The illusive five minutes

Dinner must be prepared at 6 o’clock every evening, whether or not I want to step into the kitchen after a long day at work; after that, the dishes must be washed. During the work day, the report must be prepared. I’m not immune to the urge to procrastinate, but I have learned that matters only get worse when I attempt to battle procrastination by pretending that it is not really there, lurking beneath the surface, tempting me to follow the random thought that has just popped into my head that would lead me to the Google front page and the search field.

The chatter in my mind goes something like this:

I’m awfully curious about how to make crispy courgette fritters, instead of the soft and mushy ones that always materialize on my frying pan. So, Google to the rescue! What’s another five minutes of Googling? I’ll get back to my report in a moment.

or

I will just sit on the sofa for five minutes and quickly read a few pages of my book. After that, I will go straight into the kitchen and start preparing those fritters for our dinner.

You get the idea. It might sound familiar to you. We fool ourselves into thinking that somehow, a five-minute distraction will not make a big dent in our routine, that it might fine-tune our focus. Most often, what happens in my case is that the five minutes make me feel more reluctant to pursue the task. In fact, the seemingly insignificant break makes me resent the task before me. Those five minutes turn into 25 minutes and before we know it, everyone is starving and feeling irritable, and I don’t feel any more enthused about preparing dinner.

I could remind myself to focus on the task at hand, to remember the big picture and why I’m doing what I’m doing (to feed myself and my hungry family; to clean the kitchen in order to ensure that it remains welcoming; to prepare the report because if I don’t do it now, the work will accumulate and weigh heavily on me). That sounds like a valid way of going about it. Yet, I’ve been trying a different approach: meeting myself where I am. I allow myself to sit with what I’m feeling for a few minutes, acknowledging my current state and being honest about the inner dialogue that takes place in my mind. I listen carefully to my justification about why, after five minutes, I might feel ready to finally approach the task. Then, I continue to sit and breathe. Sometimes, I take a walk around the office or our home, moving slowly, breathing deeply. In lieu of a five-minute Google or reading break, I give myself a breathing break. I must say, it is a much more effective way to re-centre my mind and recommit to my intention to stay kind to myself while continually bringing my focus back to the present moment.

Do you have a practice or tips that help you to stay focused and avoid distractions? Please leave a comment below.

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Less noise, clear focus

 

We visited my parents in ‘cottage country’ and while there, lounged on three different beaches, went snorkeling, SUPing, and hiking. We watched glorious firey sunsets, sat by the bonfire and toasted marshmallows, then gazed at the stars sprinkled across the velvet sky. We ate freshly picked local blueberries, peaches, and corn. We fished a snake and crayfish out of the lake, observed them more closely, then released them. We rode on a mountain roller coaster and one of us even decided, on a whim, to go ziplining for the first time. We reveled in the tranquility of nature away from the city.

August113While away, I also celebrated my birthday and set a new intention for my personal new year:

I want to live with less noise and with focused intention, directing my attention to whom and what matters most.

Over the weekend, I picked up my phone once per day for a few minutes, quickly glancing at my email to ensure that there was nothing pressing to which I had to respond. In truth, I was reluctant to pick up the phone. I have grown tired of the noise and overload of information. In spite of the quick glances at my email, I enjoyed an extended break from technology and, specifically, social media. I did not miss it.

Maybe the fleeting, magical days of summer are to blame, or maybe it was the effect of getting away from the everyday routine, but the tech break sparked ideas in my mind: I could delete my social media accounts. Yet, I know that many people use Facebook to send private messages, and it’s good to keep in touch. It’s also a great way to communicate with the wonderful readers of this blog, for whose support I am always grateful. Perhaps I could take a sabbatical from social media for a few months?

August112For now, I have decided against taking a true sabbatical from social media. I will still be here, will continue to publish stories on a weekly basis, but social media posts from me will likely become less frequent. Time is precious, and I don’t want to waste it in front of a computer screen.

If you’re looking for me, I’ll be at the beach, on a forest trail, or hiking up a mountain.

I would like to know how you make space for intentional living with less noise. Please leave a comment below.

 

Tracking our precious time

When out for a walk, commuting to work, or knitting at home, I have been listening to audio books. My current listening material is the audio version of Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours: You Have More Time than You Think In her book, Vanderkam encourages us to track our time for at least a week in order to get a better idea of how we spend the majority of our time, and to point out any ‘time wasters.’ I have written previously about the idea of time tracking, but wanted to take a closer look at it again.

My goal is to maximize my time at home and be happier as I go about being the best mom and partner I can be. I stand behind research findings that state that our will powder is finite resource that depletes throughout the day after we have expended it on various task. This is precisely why I do my best to discern from among the many tasks on my list and choose the ones that most require my attention. For this reason, also, it is best to do our most important work in the morning. And yet, I also remind myself to conserve my energy for the evening in order to continue give it to those who matter most: my family. With that in mind, here is what I learned by tracking my time in the morning before work and in the evening:

  • I am in a much better mood if, after I arrive at home, I have 10 times to eat dinner without speaking with anyone. Typically, when I walk through the door, I feel tired after the commute. On most days, I do not have 10 minutes to recharge before having to step into ‘mommy mode.’ However, on the days when I do have that luxury, I am a happier, more efficient mom.
  • The more time I spend analyzing how tired I feel after work, the less I want to spend time on preparing dinner for the following day. For me, this is akin to decision fatigue. The more time I spend on thinking about how much I do not want to do something, the less energy or willpower I have to actually get up and tackle the task. The key is to get up and do it. If I can also have fun while preparing dinner, it’s a bonus.
  • I can make mundane tasks more enjoyable by singing as I go through the motions, or challenging myself to move a bit quicker as I clean the toilet and wipe the counter in the powder room. This might not be a good mindfulness technique; nevertheless, it allows me to get things done when I feel tired but must get through a few core tasks.
  • Often, there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything we need to or want to accomplish. However, I can always compartmentalize my ‘to do’ list, then pick and choose from those categories. Under the ‘Cleaning’ category, for instance, I list the powder room; the upstairs bathroom; the basement bathroom; and general dusting of the surfaces. Mr. Wanderlust takes care of washing the floors and vacuuming the carpets. Given that I have those four tasks on my list under the subtitle ‘Cleaning,’ I break them down into 15-minute time slots throughout the week. Monday is for dusting. Tuesday is for cleaning the powder room. Wednesday is for the upstairs bathroom. You get the idea.
  • Given that I have more energy in the morning, following my 5:30 a.m. workout, I squeeze in 15 minutes to quickly tidy the house in order to avoid having to do so in the evening. This also means that I do sometimes go to bed with the choice to ignore the mess until the morning, but I insist on having Wanderlust Juniors put away their games, toys, and books before the end of the day.
  • My parents are currently staying with us on weekdays and my mom serves dinner to Wanderlust Juniors before Mr. Wanderlust and I arrive at home from work. Immediately after we return from work, we are off to karate practice. After that, Mr. Wanderlust and I have dinner while Wanderlust Juniors enjoy a snack. The key, at that point, is for me to avoid procrastinating about getting the boys to brush their teeth, shower, and choose their books for bedtime reading. It’s easy for me to distract myself and the boys with something that seems much more fun than brushing one’s teeth, showering, and reading books. Yet. I also know that if I stay with our schedule, not only will I have more enthusiasm to read to the boys, but I also will have more time to chat with Mr. Wanderlust or knit, read, or write after they have gone to bed and before my own bedtime approaches.
  • Some nights, it’s more than okay to turn in early. I wasn’t feeling well earlier this week and went to bed at 9 p.m., immediately after Wanderlust Juniors. This means I did miss out on the opportunity to read or craft, but on that day, sleep was my top priority. In fact, it should be a top priority every day.
  • I could fill my entire day with activities that I love to do. The majority of those days would involve hiking, spending time on the beach, reading, or crafting. Hobbies are classified as ‘Me Time’ and the list is a long one. On most days, it’s not realistic for me to fill my time with these activities. So, I choose the one to which I am most drawn on that day. Again, there may not be enough hours in the day for everything, but there are enough hours in the day for everything if we choose from among the several items in one category.
  • Big time wasters for me are Googling — even if at times I do genuine research into yoga, meditation, Ayurveda, writing, literature, etc. — and social media. I have noticed that the only time I truly tend to ‘surf’ social media, scrolling through my newsfeed, is when I feel tired in the evenings. For that reason, I do my best to avoid technology in the evening. If I must use the computer for research or writing, I set that intention before flipping open my laptop, reminding myself to focus on the task at hand and not be swayed by something I might have suddenly remembered about what someone posted on Facebook.

I also have been tracking the time I spend on various tasks while at the office. Doing so has helped me to be more mindful of my approach to those various tasks, reminding me that I do my best work in the hours before noon, and that the more I procrastinate and analyze my procrastination, the less energy I have to jump into any task, including those about which I’m enthusiastic.

Have you tried to track your time at home, at work, or both? What were some of the most surprising lessons you learned as a result of logging your time? I invite you to leave a comment.

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A story of commitment, dedication, and love

In 2015, we decluttered our house and currently are living only with what we use on a regular basis and what brings us joy. We continue to follow the ‘one in, one out’ rule by giving away the old equivalent of a new item. We continue to question everything we impulsively think we ‘want to get.’ Admittedly, we have become scrupulous when it comes to bringing any new items into our home. Yet, there is still plenty of work to do. This year, we are updating our home with DIY renovations. Our goal is to refresh our space and make it jive with our new simplified lifestyle. Paradoxically, the work itself is not simple, but minimalism doesn’t always equal minimal effort.

Two weekends ago, Mr. Wanderlust and I painted the living room / dining room, upstairs landing, and stairway from the living room and kitchen level to the bedrooms upstairs. My parents had graciously taken Wanderlust Juniors to their home for the weekend, leaving us with two days of uninterrupted work. Our time was limited and the original walls were a dark, deep raspberry colour to cover which we had to apply two coats of primer. We made a mental note to think twice next time before making the decision to paint a wall red.

By Saturday night, the living room was a labyrinth of furniture around which we had to tread carefully while moving paint cans, brushes, and other tools around the perimeter. As we were preparing for bed, having showered and washed the primer off our arms, determined to wake up early the following morning to resume our work, Mr. Wanderlust asked me to bring a thermometer to him. He was running a high fever, having come down with strep throat, as the doctor would advise two days later.

He spent Sunday morning migrating among the bedroom, where he attempted to sleep, his face a sad sickly grey shade, waiting for the pain killers to kick in; the bathroom, where he gargled with salt water; and the living room, where he joined me in painting for ten minutes at a time before feeling faint and needing to lie down again. Despite all this, he never complained. He did his best to assist me.

By 7 p.m., after resisting the urge to snap at each other due to fatigue (felt by us both) and sickness (that of Mr. Wanderlust), the living room furniture had been pushed back into place, the carpet had been vacuumed, the floors washed, and a few pieces of art hung on the walls. We were ready for the boys’ and my parents’ arrival.

If there is a lesson that Mr. Wanderlust and I have learned from our marathon painting experience, it’s this: Life’s plans are not always congruent with our plans, but when we are determined to make progress and are ready to work steadily together to create changes, we can usually come out on top. I’m grateful for my selfless and committed partner and his quirky sense of humour, even when not feeling well. I’m grateful for the antibiotics that brought him back to good health. I’m grateful that Wanderlust Juniors have a wonderful father who is a great role model for them, and we are looking forward to celebrating Father’s Day together.

Wishing a very happy Father’s Day to all who are celebrating this weekend!

One good word

I have been feeling tired.

Tired of the glare of the computer screen.
Tired of the buzzing phone.
Tired of hearing news stories meant to spark arguments, dividing people into groups of those who agree and those who disagree.
Those two groups can often be united in the sharing of their harsh opinion toward those who are not ready to pass judgment or choose to keep their opinions to themselves.
Can we excuse ourselves from having an opinion?
We are asked to judge, to think, to reflect, but there are subjects that do not interest me.
To think of those subjects takes more energy than I wish to expend.
Is that wrong?
Instead, I choose to direct my attention, which has been worn thin as of late, toward what and who matters most to me.
I opened my Facebook page today to read about two new topics that sparked drama among parents.
Why is it usually the women who are most deeply affected by this drama?
We feel.
We analyse.
We are sensitive.
Most importantly, we want to protect our children while creating a better world for them.
May I suggest that perhaps we should start by practising kindness?
Kindness toward ourselves.
Kindness toward others who try too hard while wondering whether they’re doing okay, feeling a bit lost, insecure, confused.
And yes, tired.

On this note, I leave you with words by the poet David Whyte:
Loaves and Fishes

This is not
the age of information.

This is not
the age of information.

Forget the news,
and the radio,
and the blurred screen.

This is the time
of loaves
and fishes.

People are hungry
and one good word is bread
for a thousand.

— David Whyte
from The House of Belonging 
©1996 Many Rivers Press

In awe of time

I refrain from comparing myself to others; whenever I do tap into that samskara (see: an imprint from our past), the results are most often horrendous. Nothing takes me farther from mindfulness than the moment when I start to compare myself to others. Yet, sometimes, comparison sparks reflection.

On Sunday, while visiting the Toronto zoo with my family and waiting in line to see the new Giant Panda cubs, I naturally started watching the people around me. I love to people-watch, to study ‘strangers’ who intrigue me, then compose stories about them in my mind. I watched a beautiful woman with curly blond hair piled high, who wore her young baby in a carrier on the front of her body while pushing her toddler in a stroller before her. I looked at my own children, attempting to be patient while waiting our turn to see the pandas. Was it really that long ago that Wanderlust Juniors were six months and three years old, respectively? In a photograph on a wall in our home, taken about 3.5-years ago during another Sunday outing at the zoo, I’m wearing the youngest Wanderlust Junior in a carrier, facing me, while holding the hand of the eldest Wanderlust Junior, who looks remarkably young and small.

Time doesn’t often catch me off-guard. I start each day with yoga and the intention to live fully in each moment. I continue to remind myself of this intention throughout the day. I end each evening with meditation and express my gratitude for all the experiences of the day that has passed. I don’t wish to return to those infant and toddler days. I don’t wish to repeat it all. I do cherish all our wonderful memories from that time. Yet, I am in awe of the magic that lurks in the background while we move through our daily routines of work, school, clean-up, laundry, dishes, play time, books, and bedtime, working every day to simplify, to slow down, to allow ourselves to create space to breathe and revel in the beauty of these routines, sometimes organized, often chaotic.

May we remember to slow down, to sit back for a minute, and observe with gratitude the intricate miracles that weave themselves into each experience, however grand or mundane.

Domestic Resourcefulness

Once upon a time, Mr. Wanderlust and would roast our own coffee beans. However, this process fell by the wayside with various responsibilities that we acquired with the title and role of parenthood. In the recent years, I started to purchase whole and coarsely ground coffee beans from a few of my favourite cafes. We use our espresso machine at home on a regular basis, and the grinder attached to the machine is set to fine espresso grind. On the weekend, when using the french press, we need coarsely ground coffee. However, since we do not drink french press coffee on a daily basis, the beans I used to buy ground would lose their freshness after the first couple of weeks. And so, I contemplated purchasing a simple coffee grinder. However, given that we are working to simplify our lifestyle and choose to eliminate from our kitchen anything limited to one purpose, I was reluctant to spend the money.

About a month ago, a dear friend who, like me, is a devoted fan of Outlander (the book and the TV series) and who, in fact, introduced me to the book, gifted to me at Christmas a charming miniature Outlander mortar and pestle set. For about a week, I admired the pretty white ceramic dish, decorated with green Celtic knots, until one day, while buying whole coffee beans and thinking about how much I missed drinking french press coffee, the idea flashed swiftly before me. At home, reaching my hand into the paper bag filled with aromatic freshly roasted coffee beans, I scooped a small batch and gingerly started to grind them, one small bit at a time. It might have taken some arm strength, but the effect was excellent. I will never again need to buy ground beans.

Upon seeing my newly discovered interested in the mortar and pestle, Mr. Wanderlust reminded me that he has an heirloom metal set, designed to practical proportions for the same purpose. For now, I prefer to use my new favourite handy old-fashioned kitchen gadget with a whimsical modern flare. I continue to explore my capacity for domestic resourcefulness and have started grinding cumin seeds, coarse sea salt, and this morning ground a few peppercorns to sprinkle on top of the beef roast that is currently simmering inside the crock pot.

Do you have a similar story or a useful kitchen tip to share? Please leave a comment below! 

P.S. If you are interested in obtaining your own pretty mortar and pestle set and would like to order it by clicking on this link, you would also help to support this website.

peppercorns
Freshly ground peppercorns. Who needs a pepper mill when one can have fun using a mortar and pestle?!

Discernment: to keep or to discard?

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Keeping: Lego. Please read the text for an explanation.

Last year, we launched a minimalism project in our home. It’s still going strong today. I am not a proponent of labels of any kind, and I would not be quick to describe myself as a minimalist. My definition of minimalism might be different from the definition of someone who lives in a white-walled studio apartment with three pieces of sleek modern furniture in the living room and two pieces of cookware in his kitchen. Our home is far from looking like Bea Johnson’s, though I admire her style and will continue to borrow tips from her. To me, minimalism is a concept that is as unique as the person who chooses to subscribe to its lifestyle. Does our home look empty? No. Wanderlust Juniors’ Lego collection continues to grow with each birthday and Christmas, to my chagrin. I continue to remind myself that sometimes, simplifying doesn’t only mean detoxifying our home of material objects; more often, detoxifying means cultivating an attitude of equanimity toward the clutter of my loved ones.

We continue to work toward detoxifying our home and have found that, although it becomes a natural process after the first big cleanup operation, it is a constant work in progress to discern what we want to keep in our home and what must go. I created a list of items that we have discarded and those that we have kept following our big cleanup:

 

What we discarded:

Books and magazines

I used to collect yoga, fitness and nutrition magazines, keeping them for the myriad articles to which I was sure I would refer over and over again. In truth, there were a few useful recipes and tips in the magazines, but not enough to warrant holding onto the growing stacks that took up space in the basement. I took photographs of interesting articles or recipes and saved them on my computer’s hard drive. I also used to purchase cookbooks. Although I did enjoy perusing the books in search of tips and recipe ideas, overtime, I created my own repertoire of recipes to which I continue to return. If I do need to find a new recipe, I use good old Google. I have donated or gifted the cookbooks. With regard to fiction and non-fiction books, I have kept the classics, as well as other favourite books that I enjoy re-reading. I choose to keep the books that I look forward to sharing with my children. For those of you wondering, I do read on the Kindle sometimes, but prefer printed books. Mr. Wanderlust’s library mainly consists of non-fiction books on geography, history, philosophy, and comparative mythology.

Children’s art work

I’m one of the millions of moms who feel a pang in their chests at the mere thought of throwing out their children’s art work. I still feel that pang from time to time, but have learned to deal with it in a pragmatic yet sentimental way that suits our family. I choose a few art pieces that are special to my children and/or to me and Mr. Wanderlust, and we keep those in a box. I take photographs of the majority of the artwork and email them to an address I have set up for Wanderlust Juniors. In those emails, I also provide updates for the boys on their latest interests and challenges. It’s my hope that when they will be older, my children will enjoy the trip down memory lane with this extensive documentation, and will cherish the several ‘favourite’ original works of art that we keep carefully tucked away.

Clothing, makeup and skin care products

I have a simple rule: Whenever I purchase an item of clothing, I discard a similar worn item. This means that I only purchase shoes when the current pair I have starts to look shabby. This rule applies not only to my wardrobe but to the wardrobes of Mr. Wanderlust and Wanderlust Juniors. I purchase clothes for the children twice a year, on average, and replenish their clothes as they outgrow them. I should also mention that I only purchase makeup items or my basic skin care products (if you’re wondering, those skin care products are sweet almond oil, cocoa or shea butter, baby lotion, and J.R. Watkins hand cream) when the tube or bottle is almost empty.

Single-use kitchen gadgets

Several years ago, I purchased a cake pop maker. I used it a handful of times before tossing it into the back of a cupboard. I used to bake our own bread in a bread machine until I realized that I prefer a special type of bread that I purchase at the local grocery store and haven’t been able to recreate at home. We have donated the bread machine and sold the cake pop maker via a local buy-and-sell Facebook group to a father who wanted to spend some time baking with his daughter. If I want to bake bread at home, I can always spend some time kneading it by hand and bake it in the oven. Or, I could use our stand mixer.

What we kept:

Favourite mixer

I enjoy baking. Immensely. Although I could stand in the kitchen while furiously working out the forearm muscles of my right arm while whisking batter, I choose instead to use that time helping Wanderlust Juniors crack eggs or grease the baking sheet for the cookies. Our orange Kitchen Aid mixer is lovely and we use it for everything, including kneading dough for bread and cinnamon buns. For now, we have no plans to discard it.

Photo albums and journals

I do not enjoy looking at photographs on the computer. In my old-fashioned way, I love scrapbooking and documenting our family adventures with little notes and (yes) stickers. Wanderlust Juniors and I spend a long time studying the photographs while seated on the living room sofa, laughing together while sharing stories, learning about one another’s unique perspective of the memories we built together. For that reason, I continue to print photographs, and although this contributes to the growing number of photo albums in our home, those albums are worth all the moments of bonding that they allow us to create.

I have kept a journal since I was in my early teens and started to discover a love of writing. I use my journal for everything from recording insights, inspiring quotes, stories, planning vacations, and planning weekly menus. My journal is my personal, private version of a Pinterest board.

Pretty dishes

I will preface this paragraph by explaining that I do not have many fancy dishes that I keep for the special times when we have company for dinner. However, I do keep an extra set of dishes for those occasions. I’m referring here to a special set of cappuccino cups and saucers, espresso cups and saucers, a set of fine tea china, and cut crystal glasses that we have inherited from our families. We enjoy this small collection and it’s special to us. Most importantly, it brings us joy. Will we buy additional items to contribute to the existing ones? No way.

Travel souvenirs and gifts

Before we settled down and had Wanderlust Juniors, Mr. Wanderlust and I used to collect travel souvenirs everywhere we went. We have acquired enough of them to fill a few small shelves. Those shelves are also occupied by gift souvenirs brought to us by friends and family members upon returning from their world travels. The items themselves are meaningless, but the stories they contain allow our house to feel like our home, reminding us of our journeys and values. These days when we travel, we abstain from purchasing souvenirs, or buy only the ones that we truly want to have, and preferably ones we can use, instead of admiring them on a shelf.

Knitting yarn and needlework projects

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Also keeping: a few favourite items that I knit for Wanderlust Juniors.

I will confess that I used to collect yarn. Knitters tend to be notorious collectors, and it’s logical. We know the great value of good-quality yarn and we search for bargains that we refuse to pass up. However, when I realized that my yarn collection – a relatively small one when compared to the collections of many fellow knitters – had to be cramped into the small cabinet in which it’s stored, I knew something had to change. I stopped buying yarn. Just. Like. That. These days, I use the yarn I have for the projects on which I’m working. I no longer rush to finish a project in order to start another one, nor do I have several projects on the go at any one time. I knit fast, but in short increments of time. This is due both to my work schedule and commitments at home. If I pass by a pretty yarn shop into which an invisible and undeniable force lures me, I walk into it as I would into a museum. Oh, it’s difficult to resist reaching out to touch the soft, candy-coloured fibres, and sometimes I give in. Then, acknowledging that I don’t need to buy new yarn, I walk out of the store. In case you’re wondering, I also avoid walking into clothing stores in order to browse. It helps that I don’t enjoy shopping and despise the mere idea of walking into the typical mall.

The bottom line:

I don’t believe that the goal of minimalism is to discard every trinket in our homes until we are left with the bare necessities. I do believe in creating a home that feels comfortable and reflects the lifestyle of the family that occupies its space. A lifestyle of minimalism is the opposite of a lifestyle of over-consumption of food, technology, and various other resources. Minimalism is about practising awareness with each decision, with the ultimate goal of creating a lifestyle of ease and simplicity.

Would you like to leave a comment regarding your own interpretation of minimalism, or your criteria for what you choose to keep or discard? Please do so in the space below.

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Of mice and capsule wardrobes

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This photo has nothing to do with mice or capsule wardrobes, but I thought I would spare you from having to look at photos of jars of organic peanut butter, or empty mouse traps.

What do mice have in common with a capsule wardrobe? What does Mr. Wanderlust have in common with mice? Read on to find out…

“Mice. Again,” I murmured to Mr. Wanderlust in the middle of the night. This wasn’t the first time those uninvited guests paid us a visit.

In reply, he turned to face me.

“I’ll set the mouse trap, but I need access to the roof from your closet.”

With a groan, I rolled onto my other side and attempted to go back to sleep. At least Mr. Wanderlust didn’t have to ask about peanut butter, which is always well-stocked in our pantry and which Wanderlust Juniors and I are forced to eat at a distance from Mr. Wanderlust. He’s not allergic; he can’t stand the smell. The mice do generally take a fancy to it.

Every night for two weeks, we woke up in the middle of the night to sounds of vigorous scratching somewhere directly above our bed. The sound would then transition to something akin to a small marble being rolled on wooden boards. Sometimes, the pests’ work (or is it really play?) would start earlier in the evening while we read in bed before turning off the lights. Our cat Tigger, from her cozy spot at the foot of the bed on Mr. Wanderlust’s side, would gaze up in half-interest. What more could she do? At the very least, we felt reassured that the pesky visitors wouldn’t dare to sneak into any of the rooms of the house located below the roof, from fear of being captured by chiseled feline claws. It doesn’t matter that the cat herself has never in her life seen a living mouse. Would she know, instinctively, how to hunt?

The scratching bothered us. What annoyed me almost as much was the idea of having to move my clothes out of the closet to make room for a ladder, which Mr. Wanderlust would then use to climb up to open the small square door to access the insulated attic. During our last mouse-trapping operation, I made temporary homes for my off-season clothes in the closets of the bedrooms of Wanderlust Juniors. And so, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this time, the move was almost automated. Not only did I relocate the warm-weather items out of the closet but also created a new winter capsule work wardrobe for myself, all within 10 minutes. I may have even performed a quick happy dance in the crowded closet. That will teach me to procrastinate!

After two weeks of navigating around the ladder in order to access my sweaters while listening closely for any new sounds of scratching, only to be met with silence, we realized the mice are onto us. Either they are stealthy or perhaps they migrated elsewhere for the winter after rooming with us. We are keeping the leftover peanut butter in a jar in the garage, just in case the noisy squatters decide to return. Then again, perhaps they, like Mr. Wanderlust, have developed an aversion to peanut butter and now see it as a deterrent.

In any case, I’m left with a cozy capsule wardrobe for the next few months.

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Simplifying and Trusting

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“I am not stressed out,” I reassured my mom.

“But you’re so busy!” she replied, a line of concern starting to form between her eyebrows.

“I’m not too busy to make a birthday cake for you,” I smiled back, proceeded to eat my peanut butter granola and drink my breakfast tea, then dashed upstairs, quickly dressed in the day’s work outfit, kissed my mom and Wanderlust Juniors goodbye and with a big smile, wished the boys a wonderful day at school before joining Mr. Wanderlust in the car.

While carpooling with Mr. Wanderlust, I considered my schedule. I suppose it’s the typical schedule of a working mom, with well-organized but sometimes inevitably rushed mornings; drives to karate practice three evenings per week; leading two classes per week; bedtime routines with ample time dedicated to books and cuddles. Our weekends are focused on cleaning, laundry, the weekly grocery run, yard work, and of course, family time. I am not in the habit of seeking to create additional work for myself, but I do have my priorities, on which I spend more time than I might ‘need’ to spend. I do make time to prepare healthy meals for my family. I do make time for physical fitness and for brain fitness in the form of meditation and reading. I also place high value on a good night’s sleep.

Certain other ‘luxuries’ often tend to fall off my plate. Among them are a regular practice at the yoga studio and meetings with friends and family members. As the old guilt starts to rise up from its pit, I admit defeat. I have been feeling tired, unwilling to add one more commitment to my calendar, even if the commitment is one that normally does not feel like work.

Slowing down requires letting go of effort. Slowing down requires saying ‘No’ to commitments. Slowing down requires trusting that everything will still be where I left it when I am ready to return again; if something will have shifted, I will be able to pick up the pieces with renewed enthusiasm. Maybe. Hopefully. For now, I will focus on doing my best and acknowledging my value with reminders:

I have not been a bad yogi. I have been a solitary yogi who fits in her practice whenever she can, most often after a daily 5 a.m. wakeup call.

I have not been a bad mother. Instead of driving to an evening yoga class, I drive my eldest Wanderlust Junior to his karate classes or, while Mr. Wanderlust takes on that duty, I enjoy one-on-one dinner at home with the youngest Wanderlust Junior.

I have not been a bad friend. Although I see each of my closest friends about once a month, or sometimes once in every few months, I ensure that we remain in touch via email, even if this means sending each other novella-length letters as a means of catching up. I am grateful for friends who enjoy good, old-fashioned email communication as much as I do.

I have been listening to my intuition, heading to bed earlier in the evenings as the days become shorter and the nights longer. I have been feeling the tune of Nature and acquiescing to her advice murmured quietly on the wind that rushes past me on a weekend walk, carrying with it colourful maple leaves that slow down to a graceful swirl as they descend. Like them, I am ready to release some of the control for which I have been grasping while keeping up with daily schedules, maintaining patterns.

I am making space for rest. I am simplifying. I am here, caring, paying careful attention, fine-tuning my focus, and trusting.