Category Archives: Constituting

Simple Pancakes

The weekend is almost here! Time for slow, relaxing breakfasts with the ones you love. (If you eat breakfast.)

One of my favorite breakfasts is pancakes. Chocolate chip pancakes, to be precise. Yes, I am an adult that enjoys chocolate chips on her pancakes. So does my father. We are German.

Here is my favorite pancake recipe. It is quite simple and also happens to be vegan.

Ingredients*:

  • 1-1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2  C water
  1. Mix dry ingredients.
  2. Add the wet ingredients.
  3. Mix well.
  4. Pour ladles onto hot pan.
  5. Flip once, when most of the batter starts to bubble.
  6. OPTIONAL: Add chocolate chips! and spread when melted.

Enjoy!

* C = cup
t = teaspoon
T = tablespoon

Discarding How I Track My Spending

A few months ago, I did a post on how I was changing the way I was tracking my spending. I had high hopes, but I’m writing today to admit that this way of tracking my spending did not help to curb my spending at all. It didn’t work for many reasons and so I scrapped it completely.

First, it was a lot of work. Trying to remember to write down every single dollar I spent added a lot of tiny tasks to the back of my mind which I just don’t have time for right now. Tying to account for every dollar my husband spent was even harder. And if I ran out of cash by the end of the week and I found I needed to buy something, like gasoline or bread, I would end up putting it on a credit card anyway.

Second, it just didn’t help me to spend less. Sure it was annoying, which may have encouraged me to spend less just so I wouldn’t have to track it, but I still needed to buy things. The “no spend days” didn’t work either because I would just spend more on other days to get everything I needed (or “needed”). I would just make bigger purchases at once.

Third, it was just kind of depressing to always see money going out, out, out. All I saw was negative numbers, in red, my money going away, away, away until it was gone. Not very good for morale, generally.

Also, the tracking didn’t help me stick to the “cash diet” at all. If I want to give myself $100 a week to spend, then that’s what I need to do. I need to be disciplined enough to ration it for only what the family needs. I need to leave my credit cards at home or freeze them or maybe even cut them up! Tracking every dollar gone will not help with that, especially as credit cards just allowed me to dip into the negative before the week was over.

I recently read a tidbit that claimed that most people who set up and advocate for budgets, don’t even keep budgets themselves. That thought jostled my whole brain. I had been reading so much on the internet for the past couple of years about the wonders of budgeting to help save money, that I thought once I got the hang of it, budgeting would be a sure-fire way to get ahead of our debt and save tons of money. But after 2 years of trying, I have to admit that budgeting is not for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally a proponent of spend-less-than-you-make, but the dividing and trackers of numbers just doesn’t seem to help me accomplish that. I was best with money, surprisingly, when I was 18 years old and wanted to buy a new car. I had no budgeting system at all; I just spent very little and saved as much as I could. It’s true now that with a family there are a lot more expenses to take care of, but the “save as much as possible” strategy still holds strong.

When I wanted that new car, I was focused. I put most of the money I made into a high-yield savings account and kept about $80 or less for myself for the week, with which I could do whatever I wanted. Yes, my current situation has quite a bit more factors, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be more complicated. I just need to be focused: schedule out all recurring expenses, use $100 cash each week for necessities (plus $15 with which to do whatever I want), and save the rest for paying down debt.

Responsibility and freedom rolled together in a simple system.

Journaling as Self-Care

Reading self-help books and blogs and articles can be, well, helpful. Reading other people’s journeys towards enlightenment can be inspiring. Trying out other’s advice can be transformative.  Self-help writing can open our eyes to other ways of thinking, being, giving, and living. It can help us grow in ways we wouldn’t have or couldn’t have all on our own.

But self-help writing is still always external. No matter how much we read, we are always consuming. We may internalize some practices, but it’s like a mirror — reflecting back what we’ve taken in — without the added depth of our true selves.

Journaling, however, is the act of digging down to the spring where our own creativity and wisdom dwells. Exploring the deepest parts of our selves is where we truly find power, where we become comfortable with ourselves for exactly who we are — with all the knowledge we’ve absorbed and our most sincere, innate beliefs. And exploring this spring through writing is how these values bubble up to the surface and solidify into the strength of our uniqueness.

I’ve kept journals and diaries quite consistently for over 18 years. I really believe the practice has helped raise and stabilize my self-esteem throughout many different phases of my life. My journals have always been a place for me and only me — a place where I had no one to please or impress but myself, a place where I was silly and had fun, a place where I let all my guards down and was unabashedly, unashamedly myself.

We can write anything in our journals and diaries. It is so freeing.

In addition to recording and processing my days and experiences, I have also used my journals for more purposeful exercises: venting, gratitude, and intentions.

  • Venting. The earliest form of my learning how to cope, venting in the privacy of my journal has helped me process feelings and be mindful of how I wanted to act on them. It has allowed me to get hurtful thoughts out without sending them to another actual person. It has helped me get past difficult incidents. I vent and then I am better able to move on. I can leave it behind me once it’s written in my journal.
  • Gratitude. Years ago, probably in synchronization with The Secret‘s rise in popularity, I started keeping a daily list of what I’m thankful for. If you want to know the specific scientific benefits of this, I suggest you do your own research. But I can tell you from personal experience that practicing daily gratitude, actually writing it down, is great for perspective, self-esteem, and appreciating the life you have now despite how successful you are in any current endeavors.
  • Intentions. I’ve just started this recently and so am just starting to see how it affects my life, but I am noticing a difference. Like, on the days where I take the time to set my intentions for the days, I am not only more mindful of what I want, I find it just happens easier even without me actually thinking about it. For example, on days I set the intention to be patient, calm, and loving with my children, I find reserves of patience, calmness, and love that I might not have felt on a day where I didn’t set that intention. Even intentions like “All of Wingnut’s pee goes in the toilet” and “Dozer eats and digests well” seems to affect them, and thus me, in that I have less pee and spit-up to clean up. I also try to stay away from wishful wording and set my intentions in the present tense because, you know, wibbly wobbly timey wimey.

I know I said that we can write anything in our journals, but I also don’t think it is very helpful or useful to use writing to dwell on disappointments. Venting is one thing, but then I think it’s important to explore how we can come out of disappointments on top, even if it’s only by our state of mind. After all, what is a journal but a written state of mind? What is our whole life experience but a state of mind?

If you would like some tips on starting your own journal or diary, I found this article to be helpful in an open, simple way.

When Are Clothes “Worn Out”?

I understand that I’m supposed to replace things when they get worn out. But when, exactly, is that? When it is no longer “like new”? When it breaks completely? When I’m no longer comfortable using it?

I’ve been thinking about this relating to clothes lately, since I replaced those shoes. They weren’t totally worn out, but I replaced them anyway because they stopped serving their function for me.

But let’s take a shirt, say, that has stains on it. It still functions as a shirt. It could still be soft and comfortable and a nice style and fit well and be loved. Should the shirt be replaced only if the stain bothers the wearer? Or because it has a certain societal connotations to wear stained clothes? Like, that person is dirty or that person can’t afford new clothes or what a slob that person is.

I guess even then it comes down to whether those connotations bother the wearer or not. Do they give a hoot about what other people think of them? Or are they confident to wear a stained shirt because they know they’re not dirty or broke or a slob? Just that, maybe, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time in a restaurant or something.

In some situations, it may not even be up to the wearer to decide to replace a stained shirt or not. A boss may say, “You can’t wear that here – you need to look presentable”, i.e. more put together, i.e. not like a dirty, poor, slob. Definitely different jobs have different standards. Someone working retail in a fancy purse store would be required to dress very differently than someone who works in the kitchen at a local restaurant.

It may not always be a job that tries to dictate what someone wears, either. It may be a small group of peers, the culture at large, or someone’s own internal beliefs about how they think others are pressuring them, even if no one really is.

Anyway, so what I’m trying to figure out, is when clothes are too worn out for me. I wouldn’t wear a stained shirt to work, but I’m fine wearing them at home. I know I’m not a slob, but I do feel a bit slobby when I wear them. But honestly, my infant could spit up on me at any moment, so why bother dressing nicely? Except, from my experience, dressing nicely can improve mood and self-confidence. Even if no one else sees me.

Okay, I’m going around and around here. Wearing slightly worn clothes is still different from deciding when to get rid of items that are worn out. My sneakers: not totally worn out, but I got rid of them anyway. My sandals: really showing wear now. The bottom soles have been re-glued, the color is faded, the inner soles are worn down, the stitching is frayed, the straps are a bit stretched out. But they are still serving their function as sandals for me.

How can I tell the difference between when something is worn in and loved and comfortable and a staple, distinctive piece for me or when it is worn out and just looks bad? Oh jeez, I just realized that answer is probably different for everybody. So I have to make up my own rules. Or just go with my gut for when it’s time to let go of each item? Whew! So much pressure. Life is so hard!

Just kidding.

Deciding when clothes are too worn is an individual decision based on personal comfort levels, job requirements, style expression, and also budget. For me, it is also a balance between getting the most use out of a purchase (the most bang for my buck, as they say) while also not feeling like I’m wearing dirty rags.

I suppose like many things in life, this decision is a complicated mix of rational thought and gut feeling. Making decisions that way can be scary because what if… x 1,000, but the more I make decisions this way, the better I get at it. So, you know, leveling up at life in general.

Anyway. I guess that’s all I’ve got to ramble on about this subject for now. Stay tuned for a detailed list of my complete capsule wardrobe! (I’m scared it’s going to be even bigger than I think it is…)

Letting Go of Old Friends

I recently went to a party with some former coworkers and it was… kind of boring and awkward. I thought it was disappointing because I had a lot of fun working with those people. But it’s been almost 2 years since I’ve worked with them and I only worked with them for about 8 months… so I just don’t know if our relationships are going to last.

It got me thinking about letting friends go just like letting things go. We let things go when they don’t have a place in our lives anymore. And I don’t want to sound cold – because these are PEOPLE we’re talking about here – but sometimes I think we have to let people go, too, when they don’t really have a place in our lives anymore.

Now, there are totally relationships that are worth working towards keeping, but I think it is important to realize when relationships aren’t worth keeping – and I think, deep down in our guts, we know which is which. It doesn’t mean that we didn’t find value in these people, or that we don’t like them, but perhaps they were situational acquaintances or we’ve grown apart. Try as we might, keeping the relationship going just doesn’t seem to work.

It would be impossible to stay in touch with everyone we’ve ever met and liked. And although we may feel a pang of sadness to let them go, we may have to acknowledge that, like that old t-shirt or supplies for a hobby you no longer participate in, it’s time to let them go anyway. We thank them for the role they played in our lives, then let them go.

It’s still hard for me to really get this. I really liked working with a lot of former coworkers, but it just doesn’t seem like we can find the time to really get together anymore. Or when we do get together, we find that our lives have moved so far apart that we don’t have very much in common or to talk about anymore. I do really appreciate these people being in my life, but I guess they just weren’t meant to be in my life forever.

And that’s okay. I trust that they were there when I needed them, or they needed me. I also trust that I will never be lonely. I have my family and strong group of friends. I also have current coworkers to connect with now. And I will undoubtedly meet many other people in the future.

Maybe the universe will bring me and those old acquaintances back together, but maybe not. I hold no grudges against them for not trying to stay constantly connected with me and hope they would extend the same courtesy.

Life is fluid and ever-changing. Things and people come and go. People change. We also need to be fluid and accept the changes – go with the flow, as they say. There will be no hard feelings if we all understand and accept this truth.

Change is the only constant is life. – Heraclitus of Ephesus

There’s More Than One Way to Be Happy

Sometimes, I think, we get an idea in our heads and we lock onto it as the way to make us happy, despite being somewhat arbitrary. It could be owning a certain thing, accomplishing a certain goal, being with a certain person, or having a certain job. But from what I’ve experienced so far in my life, there are infinite ways to be happy.

I’ve had my eye on a beautiful floral muslin throw blanket for months, but haven’t bought it because it’s a bit expensive. Maybe buying that blanket will make me happy — I do find looking at pictures of it beautiful and pleasing — but maybe I’ll be just as happy without it. Or maybe I’ll be happier. Maybe loving that blanket so much will make me upset if something gets spilled on it or if the cat scratches a hole in it.

I was extremely happy with my MacBook for the 11 years I used it. I was so happy with the computer that I thought when it needed replacing, I would just replace it with the same yet newer model. It didn’t work out that way, but I am still really happy with my Chromebook. And it doesn’t feel like a different kind of happiness either. I was happy with what my MacBook could do and I’m happy with what my Chromebook can do. I’m just happy. Maybe I got lucky. Maybe I just made myself easy to please.

The movie “La La Land” is a good example of this, I think. SPOILER ALERT. The first time I saw the movie, I enjoyed it very much, but hated the ending. Why couldn’t they be together? I wanted them to be together! Why tell us their story if they don’t end up together? Years of perfect cinematic bliss have conditioned me to want the story arc with the predictable ending. But life is unpredictable. That doesn’t mean we still can’t end up happy. Just like the characters in “La La Land”. They went separate ways, despite agreeing they would both still love each other, and they were still happy.

Is it just that we think we are so wise we could absolutely know what was best for us to make us happy? I mean, there are infinite possibilities in this world. How could we possibly know what will make us happy? Why would we limit it to just one or very few things?

What if being happy was just a choice we made. No matter how things were going in our lives — what we owned, who we were with, the work we did — we just decided to be happy anyway. Or found a way to be happy with what we had. Gratitude, I believe, is a big part of this. And also giving up a bit of control. Giving up trying to control every aspect of our lives and instead focusing on controlling how we react. Letting stress go in favor of trusting in the universe to give us what we need (not necessarily what we think we want) and figuring out how to be happy no matter what we’re dealt.

I’ve heard stories of it happening. People who have had real shit cards dealt in their lives, but who are happy, warm, kind, and generous anyway. Maybe we can all try this, no matter how (seemingly) small the circumstance. Instead of driving ourselves crazy to get to that 1 holy grail of happiness we picked out, let’s be happy with all the little pebbles that cross our paths.

Or let’s just try to accept that there is more than one way to be happy. Reminding ourselves of that is sure to help us get over disappointments more quickly than if the stakes are always high. A little prompt that’s more concrete than indistinct optimism: There is more than one way to be happy.

How to Go Places and Do Things With Kids

Bringing children along anywhere complicates things. They are still not totally independent or competent at everyday tasks, let alone whatever it takes to make a journey or explore an activity. So what I try to do is this: make everything else (within my control, of course) as simple as possible.

Here are some tips:

  • Don’t Bring Snacks. Plan proper and fulfilling meals, whether you bring it yourself or buy it out, and nobody will go hungry. Snacks entail more to pack, more time to consume, and more to clean up. Our family doesn’t ever snack so not having snacks at an outing isn’t a big deal. If your kids are used to snacking, hopefully the change in scenery will keep their minds off of snacks. Otherwise you may have to remind them that they will survive until the next meal.
  • Drink Only Water. Preferably in reusable bottles. (I am still hunting for the perfect child-friendly, spill-proof bottle myself.) Water is the most thirst-quenching and body-nourishing liquid there is. If water is spilled, it doesn’t stain, get sticky, or smell – it just dries, easy-peasy, with little or no clean-up. A properly hydrated family is a pleasant family. Just remember those potty breaks!
  • Don’t Bring Anything “Just In Case”. There are things you know you will need for any given outing. Skip the things you don’t actually need and would just bring for peace of mind or to feel a bit more comfortable. Lugging around and keeping track of extra items adds stress and physical bulk. Most of the time, you won’t even notice you are without those “just in case” items. Other times, you might be a bit less comfortable. Instead of lugging around extra things, you could practice getting comfortable with being a little uncomfortable. You will survive.
  • If Bringing Toys, Only Bring a Few. Ideally, bring simple toys, without batteries or small parts, that the whole family can use – like a Frisbee, ball, a bucket and a couple of shovels. I wouldn’t bring favorites that would cause a tragedy if lost. And bring no more than 1 toy per child – adventure time is perfect for discovering nature and different towns and finding fun in them without toys that can be played with at home any time.
  • Dress Simply. I believe in dressing nicely. I don’t like wearing sweatpants out of the house or overly graphic shirts or whatever. But I also believe in dressing comfortably. Trust me, a balance can be met, even with children. I like shopping at Primary.com for simple, versatile clothing for my children. (I myself prefer Pact and Levi’s.) No fussy straps or broken zippers or shoes that pinch. Just simple clothes that let you live your life comfortably while also looking nice.
  • Prepare to Be Patient. Sometimes things do go wrong and break-downs happen. If you are prepared to go with the flow and to explain any unexpected changes of plans to children, they will catch your vibe and be more likely to go with the flow. Patience is key. As long as children receive the attention that means their fears or disappointments are being listened to and respected, they will be more capable of moving on. Not everyone can control every situation and it will do your children good to learn that truth early.
  • Don’t Listen to Me. You know your family better than anybody, especially me. If any of the above just sounds like it would be bringing hell along in a basket, just ditch it. Try some new things if you’ve got the curiosity and the courage, but if things are going well, just do you.

If you’d like to share any tips of your own, leave a comment.

Bon voyage!

Making Every Day a Good Day with My 5 “Daily Do’s”

I first heard of a strategy like this used by someone who deals with anxiety as part of their daily self-care routine. I don’t struggle with anxiety in any clinical sense, but I do sometimes struggle with the demands of my everyday life, causing the care of myself to get pushed aside.

I spend a lot of time taking care of other people. I love those people very much, but I also love myself, and it can put me in a very bad mood when I’m unable to take care of myself. Furthermore, when I am unable to give myself the proper self-care I need, I am less able to take good care of the ones I love and am responsible for by providing for them all they need. Self-care is not selfish because making it a priority makes me better able to serve those around me. And I’m just more pleasant to be around.

There are a few things that I do everyday or not, depending on the day and what I actually need. For example, I am not the type of person who needs to shower everyday. I can be perfectly happy showering every 2 or 3 days. Another example is that I like to read, but don’t need to do it everyday to feel properly relaxed or that I’ve had my sufficient “me” time.

There are also other things that I’ve already ingrained so deep into my daily routine that it’s not an issue. These things are non-negotiable now, and my family knows it, so it’s easy for me to do. Some examples of this are my 11 o’clock bedtime (unless there is a special reason for which I choose to stay up) and eating 3 meals (and possibly 1 snack) per day at consistent times.

But there were other things that I wanted to do that I either wasn’t doing or wasn’t doing consistently, even though I really thought that fitting them into my day would… maybe not make me happier, per say, but would lift my mood up no matter what else was happening in my life. Like, if I could do those things, I could consider it a good, productive day even if everything else went to shit.

I put a lot of thought into what I wanted my “Daily Do’s” (i.e. things to be done daily) to be. I didn’t want them to be too difficult, too time-consuming, or to have too many. I wanted to make it easy for myself to have a good day. I wanted to make it enjoyable, not a chore. I wanted to set myself up for success. So I came up with this list of just 5 Daily Do’s:

  1. outside
  2. move
  3. write
  4. gratitude
  5. zen

Go outside. This is pretty self-explanatory. I want to go outside and get fresh air every day. Even if it’s raining. Even if it’s really hot. Even if it’s really cold. Even if I have tons of stuff to get done inside. There is no time requirement, but I don’t really count walking from the house to the car, from the car to another building. Ideally, I like to include my children in this time outside as well.

Move my body. Exercise, but not so formal. Just get up and move. Do something. Standing still and washing the dishes doesn’t count, but something like vacuuming the house would. Do some yoga, walk around the block. Just make sure I’m not sedentary all day, even if I’m exhausted or my pregnancy is making me all stiff and uncomfortable.

Write. I don’t want to be an “aspiring” writer. I want to be a writer. And to do that, I need to write. Every. Day. It can be part of a novel, a short story, a blog post, a letter, or some journaling. A grocery list or an overly simple diary entry don’t count. Ideally, I want it to be creative writing to exercise my imagination, but anything to keep the words flowing and my voice fresh will do.

Be grateful. I’ve been pretty good at doing this consistently for about a year again now, but I want to make sure I do it every day. I make a simple list at the end of the day of whatever I was grateful for that day. I need at least one, but I usually end up with no less than 3. Repeats are totally acceptable. No long explanations needed. Writing them down just makes me conscious of them — thinking about them, noting them — and recognizing that gratitude makes me appreciate my life a lot more than if I only let what went wrong buzz around my head.

Practice some zen spiritualism. I am not a religious person, but I have found that I need to tend to some of my spirituality to feel like I am an important part of this world and universe. It’s a big place and it can be easy for me to feel small and insignificant. I’ve done some soul-searching, as it were, in the past, but lately I’ve felt I’ve wanted some guidance without strict rules or obligations. A stroke of serendipity brought me to the book The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim, a Zen Buddhist monk. It’s generally about how to stay calm in a busy world. I’ve already read it through once and am now continuing with it by re-reading 2-3 pages per night as a part of my Daily Do’s.

I’ve also created an easy way to track that I am keeping up with my Do’s on the Daily. I intentionally designed my simple list with one-word descriptions, each with unique first letters, to be easy to remember. (I didn’t make an acronym because I didn’t feel like being corny or trying too hard.) So every day, as I do these things, I write the corresponding letter along the bottom of the day’s block in my Bullet Journal calendar. Quick, simple, effective.

It doesn’t take up too much time or space to track, and if I see that I’m missing something near the end of the day, my requirements are so undemanding it’s still pretty easy for me to accomplish all five.

O M W G Z — that means a good day for me.

Some Book Club Thoughts

I joined a book club about a year and a half ago and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

I really enjoy the people and their company. It is mostly women, but men come irregularly, too. (About 6 women and 4 men total.) We usually meet at just the one couple’s house, although I did host it at my house one time. We usually have very little snacks, maybe some coffee, tea, or wine. And we talk about the book however we want — no discussion questions or set themes or anything. We just read, meet, chat. A lot of times, we get off on big tangents. We are supposed to meet monthly, but sometimes life gets in the way.

As you can tell, we are pretty flexible. Everyone suggests books titles that we write on slips of paper and pick at random out of a bowl. We all generally agree on the book or else we pick a new title. Lately, we’ve been pulling an optional book to read as well. We pick books a month ahead of time so we actually have 2 months to read any given title, even though we meet monthly. (Still averages out to reading one book per month, but if something is a heavier read, we have some time to get our minds around it.)

Again, I really enjoy the people and their company and hanging out and talking. I enjoy talking about books and I enjoy talking about the other life subjects we inevitably get to while discussing literature and stories and history and current events.

The thing is… I don’t think I actually like the books. I really liked very few. I could stand others, but didn’t enjoy them. One was very readable, and I’m glad it opened my eyes to that subject, but I can’t say it was enjoyable to experience — more shocking, really. And others I just couldn’t get through.

Maybe book clubs help some people to read, by setting a date and being accountable and following through, no matter what. But I have no problem with reading. Maybe some people like the varied genres and authors they are exposed to in such an open book club, but mostly I just like reading what I like reading. Maybe some people like the intellectual stimulation and discussion and debate, and I like that, too, but that’s not why I read — I just like to read for fun.

So I guess I know how I feel about it. I like getting together to hang out with these people and I like talking about books, but I generally don’t like reading the books chosen for discussion. I want to stay in the group, but I’ve gotten less committed to reading the books if I’m not interested — and that makes me feel bad. I mean, no one has gotten in trouble for not reading a book, no one has gotten mad that they were one of the few people to have read a book, no one has seemed upset if everyone else vetoed a book title they wrote on a slip for the bowl. We are all understanding and forgiving and just want to get together and have a good time. We all still read, so we always have books to discuss. And, failing that, we talk about tv, ha.

I’ve been honest with myself about what I like to read, and I’ve been honest with the club about it, too. I always give the books a shot, so I have something to add to the conversation, even if it’s just why I didn’t like it or couldn’t finish it.

It’s a little stretch from my goals of reading slower — reading a little less and reading better for me. But I do think it’s worth it to open myself up to new stories and discussions, even for just a little while each month. I’m going to stick with the club. For now. We’ll see how crazy my life gets once there’s a third baby in the mix.

Making Religious Holidays My Own

Over the holiday weekend, my family and I went camping. Being Easter, it was a holiday for only some. I grew up celebrating Easter. Andrew grew up celebrating Easter. But neither of us would call ourselves religious now and don’t believe in Jesus as the one and only messiah. So why continue to celebrate it? Partly because our families still do, but we’ve come to see it a little differently.

For Easter, Andrew and I have decided to celebrate the arrival of spring, specifically with the first camping trip of the year. We share meals and traditional foods (pufek [spelling??? which is a German bread], liverwurst, and strammer max for me) with family. We don’t dress up or go to church. We spend time together outside, enjoying the freshness of spring, and send the children out on a little egg hunt just because it’s a fun game to play outside. And of course we eat chocolate. Easter, for us, is not about Jesus, but about family and nature and getting out to enjoy the warmer weather.

It’s similar with Christmas. I don’t celebrate the coming of our lord and savior or whatever. But I do like a lot about the holiday, such as the sharing, coziness, warmth, and love. So when I celebrate Christmas, I celebrate the coming of cuddly winter with the closeness and coziness of my family and friends. Since it’s also so close to the end of the year, I reflect back on that year and celebrate it for what it was. Then I celebrate the coming of the New Year with new beginnings.

It didn’t take a lot to get here — just a little shift in thinking. It helps that Andrew and I are on the same page with these religious holidays, too. Celebrating in this way, I am able to comfortably share traditions with my family and friends without feeling like I’m sacrificing my own beliefs or pretending to follow others. I’ve come to enjoy these times again instead of constantly questioning the history and purpose, as I did a few years ago. I am now at a good place with them and feel content.

Perhaps a shift in thinking is all it would take for you to have a more enjoyable holiday?