July Flowers (and remembering that you’re enough)

When I started editing these photos for this blog post, I was thinking I would post it as a regular photoblog. Hey, friends, hope you’re having a great summer! I am too! Look at my beautiful flowers! As I edited and admired the photos, I thought about how I felt when I took these pictures. Over the course of the summer, especially in July, our yard has blossomed with color.

When I got home from work or after a morning walk, I’d walk around the yard, admiring the flowers and taking pictures. I remember feeling surprised. Surprised that all these beautiful flowers were growing in our yard. Why was I surprised? I didn’t expect these gorgeous blooms. I didn’t think I had done enough in our yard this spring and early summer. I really felt that I had slacked during July. So, if I hadn’t accomplished enough, how could our yard look so pretty right now?

I’ve been wanting my husband, Kenneth, and I to have a backyard of our own for years. We lived in apartments and a townhouse for the first six years of our marriage. The most I could do garden-wise were potted plants on a balcony. For a few a couple summers we had a community garden plot in Columbus. It wasn’t enough to please my want for a garden and a yard. Over the years I gathered a lot of projects, ideas, and plants that I would one day put in place in our backyard.

When we bought our house last summer, we painted and planted a pollinator bed on the south side of the house. In the fall, with help from my parents and my dad’s pick-up truck, we removed the Bradford Pear tree from the front yard. Bradford Pear’s are strictly ornamental. Not only are they invasive the trees are weak and have horrible smelling blossoms in the spring. Kenneth and I replaced the Bradford Pear with two native Eastern Redbud trees. We planted a cherry tree and a pear tree in the backyard.

This summer I planted a woodland/shade garden in a corner around the back of the house by our deck. I filled the space with ferns and other woodland plants from a friend. I added hostas collected from other parts of our yard. I’ve begun creating a dry streambed in the shade garden with rocks found in the yard. We also planted our first vegetable garden since having our community garden plot. We ordered a keyhole raised bed from Vita Gardens and have begun composting as well. I took a tree pruning class and have begun pruning our crabapple trees and shrubs around the house. We created a planting in the front yard with chokeberry bushes, lavender, and thyme.

With all these projects we’ve started and finished so far this year, why did I feel like I hadn’t done enough? Because I usually feel like I am not enough. That I don’t work hard enough. That I could do more and do better. Even when I’m complimented on my work, I figure that person is only being nice. Or that eventually, everyone will figure out I’m not that great at what I do.

This feeling, constantly thinking that you’re not enough, actually has a name. It’s called Impostor Syndrome. Besides having chronic depression and anxiety, I also lack self-confidence. I haven’t been diagnosed with Imposter Syndrome, but I’m making an educated guess that I have it. It’s ridiculously common: lots of famous, very accomplished writers, actors and athletes have admitted to this feeling of inadequacy. You have maybe felt this way too.

And it’s bullshit. I am enough. You are enough. We are enough.

Our yard looks fantastic this summer – and both Kenneth and I have accomplished a lot. I harvested our first tomato this week. I’ve had fresh mint for smoothies and basil for pesto all summer. We’ve had happy bees and butterflies enjoying our pollinator garden. I grew sunflowers this summer. I think the last time I grew a sunflower was in preschool. We started them in styrofoam cups and my dad planted it in the garden for me.

I’m going to think of this ridiculously cheerful flower the next time my inner dialogue of self-doubt starts to get too loud. I AM ENOUGH. I am more than enough.¬†ūüĆĽ

Creating Space: Part 1

 
Recently I’ve been on a mission* to get rid of stuff. To purge unnecessary items. To cut out clutter. To simplify. In essence, to create space.
 
*(does anyone immediately think of Nickelodeon magazine when they hear the phrase “on a mission”? I know I can’t be the only one)
 
Physical clutter is frustrating for a lot of people, how else would we have an entire store dedicated to¬†containing¬†all our stuff? I love The Container Store as much as the next organizer fanatic but the issue is about more than clutter. Even if everything I own right now was 100% organized in my home, the excess would still bother me. Those tidy and organized boxes are still holding things, things I may never use again. These are things I don’t need to hold on to.
 
Sometimes my anxiety seems related to the amount of clutter and stuff around me. I almost feel claustrophobic, like my collections of things will trap me. I’m weighed down by my material possessions and I obsess over how to reduce them.
 
I’ve always preferred neat and tidy. But my recent fascination with downsizing and getting rid of things is new. I blame a lot of it on moving twice in two years — does anyone like packing? Or moving heavy boxes up and down two and then three flights of stairs? How about unpacking?¬†¬†I hate moving. I hate moving and every time my husband I moved I realized we still had too much stuff. Even though we’re done moving for a while (we bought our first house in August of last year) I still want to get rid of things we don’t need.
 
Another event that has inspired my desire to simplify is my grandmother’s passing. My Grandma, Ruby, died in 2014. Soon after, my family went through all her belongings that my Grandpa wasn’t keeping. My Grandma was a collector. She collected so many different, interesting things: ruby glass, vintage and vintage-esque food tins, jewelry, cardinal figurines and more. She was also an avid crafter. She painted gorgeous ceramics and made her own jewelry. Seeing all her belongings laid out in my aunt’s basement made it feel like she was with us. I even found an empty perfume bottle: it smelled like her.
 
That afternoon going through my Grandma’s things was cathartic. It was bittersweet but educational – I learned things about my Grandma I had never known. My dad and my aunt shared stories from their childhood and my sister and I recounted ours with our cousins. But what do we do with all her things? We took turns picking items to keep, a ruby glass piece or a cardinal figurine. I selected several pieces of jewelry and some of her¬†vintage style food tins. But even after everyone had chosen something to remember Grandma by, we still had so much. It was overwhelming! At first, we worried that if we didn’t keep it, it meant we didn’t love her. But we realized that Grandma wasn’t contained in the things she left behind. We keep her alive in our memories of her and by talking about her. This helped us be able to choose items to donate or sell at a garage sale later in the year.
 
This experience made an impact on my parents and my aunt and uncle. They didn’t want to leave a bunch of¬†things for me and my sister or my cousins to sort through and wonder about. “Why did they keep this?” or “What should I do with this?”. Our semi-regular family garage sale that year was huge. We all went on purging sprees. We actually held more than one garage sale at many family members houses — sometimes at the same time!¬†
 
The last reason that I’ve been especially focused on reducing for the past few years or so is that I’ve been reading more about simple living and minimalism. The idea that we don’t need more stuff to make us happy is appealing. I follow blogs about minimalism and listen to podcasts on the topic. I save tips on how to purge your closet of the clothes you don’t love and read books about decluttering.
 
I’ve decided to share a little of my journey in “creating space” with you. It’ll be a multi-part series. I’ll share some of my experiences along with the tools I’ve found most helpful along the way. A post on what I did with all my excess stuff is a must as is a post on how to not fall back into the same habits again.

Coming Home

Ever since my husband, Kenneth, and I moved back to our home county in late 2015, I’ve been thinking about where I grew up and how I ended up coming back. I prefer to take back roads to get to work… or anywhere, really. So I spend a lot of time thinking about coming back home when I’m driving through Miami County. I have a backlog of essays and blog post ideas related to coming back home — how certain parts of town can make me feel like a kid or teenager again, or how driving down some familiar roads can fill me with hope and inspiration while others bring to mind painful memories.

To be completely honest,¬†I didn’t plan on living in Miami County as an adult. I didn’t really have a town or area picked out, but I didn’t expect it to be where I grew up. I certainly didn’t expect to live in the town that was my high school’s biggest rival, either.

I think I felt that I had outgrown my hometown. I had graduated high school and was going on to do big, exciting things in college and, then, who knows where? My boyfriend (now husband) and I lived in a small college town for four years, then we moved to a big city for another four. That’s really all it took for me to want to come back home: being away.

I loved living in Athens. It is the most interesting place I’ve ever called home. Athens is a unique blend of rural Appalachia and the international community via Ohio University – it’s a cultural explosion in a lovely little area of Ohio. Columbus took me a while to get used to. I quickly discovered that big cities are not my thing. I didn’t like how long it took me to drive to work, or how noisy and smelly the city could be, especially in the summer. Big cities are an assault on my senses; they overwhelm me easily. I did end up falling for Columbus, about a year before Kenneth and I moved. The gorgeous metro parks, amazing restaurants, fantastic library system, and numerous museums did it for me in the end.

We lived in a little town near Cincinnati called Harrison for a year and a half. While I found things that I loved about Athens, Columbus, Harrison, and Cincinnati they were not somewhere I could call home. I couldn’t put down roots there. The 3-hour drive from Athens to visit family or for school breaks started to feel like it took forever. Then when we were only 1 1/2 hours from home in Columbus and Cincinnati, we wondered how we ever managed the 3-hour drive (with cats in the car too!).

Kenneth had an opportunity to take a job in Miami County and we jumped at it. We were both ready to be closer to our family and to really, finally, be home. While I thought that I had outgrown Miami County, Miami County had been growing while I was away.

While many things look the way they did ten years ago, Miami County has been changing. New businesses and community events have been popping up in our absence. Old underused buildings have been or will be renovated. We have farmer’s markets, delicious restaurants, music festivals and half-marathons! Miami County is still the place where I grew up, but it’s becoming so much more.

One of the things I think about a lot when I’m driving to and from work is the sky. You can see so much of the sky here. In Athens and Cincinnati, the gorgeous hills and forests took up a lot of the horizon. In Columbus, the skyscrapers and miles of suburbs surrounding the city filled the view. In Miami County, I can see the sky and it’s huge. Fantastic red sunrises, stormy gray mornings,¬†bright blue afternoons and clear night skies. There’s so much room here, room to grow. Room to put down roots.

Which I am ready to do.

New Year, New Travel Posts

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about blogging. Why I blog, what I like about blogging, what I have been writing about and what I want to write about in the future. I started blogging mainly for one reason: I wanted to cultivate a habit of writing often. The goal being to write every day… honestly, I’m still working on that one.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was pretty young but I spend much more time thinking about being a writer than I spend actually writing. Starting a blog helped me write more often, but the joy I find in writing for my blog has been hit and miss. Some posts I love writing, others I am less enthused about and write them so I can check them off my to-do list.

I’ve realized that there are three main things I love writing: fiction, personal essays, and posts that promote how awesome my home state is. I don’t really love writing restaurant reviews: it feels like a chore. And since writing reviews on my blog is not my job and I don’t love it, I’m not going to do it anymore. Not in the way I used to at least. I still want to share awesome places in my area with you, my readers, but I am no longer writing a review of a restaurant simply because I ate there and remembered to take pictures before letting my husband eat his dinner (you’re welcome, Kenneth ?).

I’m going to test the waters on this style of blogging by re-writing my travel blog posts. Instead of posting about each and every place we visited on a trip, I’m going to write about the trip itself and leave out the contact info, hours, and addresses for the places we went (you’re smart cookies — Google them if you want to visit). I want to tell you about how it felt to be in San Antonio when it was over 100 degrees and I decided to walk three miles to the botanical garden because I was too nervous to Uber alone (I was a hot sweaty mess by the time I arrived, but the plants were so worth it!). Or how I want to go back Louisville when it’s warm and sunny because even though we visited in January and it was cloudy and gray the entire time, I could just see how gorgeous this city must be in the summer.

So, if you were desperately searching for what I thought of the fabulous gluten-free almond pancakes I enjoyed at North End Cafe in Louisville, that post is gone. But I will be replacing it with highlights of the entire trip, so it’s pretty likely that those particular pancakes will pop up on the blog again.¬†?