating things, a pattern that humorously seems to maintain a stubborn stasis of how much stuff we have. It’s hard not to be tempted by a nice necklace in a shop when you already have a few that you don’t wear that often in the drawer. It’s hard not to want a pair of boots for the winter season when you already have two perfectly good pairs that you like and wear. It’s hard not to think about gifts and surprises for friends and family when everyone already has all that they might need and more.

Still, the idea of simplifying is still so tempting, a siren’s call to pare down, slow down, reflect in silence. Dress more simply. Take jewelry off rather than putting it on. Looking for gifts that are simple but still wonderful. Last year, I made small mince pies to give out during the holidays. Eaten with a little cheddar cheese or ice cream, they were welcome presents not easily found in stores. This year, although G. has reminded me I still have jars of unopened mincemeat, I saw a recipe in the latest issue of Bon Appetit for savory shortbread made with caraway and fresh rosemary. Sliced in long strips, they will look great in cellophane bags with white dots that I used for the mince pies last year, tied with a ribbon and a sprig of fresh juniper from the yard. Maybe I’ll make both and offer up some of each. Providing “simple” gifts still takes work and care, doesn’t it?

We are planning a family holiday in a rental on the Cape after Christmas and are inviting a host of friends, their children and parents to a “dumpling fest” on the Saturday that we’ll be there. These are friends my daughters have known and played with since kindergarten. Now, their children will have a chance to meet each other, take walks out on the private beach and then come back to the house to eat piles of hot asian dumplings with different dipping sauces. Two kinds of soup: a clear soup with winter melon and a miso soup will simmer on the stove. This may not sound simple to you, but we are doing one thing that makes the whole thing do-able: and that is rather than making Chinese dumplings from scratch, we are going to heat up frozen dumplings (Korean ones with pork and chives; Trader Joe’s Thai shrimp dumplings and vegetable dumplings; pork bao etc.) There was a day in the past when I would have made everything myself from start to finish. But having tasted the Kimbo brand pork and vegetable dumplings, I’m satisfied that they’ll do nicely–even the wrappers are kind of glumpy like the ones that are home-made. I do confess that I’ve still had flashes of thinking I might make some up in advance anyway and freeze them. Probably not though.

So, little by little, simplicity enters our lives. Or, to put it another way, a not-so-complicated-as-usual mode might be a first step. I’ve also noticed that the fashion of the day is ultra simple clothing with very little other adornment. You can actually see the person underneath without all the flashy stuff.

Still, human nature is by definition often changeable and fickle. Besides, the holiday season is upon us with a late Thanksgiving and a few more weeks until Christmas and other holidays that are celebrated. Maybe the simplest thing of all might be just not to struggle so much with anything: being simple, not so simple or whether to make or buy. Just do what feels right and let it go.

Simple, right?

starting anew. . .

Baby Josie and me, this week!

Here it is almost new year’s eve and the beginning of a new year, along with many of us thinking about how we want our lives to be different with this turning page of the calendar.

Some things will remain the same: problems that crop up unexpectedly; relationships that are not what they seemed or that have run their course; perhaps some health issues that we didn’t know about or have ignored. Some things will be different, I suppose. On my list are these thoughts:

a. to be honest and straightforward (even more than I have been up to now) so that each day is clean and cleaned up as I go along. This has usually gotten me into trouble most of my life because I was unable or unwilling to “play the game,” and to say or do what I knew others might expect.

Thankfully, I’m not working in corporate America anymore. which means that I don’t have to dread spending my working days with people whom I didn’t trust very much, and whose agendas usually did me no good. But now, I don’t have to watch every word or how to phrase things in order just to get the work done. So, I’m grateful for this phase in my life.

b. to love and respect others without taking on their burdens. This one is a tough one because as a helicopter Mom, I have spent a majority of my life worrying about things that I couldn’t do anything about–just watching my daughters find their way in life. Now that they have reached a place where they are living their own paths, my work is done–except to feed them occasionally with good food, or to send an occasional check. This is also true for others whom I love and support. Judging not today or any day, but also, being here for them. Wholly and thoughtfully.

c. to continue to simplify my life and to curtail that which complicates it.

d. to simplify our lifestyle: to distill it down to its true essentials. And not anything more. That feels really good to me after the huge largesse of Christmas joy, holiday giving and wonderful things. Which I love doing and am probably the biggest mama of them all to give away what will be used and loved more than it would be in my possession. I love doing that–finding a better use for something that I might not use so much to justify keeping it.

me with a "mrs. santa" chocolate from my stocking. . .

e. to read a lot. really read. not to learn how to write by it. but to read for its own sake. I can’t WAIT to do that and have been wanting to read for pleasure as a way to live for a long time, not just catching bits of it along the way.

f. take care of my canaries and plants. Self-explanatory.

g. to rejoice in my luck and good fortune to be married to the love of my life.

George, tending a piano

h. to be surrounded by loving and delightful children. To be accompanied by charming and delightful granddaughters, fifteen years apart–one (Anna) almost ready to go to Paris with my daughter, Caitlin, this coming summer.

Caitlin, French teacher and la photographe extraordinaire

granddaughter, Anna, who is almost sixteen!

And the other little one (Josie) who just left–to be as charmingly engaged in life with each and every breath.

josie and megan

We are so lucky. And we’re lucky to know it and to be grateful.

Happy new year, everyone. No matter how bad the world appears on TV and in the news, we are lucky to be where we are. And at least for us, I’m grateful for it all and give thanks.

Many thanks!

meg, josie and jen!