Sunday, March 2, 2014

Ode To A Long Winter

As a lover of the cold and inclement, the grey and dreary, I am a happy, happy girl. This winter has had everything I love: big snowstorms, cloudy skies, day after day of must-stay-inside cold. Winters like this feed my soul. Of course, I am surrounded by people who feel very, very differently, people whose favorite greeting tends to be along the lines of, "Ugh! Can you believe how long/cold/endless this winter has been? Aren't you so excited for spring?!" At which point, I must decide between honesty ("Actually, I love cold, grey weather, so I'm a little depressed that spring is coming") or pretense ("Mmm-hmm...", sympathetic-seeming smile). I know that those of you who crave the warmth of the sun and the green of the spring, this plodding winter is near-torture. So I'd like to call your attention to some reasons that I love a good, long winter and maybe - just maybe - you will find yourself a way to enjoy its last freezing throes. 

It's easy to ensconce yourself inside and wait out the cold, but winter is a great opportunity to have some friends over for a cozy get-together. Calendars tend to be emptier than in the warmer months and many folks are desperate to break up their routine after so many months of weather-enforced seclusion. Easy, comforting meals like soups or crock-pot fare are welcome, and you don't have to dust your shelves too carefully, thanks to the forgiving darkness of winter. 

Although this may seem at odds with the community I just encouraged, solitude is its necessary partner. In warmer weather, there are outdoor activities aplenty, most of them involving other people. Calendars fill up and evening get-togethers often seep into the bedtime hours because of the extra light. This leaves all but the staunchest introverts with little to no downtime. Enter the dark of winter. Closing the drapes and settling in for the night at 5:00? Perfectly acceptable. Putting the kids to bed at 7:00? Utterly feasible. Spending an evening by the fire reading, writing, or being creative? Blissfully possible. Take advantage of these waning short days to spend some evenings getting reacquainted with yourself.

Crackling fire 
Growing list of finished books
Tea, tea, and more tea
Wool blankets
Card games, board games, dice games
Reading Harry Potter aloud 
Sweaters and lounge pants 
Cutting paper and doing fun stuff with it
Watching the snow fall & the squirrels scamper
Turning off music/TV and savoring the sounds of the house: heat kicking in, dishwasher churning, wood floors settling 

Here's to enjoying the final 17 days of winter!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Karatasi No. 2

It is January, a.k.a. The Month I Again Return To Journaling. I was an avid journaler from elementary school through early adulthood, filling nearly a hundred journals and notebooks with my thoughts and observations. Every time I completed the last page of a journal, I felt a rush of victory at having filled the book, mingled with regret that I would have to shelve this journal whose cover and pages I had come to know so well. Part of what made this regret so palatable was knowing that I now had an excuse to shop for the next journal. Oh, the happy hours I spent debating the options! Spiral coil or bound? White pages or ivory? 5x7 hardcover or 8.5x11 softcover? After making my selection, I would scurry to my favorite journaling site and crack open the new book, relishing the fresh pages and the possibility that lay ahead.

And then December of 1996 happened. I came home from a week away to find that a pipe in my tiny bungalow had burst and my basement had filled with two feet of water, submerging the wooden trunk that held all of my journals from my entire life. And all of the thoughts and prayers I had poured onto the page over the years were blurred into beautiful, haunting watercolors. 

It was then that I lost my passion for journaling. It suddenly seemed futile, even ridiculous. Why spend all this time and effort rendering thoughts into words if I can't go back and read them, or pass them on to my children? What, really, is the point?

Of course, I knew the point. I knew that all of those words I'd carefully chosen, those thoughts I'd tried to painstakingly articulate, had shaped me merely in the writing of them. Would it have been rewarding to revisit those thoughts, to ponder them anew? Sure. But they had already done their work in me, and no amount of water could wash that away. 

So I slowly, slowly, S L O W L Y have returned to a place where I am again interested in journaling regularly. I've made a few lame attempts the last several Januarys, but have always waned quickly. This year, though, feels different. In many ways, this year feels like my tipping point, and I am eager to process things in writing. 

And what better journal to field my thoughts than this favorite PaperBlanks journal?

It has seen me through several failed attempts at journaling, and I am determined that it will finally get the consistent attention it deserves. Its binding is open, with several tidy folds of paper stitched in such a way that the pages lie perfectly flat without any effort on my part. The paper is creamy, and thick enough that ink does not bleed through. There is even a pocket in back to hold any ephemera I collect throughout the year. 

Yes, this journal and I will spend some quality time together this year. And I am certain that I, my marriage, my kids, and my relationship with God will all be the better for it.

Friday, January 3, 2014

One Shelf At A Time

This has been coming for awhile. Every time I sit to read in my favorite spot on the couch, I fight the nagging inner voice saying, "You really need to organize that end table." Every time I bring in the mail, I inwardly kick myself that I still haven't cleared out the random cords and old Christmas cards from that file drawer in the nearby credenza so I can actually use it for (gasp!) filing the mail. And every time I sit at the table for dinner, I am distracted by the clutter I see on the kitchen counter  and the dining room credenza. 

I haven't always been like this. Organizing is a passion of mine. When I got my four-drawer file cabinet 12 years ago, I raced home eagerly every day to "play" with it. I anticipate and savor the January magazines and blogs with articles like "52 Ways to Stay Organized This Year" and "101 Products to Help You Declutter Your Home", and one of my favorite parties EVER was the one where the hostess complained about her disorganized pantry and not only accepted my offer to fix it, but let me do it right then and there! Ahhhhhh...sweet, sweet memories.

But the best indicator of my obsession with organizing was that my house was actually ORGANIZED. Everything had a place, and I could find anything in a moment or two, thanks to my constantly-updated inventory of everything (every. thing.) in my house. It was my normal. I loved it. 

And then I had kids. Not that it's directly their fault. But since their arrival, I've accumulated way more stuff and had way less time to deal with it. And, let's face it: I've added plenty of my own clutter (thanks to my love of flea markets, Archiver's, and Target) and have been less and less willing to spend my precious "me" time purging and organizing. 

So it's time for a change. And I am so off-the-charts, waking-up-excited PUMPED to get going! Inspired by @beckynovacek's Instagram journey the last couple of years (#40days40bags) and Apartment Therapy's January Cure, I'm plunging into a decluttering and reorganization of our complete home this month. 
- Step 1: For each room/closet, list every area that contains stuff. For example, my dining room list is "secretary, credenza, table, floor". (Yes, I've listed the floor in every room because sometimes that's the worst perpetrator. ��)
- Step 2: Divvy up the list to tackle a certain amount of projects per day. I'll be doing three areas per day, not including the necessary post-Christmas cleanup that needed to happen first. 
- Step 3: Get to work!

A few key strategies that are helping me:
- Purge and organize only. Cleaning comes later.
- Work in 15-30 minute increments and take a short rejuvenation break in between to read, write, or play. If you're really in the zone when your timer goes off, reset for an additional session, but don't overdo or you'll lose interest.
- Organize for how you live, not how you think you should live. I learned this from one of my favorite organizers, Julie Morgenstern, and it makes an incredible difference. If you drop your purse on the nearest chair, create a dedicated hook or chair right inside the door that's for that sole purpose. If you uncork wine next to the sink, set a container there to collect them. Don't fight your tendencies. Organize them!
- Let your family know what you're doing and that you may (will) enlist their participation and/or help. 

I am confident that investing time in this project will be well worth it. I expect to be proud of my diligence and motivated to maintain it. I expect to feel peaceful in my house. I expect to be giddy with joy every time I find what I need within five seconds of wanting it. The day is coming, my friends! But only if I stop writing this post. 

Splendid organizing to you!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A New Road

2014 has been the beginning of a new way of living for me. It would be easiest to say I'm on a weight loss journey, but that's so incomplete, so inadequate a description. Yes, I hope to lose weight. Yes, I hope to become fit. But more importantly I hope to break cycles of thinking that have brought me to where I am today. This is truly a spiritual battle, one where I am relying on the same omnipotent God who redeemed my husband from a destructive addiction and who restored our marriage. I have seen Him work, and it has been spectacular.

And so I have surrendered my food addiction to Him. I have been reluctant, even snarlingly unwilling, to relinquish this. I love food. I enjoy it. I savor it. I anticipate it and plan around it. I depend on it. Which is precisely the problem. God has been gently, firmly, unrelentingly reminding me that I must depend on Him, and Him alone. Food has become my idol, and my idol must be demolished: cast to the ground and pulverized to dust. 

I am not capable of this. I have tried and I have failed. I could try the remainder of my days, and even if I succeeded in choosing kale over pizza, even if I succeeded in losing 80 pounds, I would still have failed. Because my goal is not just to be healthy; my goal is not just to be slim. My goal is to be devoted to my gracious and benevolent Lord, and to serve only Him. As long as I am subject to food, I am serving only myself. 

It has been a slow slog so far, but that's good. I want to be a living sacrifice, transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:1-2). And that takes time. The kind of time that requires perseverance. The kind of time that cultivates faith. The kind of time that forges a new road. 'Cause I'm sick of the old one. That one that's littered with lies like "I had a hard day; I deserve a treat" and pockmarked with shame and failed attempts. I'm parting ways with that road. I'm taking the one made through the depths of the sea

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Karatasi No. 1

OK, so those of you who know me well (or maybe even not-so-well!) know that I am obsessed with paper. I love the feel of it, the smell of it, and especially the look of it. One box of notecards can set my heart racing and my spirit swooning. A single letter-press card can send me deep into a recurring fantasy: gleaming table, crackling fire, steaming drink, thoughts poured out in ink, artful stamp, walk to mailbox under canopy of leaves, recipient excitedly opening letter, recipient aware of my love for him/her, recipient inspired to reciprocate. Repeat. 

Now because I want to be completely forthright, I have to acknowledge what many of you already know from personal experience: that this fantasy of mine is almost always just that: A fantasy. I yearn to sit and write profound messages on gorgeous paper, but I usually resort to a seemingly-impersonal email or, worse, a concise text message. (shudder) But what I love about paper is that it keeps me coming back to the idea that communication can be more than this, more than some brief, electronic words. There is something about paper that makes me crave (and appreciate) a life where time unfurls slowly, where words mean something, where thoughts are given a space to play and linger, and where handwriting has the power to evoke memories from years ago. I refuse to give up on this idea, and I am determined to keep putting pen to paper, even if it's something as simple as a list. 

Because of this passion for paper, I wanted to recognize it in my blog name somehow, so I chose karatasi, one of Swahili's words for paper. I hope to spotlight some favorite paper products each week and inspire all of us to put pen to paper a little more often.

This week's item is from one of the BEST places to find inspiration: Target! I bought it a few months ago, but last time I checked, it was still available in stores. 
Manufacturer: Compendium, Inc.
Retailer: Target 

My favorite elements? 
1. Triangles  I have been loving triangles for years and am so glad they're finally trendy and easy to find.
2. Multi-color on kraft paper  The contrast is delicious.
3. Creative endpapers (the inside covers and immediately adjacent sheets) They make just OPENING the book so much fun, and also build one's confidence (in the case of the second picture)!

4. Artful details that are also useful. The colored edges help me organize my book into easy-to-find sections: crafty ideas, to-do items, scripture/inspiration. The grid helps keep lists neat, provides built-in check boxes, and also makes space-planning a cinch for those of us who enjoy visualizing room arrangements made to-scale. The woven binding helps the book lie flat but doesn't impede writing as a metal coil would.

5. The paper  Thin enough to have plenty of pages to fill, but thick enough to absorb ink without bleeding through.

This journal was a bit pricey at approx. $15, but I knew it was one I'd be reaching for again and again, and I also tend to display notebooks in my home, so it was a worthwhile investment for me. 

Now stop reading this blog and go write something! :-)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


So...a little background about the first part of my blog title. My husband is Kenyan, and at our wedding his family assigned a Kenyan name to me: Makena. For years I refused to acknowledge or use this name because I had been told that it meant "big, happy person", and I had ZERO interest in drawing further attention to my girth. But a couple of years ago I mentioned this to H, and he said, "But that's not what it means!" He proceeded to explain that it meant that my JOY is "big", not my body. Ohhhhhhhhh, NOW I get it! And now I embrace my name and (I hope) live up to it. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

My Love/Hate Relationship With J. Crew

J. Crew is my inspiration and my nemesis. It beckons with its hearty wools and chunky tweeds, and crushes my spirit with its size-0 tailoring. I imagine myself dressing in its casually-draped button-downs and bold necklaces, its Audrey Hepburn skimmer pants and narrow flats, but my plus-size self has no place here. I should avoid it - I've learned not to cultivate discontentment - but I also think it's good for me. It's good for me to remember that I am the same person I was when I could fit into these slim clothes. (In fact, I'm a better person than that girl; not because of my weight, but because of what's happened in the years that have passed.) It's good for me to remember that my worth is not proportionate to my weight. But it's also good for me to remember that my body is a temple, that God desires me to be my best, that He calls me out of my ways and into His. I want to knock food down a few pegs, to be able to sincerely say (like Jesus), “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work" (John 4:34 NKJV). 
And so I take tiny steps into this journey: saying "yes" to kickball with the boys, joining (and going to) Curves, saying "no" to chocolate before bed once (or dare I say twice?!) a week, finally doing the Freedom From Emotional Eating study I've procrastinated for years. I move into this process tentatively, warily, but knowing that I can harness the power of the One who created all, who saved my marriage, who fulfilled my dreams, who overcame even death.