Thursday, August 28, 2014

William Martin's Wise Words**

Wow, the return to work and school has been a blur. Though we had work and school most of the summer, there was a slow sense of leisure to it...there is no leisure to having to be at work by 6:50 most mornings or the intricate maze (that will only get worse) that is upper elementary math homework. (I'm not ashamed to admit math is not my strength.)

Throw in normal evening routines like making healthy dinners (worth it, but so bloody time consuming), tidying up from the day (of which we were primarily gone 8-10 hours of, so where does the mess even come from?), taking a run or a long nature walk (translate, getting outside time, so important), getting clothes and lunch ready for the next all gets crazy as we adjust to this new normal. Summer is long and spoils us dearly.

The resuming of work and school reminds me of just how fast time passes by. Three seconds ago, it was my first day back to work. Now it's almost three weeks in. In the blink of an eye it will be June, and another summer will be looming. My son and I will both be a year older, and another school grade will be behind him. Two blinks of an eye, and I'm in the stands waiting for him to come up the steps in his cap and gown and receive his diploma.

I know this. I also know that I'm his primary teacher and that I'm always teaching. How I handle this day-to-day flurry that seems to constitute the work week will teach him to to muddle through his own future work weeks, finding joy and happiness all the while. I'm reminded of this passage from William Martin's The Parent's Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents:

Today is Thursday, and for most Americans (including us, thank heavens), a three-day holiday weekend looms ahead. I'm not thinking of how I will make it extraordinary, however. I'm thinking about today, a typical Thursday workday, and how I'm going to find some magic in it, and share that with my son, showing him how to find his own magical moments in a typical day.

The long weekend will take care of itself!

Thank you William Martin for wise words that truly shaped my parenting.

Happy Thursday!

**This was written in about 10 minutes before sun-up. Forgive errors. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thrift Shopping as Eco-Fashion - Yes, it Counts!

We were coming through a rural SC town where I used to work, on the way to our Isle of Palms adventure, when I first mentioned the little shop to my son. "When I found out I was going to have you, I worked in this town and there was a little thrift shop where kids' and babies clothes were so many, they sold them 10 for $1! I'd go there almost every day during lunch to shop for you!"

What makes this story so endearing to me is that only last year did I finally pass on some of the last items purchased at that little church-run thrift shop. My son wanted to see the place, and I promised I'd try to find it on our way back through. It wasn't an easy feat, as it has been ten years and it was in an out-of-the-way location to begin with, but finally we found the building, where I spent so many lunch hours perusing second-hand baby and kids' clothes and chatting with the elderly ladies who ran the shop.

 It's long gone now and so are they; the building remains but is now a community center. Still, it was nice to take the stroll down memory lane with my son, remembering the days when I was expecting him. I worked as a medical assistant, had just finished graduate school and bought my home and money was tight. The little shop was a bright spot on many a day when I felt anxious about the future and how I would manage. I'm sure I bought a huge portion of my son's infant wardrobe from those friendly ladies, as well as many items for the years to come.

Fast forward to the present, and guess where I still buy many of the clothes for myself and my son? At local thrift stores and resale shops. Is it because money is still tight? No. I do it because it's good for the environment, it's good for the charities the thrift shops support, and it's good for my budget!

I mean, really, look at this price tag. This is for a tank top, made in an Asian factory out of no particularly fascinating fiber or fabric...and $19.50? You've got to be kidding!

Lucky me, I got it brand new, with tags still on, for only $1. How? Every Thursday is $1 day at our local Goodwill store. Goodwill stores do so much to help people in our communities that I'm happy to support them by shopping there when I need something new! Like this dress...

...which I also got for $1 at Goodwill. I love, love, love the Finnish designer label Marimekko's bold patterns and styles. However, I do not love the prices...I'm raising a child alone on one income and it would be very impractical (and a bit self-centered) to shell out hundreds of dollars on a new smock for myself. So I was delighted to find this Marimekko-esque dress, which will be perfect for Autumn nights out and entertaining!

These shoes were a thrill to find, too! I think they were $2.50, but I won't even tell you what the original price tag, still on the bottom, said!

As much as I love eco-fashion companies like Spiritex and Globe Hope, it would be impractical for me to strive to purchase all of our clothing from these eco-conscious brands. What works for us is to buy a few well-made staple pieces from brands whose mission we know and believe in, and shop resale and thrift stores as often as we can because, like Spiritex and Globe Hope, second-hand shopping not only helps our wallets, it also helps the environment as clothes are recycled back into use. As most thrift stores operate for charity, I can feel good about my purchases helping to improve the lives of others as well!

And while I will on occasion use coupons for local retail stores, after reading a recent article about the 'true cost of cheap clothing' I became more aware of just what the article states - the real cost of excessive consumerism when it comes to fashion. 

Ten years after I racked up a vast boys wardrobe at a small thrift store for near pennies, I am still happily thrift store shopping and can't imagine that will ever change. It just makes good sense. It's also a fun adventure because you never know what you'll find on those racks. And even if you stray from the $1 racks you can still find good bargains and quality clothes with plenty of life left in them for a fraction of what you'd pay retail.

And you are helping people, and helping your environment, and helping your own wallet. I feel good about my choices to shop second hand, but it isn't the only way to save money and still look fashionable! 

Clothing swaps with friends and other moms (for children's items) can be a lot of fun. I host clothing swaps a few times a year and always find some yummy new things, like this tank top I wore all summer and simply love...

I also get to purge my own closets for clothing swaps, which I really think is a necessary step to avoid over-buying of clothes. When my closet is stuffed, I can't see what I have or make sense of my wardrobe. Keeping it simple by routine purging helps me tremendously make use of what I already have! 

Also, simply BUY LESS. That's the best tactic. When you know what you have, you can have fun with items in your own closet and jewelry as well, like these two necklaces I no longer wore...

I wanted a long statement necklace for fall, and rather than hop in the car and head to the store, I looked through my own jewelry to see what I already had and could re-purpose. A little bit later...

Voila! I had my statement necklace for fall!

And it didn't cost a thing!

I will be dedicating more space on the blog this fall to tips for affordable eco-fashion; recycling and re-purposing fashion clothing and jewelry into new items (as I did in with the necklace); and stifling the urge for needless spending on 'more' clothing and jewelry items when we already have plenty -  all in support of my motto, live simply while living as though money is no object! 

And can rock second hand styles, too!! 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What I've Learned About Self Care

In past, I did not even think about taking time just for me. My rational was that as my son's only parent, I had to be there 100 percent and then some. Like many other solo parents, I never wanted him to feel that his life was any lesser because he only had Mom instead of Mom and Dad. So I rarely took time for myself to do things I'd enjoyed before becoming a parent, like taking a yoga class; meeting a friend for a coffee; going thrift shopping; or just wiling away the afternoon with a good book.

Instead, I focused on my son because I felt so guilty for having to spend many hours a day away from him while I worked to support us. When he was asleep, I would work more on all kinds of side projects I took on for extra income. While this freelancing fed my creative side, it consumed many evening and morning hours that should have been free time. I didn't do much, if anything, simply for myself. When I wasn't working my full-time job, I was spending time with my son or working the side jobs and while it was great and I felt good about my choices, it was a busy, busy life without much time for self care.

Fast forward to now...I have learned so much. As my son grows older and desires more independence, I still make sure I am always there for him, but I've come into a stage of parenting where he often chooses to do things separately from me. As it's his choice, I've no reason to feel guilty that I'm not spending time with him when he asks to go stay with my parents for a night or spend the afternoon at a friend's house. Instead I am proud he feels confident to be away from home a couple of hours or days and that he is spending time with other people who love and care for him.

And I make the most of this new occasional time on my own by indulging in a bit of self care! It's so important. I've learned that because I AM the only parent, I've got to make sure I take proper care of myself so that I feel good, have energy and my mood is positive. Burning the midnight oil might have fed my wallet but it began to drain my spirit, and for that reason, I now carefully balance my freelancing with my regular work and time with my son, but I also make sure to allow plenty of time for self care and special things just to honor me, and also time with friends.

This past week, I had to return to work and my son opted to stay with my parents instead of go to school with me as he's done in the past. I took the evening on my own for a great back-to-work relaxation time...massage, dinner out, and dessert by sunset! My friend Grace had a gift certificate for two at the Happy Feet Spa, Beauty and Personal Care and I was the lucky person she invited to go along with her!

An hour of pampering, which included foot massage; head, neck and shoulder massage; even a side of green tea! What more could a busy mom want when it comes to being pampered?

After our spa time, we visited the adjacent Fusion Japanese and Thai restaurant for some edamame, brown rice and sushi. It made for a light, healthy meal and was delicious!

Having Fusion right beside Happy Feet was a stroke of marketing genius... a healthy meal after some good spa time is perfect!

A few months ago, Grace had given me a small stash of yarn she was not going to use and I'd knit her up some socks from one of the skeins as a gift in return for the yarn, which is kind of a custom among knitters! She was delighted with them! **

As the evening seemed to have developed an Asian theme, after dinner we headed over to the Asian Market for some Green Tea Ice Cream, which I had never had before! We took it to the patio area of our local Starbucks and enjoyed a splendid late summer sunset while chatting and finishing the ice cream (and yes, with chopsticks!)

This is the kind of evening that, a few years ago, I might not have allowed myself to enjoy. The old me would have taken any time that my son wasn't with me and used it for freelance work, telling myself this was most important and valuable way I could spend it. My priorities have definitely changed! Now, if I have an evening or afternoon to myself, I may spend it with friend or friends; stay home and watch grown-up television and knit; go to yoga class; take a long walk in the woods on my own; go thrift shopping; or do any number of things that bring me joy.

Self-care can look many different ways to many different people, but it is an important part of life, not just for solo parents like me but for all parents and people! It is so easy to get caught up in DOING that we can forget the importance of BEING. My evening out with a friend was a great way to gear up for the coming work year and also simply enjoy being in the moment, trying new things, and a little bit of pampering!

Find a way to give yourself a little care this week!

**You can find the pattern for Grace's socks, which are so fun and easy to make, free on! Just look for me under zenmamaknits and take a peek at my projects, you'll see them  there!

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Sea and Me (and a bunch of Lowcountry pics!)

What can I say as I reflect on our vacation at the sea?

What do I remember, as I shake sand from my bags and rinse shells on the patio, trying desperately to hold onto days that become hours until summer vacation is over and the return to work and school commences?

I will remember this, most of all, I believe...this is the summer when he was between childhood and the coming preteen/teen years, when he was still not yet too cool to reach for my hand on our long morning beach walks...

I will remember beach bouquets,brilliantly colored butterflies and funny-faced crabs...

I will remember storms at dawn and the moon at night and a hallway that was always full of flip flops...

I will remember that this is not the summer vacation I had originally hoped for, no. I'd been planning to go abroad when work and school responsibilities took 7 weeks of our 9 week vacation and I had to let go of one dream in order to pursue another. I will also remember that this is the year we saw two rehabilitated sea turtles released back into the ocean...

There is a majesty in seeing something so noble as this. A feeling that I can't put into words.

And there is a majesty in having a place, a special place vacation place to call our own, where we make memories and moments and magic. Though I was raised in the SC Upstate, I feel homesick at the sight of lighthouses and piers and harbors. From somewhere deep within me, I remember these images, and they stir a sense of, or need for, adventure...

I've crossed the sea by plane, but my soul remembers crossing it by sea. Or perhaps it's just my dreamy romantic writer's nature rising up again, like the waves. It gets me into so many messes, this side of me that wants so badly to, on this island, with the sea at my feet, it seems all and anything could be possible. No limits. 

One morning we swim mere feet from a school of dolphins and marvel at the wonders held by the sea. The next morning,  a jellyfish wraps itself around my ankle and reminds me that what brings us joy one day can deliver debilitating pain the next.

Still, I return to the sea, because the joy is worth it. Pain heals, and my child is watching. If I stay out of the water, if I keep a safe distance, he will do the same. I don't walk back in, I run. Hobbling a bit, maybe, but still, I get there...

Okay, enough of my pontificating and ruminating....The Isle of Palms has become the place where our family vacation memories are made. I discovered it on a 2012 trip to visit  The Angel Oak Tree on nearby John's Island. I was so taken with the views as I drove through the town that I paid a king's ransom to spend the night there at a beachfront hotel. I don't regret that at all, but I am very grateful that a friend turned me on to Island Realty Sea Cabins (the cabins sleep six but the company handles home rentals as well!) If you are interested in visiting the SC Lowcountry, I highly recommend IOP and the surrounding area, which includes historic Charleston, SC. 

We visited the SC Aquarium, where my son relinquished his 5 year bottle cap collection for some awesome natural objects!

We also toured Fort Sumter and Patriot's Point for a tour of the USS Yorktown. That was such an amazing experience!

This was so powerful, to me. Voices from so long ago...

I could write so much more about this vacation, but I'll only say be sure when you come to IOP to visit The Seabiscuit Cafe for yummy breakfast and lunch and also to take in the awesome mermaid decor!

Cafe Medley on nearby Sullivan's Island is a great place for gourmet coffee and ice cream (they had lemongrass basil when we were there!) Poe's Tavern is a must-visit spot for sure, as well as Fort Moultrie!

Now it's time for me to get back to resting up as I prepare for our next adventure, returning to work and school! I have so many more photos to share so don't be surprised if I sneak a few into posts in the next few weeks! And if you can, visit The Isle of Palms and the SC Lowcountry. It's a magical place you won't forget!