Keep Life Simple

"Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated." – Confucius


2 Comments

Single mom, simple mom

You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.
Franklin P. Jones

So how does a single mom also figure out how to be a simple mom?

Keeping life simple, decluttering and doing away with the unnecessary is good, but it’s all for nothing if we don’t pass on a love of simplicity to the next generation—and that begins with what they learn at home.

Raising a happy, healthy, strong daughter from babyhood to womanhood is the best privilege I’ve ever been given. Humour, kindness and humility backed by amazing family and friends helped me to navigate the obstacles of parenthood.

But we can’t do it all. It’s not only single parents that feel this pressure. Parenting and running a household is hard. Add to that work and in some cases being the only financial provider – it’s exhausting. We all have different financial and custody situations, not to mention children at various stages with unique personalities.

I may not be able to spend the whole day with my daughter, but I can spend ten meaningful minutes coloring with her after breakfast before work. I know that what matters are the essentials and that is a very, very short list for me that involves food, water and making sure my daughter feels loved.

Being a single mother forces me to concentrate on what matters most to make my family my top priority, and I choose only a small number of priorities to do in my life to be at peace and enjoy the time I do have with my daughter.

I invite you to focus on one thing you can do, instead of being overwhelmed by everything your circumstances or energy may limit you from doing.

That fantastical nanny got it right, Mary Poppins. “For every job that must be done there is an element of fun, find the fun and snap! the job’s a game!”

Mary-PoppinsFocus on putting fun in everything you do. When we succeed in making chores fun, then the chore is no longer work. With kids fun is often in creating a game. Things like: “let’s see who can pick up the most,” “who can complete the task first,” or “let’s pick up everything we can in the time it takes to sing the Barney clean-up song three times!”

 

One calendar. I only had one kid, so I didn’t have a lot of activities to track (by choice), but I used one calendar and entered all activities and appointments from kids’ stuff to my own.

Keep traditions. I’m Italian, so I have a lot of traditions I like to keep, but we created a few of our own too. My favourite is “Mom and Julia day.” If you make it a regular thing, and give it special importance, it will be a tradition, and it will be something your kids remember into adulthood.

My last post: When life’s not simple

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements


3 Comments

When life isn’t simple

pathsOkay, we’ve all been at a point in our lives where we see the path diverging in front of us. Sometimes it’s more dramatic than that and we find ourselves at crossroads – evident choices or decisions.

Despite my desire to keep life simple all the time, I’ve been thinking a lot about the minimalist lifestyle I started and realized that I haven’t been able to keep it up lately.

I know I’m not the only one whose life sometimes runs off the rails.

I haven’t talked about specifics of my life, but I’ll share that I’ve had a lot of opportunities, choices and decisions to make in the past year and a bit. I lost a really good friend to cancer, I’m preparing for my daughter going away to live in Italy for eight months to study,  my partner and I got engaged, we’re planning a wedding, we bought a new house, so we’re merging our stuff – suffice to say that when my sweet man wants to bring a lot of his things into our new house, and the only answer is “Yes, of course.” Then in a matter of months when our house has become a very full house it’s not okay for me.

I’m sharing this to show you that I’m not a stranger to my life getting complicated and overwhelming at times. I like to use the analogy that my life is like an onion, and I’m peeling back another layer or maybe a few layers right now. While it’s all good, it’s a little crazy and I’m not keeping life as simple as I would like, so when my situation isn’t simple or another onion layer is coming off I’ll…

  1. Simplify what I CAN. I talked about this in my first blog. When it seems like everything is out of control and chaotic, seek out the things that you can keep simple. Be practical.
  2. Set boundaries. Our emotions and our time are valuable commodities. If I find myself feeling worry or anger over a circumstance, that’s probably a clue that I need to set some boundaries. We’re allowed to say “no” or “not right now.”
  3. Minimize regrets. The takeaway for me is to do all I can to express love to the important people in my life and act on those urges. I’m grateful for Aldo, Julia and I finding our way through a new life together.
  4. Take care of myself. I’m not high maintenance BUT that doesn’t mean I’m no maintenance.
  5. Remember my WHY. Life can be difficult and circumstances can be anything but simple. But that doesn’t mean we let go of our vision. In fact, challenge might even be the catalyst we need to reaffirm our commitment to keep life simple and get  back on the wagon!

The floor is yours…

My last post: Simple food

Next post: Single mom, simple mom

 

 


3 Comments

Simple food

In the hustle and bustle of life, it pays to slow down for a second to remember the beauty in what we have. I’m grateful for my many blessings…

cancun 2016

New Year’s Day, Cancun 2016

…One blessing, out of many, is the chance to make a difference with the food that I cook. It’s certainly not always perfect, but I’m grateful for it all the same.

When it comes to living a simple lifestyle we can start with taking cooking back to basics.

I find cooking is therapeutic. For me it’s unplugged. When I’m in the kitchen it’s a place for me to create something with my hands (best tools are your hands for cooking) — something delicious. It’s a daily DIM (do it myself) that may go unnoticed, but it’s definitely beneficial to my psyche. Therapists are tapping into these benefits with cooking classes used to help treat people with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues (The Wall Street Journal [wsj.com]).

We hear a lot about “clean eating” (fitnessmagazine.com), how we should not include any processed ingredients in what we eat and be mindful of how our food ends up on our plates. But long before the trend of “clean eating” happened I’ve always associated it with using foods in their most natural state and not covering up a homemade pasta or ribeye steak with a fancy sauce; rather let the pasta or steak be the star of the show.

Mom birthday

My mother taught me to cook. We’re Italian and my parents were born in the South of Italy. I visited with my mom, sister and our daughters, and you can’t get more simple, rustic and basic than San Nicola da Crissa, which is a municipality in the Province of Vibo Valentia in the Italian region Calabria. It’s amazing to me how my mom’s recipes are timeless. She cooks with fresh and simple ingredients.

mussels

Flickr photo

One of my favourite recipes and a star for me are mussels. Mussels remind me of the oceans and places I’ve visited and where I’ve dined. I love mussels as an appetizer or a meal, cooked in a quick tomato and white wine sauce. Try my recipe and tell me if it’s not delicious and simple to make. Of course if you don’t like mussels then I’ll have to share another favourite recipe in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!

I just made this recipe for my family on Easter Sunday.

Mussels in tomato and white wine sauce

Be sure to rinse and scrub mussels clean before using, discarding any that remain open after tapping them or if they’re chipped or broken. Did you know mussels must be alive when you cook them? Most people don’t eat the unopened mussels after cooking, so you can toss those too (I read this is a myth; you can still eat unopened mussels – Dr Karl, ABC Science).

  1. In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil and you could add 1 tablespoon of butter.
  2. Add 1 1/2 cups of chopped onion, salt and pepper, cook, stirring, for a few minutes.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of minced garlic, 1/2-1 teaspoon of pepperoncino (chili) flakes (optional if you want a kick or some heat) and 2 chopped tomatoes (you could use the canned ones too) and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add a cup of wine, chopped fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon dried) and bring to a boil.
  5. Add the washed mussels, cover and cook until the shells open, about 4 minutes.
  6. Remove from the heat. Transfer to a large deep bowl and serve immediately.

Make sure you have spoons for everyone to scoop up the broth and lots of crusty bread to dip. Enjoy!

My last post: Check your ‘tude’

Next post: When life isn’t simple

 


2 Comments

Check your ‘tude’

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference – Winston Churchill

Many years ago, I would have said that only my circumstances affect my happiness, even saying, I would be happy if I had more money or I had a great relationship.

I discovered that if I wanted to draw good things and good people to my life that would complement it rather than complicate it I would have to look further than my circumstances. I was already happy because I was living within my means and I had many great relationships. It got tricky when I was challenged in my life. I realized I had to adjust my ‘tude’ (attitude) to have a more positive outlook. Unlike my circumstances – over which I had little control – I had control of my attitude. I knew that if I trusted a broken set of habits every day, it’s only a matter of time before my life got confusing and complicated.

Here are three trusted habits that help me stay positive:

  1. Stop worrying and complaining
    Being negative can sap you of the strength you need to pull from a discouraging day or to help you deal with it. If you see everything negatively, you will feel distressed and every day can appear bad or gloomy. Situations are usually only as good or bad as you think they are. The choice is yours.A good read is Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He says to only focus on concerns that we have control over. He outlines the “circle of concerns” as all of the stuff that worries us – and then a smaller “circle of influence” (within the larger “circle of concerns”) that only contains stuff that we can actually control. His point is that we should only spend our energy on stuff that we can do something about. Focus only on problems that lie within your “circle of influence.
  2. Look for the silver lining
    When things are tough, and I feel down, I look for a silver lining – the small glimmers of hope. I have to remind myself that I can and will grow stronger from these hard times. I have to always be conscious of my blessings, privileges and be thankful for all the things that are right in my life today.
  3. Do things for others
    Unselfish giving brings deep satisfaction to me. I say often, and I firmly believe that the more we give the more we’ll receive. It’s a great mantra for teaching little people to share too. My daughter (we started doing this when she was five years old) and I would ‘declutter’ her room and toys to give them away – knowing she was sharing with other children who may not have the toys she had enjoyed made her happy.Experiencing the joy of giving can do much to help us cope with negative circumstances in our own life. Look for opportunities to be self-sacrificing. Volunteering (volunteer.ca) is great way to care for your attitude and give back to your community.

Neil Pasricha has an amazing story. A self-described “average guy,” he realized that he was overwhelmed by life’s circumstances, so he started consciously thinking about any positive thing he could find – no matter how small. Then he blogged about it at 1000awesomethings.com, won a Webby Award, and became an international best selling author for his work, The Book of Awesome.

Attitude, Awareness, Authenticity: The 3 A’s of Awesome by Neil Pasricha (TED.com)

My last post: Declutter your life

Next post: When life isn’t simple


Leave a comment

Declutter your life

An uncluttered life and being left with space for what really matters is a good step towards keeping life simple. A life that isn’t constant, busy and rush, but you have time for reflection, time for the right people and time for simple pleasures.

Decluttering (Chateline.com) my home and life gives me a less cluttered mind. That doesn’t mean I have zero clutter and zero complications. I have possessions, distractions and work. I’m just conscious to reduce the amount of noise in my life and make space for what really matters.

2454935680_853c8be7c1_b
(clutter. Flickr photo sharing)

Decluttering my home meant a more peaceful, minimal life. I spend less time cleaning, maintaining my stuff or looking for things. It’s not how few things we own that matters. It’s whether we make those things count. I realized it was better to have six books on my shelf that I wanted to read than a hundred I’d never get around to.

While I like distractions sometimes, it can be clutter too – filling in every minute of the day with distractions and not leaving room. I found it was easy to fill up life because there are so many things that sound amazing. I’d hear about what others are doing and instantly I wanted to add that to my life. I put too much emphasis on excitement, which usually was temporary and not important. Or I’d chalk it up as being productive, but actually, I was adding so many things to my life and simply cluttering my space. When I started cutting out a huge number of commitments and became choosier with my time my relationships got better. I got healthier and I was happier.

I rather keep my weekends unstructured and unscheduled as best as I can, so I have room for the things that are important to me. Focus, priorities and effectiveness are more important. So is a nice walk with a loved one.

When I finally learned to sit in a quiet room alone with no distractions, I was able to simplify. I began to respect my time more and treat my attention as the most valuable possession I could give as a gift to the people I wanted to most. I give it to the work that matters most.

My last post: Get off the ‘control’ wagon

Watch for my next post: Check your TUDE


2 Comments

Get off the ‘control’ wagon

In 1999, I entered a stage in my life that didn’t take me long to learn that my efforts to be perfect at everything in my life – wife, loyal employee, mother, sister, daughter, friend – were not healthy. In fact, it left me feeling fatigued, stressed, anxious, unhappy and tired all of the time! Realizing that this was not how I wanted to live the rest of my life, I knew I needed to make changes. Everything finally started to change when I committed to myself that I would live my life simple.

And so the pursuit of keep life simple started for me when I finally got off the ‘control’ wagon. I realized that all the ups and downs in my past really stemmed from my need to control everything in my life and take care of everyone else’s needs but mine. I made the choice to let ‘control’ go, and it was then when I saw the most dramatic and beautiful changes in my life in general. My transformation didn’t happen overnight (and I’m not even close to finished), but the more that I sought clarity in this area, the more free I became. I truly believe that when you embrace yourself and are honest with yourself (about everything) you suddenly come to a place where you stop worrying or being anxious and you finally have peace.

I also realized that everything in life comes down to a balance (for me it’s spiritual and physical). For example, a very dear and old friend of mine gave me a gift that spoke to me on levels I knew existed but never practiced. She gave me a daily devotional book and when I read the passage on March 12, it spoke to me loud and clear… live your life simple¹… which I had committed to doing already. An affirmation! I knew that although I uttered these words daily now and I was reading them out loud, it also meant I needed to continue to put action to these words. I have to admit, it isn’t an easy process to keep life simple, but in the end, it’s always worth it.

The more you start to embrace yourself and let up on areas of your life that you feel you need to control, the more freedom and joy you will find.

¹A.J. Russell, God Calling, March 12 entry – Simplicity, Barbour Publishing, Inc., Uhrichsville, OH