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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Adopting Minimalism: 7 Weeks of Change

This spring has been the most productive season I have ever had in terms of personal growth. Over the past 7 weeks I have been going through a massive personal change involving simplicity and frugality. I have been taking steps to be a more practical and happier person, and I'll share with you how that has affected my life since late March.

I have decided to adopt a minimalist mindset. I'm not interested in selling all my personal belongings and living out of a white box, but I am in the process of going through my entire home and reducing clutter.
  • I started with my closet by getting rid of clothes that don't fit me, that I don't wear, that are stained or ripped beyond repair, and so forth. I was able to purge 3 (or more) full garbage bags of clothing.
  • I then went through my shoes and our hallway closet. I couldn't even tell you what I got rid of because I actually don't remember.
  • My little office space in our foyer was next. I donated any non-reference and non-classic books, went through paperwork, picked my favorite decoration to leave on top, and now my desk is clutter-free. I decided that the only physical books I will buy from now on are classic novels and all other books will either be rented from the library or bought as an e-book. 
  • I have taken 2 car-loads to Goodwill and donated a bag of really nice items to someone I knew. My donation helped keep people employed, avoided putting things in landfills, and will make for a nice tax deduction!
Adopting a minimalist mindset has also (inadvertently) transferred into spending less money. Since I have adopted this mindset, my husband and I have extra money in our bank account due to both of us adopting frugality, inspired by minimalism. Basically, any time I want something I second-guess myself and usually opt out. I also found an alternative to the lady products I was using (click the link to read more), and that has already saved me $25.00 or more in one month. My next battle is avoiding going out to eat.

After a rough winter, it's been very hard to get back to a workout routine. I recently took my mountain bike out for the first time since before I was pregnant with my daughter, and it was a great experience that inspired more outings.

I've also reduced the amount of makeup I wear. I went through all my makeup recently and cut down my collection to 2 eye shadow pallets, 4 eyeliners (which is actually a lot, so I have to work on that) and 2 mascaras. For face coverage I use a light CC cream and translucent setting powder. I wear makeup 1/3 of the time. I have reduced the amount of makeup I wear from 7 days per week to 2-3, and I wear sunscreen every day.

Blue Lotus Farm & Retreat Center - Pavilion
With working for a religious institution paired with meditation and prayer practices, I have been growing spiritually and I absolutely love it. Being a birth doula and living the doula lifestyle has fit well with my spiritual and minimalist lifestyle. I have merged spirituality with fitness by starting to practice yoga again, and last weekend I was treated to a retreat for Mother's Day by my parents. The retreat lasted roughly 4 hours and was at Blue Lotus Farm and Retreat Center. It was a great escape, and my mother and I are planning more events like that to enjoy together.

The biggest improvement above all is my stress and anxiety level. I can't describe how difficult this past winter was in relation to stress, and the state of our home didn't help. The truth is that my husband, daughter, cat, and I live in a small duplex where simplicity is a welcomed necessity. Since reducing how much we are bringing into the home and since purging unwanted and unused items, I have felt as though a heavy weight has been lifted off my chest. It's a magical feeling.

The inspiration for this change came from my husband, first, and also from Ariana Schwarz, the blogger of Paris-To-Go. I was introduced to her blog and minimalist lifestyle through a podcast by Kimberly Wilson, a multi-talented wellness professional whose products I adore. I have also been inspired by Joshua Backer, the blogger of BecomingMinimalist, and my two favorite subjects to dive into now are minimalism and birth. The book I'm currently reading is Secrets of Simplicity by Mary Carlomagno, and so far I love it. It's exactly what I'm looking for in non-fiction at the moment. I have also been influenced by House Hunters International (which I find pretty funny as a piece of influence) and the theology of various faith traditions.

Friday, May 8, 2015

That Kind of Parent

(This post was also featured in Mothering the Mother, Inc.)

In my (embarrassingly) naive youth I remember thinking about how when I became a mom I never wanted to let myself go. I heard horror of stories of people—usually women—who stopped caring about their appearance once they became parents.

The other day when I was looking at myself in the mirror I noticed a drastically different person staring back at me. My face was bare, with the exception of my naturally flush cheeks and freckles, and my eyes were puffy as if I hadn't gotten enough sleep despite a perfect 8 hours the night before. My hair was thinner, and shorter, yet still soft and wavy. I didn't look run-down--I looked mature, and my untouched skin hasn't looked this healthy since I was a kid. However, all these aspects of my appearance would have caused my former 19 year-old self to think that I had become that parent and let myself go. Have I?

If choosing to be content and confident with how I look without makeup makes me that parent, then yes.

If choosing to cut my hair out of change in thickness and for a more mature style makes me that parent, then yes.

If choosing to ditch certain facial peels because of chemicals makes me that parent, then yes.

If choosing to quit tanning because it could give me the skin cancer I’m susceptible to makes methat parent, then yes.

If choosing to play with my child all day and cuddle with her part of the night, which in turn exhausts me, makes me that parent, then yes.

Perhaps it isn't that parents let themselves go; perhaps the reason for their changed appearance has more to do with instilled confidence in their new lifestyle and coming to a mature understanding of what actually matters in life. That may not be the case for all parents, but that’s the case for me, and it might be the case for you, too.

Now I often ask myself, "Do I want to spend an hour doing my hair or makeup, or do I want to spend an hour cooking and eating a healthy breakfast?" Some days I do both because I want to, but on the days I don’t feel like wearing makeup I skip that part of my routine without a flinch. Becoming a parent has made me more practical and grounded. My body has changed, but I feel empowered and beautiful without makeup and with a touch of Moroccan Oil to scrunch my hair.

I guess I have become that kind of parent. Who knew it could be so liberating?

Happy Mother’s Day,
Samantha Heckert
Birth Doula at Mothering the Mother, Inc.
Mommy to Audrey Aliana

Saturday, April 11, 2015

New Post & Links!

I posted as a contributor to the Mothering the Mother, Inc. blog! Click HERE to read my blog post on postpartum blues and depression.

If you like my posts on birth, parenting, postpartum, et cetera, check out these other posts of mine.

That Kind of Parent (featured at the Mothering the Mother, Inc. blog)

Audrey's Birth Story & My Rite of Passage

Catching Up with Chipmunks and Vomit

Our Experiences at the BWF Chicago Conference

Postpartum Journal: Month 9

and many others...

Click HERE to follow Mothering the Mother, Inc. on Facebook

Click HERE to be directed to the official website of Mothering the Mother, Inc.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Blue Journal: The Affair with Social Media

Journaling has been a hobby, therapeutic activity, and personal experience of mine since I was in third grade. It was in the third grade (which was quite possibly my least-favorite year of my whole childhood existence) that the blue journal was gifted to me. I had been yearning to have a journal FOREVER, it seemed, and one day, finally, after several months of envying Harriet the Spy and every other independent girl, my gorgeous blue journal with golden-edged pages was within my grasp. The smell of the new paper gripped me instantly, and I carefully numbered each and every page's lower corner with a pencil. I traced the Asian designs on the inside cover of the book. There were so many possibilities. That's when my relationship with writing took a turn from academic to personal. 

There were several more journals after my relationship with Blue Journal. Blue Journal was my first. Oh, if I must guess, I have to say I have filled 37 journals in my 26 years of existence. Journaling has been my constant. She is an old friend that I turn to after a rough day at school, work, or with a friend, but during college that intimate relationship changed.

In 2008 I registered with Facebook, my first social media account. I went from journaling once per day to once per month at best. Suddenly, my need to express how I felt on paper was diluted by a desire to share my thoughts, dreams, and opinions openly and publicly among friends, family, and some internet acquaintances. I would love to say that my habit wasn't affected by the grips of social media, but I won't lie. It was.

I'm glad that I'm now comfortable enough with my Self that I'm able to thoughtfully and maturely express my opinions, but as I'm growing as a woman I have come to the realization that there's something to be said about having a private space to be yourself truly, completely, and privately.

When I write, I go a place that's magical. That place is within me. If I can't retreat to a place where I am not being judged or ridiculed, then I can never relax and simply be me. My journal is a place where I can share my truest feelings; I believe that in order to be taken seriously and preserve our professional appearances we must edit our online posts to some degree. When I'm writing in my personal journal, I do not give myself the same restrictions. I write freely and passionately--fictionally and non. I find it funny how a recap of my day can turn into a fictional story of two runaway princesses who suddenly find themselves in the wilderness of a mystical land fighting robbers, hunting elk, or something else...

Today, I'm challenging myself to start journaling again. I'll write down the silly stuff like what I had for dinner, what my daughter said to a random stranger at the store, or how I am feeling about my life and relationships. I'll document my ambitions, personal and professional, and I'll write a fictional story that has nothing to do with my day. I'm not ready to let go of this relationship with writing. Social Media Accounts, I'm not ready to take a break, but perhaps you should take the back burner for a while.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Life: Passionately

I normally keep my creative work private. I tuck pieces like this away in my sacred journal with no plans of sharing, but I think many will benefit from this simple message. It came from my heart and took only 15 minutes to appear on paper. Here is a creative piece of writing by me, Samantha Heckert, called Life: Passionately.

Life: Passionately
By Samantha Heckert
When those who are weak in character meddle with your happiness,
Live Passionately.

When negative thoughts consume your mind,
Live Passionately.

When winter is relentless, and darkness invades your space,
Live Passionately.

When your spirit is crushed and hopelessness appears,
Live Passionately.

When you have nothing more to give to yourself,
When you have nothing more to give to your family,
When you have nothing more to give to others,

Give More,

And Live Passionately.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving and the holiday season is a wonderful time for reflection, but we shouldn't make this the only time we are thankful for what we have! I challenge you, as I'm challenging myself, to set time aside every day and be thankful for something. 

Do you have a private journal? If not, perhaps you should think about starting one. Journaling can be a safe and therapeutic way to relax. It's also a wonderful tool to use when you need words of encouragement. Use your journal to read about a time when things were different in order to lift your spirits or be thankful for your life in the present.

Challenge: Write down the things you're thankful for each year, and compare them to the year prior. What's different? What changed? Here's my list. I'm starting this year, too.

In 2014, I am thankful for...
My Family. Being a mom can be difficult, but the reward is amazing. I'm also grateful to have a supportive husband and best friend. My parents, brothers, and niece are a huge part of my life, and I'm happy to be living closer to them this year.  

My job. Since beginning my work as a Christian Educator, I have the opportunity to make it part of my daily life experience to reflect. I'm also utilizing my degree, talents, and I'm growing as a professional. My love for teaching and confidence while leading is growing. It's awesome.

Being a Birth Doula and having an awesome support system of other doulas. As a birth doula, I meet and support women during one of the most important, challenging, life-altering, and spiritual experiences a woman can have. I am proud to be training with an organization that provides doulas, numerous other resources, and birth professionals for all women who want and need support.
My church. My family and I started attending our church shortly after I started a temporary position working there. We decided to become members, and I later moved into my current role. I can't say enough good things about our decision to join the United Church of Christ. One of my highlights from this past year is when my daughter and I were baptized together.

Good luck with your reflections!
May your holiday season be filled with joy and happiness.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Catching Up with Chipmunks and Vomit

Postpartum Journal: Month 12

Fall is quickly approaching, and in less than two weeks my daughter will be 12 months! Time is going by quickly, but so much has happened since her birth that I feel like there has never been a time where she wasn’t part of my life. My mind, body, and spirit balance is finally coming into place, and I’m feeling more like myself every day. Moderate exercise a few times per week, eating organic veggies daily, breastfeeding, connecting with other parents, and feeding my spiritual needs are all tools that are helping me be focused, happy, and present.

So much has happened since my last blog post! One of the biggest things that has happened in my life, aside from my baptism with Audrey--which was really awesome--is that I have started a new role in addition to being a doula. I am now the Christian Educator for a church in the United Church of Christ. I coordinate the Sunday School and other youth programs within the church, and I’m having a blast planning meaningful experiences for the little ones. Between my family, doula work, and fulfilling career I feel complete; yet sometimes I also feel overwhelmed and exhausted.

And that’s okay.

That’s okay because I know that I’m doing the best that I can. I understand that with great responsibility comes great stress and sometimes consequences. I believe that I am on a mission to make a difference in the world by making a difference within the small communities I am dedicated to. My community is a part of this world, and change has to start somewhere before it spreads.

  • I’m feeding the spiritual needs of children by introducing them to Jesus’ teachings.
  • I’m sharing my views of compassion and forgiveness with the next generation.
  • I’m advocating for better birthing practices for women.
  • I’m coordinating positive experiences for teens that they will remember for the rest of their lives.
  • I’m raising a kid. (Me! A kid! Agh!)

Life Isn’t Perfect, Nor Will It Ever Be

Just for fun, I would like to share two events from last week that happened with an hour apart from each other. I’ll share the second story first. While making my morning batch of coffee, I heard my cat, Duchess, running around the kitchen. I turned around, and I wasn’t sure of what I saw at first. She was holding something large in her her mouth, and it was dragging on the floor. 

This was a funny sight! Proudly, my little Duchess threw the thing at me, and it landed right next to my feet. She pranced around, purring, showing me her trophy. It was a chipmunk, and it was very much dead. My indoor cat caught a chipmunk! It was crazy. I went to grab some tongs to pick it up, but she threw it against the door, and blood somehow streaked on to the kitchen floor. I couldn't be mad, though. I was used to cleaning up Duchess’ messes by that time.

Earlier that morning I was reading on the couch, and I heard Duchess making a weird sound. I looked at her just in time to watch her projectile vomit all over the entertainment center and on to our white carpet. Awesome. I ran into the other room to grab some carpet cleaner and towels, leaving Audrey to continue playing with her dollhouse. From the other room I heard my daughter coughing. Afraid she was choking on something, I ran into the living room, and what I saw is a sight I will never forget. My petite blonde daughter was covered it cat vomit. She had two fists full of vomit, and--you guessed it--there was cat vomit all around her mouth.

Enough said.

As gross as that was, I had to find humor in the situation. If we’re unable to find the humor in daily setbacks, then we won’t survive. Life will never be picture-perfect, and that’s okay. This is as close to perfect as it gets. Parenthood isn't easy, but the reward is great.

(Takes another sip of coffee. Picks off a cheerio from her lap. Takes a Tylenol.)

Until next time,