Category Archives: goals

Simple Living // One : My Story

Hello, friends,

Today I am starting a series that I’m calling Simple Living.  Simplicity has been a core value in my life and on this blog for many years, but I’ve been distracted from that theme for awhile.  Here is the story of how the journey began and where I am now:

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I grew up in a family that values simple things.  We were never into “keeping up with the Joneses.”  We’ve always been a DIY kind of family, and my kids love to talk about how “old fashioned” Papa is because he heats his home with a pot belly stove and uses wonderful spring water from the hill out back.

In 2001, I married my college sweetheart.  As brand new college graduates, we didn’t own much, made very little money as graduate student teaching associates, and had an absolute blast!  We were very careful at budgeting and even saved enough money to take a two week vacation to Florida (including Disney World) when we had been married about a year and a half.  We got our first credit card that year, and we did so only because it was required for the hotel reservation.  We used only cash for every aspect of the trip.  We needed few things, and we were so busy with school and enjoying married life that we did not accumulate much.  Except books.  I can make no good excuse for our book collection!  Anyway, we moved out of our tiny (but adorable) attic apartment in 2004 after finishing our masters degrees and bought our first house.  We continued our graduate work at a new university and added two children to the mix by 2008.  Our house was small, and we were rapidly filling it with THINGS.  We continued to keep our schedule fairly simple (if you consider school, work, church, and family simple), and in general, my preferred aesthetic then and now is simple, clear, and fresh.  I don’t have extravagant taste, and I would choose a single daisy over a dozen roses any day.  YET the sense that we had too much was creeping in.

In the summer of 2011, we welcomed our third child and moved to Florida.  It was a huge move.  A thousand miles.  My husband had received a new job at a small university, and the kind people there helped us find a rental house until we could buy a home.  Our time ran out at the first house, and we moved into a second rental.  All of that moving around taught me an important lesson.  We had moved to Florida with only a small fraction of our belongings.  We packed only a small collection of clothes for ourselves and our children.  Our two boys packed one small box of toys and books.  The houses were furnished and had kitchen supplies, so we only took sheets and a few bath towels.  You know what?  It was wonderful.  I only missed  a few things–my vegetable peeler and some of my books.  When we successfully purchased our new house, I truly did not want the bulk of our stuff to come into it.  But the stuff came.  We were moving from 1100 square feet into more than 2000 square feet.  It was easy to stash away a lot of things that we really did not need, and the clear lesson was RIGHT THERE.  We only needed a fraction of what we owned, and after four month with only a small amount of our things, I only desperately wished for my lovely vegetable peeler.  (And after this blog post, my mom sent me a great peeler in the mail.  Thanks, Mom!)  This was a golden opportunity!  We should have been very, very discerning about what to keep, but instead, we loaded everything into our new house.  Many of those boxes hadn’t even been opened when we moved again (those same 1000 miles) less than two years later.  A lot of those boxes are still in our basement!

That brings me to this spring.  I started making some important changes in my life that I wrote about here.  I needed to clear my head and my heart.  Around the same time, I read a blog post by my friend, Elizabeth.  Elizabeth is many things, but two of her most important roles are homeschooling mom and entrepreneur.  She blogs at www.homeschoolmanager.com, and I think you’ll enjoy her thoughts.  Anyway, she wrote about going from hoarder to minimalist.  Somewhere along the line, Elizabeth recommended the website Becoming Minimalist and specifically, the post called “How to Stage Your Home for Living.”  Big things were happening inside me.  I needed to return to simplicity, and I finally felt ready to make it happen.  I realized that I was one of many people who are looking for ways to reduce STUFF and enjoy a life of simplicity.

On my birthday in June, I wrote this in my journal:  “I’m on a minimalist journey.”  I realize that it sounds totally melodramatic!  (I even cringed a little while typing it.)  But here is how I see it.  A journey can take you anywhere. I set off on this journey with both feet, and I have to keep moving forward to see where the road takes me.  I’m pretty sure this journey isn’t going to bring me to the place of only owning what I can fit in a backpack.  That might be great for some people, but I’m aiming for something far less extreme.  I just want to feel content, spend more time with my kids, and less time cleaning.  I want to see clear, open spaces around me.  I want to own things that I love.  I don’t want my things to own me.

I have had success with birthday resolutions in the past, and I’m particularly excited about this one.  I dove into decluttering immediately after my birthday.  THIS is what sat in front of my house on July 4th weekend:

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And that was just the beginning.  In addition, we’ve donated three enormous bags of clothing to charity.  I have a big box of books that is headed to our local library.  I’ve thrown away about 20 bags of junk since June.  (Note: I deeply regret that I did not recycle more things.  I’m making a commitment to do better at recycling now that my belongings are more manageable.)

So that’s my story so far.  In my next installment, I’ll write about some of the people and resources that inspire my desire to live simply.

Thanks for reading!

 

2015 UPDATE

Hi, friends.  In February, I posted my resolutions and goals for 2015.  Half of a year has gone by, and I thought I should give a little update.  I was determined that my goals wouldn’t be forgotten this year, and I’ve been working on them diligently.  If this isn’t of interest to you, simply pass on by.  I understand!  I’ll be back on Tuesday with a Project Food Budget post.

Resolution #1: Be more fun!  I think I’m doing better at this.  I try to say more “yes” and less “no.”  We’ve done some new and interesting activities such as visiting a natural playground and even going to the movies once–a very rare occurrence for me, but it makes my kids SO happy.

Resolution #2: Send more snail mail.  Well, I started out strong, but then I missed a few family birthdays.  (Sorry, guys.) I dropped off of this resolution a little bit, but the last couple of months, I’ve picked up on sending mail again.  It’s fun, and I’m glad that I’ve been intentional about communicating with friends and family outside of digital means.  I love knowing that I’m making someone smile at the mailbox.

Goal #1: I’m declaring 2015 to be THE YEAR OF CLEAN.  We aren’t where we want to be YET, but we’ve made wonderful progress!  This makes me so happy!  Now, if you stop by my house, you will find a mess.  Definitely.  We are deep in the decluttering, organizing process, and that means that piles have been created and disorder reigns, but I remind myself that this is temporary.  Right now, we are working on the basement and ALL of our closets.  I promised myself that I wouldn’t simply keep on tidying like I’ve always done.  It was time to do an overhaul and create clean, simple spaces all over our home.  In late spring, I started researching minimalism and simple living.  I don’t think I could ever be a strict minimalist, but the idea of having only what I truly need and love appeals to me.  On my birthday in June, I promised myself that I would work toward a more minimalist life and living space.  (I like “birthday resolutions,” and you will see below how that has worked for me in the past)  As of July 4, we had disposed of 12 large garbage bags of stuff, and we have a growing box of donations to give to our local shelter.  There have been many more bags in the last month, but I lost count!  “Simplicity” has been a theme in my life and on my blog for many years; however, I had definitely strayed from the concept.  I’m excited to be returning to living my values.

Goal #2: I will return to playing the violin. While I’ve definitely played more in 2015 than I did in 2014, I’m not really keeping up with this goal.  I keep my violin out in plain view so that I can try to catch a minute here and there, but I hope that I can pick up my study this fall.

Goal #3: I will work on the DONA (Doulas of North America) reading list, and I will register for a doula certification workshop) through a recognized certification agency (TBD).  Yes!!!!  I’m thrilled to report that my personal study of the reading list has been moving along beautifully.  I adore every book I’ve read, and each week, I feel more prepared for a career as a professional doula.  More importantly, I am enrolled for doula training in September with ProDoula, and I am excited to make my dream happen.  When I announced my goals in February I wrote, “I’m still not certain how or when a doula business will fit into my family life, but on my birthday in 2014, I made a promise to myself to pursue certification in earnest.”  We’ve been working on having my husband respond to the baby (19 months old now!) when he gets up in the night, and Cory has been able to put him to bed, too.  The little guy isn’t night weaned, but he is willing to accept Daddy instead of Mommy (although a bit hesitantly), so we’ve decided that we are in a good place for me to begin taking clients with due dates beyond my training.

Goal #4: I will take my blog seriously!  Have you noticed that you’ve been hearing more from me?  My blogging pace isn’t where I would like it to be, but I’m so happy with the progress that I’ve made.  Project Food Budget has been especially helpful in keeping me motivated.

So, that’s the update.  Blessings to all!

~*~*~*  Erica  *~*~*~

Teacup Tuesday: Planning 2015

Hello, friends.

If you are a fellow cold-weather dweller, I hope that you are finding nice ways to keep yourself warm and well.  If you are in a more temperate climate, well…I don’t know if we can be friends anymore.  Kidding, kidding!  All are welcome at Warm as Pie.  (Just don’t tell me that 40 degrees is cold, okay?)  Speaking of staying warm, this morning I enjoyed a big cup of Lipton’s Vanilla Caramel Black Tea.  Let me just say YUMMY.  I used a little of Trader Joe’s Organic Blue Agave sweetener and my newest teacup–a gigantic clear cup.  This cup makes every sip seem like a special treat.  I love it, and I loved the price:  $2.99 at Target.  Next, I would love to get a clear teapot to match, but that will have to wait.

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I simply love this time of year.  The start of the new year feels exciting and promising and very motivating.  My sister teases me for making a hundred resolutions each January.  I’m actually taking a different approach this year.  I’m dividing “resolutions” from “goals,” and I am really excited to share some of them with  you.  I’m defining resolutions as overarching intentions without firm deadlines or boundaries. Goals are narrow, defined plans with specific steps. So here goes…

Resolution #1: Be more fun! I’ve been in a major funk of trying to “do things right.” I’ve forgotten how to just be and DO fun.

Resolution #2: Send more snail mail. I love to send and receive mail. I bet others do to!

Goal #1: I’m declaring 2015 to be THE YEAR OF CLEAN. I am working toward starting next January with a cleaner, more organized, well run home. I have a list of mini-goals for each month, and I am trying hard to not expect a quick fix.  I have a whole year to reach this goal step by step.  Although I have always been very organized in my student/professional life, I have struggled with organization my whole life.  I can remember spending hours in my room, trying hard to clean it–but instead I was looking at old photos and ancient school papers, reminiscing instead of truly cleaning.  Now, I have four little people who can be excellent picker-uppers, but they are equally skilled at making messes.  This year, we are getting our act together.

Goal #2: I will return to playing the violin. This is in line with my fun resolution. I am going to begin by practicing every day, even if it is only for 10 minutes. I plan to increase this time through the year.  Last month, I bought new strings and fine tuners.  I had my bow re-haired, and I am really enjoying my music-making…even if it is a bit (okay, a lot) squeaky.

Goal #3: I will work on the DONA (Doulas of North America) reading list, and I will register for a doula certification workshop) through a recognized certification agency (TBD).  THIS needs a post of its own!  Here is the short version.  Shortly after Charlotte was born in the summer of 2011, I started thinking about becoming a birth doula (professional labor support person).  Then I met some lovely doulas in Florida.  Hi, Emily!  Hi, Elizabeth!  I learned a lot from them.  Although we didn’t spend a lot of time talking about doula business, I admired them and their work.   I’m still not certain how or when a doula business will fit into my family life, but on my birthday in 2014, I made a promise to myself to pursue certification in earnest.

Goal #4: I will take my blog seriously!  You will hear a lot more from me in 2015.  I love this blog, and although life is hectic, I am committed to this little spot on the web.

Leave me a comment.  What tea are you drinking?  Do you have goals for 2015?

Warmly, Erica G.

NANOWRIMO wrap up

So, yes.  I did not “win” NANOWRIMO.  Not even close.  After the midway point, our family had a string of minor illnesses that left me with little sleep and much laundry.  I had a hard time keeping up with my standard responsibilities, so writing for fun got squeezed off the to-do list most days.  I learned a lot though, and I will use those lessons for Camp NANOWRIMO in July.  Here is what I learned:

1.  I don’t write well at night.  I already knew this, but for some reason, I imagined that I would work on my novel after the kids went to bed.  Nope.  Cory simply couldn’t drag me out of bed after I snuggled in to read bedtime stories.  Sleep trumps all.  At least for now.

2.  I missed fiction.  I have been reading nonfiction almost exclusively.  I would say in 2014 I’ve read about 4 or 5 novels and zero in the last three months.  I felt a little out of my element as I dipped into novel-writing.  Before I try again in July, I will need to study up with some good fiction.

3.  Dialogue is hard.  Really hard.  I need practice and great models.  See #2.

4.  I must plan ahead.   And I don’t mean story notes!  I mean meals and chores and errands and activities.  Writing a novel is a bit like birthing a baby.  Although babies are more cuddly!  You really need to figure out how to cover the regular LIFE stuff when the baby (novel!) is being born.  Honestly, generating ideas for my novel was the easy part.  Figuring out how to write those ideas while still keeping my children fed, clothed, and educated was a much bigger challenge.

Those are the main lessons learned.  Thanks for all the supportive messages here and on Facebook!  I hated letting you down!

#NANOWRIMO

Hi, Readers.

I haven’t been writing on the blog for a couple weeks, but I’ve been writing.  Oh yes, I have!  I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month, also known as NANOWRIMO.  The goal is to write 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30.  I’m going to be completely honest with you.  I’m not going to make it to 50,000 words, and I never really thought that I would.  Okay, maybe for two minutes I thought I might actually meet the goal.  But deep down, I simply wanted to reestablish a writing routine.  In the ten years since I graduated with an MFA in creative writing, I have done very little creative writing.  I’ve written plenty of nonfiction, lots of research papers, pages and pages of student comments, but very few poems and stories.  I’ve missed it, and NANOWRIMO seemed like a good chance to jump back onto that particular horse.  Even better, I actually had a story idea that has been floating around in my imagination for awhile.

November is half over, and the big “win” isn’t likely to happen.  I’m pretty sure that I would have to hand my children over to somebody and run away to a cabin in Maine to reach 50,000 words at this point.  Strike that.  I would have to move somewhere without snow because I would need someone to deliver prepared meals to me so that I would not need to leave my computer keyboard in order to feed myself.

Nonetheless, I do not regret participating in NANOWRIMO.  In fact, I’m very excited.  I’m still writing, and I plan on signing up for Camp NANOWRIMO in July!  If you are interested in this nifty challenge, go on over to http://www.nanowrimo.org.

Warmly,

Erica G.

Five Years and Counting

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Dear Friendly Readers,

Five years ago, I began something new—a blog. I had created the blog’s title and web address several years before, but nothing happened. For a long time, my blog was nothing more than an empty resolution. Warm As Pie was like so many other unfulfilled promises of other good things that I wanted to do but never really did—like exercising, or flossing twice a day, or baking my own bread every week, or finally truly learning to speak French. It’s painful to say, but I’m actually quite used to not following through on my big ideas. I wasn’t too surprised to fail at blogging before I even tried.

On September 22, 2009, I decided to give the whole blog thing one honest effort. I had two primary reasons for wanting to bring Warm As Pie to life. First, I was an adjunct faculty member in the English department at a big, fancy university, and I was feeling like a fraud. I was teaching writing, but I wasn’t doing any writing. In 2004, I had completed an MFA (master of fine arts degree) in creative writing, but once my thesis was approved, I rarely wrote pieces that weren’t related to the teaching of composition or the study of education. I simply wasn’t writing creatively anymore, yet I was teaching others to write and trying to convince them that writing could be a part of life. I wanted to “walk the walk” again—to live the writer’s life again.

Secondly, I wanted a pretty place to record and reflect upon the beautiful things that were happening in my life. I read Blogging for Bliss by Tara Frey*, and I was won over by all the “bliss” flowing out of that book. I had two little boys at the time—a 4 year old and a 1 year old—and I already knew the frantic, other-worldly pace at which they were growing and changing. I didn’t want to forget. I wanted to live slowly and purposefully. The commitment to writing about my life felt like a promise to live the life I wanted (and still want). Blogging makes me grateful.

I didn’t fail! I posted once. That was fun. I did it again and again and again. I became acquainted with a few other bloggers, and I loved the sense of community. A small band of readers—mostly real-life friends and family—welcomed my posts. People seemed to like what I was doing. They thanked me. They cheered me. They told me that my blog meant something to them. My readership is tiny, but those friends sure are loyal. Yes, Warm As Pie has slowed considerably after a couple of big moves and two more children and the beginning of our life as home-schoolers, but the pleasant comments and encouragement from readers keep me from putting this blog to its final rest. My two reasons for blogging remain true. I’m still teaching writing, and I want to continue in the practice of writing. I still want to record this abundant, beautiful life that God has given to me.

And so…I embark on my sixth year of Warm As Pie. I’ve decided to zoom in and focus on the kind of blogging that I love most: sharing how we grow together through words and images. I’m simplifying. I’m streamlining. All of the amazing possibilities of blogging has led me astray more than once, but I’m back to the basics. I will be making some fun changes in the next few weeks. I CANNOT wait to share a special little project that has been brewing for months. Eeeee! I’m excited!

If this is your first time here, welcome. You’ve come at a good time. If you’ve been with me awhile, thank you. Thank you for caring enough about me and my family to stop in from time to time.

Warmly,
Erica G.


*Blogging for Bliss now has many outdated references and resources.  A lot of the blogs featured in the book have moved or closed.  However, it is a gorgeous book with plenty of helpful information.  I picked up an excellent used copy on Amazon for ONE PENNY!  With shipping, I acquired a book that I love for $4.00.  Nice!

January to February: Resolution or Revolution?

Several years ago, I heard a psychologist on the radio suggest that instead of trying to jump-start a New Year’s resolution or major life change on January 1st–right in the midst of the hustle of the holiday season–why not use January as a month for reflection and planning so that FEBRUARY can be the month for a new start?  I liked that suggestion.

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I came into the month of January with a lot of ideas about the goals I would set for 2013.  I already knew that I would work on focus.  I knew that I needed deliberate practice in being mentally present in my day-to-day life.  Maybe you are like me.  I do a lot of daydreaming, a lot of planning for the future.  I can get stuck in a week’s worth of daydreams just because I found a hypothetical something that tickled my imagination.  I am easily distracted from NOW because I’m thinking about later.  Partly, I think I’m like this because I’ve been a student from the time I was four until I left my PhD program about a month before my thirty-first birthday (more about that here).  As a student, especially a graduate student, you are kind of living for the future.  There is always a goal to reach, a step to take, an accomplishment to check off the list.  All of these things hold the promise of something better later.  Graduate school is a great exercise in delayed gratification.  You live like a pauper hoping that someday you won’t have to!

I digress.  (Ironic!)

So in the midst of planning to focus, I started planning a lot of other goals.  I was going to commit to keeping a journal, and then I decided that I needed two journals–one for practical matters and one for fun, artistic stuff.  Then I decided that I also would need a prayer journal.  So much for being focused, huh?  I set some goals about organizing my home.  I set a goal about money management and keeping my e-mail inbox clean.  I set exercising goals and made a plan to read more, take more pictures, and be in more pictures.  Sigh.  I’m really bad at being focused.

Then, right at the end of the month, everything became clear in a three part mini act of God.  First, one of my favorite blogs featured a post that looked a little like mine.  A sweet, godly mom was reflecting on how she had been in survival mode rather than growing in her faith journey.  I quickly wrote to defend her, but I realized that I am doing the same thing, and in writing to support her, I was sort of telling myself that “I’m okay” when maybe I am not.  Secondly, my husband realized that we had drifted pretty far in our financial giving to others and to our church.  In the past, we have seen how much we are blessed by giving, and we want to be generous even in our own struggles.  Very hard, and we totally fail…often.  It was not some sort of legalistic You-Must-Give-Everything-You-Own-Or Else moment; rather it was just a self-assessment of where we once were compared to where we are now.  I, too, had felt that we’ve been living for us instead of truly living for others as we’ve been called to do.  I began to reconsider my New Year’s resolutions at that point.

At the start of the final week of January, I volunteered to teach our Sunday School class on February 3rd.  The people in the class take turns leading it, and I was just in the mood to take a Sunday.  During the service, I decided to sneak a look at the passage that I would be teaching:  Hebrews 5.  Ugh.  That’s a tough one.  And here is where my attention was truly grabbed:

12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 5:12-14

While I’m busy caring for kids, tending to a home, messing around on Facebook, folding laundry and neglecting to put it away, driving to and fro, glancing longingly at other people’s lives on cute blogs, reading this and that, sweeping up endless amounts of dry cereal, and doing more laundry, I’m not always growing in the ways that are important–to me or to God.  I am not complaining about my current season of life at all.  I actually love this time in my life with all its messes and demands.  I wouldn’t trade all the cereal for even the biggest paycheck.  Nonetheless, I’ve been in a funk, and I knew I wanted to stop moving through this comfortable but very safe life and instead feel what it is like to have nothing holding me up but God’s will.  Does that make sense?

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I used to be on a major spiritual growth spurt.  During college, I was on fire!  I was reading my Bible and building a healthy prayer life.  It was a great time.  But it was also a time of personal struggle for a lot of reasons, and those dark moments fueled my hunger for God.  I wanted to feel Him and know Him better.  I guess I got too comfy in recent years because the hunger has changed.  I still long for God’s presence and His care, but I seem to want to meet that need in ways that don’t require my work or my time.  Hmmm…not good.  I’ve had “the milk” many times over, but I have to wonder: am I ready for the solid food?  Am I going to just remain satisfied to sip at the sweet but simple parts of the gospel or chomp on the hard stuff?  The real question though: am I going to live it or just think about it.  Some more.  Again.

If you made it to the end of this very long post, here is the conclusion that I’ve reached:

I can set a New Year’s resolution.  It would fine if I worked on the goal to keep my laundry washed and my bedroom floor clear of clutter.  Those are good things.  It would be okay to commit to exercising five days per week or eating more veggies.  But I decided that I don’t need another resolution.  I need a revolution.  I apologize for the corny play on words, but maybe it will stick in your head the way it has in mine.  I need to turn back to the things that matter beyond my day-to-day.  It does begin with focus as I said in the beginning, and the follow-through is a big dose of study and prayer, two things that have moved to the periphery as I unconsciously decided that my house and homeschooling and money (or lack of it) and many other things were more important.

I have no idea if this blog matters in big ways or even small ones, but since it is an extension of me, Warm as Pie is going to change, too.  If you’ve been here before, I’m sure you noticed the new look.  The menu across the top has an addition that I hope you will explore, and the “About” section has been updated as well.  I’ve added a few things to the “Places I Love” page, too.  Each month, I’ll be highlighting different blogs, websites, and even family interviews.  I cannot wait to introduce you to my first family!  But if you’re not really a fan of change, don’t worry.  Most of my blog content will be pretty much the same.  Just me thinking about stuff, taking pictures, and sweeping cereal.