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Thursday, May 31, 2012

thankful thursday

I have been absent here, in this space.

Today I am so thankful to be almost finished with a large project that has taught me both some new skills and a lot about how I work and find motivation.

I have so much else to be thankful for too.
Sunshine. Daisies in the garden. Resilient health. An upcoming journey to visit loved ones.

Inspiration from words and images.
Loving words and a beautiful husband who is a domestic god, taking care of details and nourishment and family flow. Spine-adjusting hugs and neck messages (right now) from p'tit minou deux, whose iron muscles are strengthened by hours of ballet and push-ups. Moments of understanding and complicity with p'tit minou un.

And a few hours off this morning to deliver my boys to their respective schools.

Have a beautiful day! What are you feeling thankful for today?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I had some sad yet happy news this last weekend. You know that feeling, when something good happens for a friend, and of course you are glad for them yet sad about the implications for yourself?

Some very, very good friends who are also neighbors are moving away. Away being a whole two miles away, not even across town--just a hop, skip, and a jump over to a different school zone, which will allow their son (who I held as a babe in arms) to attend the same excellent middle school as p'tit minou 2 (who can go there because his language immersion program tracks there) and eventually to the high school p'tit minou 2 attends (also because of the French program tracking in). It's an investment for them--they will keep and rent their current home, and live in the new home.

But I don't want them to move! It's a very special thing, to have friends who feel like family and live two blocks away up the hill. K. has always had the lovely habit of popping over (maybe from her years living in Latin America) for coffee, or to borrow sugar, or to bring us a piece of something delicious that she just baked. She also has a very unique and thoughtful perspective on the world. W. and Minou work in related fields and always have a lot to talk about. We all always have a lot to talk about. Travelling, art, languages, books, building, green architecture, politics, gardening, running, movies, food, friends, chickens, spirituality, many interconnections. We have gone trick-or-treating at Halloween, sledded down the hill on every snowy day, had countless potlucks, watched hundreds of movies, and celebrated many solstices together. We have picked a lot of strawberries, blueberries, and apples.

Their son C. has grown up along with the p'tit minous. He's eaten peanut butter sandwiches at our kitchen table for the last 10 years. He also has the lovely habit (maybe from his mom) of popping over, usually just at the moment when we need some distraction, asking if anyone wants to play.

Oh my gosh, I am going to miss them.

And it has me thinking about community. Of course, our friendship will persist. We will have to work at it with a little more intentionality--setting up times to see each other, rather than the spontaneous Saturday "let's combine what we have in our kitchens & get together" dinners.

But the value of creating community--if you live someplace where it is a part of the fabric of your life--realize how lucky this is. It develops over time. If it isn't there, think about the ways to nurture it, as we will now need to make more effort to do.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Monday Update

Hello everyone! I'm still here.

A combination of working away at completing a big academic project (why, oh why do I still procrastinate..?) and feeling a little shy about having readers (besides my family) visiting my blog thanks to the Minimalist Mom shout-out have contributed to my silence this week.

But it's time to break that and step out.

Biking to work has been going pretty well. I believe in setting myself up for success ( a hard-learned lesson), so my stated goal is to bike at least twice a week--and doing more when possible. Last week, I biked on Monday, despite the rain. I'm set up with rain pants, rain jacket, and visor on my helmet--all I need are little windshield wipers for my glasses. And, seriously, budgeting a little more time. Because of poor visibility (frequent glasses-wiping stops) and longer braking distances, I go much more slowly in the rain. Friday, the rain had finally stopped, and I found myself really looking forward to cycling home through the beautiful wide green fields next to the river (my commute is glorious this time of year).

We finished the Business Commuter Challenge week at work, and I gave what I hope was an appropriate shout-out to the 12 courageous coworkers who participated. As a group, we prevented over 250 lbs of CO2 release into the atmosphere! Prizes and coupons were also distributed.

(Notice to self for next year: none of the people who I persuasively talked in to signing up actually participated--they were honest with me about their other priorities and schedule complications being a barrier).

For this week...

1) finish this project.
2) continue winnowing down my own possessions (wardrobe this week). Empty space is calling.
3) get the garden planted (Minou and I cleared out the beds yesterday).
4) Run. I dreamed about it last night. It's been two weeks. I miss it.

What are your plans and goals for the week?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

simple sunday?

I think that I need to change the concept of simple sunday to

Please, share your ideas for simple living with ME! sunday.

Life is not feeling very simple these days.

Much as I would like it to not be there, there is a weight like a stone of stress on my shoulders.

I have an amazing family. Minou in my life. Two beautiful and brilliant boys.

A home. A garden. Wonderful friends. Work that I value and enjoy.

Even, these days, sunshine.

I'm not sure what the stress is from. It is heavy. Sometimes doing things feels like too much effort.

Much as I love to learn, I feel privileged to study, I am finding it hard to be a student.

Cry me a river. So many people would love to have the opportunity.

I know that I am fortunate. But I am also tired.

I have been a student practically since the day my boys were born.

Throughout their childhood, exams and papers have lurked heavily in the background.

Movies I didn't watch with them. Books I didn't read. Times I felt impatient instead of engaged.

I am still trodding onward. I recognize the value of my study. Almost done with the 4th degree.

But what about the value of those moments with my soon to be out of the house boys?

One of them already wants very little to do with me.  Makes me sad.

Friday, May 18, 2012

frugal friday

Why buy new?

Whether second hand stores, hand me downs, Naked Lady party clothing swaps, or free boxes found right on the curb, many treasures can be had for very little money.

If you have offspring with big feet, you may even be lucky enough to inherit their shoes.

Here are three of my favorite pairs.
The ones in the middle were worn by both p'tit minous before me.
The ones on either side were both passed down by sporty p'tit minou 1.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

thankful thursday

Oh my Minou. He is a superstar husband. A superstar human being. I am very, very lucky.

Here he is going out to get the mail, while I remain on the couch with James.

Here he is bringing me the cold coffee that he made me a while ago & I left on the table:

He is saying "Full marital service!"

Je t'aime Minou!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

winnowing wednesday

On Mother's Day, my boys gifted me with a bit of Minimalist Mama bliss: decluttering their closets.

Look what is leaving the house!

too-small shoes
p'tit minou 1 pile

p'tit minou 2 pile

I forgot to count the number before bagging it all up for a friend's yard sale fundraiser to send her daughter to college and for our neighbor friend who is still ever so slightly shorter than p'tit minou 2.

I'm guessing there were at least 25 items. However let's just call it 7 for 7 and put the total at 35.

I can hear the empty space singing to me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

commute challenge update


I filled in at a different (more centrally located) health center for a few hours this morning, where I was able to proselytize discuss the benefits of participating in the Business Commute Challenge and walking, biking, busing or carpooling to work with other coworkers (one Nurse Practitioner who lives in the country told me that her husband bikes two hours into town sometimes! Now that's dedication).

At this center, I was excited to hand out 8 free day transit passes for this week, and a bike flat tire fix coupon to a cyclist. And someone said "Wow--you mean I can win prizes and get coupons for something that I'm already doing anyway?"

Why, yes!
On another note, I have now cycled 20 miles instead of driving this week. I feel fitter already.

And on yet another note--I was inspired by the perseverance of a coworker who quit smoking two months ago and is feeling better, sounding less husky, and doing great. I am constantly amazed by our human capacity to change and adapt and overcome adversity.

Speaking of which, I have a large and looming project to work on for the rest of my day off.

Hope you have a lovely day--what are you up to? Do tell...

Monday, May 14, 2012

mitzvah monday

mitzvah (noun): a good deed, a charitable or meritorious act
I'm not sure that this week's act is really a mitzvah...
...but I want to think of it that way, rather than arm-twisting monday.

I'm going to loosely define the mitzvah monday concept as something that I did during the week meant to benefit someone or something else. Some contribution to the greater good.

Which then benefits me with warm fuzzy feelings as well.

Bringing me to the concern over this week.

I signed up to be team captain for a citywide commuter challenge at my worksite. The idea is to promote alternate transportation, anything other than solo driving, for civic and environmental reasons. Of course active transport has great health benefits too (plus it's fun).

I received a nifty blue t-shirt, some incentive coupons to give out for chocolate and bike flat fixes, free day passes to distribute to colleagues for the bus, a calender of special events for the week, a bus schedule, and a map of all the local bike trails and best streets for walker-bikers.

It turns out that most of my (wonderful!) coworkers have pretty complicated lives. Many of them juggle more than one job, or go to school, or have children who need to be dropped off various places. They are rushing all over town, and don't have a lot of extra time for this challenge--and it does take extra time to bike, bus, walk, or coordinate schedules with someone else.

They have all graciously listened to me, and entertained the notion of trying to get to work in a different manner if possible, and I helped one person figure out which buses she could take and another to brainstorm how to make the rapid transit work with her schedule.

 But I feel a bit like the zealous convert that everyone inwardly groans at (I saw the look in one coworker's eye that I know I get when someone asks me if I know Jesus).

Still, it is a mitzvah! Everyone needs to the joys of biking to work!


It's a continual process, this learning that we are all so different in values and beliefs. And daily lives!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

mother's day

Happy Mother's Day!

Especially to my wonderful mom.

Here is time I can say publicly to the world (and to my mom) that I am thankful to and for her.

For sharing her values.

For reading to me. a lot. when I was little.

For teaching and showing that education and learning are important.

For being curious about other cultures and welcoming people from other countries into our home.

For mentoring children she taught who needed extra help. Showing them care. Bringing them home to make cookies.

For letting me know that I am special to her.

For her generosity, to friends and family. To students and to causes. To me and Minou and her grandboys.

For following her passion for storytelling discovered when she was my age now (40). being open to the journey of joy & discovery that has taken her all over the world & created all kinds of community.

For taking me to plays and ballets and concerts and museums, playing music at home.

For her tenacity and perseverance.

For modeling spiritual values in action and for exploring practice in different faiths.

For encouraging me to go off to China to study even when she was scared for me.

For being courageous in speaking her truth even when the stakes were high.

For showing by example that people and experiences are more valuable than things.

For doing her best. in difficult times.

For being involved in her community. Volunteering. Being a steadfast and loyal friend.

For sending me to Europe when I was 12 because it was my dream.

For spending time driving winding mountain roads with me weekly.

I love you, Mom!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Thursday, May 10, 2012

thankful thursday

I am really thankful for our animals.

Relaxo-Cat James

Sawyer Bubba

They provide a lot of company and companionship and hours of conversation.
They are an important part of the glue that holds our family together in the day to day.

James & Mowsie

Is it sad that we spend more time talking about our pets than books, movies, and world events?
Maybe, but I'm still so glad for them.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

wardrobe winnowing wednesday

to winnow: [transitive]
a) to remove, to get rid of b) to sift or separate c) to blow on to remove the wheat from the chaff

Working on the wardrobe this week.  In part those pesky aspirational clothes. 7 items for 7 days:

1) sweater with a snag
2) color not quite me
3) stained, plus needs ironing, never a plus
4) love this shirt, but I will never, repeat never, be a size small
5) ditto
6) ditto
7) would need to minimize myself to fit into these comfy passed down corduroys

And sadly, keeping these aspirational clothes around, no matter how nice they are, will not make them wearable! They just fill up my drawers. Sigh.

Off to enjoy a cleaner closet. 28 items lighter to date.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

election outing

Sarkozy is out, Hollande is in!

Minou is sure that it is his vote that did it. After all, he did drive over 100 miles to cast it!

It was interesting--the voting process was exactly what Minou had described to me. After each individual cast his or her vote, their name was read aloud and it was loudly announced "A voter!"

We also had a very nice outing together in the big city of Portland.

We ate out:

hmm...what to choose....

kalamata chicken feta pizza

portabello burger

We walked all over the west side of Portland, taking pictures with pigs

NW 23rd Ave

And ate out again
Laughing Planet salads in Pearl District

And then we drove home, tired (walked over 12 miles) and happy (Hollande has to win now) and ready to come home--the sun never did come out in Portland, but it was beautiful when we got back to the p'tit minous.

Monday, May 7, 2012

mitzvah monday

mitzvah (noun): a good deed, a charitable or meritorious act

Today's mitzvah is courtesy of one of the p'tit minous, who decided to go through his bookshelf and find 10 picture books that weren't special young-childhood favorites (of either himself or his brother) to donate to the day shelter for homeless families.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Today is decidedly not simple Sunday. I have spent most of this beautiful sunny day glued to my desk (which is nicely set up however, thanks to the efforts of one of the p'tit minous--you know who you are), trying to figure out how to use Excel--functions and charts--which I should really already know in order to move on to the next stage of a project I am (supposed to be) working on.

Frustrated doesn't begin to describe what I'm feeling right now.

I have found some nice Excel chart tutorials online, which don't want to integrate with my computer's setup. None of the examples will download and open.

The how is interfering with the what. The situation makes me feel stupid, and I hate that.

I'm ditching the computer to go for a run.

Does anyone know what \N means?!

Friday, May 4, 2012

frugal friday

I like to glean and gather. Neighborhood fruit trees heavy with uneaten apples and pears, young dandelion greens in the early spring for stir frys, blackberry patches on the edge of school yards for late summer jam, and returnable bottles from the curb on recycling day.

When I remember, on Wednesdays I gather up bottles in the few blocks around my house on early morning dog walks. Our neighbors across the street put out a full 2 x 3 ft. box weekly full of bottles with a deposit (I usually just switch our near empty identical box for theirs to make carrying them easier, which might be puzzling if they notice). Minou returns them, and puts the change in a small metal box on top of the fridge.

Last night he counted it and there was close to $20 from April. That's a lot of bottles at 5 cents each! Small change, yes, but found...a little like finding money on the street (oh wait, I did find money on the street). When Minou and I make our trek to Portland this weekend so that he can vote in the French presidential elections, it will provide several coffees or maybe even (how fitting) a nice dark stout stop on our planned urban hiking getaway.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

thankful thursday

This week I am so, thankful that Minou is OK after a bike crash Sunday evening. He was just getting onto a single bike/ped lane over a bridge when another cyclist came careening off the bridge and crashed straight into him. Minou and the other rider were both knocked to the ground.

His face is bruised and his neck is sore, but otherwise OK.

So grateful.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

winnowing wednesday

to winnow: [transitive] a) to remove, to get rid of b) to sift or separate c) to blow on to remove the wheat from the chaff

So...maybe all this Wednesday winnowing needs a little explanation...
(or maybe not, since I think my main readers are family members who have probably heard more than they ever want to about the joys of minimizing)
...but anyway here it is. I can't remember when I started on my personal journey of "living with less", "less is more", or "Mama's gone minimalist!" (well, not really). I do know that it started in earnest quite a few years ago when I began to entertain the notion that we might move one day. At that time, thoughts were swirling around about a possible future transplanting to southern France (Minou's homeland) or Portland, Oregon for graduate school. And then it occurred to me what a horrendous proposition moving house would be.

Little by little, I began to cull and winnow my possessions. Family was sympathetic to this preoccupation as long as it involved upgrading technology--for example, it was a win-win situation when we got rid of our old, gigantic square box TV and traded it in for a smaller flat-screen one for movie watching. Or the move from stereo system to Ipod. You get the idea. And I learned to keep my impatient mitts off of other people's treasures after one too many enthusiastic suggestions that were greeted with alarm and resistance.

Really, the roots of wanting to live with less go much deeper. But let's focus on the results and not the roots for now. Although we have remained firmly settled in place, and indeed have dug in deeper into our little community here, I think that living with fewer possessions and thinking about what we bring into the home has had long-term benefits.

To get specific: It is easier to find things.  It's a heck of a lot easier to clean when there is less to move around. There is less to pick up and put away. In the past, one of my p'tit minous had shelves full of clothes that were deemed unacceptable for school or what-have-you, but still managed to make it through the wash cycle at least once a week (I know you didn't wear that, since you rejected it four mornings this week! Why am I washing it?!) The way our little home is structured, I share a closet space with one p'tit minou and have a single dresser in a shared space--how nice that all my clothes fit into one-third the closet and that dresser.

My goal is just enough--what we need and use, or love and that brings beauty into our lives. Over quite a few years now, I have gone through intensive "decluttering" or "minimizing" efforts in different parts of the house, the attic, the garage we share with my mom. My inspiration tends to come and go in waves--followed by a long dry spell and a slow, steady silting up of new possessions again. I have found that lately with work, classwork, family life, running, commuting, there is not much time for this downsizing process (though I will never forget my favorite anatomy & physiology instructor saying that she discovered an urgent need to clean her closets just before every neuroscience exam--seems to hold true for nursing coursework as well).

Around the New Year on January 1st, I thought seriously about starting a "One a Day Declutter" through the year, inspired by Colleen at the blog 365 Less Things (her motto is "It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I'm slow").  But I abandoned this idea because...well, it was too slow. However, around mid-April it struck me that if I had been doing this all along, that I would already be at least 105 items further along in my quest to find new homes for things that we (I) no longer need, use, or love.

So, Winnowing Wednesday was born. Once a week I will collect the items that I have winnowed or culled from my home once a day throughout the week, photograph them to share with you with a little bit of explanation, and then pack them away into appropriate donate/sell/White Elephant/to friends bags. When the bags are full enough, out they go (except the White Elephant items which will wait for our neighbors' much anticipated Winter Solstice party).

Here we go with this week's 7 for 7:

1) Actually have needed to be returned to their rightful owner for many a month--regret delayed act
2) how many of these can one really use?
3) too holy to wear, even too holy to repair
4) almost gone, but dispenser also broken...
5) its mate is missing
6) not very sharp duplicate
7) in excess

Total count: 21 items.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


This weekend Minou and I made a long overdue trip to the garden store.
Some years are like this--everything late.
Still, if we put seeds into the ground, usually something will grow.
It's never too late to sow and plant.
I'm excited about the cool-season crops (it has turned cool again):
kale, snap peas (mange-touts), lettuce.
Minou is excited about tomato and pepper starts (no seedlings this year).
Also planned: leeks, green beans (jade) and a glorious cosmos patch.
No expectations though!