life is art

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there is a folder on my hard drive called Life Is Art. and it is full of other folders — one for each season for the last several years — of photos of our ordinary life and the people in it. they are not photos of events, just moments, or found beauty in our home, around our neighborhood, or wherever else i’ve been.

this quirky form of photo organization might be explainable by telling you that i am a Type 4 on the Enneagram. one of the hallmark characteristics of a Type 4 is a craving — perhaps even a real need — for beauty.

Whether you are organizing your living space to reflect your refined tastes or engaging in an artistic pursuit, it is essential for your sense of well being that you express your creativity.

Profound and insightful, you have an uncanny knack for transforming the dull and the ordinary into the exciting and extraordinary.

You appreciate the special, the humane and the beautiful. You like to put your personal signature on everything that you do.

(source)

and boy is this true for me. i craft my living spaces with incredible care. i choose beautiful and unique things (that doesn’t mean expensive or name brand, just things that are beautiful to ME) and have a super low tolerance for anything tacky, common, or merely utilitarian in my home. i hesitate sometimes to share this about myself, as i know it can seem snobby or shallow. and, when i photograph these details of my life and share them publicly, like on instagram or facebook, i know it might appear that i’m presenting something more perfect or posed than could possibly be real. i want to be authentic (ha! another hallmark of an enneagram type 4), so it’s uncomfortable for me to think that i’m coming across as something other than that.

but, given that i am not a painter or a crafter, life is my art form. and the reason my photographs are beautiful is partly due to the fact that i am always trying to make everything beautiful! it’s not just for the camera, it’s for my sanity. my sense of wellbeing shoots through the roof when i can create — or reorder — a lovely space and sit within it, either with people i love or by myself.

i was the girl who brought a folder full of photos, quotes, and other pretty things to my week-long summer camp each year so that i could decorate my bunk area!! seriously. as if i could not endure even a single week without beauty surrounding me, without owning and shaping a pleasing environment to rest in.

this has interesting implications for me as a photographer. see, beauty is such a large prerequisite to my creative inspiration that if i’m working with a situation/client that isn’t immediately aesthetically pleasing to me, i really have to dig deep within myself to find inspiration in the midst of that. i have to choose not to write it off as un-lovely, and instead to put on a new set of glasses that will enable me to see the beauty that is really in all of life. wherever i go, i’m learning, there is beauty to be found, whether or not it matches my personal tastes.

so then, this is also the gift that i hope to give to my photography clients, especially those who do the family photojournalism style sessions: to notice and then to capture the beauty in their ordinary lives, so that they will feel seen and celebrated and blessed with the gift of the life that they’ve been given to live. i want to hold up a mirror to them and say, “see?! do you SEE that? you, your family, your home, your life… they are truly beautiful!”

at the same time, if there’s any counsel i could give to someone who wants to take better photographs of their own life or family (a question i get relatively often), i would say start with this: see your life as art. fill your home with objects that make you feel peaceful and satisfied, dress yourself in fabrics that feel wonderful on your skin, fling open the drapes each morning so the light can come in, tidy up and simplify your rooms, cook colorful food.

as children of a Creator God, i’m beginning to allow myself to say that beauty does matter, that it is okay to pursue beauty, and that perhaps that might even be part of my offering to the world.

and that’s enough rambling from this Redeemed Type 4. 🙂

if you’re still with me, and you want to see more of my Life As Art, click here.

on the sanctification of family-building

Lovely-Ember-Session-87

building a family, with all the monotonous day in and day out nurturing it requires, the work of keeping up the physical space of a home that is lovely and still so that each can rest and be refreshed, with all the mopping up of bodily fluids, with all the training and redirecting and explaining, with the attempts to model a life worth emulating and to be a person worth following by the tiniest disciples…

this is rich and rewarding work.

these days i finally feel sunk down into the great privilege it is to do this work, which is so boring on the outside but so fundamentally important to the foundations of my children’s souls, my husband’s confidence in his sphere’s of responsibility, and the world that each of them will impact both now and in the future.

it’s also hard. and some days — like today! — i’ll whine about the loss of efficiency and personal space, about the strain of being tugged at and sat on all day long, about the round-the-clockness of the work.

but i’m grateful. i’m really so grateful that i get to be here for it all, not tucked away in an office somewhere, nor letting the tyranny of a religious spirit drive me to performing many heroic acts of daily martyrdom (that may have the appearance of godliness but lacks power to really change me).

with the days of “full time ministry” behind me for now, i get to be sanctified at home! patience gets a chance to be put on and practiced a zillion times a day. i get to choose a gracious tongue instead of a quick tongue. i get to invite my children to step past their emotional reactions and into thoughtful and loving responses. i get to die a million small deaths every single day: sadly turning away from that moment of personal time i had hoped to have so that i can resettle a restless child, listening actively to my husband process his day when i would rather read a book or drop off to sleep, or choosing to share the last of the berries with my daughter when i would have rather eaten them all myself. 😉

my Father is with me in this place of mothering and wifing and home-making. it’s not outside of the realms where He uses and teaches His kids how to live up their high calling. I’m not disqualified from a rich and deep walk with God just because my days are organized around diaper changes, naps, and play dates. does this sound obvious to you? if so, you have been wiser than i, because honestly i feel like i’m only just now beginning to believe these things!

so this is my work, and i’ll do it with my whole heart.

all of this to say that i am full of gratitude for the life He’s given me to live, the role He’s given me to play in this season. it is gift.

project : white slipcover

alright. i love white couches. i love white linens generally. so crisp and clean and fresh. i love the blankness of white, too: the opportunities they afford to change your color palette at a moment’s notice by simply switching up the throw pillows, the wall color, the art on the walls, the dishes. mmmm. white. 

i actually had a little flashback remembrance today to a time in my early adolescence in which i was distinctly focused on the dream of one day having my own house that would be all sorts of white on white, with splashes of color here and there. though i departed from that dream for most of the college and grad school years — preferring during that time to use bold wall colors and lots of rich colors — i am apparently coming full circle. 

but white slip covers (and yes, they DO need to be slipcovers because they MUST be washable!) are expensive, it turns out. like, over $300 for ONE custom-made one like the  two-piece, custom-made beauty that would have been my first choice. in the end, however, i realized that the day would probably never come when i would feel at liberty with my conscience to spend that much money on a slipcover, even if i did ever find myself suddenly with $600 of expendable income. and so i began to look into other ways to accomplish my vision. 

one day recently i found a sale at Surefit.net. SureFit sells ready-made slipcovers and lots of them are ugly. and they are cheap as far as slipcovers go. and they had one for T-cushion sofas (that’s what we have, and they are harder to find slipcovers for) in a “natural” color, 100% cotton. i ordered one for the sofa and one for the loveseat, since they sale was Buy One, Get One 30% off, and reasoned that i could probably bleach them to white with minimal effort. total cost: $129, including shipping. that’s more like it!

enter a season of lots of trial and error on test swatches of fabric. the result was some sort of yellow-ish tone that really wasn’t at all what i had in mind. 

however, i ended up going for it on the entire love seat cover, modifying the plan a bit from my test runs, based on logic and some reading. and i crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. 

here is the final color comparison. original “natural” on the left, new “white[-ish]” on the right. 

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and here, for those who are interested in the nitty gritty, is the exact process of how i accomplished it:

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1. i prewashed the slipcover in natural detergent, warm wash. i reasoned the a pre-wash might soften and prepare the fibers for the bleach treatment. 

2. i set the washing machine for a warm, medium-size load and poured in a large container of concentrated Clorox. this ended up creating a roughly mixture of 4 parts water to 1 part bleach. then I put the slipcover (still damp from the wash) into the mixture.

3. i left the lid of the machine open so as let the slipcover soak. I left it to soak for 10 hours, occasionally putting the machine into agitate mode again to stir things up.

4. after 10 hours, i close the machine lid so that the wash cycle would proceed to drain and rinse and spin. then i ran another light water-only wash cycle on it. 

5. i dried the slipcover almost entirely in the dryer. 

6. i repeated step 2, but this time i used the Gentle Clorox, Free-and-Clear variety, and i had to use two smaller-size jugs because it doesn’t seem to be available in a larger jug. 

7. i left the machine open again and allowed the slipcover to soak for 7 hours. this time it got really frothy and foamy in there. very interesting, and i’m not sure why. 

8. after 7 hours, i close the lid and allowed the wash cycle to complete itself. then i ran another water-only warm wash. 

9. did a full, warm wash cycle with the natural detergent and rinsed it twice. 

10. i put the slipcover (now twice bleached and twice washed) into the drier to dry. 

11. next i set up a normal, warm-water wash using Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing Agent, because i was hoping to get the yellow tones out. i followed the instructions on the bottle for this, which meant putting in about 1/4 tsp of Mrs. Stewarts, plus the usual amount of the same natural detergent i’d been using through the same process. no soaking this time, just a normal wash cycle. 

12. i dried the slipcover.

after all of this, it looks good enough to me, so i tried it on the love seat. the cover definitely has shrunk a bit, but that is sorta good, because now it’s a tighter fit. the color is not TRUE white, but it is close enough that i can still work with it, if i drop my perfectionism. 🙂

because i went this route, i saved probably a few hundred dollars. i guess i’d say it’s worth it!

now onward to do the sofa cover… 

now two weeks in…

it’s been just over two weeks since i made that decision to finally step back from all official responsibilities and roles with the Stockbridge Boiler Room. oh, that decision, though so hard to come to and so slow to be acted upon, it was a long time coming. i just found a draft of a blog entry from almost exactly a year ago that i can now see was a very bold arrow pointing in the direction of this decision. interesting.

but now, being officially mother and home-maker, here is what the days are looking like. they are never dull or boring.

  • my first act as Official Full-Time Mama/Homemaker/Wife was to create a family binder. i probably could write an entire post about all the nitty gritty details of this, but for now i’ll just summarize. a family binder is a place to keep track of all those things that make managing your time and your home and nurturing your family run smoothly. mine contains a weekly glance, daily sheets for recording priorities and to-dos and appointments, a bill payment tracker, weekly and monthly cleaning schedules, menu-planning tools, expense trackers, etc. i refer to it multiple times each day. so far, so good.
  • we get ourselves out of bed around 7 a.m. each day and get hazel her green juice and kefir mix to drink. we eat breakfast first thing: eggs with toast or steel cut oats with berries. all three of us together usually. i’ve been reading the day’s entry from Jesus Calling each morning, as well as looking up the scriptures that go with it. i read them outloud to myself and hazel (and tim, if he’s still around) as i drink my coffee. though simple and quick, this is the most habitual scripture-reading and devotional time i’ve had for a while. since it works, i think i’ll keep running with it. it’s been good to start the day by reading some truth out loud over us!
  • i’ve just started showering while hazel hangs out either in the bathroom or across the hall in her bedroom. then she and i both get dressed. we’re ready for the day by 8:30 or 9 a.m.
  • i’ve carved out office hours for myself to do photography work. it appears that God keeps providing that work for me to do and so i’m trying to be faithful. He has provided two people who take hazel for me each week, allowing me a total of 5-6 hours of uninterrupted time to edit photos, upload photos, communicate with clients, update website/facebook, etc. this has been amazing for me and for hazel. on monday mornings she goes down the street to play with landon under his mama Marcy’s watchful care. and on wednesday afternoons our 12-year-old neighbor kaitlin comes to entertain hazel in and around our house while i hole up in our home office and work. additionally, if it’s needed, i’m spending 1 or two evenings each week working for a few hours after hazel goes to bed for the night. it’s been good to put value on making time to do photo work, and not to feel like i have to cram it into random crevices as whenever i can seize a moment.
  • on tuesday morning or mid-day hazel and i are still spending a couple of hours with our friends alicia (the mama) and lilia (baby 3 months younger than hazel). we rotate between her house and mine. we’re reading a book together called Loving The Little Years, which is all about mothering toddlers and seeing it as God-given mission. we usually share a meal together, too. and the girls play together happily.
  • on thursday morning landon comes to our house while marcy goes to work. i try to load ’em both up in the double stroller for a walk around the neighborhood, and otherwise they play happily around the house together, me just resolving disputes and retrieving toys that have slipped into hard-to-reach places.
  • we’re keeping wednesday mornings open for the option of outings to visit friends or fun places together, or to run errands.
  • i’ve begun cleaning up after breakfast and lunch and doing all the dishes associated with each meal right after that meal ends. this has put an end to the sink and counter stacked with a zillion dishes at the end of each day. it makes me feel like i WANT to go into the kitchen and prepare food for the next meal, instead of feeling overwhelmed and disgusted by the mess every time i walk in. simple change with great fruit for me. and less work for tim at day’s end (since his chore is the do the dinner clean-up).
  • in the afternoons while hazel naps, i try to immediately do my chores for that day. each day of the week i have a two or three household chores to do, all determined by the schedules i’ve created in my family binder. that takes 30 minutes to an hour. this is really new for me!!! i generally avoid cleaning as much as possible, just doing it when the situation becomes almost an emergency. so staying on top of it by doing small bits each day feels empowering. it also makes our house feel more restful because it’s uncluttered, tidy, and clean. mmmm. so nice. it’s been hard to push through and do the chores, however, because often by the time hazel goes down for her nap, i feel pretty ready to crash out myself. but once the chores are finished, i can do more photo work if needed, or just give myself permission to zone out a little bit.
  • saturdays are still family sabbath days. no chores. as little cooking as possible. homemade pancakes for dinner. naps for everyone. no commitments, only spontaneity.
  • the after-nap period each day is tricky for me. it seems to be one of the harder times for hazel, when she’s most clingy, so making dinner has been challenging. i’m looking for creative activities to keep her engaged while i prep and cook dinner for us. and i think we need to move our dinner hour UP a bit so that hunger pangs don’t intensify her discontent. also, i’ve noticed that if immediately after her nap i give her 30 minutes of undivided attention that includes lots of physical contact (carrying her around, snuggling on the bed, tickling), she seems to do better from then until dinner time.
  • when i have a photography session to shoot, i do it on a monday or tuesday evening, or on a sunday evening. usually. tim can stay back and be on point with hazel at those times.
  • we still go to Love Feast on wednesday nights to fellowship with our neighbors and the boiler room family.
  • on sundays we head to Stockbridge Mission Church, where alicia and i have finally created our own “nursery” for hazel and lilia. we are simply taking turns staying with the two little girls at alicia’s house, which is right across the street from mission church, while the other goes to the service. this has been great, since both of us have been missing church gatherings more often than not for the better part of a year. starting soon, the boiler room core team will also be sharing a meal together at the Tenderos house each sunday afternoon, which feels like a perfect way to remain a part of this family even though i’m no longer working for family business these days.

well, that was a lot of really practical, nitty-gritty detail of how we’re ordering our days around here. but it’s good for me to record it here. 🙂 thanks for listening.

and now my babe is waking from her nap, so i will go give my undivided attention to that sweet girl.

stepping back

he leads me beside quiet waters, he makes me to lay down in green pastures. he restores my soul.

the stockbridge boiler room has been a significant part of my life, my spiritual journey, my healing, and my work for about 4 years now. even that year when we lived in madison, i carried it in my heart still. the neighborhood that the boiler room is centered in, the prayer rooms it begins and encourages along, the networking with students and pastors and people across the city, the love feasts it hosts, the family that it is… all of this has made up the landscape on which my recent life — my NEW life as a transformed follower of Jesus — has played itself out. for heaven’s sake, i even met my husband via the boiler room, got married in its yard, and dedicated my firstborn to God at it’s sunday gathering. it has been so hard to imagine life without it.

which is why, i think, for the last year and some months i’ve been trying so hard to make it work.

while i was pregnant with hazel, i felt massive, glacier-deep shifts occurring in my heart. the energy of my life and heart were turning in a new direction: facing her, my daughter. suddenly, it felt harder to care about the homeless men behind my house, i just wanted to love her. logistically, her addition to our family also made showing up for the work and shared life of the boiler room more challenging, and realistically i have not been “around” as much in this past year as i have been in the past, or even as much as i would have preferred. it has been a sacrifice.

and our team — our SBR family — has worked with me, allowing me to rearrange my priorities and responsibilities to maximize my leadership role, changing up the places and times that we meet in order to accommodate hazel’s napping schedule so that i could continue to be involved. they have honored and received me as a sister, a trustworthy leader, a worthwhile and gifted member of the family and doer of the work. how kind they have been, how accommodating.

but all year, in fits and starts, there has been self-doubt, a desire to run away and have a “normal” life, a growing resentment towards the sacrifices of the ministry, and more disgust than love for the neighborhood we are supposed to be here to serve. each meeting felt overwhelming, every project felt like an obligation. the scale tipped so that the sacrifice and hard work of this ministry life felt heavier than the joy. and that hasn’t always been the case, nor do i think that’s they way it is supposed to be when living as Jesus’ disciple. and so i worked at figuring out what wast wrong with me, trying hard to find places where i needed to practice repentance, get more disciplined, pray and surrender more, or have an attitude adjustment. i talked through it with tim and with jenn and with other friends, all of whom have helped me recognize and walk away from any lies that were playing a role in my dilemma. and many times i thought i had finally found “the thing” that needed to be adjusted so that i could carry on.

then we took the month of august for our sabbatical, as we do each year. and when, on the way home from vacation, my heart and mind grew heavier and more overwhelmed and i became filled with dread at the thought of returning home to my normal life… well, i knew something wasn’t right. a few days later, i had a melt-down in the office of our wise marriage counselor. i wept while telling her and tim how tired i am, how sick i am of being in ministry, how much i loathe and want out of our neighborhood, how i can’t see the purpose of it all anymore, how i can’t do it all, how i just want to stay home with my babies. and judy looked at me and gave it a name: burn-out. (oh, so that’s what it’s called.) she said my feelings are normal and probably something i should listen to; that i need to stop assuming something is wrong with me for feeling these things and instead consider that God might be leading me into a different path in this season.

tim has had reservations about coming too quickly to this conclusion. i understand that. there are so many good and sweet things about having healthy biological family units at the center of a ministry together: all the important things that it communicates about the family of God, the blessing that our children can be to the college students and 20-somethings we parent and work with, the example we can be in a neighborhood full of broken families. and, of course, tim is stronger with me by his side. he’s more balanced and more confident (i guess that’s why we call women “helpmeet”), and we had assumed that in order for me to be the helper he desires, i need to stay on the front lines with him. but what if, Judy suggested, i can be a helpmeet to him just as well even if HE is the one doing the bulk of the ministry work? oh, there’s a novel idea. at last tim said, “Well, i think we’ll need to tell everyone that you’re stepping down in September.”

the rush of relief, that tearful gratitude i felt in that moment. it was like, “yes, finally. i’ve been heard. i’ve wanted this for so long.”

and so, after sitting on it for several days, and thinking through some logistics and getting some counsel… today we told our team our decision. we explained what that will look like, what it will and will not mean. i got a little tearful. i had to fight back feelings that i was abandoning people or making their lives more difficult by stepping down. but that peace about the rightness of it didn’t waver. i headed home after that morning meeting of catching up with my SBR family, officially released and blessed by them.

i know there might be a little span of time here where i’ll be like a turtle pulling its neck deep inside its shell, preferring total retreat from the things that have worn it out or frightened it. but i also know that Father has deposited in me a love for His kingdom, a concern for the poor, and a desire to life my life according to His purposes, even if it seems radical. so though i don’t feel very in touch with those roots right now, I’m trusting Him to draw me back out of my shell in the right timing, perhaps in new ways this time, but with great joy and in a manner that brings much praise to His name.

meantime, tim is carrying on. he’s still sure of it. for him the scale still tips in favor of joy. he’ll work harder now, since the position we once shared will now be entirely his. but he’s up for it. i praise God for that.

here is some of what is rising in my heart in the wake of finally surrendering to that inclination to step back:

  • i am looking forward to learning and mastering the art forms of managing my household well (including cleaning and menu planning and budgeting), and mothering intentionally and creatively. our entire marriage has been spent with both of us in ministry, and the timeline of our shared life has been a whirlwind of events in quick succession (meeting, moving, marriage, transit-leadership, moving again, buying and fixing a house, beginning SBR leadership, having a baby, getting pregnant a second time), and so there hasn’t been that time period in which to really settle down into some of those foundational skills. i want to master them and do them with attention to the presence of God.
  • i suspect i’ll actually be a fresher and more positive encourager and helpmeet for tim now.  i had been so tied up in knots of cynicism and criticism about the boiler room ministry because of my own lack of peace about continuing on in it, that i carried that energy into all of our conversations with him, with the end result of often making him feel discouraged or diminished in his life work. now i feel i’ll be more able to see it from his perspective (which is one of confidence and faithfulness and joy) and spur him on.
  • i am excited to be able to pour my time and energy into taking hazel on outings and to play dates that will stimulate and bless her, as well as to pursue photography, without feeling like i should be doing 20 other boiler-room related things instead (which just ends up paralyzing me).
  • i look forward to seeing how Father will direct my heart, and what divine appointments He will lead me into now that i won’t be moving out of a place of obligation or slavery, but of freedom. i wonder what he’ll do with some of those areas/interests in my life that seem to “have life on them” (as tim would say): photography, the birth community, motherhood, food.

His peace rests on my spirit today.

Hazel is napping now, and i’ve got a meal to clean up after and some things to put away. there are some errands to run later this afternoon, then my friend’s daughter’s 1st birthday to attend (and a dish to prepare and bring along). and all of these simple things are work enough. i’m going to go do them with joy and purpose.

better off without it

our month-long “fast” on facebook and other social media is only about three-quarters of the way through, but already i’ve drawn some conclusions. already, and in spite of the fact that i haven’t been very pure in my keeping of this fast, i can see that my life is not made better by facebook or the reading of blogs. in some ways, it is probably made a touch worse.

i can see already that without it as a fall-back activity into which i rush at those moments when i’m not sure what to do next, i choose things that have more life and more fruit. i have been more creative in these last three and a half weeks. and more present. and my mind less noisy. i have made things, both good things to eat and things out of fabric.

i have been outside, eating meals or sipping a beverage on the front porch or in the yard, sometimes alone during hazel’s naps, sometimes the tree of us sharing a meal, and sometimes outside with friends. watering the garden and spending many moments examining the soil for the first signs of seedlings, which always thrill me to discover. outside holding my baby’s hand as she walks more and more like a big girl, side-by-side with me, up and down the sidewalk and through the grass.

and my business has not, i don’t think, suffered form my facebook absence. i’ve popped onto facebook here and there to address business messages, to update a business status, or to upload a photo. but i don’t think it’s made much of a difference. i am more confident in my identity as a creative artist now, more sure of the product that i offer and the heart that i carry into it that makes my photography its own, valuable thing. that tends to make me strive a little less to “sell” myself and my work. still, i’m not sure it is a prudent thing to ditch facebook and other social media altogether when one is trying to build and maintain this sort of business, so i know i won’t be giving into that unthinkable dream of going off the facebook grid.

and i have found that pinterest actually hold potential to enhance my life a bit. for instance, it taught me how to make my own deodorant and “beach hair” hair spray, both of which i did this week. and it’s brought me to many delicious and wholesome recipes that i’ve been trying out. and it has given me inspiration and guidance in making a crafted present for hazel’s first birthday. pinterest, if you actually step back and DO the things it aims to inspire you to do, can enhance life. a bit.

and blogs. well, there are probably only a small number that actually are worth sticking to. and they are the ones that talk to me about how to be a whole-hearted and present mom, and how to press into Jesus for each day’s needs. i sense that a purging of blog subscriptions might be in order.

facebook. oh, love and hate mingled! what an ambivalent relationship. but i’m thinking that keeping it within the confines of one, maybe two, days of each week will be the new normal. because i love the freedom of mind and time that has come from keeping it within bounds this month.

so there’s where i’m at. and here’s some of the beauty i’ve been indulging in and creating during this fast:

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on this day

on this day…

… i walked the two blocks to the prayer garage and spent some time praying and worshiping with my friends before the day got going at full speed.

…i ran errands for three hours. discovered costco with my new membership and came back with brown rice, quinoa, chia seeds, maple syrup, agave nectar, and cinnamon. picked up photos at my lab, some for my mama for a gift, and some for hazel’s birthday party. got some craft supplies at joanne fabrics.

…i gathered with some women from our church to talk about the fertility awareness method and to prayerfully surrender our hopes, fears, and plans to God regarding the growing of our families.

…hazel was a little needy and quick to tears for the afternoon and evening. food made it a little better. riding with mama in the ergo baby carrier for a while helped even more. and then the time spent nursing until drowsiness before bedtime was the final touch.

…tim made good progress in the bike shop, hanging more tools on the tool board. this following a day yesterday of incredible progress, thanks to the help of three friends and partners in the project.

…i did some diaper laundry. as i do every other day.

…we ate a good dinner using a new recipe. vegan because we’re trying to go off dairy. gluten-free because that’s how we always are. it was avocado-pea pasta if you were wondering. with a side of roasted squash. it was so pretty. and we’ve been eating well around her lately because i’ve had more energy to try new recipes, more longing for pretty, wholesome food.

… we took a little walk and ended up having a 30-minute conversation with some new-ish neighbors – jackie and her granddaughter princess and her friend mario. in conversation, which was quite pleasant, we covered vegetable gardening, jazz, religion, and africa. and jackie brought down some mango slices for hazel and princess to eat while they played on the sidewalk.

… tim went to our 14 year-old neighbor boy zachary’s choir concert this evening, to support him. and then straight to the neighborhood pub for a drink and some Getting Things Done accountability with our friend jeremy.

…i am a little bored right now and really want to go to bed, though it is only 9:15. but i’m going to sit on the porch with some lemonade, an oatcake, and a book instead.

 

how to thrift

i don’t mean to be presumptuous, but i consider myself a bit of a seasoned expert on the art of thrift store shopping (hereafter referred to as “thrifting,” a word not found in any dictionary). i’ve been doing it for well over a decade now. most of our home, and our bodies, are outfitted with thrift-store finds.

thrifting is wonderful for so many reasons. it saves money. it allows you to get a unique collection of things with which to beautify yourself and your home. it feels like treasure-hunting.

but the purpose of this post is not so much to sell you on why thrifting rocks. in fact, part of me would rather NOT sell it because i’m a little protective of my favorite thrift stores, and don’t want competition. but the fact is that we’re living in a depressed economy and lots of us can’t run right out to department stores and target to purchase the things we need for house and home. because of that — and because (cringe!) the thrifty “look” seems to be rising in popularity — i’ve been getting requests from people asking me how to “teach” them to thrift. so this is for those of you who’ve asked, as well as whomever else is reading.

Step 1. Prepare Your Mind. yes, you have to get your head in the game. it starts long before you actually walk through the door of a thrift store.

  • know your style — have inspiration boards, color palettes, and an ability to recognize something as “you” or “not-you”. this allows you to go in and sort through all the racks and shelves of things with a compass. it’s not like retail shopping, where you can pick a store/company whose style resonates with you and so you know that almost everything they sell in their store will be something you like. this is like ALL the retail stores of the past 3 or 4 decades piled up in one place. you have to know how to sort through that. and you can’t sort through it unless you have a vision of what you’re going for. if you’re shopping for things for a room in your house, you should already have a vision of the feel, style, and functionality you want in that space. if you’re shopping for clothes, you should know what kind of image you want to portray, and what you’re comfortable in or not comfortable in.
  • reduce the amount of ads and television you watch. if you are getting lots of exposure to shows/publications that would try to inform you of what the current/best styles are, you’re going to end up with a bar set so high — or just so differently — that you won’t be able to appreciate what’s right in front of you in the thrift store. don’t do things that keep you fixated on a pottery barn dream land because you probably won’t be able to make you house look quite like a pottery barn catalogue by shopping at thrift stores.  so keep your mind  uncluttered with things you’re “supposed” to want/need, and go with your gut, instead.
  • keep a running list of things you want or need. this list might be a mental list or actually on paper or your iPod. but the list will contain things like a small container to hold your chip clips in a drawer in your kitchen, a basket to store some smaller baby toys on a shelf, a binder for the papers that you’ve been meaning to organize, a chair for that empty corner of the living room, a black dress coat to wear to work in the winter, a throw blanket in an accent color to enliven your living room, etc. now, rather than running out to Target to buy all of those things…
  • be patient and wait for it! eventually most things on your list will appear, but you have to be able to delay gratification and know that the process of outfitting yourself or your home to exactly your taste will take months if not years. it’s a slow process, but that’s part of what makes it delicious. it’s like an ongoing game to find the next perfect piece for the artful landscape you are creating in your home, or the wardrobe that will feel, at last, like it’s really you.
  • map out area thrift stores and notice which ones tend to be the best places to find certain genres of things (e.g., one is best for linens, another for clothes, and another for second-hand furniture). i have a list of about 7 that i frequent, plus a handful of others i occasionally pop in on. and no, i’m not going to give you my list. find your own. 😉
Step 2. Go in Armed. 
  • bring your list with you. yes, jot down on a small piece of paper the items you’re hoping to find and keep it in your pocket. it’s your shopping list. only you may not be able to find everything on it during one shopping trip.
  • don’t buy it just because it’s cheap. it’s so tempting, particularly at first, to become so overwhelmed with happiness at a price tag that says .49 cents for a plate or $1.99 for a shirt, that you just want to purchase it all. but pause long enough to ask yourself if you really like it, or if it’s really just a rush because it’s such a good deal. if it’s not really for you, leave that great deal for someone else who will truly appreciate it.
  • be honest with yourself. ask yourself, “will I actually use/wear this in the next 3 or 6 months?” and “do i already have a purpose in mind for this?” and “do i gravitate toward this shirt? will i want to put it on when i wake up in the morning?”  if the answer to those questions is no, you should probably put it back down and walk away. otherwise you’ll end up with a house full of clutter and your house will look like a thrift store, too. thrift stores are awesome, but not as a decorating theme.
  • see potential, not just actuality. i have this sister-in-law (you know who you are) who is really crafty. when she shops at thrift stores, she is looking for raw materials for her projects. she’ll buy an old, ugly wool sweater so that she can cut it up, felt it, and turn it into a mug warmer or a diaper cover. she calls it repurposing and upcycling. i love it. it seems sort of in line with Kingdom values, too, i think. additionally, you have to sometimes take a minute with a thrift-store object in hand and begin to imagine what could be done with it if you altered it slightly — add a coat of paint? remove part of it? use it for something other than what it is intended for?
  • bring a bag/box of items you’re done with and donate them. this is how we keep the thrift store love going… AND it’s how we manage to maintain simplicity in our home and lives. if we only shopped and accumulated we’d essentially be doing the same thing that retail-shopping addicts do: becoming materialistic. so we have a box or bag around the house at all times into which we deposit items that we’ve suddenly realized we aren’t using anymore, are tired of, or that doesn’t fit any longer. and then we take the bag/box to the thrift store and donate it before we shop.
  • find out if the thrift store has discount days and take advantage of them. many thrift stores will have one day a week when everything is 50% off, or perhaps every Tuesday a certain color tag is discounted. so if you want even deeper discounts, intentionally shop on those days.

Step 3. Repeat. 

thrift often. you certainly shouldn’t feel compelled to buy something every time, but the turn-over is frequent, so keep stopping in to take a look.

 

may you be met with success!

🙂