This month I'm participating in the #write_on campaign with the goal of writing a letter a day for the month of April. It was really fun to see all the activity on Instagram this week, and I'm so happy to have a bunch of letter writing compatriots this month. If you're not convinced about the benefits of writing more letters, then check this out. If you are, but you're short on inspiration or just looking for some ideas for what to write, then read on. I've got a month's worth of letter-writing inspiration for you.
1. Write to a friend who's kiddo has an upcoming birthday. Tell her she's doing a great job.
2. Drop a couple of stickers / a bookmark / a journaling card (i.e. something light and flat) into an envelope with a little note and send off a mini-gift to a friend.
3. Send a note to someone you admire online (look for a PO Box on their website or email them and ask).
4. Write to a niece / nephew / friend's kiddo. Kids don't get enough mail!
5. Cut a recipe out of a magazine (or print one online) that you recently made and send it to your mom / aunt / grandma and let them know you thought they might like it.
6. Write a note to your kiddo's principal / teacher / head of school. Those folks get a lot more criticism and complaints than praise.
7. Write a note to your mail carrier and tape it to your mailbox. Do you know your carrier's name? I met ours (Terry) this winter, and now he always knocks if he's delivering something fun.
8. Write to someone far from home: traveling or living overseas, in the military, Peace Corps, on mission, etc.
9. Write to a grandparent with updates on your life.
10. Write to a friend you haven't seen in awhile.
11. Send a joke to your sister / brother / friend.
12. Buy a postcard in a local shop or drugstore and mail it to someone who's moved away to let them know your city / town misses them.
13. Write a note to your significant other and hide it in their car / bag / coat pocket. It took Nick like four days to find the last one I wrote him!
14. Send a note to celebrate an anniversary (figure out who in your family knows these dates!).
15. Check your calendar on Facebook - it should list your friends' birthdays. Send a card to someone this month who isn't expecting it.
16. Write to a family friend who knew you as a child. Let them know what's happening with you - maybe even enclose a recent photo of your family.
17. Send a note to a friend and enclose a stamped, addressed envelope or postcard to be sent back to you.
18. Write a note to someone you know who's pregnant and wish her well.
19. Celebrate a friend's recent accomplishment (running a half marathon, getting a promotion at work, etc).
20. Send another thank you for a gift you (or your kid) received letting the gifter know you're still using and loving it.
21. Write a thank you note to a doctor / dentist with whom you recently had a check-up thanking them for the visit.
22. Along those lines, write a note to a doctor you had to see awhile ago. Send them an update (Moms: I'll bet your OB would love to see a recent pic of that baby they delivered a few years ago!).
23. Send a note to your elementary school letting them know where you are today and what you're up to, or send a note to a specific teacher if they're still at the school.
24. Write to a co-worker or friend congratulating them on a recent professional accomplishment.
25. Send a new mom a note of encouragement.
26. Write (or email) someone who recently wrote an article or blog post you enjoyed.
27. Mail an old photo to someone - #tbt via snail mail (if they know what tbt is, then tell them to open it on Thursday!).
28. Buy a $5 gift card to a coffee shop and mail it to a friend.
29. Take one of the cards / pieces of stationery that has been sitting in your stash forever and send it to your best friend from high school.
30. Write a note to yourself. List all the things you want to have done this year. Seal it and write "open on new year's eve 2015" on the outside of the envelope. Tuck it in your night stand and put a reminder on your calendar for that day to check it. #motivation
Be sure to check out the write on campaign if you're interested in participating or my 350 letters project if you're new here. Are you up for writing more letters this month? Do you have any ideas for letters to write and send?
Hi friends. We just made it through a big milestone - year one with our second baby - and I wanted to share a little of our story and a few thoughts for moms. The little guy in these photos is our second baby, our second boy. He arrived last year, and immediately I knew the second baby was different. He was just easier, and looking back, it was because I was easier going, more relaxed, more confident about the whole thing, even though it wasn't particularly easy at the beginning.
|Owen in the hospital - day one / Hanging with an unshaven (and probably unshowered) Dad|
When Owen was eight days old, I ran a high fever. When it reached 104 degrees around midnight, we called an ambulance. I thought perhaps I was run down, but after multiple tests in the ER, the doctor told me at 5:00 am that I'd be admitted. They didn't know what was wrong with me. Four days later, I went home, and a week later, I was back in the hospital. After two months on antibiotics, I finally regained my strength, kicked the multiple infections my body was fighting, and got on with it.
|Holding Owen after my sister snuck him in to see me in the hospital / Heading home after three nights!|
In the midst of this, we had to see multiple doctors, including a pediatric ear nose and throat specialist, because Owen had a persistent rattling sound when he breathed. It turns out he has a relatively benign condition characterized by loose soft tissue around his voice box. It was collapsing in on itself every time he took a breath. Um... that didn't sound good. But the docs reassured us that he was getting enough oxygen, so we accepted that and kept an eye on him. He should grow out of it by the time he's two. In the meantime, we live with a very noisy breather.
I tell you all this not to elicit sympathy (believe me, I know many people endure far worse stuff than this in the early months of parenting), but to set up the punchline. We dealt with things for which we were totally unprepared this year. And yet, the crazy thing to me is that when Nick and I look back on it, we think "wow, that wasn't so bad."
|Watching him fall asleep - week one.|
Why? Because once we got through our first year with our first baby, we knew there was an end in sight. We knew we'd get through it. We had confidence that we'd sleep again. We'd feel normal again. I'd feel like myself again. I didn't have that with my first. I had no idea if or when our lives would normalize. This time around, even given the health struggles and the craziness of those initial months, I knew that barring anything catastrophic, we'd get through it. We'd figure it out. We'd get the medical and emotional help we needed, lean on friends for meals and babysitting, and move forward. Everyone's different, but for me that perspective didn't come with the first baby - it came with the second.
|Just snuggling - week one. This part really doesn't last long.|
So my advice to new moms is always "hang in there." Because sometimes, when you're holding a baby who's crying so hard because his skin hurts (our first) or you're so sick that you have to be hospitalized multiple times (me with our second) or nursing is incredibly difficult (our first) or your baby has a scary medical condition (our second), the advice to "sleep when the baby sleeps!" or "it goes so fast, just enjoy it!" isn't particularly helpful. Babies are such unique little creatures. They need help for everything - sleeping, eating, being. And their caregivers have to do all of that for them! It's hard work, and it's really hard to have perspective when you're in the middle of it.
|All dressed up for my best friend's nursing school graduation. Starting to feel human again. 8 weeks.|
So if you're a mom on your own, or you're married but your husband is deployed, or you're home on maternity leave, or you're caring for an adoptive newborn - welcome to motherhood. It is all of the things they say it is: rewarding, fun, full of love and dynamism. But those early weeks and months? They're hard and exhausting. They're filled with uncertainty and, for some of us, anxiety. Yes, there are incredibly exciting and sweet moments, tenderness and joy. But if you feel like doing the dishes instead of napping when the baby naps, then by all means do it - just don't overdo it.
Give yourself a break and hang in there. Your house will eventually look like it once did and your friends don't care if there's clean laundry in piles all over your living room (congrats on doing any laundry at all). You will be able to sleep again. You will figure out the laundry situation. And the reason moms say "just enjoy it!" is because it really does go as fast as they say it will. You just may not know it in the moment (I didn't). So try to hang in there - if it's hard now, it will change. It will get easier.
If you've been through this yourself, I'd love to know what your advice is to new moms. For my part, I'll just leave it at hang in there. xo, Catherine
Shortly before I had my first son, Ben, back in 2011, a friend of mine sent me this book. One of the chapters talked about baby photos. Two female pediatricians (and moms) wrote the book and basically said that you'll take thousands of pictures of your baby. Have a plan for what to do with them, or they'll live on your computer forever. I took that to heart and began doing a little research. I wasn't a scrapbooker, but when I stumbled upon project life and Becky Higgins, I was intrigued.
1 / I like the ability to document throughout the year, rather than all at once after everything has happened, although I guess you could take this approach with a photobook if you were pretty disciplined. I don't completely stay on top of it all, but I have been able to work on the album this whole first year, documenting things while they were relatively fresh. I think I'd be a lot more overwhelmed starting with month one and doing it all once. If I had to, I'd figure it out. But since I discovered this process, I'm happy to be documenting as we experience life (or pretty close to it, anyway).
2 / I like being able to include "all the things" - the hospital documents and wristbands, a doctor's note or a card from a relative, little physical things that help breathe life into a photo album or scrapbook. I don't use a lot of embellishment or get super-elaborate with the design, but I do like to include little bits of life here and there throughout the album.
3 / I love that it's a tactile album, made to be enjoyed by everyone. I have no problem handing my kids a project life album and saying "flip through it!" I've never done this with one of our photobooks. I don't want those pages to bend or tear or get dirty. Maybe that's a little rigid or paranoid of me, but when I've spent countless hours and over $100 on a photobook, I don't necessarily want my toddler playing with it unsupervised. But the plastic covers on our project life albums protect photos and memorabilia from sticky fingers and well-meaning, but sometimes rough, little hands. Ben is so curious about these albums, but he's never cared to flip through a photobook. Those are for me. This project feels much more about them. It's tactile and intimate, a little more informal.
I'm a couple months behind in Owen's baby album, and he turns one next week. I'm not stressed about it because I've made a huge dent in this project over the last year. I've automated a lot of the design process, included tons of journaling (something I wish I'd done more of in my first son's album), and kept track of all the major milestones. We're still waiting on the walking, but you'd better believe I'll capture it on my camera. I'm not exactly sure where I'll go from here with the documenting, but I'd be surprised if project life isn't a piece of the puzzle.
If you're a parent, how are you telling your little one's story? Did you do a baby album? A photobook? If you're not a parent but hope to be someday, do you have thoughts as to what you'll do?
I was in a little bit of a podcast rut a week ago, but thanks to some great suggestions from friends on Instagram and a little digging into iTunes, I'm back on the podcast train. Lately, I'm loving interviews, so I thought I'd share a few that have entertained and interested me - and they all happen to be with women. With themes like habits, simplicity, entrepreneurship, design, pop culture and discipline, I tried to include something for everyone. I hope you find at least one of these entertaining or thought-provoking - or both! I certainly did.
1. The Lively Show with Grace Bonney / I love Grace's refreshing attitude, her honesty and her take on the internet.
2. The Good Life Project interview with Gretchen Rubin / Gretchen literally wrote the book on happiness, but now she's talking about habits. Great interview that left me wanting to know more.
3. The Happy Hour interview with Jen Hatmaker / Jamie Ivey interviews her friend Jen Hatmaker, author and pastor's wife living in Austin (and now HGTV reality star). I read her book 7 a few years ago and loved it. She's funny and fun and a good time.
4. The Happy Hour interview with Jessica Honneger / Another Jamie Ivey interview, this time with the founder of Noonday Collection. It's a really interesting chat about being a working mom, entrepreneurship, and Jessica's business, which connects jewelry makers from around the world with a market in the US.
5. Here's the Thing interview with Lena Dunham / Whether or not you watch "Girls," this is a really interesting interview. I love hearing Lena's take on her show, the future of it, what makes it unique and what she thinks of the internet's impact on her generation. Really thoughtful.
6. One Part Podcast interview with Rochelle Billow / Rochelle spent a year living on a farm in New York. She fell in love and wrote a book. I had no idea who she was when the interview started, but I was completely fascinated by her candor. It made me want to read the book.
7. After the Jump interview with Genevieve Gorder / I'm a big fan of this podcast and I miss it now that Grace Bonney (the host) has moved on, but this podcast with Genevieve (of HGTV fame) was really interesting, thought-provoking and entertaining. If you're into design, this one's a must.
9. Raise Your Hand Say Yes interview with Stephanie Lee / I wasn't familiar with Stephanie at all, but I found myself really interested in this discussion about connection, distraction, procrastination and habit.
10. Elise Gets Crafty interview with Britt Alwerud / Maybe it's because my brother-in-law works in Silicon Valley, and I've been hearing about apps and start-ups for years so it's just interesting to me, but I was totally fascinated by this interview with such a savvy and ambitious young entrepreneur.
11. The Lively Show interview with Caroline Rector / Caroline's is the blog that spawned a million capsule wardrobes. This interview was my first introduction to her, and I've got it on my "listen again" list as I figure out what I'm wearing this spring. Love her simple, reassuring approach.
There are so many other great ones, but I wanted to keep this short and sweet. Have you heard any interviews recently that you'd recommend?
Hi friends! I spend a lot of hours every week in my little office, so I thought I'd share a peek in this space while I still have it. We'll be moving again this fall and I don't know if I'll have a space of my own in our next house. For now, I'm relishing it. I didn't have an office for the last four years, so I don't take for granted that I have a home for all of my stuff. In our last house all my work stuff lived in the sideboard under our TV and in an upstairs closet. It was a bummer. Now, I can walk away from my workspace in the evening, leave everything in place, and continue working in the morning. That definitely wasn't possible when I worked from our kitchen table.
I like filling a space with furniture, so my desk floats from a wall into the middle of the room. I have two chairs at the desk - one for me and one for a little boy who periodically sits in here and hangs out with me while I do some sketching or finish up work from the early morning hours. And occasionally, I get an even smaller visitor - an 11-month old rocking some major bed-head first thing in the AM. I learned early on that he's particularly fascinated by big spools of kitchen string. Needless to say, those have been relocated.
The office is right at the front of the house on a corner. It has two doors - one leads to the entry, one to the den. On the walls opposite the doors are two sets of big, beautiful windows. I could do without the mini-blinds, but they come in handy when I get afternoon sun in my face. Two sets of 3x3 cube shelves provide storage on the long wall opposite one of the windows, and my desk floats into the room right underneath the window you can't see in these pictures. I'm guessing the chandelier is original to the house. It's dark and bronze-y and it has two pineapples hidden in the post - a symbol of hospitality you see all over these homes in New England. I love it.
These days I use this space to work on design projects and personal creative stuff like Project Life. This week I'm working on two sets of custom wedding stationery and a project I'll be able to share more about in the coming weeks. I stepped away from doing custom work last year when we had our second baby, but it's really nice to be back doing it. Taking a break from something I'd been doing for so long (since 2008!) gave me a little perspective, and allowed me to hit the refresh button and come back with renewed energy, inspiration and creativity.
I've learned over the years that I really create best when I have no distractions. No TV, no music - just me and the sound of pencil scratching on paper or of my mouse clicking away. It's amazing to not have to do all of this in the kitchen or at Starbucks.
I love how bright this space is and I love its character: old window sills, a 70-year old chandelier, original wood floors and tall ceilings. It does its job - inspiring creativity - so I can do mine. It's also the perfect size for me - not too big, not too small. Anything larger would be overwhelming for me at this point. This is also the only space in the house that's just mine, and in a house full of boys, it's nice to have a place to put a pink flamingo, if you know what I mean.
Do you have a space that's your own? Where do you do your creative work?
When we made this last move to the east coast, we didn't really come up with a revised system for dealing with our incoming mail. I think some of it has to do with our new space. Okay, well it's not so new almost five months in, but you know what I mean. I'll spare you the gory details, but basically our mail was piling up on the little table we have in our tiny entryway. No one claimed responsibility. We pay almost all of our bills online, but Nick was snagging our utility bills from The Pile and making sure they got paid. I was grabbing catalogs when I wanted some reading material, and that's about it. In short, we'd accumulated a massive pile of unopened mail, and the time had come to deal with it.
We still get quite a bit of paper mail, even though we've automated most of it. Junk mail, catalogs, tax documents, coupons, snail mail. It all adds up like crazy. Nick and I talked about it, and we decided I'd go ahead and be responsible for the mail. I love organizing things and throwing things away is definitely in my wheelhouse. Done and done. So that was step one.
Step two was figuring out what we had. So I took the giant pile of mail we'd accumulated and made some smaller piles by category: for Nick, for me, shred, toss, file, respond, etc. I got online and signed up for electronic bills where I could and sorted the rest.
Step three was finding a home for everything. Catalogs live in two places in our house: either on a shelf in my office or on a side table in our family room. As new ones come in, I'm pretty good about tossing the old ones they're replacing. I keep coupons in a little drawer in our entry table. It's right between the office and the front door, at the foot of the stairs, so it's a spot we pass all the time.
In order to organize the remaining mail, I got this magazine rack. It was inexpensive, and not really intended for mail, but I love that it's white and that it hangs on the wall. I already had the little silver bookplates, which I just adhered to the mail organizer. The sections are labeled shred, Nick, Catherine, respond and file. Our shredder is upstairs in the guest room / Nick's office, and while he isn't super-passionate about decluttering, the man loves to shred junk mail with our address on it. Go figure. So that section is right next to his. Periodically, he'll grab those two, take them up to his desk and go through them. You can see this thing from our family room, which makes it easy for us to remember to take things upstairs as needed.
Anything that requires a quick reply goes into the "respond" section. Our personal sections are really for things that aren't urgent or that require us to make a decision: keep or toss. Bills go into the "respond" section. Cards or information stuff go into our personal sections. The "file" section is for things like the kids' bank statements, insurance paperwork, tax documents, medical stuff, paid bills, things we want to keep but don't require a response. Our file cabinet is upstairs, so when that section gets kind of full, I'll take it all up and file it away.
I got all the mail sorted (and shoved) into this thing and then we went through the sections, one by one. Actually the system seems to be working pretty well. At the very least there's a place to put everything. And when Nick came looking for the water bill yesterday, I knew right where it was. I'll call that a success. And it actually looks a little neater now that we've got through this stuff. It helps to break it down into categories so we're not just dealing with one big pile all the time.
I kind of feel like the last person in the 21st century to have a "mail problem." How do you manage paper clutter? Do you hang onto stuff in files? Or are you strictly electronic?