2/3/20

Dirt is a Four Letter Word



My house is dirtier now than its ever been in the seven and a half years that I’ve lived here.

When Carson was a baby I remember my mom making a comment about that—Just you wait Sarah, some day your standard of what clean is won’t be so high. I kind of scoffed when she mentioned it. And you’ve got to understand, I really value clean and I really value tidy. I think my parents and siblings struggled to live with me because of that. We didn’t necessarily see eye-to-eye on this topic. I felt like life could only enjoyed if there was order—if my house is a wreck, my heart is a wreck too.

Growing up, it seemed like everyone else took a more whimsical approach to the term ship-shape.

We are in the midst of construction, finishing out our walkout basement. Our two bedroom home is about to double in size! I am eager for the space. I love our house, but we have been near bursting at the seams. And every winter I feel it more and more as the kids grow and our house does not.

I am sitting here trying to ignore the dust as much as one can ignore the dust, when it is that film of dust that causes sneezing and an itchy nose. I’m ignoring it because just yesterday I sort of cleaned. And the day before that too. And, honestly, the day before that too.

Yes, my mom was right. My standards are slipping.

It’ll be worth it in the end, I repeat to myself again and again and again.

...

Pinterest has been a dear friend during this project. I am looking at these photos for inspiration: the boys room, the bathroom, and the living area / school room. I want the basement to feel warm and welcoming, but also bright and clean. And yes, both are possible together, I am sure of it.

I am not much of a movie watcher, especially not in theater. But I recently saw Harriet and Little Women on the big screen, and let me tell you, I want to watch them both again when they come out. If you need a good movie, they’re solid choices.

There are thousands of good books out there waiting to be read. I try to always have at least one title I’m working my way through. Atomic Habits was very good—with lots of principals I want to try applying to the way I run my business and order my life. Next time I’ll have a highlighter in hand and take some notes. But as much as I love business books, I love fiction a little more. I read Where the Crawdads Sing nearly a year ago, but I borrowed it from the library again, because next week we are heading north for our annual winter vacation, and while we are hunkered down in our AirBnB I want to get lost in its pages all over again.

My friend Lara sent me this podcast recommendation: Fight Hustle, End Hurry. She wanted to hear my thoughts on it once I listened to the series. To be honest, I wanted to binge listen after I finished the first episode, but what’s the hurry? why hustle my way through? (Laughing at my own joke here...)

In February I am challenging myself to get dressed and do my makeup every weekday. I’ve been in a top knot and yoga pants rut. My days are spent at home with my kids and I’ve become lazy—it often doesn’t feel worth the effort it takes to get ready for the day if I am not going anywhere. But I know I feel better about myself if I take time to look presentable, hence the challenge. If you want to join in, visit www.instagram.com/saraheshwellness. There are prizes involved!

I weaned my baby last month. It was kind of bittersweet. I wasn’t fully ready for this, I nursed my other two until they were both at least two years old. But we were traveling without the kids, and it made sense to do it before the trip. For the first time in a long time, I am able to get dressed without thinking through outfit logistics. It’s so fun to be able to wear dresses or tops without considering whether they’re nursing friendly. I absolutely love the brand ABLE. I have a referral code that I shared around Christmastime. It gave the buyer a discount on their purchase, and I got rewarded for referring them. I was able to get this dress with the referral credit, and let me tell you, I AM IN LOVE! The knit material is thick, it doesn’t show every bump and bulge, and the dress is modest without being prudish. It’s not at all frilly, which is Brooklyn’s preference, but she gave the dress a raving review when she saw it on me. And let me be clear: If she hated it, she would surely let me know. (Want to shop ABLE? Use this link to save $$$)

Okay, enough chatting for one day!

Xo,
Sarah

1/23/20

My Armpits are Sweaty

You know how so many people will ask a question on Facebook and say, “Cute photo for attention” because it really has nothing to do with the post, but they still want to spark conversation. Well, this is a photo for attention.
I don’t smoke but I am about to ask you a question. 


I’ve missed this space. I miss the late-nighters when inspiration is flowing and I don’t have to work hard to string words into sentences. I miss the clarity that writing brings to my mind. This space was my favorite hobby for so long, and I’m sorry I abandoned it. But I’ve also craved privacy, especially last year, when it felt like I was very misunderstood by friends and strangers alike on topics I’ve been so passionate about.

Do you ever feel like that?

Sometimes I wish I could jump back in where I left off—back when life felt easier—biking around the lake with Carson in tow, running races, and checking things off my 23 before 24 list. I think I was pretty oblivious to life outside my every day moments, which was likely both a blessing and a curse.

Sometimes I wish I could jump back in and share everything currently on my mind with all the honesty and bluntness of an Ennegram 8. (A personality type I am not, but sort of wish I were.)
Now I need to work hard to notice the little every day moments, because too often I miss them, I’ve been so distracted with what is happening politically in New York and across the nation.

I voted last year for the first time in my life.

I’m sort of embarrassed to admit that truth. I never really saw the importance of voting—when typically the leading candidates are all horrible options—until medical freedom was at stake, and then stripped away.

Did I tell you I’m a homeschooling mom? I swore I’d never been one, but last year I wasn’t given a choice.

I love to read.

One of my favorite topics: World War 2. Fiction, memoirs, biographies, I’ll devour them all. One of my dearest friends survived war-torn Germany. She is my hero, proof that hard times don’t have to turn you bitter, and she is also the reason I’m so keen on learning all I can about the era.

I read a fiction book last week, Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris. I couldn’t put it down, and when I finished the last page, I began to google information about the real Cilka and the labor camp she spent years of her life at, after already surviving Auschwitz, which was an actual hell on earth.

Books like this give me a warped sense of security. History repeats itself. Cilka survived; I will survive.

Have you ever read the about Germany right before the war? Do you know what was taught in schools and heavily pushed and promoted?

Sexual promiscuity was encourage. (Have you seen the bills on Sex Ed in NYS right now? If you aren’t already talking to your kindergartener about sex, you might want to start — or the school might beat you to it. Hint: The language in this bill is mild, but what your third grader is going to be learning if this bill passes is not mild.)

Lying to your parents or family was encouraged for the sake of loyalty to your country and for the “common good”. (Have you read the articles on how to hide your medical history from your parents? You can get anything from an HPV vaccine or birth control or an abortion without them ever knowing—and there are lots of articles online on just how to do it.)

Propaganda was rampant about Jews spreading infectious diseases like typhus, even if they didn’t have it. (Have you seen what is happening in NYS right now? Doctors offices and schools and daycare centers are kicking families out if they choose not to vaccinate. And sites like Parent.com spreading propaganda, with articles saying you shouldn’t allow your child to be with a non vaccinated child because, you know, they are spreading measles, even when they don’t have it.)

In concentration camps they forced medical procedures on the inmates and used them as safety trials for new medications. (Have you seen what happened in CA and NY? Are you paying attention? You don’t have much say in whether you choose to vaccinate or not. And have you seen the long term safety studies on those forced vaccinations? No? Let me tell you why: It’s because YOU are a part of the safety trial.)

Censorship was everywhere. (Search #vaccineinjured on Instagram or Facebook. We are being heavily censored too.)

There is nothing new under the sun.

I’ve had people ask me why I care so much about this topic. I really want to ask the reverse. No matter your stance on vaccines, if you aren’t paying attention and speaking out about these mandates, why? How much of your freedom are you willing to give up? I heard a politician say he thinks the government should have a say in family planning for American families to help curb over-population. If the government can take over this aspect of our lives, forcing a liability-free biologic on our children, I don’t doubt for a second they’d try to control the amount of children we have too. Would you speak up then?

I used to wonder how things like slavery or the Holocaust happened? Why didn’t people take a stand? I see now though, that it happened because of indifference—something I’ve been guilty of—because people saw injustice but weren’t directly impacted by it, so they didn’t act on it.

[NOTE ADDED FOR CLARITY: A reader reached out to me, uncomfortable by my comparison of the horrors of slavery, the holocaust, and segregation with medical mandates like vaccines, because one is based on something you cannot control, like race or skin color, and the other is based on something you choose to opt out of, like vaccinations. I really value her input, which is why I am adding this clarification. I am not here trying to make these appear “equal”. My point is this—all of these things were/are unjust. Harriet Tubman could have lived a quiet life as a free woman when she escaped slavery, but she saw an injustice and said ENOUGH. Corrie ten Boom could have ignored what was happening to her Jewish neighbors, but she saw an injustice and said ENOUGH. Rosa Parks could have given up her rightful seat so as not to cause a stir, but she saw the injustice of the situation and said ENOUGH. These women all stepped out of line, breaking the law in order to bring justice. Yes, I have the “choice” to opt out of a mandate because I am able to homeschool, but a lot of families in New York State don’t have that option. It is more expensive than public school, and it is a big time commitment, that isn’t easy, especially for a single parent or family where both parents work full time. There are special needs children though, one in my neighborhood, who had valid medical exemptions, but this year were kicked out of school too. They had horrible reactions from vaccinations in the past, yet they can’t attend school unless they are willing to risk another reaction (which could mean death). Tell me, what kind of “choice” is that? I am not comparing one horror to another, I am saying STEP THE HELL OUT OF LINE! Both healthy and immunocompromised kids are being kicked out of school, private Amish schools are being forced to close down because of “public health” even though they aren’t open to the public, and there is talk of detention centers and a non-vaccinated registry—yellow star of sorts—so that people can avoid (or bully and shame) anyone not complying.]

A new kind of segregation is back in school; 26,000 children are not legally allowed to attend any school, public or private, across the state.

Truth will always prevail—but it’ll show itself sooner if people would speak up immediately when things are out of sort.

Step out of line.

I am fighting. Are you?


“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”


(This quickly turned from a brief update to a mind-dump. This is the refined version of what has been playing in my head ever since June 13th, 2019, the day dishonest legislators bribed a vote, and my life turned upside down. The real, unedited version is very crude — because I cuss a little (actually, a lot) and I call people out for being two-face. But I not an Ennegram 8; I care too much about what people think of me to share the real, real. It’s a good thing I have a natural deodorant that works. Even sharing this is causing my armpits to sweat.)

9/9/19

Becoming What You Behold





Are you still finding time to write? 

I've been asked this question multiple times in recent months. I guess if quick Instagram captions count, then yes, I am still writing. But I don't think they really count--not when I've hoped and dreamed that one day I'd be able to build a career by stringing words together. Not when I thought maybe blogging regularly would lead to a book contract or some freelance work.   

... 

One Sunday morning a few months before my 26th birthday, I was out walking. It was the first time that week that all was quiet, and without distractions of laundry and dishes and unfinished work, without the demands of my kids, I was finally able to think. I got a bit reflective, likely because of my upcoming birthday, the turn of a new year.

I was mentally organizing my life, which is rather like sorting through a jumbled sock drawer--missing pairs, holes in the heels, material stretched past the breaking point, and the ones reached for again and again because they fit well. In all of that sorting, I was deciding what I really liked in life, the things that seem to fill my soul, and what I should maybe put an end to, even if only for a season. It was in that, that I began to cast vision for my blog again, working a plan in my head for content and structure, figuring out how I could prioritize it. 

And while I was pregnant in the figurative sense, growing and nurturing new ideas for this blog that I loved so much, what I didn't yet know was that I was also physically pregnant, my body growing and stretching to nurture new life.

Perhaps needless to say, that physical pregnancy made me hit pause on any writing dreams. My third pregnancy was hard. It left my body aching and drained, my mind a complete lack of creative mush. And once the pregnancy was over, I discovered my third newborn was also hard. Colicky and often inconsolable, it took all that I had to keep him comfortable, to get him to sleep. 

At some point during all of this, I was talking to a friend who also asked the question, are you still finding time to write? When I told her that those days where I use to regularly make time to write seemed like vague memory, she said something that stuck with me. She said perhaps what I was currently living out what I would later write. That this season, where it seemed like nothing was accomplished because I was being stretched thin by the demands of my family, the routine mundane that I felt I couldn't escape, was perhaps going to be the seed in which a career would grow, that maybe my call right now was to simply be faithful. 

I've drawn myself back to her words again and again. Because my dreams are still there, but they seem impossible.

Simply be faithful.

We are beyond the tireless evenings of constant crying, thank you Jesus! And right before my eyes, my baby is becoming a toddler. But I still feel like I am in the weeds, trying to find a path as we delve into the unexpected world of homeschooling, figuring out what that will look like for our family. Consequently writing is still very much on hold.

Simply be faithful.


...

This summer I had the privilege to be part of another book launch for Ruth Chou Simons, the author my one of my favorites, Gracelaced. I've been working my way through her new book Beholding and Becoming: the art of everyday worship for the second time.  Her words are filled with both truth and grace and she always points back to God's faithfulness in every situation. This week I was listening to a podcast interview and was struck by Ruth's story, which was very similar to what my friend said is perhaps happening in my life. Ruth kept reiterating be faithful, in the mundane, in the ordinary -- you become what you behold, so set your sights on worshiping Christ in the everyday, and that will impact the trajectory of your life. If you haven't already discovered her work, I highly, highly recommend you check out her new book. It is worth buying a copy all your own!

And if like me, you've got dreams that feel darn near impossible that times, perhaps you too need to simply plant a seed and faithfully tend the soil. To quote lines from both of those book I mentioned, You Don't Have to be Blooming to be Growing, and You Become What you Behold.

Don't lose hope.

xo,
Sarah

8/6/19

This One is for Lincoln



There is a little boy, close in age to my Carson, whose story tugs at my heart. He was diagnosed with brain cancer the same month my childhood friends lost their mom to it. I have been following his journey with more empathy and compassion than I would have, had the pain and heartache caused by cancer not been so fresh on my mind.

He is a fighter; he needs a miracle.

About a week and a half ago his family received hard news, things aren't looking so good.

Their focus now: to make him as comfortable as possible and make as many memories with him as possible, while still praying, pleading, for a miracle. (Follow his story here.)

My heartaches, I cannot fathom what his parents, Kaitlyn and Matt, are going through.

This month I decided to donate the commissions I make through my Beautycounter business to the Schrock family to use wherever and however they need it. It only seemed fitting, as Lincoln--though he didn't realize it--played a part in my decision to switch to safer products when it came to skincare and beauty and cleaning and laundry for my own family. It was his story, in part, that led me to join Beautycounter.

If you have been considering placing an order, could this be your month? If you've ordered in the past and want to eventually replenish your supply, could this be your month?

Every little bit counts -- six days into the month and I have been completely astounded at the orders rolling it. Let's keep that momentum going!

To make the deal even sweeter, Beautycounter's Friend's + Family event is happening now, August 6 -12. Purchase now to receive 15% off your entire order! (Some exclusions apply.) If you need suggestions on where to begin, I would love to help you out.

Perhaps Beautycounter isn't your thing? You can still get involved by donating to their GoFundMe page.

Thank you for helping me raise money to send to this dear family. I truly am grateful.

This one is for you, Lincoln. <3

5/31/19

A May Post in Nearly June






Less than two hours away from failing my New Years goal, I am.

One blog post a month. How is it so dang hard?

Where did May go? I know I sound old, but time really does fly. It was a full month, but I think I say that about every month. Weather in New York is FINALLY feeling like summer. Mother's everywhere are rejoicing. Warmer weather is a miracle worker; at last bored kids needn't pick on their sisters and can instead be outside picking on their dogs.

I planted garden this week. I don't love it, growing vegetable to can or freeze, there are so many other things I'd rather do. I recently listened to a podcast though that has me rethinking my stance. I've been intrigued with learning about the microbiome and gut health, and apparently the bacteria in our soil plays a huge role in that.

Along that note, I've been learning and sharing about safer beauty over on this Instagram page. It's crazy to me that while the European Union has over 1,400 chemicals they've banned from personal skincare and beauty products, and Canada has over 600, the USA only banned 30. There are ingredients in the products we use daily that disrupt hormones, are linked to cancer, are allergens, and known toxins, yet because of faulty regulations that haven't really been updated since the 1930's, the FDA has little say in what is allowed to be marketed to the public as "safe". I would love to see that changed, which is one of the reasons I use and promote Beautycounter.

(I am planning to some day post about my favorite cleaner, safer products. But if you'd like a good list now, In Honor of Design has an excellent list.)

This month, over on my Beautycounter Instagram page I hosted a movement challenge to encourage women to get out and exercise more. My personal goal was to do an intense workout four times per week, and get five runs in. Alone. Without kids.
I almost accomplished that goal. I have less than one hour and a half to get that final run done. But who runs at midnight? The achiever in me wants to hop on the treadmill and do it, but the weary mom in me says that maybe accomplishing the blog post is enough. You can't win them all.

I asked my friend Shelby, who is a personal trainer at a local gym, to put together a four week workout plan for me to do through the month of May. My goal was strength training and muscle building. Holy cow, was it good. I was able to do the workouts at home, and they were customized to the weights and equipment I have (which isn't much). I don't know if I lost or gained pounds; I don't own a scale and probably never will, but I am pretty sure I lost some inches. I didn't measure myself before starting, but my shorts and jeans are all fitting looser, and the baby pooch that I was about to chalk up as something that was here to stay, said good-bye. I am planning to keep on going with that workout plan, even though it causes me to drip in so much sweat I could be watering house plants with it. If you'd like to learn more about the workout plans she offers, connect with Shelby here. It's worth it!

I didn't run today, nor did I workout. I tried, but a needy child woke shortly after I did, and I decided maybe she needed snuggles more than I needed to cross off goals. But I gave my house a good cleaning, like washing finger prints from walls sort of cleaning. (Please don't look too closely, they've reappeared again. Thanks offspring!) And I met a friend and together we went for a walk. That should count for something, right?

Then night we went to a local brewery for pizza and live music. Hello summertime. I love you.

Okay... This feels like a half-hearted attempt at keeping a goal alive, but I am going to call it good enough. I'm exhausted and midnight is coming.

Goodnight May.

4/11/19

What Should I Write About, Post No. 1

I reached out on Instagram last week, asking for blog post ideas. I've been out of this writing space for so long, and felt like I needed a few prompts to help get me started again. The response was amazing, I got multiple suggestions that make me really excited to work my way through the list.


Today, the first post in a series of posts I am going to title, What Should I Write About, is all about finding contentment in the house that you have











When this suggestion came in, I knew I wanted to tackle it. Not because I have this all figured out, but because lately I've been struggling to find contentment in my house... how timely.

For those you might not know, my husband bought the house we live in before we met. He was from Pennsylvania, and while the house he bought is in the same area of New York that I grew up in, I was living in Jamaica at the time. 

As the story goes, the weekend he had closing on the house was the same weekend I moved back to the States. We had a lot of mutual friends, including a couple whose wedding we were both invited to. Herm came to New York that weekend not only to close on this house, but also attend their wedding. We ended up sitting across from each other during the reception, and even though I was only nineteen and had sworn off trying a relationship again until I was at least twenty-five, I left that night with a knowing that he was going to be my husband. Sure enough, thirteen months later we were married.

Back to the house that he had bought -- It was a complete dump. The family who lived here before had not cared for things well. The entire place wreaked of smoked, and it was easy to see how they had their living room furniture set up due to cigarette burns in the carpet, a convenient ashtray when lounging on a recliner. No one had lived in the house for months, but they generously left meat in the fridge, which was set at a temperature warm enough to allow slow fermentation. Can you imagine the smell?

Thankfully Herm had a lot of help from his family, and before we really got to know each other well, the house had be thoroughly cleaned and everything painted. 

It was still very much a 'man-cave' before we got married. After our wedding, I began making it more homey. I repainted a lot of those house to colors that were more neutral, and together we worked on projects like remodeling the bathroom, painting the kitchen cabinets and counters, eventually, replacing the awful carpet with wood floors, updating hand-me-down furniture with fun Craigslist finds, and building the deck of Herm's dreams (in this case, the cobbler's family actually owns shoes).

Our house is cozy and welcoming. But sometimes I have a hard time remembering that.

It is small, and our family keeps growing. The cabinets and walls that looked so fine four years ago with their temporary improvements of paint and creative love have aged, a patina of finger prints and knicks and wear. It is easy to look around and see the imperfections, to look around and compare what I have with what everyone on Instagram has, it is easy to before I know it find myself discontent.

I don't have answers on how to always be content. That is not what this post is. But, I do have a few things I personally do to find contentment when I struggle with feeling lack in my home.

1. Look through old photos to see what our home looked like, and what it has evolved into.

It happened, a slow morphing process of time and creativity and resources, gradually forming into what it is now. In all honesty, I am so grateful we weren't able to do everything all at once before getting married. My personal style has morphed and changed with time. Looking through old photos I can see the love that was put into each and every step of the way. Our house isn't complete, and as long as we are living here, I don't think it ever will be. Isn't that beautiful?

(Want to see pictures from the early days? Click here.)

2. Learn to see beauty in imperfections.

Myquillyn Smith, from the blog The Nester, and author of the books, The Nesting Place and Cozy Minimalist Home, has a quote I love: It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. Finger prints, dinged drywall, paint chipping away from my counter top... it doesn't have to be perfect. It still is beautiful.

3. Allow change to happen.

I don't think contentment means that you can never improve on things. I always have a running list of things I'd like to change, implement or improve. I love putting thought and creativity into making our house not only functional, but also beautiful. However, it is important to be grateful for the process and to work within your means. Allow change to happen, but remember, it often happens slowly, and that's okay.

4. Be grateful.

When I am not feeling contentment, it is often because I don't feel gratitude for what I do have, or because I feel entitled to more. It helps me to make a list of the things I am grateful for when I feel discontentment creep in. 

5. Shop My Home First

And finally, when I feel discontentment creep in and linger around, I like to shop my own home first, before heading to the store. Often, freshening things up and rearranging a bit can make a space feel new and exciting without feeding the discontentment bug new things. And, if I am going to spend a little on something new, fresh-cut flowers, even though they wilt and fade, are a wonderful option for adding cheer.


Now it's your turn: Tell me how you work at feeling contentment in the house that you have.


4/9/19

The Friends + Family Event

There is some exciting stuff happening with Beautycounter this week, so if that interests you, keep reading!

Their rare Friends + Family event is going on April 9 - April 15, with almost everything marked at 15% off (some things, link product bundles, are excluded). I've heard that this event has only happened three times in six years.

In addition to their sale, I am hosting my launch social, and anyone who orders through the link I am going to share will be entered in to a drawing for some free Beautycounter product credit!

Are you curious? Shop this link, or reach out to me and I'd be glad to help you get started.

Have a wonderful day!