How I accidentally accomplished something big…

How I accidentally accomplished something big…

…or, that one time I got rid of over a thousand things.

You might remember that Kel set herself a goal of getting rid of 500 things in her home. I never set a goal like that, but I found that rearranging my office to better suit my needs naturally led me to go through our things. I started keeping track out of curiosity.

It took me just over three months to toss, recycle, donate, or sell 1016 things.

I know it probably seems a little strange that here we are, Women Making Changes, encouraging you all to STOP depriving yourselves, and yet we keep talking about decluttering, getting rid of things in our homes.

I’ll be completely honest: I don’t think this is something anyone HAS to do as part of changing their life. What’s happened is simply that as Kel and I have stopping depriving ourselves of our own time, energy, love, and attention, we’ve both found that there are things in our houses that just don’t support or enhance the people we are evolving into. Things that get between us and the lives we want to live. And neither of us will tolerate that any longer.

For me, at least, decluttering has been a way to gain some clarity about what I’m surrounding myself with and what I really want around me. It’s been an exercise in mindfulness.

Here are a few things I learned for you to consider (without having to venture into your own scary closet!):

The 3 bottles of hot sauce dilemma

The more I looked under the surface of my environment, the more scatteredness I found. One day I cleaned out the refrigerator door bins. I realized there was no real method to the madness there, just things sitting where they fit at that moment…which explains why we had 3 bottles of the same hot sauce opened. Someone didn’t see it, opened another one. Repeat.

I found the same pattern in quite a few areas. I know where this comes from. There’s a vague plan, but then I get busy, or things don’t quite fit and I don’t take the time to rework things so they do. Or we started small and then it expanded and I didn’t take the time to update the space to accommodate what’s happening NOW.

It might not be an issue for someone else, but I’ve realized this drives me a subtle kind of crazy. Like I need that! So now I’m on the lookout for it.

What I want: less scattered, more focus. I’m hoping that by focusing on that in my environment, it will help me find that in my mind as well.

What do you really want?

OK, first off: getting rid of a thousand things has not turned me into the Guru of Minimalism. (It’s more a commentary on the amount of crap that was in my basement than anything else.)

In fact, what I’ve learned through doing this is that I have no interest in having a minimalist house. 

I have great interest in having a mindful house. 

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with any level of stuff in a person’s home. What’s right for one person is miserable for another. I think the problem is not making the choice actively. 

At one point, Kel and I both wanted a wall of books. She ended up deciding that she didn’t want that after all…I ended up creating one and loving it. The point is that you make the choice that makes YOU happy…not your friends, your mother, or Pottery Barn. 😉

Who decided you should have this?

My son just outgrew all his clothes. (He’s 13, so I should get used to saying that a lot, right?) I noticed something interesting as we went through his wardrobe. There were more things in perfect condition because he never or rarely wore them than I care to admit–and most of those things I had suggested he should have. He didn’t tell me ‘no’ in the store, he just never wore them!

This was a good lesson for me before he enters this phase of constant growth, but it also applies to the bigger picture. Are there things in your house that you don’t love, but are keeping because someone else decided you should have it?

Even if that someone was the old you?

What have you outgrown?

It’s easy to see it with kids. The wrists and ankles sticking out of their clothes, the dust gathering thickly on the toys they used to play with. But what about you? You’re still growing, mentally and emotionally. What no longer fits the person you are now? What clothes, hobbies, furniture?

* * *

I first heard this quote a long time ago, but now I’m actively choosing it for my guideline when I look at the space around me:

William Morris quote

How about you? Have you been doing any sprucing up of your own environment? What have you learned in doing so? Let’s talk about it in the comments!





Earl Gray Stevens

An Old Habit Goes Up In Smoke–A Woman’s Goodbye Letter to Smoking

An Old Habit Goes Up In Smoke–A Woman’s Goodbye Letter to Smoking

Here on WMC we like to highlight real women making real changes.  Today’s post is from my aunt who, after decades of smoking, is saying good-bye to that old habit.  She is choosing instead to say “hello!” to change.  

If you, or anyone you know, would like to share their journey of personal change, please contact either Tracy at or myself at  Your change doesn’t have to be big.  Even a little change can make a world of difference to someone else in the form of inspiration.

While I was in Wisconsin for the month of August, I was able to connect with a favorite aunt.  She was getting ready to give up smoking the very next week and I asked her to share her thoughts as she embarked on such a big change. These are her words.

“Tonight I say good-bye to an old friend.

Funny thing to call a habit that will kill you…but that is what he is.

He has aided me through my parents’ deaths, my first prom, my first concert, my graduation!

He was there when my daughter left treatment and I thought I would lose her. He was there when I got her back.

I know this seems strange to those of you that have never quit an addiction…but it really is saying good-bye to an old friend.

BUT I have many new (old) friends that are going to step in and fill this void for me. Because they love me! Something a cigarette NEVER could do for me!

The toughest part of quitting smoking is that there isn’t an outward reward…I won’t lose weight, I won’t buy a smaller pant size, I won’t look “great”.

People so soon forget and this struggle for some of us is no smaller than quitting drinking or another drug.

Thank you to my wonderful niece for letting me post here! I needed to say these things tonight as I lay an old friend to rest for my health, my family and my friends.

Thanks you to what ever the power is that gave me such wonderful people in my life! I don’t want to miss a moment with them!”

an old habit goes up in smoke

It’s always so scary leaving something that is so familiar, even if it’s causing us harm.

So often we think that our old habits are “helping” us, but at what cost?

Have any of you faced a big change such as this?  Would you share what helped you get through it?

I’m very happy to report that my aunt is still smoke free today!


image credit: Posterize


Can you give yourself permission to be beautiful?

Can you give yourself permission to be beautiful?

Have you seen this post? I’ve started telling my daughters I’m beautiful, by Amanda King. That link will open it in a new tab for you, but here’s the gist: “I don’t want my girls to be children who are perfect and then, when they start to feel like women, they remember how I thought of myself as ugly and so they will be ugly too”.

I first saw this post when our dear reader Carol sent it to me on Facebook. It brought tears to my eyes, and I told her so, but truthfully, I stopped there. I’m not very comfortable with being on the edge of an emotion. I default to blinking away the tears and stabilizing (numbing?) myself in the everyday, and staying the heck away from that emotional cliff. Plunging into fully feeling is…scary.

But my friends and the universe and social media made sure I kept seeing this post until I started to slip over that cliff. Until I started to really Get It.

After the fourth time I’d read it, I stood looking out the kitchen window, lost in thought. My daughter came in the room, tousled and sleepy-eyed. In the foggy gray light of a northern autumn morning, all I could see was the beauty of her complexion, the petal pink undertones of her skin, the fine clarity of her smooth cheek.

And the light finally dawned in my head: This beautiful creature came into this world through me. She is her own unique self, separate and whole, but she carries a part of me with her. If there is beauty in her, there is also beauty in where she came from, and that is me.

She already knew this. The real question was how many times have I scoffed at how she saw me, how many times have I rejected the gift of seeing myself through her eyes?

There was more: we mothers are their first home, the vessels that nurtured them. What do we do to them when we sigh over our bodies, push them up, suck them in, encase them in Spanx and apologies? What subconscious message do we send when we hate the very place they came from?

Yeah, that thought frightened me, too.

Beauty is how you feel inside |


It will be almost a quarter of a century before my daughter reaches my age, but what I want for her is this: At 40, I want her to be beautiful. However that beauty manifests in her, I want her to know she is beautiful. I want “I’m beautiful” to be her default thought, for it to be normal for her to think of herself as beautiful because that is what the women in her life have done.

I already proved to myself that the most powerful message I can send to my daughter about following her dreams and passions is to make it important enough to do myself. If I want to give her permission to feel beautiful, to BE beautiful when she’s 40, then I have to make it important enough to do it myself.



Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. *

In her post Amanda speaks of “modeling beauty in a mean world”. That’s what I want to do for my daughter, but I’m not sure I know how. I don’t have any obvious role models, no family history about what it means to be beautiful. If I look to the women around me, I hear a litany of too fat * too old * too much pain * too much deprivation * only if I work really hard * buy a more expensive cream * maybe then I’ll be acceptable. And if I look to society for what it means to be beautiful…well, there’s that mean world with one painfully narrow definition of beauty.

It’s not just our daughters who need women modeling beauty in a mean world. We all do.

I don’t have a list of clear action steps to take, no manifesto to share with you about being a role model of beauty. What I do have are a few ideas to start with:

  • No qualifications: “She looks good for her age” might be the most poisonous compliment ever. Who gets to define how one is supposed to look at any age?  No more “for her age” or “despites” or “thanks to P90x/Expensive Miracle Cream” caveats to compliments or comments. It’s time to stop putting qualifications on the complements we give each other or accept for ourselves.
  • No comparisons: I’m beautiful no matter how I compare with you. You’re beautiful too no matter how you compare with me, or how either of us compare with the latest supermodel. It’s time we started defining beauty for ourselves…and including more than just superficial things in that definition.
  • Education: The more I learn about Photoshop, the less I believe anything I see. We are bombarded with images that are manipulated and altered past the point of possibility every single day. (One more reason to stop comparing yourself with others! Check out this Pinterest board for a place to start.) I think it’s vital to learn to spot these manipulations so you can base your ideas about beauty in the humanly possible.
  • Decide to be beautiful: I’m not saying that I’ve flipped a switch and now I wake up with a rosy aura and birds sing when I look in the mirror. I am saying that I can decide to look beyond the bags under my eyes or the pimple on my chin. I’m saying that I can decide to live with a broader definition of beauty than my age or my dress size. I can decide that not feeling beautiful is a sign that I need to pay attention to my health or my mind or my soul, not a comment on my worth as a woman.

My beautiful friends—and yes, I’m talking to YOU—what would you add to this list? Who have you found to be a model of living beautifully?

And perhaps the most important question I want to ask you: will you give yourself permission to be beautiful, right now, as you are this very moment?


The Shame of Being Sick

The Shame of Being Sick

I’ve been suffering with a health problem for quite some time.  It’s hard to nail down the exact starting point, but it’s close to 2 years.  If that time frame isn’t correct it just means that it has been longer than 2 years, not less.

It’s a sinus infection, but not any old sinus infection.  It’s the sinus infection that ate New York!

I’ve combated this issue from all sorts of angles trying to win.  I’ve tried all sorts of homeopathic remedies (I don’t even want to know how much money I spent on them!) from herb teas to neti pots.  I’ve even tried some yoga moves to improve breathing, drinking tons of water, removing all dairy, and increasing my allergy medicines.  Nothing seems to work.  I finally get so miserable that I go to the doctor and get antibiotics. They knock the infection down enough so that I feel a little bit better for a while.  But then within a few weeks I’m back to hating life again.  I can’t seem to  get rid of it for good.

Finally, the doctors ordered a scan and send me to a specialist.

It’s not a deadly problem but it’s really causing some problems to say the least: dizziness, horrible headaches, constant ear aches, a chronic cough. No, I take that back.  I think this constant cycle of taking antibiotics to get rid of this nightmare is what caused me to contract C. diff. at the beginning of this year.  C. diff. is deadly.

There aren’t many roads left to take on this long trip before surgery is all that’s left.  I was feeling totally defeated and scared when I left the doctor a few days ago.  After telling my husband about what the doctor suggested and that I had to have some allergy testing done, he responded with, “Oh, they’ll find something.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“Because you don’t have a very strong immune system.” was his reply.

And those words hurt me.  I know, I know.  He didn’t say anything mean on purpose, but I felt hurt. How, oh how, could I be working so hard at getting well and still have a weak immune system? Didn’t  I take a handful of supplements a day?  Didn’t I make homemade bone broth soup every week?  Still, I knew he was right.  I don’t have a strong immune system but I didn’t like him saying it.  It’s like being over weight and knowing that you are and talking about it with your friends, but when someone else says it to you…well, it hurts.

And then I realized that my hurt feelings were because I was ashamed of my health situation.

 I’ve felt ashamed that I wasn’t stronger.
I’ve felt ashamed that I wasn’t healthier.
I’ve felt ashamed that I wasn’t spiritual enough to be able to heal myself.
I’ve felt ashamed that spent so much money on so many different remedies that didn’t do one single thing to help.
I’ve felt ashamed that I wasn’t educated enough to just “know” how to fix myself.
I’ve felt ashamed that I’m sick, and I can’t seem to fix it by myself.
I’ve felt ashamed that I started this whole year so sick and now I’m ending it on the very same note.
I’ve felt ashamed that I’ve had to ask for help.

I didn’t know that shame was lurking around in there with that infection.  It really kind of surprised me.  Hadn’t I been changing my life for the better?  Wasn’t I doing more of what I loved to do?

I feel that I have somehow failed, failed to be a “healthy” person.

It isn’t logical that I’m ashamed, but then again, feelings rarely are.

I realized that maybe I’m not the only one carrying around the added weight of shame along with another physical issue.

  • being over weight
  • balding
  • acne
  • wrinkles
  • eczema
  • cold sores
  • this list could go on and on and on…

Aren’t these physical issues difficult enough by themselves without the added burden of feeling ashamed that they are there?

As I let this new realization roll around in my head last night, it occurred to me that not once in the last 2+ years of dealing with this sinus infection did I ever accept it or any extra help or advice that might have been given had I looked for it.  I never really asked the doctors for more than relief.  It wasn’t until I said that I think this thing has never gone away and the doctor went back to the beginning of my chart and really looked at what was going on that more tests were given.  In my stubbornness I believed I should be able to do it alone-without help.

“However capable and skillful an individual may be, left alone, he or she will not survive. When we are sick or very young or very old, we must depend on the support of others. There is no significant division between us and other people, because our basic natures are the same.”-The Dalai Lama

So now I’ll try surrendering and accepting both my current situation and the help that is being offered.  Maybe it’s just a time for me to depend on the support of others for a while.

Have any of you experienced this? Not the sinus problem, but the feeling of shame for being sick?  Would you be willing to share your experience in the comments?




The little things

The little things

In the week since my last post:

  • My father spent 5 days in the hospital following emergency surgery.
  • My brother sustained a mild concussion.
  • My in laws spent their second week out of their home in the wake of superstorm Sandy.
  • First one, then the other of my dogs hurt a leg.
  • My great aunt died on Sunday.

And all those other things that I’ve been waiting on are still out there, just as unresolved as before.

Yes, that’s the sound of me taking a very deep breath. November has been a long month.

Ironically, in her post this weekend Martha Beck mentioned times like these, calling them rumble strips, “a barrage of seemingly unrelated catastrophes so severe you cannot ignore them.”

No kidding.

I stopped to just breathe…not even trying to meditate, or focus, just to breathe, many times this week. To remember that while I cared deeply about every one of these things, they aren’t things I can fix.

And I kept thinking of two things over and over: gratitude, and the little things.

I’m grateful for big things—that my great aunt lived to be 101, that she no longer suffers. That everyone else is ok. That no one else is on this list.

But truthfully, the things that have meant the most have been little things. Things like being able to text little jokes to my dad, so we could communicate even when he couldn’t talk. Like the direction of the wind that blew trees away from my in law’s house, and not into it, so that it was just the power and water that were out.

Memories of my great aunt at my grandmother’s kitchen table, laughing. Of the way these two sweet sisters transformed into steely competitors when the Parcheesi board came out.

Jon Kabat-Zinn quotes

It’s so easy to get caught up in the big picture, dealing with the Important Issues, being busy.

It’s so easy to be caught up in the drama that swirls around each of us and miss the simple little things right in front of us.

It’s so easy to think that we have to wait until we can make the big gesture, and skip the small kindness we could do right now.

It’s so easy to think that we have to wait until things are perfect and we can make all the big changes we think of, and overlook the tiny shifts we could easily make at this very moment.

But the little things? The little moments?

They aren’t little.

That’s what I want to remember from this week.