Life in Every Limb

Catholic Minimalism Redux: Week One

Remember back at the beginning of the year when I was participating in the Catholic Minimalism Challenge, and making all kinds of progress, and posting impressive updates?
Well, along about week three, we got the flu.  For the second time.  As you might expect, that derailed basically everything except survival.
But a new challenge started last week, and I jumped at the chance to pick up where I left off.
Week One is supposed to be the Master Bedroom, which I did thoroughly in January.  In addition, I have kept up with it in the months since, and have even gotten rid of more things.  So I only needed to devote one day.  I went through the closet and drawers, and got rid of two small bags of clothes and a stack of books.  I did not go through all the jewelry and the sentimental things–I think once a year is enough for that.
I don’t have any pictures from the first day as there just isn’t that much change to show.  For the rest of the week, I worked on the hallway outside my office  I was SO EXCITED to tackle this area!  Here’s before:


 
What a mess, right?  Things were constantly getting knocked off  the top and on to the floor, and every time I walked by all that mess it made me sad.
This was the perfect time to tackle this area, because most of this is homeschooling material, and my homeschooling days have ended.  Lorelei will enter 8th grade at the local public school in August.
So I went through all of the homeschooling books, and got rid of some of them.  I probably should get rid of a lot more, and I admit that putting them in boxes and moving them into the garage, which will be the VERY LAST THING that ever gets minimalized, is just punting the problem down the road.  But let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, right?
Lorelei is spending some time dog-sitting for my sister with Emily, so I did not have her much-needed assistance with this project.  Therefore there is another box filled with things that she will need to go through.  Not my box, not my problem!
I’ll show you what it looks like now, and then I will explain what I’ve put there.
 

This shelf and this area now mostly belong to me.  I am feeling happy that as my children grow and sort of leave, I am able to claim more space in this house for myself.
I love that the top is currently bare.  I hope it can stay that way.  I might consider putting some pictures or decorative items there, but the space is crowded and things might get knocked off.
The top shelf is primarily books I have received in exchange for my honest review thereof, or have won via social media giveaways.  I probably don’t need to keep them all; that’s something I will revisit next time I go through the challenge.  At least I want to keep a list of them.  I am also keeping whatever books I am currently reading on that shelf, and my extra journals.  Most of these books were previously stacked in a dusty heap on the bottom shelf, and some were sitting in a cardboard box in my office, a space that has now been freed up!
Second shelf are Catholic project items.  For example, I have a binder for the Catholic Minimalism Challenge, and it lives there.  My prayer journal is there.  My binder with various Advent and Lent and other liturgical year tools is there.
The bottom shelf is a work in progress.  It currently contains homeschool materials that I borrowed from others and need to return, and extra folders, notebooks, and such that may be needed when school begins.  I’m thinking that we will need space for extra paper and school supplies for use in doing homework and I am willing to use the bottom shelf for that if need be.  I will have a better idea how I will use that space by the next Challenge.
Finally, in the corner you will see a couple of totes.  Yes, I found a use for some of the many totes that were taking up space in my bedroom!  One of them is holding a lot of prayer journaling supplies–scissors, glue stick, colored pens and pencils and markers, Catholic coloring book, prayers, prayer cards.  The tote keeps them contained, and if I want to go elsewhere to journal everything is ready!  The other tote is holding a special Christmas gift from my husband–a monthly subscription to a mystery to solve.  It’s really fun but also takes time we don’t seem to have, so I am keeping it all organized here so that when we devote an evening to working on it, everything is ready to go.
So there you have it! Next week is bathrooms.  Again I expect to spend one day on them, and then I am planning on working on the laundry room and the upstairs hallway for the rest of the week.

Summer Fun: That 70s Summer

Remember when I told y’all that we weren’t doing a 70s summer around here?  Well, this week we did our best imitation and as a result this will be a very short post.
The reason:  POOL.
So to me, daily access to a swimming pool is an absolute necessity for a 70s summer.  Back in the day, our lives revolved around calling the time and temperature number so that we could inform our mother that we had achieved the magic 75 degrees and it was now hot enough to swim.
And swim we did–for two hours every weekday at the neighborhood pool.  Playing at the pool with our cousins, getting sunburned, risking further burns from the vinyl seats and metal seatbelts riding home, arriving home wet and cold from the air conditioning and starving with that particular kind of starvation induced by hours at the pool, sating ourselves with white-bread-mayo-Kraft Singles sandwiches–this is the centerpiece of my 70s summers.
When Emily was small we lived in an apartment with a pool and she and I went there every day from April through September, and she learned to swim at an early age as I had.  But after that my kids have never had regular access to a nearby pool.  They’ve all learned to swim at hotel swimming pools, which are always a must and a highlight of any vacation we take.
But this week Emily was dog-sitting for my sister (who has a neighborhood pool).  And the weather has been cooperative.  And I was tired from vacation and behind in my work, and felt like being lazy.
So this was the week of the pool, and we will get back to our regularly scheduled programming next week!
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A Different Image of Catholic Femininity

If you ask someone to choose an illustration of “Catholic femininity” what do you think they might describe?
An aproned Mother in a kitchen surrounded by a small army of well-behaved children?
A traditionally habited nun, eyes downcast in prayer?
A modest school girl with a plaid skirt covering her knees?
An elderly lady kneeling in a pew, clutching her rosary?
A statue of the Blessed Mother?
Read the rest at Everyday Ediths.

Summer Fun: Vacation!

Our fun summer continued last week with a little less creativity needed on my part, since we were on our actual vacation!
We traveled to Beech Mountain, North Carolina, to stay at a timeshare provided by my oldest friend and her family.  We had a wonderful time and I took so many beautiful pictures that I would love to devote a longer post to it, but this is not that post! Instead, in keeping with what I’ve been doing, I’ll hit the high points and show a couple of pictures of each day’s special activity.
The kids and I (John was still working) drove up Friday afternoon.  It’s three hours from Knoxville, most of it through beautiful scenery.  John arrived at midnight and our friends the following day.  Saturday was for sleeping in and relaxing.
On Sunday we took a short hike, and were rewarded with close-up deer and a beautiful view at the top.
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Later in the afternoon we went down to nearby Banner Elk, looked around a bit, and celebrated Father’s Day with dinner out (and had a close encounter with another wild animal!).
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Monday we drove to Boone and did a little browsing in some of the interesting shops there.
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After lunch we visited Mystery Hill, a tourist attraction involving a mysterious “vortex” that causes people’s apparent height to change, water to run uphill, and some other fun effects.  The complex also contained a Native American museum, a restored 1800s home, and a fairly impressive dinosaur museum.
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Tuesday was another quiet day, with only a visit to the local general store, because we were waiting for Emily to arrive.  The kids were more than ready to hit the road again on Wednesday, when we visited Linville Caverns and then took a hike to Linville Falls, just on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
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After our walk, we stopped at a quaint roadside antique shop/dessert parlor.
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Thursday brought the event the kids had been most excited about–Grandfather Mountain.  I can’t recommend this attraction enough.  The animal habitats allow you to get very close to some animals who were formerly native to the area.  We were particularly excited about the cougars.
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We enjoyed the museum, some fudge, and a nature hike before driving to the top of the mountain.
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And the views up there defy description–especially those from the far side of the Mile-High Swinging Bridge.
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Checkout was Friday morning, and Emily and the kids and I went a little out of the way home to visit Creation Kingdom Zoo just over the Virginia state line in Gate City.  I had discovered its existence earlier this summer while researching nearby zoos.  We spent a happy two hours there feeding some animals and seeing some that were new to our experience.  William was especially excited about the spotted hyenas.
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We got back to Knoxville in the early evening and have spent most of the time since recovering from the vacation!  I plan to take it easy this week–if the kids will allow it.
 

Summer Fun Update

I’ll be honest–it’s getting harder to come up with something to do every day, and now I am laboring under Lorelei and William’s expectations as well.  It’s not that I don’t have plenty of ideas–I have a page-long list, in fact–it’s having ideas that fit in with the weather, our finances, my energy level, and whatever else I have to accomplish on a given day.  So here’s what we did this week:
On Monday, we went to the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum, which I have written about before.  This place is one of Knoxville’s best-kept secrets, a true treasure.
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There are lots of new paths since I was last year and although the spring flowers are gone, there were wild flowers, trees (with identifying markers, too, so you can learn something while you walk), and, most exciting to me because I’ve never seen one, a small wheat field!
Tuesday I had to scrap my original plans because something came up, so I took the kids to Wild Love Bakehouse for a treat.  I kid you not, this place in nationally renowned and if you come to Knoxville you will want to pay it a visit.
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After our treat, which we shared with friendly sparrows on the porch, we walked down the steps to investigate one of my favorite places–Mid Mod Collective.  I cannot afford one stick of the restored vintage furniture they sell here but boy do I wish I could.  They also have retro knickknacks and even vintage clothing.  Mostly it’s just fun to browse and feel like you’ve gone back in time.
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Mid Mod Collective shares space with The Book Eddy, a vintage book store that’s occupied various spaces in Knoxville over the past 20 years or so.  We had a great time browsing there.  My big finds were a board game from my high school years and a 1945 edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette.
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These places are all located in the Old North Knoxville historical district so our last activity was to spend a little time driving around the nearby neighborhoods and talking architecture (Victorian and Craftsman, for the most part).  Lorelei is obsessed with House Hunters recently and had asked me about Mid-century Modern, which gave me the idea for these activities in the first place.  Who says television can’t be educational?
We visited the Knoxville Museum of Art on Wednesday.  The museum is free, there is abundant free parking, and besides their permanent collection and the local artists they showcase there is always a new exhibit to see.

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The KMA Gardens


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Lorelei playing with a giant Lite-Brite


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Posing with one of their favorite pictures, a painting of the Grand Canyon by Daingerfield


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Looking at one of the Thorne Miniatures


Take special note of that last picture.  The Thorne Miniatures are absolutely amazing and the KMA is fortunate to have nine of them.  They were housed in the Dulin Gallery, predecessor to the KMA, when I was a child, and I am not the only one to have fond memories of them judging by the reaction when I shared pictures of them on Facebook.
I don’t have any pictures of our Thursday jaunt, which had to be a short one due to a dentist appointment.  I took the kids to Starbucks for Frappucinos, using up some gift cards I’d been carrying around!  They had never set foot in one before, so this was actually more exciting than I thought it would be.  Then we went to the Dollar Tree, which is always a hit.
Friday’s fun consisted of our drive to Beech Mountain, North Carolina, where we are vacationing with friends.  I couldn’t take any pictures since I was driving but WOW was it a beautiful trip.  I’m sure I’ll have lots to share when I write this up next week.
Catch up on our other summer adventures here, here, and here!

WINC: A Wine Club for You (Sponsored)

I’m back again with a new US Family Guide offer that I am pretty sure y’all are going to like! I’ve been chosen to partner with a wine delivery club, which means (you guessed it!) FREE WINE for me, in exchange for promoting an offer to my readers and offering my honest opinion after I get my wine.
Here is what I have been asked to tell you about Winc:
Winc is not your traditional wine club: we are a direct-distribution global wine company that personalizes the entire wine experience.  We are perfecting how wine is made, distributed, perceived and purchased via our Palate Profile quiz that recommends wine based on your unique tastes and enjoyed by a new generation of wine drinkers. It takes the hassle and guesswork out of picking a bottle from your local liquor store and delivers the perfect bottles directly to your doorstep. We do all this as part of our quest to improve the experience for consumers, create a platform for artisanal winemaking, and build a grape-to-glass supply chain that’s sustainable for the planet. No more intimidating language and steep price points, and more joy in the act of sharing a bottle.
wine, wine delivery, subscription, coupon, offer, deal
My Readers Save $22 Off Your First Month of Winc!  Winc offers 4 personalized wines each month. Bottles start at $13 each. 
Go to: www.trywinc.com/usfamilyguide
I’ll be back, as always, to let you know what I think after my bottles arrive.

More Summer Fun

Well, this has been a busy week!
John and I got back from Georgetown Sunday evening, and I was right back into summer adventures with the kids the following day, when we visited McClung Museum.  This is a mostly unsung treasure on the University of Tennessee campus.  The kids have been there many times but it had been a few years.  Notable to me is that they now take time to read the descriptions on the displays.  We spent two solid hours here.  I loved the temporary exhibit, “Pick Your Poison,” an historical treatment of recreational drug and alcohol use, but as always it was the Egypt exhibit that enthralled Lorelei and William.
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Tuesday was hiking day, and because we got a late start we kept it very local, heading to Melton Hill Park about ten minutes away.  William thought it was beautiful although he decried the level of garbage we encountered along the woodland trails, this being the type of park where teenagers (and others) congregate to do sketchy things.  It was also super hot that day and I really thought I might collapse but I soldiered on.
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Wednesday, as I mentioned before, we have a standing appointment in the morning.  Plus William had yet another dentist appointment that afternoon.  So we again kept it close to where we were already going to be and visited the KARM thrift store in Bearden.  I don’t know if it’s weird but my kids love thrift stores.  On Wednesday I got to have a little summer fun of my own when my cousin quite unexpectedly invited me to go to a Journey/Def Leppard concert!  She was nuts about Journey when we were teenagers and I thought she might have a heart attack!
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Thursday was animal day this week (Lorelei and William think every day should b e animal day).  We went to the zoo.  William and I had an appointment at 9:00 a.m. to talk to the volunteer coordinator about his plans to volunteer there next year.  This forced us to get there really early and we discovered this is a delightful time to visit the zoo while escaping the afternoon heat.  We also experimented with letting William wander around by himself some in preparation for dropping off at the zoo to spend the day there alone sometime soon.

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Lorelei and William look for the otters


Today, Friday, I begged off because I was lunching with a friend and attending funeral services later, and also needed time to get work done.  And tomorrow we are hitting the Farmer’s Market again, this time with Emily along.  I think William would enjoy it but I’m not sure whether we will be able to talk him into it.  I’m guessing not.
Tune in next week–I’ve got at least one really exciting thing planned!

Thoughts from a Reunion

Though one cannot always remember exactly why one has been happy, there is no forgetting that one was. (from Good-bye to the Mezzogiorno by W.H. Auden)

I am writing this in the blessed coolness of my hotel room as I recover from a long, hot, and humid but nevertheless fun and illuminating day on the campus of Georgetown University, where we are attending John’s 30 year reunion

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I’ve written about other reunions here, here, here, here, and here, and I may yet write up this one in a play-by-play fashion, including all the many pictures I’ve been taking.  But this is not that post.

No, today I want to write about thoughts and feelings while they are still fresh in my mind.  I feel like I’ve been having a somewhat profound experience and since I’m not–alas–18 any more, I’m afraid I’ll forget it if I don’t write it down.

We are staying in the Key Bridge Marriott, which is relevant because 30 years ago I was a waitress in the restaurant here.  And now I’m staying in a room on the 7th floor, so I’ve both literally and figuratively moved up!  And of course I’ve told every single person I’ve interacted with in the hotel about my association with it–partly to explain why I am openly staring strangely at things (because a lot has changed in 20 years, y’all!).

Anyway, what I noticed last night as we were eating our late dinner in the hotel bar was that I was giddily happy.  Couldn’t-stop-smiling-happy.  And I remember that I USED TO BE LIKE THAT ALL THE TIME.

I’m not like that all the time any more.  In fact, I am hardly ever like that.  If I’m tipsy, maybe, or I’m excited about flowers blooming at the beginning of spring.  But being super cheerful used to be an intrinsic part of who I was to the point that I remember writing an essay about it. I’m always telling my kids (and other people lucky enough to be the object of my sanctimonious rants) that being happy is NOT the point of life.  And I do believe that, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t WANT to be happy.  Where did this dour person come from and how can I get that giddy girl back?

We spent most of today in lectures, because that’s how geeky Georgetown grads are.  We come back to school to have more school.  And also to remember when we used to sit around having smart thoughts and intelligent discussions for fun.  We had several such conversations with total strangers today which is a thing you can do at Georgetown because literally everyone is an intellectual and says words like hermeneutic and heuristic and expects you will understand.

I surprised myself by being able to stay mostly awake for all the lectures, even though I was actually sitting down in the middle of the afternoon.  They were all wonderful and maybe I will tell you more about them later, but for now I want to focus on some of my takeaways from the last two.

Professor Glavin of the English Department, whose classes I somehow missed when I was an undergrad, talked about a memoir he’d written and in that context told us that we shouldn’t berate ourselves for all our life decisions.  That most of the time we make good decisions, the best ones we can make with the information available to us.  That we just don’t have access to all the information, because that’s how life is.  That life is a series of parabolas, with upward arcs leading inevitably to failures, that maybe we learn from before we start the next one.  That was comforting, his next point less so:  that our lives are crossed by meridians–moments of before and after–and that we can never go back across them.  He was talking not just of his book but very obviously of what he expected many of us might be feeling as we attended a reunion at a very different Georgetown from the one we remembered.

From here we went to another lecture that focused on personal development and on finding your purpose.  We were asked to think about moments when we were happy, really in the moment, feeling a sense of “flow.”  Frankly I was getting a little sleepy so I didn’t get everything that was being said, but I was left with an impression that goes along well with some other work I’ve been doing lately on spiritual gifts (about which more later)–that everyone needs to be doing work that fulfills their special purpose.  If they don’t, they will never really be happy OR successful.

The first half or maybe more of my life is over (which is something I’ve been meaning to write about for a long time).  I can’t go back to my college days (obviously), but I need to figure out what I am supposed to be doing with the rest of my life–and even more important, how to find the time to do that.  Maybe that will bring some of my giddiness back too.  We shall see.

john and leslie at Georgetown Reunion

Standing in the spot where we first met

The Summer Fun Continues . . .

The first full week of summer break is coming to a close so I thought I’d give y’all an update on our summer of fun.
Sundays are already busy, with the day half gone by the time we get home from 11:30 Mass, plus John and I have a standing meeting on Sunday afternoons, so Sunday is getting no additional fun.  Sorry, kids!
Monday was Memorial Day, so we had a cookout.
Even though we already had an appointment with an oral surgeon Tuesday morning, and I was getting my hair cut in the afternoon, I kept my promise of having some fun, which the kids are already beginning to count on!  Since the oral surgeon is in Oak Ridge, we made a stop at the University of Tennessee Arboretum just down the road, a place I have had on my list for a long time.  There are specimen gardens and many short and easy nature trails.
UT Arboretum 1UT Arboretum 2
The kids especially enjoyed that many trees were marked by type so that we learned to identify a few of them.  They also learned about chestnut blight, which upset William very much.
Wednesday we have a standing morning appointment.  I decided we would do a few things in the area in which we would be as a result.  So we went to the closest Goodwill, one of their favorite things to do.  We followed that up with a trip to McKay’s, the used book store.  Then on the way home we made another ice cream stop–along with running a few errands.  The deal is, we do one fun thing and one chore each time.
This was not a typical week, because Thursday John and I left for Washington, D.C. to attend his 30 year reunion at Georgetown University.  So the rest of this week is devoted to us having fun (and I promise we are!).  But the kids are already asking what we will be doing next week.  Stay tuned!

The Ring I Always Wanted: Sponsored Review

I told y’all a few weeks ago that I was going to be getting a ring from Mama’s Jewelry in exchange for my honest opinion here.  Well, it arrived last week and here is my honest opinion:  I LOVE IT!
ring
The ordering process for this was only hard because there were so many choices.  There are many, many styles.  There are different metals available.  You can upgrade to actual gemstones if you want.  And if you’d rather have some other form of jewelry, you can do that too.
My ring is sterling silver plate.  I didn’t choose to upgrade anything.  I did have to pay an upcharge because my fingers are fat.  I don’t like that, but I’m used to having to do it for clothes already so it’s not like it’s a practice that is unique to Mama’s Jewelry.  If your fingers are NOT fat, you will pay only $69 for this ring.
You can have as many as ten birthstones in this ring, should you be blessed with a large family.  Because I have only six children, they filled in the extra space with synthetic diamonds–this happens to be my own birthstone, which makes it even better!
I’m especially happy to have this ring because I was able to include a stone in remembrance of our last baby, who was miscarried.  I love having that tangible reminder right there on my finger.
The only thing I don’t like about my ring is that two of my children just had to be born in the same month.  It bothers me that two of the stones are the same, but at least they aren’t next to each other!
Save $10 with Code_ MAMAS10

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