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Wherein I discuss putting mindfulness and minimalism back in their places.

Minimalism and mindfulness have their own places on the shelf of life. Sometimes we need to put them back in their places. Maybe your experiences are different but I’m going to share mine.

Minimalism. The oft praised design concept that conjures up fresh tiny houses, Scandinavian designs, Japanese zen gardens, and futuristic serenity come to mind. Jane Cumberbatch’s Pure Style Living has maintained a treasured spot on my bookshelf for over a decade with its praise of white, sterile, industrial inspired function. #goals

In contrast I have a maximalist house. It’s overly large (we’re planning on expanding our family). It’s overly cluttered (I’m working on that). My life is anything but sterile. It’s functionally chaotic.

An article I read talked about the mental stress that clutter causes. I had a hard time explaining it to my husband before reading the article, but this really helped. Clutter causes anxiety for me because it represents endless to-do lists and embarrassment. I want the house to look like a magazine cover, but it’s a mess. I don’t think I could ever have someone help me clean up either – I’m too particular, and it would make me very uncomfortable. When I first brought the baby home, a few close friends or family offered to help, but I had to turn them down. Having anyone else clean up my mess would rack me with guilt.

In the spirit of reducing and destressing, I tackled the closets, the bookcases, and some keepsakes. The Marie Kondo method really has helped me trim down my closet to clothes I enjoy wearing.

Why own clothes that don’t make me feel good? Why keep books or keepsakes that are just collecting dust? If I don’t treasure them, then why not give them a happier home with someone else?

Like The Decemberist’s song, “[A]nd if you don’t love me, let me go”.

Marie Kondo’s method of folding socks and t-shirts has transformed my drawers. The idea of treating my belongings with respect has truly increased value for objects I otherwise disregarded.

I have not read her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It’s in my To Be Read list, as is Margareta Magnusson’s The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter.

Someone who has read Kondo’s book was telling me that there’s an idea expressed that if your house is cluttered it’s because you’re choosing chaos, and that if you’re choosing chaos in your most intimate of physical environments it’s to distract you from the disarray in your own mind. Again, I have yet to read it, so I can’t speak to the quote and tone.

That idea, however, been bothering me for a few days. Am I choosing chaos in my home to avoid chaos in my mind?

I’ve been trying to get as much done as I can, but I seem to consistently fail. I definitely relate to having chaos within, and I’m doing my best to tame the chaos around me.

Someone else told me that they choose to view chaos in their physical environment instead of as the result a choice (blaming oneself) as merely a case of insufficient resources. They view it not as a personal failing but as a symptom of too little time/energy.

This brings me back to mindfulness.


Studies upon studies tout the line that mindfulness meditation has health benefits, improves mental health, etc.

What if you can’t get into it, though?

I’ve had to deal with some intense physical pain during my life. Sitting and focusing on what I’m experiencing in the moment isn’t always good for my mental health personally.

Mindfulness sometimes employs labeling: naming experiences, condensing actions into an idea to limit internal monologue to allow more time to focus on the present.

An example of labeling might go something like this:

Inhale. Thinking. Exhale. Itching. Inhale. Shoulders heavier. Exhale. Tummy relaxing.

It brings acute awareness to physical sensations. For me that sensation tended to be pain.

My mindfulness labeling went something like this:

Inhale. Hurting. Exhale. Hurting. Inhale. Hurting. Exhale. Still Hurting.

It sucked. I don’t want to just sit and think about how much pain I’m in. I can’t negate that being the most poignant part of my experience in those moments. Mindfulness that focused on labeling the present was not for me.

Does it help others? Yes. More power to them.

For me meditation that focuses on controlling thoughts is more helpful: mantras, focused breathing (especially square breathing).

Shelve It.

Sometimes this sad vending machine is a pretty accurate depiction of me.

Minimalism, for all its beauty, isn’t working for me. I’m trying to tackle the clutter one type at a time and trying to become better organized. That’s one tool that I’ll have to shelve for now.

There are cleaning guides I’ve looked at as well. They seem to over-simplify cleaning. Focusing on a single room a day sounds like a great approach, but it hasn’t worked for me. I can’t do just one load of laundry a day or one load of dishes either. I mentioned this to a friend who said they think this only works if your house is clean to begin with and you’re just doing maintenance cleaning instead of nitty gritty cleaning and you live by yourself. With a baby and pets, laundry and cleaning are constant. I also have to decide – do I want to treasure this moment with my child (who will only be this size right now), or do I want a perfectly clean house? Cleaning can wait.

The same goes for meditation: mindfulness isn’t my cup of tea. With so many types of meditation, I’m lucky I’ve found other ways of quieting my mind.

My go-to meditations besides square breathing are simply counting one on the inhale and two on the exhale and trying to free my mind of any thoughts; and a singing meditation:

When I breathe out, I breathe out peace. When I breathe in, I breathe in love.

My goal right now is to shelve those thoughts deriding myself for perceived failures in organizing my physical and headspace and to just accept that sometimes I have insufficient resources. I don’t think the Serenity Prayer was meant to be applied this way, but I definitely need “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.

What are your favorite ways of creating order in your headspace and/or physical space?

4 Things to Love About “The House with a Clock in its Walls”

Norman Rockwell meets Harry Potter with a Touch of Campy Horror Tropes

A few weeks ago we saw “A House with a Clock in its Walls” – an adaption of the 1973 MG chapter-book. The movie stars Cate Blanchett and Jack Black.

Movie Image source: Wikipedia Movie Image source: Wikipedia

It was adorable, though … I think it would have given me nightmares as a child. Night terrors run in my family and to this day, I quite easily have them – though I try to limit the fuel for them right before I go to sleep. (See the P.S. if you have nightmares!)

1 – Nostalgic Setting

The setting in the late 50s (maybe early 60s) makes me wonder if this was what my dad’s childhood was like. Plaid shirts, parted hair, black and white movies, fantastic cars, and quaint architecture scream mid 20th century. It feels like Norman Rockwell meets Harry Potter with a touch of campy horror tropes, though the book was written long before Harry Potter.

It also takes me back to my childhood. I read other books by this author but nothing in this series.

2 – Diverse Characters

I was so happy to see a beautiful, smart pan-Asian girl (Rose Rita Pottinger played by Vanessa Anne Williams). I expected an all white cast, and was happily surprised to find people who weren’t White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. There are also older characters in this film – Jack Black plays his uncle (Jonathan Barnavelt) with a complex relationship to the all gray Mrs. Zimmerman (played by Cate Blanchett). The characters are all dealt with positively in my opinion. I despise children’s narratives that cast adults supporting roles as being incompetent, aloof, or unkind. These characters were not like that.

3 – Strong Message

Most people want to be liked. This is part of our inherent quest for happiness. Unfortunately, the main character, Lewis, goes too far in his effort to impress someone and unleashed an evil that could wipe out the world.

He faces up to his mistake and works to save the day. Not only does he right his wrong, but he learns about real friends along the way.

4 – Humor

While there was plenty of Halloween themed creepy elements- jack o’ lanterns & creepy dolls – there are also plenty of jokes to bring levity and lighten the mood.

It’s child appropriate humor, but … that’s great because it’s a movie for kids. Sometimes I’ve heard parents complain about innuendo in movies for kids – they hear people laugh, don’t understand why it’s funny, and then children repeat the jokes.

In conclusion: This was a cute, lighthearted movie that I enjoyed more than I thought I would.

Is it a replacement for Harry Potter? No. Where the Harry Potter series is an epic that spans from his pre-pubescence to adolescence, I have the feeling these books stay at the MG level. At least other books I read by John Bellairs were all MG chapter books.

At the same time, I hope they’ll adapt additional books from this series for the big screen.

P. S.

If you suffer from nightmares, know that there actually is a medication for this: prazosin. This is not its original use (hypertension), but in a very low dose it suppresses you waking from nightmares, which means that while they’re still there, you don’t remember them.

I don’t know how many doctors I mentioned my nightmares to over the years. They were generally treated as a symptom of insomnia. A few years ago, when I wasn’t a new mother and had excellent sleep hygiene, I mentioned this to a nurse practitioner who said, “Oh, you have sleep maintenance insomnia – you can’t stay asleep because… nightmares. We’ll fix you up.”

Before that I had no idea there was anything that could be done for nightmares. If you have nightmares, maybe this would work for you. Also … it’s an older medication and the generic is very inexpensive. It might be worth the try.

I was worried that this would make me feel like a different person or less creative, but it didn’t. I just slept better. I can’t take it now because I’m lactating, but look forward to the day I can resume it.

Either way, sweet dreams!

“It’s Not About You” (Or Me)

My approach on platforming: it’s all about the audience and the soft sell.

It’s about the audience!

Often as I’m using Twitter (not as much on WordPress), I see tweets that don’t make me as a reader want to a) read more tweets by the author, or b) want to read the author’s book.

The reason that so many of these tweets are off putting is that they are hard sells. The hard sell is all about the writer. A soft sell is all about the audience. The generally accepted ratio of output for marketing is 80% content and 20% sales. The hard sellers output mostly sales pitches and do little to engage their audience.

Here are the five points I use in approaching my writing platform:

Continue reading ““It’s Not About You” (Or Me)”

Machi Koro | The Tabletop Letters

If Sim City Was a Competitive Card Game

Dear Readers,

It would have been more appropriate on Samhain to write about “The Fury of Dracula”, but it felt more like a “Machi Koro” kind of day. We’ll play “The Fury of Dracula” soon, I’m guessing.

Machi Koro was rather rare when I first encountered it. I can’t remember where I heard about it, but I know I had to order it. Now it’s available at many retailers and Target even has its own special version.

Continue reading “Machi Koro | The Tabletop Letters”

Why I’m Against Bondage

Okay, so, this is not about sexual bondage in any way shape or form. If that’s your thing, then good for you. I have no commentary on what consenting adults do in privacy.

This is about a different kind of bond – the day to day interactions between a couple. If you’ve ever heard someone call their significant other the “old ball and chain” then you know what I mean.

In “On Marriage” by Khalil Gibrain, he says:

Love one another, but make not a bond of love.
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but each one of you be
alone–even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver
with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not in each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the Cyprus grow not in each other’s shadows.

The National Catholic Register has an article titled, “Please Don’t Read This Poem At Your Wedding“. They state that it’s a “reverse how-to guide”. I’m here arguing that it works.

“Make not a bond of love”.

Relationships can be unhealthy. If you’ve never had a bad relationship, then you’re lucky. I can’t always tell from the outside if a relationship is healthy or not. We don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.

However, there have been relationships that have seemed unhealthy to me from the outside.

I’ve known several women over the years who upon dating new men changed their interests, their behavior, their looks. It’s one thing to finally feel comfortable being yourself. It’s another thing to completely change yourself to acquiesce to another’s ideal. I can’t think of any examples of men in cis relationships or any homosexual relationships with this much kowtowing. I’m sure it happens but I guess with gender dynamics it happens more frequently when someone feels that the other person has all the power.

The masculine equivalent in our patriarchal society, I suppose, is the very reserved man who espouses an overbearing woman.

My husband told me about a friend he had that liked having someone else make decisions for him. The friend’s mother picked out his clothes when he was in high school. As so many of us do, he dated someone reminiscent of a parent – his mother. We’re pretty sure his spouse still lays out clothes for him in the morning. If that’s what he wants, then I’m glad he found it. It would not be what I would want.

If you’re a slave to another person’s ideas of what a mate should be, then how can you be true to yourself? Maybe you can, but I don’t know how I could.

“A Moving Sea.”

There’s going to be give and take in any relationship. Sometimes you’ll have to help the other person, and sometimes you will need help. It’s important, though, that this ebbs and flows – if water stops moving then it stagnates, so it is with people.

“Each One of You Be Alone”.

Just as diversity in larger groups of people adds richness to the whole, with romance I’ve found that differences make our relationships more interesting.

My husband and I share some of the same interests, but we also have different ones. He and I often find we’ve read the same articles without planning it. There’s no one else I enjoy talking to more.

It’s good that we can share but aren’t the same. Sameness limits us.

“Stand Together but Not too Near”.

A tree in the shadow of another cannot get the light it needs to grow. Boundaries in any relationship, whether romantic or not, are a good safeguard against bitterness.

I think the whole point of the poem is the adage to be true to yourself, and that’s especially important in our closest connections.

Feel the positive vibes

Feel the positive vibes
— Read on

Had to share this. Sometimes I feel like I’m an island unto myself – a “stranger in a strange land”.

I try to see the good in other people. I try to “give by praising all the good I see”. Sometimes that’s an intricate tattoo on a store clerk, and sometimes it’s a pair of earrings on an old acquaintance.

Lately I have felt detached from my best self. Is it sleep deprivation? Is it the grind of the dark, bleak world? Maybe my flame has diminished, but there’s got to be a way to get it more oxygen- to breathe more life into it.

Cave Troll | The Tabletop Letters

A Dungeon Crawl for Gold

Dear Readers,

The next installment for my review of tabletop games is “Cave Troll”. I first played this game at MACE West 2017, a board game convention. MACE West is held in Asheville, NC, in March. It was a lot of fun and a great way to try out new games without commitment.

Continue reading “Cave Troll | The Tabletop Letters”

My Response to “In America”

1.2% of the national budget won’t make up for misinformation and bad attitudes.

I saw this shared on Facebook. I try to not give in to confirmation bias. I purposely have friends with whom I do not agree on politics or religion.

Most of the time I don’t respond. This post made me want to respond because the author is questioning foreign aid as if that was the reason for the atrocities within our society. Foreign aid is kinda like PBS: it amounts to very little of the budget.

My husband read what I wrote and encouraged me to post it on Facebook, but I felt further emboldened to share my response with you here.

In America, we have to press 1 to speak English, the language that wiped out the languages of the Native Americans. We get angry that some people have the audacity of having a different native tongue. If they do speak English with an accent, we still can’t understand them. It’s Us vs. Them.

Continue reading “My Response to “In America””

4 Reasons Why I Binged “The Good Place”

I wanted something low key to watch while pumping milk. Stressful shows make it difficult to have a letdown reflex*. This show is funny, thought-provoking, and I found it completely binge worthy. These are the reasons I was hooked.

1 – Diversity

One of the first things you’ll notice about the show is the diverse cast. The Brainy Bunch in this group includes:

  • a blonde, self-proclaimed “dirtbag” from Arizona
  • a Senegalese moral philosophy professor
  • a Pakistani-British heiress
  • a Philipino-American DJ from Florida
  • an elderly white “American” demon
  • an immortal, excessively powered being with all the knowledge in the universe in a pleasant, non-threatening form

This is what Jameela Jamil (Tahani) has to say about the show:

There was one episode in which there was me and two other South Asian actresses on the show — none of whom were playing South Asian people with South Asian accents, we were just playing people. We constantly talk about this whenever we’re on screen together, that it’s so nice to have more than one [of us] on set at a time, and also for that not to be the staple part of our character. It is really quite sad how remarkable it is, but I hope more people kind of see that we haven’t bombed because there are brown people on television, and they will follow suit.

2 – Complex Social Commentary

Especially with the character Eleanor, moral questions are presented. They don’t pretend to know the answers or push a particular religion. In fact they purport that only one person came remotely close, and that enlightenment was facilitated by recreational drugs.

Some of the classic philosophers and moral dilemmas are presented in a comical, thought provoking way that is accessible and also touches on modern problems: global warming, poverty, human trafficking and more.

This show is not heavy or depressing (at least not from where I’m sitting) despite these themes.

3 – Relatable Characters

Absurdities abound, especially in the first season. The characters are larger than life. Their flaws are over the top, but relatable.

Jason is ambitious, though oblivious. He’s not intentionally bad. Many of his bad deeds stem from amorality rather than malevolence. He probably thinks of himself as a good person. He’s orderly neutral – he plays by a set of rules, but it’s a different game than everyone else. We’ve probably all been guilty of being inconsiderate regarding the effects of our actions.

Eleanor knows she’s not a great person. She skirts the edge of being bad without jumping into that abyss. She looks out for numero uno no matter the consequences. Her actions she justifies by a difficult past. She’s chaotic neutral. The most predictable element of her character before she begins developing is that she is all about self-preservation. Later in the series, a character tells Eleanor that while most people struggle with Us versus Them, her struggle is more basic: me versus us. Eleanor doesn’t belong. We can all find a way to justify our selfish behavior on our past: life is hard for everyone in various and sundry ways. Hard is hard. It isn’t a competition.

We’ve probably all been guilty of justifying selfish actions.

Chidi is a good person. Chidi tries very hard, too hard even. He’s a moral philosophy professor, for crying out loud.

His indecision, though, is crippling and makes him actually sick to his stomach. He is orderly good. We can probably all relate to the fear that motivates him. He wants so badly to do the right thing that he ends up doing nothing.

Tahani has done many good deeds. She’s a philanthropist! Her motivation, however, is selfish: she seeks approval. She’s chaotic good. We can probably all relate to wanting others to like us. That’s why peer pressure is a thing!

Michael and Janet have relatable traits as well, but their development isn’t as intrinsic to the show.

4 – Incredible Balance of Central Conflict

So many shows write themselves into a corner. There’s a term for this: jumping the shark. It’s a reference to when Fonzie in “Happy Days” jumped over a shark while wearing water skis.

“Arrested Development” poked fun at this when Harry Winkler, the actor who played The Fonz, hopped over a tiny shark.

I wasn’t sure how “The Good Place” could have a decent second season. I wasn’t sure how they could fulfill the franchise by delivering “the same thing, but different”. They did, though! Now I’m enjoying the third season (May they keep on coming).

A show that lost me due to not maintaining its central conflict was “Castle”. Once Castle and Kate Beckett’s unrequited love became caused by Beckett’s blatant choice to “not remember ” his confession of love, I quickly lost interest.

The central conflict – the over-arching problem in the premise of the show- has been maintained in “The Good Place” to my surprise and delight.

Thanks for reading! What makes a show binge worthy for you? Please comment and let me know. 💕

The letdown reflex is also called the milk ejection reflex. Cortisol, the stress hormone, blocks this process.

While most mothers don’t have to be exclusive pumpers like me, I do want to talk about this normal biological process that is misunderstood. If you’re interested in learning more, please click here.

Sunshine Blogger Award

I just want to thank Currently Apple for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. She’s very sweet and her posts are so philosophical and thought provoking.

The Rules:

1 – Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link back to their blogging sites.

2 – Answer the questions.

3 – Nominate 11 other bloggers and ask them 11 new questions.

4 – Notify the nominees about it by commenting on one of their blog posts.

5 – List the rules and display the sunshine blogger award logo on your site or on your post.


1. What is your favorite pet?


2. What is your birthstone?


3. What is your dream job?

More of a goal, but I’d like to create a TV series.

4. Who is your favorite person and why?

My husband. He knows me better than anyone else and I can relax completely with him.

5. Who is your favorite author?

It’s hard to pick one. I suppose Madeleine L’Engle. A Wrinkle in Time changed my life and I own so many of her books. My favorite book of hers is non-fiction – A Circle of Quiet. Much of it is about writing fiction and her discussing a workshop she lead at Columbia University.

I want to see the new movie.

6. What is your favorite quote?

Make the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it.

– Edward Bok, a magazine editor who created Bok Tower

7. What is the one thing you can’t live without?

Communication. If There wasn’t at least someone who understood me then I don’t know how I could make it.

8. What is your greatest fear?

I’m very claustrophobic. Being stuck in a few elevators over the years hasn’t helped.

9. What is the bravest thing you ever did?

I guess night diving. It was kind of an unusual experience. It was beautiful though. We saw bioluminescent string of pearl plankton. I wish I had a picture. Video would be nice too!

10. What is the silliest thing you did for love?

I’m a terrible artist. I painted a ceramic cat like my childhood cat. It looks awful. I was so embarrassed by how it turned out that I shoved it in a cabinet and forgot about it.

I found it last year and was going to get rid of it but it cracked me up so much that instead it’s become an Elf on the Shelf type joke in our house. I hide it. My husband hides it. Wherever it’s found, due to its sheer ugliness, it brings laughter.

11. If you have just one wish for yourself what would it be?

More inner stability. It feels like every time I start to feel like I have a handle on things, they change. Que sera, sera.

There’s a stanza from a song I can really relate to:

“Is my malfunction so surprising

‘Cause I always seem so stable and bright?

Ain’t it always the quiet types?” – “Phone in a Pool” by Ben Folds

Questions for my nominees:

  1. If you could have lunch with anyone in the world, who would it be?
  1. What word annoys you the most?
  2. When you were six, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  3. Is there a movie based off a book that disappointed you?
  4. Is there a dessert you find overrated?
  5. What was your favorite book when you were a child?
  6. What’s something that always makes you smile?
  1. Is there a book that you wish was a movie?
  2. Is there a disease you wish the average person knew more about?
  3. If you could only read books by one author for the rest of your life, who would you choose?
  4. What is your least favorite movie?

My Nominees Are:

Alice Gristle

Keni Write


Ana P. Rose


Aria the Dreamer

Sascha Darlington



So Eye Write

Words and Whatnot

Happy blogging!