what I learned this winter.
rhythms, community, and investing in big art.
When I shared my current rhythms for reflection and planning, I mentioned that as part of my practice of reflection for each season, I write down the things I’ve learned over the last few months. Sometimes they’re big, and sometimes they’re small. Sometimes they’re profound, and sometimes they’re mundane.
Regardless of how profound or mundane the lessons are, it’s been such a good practice for me to reflect on what I’m learning because it reminds me that part of being a healthy person is remembering that I don’t know everything. No matter how old I am, no matter how much I’ve gone through, there will always be something new for me to learn, no matter how big or small, and that is a wonderful thing.
I’m also learning it’s best to make note of these lessons as the season progresses, and reflect on them together when the season comes to a close, otherwise there are some good lessons I’m bound to forget.
And because sometimes we learn things because other people learned them first, I’ve decided to make a practice of sharing with you each season some of the things I’ve been learning.
❄️ What I Learned This Winter
1. I don’t have to make the perfect decision that will last forever with all the things.
When I was expecting our son, I was bound and determined to find the best and most perfect of all the things, so we only ever had to buy one of whatever it was—one stroller, one diaper bag, one pump, one car seat, etc.
It took me a long time to put our registry together, and this need to get it perfect can often paralyze me when it comes to making decisions about other things in life (like, ahem, choosing a new platform for writing).
This winter taught me it’s okay if every decision isn’t the perfect decision for the rest of my life. Life changes, and with it our needs change, so what may have been the right decision in one season may not last forever and always, and that’s not just okay, it’s totally normal.
2. Related: It’s okay if I don’t get everything right on the first try.
It was a diaper bag that led to this and my first lesson of winter.
When I was putting together my baby registry, I fell into the trap of more money = better quality. This is sometimes true and sometime it isn’t. And sometimes, even the more expensive, better quality item isn’t the right fit for your needs or season.
After several months of using the fancy diaper bag I had convinced my husband would be the only diaper bag we’d ever need, I came to the realization that it simply wasn’t the best fit for our needs (cloth diapers take up way more space than disposable ones). So after some comparison and searching, I bought one for about 1/3 of the price and, lo and behold, it’s way better suited for our needs.
I was rather sheepish about this decision, especially admitting to my husband that the expensive diaper bag was not the only diaper bag we’d ever need. My husband gently reminded me that it was okay if I didn’t make every decision perfectly right the first time, and you know what? He’s right.
3. Lime sparkling water with lemonade is a delightful combination.
My sister-in-law and I had a productivity date together at Panera one Monday while our mother-in-law watched the boys. She introduced me to the combination of lemonade with lime sparkling water and goodness, is it delicious and absolutely delightful!
I mix two parts lemonade with one part lime sparkling water and it’s the perfect amount of sweet and tart, with that little bit of bubbly kick!
4. It’s worth it to take your time when decorating a space.
My husband and I recently celebrated two years of living in our condo. It’s the first time since 2008 that I’ve lived in any single location for more than 12-15 months. (Yes, I know that’s a lot of moves.) Because I only ever lived in places for an average of 12 months, I had gotten into the habit of what I call the military approach to decorating—in other words, get it done fast.
When you know you only have a limited amount of time in a space, you want it to feel “finished” and homey as quickly as possible, otherwise you never have the opportunity to feel settled. So that’s what I’d done for nearly 15 years.
But when we moved into this condo, I had something I’d never really had before—time.
Despite my natural inclination to get it done, I went slow. Over the last two years, I went room by room, decorating each space to completion, taking the time to figure out what works best in the space, and being okay with the unfinished nature of things in the meantime.
We are now 95% done with the entire place. Just a few throw pillows in the living room and some art on a couple more walls, and our home will be done (for this season, at least), and I have to say… the wait was worth it.
It was worth it to take the time finding the right rugs and chairs and shelves and curtains and other pieces that now make up our home. I am absolutely in love with the space we now have and I’m so grateful we’ll get to live in it for another few years.
5. Invest in the big art.
My go-to home decorating guru, Myquillyn Smith (aka the Nester), talks a lot about how it’s worth it to invest in the big art because a smaller number of large things makes a bigger impact than a larger number of small things.
When I was younger, I always gravitated toward the smaller art. Partially because it was less expensive, and partially because I never knew how much wall space I’d have in the next home and I didn’t want to spend tons of money on pieces I wouldn’t be able to use in a year.
In our playroom, we have one big blank wall and I decided to fill it with some big art—3 16x20 family photos inside frames that are 20x28.
They’re big and bold, and oh my goodness… was Myquillyn ever right. They make such an incredible impact and it’s one of my favorite walls in our entire home now.
6. Finding time to do the things that make you feel like yourself is so life-giving.
Maybe this should fall under the category of a no-brainer, but sometimes we have to relearn things through experience.
A couple of months after my son was born—once he got used to a bottle and I could leave him for more than two hours—I got back into the pattern of monthly reflection and planning. My husband would keep him a few hours on a Saturday morning or a weekday afternoon, and I would get out of the house and spend those few hours at a Panera (one of my go-to working spots since the college days) reflecting on the previous month and planning for the one to come.
When I stopped working full-time, my mother-in-law graciously offered to still watch my son for me every other Monday, allowing me time to do, well, whatever I wanted to. I’ve taken to camping out at Panera for several hours, using that time to write, read, learn, work on projects, and whatever else strikes my fancy on any particular day.
These things—reflection, planning, writing, learning—are all things that make me feel like myself. I’d been out of the practice of them for a while leading up to the birth of my son, and the slow return has reminded me just how life-giving they can be.
7. Community is absolutely essential for the creative.
Back in January, I made the leap to finally join Exhale, a community for creative mothers created by the women of Coffee + Crumbs.
It hasn’t even been two full months, but being part of a community of other creatives again has been so good for my heart. Whether it’s getting feedback on a piece, solidarity in an existential writing crisis, or simply having some others to bounce ideas off of and ask questions with… it’s something my writer heart has been missing over the last several years, and I’m so glad to have found it again.
8. Finding rhythms that fit your season of life is worth the effort.
At the end of January, I stopped working in an income producing capacity. It was a little weird at first (still is, if I’m being honest), but I was also excited about the possibility of being able to craft rhythms again without the constraints placed on me by my former job.
I wanted to use my time well and find the rhythms and patterns that allowed me to be present with my husband and son, accomplish all I needed to accomplish in my role as manager of our home, and still have time for rest and relaxation.
It took a bit of experimentation and tweaking, but I worked to figure out the best rhythm for our days and weeks in this particular season of life, and it’s been well worth the effort.
No individual week is perfect, but the weeks I follow the rhythm are by far better weeks than when I don’t.
9. I can still feel put together in leggings and loungewear.
I’m almost 14 months postpartum, and let me tell you… it’s been a struggle figuring out my “mom style.” Between pregnancy and early postpartum, I got really used to being comfortable literally all the time and basically living in leggings.
Even as my body has healed and returned to its pre-pregnancy size, I still gravitate toward leggings and loungewear more often than not. I felt bad about this and like it was something I should change because, even as a mom of a young child, I still wanted to feel put together.
Well, it hit me recently that leggings and loungewear don’t mean I can’t feel put together. With the right fit and just a little bit of styling, I can be comfortable in my active role as a mom, while still feeling cute and put together even if I’m wearing leggings and tshirts day after day. (These leggings and this shirt are my current go-to.)
And if I’m being honest, whether or not I’ve showered and put on a little concealer and mascara has a much bigger impact on whether or not I feel put together than if I’m rocking leggings or jeans.
10. Do the things you need to do to feel the way you want to feel.
I first heard this mantra from Robin Long, founder of my online Pilates membership, Lindywell, and in recent weeks, I’ve been reminded just how essential it is.
It’s easy to fall into patterns of laziness. It’s easy to eat the junk food, hit the snooze button, or skip the workout in favor of another episode of your favorite show… but those usually aren’t doing us any favors.
When I take the time to get up early and start my day before my son wakes up, when I get down on my mat and spend the 15 or 20 minutes doing Pilates, when I brave the cold and go out for a walk, when I eat the fruit and whole grains instead of the junk… I’m reminded just how good they make me feel, even if the choice to do them isn’t always easy.
Stepping into spring, this is something I’ll be reminding myself of constantly, because often feeling better starts with the simple choice to do the thing, however hard, that we know will make us feel that way.
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These are just a few of the lessons I’ve been learning lately. What about you, friend? What are some things you learned this winter?
Can I just say that I love every single word you wrote? It’s like you’re speaking my mind! #1 is huge for me too because my brain tends to think, “Once I buy this, then I will be set for life and never have to buy it again.” I put way too much pressure on myself as a result.
Also, you’re inspiring me to write a piece on what I learned recently. Thank you for sharing your words!
Really appreciated your reflections, Sarah. I have an almost 3 year old, so not so newly postpartum anymore (but maybe we're always postpartum after we have a baby? ha) but I definitely related to so many of these.