Yes, my closet issues run deep. The end.

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The never-ending battle with my closet ends now. Yes, I’ve likely said that before and even blogged about this. But, this time, it’s for real. I swear.

I am not really sure when my quest for simplicity began. I know it goes back to at least 2009 or so when I bought the book Complete Idiot’s Guide to Simple Living.  I don’t exactly know what prompted me to buy the book, but I’m pretty confident it had something to do with my big, fat, messy, filled-with-cheap-clothes closet.

Fast forward to late 2011, early 2012, and I stumbled upon a blog in which the writer was talking about living with only 12 pieces of clothing for a month (or something insanely crazy like that.) I was wildly intrigued. For years I had struggled with having way too much clothing. Most of it ill-fitting, or pieces I generally wasn’t comfortable in. Being extremely overweight didn’t help my closet cause either. Neither did years of buying cheaply made, bargain basement clothing because somehow filling my closet with crap made me feel temporarily better about myself. (In retrospect, I was busy stuffing my face and trying to make myself feel better by stuffing my closet. Told you it runs deep.) Anyway, somewhere between the purchase of the Idiot’s Guide and 2012, I made a commitment to myself to try to only buy things that I love and to stay the hell away from the clearance racks. I was so far from perfect at this but at least I sort of had a plan.

Besides the crazy blog post about 12 items of clothing that got me thinking about genuinely making an effort to reduce the amount of garb in my closet, I also came upon Project 333.  In a nutshell, you are challenged to pare your closet down to 33 items. That includes jewelry, clothing, outerwear, and shoes (what?) and excludes undergarments, lounge-wear, and workout wear. You pack up the rest and you wear the chosen items only for three months. Then you rotate. And on it goes.  It made some sense to me and wasn’t nearly as crazy as only keeping 12 items of clothing. I set a goal to someday achieve just that. 33 items. No more. No less. Five years later, I have yet to achieve that goal but I am getting closer.

Like I said, around 2012 I was beginning to get serious about my wardrobe issues. I was so tired of the battle to get dressed in the morning–just really tired of an issue that really is completely pointless in the big picture of life. I was in the process of losing weight at the time so NOW would be the perfect opportunity to really get a handle on my closet. I tried to be a bit more mindful when buying clothes to fit my new body, knowing that the clothes I was buying likely wouldn’t fit in a few months. It was a good test of my ability to go minimal and be smart about my purchases. But then life came crashing down hard in August of that year when my mom, sister-in-law, and niece were killed by a drunk driver. Although my closet issues were obviously one of the last things on my mind, in the midst of my grief, they were actually about to become front and center. 

For those of you that have survived a traumatic loss of any kind, you know that the weeks and months following the loss are often brutal, so difficult in ways that you never could have imagined. My soul was so weary–sadness permeated every waking moment– and my brain was in a deep, deep fog.  After about a month, I slowly began to return to everyday life, which for me meant that I would have to get out of bed, get dressed, and go to work. Every day. I was scared shitless. (Thank God I worked with an amazing soul that gave me the space and the grace to get it together. Someday, I’ll be able to write about that time, not quite yet though.)

What I soon found out in my less than triumphant return to real life, is that the things that I struggled with prior to the crash would be multiplied times one million in post-crash life. (While I would later be grateful for the gift of the protective veil that fogs your brain early on, the fogginess made everyday decisions extremely difficult for me. I know some of you reading this totally get that.) Any sort of clutter drove me crazy and I had a huge need to get organized, maybe only because I wanted to be able to control one tiny thing in a life that had spun wildly out of control. Then, one morning, the most epic of closet meltdowns occurred and even in my foggiest of brain states, I knew something needed to change and it needed to change fast.

It seemed to happen out of the blue. I went to my closet to pick out something to wear and I could not get dressed. LITERALLY.  I wandered in and out of my closet for two hours. TWO FLIPPING HOURS before I finally screamed “FUCK IT!” as loud as I could to nobody and everybody and then went back to bed. Sometime later, the same thing happened. I did make it to work that day, albeit two hours late. For real. The struggle was so real. Something that I had struggled with prior had now become debilitating at times. Something had to give.  I knew that I had to if I wanted to keep my job and rebuild a life, I had to get my closet shit together sooner than later as I couldn’t keep going back to bed or going to work two hours late every time I couldn’t get dressed. Sometime in the weeks that followed, I did a closet purge. I bought a few things that I knew fit well and I wore the same exact jewelry with every outfit for months. It got better. I laugh about those moments of struggle now, but at the time it was tough. So tough.

Fast forward to the here and now. I have since developed a nasty pattern that I am VOWING to break in 2018. The cycle goes like this. I purge my closet. I rejoice in my awesomeness about downsizing. And then I get lazy about my closet again. My wardrobe magically expands. And then the cycle repeats itself. Ad nauseam. I’ve also discovered that when I am overly stressed, getting dressed in the morning becomes difficult, but only when my closet has expanded (and yes, I know ALL of the little tricks about setting your clothes out the night before etc. Those tricks are great fun but don’t always work for me.) 

Yesterday, I purged my closet for the LAST damn time. I SWEAR! Five garbage bags of clothes and shoes are being donated, and another container full being given away as well. The only thing I have left to go through is my jewelry, which I will tackle soon. I have been through every sock, pair of underwear, running clothes, shirts, pants, sweatshirts, dress wear, shoes, purses.

ALL. THE. THINGS.

And it feels so good. I’ve reduced my everyday wardrobe to 23 items. (Its basically a Garanimals wardrobe. Almost everything goes with everything else.) I put about 10 dressy items away in another closet for the occasions that they are needed. I kept 10 pairs of shoes in my closet for the winter season, four pairs of which are running shoes, and I reduced my running clothes to comfortably fit into one small drawer. For the winter season, I have additional fleece wear and puffy vests for outdoor activities that will be packed away as soon as the weather gets warm. My summer clothes, which mainly consists of running shorts and tank tops, have been reduced to one container, and that includes all of the summer shoes that I kept.  I’m rejoicing wildly! And vowing, vowing, vowing never ever, ever to return to my old ways. 

My ultimate dream is to go smaller yet, but for now, I know that I need to get completely comfortable with what I have and where I have been on this weird journey that so obviously had much more to do with than just too much stuff. I’m going to add some motivational minimalist feel-good quotes to my closet as a constant reminder to be mindful, to be intentional, and to be more grateful, not just when it comes to my closet, but in and for life itself. Life is SO MUCH MORE than stuff.  Here’s to stress-free dressing in the new year! Wish me luck.   

P.S. While I could not find the original crazy article that I referenced above, here is a different one, equally as intriguing. 10 items for a year.

 

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Joy and Pain. Side by Side.

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“Choosing to nurture joy does not mean turning a blind eye to pain or difficulty or injustice. It means holding positive possibilities while looking deeply into pain. Deep truth about what is and recognizing joy can exist side by side.” ~Circle Forward

I read those words and I was reminded of the phrase finding joy in the mess. And then I was reminded of the times in my life when there wasn’t much to be joyful for, yet, somehow opportunities to choose a moment of pure joy would sneak in, despite the current state of messiness. A sudden eruption of pee-your pants laughter in the depths of unfathomable grief, a beautiful ray of sun appearing from the clouds when all hope seemed lost, a heartfelt hug from a dear friend in a moment of despair. Life-saving snippets of joy in the midst of struggle. Joy and pain. Side by side. How can we know one without the other? Kind of a mind blow, right? Always the paradox. Always the struggle. How can they co-exist? Yet . . . how can they not?

Choosing to find joy in the midst of difficulty is one of the most courageous acts a person can take–although we rarely give ourselves permission to do so. What if, in the midst of your struggles, no matter how big or small, you gave yourself permission to choose joy for just one day, or for one hour, or for even one minute or one second? It’s SO okay to take a break from your pain. Choosing to nurture joy does not dismiss or diminish our hurts, but instead creates space for hope to seep in. And with hope, all things are possible.

Let yourself choose joy and then nurture it. Let it live side by side with your sorrows. Let hope create the space.

Facing fears and finding me…

The past few days I have spent some time reflecting on my weight-loss/health/fitness journey. And while reflecting on this journey is something I tend to do regularly, I have been extra reflective as I get ready to write down my 2016 goals. Adding to that, a good friend recently asked me for some weight-loss tips the other day which really got me thinking. . .

This was the very first honest post I wrote about my weight and my struggles. I wrote it on January 23, 2012 and I remember this night vividly. We had just returned home from Iowa after sending our youngest off to Oman to study abroad. I had looked at the going away pictures. I remember consciously trying to stand in a way that would make me look not as large as I was when we were taking the pics. Those pics were my tipping point. My surrender. Later that night I sat down to write this after I ordered my scale. Again, thank God for Amazon one-click or I may have chickened out. I am also not sure where I found the courage to hit the publish button that night. . . but I did. Facing your fears and owning your story, is the most empowering and freeing thing I have ever done in my life. Happy New Year. May you find yourself and be free.

Hangin' by a Thread



Part of truly being yourself is owning your story. Today, I’m owning a pretty big part of mine…


I did something today that absolutely T-E-R-R-I-F-I-E-D me, something I have avoided- successfully or not, depending upon how you look at it- for years. My heart is still pounding a bit, but thanks to one-click shopping at Amazon.com I didn’t have time to stop and think before I tossed it into my virtual cart. Boom, it was done. No going back. I had to face this once and for all.

Anti-climactic, I know, but the big, scary thing I did was order a digital scale, something I haven’t owned for years. For many people, hopping on the scale is not a big deal, but, as a person that has battled an eating disorder for a good share of my 40 plus years, the thought of owning and stepping on a scale is…

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Four simple truths about gratitude

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I’m resisting the urge to write volumes on the subject.

Because I could.

It’s that powerful.

It’s that game-changing.

It’s that essential. . .

To all that’s good in life.

But, I promise to keep it short and sweet.

Because the truths speak for themselves. . .

Four simple truths about gratitude

  1. Gratitude is a choice. Living life with a grateful heart doesn’t always just happen–especially when life sucks. You may have to choose it-over and over and over again–even if it hurts, even if it doesn’t make sense. Because eventually, it will make sense. It will become part of your DNA. You’ll wonder how you could breathe without it.
  2. Gratitude is self-pity’s kryptonite. Try feeling sorry for yourself and being truly grateful at the same time. It simply cannot be done. I know this because I’ve tried. More than once. And I’ve failed. Every. Single. Time.
  3. A joyous life is absolutely impossible without gratitude. So is a peaceful one, or a content one, or a loving one, or a courageous one, or an abundant one. . . And you get the picture.
  4. Practicing gratitude will save your life. I know this because it’s saved mine.

So what is stopping you,

Despite where your life may be at this moment,

From living your best life?

The one that includes you with a grateful heart. . . and a joyous soul.

As somebody once said, “There is always, always, always something to be grateful for.”

And it’s true.

One thousand million percent true.

There IS always a reason to be grateful.

Besides, like I said. . .

Gratitude will save your life.

Now go ahead. . .

You go be grateful!

What are you waiting for?

Some thoughts on gratitude and service

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A Thankful Heart from Joy for the Journey

Some thoughts on gratitude

It was the fall of 2012, a couple months after the crash. For the past month or so, I had been reading a daily devotional that I had found on my mom’s bookshelf.  I had given it to her for her last birthday and I had been reading it faithfully since finding it. The passages had become a source of comfort for me and I looked forward to the brief moments of solace from my intense pain and grief that reading those words every morning brought to me. The devotions seemed to fit everything that was going on in my life at the moment, just like they had for my mom when she had started reading it.

Then, just like life can suddenly go from beautiful to broken in the blink of an eye, the devotions on those pages did the same. In an instant, I was frustrated and angry at the words I was reading. Why, you ask? Well, I can sum it up in one word. Gratitude.

The devotional had themes and that week’s theme was gratitude. Because, really, how dare a devotional that is meant to be healing and uplifting, share a message of gratitude? Right? Didn’t they know that grieving people would be reading this book? What do people smack dab in the grips of intense pain need to know about gratitude? I’d be lying if I said a few choice words didn’t fly out of my mouth.

Day in, day out. The message of gratitude seemed to drag on F-O-R-E-V-E-R. I argued with the devotional every morning. “Surely, this wasn’t meant for grievers” was the core of the one-sided argument I had become engaged in. “Really,” I would think. “Easy to be grateful when things are good. Surely, you can’t expect me (or any others that are hurting) to be grateful after experiencing profound loss.” And on and on it went inside my head. Finally, after a few days of the reading about gratitude, I had had enough.  I read the day’s passage and in a fit of desperation, I looked to the heavens (from my bathroom mind you) and screamed (yes, out loud)–“FINE! I FUCKING GET IT! I’LL BE GRATEFUL!” (Yeah, God has gotten to witness some stellar moments from me over the years. Gratefully, he is patient, kind, loving, and forgiving.) Another gut-wrenching moment of surrender had befallen me (one of many in my life) and I vowed–half-heartedly, of course–to give practicing gratitude a try. Long story short. . . it worked. Even in my deepest moments of hopelessness and despair, I began to find moments of comfort and peace when I viewed the world through a lens of gratitude and not my own pain. Go figure. Maybe God was on to something here.

Some thoughts on service

Some time later the devotional moved to a theme of service. Yeah, cue the first part of this story here. “Really,” I thought. “You want me to serve others when I’m grieving. Surely, you can’t be serious. I can barely take care of myself at the moment and you want me to help somebody else?” Again, on and on it went. Although slightly less dramatic this time around, I experienced another moment of surrender in my bathroom and vowed (yes, half-heartedly again) to find some way to serve others. I wasn’t capable of much, but I dug deep and did what I could–I said a prayer for somebody other than myself, sent words of encouragement to somebody in need, or donated money to causes I supported. Again (surprise, surprise). . . it worked. Viewing the world through a lens of service had given me small moments of reprieve from my grief, just like practicing gratitude had. Through each new moment of comfort and peace that I experienced, I began to gain some hope that healing would be possible. I remember thinking how good God was at this stuff.

A few more thoughts

I’d like to say that it was my grief-fogged brain that kept me from listening to those first few messages in that devotional,  but I don’t think that would be entirely truthful. Besides my own stubbornness in not always listening, I came to learn that much of the traditional literature out there surrounding loss and healing doesn’t always talk about gratitude and/or service as part of the arsenal of tools that we have at our disposal as we begin to move forward. After all, it seems paradoxical to practice gratitude and serve others when we are suffering from incredible pain ourselves. Or does it?

Since those darkest of days in the beginning of my grief journey, I have learned more about the power of gratitude and service than I ever thought imaginable. And. . . I’m still learning. I’d like to tell you that my grief journey is done but I really feel like in some ways it’s just beginning. The numbness of the first year slowly faded and life got very real for me in year two. VERY REAL. I still find myself feeling like I am going backwards some days even though I know in my heart that I am always slowly inching forward. It’s in those real times, those painful times, those times when I feel like I am heading down the rabbit hole of despair that I focus even more on being grateful,  for everything. I have found that as time has gone on, gratitude and service have become innate functions of my very being. I have been so transformed on the inside from these practices that I can’t imagine not viewing life through the beautiful lenses that I have been given–even on the worst of days.

Start simply and grow

If you are reading this and you are in the early stages of healing, it’s very important to note that you might not want to hop right in and tackle things new things right now. Those first few weeks after a loss are so extremely difficult. Just getting out of bed (or not) is hard enough, let alone trying to add anything else to your plate. In time, though, you will want more. You will want more than simply surviving, you will want to thrive. That’s when gratitude and service will eventually come in. Start simply where you are at and grow from there.

As we head into November you will see an explosion of all things gratitude–challenges, journal writing, Facebook memes etc. If you aren’t practicing gratitude regularly, now may be the perfect time to start. If you are already mindfully practicing gratitude (or trying to), think about how you can move your gratitude practice into one of service. If you are already practicing both, I challenge you to kick it up a notch or ten. The most important thing to remember is to do what you are capable of. Some days, it still takes all I can muster to get through the day. Other days, it would take kryptonite to bring me down. Remember, even on our best days, we can’t do everything all of the time. Learn your limits, use your gifts, and serve accordingly. . .  all the while giving thanks. Then, be prepared for your life to change. God is really good at this stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uganda 2014

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Some of the children of the Michelle and Julia Hoffman Memorial Children’s Home in Uganda. Thank you Sarah Elbing for this photo!

As I write this, I feel like I should be pinching myself.

I’m going to Uganda for the second time in one year?

What?

I know.

I feel like the luckiest girl alive at the moment.

I could never thank the people that have made this trip possible for me enough. I don’t have the words to describe how truly grateful I am. I don’t know if I ever will. All I do know is that this trip will be incredibly special. I can feel it already.

I failed miserably writing about my last trip. I am not exactly sure why. Yes, I can be terribly lazy about my writing, but that wasn’t what this was. It was something more. I have a feeling much of the experiences of my first trip will come out in the blogs of trip number two, which, by the way, I PROMISE to write!

So in the mean time. . .

Stay tuned.

It’s Uganda or bust!