04.25.2016

On Being Neighborly

Growing up, one of my best friends was a total home-body. Staying home (or close to home) on a weekend and visiting with family, running errands around town and getting together with friends was totally ok with her. I envied this about her sometimes. For the most part, she was perfectly content staying in and around the community we grew up in. Me, on the other hand – I was always dreaming of the next destination to add to my bucket-list of places to explore. I wanted nothing more than to escape the town I grew up in. I had what I like to call “restless soul syndrome.” She never understood my itch to travel and frankly, never felt the same urge to get out of dodge like I did. Neither was better than the other – just different.

I know I’m not alone in my love for travel. I can’t count the number of friends, or even strangers, who’ve told me how much they love to travel. There’s something oh-so enticing about escaping the familiar – it allows us space to grow, to learn new things and to be nothing but our whole, true selves. We’re not the employee, the daughter, the volunteer, the manager, or the parent (or if we are, at least we’re a better version of our parenting selves!). And traveling allows us to escape our calendars, social media, email, commitments – all of which can quickly become a ball and chain. Society has become so demanding of our time, our money and our emotional and mental resources that it’s no wonder we want to escape sometimes. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with travel – except when the desire to escape becomes so strong that we start living in our plans instead of our realities. When we put traveling on a pedestal above all else, it can quickly cast a shadow on everyday life.

I’ve felt caught between these two poles – the familiar and the unfamiliar – for much of my life. I’ve always placed such value on traveling (and it *is* so valuable!), but now, as I enter the thick of parenting, I’ve come to understand the importance of planting roots as well. Of really being invested in my community, of knowing my neighbors and being a good neighbor, of being a good steward of the city I live in. I believe that one of the reasons we’re placed on this great green Earth is to take care of each other, and some of the places this can most easily play out are in the neighborhoods and cities we live in, right under our own two feet. I’m trying really hard to keep all of these things in mind as I raise my girls, but I’ll admit, it’s hard.

There are small ways this can happen, however. Lately, one of the ways in which I’m trying to invest in my community is by getting to know more of my neighbors. Those who know anything about personality types know that for an INFJ like myself, “small talk” isn’t my favorite. I love connecting with people, but the passing, hurried, “How are you’s” and “Have a good days” that happen between drop offs, pick ups, and errand running don’t always cut it for me. I want to sit down with a glass of wine in hand and really know my neighbor. How did they come to live here? How do they spend their free time? What are their favorite places to visit? Unfortunately, the culture we live in doesn’t always allow for these kinds of interactions, at least not without a good bit of planning and intention. Heck, it’s hard enough to plan those kind of interactions with my own friends! But being friendly with neighbors and good stewards of our communities doesn’t have to mean hosting an extravagant dinner party or talking for hours about what makes us tick – it can mean bringing a meal to the couple who just welcomed a new baby into their family, contributing a few books to the Little Free Library down the street, or hosting a Spring Clean-up on your block and inviting your neighbors to participate.

In the words of Mother Teresa,

I want you to be concerned with your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?

I’m doing ok in this area – I feel lucky to have (and know!) a few pretty fantastic neighbors – but I know I can do better. In the midst of our busy-ness, it’s so easy to forget about those nearest us. But we’re planted where we are – in our exact city, our exact neighborhood, our exact home, and with our exact neighbors – for a reason. We owe it to each other to really, fully participate in the community we are placed in rather than pass through on our way to the next exciting destination on our bucket-list.

Being in community with our neighbors doesn’t minimize the value of and pure joy of traveling. Do I still want to expose my family to new cultures, different ways of living, and new experiences? Absolutely. But since hitting the road and traveling the world isn’t a reality for us (now, at least!), I’m choosing to plant roots in my very own neighborhood.

What are you doing to plant roots in your community?

Knowing your neighbors and being a good steward of the community we live in is important - here are some of the small ways I am being an intentional neighbor.

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04.19.2016

5 Ways I’m Finding my Spirit in the Messiness of Toddlerhood

Raising toddlers is no joke. If I’m honest with myself, having “me” time is one of the things I miss most about my younger, pre-kid years. I love my girls fiercely, I really do, but finding time to cultivate my spirit between diaper changing, crumb-sweeping, tantrum calming, and teeth brushing is hard work. It’s difficult to hear the still small voice within us above the “Mommmmyyyy’s!” and “Nooooo’s!” and “Miiiine’s!” I recently listened to a podcast with my all-time favorite blogger/writer/podcaster/traveler, Tsh Oxenreider, and she interviewed pastor and writer, Katherine Willis Pershey about everyday spiritual practices. Katherine said something that really resonated with me. She said that one of her spiritual practices is, wait for it…reading.

I love reading. Settling into a cozy chair with a blanket, a hot cup of tea and a good book is like waking up on Christmas morning to snow on the ground. Practically. 🙂 Part of my excitement over settling in to a good book is because it doesn’t happen often, at least not the way I described it. It usually goes more like this: I step into bed after the dinner, bath, reading, brushing teeth, and tucking-in routine, pick up the book on my nightstand (the one that’s been on hold at the library for 6 weeks and is due in 1…), and anxiously open it and begin reading. 4 minutes later, I’m asleep. So when the vision of the blanket, the tea, the book I simply can’t put down actually happens – it’s a big deal.

5 ways I'm finding my spirit in the messiness of toddlerhood

During this season of life with small kiddos, practicing spirituality happens in small ways. It happens in the fringe hours, between responsibilities and commitments and errands.

Here are a few ways I’m finding my spirit and tuning out the noise:

Dinner Time

Growing up, family dinner with my parents and sister was standard. I give major props to my mom and dad for making that happen as regularly as they did, because the reality for my family during this season of life is that “family dinner” happens less rather than more often. The consumerist, over-scheduled, workaholic culture we live in often pulls us away from each other more than it calls us together. Therefore, I hold family dinners hallowed. They’re an opportunity for 20-30 minutes of the day to pause the demands of our calendars, phones, and laptops and simply enjoy being together. When I sit down at the dinner table with my family and hear the clanking of silverware and the giggling of two sweet voices, I’m happy. Plain and simple.

Driving

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m an introvert and I love quiet time every once in awhile. Because quiet time is harder and harder to come by these days, my solo 20-minute commute to work has become sacred. I sometimes often find myself smiling as I get into my car after dropping my girls off at preschool – not because I don’t love them dearly, but because it usually means taking my first sip of (lukewarm) coffee and a 5-minute stop at one of my favorite viewpoints in Seattle. Driving is often my prayer time, my time to acknowledge 1 or 2 or 3 things which I’m thankful for. It’s an opportunity to go through my mental rolodex of people and things I’m grateful for and also an opportunity to keep myself in check. What am I struggling with? What am I focusing on? In what ways do I need to shift or change?

Do I do this every morning on my way to work or every time I’m in my car alone? No, but whether it’s once a week or once a month, it’s time well-spent.

Reading

I love reading. I’ve always said that if I could have any super-power, it would be the power to touch a book and instantly know it’s content. Reading is two-part: there’s the content, which can be exciting or inspiring or astonishing or interesting or a million other emotions, and there’s the actual act of reading. Both what I read and how I read matters. Books impact us – some in such a way that we put down a book and never again want to pick it up, and others so poignantly that we are changed individuals. Reading is good for the spirit.

At the Grocery Store

One thing I’ve tried to be especially intentional about in the past six months is seeing the person behind the counter. It’s easy to develop a sense of entitlement toward those in the service industry, to reduce our relationships to transactional rather than personal. We try so hard to be kind to our friends, our neighbors, and our co-workers, but how often do we go out of our way to be kind to the person bagging our groceries or cashing our check? When I slow down and really see the individual in front of me,  Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words become more than a catchy Pinterest quote and rather, a way of living.

We may all have come in different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.

So, how does this play out? It could be a comment about how much I love my cashier’s name, asking how their day is going and genuinely wanting to know the answer, or asking them about the symbol they have tattooed on their forearm. The point is, we belong to each other and we’re here to take care of each other. If not us, then who?

Slowing Down

I’ve always been a fast walker, but a few years ago, I attended a yoga retreat and one of the activities we were encouraged to do was to walk a labyrinth. The point was to feel every step, to make each step really count. It was difficult for me, I’m not going to lie – I was amazed at how hard it was to literally slow my body and even harder to slow my mind, which is often one twelve steps ahead of my body. But walking the labyrinth was such a good exercise in patience, intentionality and mindfulness. Since then, when I catch myself walking fast, I literally slow.my.roll. And when I do, I see so many more things and faces and beauty. I smile more at the people around me. I see buds on the trees and stories behind the faces.

Slowing down has become an act of gratitude. I encourage you to give it a try. Your soul will thank you.

In what ways do you find your spirit?

During this season of life with small kiddos, practicing spirituality happens in small ways. It happens in the fringe hours, between responsibilities and commitments and errands. Here are a few ways I'm connecting with my spirit and finding ways to tune out the noise.

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04.13.2016

Why acknowledging your limits is one of the most liberating things you can do.

I recently took a personality test as part of a course I was taking and it was so validating. There are a few things I’ve always known about myself – I’m an introvert, for starters. Small-talk is not my favorite. I need quiet time. I’m sensitive sometimes often. But in no way was I expecting a computer generated report to get me so accurately.

I’ve always been an introvert, but as Jen Hatmaker would say, I’m a “high functioning” introvert, or in other words, an extroverted introvert (did anyone else know this was a thing?!). In my professional life, I’m often called upon to be an extrovert – be it through team projects, networking, or my favorite…meetings. But at the end of the day, playing the “extroverted introvert” card is exhausting. Not to mention, it feels terribly inauthentic.

I have a number of extroverted friends, and there are oh-so-many things I love about these extroverted friends of mine. For starters, they’re extroverts. I love that about them! They can bring me out of my shell, and let’s be honest, I’m not a hermit. 😉 I love a party or get-together once in awhile. My extroverted friends are entertaining and good conversationalists and can make me laugh until I can’t breathe, but one of the things I often hear when I decline an invitation to get together is this: “You’re SO busy.”

It’s ironic, this “You’re SO busy” response, because the truth is, while I’m busy, I’m not busy for the sake of being busy. This year especially, I’ve tried my hardest to be intentionally busy – to fill my time with things that fill my cup rather than things which drain my cup. And part of of being intentionally busy means saying no, which means that lately, I end up saying no more often than I say yes. I don’t like to pack my weekend full of 12 different commitments. Or 3! So if I already have 1 or 2 commitments on a weekend and get asked to meet for a playdate or coffee or a walk, I often have to graciously decline.

Acknowledging my social limits has been terrifically liberating – I have a lower threshold than some of my friends, and I’m 100% ok with that. Really and truly.

Disclosure: I’m guilty of committing to 12 (ok, maybe 5) different social events during a given weekend. I’m not immune to the over-committed and over-scheduled life. But I’m learning so much about who I am and what’s good for my soul – and something about knowing who you are at your core frees you from the guilt and struggle of saying “no” to the things that aren’t YOU.

Now that my girls are getting slightly older (it’s all relative when you have toddlers…at 2 and 4, they feel so old!), I’m finding more time to be quiet, to really listen to myself. Quiet time is like a cold cup of water on a hot day. We all need quiet once in awhile. Some of us need more of it than others, but we all need it. It clears space in our minds and hearts and allows us to more closely connect with one another and the extraordinary Creation around us. It helps us to be more patient and kind with one another.

And I think we can all agree that, introverted or extroverted, the world needs more connection, more patience, more kindness.

How do you find your quiet?

Acknowledging my social limits has been terrifically liberating – I have a lower threshold than some of my friends, and I'm 100% ok with that.

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04.12.2016

It’s the simple stuff they’ll remember.

When I was growing up, my teacher mom had summers off – one of the few trade-offs of being under-appreciated and underpaid the rest of the year. As far as I’m concerned, teachers are at the same level as brain surgeons or saints. I remember *loving* summers because it meant camping, and blueberry picking, and bike-riding, and late night slumber parties with popcorn and milkshakes galore.

There are a few memories that stand out to me every time I think about my childhood. These don’t just stand out to me when I think about “summer when I was a kid,” but when I think about my entire childhood. Here’s what they involve:

My parents did stuff when I was a kid. They didn’t wait until they had exactly the right camping gear, or for exactly the right weather, or until they had a comfortable amount of savings in the bank.

Campfires.

Blueberry picking.

Lake Goodwin.

Bubble Gum Ice Cream.

Slip & Slides.

I could go into detail about each of these memories, but that’s not what this is about.

It’s about this: my parents did stuff when I was a kid. They didn’t wait until they had exactly the right camping gear, or for exactly the right weather, or until they had a comfortable amount of savings in the bank. Did we fly to Disneyland or Hawaii every year? No. But we explored Washington State and the Oregon Coast like nobody’s business.

I can’t tell you the number of times my parents said we were going to go on a “drive” growing up. What this usually involved was an escape from our middle-class neighborhood somewhere significantly north, south, east or west of us. We’d end up in a small-ish town, explore the highlights, read any historical markers that we might see along the way, and grab a bite to eat. It was simple.

So many of my best memories are memories of pretty simple days.

Now that I am a parent, I often find myself feeling a subtle pressure to “create memories” for my kids. I see amazing birthday decor on Pinterest, Facebook pictures of the annual-trip-to-such-and-such for the holidays, and talk to other parents about which activities they are enrolling their kids in and I think to myself, “I need to get on the ball. I’m so behind!” And this is saying something, because those who know me know that for the most part, I am a planner.

My thirties has brought on a deep sense of nostalgia. Reflecting on my own treasure chest of childhood memories takes a certain pressure off my own shoulders, because I’m reminded that it’s the simple stuff that my kids are going to remember. It’s saying yes to ice cream after school. It’s turning the sprinkler on, even though you dread the tiny, wet, grassy footprints dredged through the house afterwards. It’s going on that drive, destination unknown, knowing that the house is a mess.

We can’t force memories onto our kids. But what we can do instead is embrace the small opportunities – not all-of-the-time, but some-of-the-time – to do stuff. One of those things, at least, will be stored away in their treasure chest of memories forever.

What’s in yours?

04.05.2016

Your Inner Whisper is Telling You to Fly

Sometimes, my husband laughs when I tell him about a new idea I have. I understand why. I have a lot of ideas! I’m a dreamer, and he’s the epitome of a realist. It can take him a month to decide on a pair of shoes to buy, and then once he decides, he’s perfectly happy waiting another 3 months until they go on sale. And then once he buys them, they could sit in his closet for years until the just-right time to wear them. True story.

I love my hubs, but let’s be honest. I buy a new pair of shoes and they’re practically on my feet as I’m walking out the door. I want to break ’em in, wear ’em out. I want to enjoy them!

It feels so easy to have a “seize the day” mentality with a pair of shoes because the stakes are so low.

But when it comes to the important parts of life, the stuff that really matters, I’m not always willing to “do,” to just wear the shoes. While I wholeheartedly embrace and subscribe to s.l.o.w.i.n.g down, I also believe that sometimes, we need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and do that thing which pulls at our heartstrings. Do I want to live more simply & slowly? Yes. Do I also wish I had more courage to just “do” – not all-the-things, but some-of-the-things? Yes. When it comes to the bucket-list things in life, I wonder, second-guess, settle, and wait. Instead of trying them on for fit, I store my dreams in the back of the closet until the just-right time.

We all know the saying, “Get your ducks in a row. ” You know the gist of it: get your act together before starting something new.

But the ducks will never be lined up. One of them stops. One of them waddles sideways. And one simply wants to fly.

I often focus on getting everything in exactly the right place before putting myself out there, on getting my ducks in a row. Who might I let down? What will others think of me? All the while, my heart whispers the truth. We all have an inner whisper, the one that tells us to forget about getting our act together – to start flying! We are meant to fly.

We protest,

“But I’m so comfortable here!”

“I don’t have the energy to fly!”

“I need a little more time!”

But life keeps going, regardless of whether we’re ready or not. Life is what happens while we’re busy planning it.

I’m trying to listen to my whisper more often, but it’s hard, friends. “Slow down and do” is my whisper these days.

What’s yours? What’s that quiet voice in your heart asking of you?

 

Slow Down and Do | The Holstee Manifesto

The Holstee Manifesto

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03.22.2016

Slowing down and doing.

Hi, friends!

I’m finally getting over the hump fear of starting a blog and instead of dreaming, wishing and planning for it (all in my head), I’m just doing it.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a little rusty at this whole writing thing, which may explain why I’ve spent far longer browsing various blog themes, researching the best widgets to use, viewing dozens of blog tutorials, and sorting through every possible font than I’ve actually spent writing anything. 

That said, writing has always been my medium of choice when it comes to expressing myself. 

So, here’s why I started this blog.

I’ve always felt a tension between slowing down and keeping up, but recently, I realized that not only was I moving at the speed of light, but I was unhappy. Life just wasn’t doing it for me. And the worst part was that all of my own baggage and discontent was spilling over into the relationships that mean the most to me. I realized that so many of my ideas, dreams, intentions, and plans were parked in my head. They took a backseat to the diaper changing, dinner making, crumb sweeping, snot wiping, book reading, schedule juggling and work-life balancing that is life right now.

I recently read a book, and then another book (more on those later), enrolled in an online “field course” about discovering your life’s purpose (who knew those even existed!?), and did lots, and lots, and lots of reflection. Conversations with my hubs, journaling, prayer, and even the field course on your life’s purpose….all of those things led me here, to this blog.

My hope is that this blog will be a reminder to myself, and hopefully one day, to other mamas in the thick of life, to slow down, to make space and to be intentional about doing that thing that all-too-often gets stuck in our heads.

Slowing down and “doing” might seem contradictory. But really, they aren’t. In order to do — to really do what fulfills us and makes us whole and fills our spirits — we need to make space. We have to clear out the junk. Unsubscribe. Opt-out. I have learned that my soul depends on this kind of space.

One of my favorite quotes is from Mary Oliver,

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with this one wild and precious life?”

I’ve thought long and hard about what my purpose actually is. What I really plan to do with my life. But the truth is, I am doing life. There’s no start button that you push to signal, “Ok life, I’m ready to start. Let’s do this.” Life doesn’t wait until we reach the perfect balance of connected-ness, whole-ness, enough-ness, or readi-ness.

We are enough from day one. We don’t have to wait.

If I’m ever lucky enough to run into Mary Oliver, this is what I’d tell her: I don’t know what I plan to do with my one wild and precious life. But what I’m doing today is slowing down and doing something.

I’d love for you to come along.

MY HOPE IS THAT THIS BLOG WILL BE A REMINDER TO MYSELF, AND HOPEFULLY ONE DAY, TO OTHER MAMAS IN THE THICK OF LIFE, TO SLOW DOWN, TO MAKE SPACE AND TO BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT DOING THAT THING THAT ALL-TOO-OFTEN GETS STUCK IN OUR HEADS.

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