life in a tiny apartment.

    February 20, 2017

    life in a tiny apartment | reading my tea leaves Tip #148: Illusions of sparsity.

    I have a theory that each of us, depending on our tastes, or habits, or customs, is comfiest with a particular ratio of stuff to space in the place we call home. Whether we live in 250 square feet or 2,500 square feet, I’d hazard the guess that we’d want that home to be more or less the same percent full. The theory goes that someone who likes a spare kitchen table top is going to like it as well in a spacious home as a tiny one. Someone who finds a certain kind of ecstasy in opening a closet and being able to move the hangers freely on the rod, is going to want to experience rapture whether the closet in question is tucked into a tiny space under the stairs or exists as a room of its own.  

    Everyone’s ideal ratio will be different and life in an imperfect world means that most folks won’t enjoy their perfect ratio all of the time. My point here isn’t about prescribing which percentage full is the right percentage full and then feeling miserable about our failures (though masochists, feel free), it’s about identifying what that percentage might be for me (or you), and trying to maintain it as best as possible. 

    The maintenance bit can be hard, especially for folks who cherish relative sparsity but who find themselves in a relatively small space. For one thing, ten books on a small shelf takes up a greater percentage of that space than ten books on a massive shelf and sometimes you have ten books to love, size of shelf notwithstanding. And then, of course, families grow and apartments do not. Apartments and houses and the places that most of us call home typically exist with firm, physical boundaries. No matter how much we might try to cram objects (or people) into our homes, it’s not bursting seams we come up against, but solid, immoveable walls. The ceilings only go up so high and the walls extend only so far. 

    I write about the concept of gatekeeping quite a bit in my book, so I’ll try not to rehash that all here, but welcoming a fourth human into our home has gotten me thinking about how to honor my own limits for filling up a space while making sure we have what we need for a growing family. An infant is a tiny human with mostly tiny needs. For the moment, we haven’t really had an onslaught of anything but dirty laundry. (And we wouldn’t want to throw the literal or figurative baby out with the bath water.) Still, honoring my ideal percent-full requires a certain amount of vigilance and a certain amount of creativity. 

    Rather than only abandoning boxes of belongings or children curbside, as we navigate this latest transition, the most helpful practice has been revisiting what we keep where. There are places in our apartment where I prefer a far smaller ratio of stuff to space and others that I don’t mind having more filled. Over the past month I’ve done some shifting around, filling up some small corners of the apartment, while choosing to maintain the sparsity that I find calming in other, more visible or frequently used places. I can live with a kitchen table that has a pair of candlesticks on it, and maybe a small vase of flowers, but add much else and I start to feel crowded. Give me a lamp and a book on my bedside table and I’ve hit my percent-full limit. But where there’s a door to close, on spaces like closets and cabinets, I can squeeze in more without feeling squeezed myself. I don’t mind so terribly, for instance, when a linen closet shelf gets filled to the brim with cloth diapers, but I do mind when a dresser drawer becomes impossible to open. Cramming baby bottles onto a shelf already full of cups makes the space feel chaotic, but rearranging the contents of the cabinet to make a dedicated space for bottles, and I can breathe easier, even if that cabinet is more full than I’d otherwise hope.  And if moving another wine crate under the bench means maintaining a neat entryway and gaining easy access to the diaper bag, and swaddles, and baby wraps at the same time, well then I’ll take it. Everything’s temporary, anyway.

    my week in objects (mostly).

    February 17, 2017

    five little things that made my week.

    1. this book.a separation| reading my tea leaves

    {for keeping my attention.}

    2. this chalk.chalk | reading my tea leaves

    {for offering beauty even in broken bits.}

    3. this napkin.napkin | reading my tea leaves

    {borrowed from a friend when i forgot a burp cloth. thank goodness for the cloth and the company.}

    4. this snuggly thing.snuggly | reading my tea leaves

    {for keeping a little guy cozy during a cold week.}

    5. this wooly gift.felt ring | reading my tea leaves

    {infused with a little lavender for peaceful night sleeps.}

    other things:

    this genius idea (via of a kind).

    microbes, a love story.

    to admit that you can drown in motherhood…

    fear is boring.

    a hot chocolate stand.

    on being black and pregnant.

    heading to seattle in april. starting a list of places to eat visit. tell me everything!

    habit shift: pay for real news.

    February 14, 2017

    news_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_6882Growing up, endeavoring to start a neighborhood newspaper was a fairly common pastime for me and my sisters. Struck by an urgent need to report on bunny rabbit sightings or baby squirrel nests, we’d pull sheets of paper out of the legal-sized tray in the enormous photocopying machine in my dad’s home office. In between wasting toner making copies of our grubby handprints, we’d get scissors and rulers and rolls of Scotch tape to cobble together a masthead. It was rare that we had more news than would fill the front page and so stories were mostly given equal weight: there were investigations of the builders digging foundations at the old farm across the street next to reports of daffodil blooms astride birthday party announcements. Our delivery route was stymied by the fact that we lived on the busy main thoroughfare through town and so we mostly made deliveries to our immediate neighbors, or stuffed animals, or our obedient parents. Everyone was expected to pay a penny per paper. All sentient beings complied.

    When you are not a seven-year-old, convincing someone to pay for something they think they should get for free becomes more difficult. And changing your own mindset regarding doling out additional pennies might be even tougher. But this year, I’ve embraced paying for the news I read, more than ever.

    Living in the United States at this particular moment means having at least a cursory familiarity with the term ‘fake news’. Originally used predominately to describe the preponderance of false news stories disseminated—wittingly or unwittingly, with effect on the election, or not—on the internet during the presidential campaign, the term has been lobbed back and forth by people calling all manner of news fake, whether or not it is.

    As we have in the past, and as we likely will in the future, we currently face an administration that casts doubt on the work of journalists. Saddled with a government that’s demonstrated in just a few weeks that they’re willing to weave lies about any manner of topics, we need to rely more than ever on the brave folks whose job it is to seek out the truth and tell us about it. Without real news, and with accusations that all news is fake news, our compass gets thrown out of whack. We become suspicious. We begin to doubt everything we hear. We become vulnerable and, without being even slightly hyperbolic, so does our democracy.

    We need the work of journalists who have decided that rather than just digest the news over their morning coffee, they’re going to seek it out at the source. We count on them to dig deep, to show up, to investigate goings-on from smack dab in the thick of them so that the rest of can burn our tongues on coffee and sputter through the offending bits of reportage from the relative comfort of our breakfast tables, or beds.

    We need a free press, but that press isn’t free. It needs resources and to put it quite bluntly, we need to pay for it. I’ve had a paper or digital subscription to the New York Times from the moment I had my own apartment, but this year I’m also paying for subscriptions to The Washington Post and The New Yorker. I’ve made donations to my local NPR station. Supporting sites that are predominately reader-supported instead of ad-supported means ensuring the survival of publications striving to avoid commercial conflicts of interest. Democracy Now, and Bitch are both ad-free, not to mention the not-exactly-newsy, but nevertheless soul-affirming, Brain Pickings

    Here’s my bit of encouragement that some of you might also be able to also support the news in this way. Whether it’s paying for a digital or print subscription to a paper, buying movie tickets to a documentary film, pledging a donation to a local radio or television station, throwing a few pennies the way of your favorite podcast or newsletter, helping to support the folks making great media is the surest way to ensure that we stay informed and stay engaged, and not just about neighborhood bunny sightings. Though those are nice to know about, too.

    What about you guys? What news sources do you subscribe to?

    (PS. If you’d rather spend Valentine’s Day thinking about love stuff, here’s some newsprint used for a different kind of message.)

  • soup_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_6858

    my week in objects (mostly).

    five little things that made my week. 1. this honey jar.{filled up with soup.}2. these coloring pages.{because people are creative and good.} 3. these swatches.{for helping me narrow choices. none of the above ended up being…

    February 10, 2017 13 Comments
  • self_care_two_ways_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_6838

    self-care, two ways.

    It’s February in the year 2017 and if ever there was a time for acknowledging that we need to be gentle with ourselves, it seems this is it. Self-care is having a moment, you…

    February 6, 2017 21 Comments
  • print_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_6819

    my week in objects (mostly).

    five little things that made my week.1. these peaceful bums.{all framed up and on display.}2. this tiny table.{and chairs. for offering a place to play.}3. this little bud. {for opening.}4. this bandana.{for being so good at…

    February 3, 2017 15 Comments
  • flowers_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_6775

    my week in objects, mostly.

    five little things that made my week.1. flowers.{delivered to my door. not once, but twice. an embarrassment of riches.}2. blocks.{and the papa in our house playing with them.}3. old things in new places.{apartment rearranging…

    January 27, 2017 38 Comments
  • baby proof: postpartum rest and recovery.

    Suffice to say, I’m not a medical professional. I’m not an OB or a midwife. I’m not a trained doula, or a lactation consultant. The two births I’ve witnessed have been my own. The…

    January 26, 2017 83 Comments
  • overall_reading_my_tea_leaves_IMG_6640

    my week in objects mostly.

    There are so many objects in the week after a baby arrives that feel monumental: the burp cloth that arrives at the right moment; the trio of ibuprofen handed over with a cup of cold…

    January 20, 2017 13 Comments