My Real Life + Being Happy

>> Thursday, March 23, 2017

I've been blogging for ten years now. I mean, that's sort of incredible if you think about it. That's about a third of my life I've shared online. Blogging is a funny thing, as I'm sure you've gathered throughout the years. There are many aspects of it that I absolutely love. There's this awesome online community of people -- women, mostly -- and I've benefited greatly from the connections I've made with other bloggers and readers across the country and beyond.

But then there's this tricky side to it. The comparison trap. The constant feeling of being behind. Of wanting what other people have. I never felt this way in the beginning. My first "blog" was a Livejournal just for my friends to read while I was in college. To me, writing online has never been about projecting an image of myself. It's been all about sharing in the best way I can as an introvert. I can type out and "say" so much more on the computer than I might in a conversation (though that has certainly changed over the years).

And it was about sharing (and still is!) when I started neverhomemaker. Then something shifted in the blog world. I don't really know when it happened. I feel like it was the year I had Ada, back around 2011/2012. I feel like I looked around one day, and what once was a place of sharing recipes and thoughts and somewhat poorly lit photos became a competition. Who had the BEST recipe with the BEST photos? Who lived in the most interesting ZIP code or had the cutest kids? Who spent their weekends doing the most interesting things and who was able to cultivate the most put-together image? Whose stuff was getting Pinned or otherwise shared the most?

I may be alone in seeing the online world in this way. Or maybe I'm not. But my own internalization of it started to weigh me down. To make me feel less-than. There were days I wanted to try my hand at the competition. Thing is, I don't live anywhere all that interesting. We don't make a lot of money. I don't have time to spend anymore rigging up impressive photo-shoots of my food or house or anything. Many of my close friends don't live near us, so we don't do a ton of socializing. We go on one vacation most years.

The list of how my life isn't "blog-worthy" goes on.

I'd keep looking at life as a work-at-home mom through an Instagram lens and feel like I was coming up short. I look at blogs that didn't exist way back when neverhomemaker was at its peak of "popularity" and they've become HUGE. Like massive giants. Kudos to the people who write them -- really, I'm impressed -- but it all seems so exhausting to try to stay on top of the trends, to project an image of perfection, etc. Yet to many, it seems this pursuit is effortless. And maybe it is. But that's where I've gotten lost with the whole thing.

See, I have slowly started caring less and less about my relevancy in the online world. And in general. You don't have to be a blogger to feel the way I'm feeling. Projection of perfection is everywhere. It's stressful. Anyway, long-time readers may have noticed I stopped blogging as frequently in recent years. I un-followed a number of certain big bloggers who, well, trigger my feelings of inadequacy. I un-followed Facebook friends who bugged me. And now I've basically quit Facebook. It's all been a transformative experience.

I'm just a real woman in her early thirties who has two kids and a real, physical life to lead. I have two amazing daughters to bring up who don't care about pageviews or followers. Who don't really care if they are wearing twee outfits or engaging in the latest Pinterest trend activities. I don't care about seeming cool to my real life friends on social media. What's most important in my life right now is that my girls need a loving mama. Full stop.

Truth is, I used to care about making my life, my home, my activities seem more exciting than they really are. It's like a switch flipped, because . . . I just don't anymore. I'm quite happy with my life. My real life. And the people who are actually in my real life don't care about any of this nonsense. Sure, I dream of living near the ocean or of having an impeccably clean home or having enough money to buy all organic ingredients for carefully crafted cookbook dinners each and every night.

Who doesn't on some level?

The difference now is that I have stopped trying to pretend for others. I often joke with Stephen and sing the line from Hamilton that goes "We don't need a legacy . . . we don't need money . . ." because that's how I feel. We are living comfortably in a suburb to nowhere important in a home that is plenty big enough for us. We have food on the table, often from Aldi, often the same meals on repeat for several weeks at a time to save money. Ada goes to a wonderful school. We have a beautiful baby who is growing leaps and bounds. I am able to use my college degree to work from home. Stephen may have a teacher's salary, but he has his summers off.

There's a lot to love here, even if we aren't jetting off on vacations all the time or keeping up with the Joneses in other ways. And there are so very many ways to keep up these days, from the clothes we wear to the fitness boutiques we attend. (BTW: Have you seen the movie? I've got a major crush on David Duchovny. It's a good watch. Makes me think of blogging! Also -- what does it mean if you live in an area that doesn't even have fancy fitness boutiques? )

Where did these musings come from? A friend of mine recently shared an article she had found online about wanting to live a mediocre life. The author of the article asks "what if all I want is a small, slow, simple life?" And this whole thing has resonated with me. Blogging and living online in any way, shape, or form (blogger or not!) for so long has a way of skewing the importance of things in life. In the end, all that matters is finding joy and fulfillment in the things you do. In the people you're around. On the path you follow in your real life.

And I could be enough,
And we could be enough,
That would be enough...


What's inside my minimalist diaper bag?

>> Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hey, guys! Over the weekend, I shared on my Instagram that I have become a diaper backpack convert. It frees up both hands. It's easy on your back. These are important things for mamas, am I right?

Here's more about what I carry in my diaper bag.

I talk more about it in the video -- but my approach used to be ridiculously minimalist. Almost to a fault. I literally carried a single diaper and a couple wipes in my purse. Now I carry the items I need, nothing extra.

If you're interested in my bag, I bought it from the Etsy shop called UrbanPath. This shop features Huipil backpacks, bags, and other items straight from Guatemala. They remind me of the bags you can buy for a much higher price by Nena + Co. You can also find similar bags on Amazon that will ship to you via Prime ASAP (though I cannot find a backpack on there!).

What's in my bag:

So, what do you think? Is this minimalist or not? It's definitely more than I used to carry -- but I feel like I do end up using it all when we go out to eat, for example. With the warmer weather coming up, I see long trips to the park in our future. I'll definitely need that first aid kit!

What do you carry in your diaper bag? Or do you choose not to carry one?


Life Lately + Marathon Thoughts

>> Thursday, March 16, 2017

Wow. When will Ashley stop posting snow photos all over social media? Uh. Never, guys. I haven't seen this much snow since the blizzard of 1993 when my hometown got more than three feet. The "official" total where we live is 36" by a trained NOAA spotter. I didn't measure quite that much, but I looked up the spotter's latitude and longitutde to find his location, and he's on a hill about a quarter mile from my house. Who knows!

If you don't follow me on Instagram, here's a photo-dump:

// Weight Watchers

I'm back on Weight Watchers strong today. (If you missed it, here are my thoughts on doing it for one month + how much weight I lost.) I never quit, I just got really lazy about it. Part of that is because I've been upping my mileage for marathon training (I'll get to that more below). I've been hungry, and it's hard balancing out how many points I should eat when I'm running more. Does anyone have any advice on that?

Still, I've noticed after being stuck inside that my bad habits have returned. I ate SO MUCH puppy chow. I drank bourbon hot cocoas by and outdoor fire. I have emotional eating issues. I eat when I'm stressed and bored. I eat while watching TV at night. I don't portion out my foods. These are all habits I need to work on if I want to reach my goals and if I just want to maintain a healthier relationship with food.

// Marathon Thoughts

Yes. I'm running a marathon. No, I'm not running a marathon race. Confused?! Don't be. My training buddy and I had a revelation. Let's train for the distance but SCREW the race. We both hate all the logistics. The hundreds of dollars. The getting up early. The stress of if the weather is dreadful on race day. You know, all of the stress. The people. Etc.

We have decided instead to map out our own course and + complete it this spring/summer.

We are still following this plan by Hal Higdon. We are on week 8, but the snow has definitely derailed some workouts. We actually have already mapped out a pretty solid route that will stop by enough places to get water, have bathrooms, and even celebrate along the way. I am excited to share that adventure with you guys when it happens. We are thinking June will likely be the time, but that could change.

I know I've written about it in the past, but I'm a runner. I rarely wear a watch. I am not in it for the racing. For the cheering sections. For the gear. For the metals. For the PRs. I don't care about all that stuff. I haven't since having Ada, it seems. I like moving. I like the meditation. The thinking time. And lately I've really enjoyed the friendship and fun of just being active with someone and talking.

// Track Season

Stephen's spring track season started last week. I heard another spouse refer to herself as a "track widow" at one point. I mean no disrespect to actual widows, but I do understand the sentiment she was expressing. He's just . . . gone a lot. During the week it isn't terrible until the meets start up on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But then on top of that it's every Saturday. Many times the days are like 12-hour days.

Perspective: I know people have it far worse. It's just a big change. I don't like changes when we're in a good routine.

I'm looking forward to the weather getting nicer because I plan to take the girls to parks, playdates, and other things to keep us all occupied. It's hard without family in the area. It'd be nice to just have dinner at the grandparents' house, go play with cousins (Ada and Eloise have no first cousins anyway), or get some babysitting every now and again -- whatever. I am thinking for next year (Eloise is still so small) that I may need to investigate an actual babysitter to help out even just with one night a week.

// Dump Meals

I am OBSESSED with these freezer dump meals, you guys. I wrote about this whole thing when I last shared about monthly meal planning and food buying. Would you like a post on this? The whole thing involves looking up a good recipe. Then you need to modify it slightly so it will work and fit inside a gallon freezer bag. Then you chop and dump in all the ingredients. You freeze it. And then you thaw it and cook the day you're planning to eat it.

So far, I like it so much better than cooking ahead and then freezing. I feel like the food comes out fresher. Tonight we are having a chickpea curry -- OMG IT SMELLS AMAZING -- and I'm going to make some 5-minute Naan for the side. If you haven't checked out that naan recipe yet -- please do. I have made all sorts of naans, but this recipe is SO fast and SO easy and SO delicious.

Happy Thursday!

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