Bathtime Spa

I’ve been a Birchbox subscriber for about a year now. It’s been a lot of fun seeing what surprises come in the mail each month. I have never been into makeup, lotions, or hair care products, so I was really surprised when I found myself enjoying most of the deluxe samples that show up in the mail. I think it’s been fun to not only try new products, but to get instruction on how to use them though their website and Facebook pages (they do Instagram too, but I don’t… too much for me to handle!). When I get a product I know I won’t use or have too much of, it brings me happiness to pass them on to people whom I think might like them.

I wrote about the excitement of subscription boxes back in December. And Dunn and Norton write specifically about the happiness of Birchbox in particular in this book Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending.

But one unexpected delight I’ve received is a self-pampering bath-time routine for me. I say “for me” because this is during my 3-year-old son’s bath-time which has never been my favorite task. When he was an infant up until he was about 18 months old, I was downright scared of giving him a bath. I was pretty sure he’d be slippery and squirmy and that those things would result in death. I had all sorts of postpartum apocalyptic-style-thinking going on when he first needed a bath, and to complicate the matter, my left wrist and arm have had some major tendon repair done which leaves me uneasy of holding much of anything (including a gallon of milk or a dog leash) with my left hand… LET ALONE A HELPLESS TINY BABY I PRODUCED AND AM RESPONSIBLE FOR! Thus, my husband had the lone job of bathing our son for quite some time, for which I remain grateful.

At some point, my son turned from a helpless, squirming, ready-to-drown-if-I-blink infant into a hearty, strong, independent twaddler (is that what they are when they act like a teen but are a toddler?). At that point, my bath-time fear level declined and my bathing duties increased, but I also realized that I was a bit bored too. I know, I know. I should probably love watching him play in the suds, talking in cute little voices of pretend squirty fish conversations, drawing on the walls with washable crayons… but although I do think it’s beyond cute watching him do these things, and it makes me so happy when he’s having fun, there’s something about this task that leaves me feeling like I’m just waiting for it to be done and thus rushing him to pull the plug on the drain so we can have REAL fun reading stories before bed.

I’ve never been good at playing make believe with action figures, cars, Barbies, or dolls. When I was little my sister could play Barbies and She-Ra Princess of Power for hours until her eyes bled and I wanted nothing to do with it. I just get bored. I was outside finding toads and turtles and snakes. I was making potions out of olive oil, vinegar, glitter and salt. I was putting on plays with the neighbors. I was riding my bike around the block. I was talking to my imaginary friend, Casper. I was singing along with my Annie Soundtrack and Michael Jackson Thriller records. I just couldn’t find the fun in holding a figurine and making it talk to another figurine. I still struggle with this.

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After getting Birchbox delivered for several months, I began to realize that I have a small arsenal of spa-like, self-pampering beauty products and no time to actually use them. I kept thinking, “When the heck do I have 10 minutes to sit with a clay mask on my face?” or “Great, I’ve got these Icelandic gel eyepads, but don’t have 10 minutes to take my glasses off in order to use them.” Then something clicked one night! The puzzle pieces fell in place. I had:

  • One son who was actually entertaining himself independently in the bath tub and just wanted me there to be with him to chit chat.
  • 10 – 15 minutes of time in which I was doing not much.
  • A pile of unused beauty products that were calling my name.
  • A hidden memory of some yoga poses I recall doing on the floor, like legs up the wall and some leg stretching/back stretching stuff.

Life. Changing. Moment.

Now, every other night when I put him to bed, I actually find myself looking forward to bath time. I get to try out that new scrub/clay mask/cooling eye gel pad/activated charcoal powder/face wash with rose petals in it. Then I get to do some gentle yoga stretches while chatting with my son about his day while the product works. Then I get to wash it all off and put on some new, fabulous face cream that I’d never spend the actual money on, all the while talking to my son and listening to him do his own thing. When we are both done, we get to go read and talk about the day and look forward to the next one together. He usually gets a little extra bath time which was previously unheard of on my bath nights, and I get to do some relaxing.

Have you ever “played spa” at home? What tasks have you made easier for yourself? When do you make time for yourself to do a little self care? And how do you best connect with your child or an important kid in your life?

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Small, Pretty Things

Hello! How are you? What are your current happiness goals? What is working for you? What needs some tweaking?

One thing that’s working for me is adding more plants to the inside of my home. After a long, cold Michigan winter, I began to realize that there felt like a slight lack of “life” under the blanket of snow. When my dog passed away in March, I have to admit that I felt a void of life inside our house. Life left our house, and I felt like some needed to enter.

What do I do when I’m uncomfortable? I read. Sometimes feeling like I’m educating myself makes the discomfort feel like it has meaning. So, what did I do when overcome with grief about our loss? I began reading about how to handle grief when losing a pet. I read and read and read, and perhaps the most helpful advice I found was to find a way to reconnect with nature. It said that when we can reconnect with nature, it becomes easier to see that death is natural and also a necessary part of life — that death is not just some big, terrible, bad thing, but rather quite normal, important and happening on a daily basis with good reason.

I spent a lot of time looking outside, noticing how plants and animals and humans all go through an actual life cycle. It was helpful. I felt an almost immediate need to move the plants I already owned into spaces where I would see them more, and to begin bringing new plants into my home as well.

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I don’t have the greenest of thumbs, so I was mindful of selecting plants that are pretty easy to keep alive (read: succulents), and containers that I find equally beautiful. Check out the mini fern above in that beautiful coffee mug!

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And this tiny succulent in a dainty glass creamer container. It’s not just new life in the house, but a new life for the vintage container as well!

There’s something grounding about plants. Dirt. Rocks. Roots. Light. Water. Air. It’s just so solid and secure.

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I was once asked in a job interview, and there was no possible way to prepare for this question, “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” This was off the wall and felt somewhat inappropriate for a job interview, but I took a stab at it. But before I tell you what tree I would be, I have to ask: If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be? And why?

What makes you feel grounded? What soothes you in times of grief? What brings new life into your home? I’d love to hear.

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A Totally Fun Subscription Box Arrived

Until very recently, I had no idea that such a thing as a subscription box existed. Now that I received my first one in the mail today, I’m pretty convinced I need more! I am not much of a shopper. I don’t find myself excited to go shopping or to own a ton of things, but this might be the exception.

Today I received my first ever subscription box from Book Riot. Book Riot is a website for book nerds who like all things bookish. I follow them on Facebook and find myself oogling over their posts often. They have a subscription box that is fairly new (in its 3rd mailing) run through Quarterly Co. The boxes ship every 3 months, they cost $50.00 each, and they are AMAZING!

The contents of the subscription box.

The contents of the subscription box.

The box was beautifully packaged. Above are the items that were in the box. The theme for this box was summer reading. You’ll see in the above photo a package of information with a blue envelope. Inside is all sorts of information about the contents of the box. It begins by saying, ” Greetings, readers! Summer is the season for adventures, so we thought it was the perfect time to present you with not one, not two, but three (!) great books to expand your readerly horizons. When Riot readers tell us about the kids of books they are most hesitant to try, they mention romance, sci-fi/fantasy, and young adult more than any other genres or categories. So here’s one of our favorites of each type, recommended by Riot writers, to help you shuffle your reading deck.”

Packet of information about all enclosed items.

Packet of information about all enclosed items.

Enclosed were the following items:

1) Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King (the YA novel), which also included an original flowchart from the author on her writing process.

2) The Killing Moon (Dreamblood) by N.K. Jemisin (the fantasy novel), which also included a handwritten note from the author on her writing process.

3) A Rogue by Any Other Name: The First Rule of Scoundrels (Rules of Scoundrels) by Sarah Maclean (the romance novel), which also included the poster in the above photo about 10 Reasons to Read Romance Novels.

4) Literary Aces Playing Cards by Electric Literature (see closer photograph below)

5) Out of Print Library Card Pouch, which I had actually been eyeing about a month ago.

6) 2 Free Months of Oyster Ebook Subscription

7) An “I Read YA Books” Button

Sadly, I did not receive any of the potential lottery items also listed in the pack, but oh well, maybe next time!

Literary Aces Playing Cards

Literary Aces Playing Cards

I’m pretty excited to get started on these books. I have honestly never read a romance novel in my whole life. I said this to my husband and he began reading aloud from the middle of the book while I squirmed in my seat and giggled. I’m not sure how that will go, but I’ll give it a shot! I might giggle through the entire thing.

Part of what was so fun about this was waiting for it to arrive. I thought for a few weeks about whether to sign up or not. I take that back — I was thinking about it 3 months ago when they did their last shipment. I found myself going back over and over to look at what had come in that shipment and finally decided to just order the next one. I guess sleeping on it for 3 months and still wanting it means it was worth the try. Knowing this fun box was coming in the mail was so exciting. NOT knowing what exactly would be in it was equally as exciting. And most exciting was actually opening the box to discover the fun inside. I worried that I’d be disappointed or only find a short amount of happiness after opening it, but I think that because it is a box of books that can’t be digested immediately, this excitement will actually last me a while. Maybe even for 3 months until the next one comes!

Have you ever tried a subscription box before? What did you subscribe to? Did it make you happy? Were you disappointed? I’m interested to hear about other good ones out there!

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A Fantastic Bookstore in Denver, CO

A few weeks ago, I made my virgin trek to Colorado. The only complaint I have about my travel adventures thus far is that I’ve never seen much of anything in the center of the United States. I’ve pretty much covered the edges of the country, but aside from Las Vegas, the center has been neglected. So when I learned that the Binge Eating Disorder Association’s (BEDA) annual conference was being held in Denver for 2015, I jumped on the opportunity to see the Rocky Mountains for the first time!

My first EVER view of the Rockies from my airplane window -- beautiful!

My first EVER view of the Rockies from my airplane window — beautiful!

I was surprised to find out that when I actually got to downtown Denver, I couldn’t see a mountain to save my life unless I was on the rooftop pool deck of our hotel. So I was thankful I got to see them on my way into town. I think I was expecting something similar to Vancouver, Canada and was just slightly disappointed. Anyhow, going to a conference alone is an interesting experience. I’ve actually done it many times before, but always had friends somewhere close by to hang out with at night that had moved to whichever-large-city I was staying in. This time, my friend’s home was 1.5 hours away from my hotel, so I spent some time alone before we could hang out after the conference. So what did I do??? Find an amazing bookstore to explore, of course!

The Tattered Cover Book Store

The Tattered Cover Book Store

Just down the street from my hotel, I found the Tattered Cover Book Store. Oh my gosh — what an amazing store! Used and new books co-mingled on shelves together like old friends. There were books as far as the eye could see in this old building, lining antique shelves, filling nooks and crannies holding small spaces to sit in comfy antique chairs. It really was a book-lovers haven.

Children's books section. My son ended up with something from here, of course.

Children’s books section. My son ended up with something from here, of course.

The game section.

The game section.

A street lamp lighting the way to your newest adventure!

A street lamp lighting the way to your newest adventure!

They even had a great graphic novel section which usually is neglected unless you’re specifically in a comic book store. So what did I do? Found a graphic novel on my to-read list and read it in the luxury of this bookish oasis!

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I went back to this store 4 times in the 3 days I was there. I saw something new each time I went in! Back when I was in high school, college and grad school and I lived in actual cities that had bookstores (unlike where I live now), any time I felt overwhelmed or stressed out, I just strolled the aisles of these stores looking at book spines and planning all the books I would read before I die. It was the best form of relaxation for me — I could spend 10 minutes doing this or I could spend hours doing this, and it always made me feel better. I miss that and was so thankful for my Tattered Cover Bookstore experience. As a memento, I grabbed this mug to take home for my coffee:

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My favorites are numbers 1, 6, 7, and 11. What are yours? Do you have a type of store you seek out in new places? What brings you comfort when you’re feeling uncertain of yourself? What feels like home to you, even if you’ve never been there?

 

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How Flowers Can Hold Memories

My yard is finally being resurrected now that our extremely harsh Michigan winter appears to have concluded. I’m so grateful every time I see new buds on a tree, new leaves from a bulb, and even the tender sprouts of weeds. It means that warmer, sunnier days are inevitable. It means I can wear sandals again. Spring always means surprises for me, because I can never remember perfectly where I planted what, and when it will bloom. Last year, my mother-in-law visited in the spring, and I had since forgotten that she helped me plant bulbs around our house. These weren’t just random bulbs, but rather ones that were given to me with meaning.

Red tulips from my grandmother's garden.

Red tulips from my grandmother’s garden.

One of my grandmas died last March, and I still think of her often. After her funeral, my dad asked me if there was anything I would like to remember her by. I asked for two things: 1) the tools, pots and pans we used to make applesauce together each fall and 2) some of her many red tulip bulbs that lined the back of her house. They had already bloomed when he gave them to me last year, so this is the first time they have bloomed since being transplanted to my yard. They were planted around our patio, just outside the windows of our family room where we spend most of our time. These flowers hold memories for me and warm my heart each time I look out the window. I do not feel sad when I see them — rather I feel like memories of my grandma live on. I can hear pieces of her advice when I look out at them. Something she always told me was, “It’s no use holding anger at somebody else. You aren’t hurting them with your anger, you’re only hurting yourself and making yourself miserable. They don’t care if you’re angry at them or not. So let it go.” Wise, no?

Hyacinth bulbs -- a Mother's Day gift from my other grandmother.

Hyacinth bulbs — a Mother’s Day gift from my other grandmother.

Another surprise I had forgotten about were the purple hyacinth bulbs we planted in the front yard. These were a gift from my other grandma, who is still alive at the age of 95 years old. They arrived to my house in a beautiful planter, already in bloom. Once they were done doing their “thing”, we put them in the ground and hoped for their arrival this spring. When I look at these, it reminds me that there are people in my life who honor me as a mother beyond my son. I’m going to sound all cliche here, but being a mom (a parent) is just so darned hard sometimes, and rewarding too. I often think that if someone paid me what I pay a babysitter per hour to go out to dinner or a movie, I’d make SO MUCH MORE than I do going to work because it’s a non-stop job. (I say that only half joking… when I babysat growing up I made $3.50 per hour. When did these kids start charging 4-5 times that amount?!?) Now that’s not to say I feel I should be paid or rewarded for caring for my own child AT ALL, but it is to say that when I look out the window or walk down our front sidewalk, I’m reminded that this hard/rewarding work of parenting is recognized and honored, even if I don’t acknowledge that every day.

In line with this whole spring/rebirth/Mother’s Day-ness that’s on my mind, it reminds me to mention the Mallard duck who took up residence outside our front window to lay her eggs.

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I keep wondering if my son thinks maybe we live in some sort of zoo, because each spring there is some animal who has its babies close to our house. Last spring we had a cat birth her 4 totally cute kittens under our deck. We watched them play on our patio, and nurse near our shrubs, and learn to hunt mice in the yard. The year before we had a finch build a nest, hatch and raise her babies just outside my library window in a hanging basket on our front porch. Before that, we had a Killdeer build a nest in our yard. For weeks, I watched her stroll through our grass, holding all her baby chicks under her wings then letting them run around before peeping to call them back to the safety of her own body. It reminded me of Mother Ginger in The Nutcracker Suite. But back to this year’s duck…

Over time she laid a total of 11 eggs.

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We were pretty amazed to see them up so close to the house. It was a lot of fun to come home each day and check on her, see if she was still sitting, if she had covered the eggs with woodchips and down to warm them, or if she had brushed them off to be warmed by the sun. I have never seen something like this for such a prolonged period — and just outside our window! I found myself thinking that for as hard as parenting can feel sometimes, it’s really nothing compared to having to hatch an egg out in the wild. I don’t have to sit on my kid to keep him warm all the time. I don’t have to worry about anything and everything that can invade my home and eat him. If it snows, I can bring him inside or put extra clothes on him. And I also don’t have to raise 11 infants at the same time. The whole experience left me feeling both entertained and thankful.

What is happening in your yard right now? Have you seen any new signs of life? Do you have any plants that have been passed down to you from past generations that you enjoy watching as they bloom? What memories does it bring back for you?

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An Evening with Art Spiegelman

Last night I attended an evening with Art Spiegelman at Eastern Michigan University, in which he presented a talk on “WHAT THE %@#$!! HAPPENED TO COMICS?!”

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Don’t know who Art Spiegelman is?  I bet you do. He created the Garbage Pail Kids. Remember those?!? If you’re around my age, then you probably remember trading them on the playground with great fondness.

Snotty Sarah. That's me!

Snotty Sarah. That’s me!

Ok now that I’ve just spent the past 10 minutes taking a trip down memory lane as I scrolled through images of beloved GPK cards… I remember the excitement of a fresh pack. What gross thing would be inside? Would I be disappointed and get nothing new? Would it be full of cards I’d never seen? Could I trade some for even better ones? This was a currency that needed to be kept in tip top shape. Peel the sticker off? YEAH RIGHT! Oddly, my dad found a box of old GPK cards in his basement not too long ago and they had been my husband’s. I’m not certain how we left them in my parents’ basement, but I digress. We both had a blast looking through them and picking out our favorites.

Back to last night. Equally if not more importantly (read: sarcasm) than GPK cards are Art Spiegelman’s books MAUS I and MAUS II.

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MAUS is his telling of his dad’s story of survival in a Nazi concentration camp, as well as his family’s survival before and after this horrible time. Many consider Art Spiegelman to be the Godfather of the Graphic Novel and some consider him the Godfather of Comics. He put graphic novels on the map as an actual form of literature demanding respect. I’m not going to do him justice here and my post is not really about what all he’s done for comics and graphic novels (and trading cards), but I needed to at least say why he’s so important and why this was such an exceptional event to have the opportunity to attend.

I have a Master’s degree in Literature from Eastern Michigan University, and perhaps it was the nostalgia of being on campus, thinking hard about literature late into the evening that was part of what was so special, but I left the auditorium feeling full. Full of thoughts, full of happiness, full of challenges to think about, full of things to read, full of images to remember… It’s what I miss about school, only better because I had no homework.

Spiegelman reminded me a lot of the late George Carlin, whom I saw perform twice in person. He dressed in all black. He talked fast and had lots of witty/grumpy side notes to insert along the way. He drank pop from a can the whole time, which I’ve never seen a presenter do before. He puffed on his electronic cigarette between sentences. I mean this guy really could give a s**t what anybody thinks of him, which I loved. He said from early on that he was going to keep us there a lot longer than they had planned for the program, and he sure did. It lasted nearly 3 hours! By the time I left, I felt like he had taught me even more how to read comics and graphic novels.

Check out the beautiful organ in the background.

Check out the beautiful organ in the background.

I like surrounding myself with people who find similar things interesting. How often do you get to be in a room full of people who all seemingly love graphic novels? (Except the poor 5 year old who was stuck sitting behind me and being shushed for 3 hours late at night…) It’s just fun to be able to fully immerse yourself into something.

Oh! And I got a book signed, of course. Which meant some nervous giggling as I stood there waiting. This time I kept my mouth shut because he intimidated me and would have probably called me out on it if I’d said something stupid. Apparently I have Art-Spiegelman-Specific-Social-Anxiety. Nevertheless, I got his signature:

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Hallelujah Chorus in the Shower

I found myself singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus quite loudly in the shower Tuesday morning. It just burst right out of me after having spent a little time outside in what actually felt like spring weather. Of course, I was singing the cello part since that’s the only part I’ve played (being a cellist), but nevertheless the sentiment was there. I felt slightly manic as I walked around our small town after my shower, with NO COAT ON, completely comfortable and breathing in the 55 degree air. This might not sound too warm to  you if you haven’t spent the past winter in Michigan (see my post about that here), but to me it was downright intoxicating.

I attended a special spring yoga class a couple of weeks ago during which the instructor read this quote:

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And it was that quote that was running through my mind when I spotted these brave young bulbs rising from beds outside our library, insisting that yes, this winter WILL end and warmer days are ahead.

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I even felt thankful to see a rain storm rolling into town. Because that means if it’s raining, it is not snowing. And if it’s not snowing, then spring must be on its way.

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Have you spotted any sure signs of spring yet? Have you seen something sprouting? Felt a warm-ish breeze? Sneezed from allergies? Heard a spring peeper frog? Just think — someday it will be warm enough that we’ll want to turn air conditioning on again. But for now, I’m embracing this welcome and happy change of scenery.

 

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