Living The Cluttered Life

“Many years ago, Sharon and I decided we would clutter our lives with people instead of things. Our most valuable possessions are relationships.” 

My dad shared many other sweet, tender, challenging thoughts in the letters he gave to my husband me on the day we got married seven years ago. He talked about prayers he had prayed and how I am so much like my mother when she was young. He gave advice and offered praise. While all of his thoughts are ones I will treasure… my parents’ philosophy on life is the sentiment that has stuck with me the most.

I often wonder if I am living my life well, if I am making choices I can be proud of when I look back on my life. The answer isn’t always “yes” but as I look back over the past few months I see my husband and I taking steps to live a “cluttered” life.

The weeks have been filled but with things of value.

A visit from my mom.

A trip up to see my sister and do nothing really, other than curl up against the cold and the rain with the baby between us and watch countless hours of Once Upon a time. We visited and told stories and caught up. But mostly we just sat silently, taking turns bouncing the baby, watching TV, and just existing together the way only sisters sometimes can. 

A breakfast with one of my best friends. The one that moved out of town last March causing me to cry for days because she was the only one left in town who knew me before my husband and knew my history and where I was from and because of that understood where I was going.

A visit from a girl (woman really) who’s story is so wound up in mind it would take pages to explain. She may not be blood but she is family and the women in our families are now all tied up together in layers of loving and mentoring and doing life together for three generations and close to 40 years.  For a few short days she came and staid in our guest room and walked with us to the bus top, and played games with my girls and rocked them to sleep the way her mother once did for myself and my older sisters and I once did for her and her sister. 

And in between it all shared dinners with my brother and his family (they live in our basement) and getting to watch my nephew learn how to walk. 

An off the cuff get together with the neighbors when I forgot to get fever reducer after Tacy’s first shots and they brought some over.

A Halloween party with the people we do life with and sitting on the kitchen floor surrounded by friends and kids and babies and the cat eating kit-kats and laughing and escaping from the frustrations we all have with trying to make ends meet these days. 

Living the cluttered life isn’t always easy. It can be costly. Love hurts and allowing your life to be filled with people means being surrounded by love but also being surrounded by a millions ways for your heart to be broken.

My wedding day wasn’t the first time I had my dad verbalized this concept of a cluttered life. My parents spoke and lived this ideal in front of me my entire life and continue to do so. 

This past weekend is a perfect example. In two short days they attended the funeral of a man who was taken from his family in his early forties. He and his siblings and mine had grown up together:  their stories intertwining in a way that changes lives and shapes who we become. He died to young and it has shaken my family deeply. 

The left strait from the funeral to attend a wedding of two young people who grew up in my father’s church. A young man and woman whom I grew up with, whom I baby sat at points in time, and who are now this amazing couple with their whole lives ahead of them.

The next day my parents drove four hours to attend a party celebrating my nephew’s first birthday. My girls and I were also able to be there so we had four out of the eight grandkids, and three out of the six siblings all in the same room so we laughed and talked and passed babies and gave hugs and kisses and told stories. 

It was a cluttered weekend to say the least… cluttered with people and memories and emotions and the things in life that we will look back on and say “those are moments when we were alive”.


Things To Do When You Are Lacking Inspiration....

*make a list*
of things that inspire you. of why you are doing whatever it is in the first place. of things you love. of things to try. Of things you hate. of things to do. of things to do never do again

*roast a chicken*

*bake cookies*

*help some one*
help some one else with something THEY love. being around people who are filled with passion will often trigger your own

*copy something*
don’t rip any one off, but find something you like and build on it. re-write the ending to your favorite story. print out a favorite picture and embellish it. find a sewing project online and see if you can reproduce it. keep copying until it takes on a life of it’s own.(be sure to share the source of inspiration if you share the finished project online)

*take a walk*

*work on an unfinished project*
even if only for ten minutes. clearing away clutter physically (a “work in progress” craft project) and mentally (a half-finished story) makes room for new things.

*try something a new*
a new technique, a new writing perspective, a new recipe.

*get back to the basics*
what inspired you in the first place? did you start a blog because you wanted to share pictures of your kids with family? did you start sewing because you wanted to make yourself table napkins? it’s easy to lose track of original inspiration and intent. try to find that again.

*just create*
sit down, put pen to paper, brush to canvas, knitting needles to yarn and just create for 15 minutes. let your mind wander. don’t worry about finishing anything just create for the sake of creating.


I Used To Be Skinny

I was a college Junior when I saw the movie Spanglish. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a movie about a Hispanic single mom going to work for an upper class white family. It explores a lot of themes, but there was one quote that has stuck with me for nearly 10 years now. 
American women, I believe...

actually feel the same as Hispanic women about weight.

A desire for the comfort of fullness.

And when that desire

is suppressed for style...

and deprivation allowed to rule...

dieting, exercising American women...

... become afraid of everything

associated with being curvaceous...

such as wantonness, lustfulness...

... sex, food...


All that is best in life.

-Spanglish 2004

At the time I knew there was some truth to that statement. I had seen firsthand how a desire to be thin had ruined and extinguished the joy in friend’s lives. But I was about to learn what this concept would mean to me personally. 

I used to be thin... and now I am… well…not.  I won’t go so far as to say I am fat, or heavy, but the scales and charts in the doctor’s office are very clear that I could afford to lose a good 30 pounds. And that is ok.
You see when I was thin, I was young. I was a college student who was convinced she had all the answers and was confidently in control. My weight, my looks, my potential career path defined me. Going up a size in jeans would cause an existential crisis about my identity. I was one of the “skinny girls” after all. Who would I be if I no longer wore size 4 jeans? I was terrified that by gaining weight I would lose my identity.  And in a way I guess I was right.
I started gaining weight my senior year of college. I met someone and we fell in love. I knew what it meant to be loved for who I was and for the first time, probably since puberty, was comfortable in my own skin. The weight gain was gradual. Just a few pounds here and there, not so much that anyone would notice, but enough that by my wedding day I looked like an adult rather than a 12 year old boy. Physically at least, I looked the part of a woman mature enough to be married. 

Seven years later I have just had m third child. Size four jeans are only seen in our house in my children’s dressers and my body is covered in countless stretch marks. The weight of my college days is long gone but so is the concept of hanging my entire identity on a scale. I am a wife;  I am mother; I am a dang good home cook and I have the curves to prove it. I may have grown in size, but pounds are not all I have gained. I am confident and happy with who I am. I have gained children, and memories, and value, and worth, and joy, and (I hope) a little bit of grace and wisdom. 

It’s not always easy to accept this new vessel; my instincts are to return to the controlling child of my youth and hide from the world till my mental image of myself matches up with what the mirror shows me
But I would miss so much in doing so.
Baking cookies with my daughters.
Comfort found over a cup of coffee with friends. 
The pleasure of sharing a decadent meal with my husband.  
The chance to have an amazing photographer capture my growing belly in pictures. 
My life is full and beautiful, and because of that, yes, I would like to lose some weight. I want to be as healthy as possible. I want to have a long life filled with the laughter of my children, the comfort of my husband’s arms, the warmth of a family meal. But in the mean time I refuse to live on carrot sticks and hide from the camera.
I used to be thin, and now I am not.

I used to be a frightened child, and now I am contented woman.