Saturday, March 31, 2012

Everyday Pool People

Posted by Amy Baranski
People are important. Who you see everyday, who you talk to, who rides the bus with you - you get the picture. Looking back on a relatively consistent month of going to the pool 4-5 days out of each week I feel that I've become a regular at Medgar Evers.

I'm relaxed going to the pool, checking in, and swimming. I now know a woman from class named Sally, and we chat. She has a cute hair cut and is super friendly. I know another girl named Shondralee (I think) she's newer than me and doesn't talk a lot but says "hi'. I know that one of my favorite Aqua Jog instructors went to Lincoln High School in Portland Oregon, and I  know that my other favorite instructor has two children of his own. I like seeing the familiar faces in class; it's an odd and interesting group of people. It's definitely a group of people I wouldn't mind being stranded with during a disaster. 

There was a time in my life where I was a regular at other establishments...don't get me wrong those were fun times...but I enjoy most the community of everyday people at the pool or other fitness-focused places. Since I'm not going to the Sweatbox during my pregnancy I miss seeing my everyday people there. Especially my yoga teachers Laura, Gary, and Franny who really helped shape my well-being. I can't wait to see them again post-birth. I miss the everyday faces of the regulars at the Sweatbox--although I couldn't tell you many of their names but I could tell you the tall gal in the front of class with tattoos all over is really amazing at standing bow.

Anyway, one of the unexpected delights of this month has been meeting a new set of people in Seattle. It gives me a different perspective on this town, and new perspectives are good. It's important to have regulars but it's also important to meet new people and keep it fresh. Stepping out of my comfort zone and trying water aerobics and lap swim for the first time helped give me a new perspective on people and this town. I look forward to spending the rest of my pregnancy with the pool people and getting to know them better. I can't wait to dive back in on Monday. What a great month!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring Minestrone with Turkey Meatballs

Posted by Melissa Baumgart
After a day of swimming and sweating, a hearty soup sounds so good.  Speaking of sweating, I think I am just as wet when I walk out of Bikram yoga as I am when I leave the pool, no joke.  Ok, back to food, and my apologies, My guess is that some people probably don't appreciate sweat and food in the same paragraph.  I did shower before I cooked, if that makes you feel more comfortable.  I know it made me feel more comfortable.  And smell better!

But what smelled even better was the aroma of the turkey meatballs I made browning in the skillet, while I prepared the beginnings of the soup.  I got the recipe from the most recent Bon Appétit magazine.  When I opened up the magazine, I realized I didn't have all the ingredients.  What's a recipe follower to do?  I didn't want to run out to the store, since I am really trying to only spend what I need to these days.  Talk about being a beginner!  When it comes to money, I am like a kid.  Money is for me to spend, share, and for all to enjoy.  If I have to do without something, it always feels imposed, and not like a choice to save.  I am working on learning how to be more thrifty, and to save more, while not losing that child-like sharing quality that I have around money.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Out of the Deep

Posted by Amy Baranski

I did it. I swam laps. In the lap lane. In the deep end of the pool. With other lap swimmers. And goggles! Again: I swamp laps. First time ever. For approximately 40 minutes.

If you didn't know lap swim intimidates me.

I intended to go to Aqua Jog. But I was running late. So I thought - eh maybe I'll lap swim. I know, I thought it would be more of an event too.

Melissa, and I recently ran into a friend at Medgar Evers who was there for lap swim on her lunch break. In fact she started swimming during her first pregnancy and swam throughout each one. It turned into a daily practice. Her tip: go to the noon class. The serious swimmers show up for the 6:30am workout. Noon time is more mellow.

The timing seemed perfect. 

I rode the bus to the pool. Instead of striding past the front desk as usual with my Seattle Parks and Recreation FAST pass I stopped and chatted with the clerk like some earnest college freshman. "I'm interested in lap swim."

What counts as a lap?

This question had been of much concern to me. Is it there and back or just from here to there?

"It's two complete lengths of the pool."

Swimming a mile?

"It means you've swam about 70 lengths of the pool."


I need goggles right?

The clerk smiled and said goggles are good, you know, so you don't crash into anyone. I looked for a pair. After she delivered all the goggle descriptions in excruciating detail I selected the clear ones. I have no idea what I bought. I think they are anti-fog.

During the transaction a tall crotchety woman interrupted us and urgently said she needed to get to the Aqua Jog class starting in six minutes. The clerk helped her out after a minor tete-a-tete over who was in line first. It was me. I was there first. But I didn't care.

Later in the locker room the tall crotchety lady dropped all her quarters. As I told her where they were she simply said "I have a bad back can you get them." Grammatically it was a question. But it was not a question!

I thought: if you just turned around you'd see that I'M PREGNANT OVER HERE. You know, maybe my back doesn't feel so hot either. But I bent down and handed them to her anyway. Her gaze skimmed the top of my head and with blood shot eyes and decaying teeth she muttered: "That's why I'm here; I have a bad back."

It was a despairing mutter. I felt sorry for her, but a little irritated. Hormones. I smiled, somehow genuinely.

Why are swim caps so impossible?

I must have a big head. I suited up, wet my hair, struggled to put the swim cap on top of my head, fiddled with the goggles, and pinned my locker key to my suit. I looked in the mirror and watched the swim cap pull at my roots and slowly inch upwards to finally pop off my head taking the goggles with it. I shoved them back down over my ears. I showered and exited the locker room.

I felt ready. Here I am lap swim. Here. I. am.

Facing my fear.

I grabbed only a kick board feeling too intimidated to grab flippers as well. I love flippers. I used them for the first time in the Pacific Ocean during snorkeling last summer. Flippers are the best. For some reason they seemed like too much for this first lap swim attempt.

When I try something new, why do I feel as though everyone is staring at me, like I'm the 6th grade transfer student standing in front of class with my fly down?

I surveyed the lanes. The very easy lane (yes it is labeled that) was gone. They pulled it to make room for the Aqua Jog class. And the easy lane had one person in it. That seemed okay to me. I walked to the edge of the pool, laid down my kick board, and jumped in.

As soon as I hit the water...

...the locker key unfastened itself from my suit and melodramatically sank to the bottom of the pool. Twelve feet deep. There's no way I can dive that deep. And even if I could, or if I tried, it would look like I was drowning. This is the last thing I needed. I worried about this for several minutes while fidgeting with my goggles. How was I going to get the key? How are these goggles supposed to fit? I'd think of something. I better start swimming and stop stalling. I pushed off from the wall.

I've never swam with goggles save for snorkeling--but a mask is different.

You can see everything! It changes the whole experience of swimming. There's a whole world under there of weightless bodies and the pool floor. You can see precisely where the pool drops into the deep end. My heart fluttered a little knowing that part was coming up. Even though the wall stood immediately to my right I felt scared, like I might sink, as my nephew would say. I sink Aunty Mimi. I sink.

I started out with a freestyle stroke.

I never know which way to turn my head. I naturally turn to the left mostly. Breathing is difficult. How many strokes do I take with my arms before taking a breath? One? Two? Breathe. That seemed right. Do I keep my chin down? How do I gulp air and not water. I gulped water and spat it out. Start over. My goggles became unsealed--a rush of water filled my left lens. I swam one-eyed from 7 feet to the 5 foot mark. Finally the wall. Rest. That was only a half a lap. I turned around to finish.

On lap two I switched to breast stroke.

For yet another full lap! Wow. I'm totally doing this, I thought. Would it be super lame if I got out of the pool after two laps? It was time for the kick board. I alternated freestyle, breast stroke, kick board, and rest during each half-lap turn. Others did somersaults and swam around like fish.

Twenty minutes into my exercise, after loosing count of my laps, I worked up the nerve to talk to the lifeguard about the key situation. He gave me a look of pity. Then he offered to dive down and get it for me. I felt like an nonathletic super nerd. I showed him the key and he dove down all life-guardy and surfaced with it. Phew. Crisis averted. Man those life guards must have amazing lung capacity!

I stayed almost as long as Aqua Jog.

My swim lasted about 40 minutes. I swam consistently, with rests no longer than one to two minutes. I left when the Aqua Jog class neared its end. As I got out of the pool I had sea-legs. I don't get that from Aqua Jog (yet). It felt good.

I can't believe I did it. Yeah I was in the easy lane. Yeah I didn't do any flip turns. Yeah the other easy lane swimmers were more confident than me and had more endurance. But their form wasn't all that. Plus, I'm pregnant! (Gosh I love the sound of that).

So I'm feeling pretty good about the whole experience and I think I'm going to get into lap swimming. I even re-upped my FAST Track card for April. I love having a physical challenge, and I have one to look forward to. I think of myself as in training. Training feels good. Training feels right. And, by the end of it, who cares if I swim off key or if I'm too slow for the other swimmers. Where I'm at is just fine with me.


Beginner Mind

Posted by Melissa Baumgart

In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few. 
-Shunryu Suzuki 

Today I completed day four of the water aerobics and Bikram yoga week.  A week of ME time, since I am off of school and my kids are all in school!  A week of taking care of myself by jump starting my weight loss goal with a five day physical fitness regimen that my body has not seen the likes of in quite some time.

I am pleased to say that yoga has been a joy.  The last time I tried to go back after a hiatus, my body couldn't do certain things.  I couldn't grab the back of my heels in the Pada-Hasthasana part of the half-moon series.  I couldn't hold onto my knee during the final spinal twist.  This time around, I can do all these things again, and it feels great!  The shocker is still the fact that in Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose, my head is so far from touching the floor.  When I was doing my thirty day challenges, I remember the day I finally touched my head to the floor, and now I have so far to go...again.

It is a good reminder.  In life, we often have to start over at something.  Or simply start something new, and we find ourselves in that beginner role again.  Don't forget that being a beginner has a beauty too.  Steve Jobs had a thought provoking quote on being a beginner, he says, “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” – Steve Jobs

What can come from being a beginner again in my life?  In your life?  I just want to make sure that I can feel that lightness of being, and not the critical voice of wishing I were already in a more advanced place.  Wishing I were in a place that I am not.  Maybe if we can remember that we are right where we need to be - no matter how far our head is from the floor at yoga class, or what job we lose, or what weight we are - maybe then we can touch that creativity that nourishes us to reach our goals and beyond.

So, for now, if you are a beginner at something...breathe, right where you are.  Exhale and know it will all be OK.

Learning to be right where I am is an ongoing lesson.  Thanks for all your inspiration along the way.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Excited, but Detached

Let go, and soar high.
Posted by Melissa Baumgart
The beginning of a journey can be exhilarating.  There is hope and promise, and not enough time to have the thoughts that tempt you into giving up on those things.  I have a saying that I use quite often in life, "Excited, but detached."  When I am working toward something in life, I try to keep my mind in the excited stage, without getting too attached to any one outcome.

In my mind, setting a firm goal, and keeping only that one goal in your mind's eye, can be limiting.  With a weight loss goal, I find this particularly challenging.  I have a number I have chosen, 26 pounds.  But I have to look further, and dig past what the number represents.  On a deeper level, what I am really setting my goal for is to find my healthy, fit weight.  140 pounds is just a number that I have felt pretty fit at in previous years.

I am going to attempt to stay enthusiastic.  I am going to ride the waves of feeling down, or feeling like progress is not happening, knowing they won't last forever.  I am going to keep my goal ahead of me, and yet stay open to the possibility of even more.  Of learning more about health, and the wealth it can bring to my life.  Of learning more about my body, and how to love myself.  Of learning acceptance.  And if I lose more than 26 pounds, that's OK too.

What I long for more than anything, is to have a healthy relationship with food and with my body.  To keep making myself a priority.  To be able to eat a cheeseburger and fries and not go overboard, stuffing myself until it hurts.  I am more important than those last five bites of poutine.

I am reminded of what people say about quitting smoking.  That for some people it takes many times, and each time you practice quitting, you get better at it until you're finally completely done.  For me, quitting smoking many years ago was easy.  But my relationship with food, something that you have to eat everyday, is proving to be much more difficult.

I am willing to practice this thing called health as long as it takes.  Healthy living on so many levels.  I am making a promise to stay excited but detached, in regards to the outcome.  Who knows what amazing things lie ahead as I go through this journey with myself.  I don't want to let my limiting goal of a number hinder the world of possibilities open to me!

Today was day three of water aerobics and Bikram yoga.  I am finding that as hard as it is to walk when I get out of bed in the morning from my muscles being so sore, the water exercise really helps loosen things up.  And then in the yoga room, just as I think my arms couldn't possibly do another set of half-moon pose, after a quick rest, the heat has done its magic and I am able to continue on.  Today's class was hot, very hot, but it felt incredible.  I rested when I needed to and I didn't judge myself, I just kept repeating, "I am a beautiful person."

And when I stood there in front o that unforgiving mirror, it gave a little, it was forgiving, and I saw before me a beautiful person.  And I smiled just a little.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pregnant Melinda's Next Move

Posted by Melissa Baumgart (aka Melinda)
Begrudgingly, I went to hot yoga yesterday.  I was seriously in tears the night before.  I didn't want to shove what I perceive as my chubby body into the tight yoga clothes I used to wear...and stand next to my very fit friend I was invited to go with.  I always hate that this is an issue with me, but it is.  It is ever present.  I believe at this point, that it is more about my mental state of being, and less about the way my body looks.  I would venture to say that it is a state of mind that many women drift towards; some more, some less.

The fact that I love my friend so much, and want to spend time with her, trumped my negativity.  I showed up at the 9:30 am class, nervous, but ready to sweat.  It was difficult, but not nearly as hard as I had anticipated.  The class postures were just as I had expected, 26 poses and two sets of each, and that was a comfort.  The discipline of the form relaxed my fears.  What I didn't expect was the scale in the corner of the bathroom.  Tempted as I was before class, I did not step on it, for fear that the number would haunt me the entire class.  I knew didn't need the extra mental pressure.

After class, though, curiosity won.  I stepped on the scale.  166.  It's not my top weight, but it is up there.  On the BMI calculator, I qualify as overweight, by 3 tenths of a point.   I am 25.2, and normal range is from 18.5 to 24.9.  The calculator I used allows you to set goals, and gives you caloric requirements per day to achieve those goals.  I set my goal to lose 2 pounds per week, and reach a final weight of 140.  That should take 13 weeks.

I have done this before.  Two years ago, I lost 30 pounds.  I know I can do it.  But it is scary to publicly set forth a goal like this.  And it's a little humbling to have worked so hard for something and then realize you chose to let it slip away.  My mind races with questions.  What if I don't follow through?  What if I fail?  What if I succeed and then give ti all away again?  What if...?

I would venture to say that my larger fear is that I will meet my goal and still be in this mind frame.  That I will still see my problem areas as if they are highlighted in bold print.  My simple task in this area is going to be as follows:  As soon as I hear that inner voice being critical, I will say to myself, "You are a beautiful person."  Simple.  We all are, right?  Who am I to argue with that.  Beauty, after all, is more than skin deep.

In order to kick start this goal, and since I have the week off of school, I am devoting my free day time to ME TIME!  Everyday this week I will go to water aerobics and Bikram yoga.  I will turn down the potato chips and french fries and opt for kale and almonds.  And every time I am critical of myself when I look in that unforgiving mirror at yoga class or in the ladies locker room at the pool, I will remind myself, "I am a beautiful person."  Inside and out.

It feels good to be transparent.  What do they say?  Acceptance is the first step?  It's all out there now!

Right now, I am off to my favorite Green Lake water fitness class, and then to my favorite yoga studio, The Sweatbox!  I can't wait to see all the familiar faces.


Quick Update:  I went to both classes and I feel great!  Day two of water aerobics/Bikram yoga is finished!  And YES, I did have to use my little mantra many times.  But the point it, that I remembered to use it!

Water Blogged

Posted by Amy Baranski

With big travel this past weekend I was remiss in blogging. But I did go to water aerobics four consecutive days last week! Exercising consistently felt phenomenal. So it was very hard to get on a plane and take a three day rest.

That's because exercise provides this great ripple effect:  I drink more water, I eat healthily, and I find increased focus and productivity in my work.

Of course, at the beginning of the month after class I would make a big meal, take a cat nap, startle awake and go on with the rest of my day. That crash effect stopped after I made exercise my regular routine. I now sleep really well at night after a good work out during the day.

Taking off three days of water aerobics to go visit family...I wouldn't give that up for the world.

I've attended all but one of my classes this month at Medgar Evers pool. It's so close and feels like "my" neighborhood: parts hipster, gentrified, African American, and new-immigrant communities. The demographic is young. In the evenings the lap lanes are full of eager-bodied teens swimming swiftly from end to the other. I love the energy of the place, even if all the instructors are not equally motivating. Yesterday I stepped back in the pool after the weekend hiatus. The flotation belt had been causing some chaffing on my arms so I'm wearing it below the bump, which prevents the chaffing but presents it's own difficulties (such as slipping down over my hips or creeping up onto my bump).

Today however, I'll miss my usual noon-time class to go to Melissa's favorite Senior class at Greenlake. That pool is fun too, it just doesn't feel like "home" to me. I guess I like the industrial (concrete/low natural light) feel of the Medgar Evers building. Really it's the people I like most, and the smell of Ezelle's fried chicken every time I emerge from the building. But when in the water I feel the same no matter where I am. So here I come Greenlake!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Project Simplify: Drawers: Before and After

Posted by Melissa Baumgart
The Drawers Went From This:

To This:

And let's hope they stay this way!  I think investing in the containers that connect to each other is a good step in that direction.  

What's in store for the next week of Project Simplify?  Simple Mom has left it up to me.  I get to choose my most needed "hot spot" of mess.  It was a tough choice, but I am picking the book shelf in my hallway.  It is in an area of my apartment that people don't see, which means it is a place that I shove things when I don't know where else to put them!  Time to clean up my hidden spot!

Here's to a week off from school, spent doing water aerobics and cleaning!  Oh, and I am revisiting hot yoga this week too.  Yikes, I don't know if I am ready for this.

Friday, March 23, 2012

When did I turn into a pregnant woman named Melinda?

Note, the glistening light.
Posted by Melissa Baumgart
It all happened yesterday at my noon water aerobics class.  Mostly I chatted with Amy during class.  You can have some pretty good conversations while bobbing around in the water.  Like wondering if being in the water reminds us of what it was like in the womb, our limbs always moving through liquid.  Then Amy reminded me that our heads stick out of the water, so it really isn't like being in the womb, unless we're talking right after crowning during birth.

Here are a few snippets of the conversations I had with people other than Amy.

An elderly woman makes eye contact with Amy.
"Hi.  Are you new?  What's your name?
"Oh, well, we have two Amy's then." And then she looks at me, "And what's your name?"
"Melissa." I repeat with extra emphasis on the ssss.
"Melinda."  She repeats, with confidence, and aqua jogs away.

Later during some abdominal crunches, the instructor, with the microphone at his mouth, says to me,
"Are you pregnant?"
"Oh, it's just that you're in the water and the light is glistening on your suit and it's hard to tell."

Thanks, buddy.  I am here to get fit, not to feel fat.
I think I'll find another pool for today.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Project Simplify: These Are the Drawers of my Life

Posted by Melissa Baumgart
In my kitchen
It has been so great going back to water aerobics.  After the fearsome cramps of Monday evening, Tuesday's noon class at Medgar Evers pool was an energetic relief.  I had no cramps, I worked super hard and I felt like I really had a good workout.  The instructor was awesome, very enthusiastic and with great attention to form and technique.  These last two weeks of March are going to be filled with pool time, since today is my last final of the quarter,  Yay!

In the bathroom
The last two weeks of March are also going to be filled with more Spring Cleaning with inspiration and guidance from Simple Mom.  This week's challenge, or "hot spot" for Project Simplify is "Closets, Countertops and Drawers."  I think I mentioned earlier this week, how I am super excited, given the state of the junk drawer in my kitchen.  This is my week to really shine and make some progress.

One step forward, two steps back, three steps forward, one step back...and so on.

I recall the analogy of my life being a junk drawer.  How I can be so on top of my life, internally and externally.  And then, things start unravelling; my inner joy is replaced by a mess of darkness and my outer fitness begins to shake like a bowl full of jello if I attempt any quick motion.  The thing is, it's all OK.  It's all good.  We are not perfect.  I mean, maybe ya'll are, but I certainly am not.  I want to be the kind of person that can let herself unravel, and have the courage to untangle that mess of yarn as soon as it starts becoming a problem.
In my desk
You can't ignore it forever.  Someday you are going to have to clean out that junk drawer, start eating healthy again and get your butt outside for some activity.  It might not be today.  But the day will come.  And if not, then where are you?  You're hidden in the mess of pens and screws, Nag Champa, old birthday candles and barrettes in some junk drawer...and before you know it you're lost.

Right now, it is my time to tackle that drawer, again.  And maybe a lot more along the way.

Here's to life!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What to do if you get a foot cramp.

Posted by Melissa Baumgart
Believe it or not, Lily, my 12 year old, did join us for the trip to our water aerobics class last night.  And then, once in the confines of the dressing room, her face reddened and her voice nervously uttered, "I don't want to do it, Mama."  I had a moment of wanting to tell her, "Well, you agreed to come, so you better get in the water.  Plus, I paid for you already!"  Then I recalled it was only $3.50 and that if she didn't get in the water, we could maybe get some good photos.  No, really, I just decided not to push it.  She seemed really adamant about not joining the class.

It was probably my worst class yet.  My foot started cramping up after only 10 minutes in the water, and it didn't help that I had gorged on tortilla ships only a hour or so before class.  By the end of the 45 minutes workout (if you can call it that) I could no nothing besides hold onto my right foot and massage it, thankful for the floatation belt I had around my waist.  Then, when I tried to climb up the ladder to get out, both of my feet seized into a painful cramp, and I nearly panicked.

Somehow I made it down the length of the pool, holding onto the edge with one hand and massaging my foot with the other.  The fear that you will not be able to manage relieving the cramp is overwhelming.  The possibility of the muscles tightening beyond your control is truly something that can only be experienced and not explained.  I wish it on no one.

But, if you are to get a foot cramp, here are some tips from myself and the internet on what to do.  Most of them are intuitive, but in the panic of the moment, intuition can be hard to find.
  1. Take the cramped foot in your hands. Slowly, but firmly, move it in the opposite direction of the cramped position.
  2. Keep the foot in this position until the cramp disappears.
  3. Gently massage it for 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Take a pain reliever, if desired and repeat the dose after 4 hours.
  5. Drink lots of water, and add in some electrolytes.  I use NUUN tablets.  Some people swear by eating a banana, because of the high potassium level.
  6. Elevate your foot on a pillow to the level of your waist.  Or, if you're in the pool, with a floatation belt, keep your leg up as you tilt your body backwards.
  7. Apply an ice pack. Place the ice pack around the cramp, not directly on it.
  8. Use moist heat on the cramping muscle 3 times a day if cramping is chronic and persists longer than 24 hours. A warm foot soak may be beneficial.
  9. Consider wrapping the foot with an elasticized cloth bandage or sports wrap. Be careful when wrapping under the arch--too much pressure against it can cause pain.
  10. Rest and stay off your foot. Give the muscle, tendon or nerve mass time to heal.

Armed with "what to do if you get a foot cramp", I am going to go back today.  A little apprehensive and missing my other class a lot.  The other pool has more light.  And more smiling, old people.  I can't wait until Green Lake's pool re-opens next week!


Monday, March 19, 2012

Will she go?

Posted by Melissa Baumgart
I was trying to talk my 12 year old into coming with me to water aerobics tonight.  She requested a video, you know, to see what she might be getting herself into.

This is what we found:
I am still not sure if she is a YES or a NO.  What do you think she'll choose after watching this?


Perfection and my attempt at avoiding it

Posted by Melissa Baumgart
First off, the good news:  I am going to water aerobics tonight!  It has been too long.  What with my school finals and the pool being closed for renovations, it has been well over a week since I have been in the pool.  I am really looking forward to being in the water, feeling its buoyancy and healing nature.  I'll let you know what I think of the deep end at Medgar Evers after tonight.

And more good news!  
Project Simplify: Kitchen.
During the freezer re-org.  Yes, that is a snowball and some
random blueberries.  I have no idea what the red stuff is.
Last week I started on an organizing journey through my kitchen.  I thought of it like exposure therapy; the more I see organization, the less I will resist its double edge sword.  While it feels so good to be tidy and together, it can also create a bit of an obsession with perfection.  I can easily name many areas of my life where this push and pull can be played out.  I don't have to be perfection's martyr.

The freezer BEFORE.
So, I went out and bought some cheap organizing supplies.  I usually don't buy these because I want the really nice stainless steel ones or even bamboo.  I want to limit my consumer consumption of plastic and stuff made in China.  Plus the nicer ones just look and feel nicer, let's face it.  But instead of holding out for something that seems to never happen, having the extra cash to spend on such fancy items, I went for the cheaper plastic version.

I am so happy I did!  It is way better to look at organized plastic, than the mess I lived through for all these years.  Now, when I come home, the first thing I want to do is look in my freezer or fridge, and the real shocker is that I am not looking for food to stuff my face with...I just want to relax into the sublime organization before my very eyes.  

The freezer, AFTER.
This week's goal, as set forth by the blog, Simple Mom, is countertops, closets and drawers.  Remember my life as a junk drawer?  And how awesome I felt then I got it all organized?  Well, it's back.  back to a mess.  I am re-inspired by my quote I found in a Martha Stewart magazine last week, "Staying organized is an ongoing process; if something isn't working well for you, change the process until it is."

I need to invest in some better organizing tools for this drawer.  Made in China, here I come.  My 12 year old would be rolling here eyes and stomping her feet at me for saying that, as she is an avid "buy local" fan these days.  The truth is, I agree with her, which creates quite a dilemma.

My finished container storage.
Does anyone have any fabulous ideas for reusing something to create a drawer organizer?  Last time I tried various plastic containers from food we had bought, but they float around too much in the drawer and everything falls out eventually.  It really wasn't working for me!  Let me know if you think of something brilliant and I'll do the same.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It takes love, not fear

Nettles, one of the many herbal teas
Dora Rare learned about in the book,
The Birth House
Posted by Melissa Baumgart
It's about time to tackle that fridge and freezer and get them all cleaned out and organized.  And it should be time I get my butt back to a water aerobics class.  But I have been consumed since yesterday with two things.  One is my statistics project, where my study partner and I compared the likelihood of breast feeing among populations of women that gave birth vaginally and women that gave birth via a C-section.  The other is the book I finished today, The Birth House.  I feel so alive; I can feel joy and satisfaction expanding in my chest where my heart resides, as I have been living and working with these two "projects."

The first, the statistics project, overtook me with a fevered pitch of internet research.  I found a "Breastfeeding Report Card" issued by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) in 2011 and discovered that there is a push to increase breastfeeding rates by 2020.  I was impressed, and admittedly a bit skeptical.  I don't know why, I guess I have some inner dialogue that tells me my government isn't actually every going to do anything truly healthy for its people.  What a pessimist.

In our small sample of 133 women, we found that the rates of women that give birth vaginally and are still breastfeeding at 6 months was quite a lot higher than the national average (this included all births, not just vaginal), which is 44.3%   We found that 76% of the women we surveyed, regard less of how they gave birth, breastfed for at lest 6 months.  And that the rates were fairly equal among both ways of birthing.  

I scoured the internet further.  I found loads of studies on the government's WIC (Women Infants and Children) program and the drastically low breastfeeding rates of the recipients of those benefits, regardless of WIC's claims that it overwhelmingly supports breastfeeding.  I am not shocked to find out that the infant formula triopoly of Mead-Johnson, Ross and Carnation all contribute to the fact that WIC has a dependency on rebates from formula companies to fund a portion of the program.  And I wonder why I question our government!

The second, the book, the lovely book I found on a random shelf at Value Village on President's Day.  It takes place in Scots Bay, Nova Scotia in the early 1900's, and revolves around the main character, Dora Rare.  She is sent to live with the old witchy midwife of the small rural town where she learns all of her skills and secrets about women and babies.  There is drama around a new maternity center in a more cosmopolitan town nearby and the Dr. that runs it.  The reader learns of the drastic difference between the way Dora learned to help women through birth, and the twilight sleep and forceps used by the all knowing Dr. Thomas.

As I was sitting in the café at school today, finishing The Birth House, I unexpectedly felt tears rolling down my cheeks.  It wasn't that the ending was sad, like the last books I have read.  It was that the ending was so heartwarming.  Miss Dora Rare, after having been through so much, finally comes to a place where she is able to assist mothers in the way she had been trained.  I read on, as she lays out the simple rules of her birth house:

  • No woman or child shall be turned away.
  • No payment shall be required.
  • No idle gossip or cruel words shall cross the threshold.
  • No one may attend a birth unless requested by the mother.
  • Mother and child (or children) shall stay in confinement for at least nine days after birth, or until the mother's been churched.
  • Well-wishers may not enter unless the mother approves.
  • The mother's home must be clean and tidy, her house-hold chores looked after, and supper enough for a week must be waiting for her when she returns home.
Now that's what I am talking about.  I bet all those women breastfed their babies, and if they couldn't, some one else did it for them.  Now I am not saying this is the way for everyone, but Dora Rare and the women of Scots Bay sure were on to something.  And that something is honoring women enough to allow them to birth in the way they choose.  It means trusting that each woman will instinctually know what her baby needs, that we should stay quiet enough to let her figure it out, while offering just enough love and support to make that process as stress free as possible.  It takes love, not fear.

"The world will know and understand me someday.  But if that day does not arrive, it does not greatly matter.  I shall have opened the way for other women."  -George Sand

Life without a buoy

Posted by Amy Baranski

Yesterday I took a nooner at Medgar Evers and jumped into the Aqua Jog class. My headband fell off immediately.

Equally stressed about my hair getting in my face during class and littering in the pool I urgently dove down (with a flotation belt harnessed around my torso), opened my eyes in the chlorinated water and blindly grasped for my head band.

I actually got it.

When I bobbed to the surface a few wrinkled faces looked concernedly at me. I almost said, "I'm OK," but sloughed it off and faced the instructor.

I saw another pregnant lady in class! 

But instead of introducing myself like a normal person I just kept glancing over at her during class to exchange a kind of knowing look. I can be such a nerd. She seemed my age, and appeared to be in her third trimester. Introducing myself after class in the shower just seemed awkward, so I pulled a Seattle and didn't say anything.

The teacher made us work hard.

Should I be so surprised? I'm at the pool to improve my cardiovascular strength and endurance during this pregnancy, but man, aqua jog sprinting pumps your heart like mad and makes you feel like an insane doggy-paddler. Except you're not doggy-paddling your moving your legs in a jogging motion.

The woman next to me turned and muttered "this is completely futile." It sort of felt that way, but then I realized we made it halfway through the deep end. The instructor gave us ten seconds to rest, then made us turn around and sprint again.

Aqua jog may confuse lap swimmers.

As we sprinted toward the deep end a very muscular lap swimmer rested between lamps and watched our class. I flashed him the biggest smile I could that was supposed to read: I know I look like I'm in aqua jog but I could totally lap swim. I told my blog readers I would and I'm going to do it. This is just my warm up. He looked through me. Puzzled.

I've never had a leg cramp before.

At the end of class I unbuckled my belt and ditched my weights. After two pridefully earnest breast-strokes to the middle of the pool my right calf spontaneously contracted in a painful leg cramp. I cried out. No one heard me. I kicked and pulled water with my left side and sidestroked my right arm to the edge of the pool. I tried not to move my right leg. It throbbed.

In my daze I pulled a Costanza and cut in front of a senior lady to climb the ladder out the pool. The pressure of my foot against the steps provided immediate relief. For a split second during the leg cramp I reached into the water to touch my muscle. It felt rock hard and I thought: damn that's a sexy leg. How can I be so vain during times of distress?

I was on my own. 

When the belt came off I immediately sensed the distance to the pool floor seven feet below. It was just me--two arms and two legs kicking and pulling to stay alive.

It hit me almost as suddenly as the leg cramp: our own resilience and buoyancy is strengthened in unexpected ways at unpredictable times.

Giving birth this year will bring about one of the greatest responsibilities of my life--keeping someone else afloat and teaching them how to swim and cope with the unexpected seizures of life that bring us to our knees sometimes. With the echo of my leg cramp still attached to my calf I keep telling myself, no matter what happens during the next several months, or the months after that: just float.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Hot Tubs, Moldy Towels and The Birth House

Posted by Melissa Baumgart
A Weekend Away.
I had the pleasure of going to the Oregon Coast this past weekend.  Our dear friends (and GLWT reader number uno) hosted us at their beach house just south of Astoria, OR.  I loved every minute of it, from driving through the old town where the Goonies was filmed, the windy walk down to witness the mighty Pacific Ocean, the sauna, the breakfast of seasonal frittata and dinner of dungeness crab to catching up in front of the fire after the kids were tucked in bed.  So, no, I did not do any water aerobics this past weekend.  Not unless you count raising my glass while relaxing in the hot tub as a form of excersize.

My Pool is Closed.
It's a bummer, Green Lake's Evans Pool is closed for two weeks.  I am hugely disappointed, since that was my favorite place for water aerobics in Seattle.  I just don't know if I'll find another spot that fills me up, emotionally and physically, like that one.  If you know of one, I am all ears.  And in case you weren't aware, I prefer my water aerobics in the deep end with lots of old people.

Project Simplify is on.
I don't even use half of this stuff.
Last week, Amy started a challenge that has to do with organizing.  Amy found a blog, Simple Mom, and she does a decluttering/organizing project every March.  She sets up guidelines and helps you to focus on one "hot spot" in need of attention in your home every week.  When I first read Amy's post, I cringed.  Organizing and cleaning used to be my thing, until kids.  I suppose I still do OK in the category, but for me, with these things, it's like I either do it really well or I throw in the towel.  Consider my towel thrown, so long ago, it's probably in some cluttered recess of my closet growing the mold that is giving me allergies and my leg rash.  Now when I hear about other people "organizing" my ego takes it as a personal blow.  Like someone just plastered my old moldy towel on the cover of US magazine next to Snooki's baby bump.  

My weekend away was spent with a friend of mine that excels in the organizing and cleaning categories of life.  Every closet or drawer I opened was a new challenge.  How do I feel good about my personal flaws in the face of perfection?  Well, believe me, it is hard for a Virgo woman.  Hell, it might be hard for any woman, if they are being honest.  It wasn't until I got home that it really hit me, when I was faced with all the clutter and disorganization and mess of my own space.  I walked through my door with a smile on my face from all the fun, and quickly discovered an uncomfortable chip on my shoulder, longing for the neat and orderly me of yesteryear.

The wretched container cupboard. 
Instead of wallowing in my imperfections, I decided to move through my cringing and right on into Project Simplify.  It feels like less of a To-Do list for me, and more like some kind of intense exposure therapy.  Let's just hope it goes better than my trip to the mountainside.  Although, I wouldn't rule out a few tears being shed.

This week is going to be spent tackling the kitchen.  I love cooking, so this is an area I spend a lot of time in.  I figure it is a good place to start.  I have agreed to three things for the week:

  1. Cleaning out my fridge and freezer.  This means getting rid of things I don't use, no matter how healthy and good they are for me.  If I don't use them, they are doing no good.
  2. Organizing my containers, plastic and otherwise.  This cupboard is out of control.  I can get it all tidy in the afternoon, and by nightfall it is a complete mess.  I am going to also find a way to keep it tidy.  My recent purchase of a Martha Stewart magazine on organizing says, "Staying organized is an ongoing process; if something isn't working well for you, change the process until it is."  That is my goal for this cupboard.
  3. Making a meal plan and sticking to it.  I used to do this and it always felt so good.  Knowing that all the fresh, healthy food in my fridge is going to be used and not found rotten two weeks later is always a good feeling.    

Reading more.
I have continued to read, since last month sparked my love for reading.  I am not reading at the same pace as last month, but I am working through a 400+ page book, The Birth House by Ami McKay.  It takes place in the early 1900's and is about a woman that apprentice's with an old granny midwife and has to cope with medical technologies like twilight sleep being offered to the women of her rural town.  She has to walk the delicate line between being a good wife in the context of the culture she was raised in, and following her calling, which is serving women, not her husband's needs.

I am really enjoying it and I feel a strong sense of reading the right book at the right time.

Until next time.  And please, consider checking out a water aerobics class near you.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Put Me In The Water - Poker Returns!

Posted by Amy Baranski

What a weekend! Water exercise first thing on Saturday, then grocery shopping, then crock-potting dinner together, then simplifying my work space, and finally a poker game played almost until midnight with some serious poker guests, including someone who often plays down in Olympia with other policy makers.

It was all in good fun.

I haven't played poker since the game nights Melissa and Jamie hosted last year during Poker month. I almost forgot how much I enjoyed the game. Maybe that's because I lost a lot. The epic battle while sitting around the table with good people talking about this-and-that for hours was/is delightful. Best of all, there were no computer, TV, or cell phone screens on (except the occasional and necessary Google search and a couple mamas checking on their young.)

This time I played "penny" poker which was really nickle, dime, and quarter poker. Previously I'd only played with chips and a pool of money. Playing with real money changes the game! I learned a ton of new games including Baseball, Screw Your Neighbor, Anaconda, and Bo Jackson. I even won a hand or two, but I did not come out on top. I think that honor went to our stealthy poker playing neighbor Carol. So congrats Carol and I look forward to winning my money back!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Into the Deep

Posted by Amy Baranski

***Update: read Out of the Deep for a summary of my first lap swim!***

Since there's no water aerobics class offered on Fridays at my local pool I considered trying lap swim this past week.

Lap swim intimidates me. 

It makes me think of really strong and long people with amazing bodies (not just to look at but in the cardiovascular sense).

Swimming seems easier to me now that I'm older, but I'll never forget the Herculean effort it took during middle school swim class to finish laps. Maybe I was doing it wrong? Or maybe the other students were counting their laps incorrectly, which I repeated to myself in class often enough to remember that mantra 20 years later. Just thinking about lap swim takes me out of my comfort zone.

That's exactly why I'm going to try it.

I skipped the pool on Friday, but on Saturday I bused there for the 10:00 a.m. water exercise class. I showed up early. So early that I got to take a snapshot of the locker room without looking like a total creep. It was empty.

Obligatory locker room shot.
The Saturday morning class is not Hydrofit nor Aqua Jog. It takes place in the shallow end and constitutes a lot of undignified jumping up and down. You have moderate impact with the bottom of the pool. If you don't feel it at the time you certainly do the next day. It was an interesting class with a 50-65+ year-old set. But I did not like the jumping up and down so much; it did not feel so great on my belly.

The entire time I kept staring at the lap swimmers, like they were the cool seniors while I was just starting freshman year.

They were at the other end of the pool and my whole water aerobics class experience morphed into this mental obsession, needing to know if you had to be able to execute a flip turn in order to swim in the lanes. I saw many of the swimmers somersaulting underwater and emerging towards the opposite end of the pool from whence they came. I saw several lanes designated by the words fast, medium, easy, very easy. I was relieved to see the last label, but when I studied that lane it did not look very easy. I have no idea if I'll be able to make it one length of the pool and back, but I really want to try. I actually only want to try in a completely private setting so no one can see me.

It would be OK if a lifeguard were on duty. 

Other than that I'd prefer no one with better athletic ability to be around. Even though those are the exact people you want in the pool with you. It's silly but it makes me uncomfortable to even think about it. So I'm going to do it. There's even a session tomorrow morning at 6:30...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Project Simplify 2012: Make Way for Baby Week 1

Posted by Amy Baranski

To recap: In addition to water aerobics (our blog's monthly focus) I took on the Project Simply challenge. My focus for each week in March is making room for Baby! The four-part plan I wrote to tackle this week's hot spot (my personal mess) was nice in thought, but when it came to execution my process really went like this:

  • Skipped moving furniture as it requires huge shifts in the entire home, saving that for later.
  • Cleared off surface space--that seemed to be the easiest approach.
  • Opened bins and began sorting like crazy.
  • Moved bins with longer term storage items to the nursery (= sweeping mess under the rug?) 
  • Tidied everything back up on the desk.
Before & Afters
Before: crappy desk situation.
After: calmer desk situation.
Before: crap in our dining room.
After: crap moved to another room. :-)
Things I Learned 

I can really procrastinate! In my defense it was an epic week with work, water aerobics, hard disk drive failures, stretching out to accommodate a growing baby, solar flares, and running out of Siracha. Who wouldn't want to wait to clean until Saturday?

I also learned that the sorting of files could go on and on. Is this an indication that I'm chronically disorganized? I reduced my bins by two; that leaves me five. I have to get it down to one. How long are we supposed to keep checking stubs and account information for a sole proprietorship? Is it the typical three years or more? Do I keep all my report cards from grade school or throw them out? Usually people's parents keep that kind of stuff around for ages, but when your parents are split stuff gets split. Then suddenly you're inheriting your past sooner than you thought as if someone died and your left with a wardrobe that smells exactly like them but that you never wear.

What about all those stupid old poems that I wrote in my early 20s that make me cringe. They all seem so god damned important, but most of them aren't. I was overcome with an urge to absorb them once more today before letting them go...but I didn't have the proper time because people are coming over to play poker this evening and I had to grocery shop and cook dinner and do the laundry too. 

Lastly, I always, always, forget how good it feels to toss things ruthlessly into the shred pile. Letting crap go is the best feeling in the world.


Footnote - Here's the score if your new to this blog: My friend Melissa and I take on 12 things each year to challenge ourselves. This month is water aerobics. Yes those are photos of yours truly. I'm the one who looks like a turtle. Read our 2012 list to see what we're up to next. Or tell us what you're doing! You can follow us via email (see sidebar), Facebook or Twitter (I follow back). Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

One of these things is not like the others

Posted by Melissa Baumgart
"To tell you the truth, I don't plan on outliving this one!"
I overhead this in the sauna after water aerobics.  A group of older ladies were soaking up the heat and chatting about going to the casino last Friday and the cost of movies these days.  One of them tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me, the spot you're in, that belongs to the lady out there with the walker."  She pointed to the pool, and I saw an elderly woman slowly walking up the stairs out of the shallow end.  "Oh, of course, I'll move," I offered back.

The sauna at Evans Pool, Green Lake.
I fumbled my way up to the second tier of benches and did my best at both joining in the occasional bursts of laughter and seeming aloof, like I was busy with my own thoughts and wasn't desperate to be a part of their group.  When the woman with the walker came in she sat in her spot and and the other ladies began complementing her.  They talked to her in a voice that people use when talking to small children, kinda higher pitched and sing-songy.  I thought this meant they knew she was at another level of old compared to themselves.

"Is that a new bathing suit you have on?  It looks so nice on you."

"Oh, this?  No, Joanie gave me this when she gave me all those other suits.  It's a good thing too, I don't want to go shopping for these things.  To tell you the truth, I don't plan on outliving this one!"  She said to them all, and gave a short huff of laughter at the end.

I waited to see the reaction.  Was it going to be sympathetic?  Would they tell her, no, of course you'll outlive it?  What?

Everyone burst out laughing again.  I was relieved.  I laughed too, but with some reserve.  I am, while not young anymore, still younger than my sauna cohorts were.  I wasn't sure how appropriate it was to be laughing at someone talking about dying sooner than she would be shopping again.  But after this, they included me more.  The red haired woman next to me started tilting her head back and to the right, toward me, when she laughed.  And I felt included.

"Got more energy than me."

Today at my Hydro-fit class, my favorite one at Green Lake and the one with the previously mentioned sauna, I was giving it my all.  We were well into our warm up and at the part where you are getting your heart rate up.  The class was doing a cross country skiing motion while raising our arms up and out of the water in an alternating pattern.  I was just beginning to get all rosy-cheeked, as the instructor likes to say.

There was a man and woman to my right, chatting and participating.  As I huffed by, I heard the woman look over to the gentleman and say, "Got more energy than me," and pointed at me with a nod of her head.

To be completely honest, I was a little deflated when I heard that.  I want these old people to like me, cause I like them.  I mean, I don't know them, but I inherently like them and want to know them better.  But I also want to get a good workout.  I don't want them to out me from the cool crowd just cause I am younger.  And faster.

Maybe it will just take time.  Maybe I'll have to keep going longer than the woman's swimsuit lasts.  And then I think to myself, "Who cares, Melissa?  Just be yourself.  These ladies don't seem to give a shit, and that's exactly what you like about them."

I think I can learn a lot from these classes, a lot more than how to do ab crunches in the water and what casino has the best slot machines.  "Look for the flaming 7's, baby!  The flaming 7's!  Those slot machines were the best, I won a lot of money on those.  They just don't make 'em like they used to."  It was the last thing I heard as I shut the sauna door and headed into the shower.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Aqua Jog at Medgar Evers

Posted by Amy Baranski

Yesterday evening after speed cleaning the dishes I ran out the door and made haste for the #48 bus. Point of destination: Medgar Evars pool. Sadly, in the 12 years I've lived in Seattle I'd never been to Medgar Evars. Prior to this month, I'd never dipped my toe in any public pools around town. Lake Washington is my better known summer swimming hole. But the pools! I've underused this public resource for over a decade now. For shame.

I missed my bus.

Maybe it's the people I've associated with, who prefer natural swimming holes, or maybe I never asked the right question to the right person. But typically it's been easier to find sun worshipers in Seattle rather than swimmers. I can't ever guess why. I'm more the latter. I love the heat of the sun, but I'm not a fan of ultra violet rays. I'd rather be in the water than on land. My favorite all time place to swim is in the ocean. Wow I love the ocean. It's buoyant and there live wild creatures!

Fortunately another #48 came barreling down 23rd Avenue. I jumped on.

Most of the public swimming pools look funny from the outside. They are industrial and public and remind me of the Soviet construction we saw prevalent in Cuba during a trip there with my husband in 2008. Medgar Evars pool is most peculiar looking. Cemented and angularly institutional it isn't the height of welcoming save the murals depicting its civil rights era namesake on the building's cold exterior.

I went in.

The pool was hopping with teenagers. Now that I'm pregnant teenagers don't scare me anymore. Not that they scared me, but now I see them better, or maybe they see me better. Members of the Cascade Swim team crawled and backstroked in the pool, parents sat in the bleachers. A good looking young swim instructor worked with little kids in the shallow end. I made my way into the women's locker room.

Medgar Evers feels bigger than the Green Lake pool, although it probably isn't. It reminds me of the pool I swam in as a child. Within walking distance of my house I'd head there after dinner in the evenings for the public swim and practice and practice. For me, swimming came with work.

I was early.

So I got dressed in my suit and tried to take a stealthy picture of myself in the locker room. Major fail. I showered (a requirement before getting in the pool) and eventually headed to the deep end. Other aqua joggers gathered. No seniors. Just thirty-somethings, forty-somethings, and fifty-somethings. At least 20 people in total. We did not conduct the course in a circle as I experienced at Green Lake. Instead we went from one end of the pool the other. The workout differed too.

I was the only pregnant one.

While the other students worked on abdominal crunches in the second part of class the teacher made me jog, then run, then cross country ski. A woman looked at me, "I think you're getting the shorter end of the stick here." I smiled. This time my belt felt different, perhaps I had the wrong size. The result felt like treading water for 45 minutes. After class I chatted with the instructor. "I'm a horrible teacher. They make me do this class because I've been here for three years. I tell them stick me in the water with kids I'll do anything. I hate teaching adults."

I thought he was perfect.

There's an upcoming Aqua Jog class at Medgar Evers on Wednesday at 6:00 pm. See you there?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Project Simplify 2012: Make Way for Baby

Posted by Amy Baranski

If you're not into water aerobics but are looking forward to our blog's activity in April: DIY Home (Do It Yourself home edition) you might consider taking the Project: Simplify 2012 challenge this month sponsored by Simple Mom.

My sister and I have joined! Not only do I have a list of things to organize (for each room and closet in my house) before baby comes, I also have rolling list of little things I want to make during DIY month. But my house is in disarray! For me this means that I have no dedicated, and clean, work space to create things. Project Simplify addresses this dilemma in a fun and social way and hopefully will help me gear up for April.

Now, with my big sis on board I feel like I'm on a team and not just swimming alone in the great blog yonder. Maybe we should make matching shirts or capes or something. You can join too...

Project Simplify breaks down the work load into 4 weeks of spring cleaning madness. You can choose one, two, three or all four weeks. Whatever speed works for you. The focus for this week, March 5th, is: Kids’ stuff—toys, clothes, and the like. Since baby isn't making any mess yet that means I have to tackle my own.

My hot spots

My problem areas primarily exist in the closet of our soon to be baby room, our front room--where I've had a very messy makeshift desk/space for a few months--and our bedroom closet. My husband might have a few others to add, but I think it's a fair assessment.

Need 1: Dedicated work space
I work from home often so I need a dedicated work space for my computer. It doesn't have to be big, but it should be focused. In conjunction with the work space I need a filing system for paper work. All my files are in plastic bins which, for the most part, have served as great organizers, especially as a mobile city apartment dweller. But I need something more permanent and homey feeling.

Need 2: Space for baby things
We have a small room for baby (which doubles as a guest room) with an itty-bitty closet (with no light). But there's other space throughout the house waiting to be utilized. I need dedicated space for baby's things where I can stockpile diapers, wipes, and other essentials. Since I started emptying out the itty-bitty closet for baby I now have plastic bins full of random things lining the walls in our front room. What is all that stuff?

Need 3: Art and craft supply storage
In 2010 I took a book making class. Last year I started knitting. This year I got a sewing machine for Christmas. I hoard magazines for collage making and obsessively save scraps of paper from my travels for... scrap-booking maybe? In short, I collect a lot of ephemera meant for future projects. But I don't have it organized, and sometimes I forget about it. I need a small, but organized, and handsome space for craft and art supplies.

My Plan

Finding space seems to be the common theme in addressing my messy hot spots.

Step 1: Locate the measuring tape. Then some grid paper. If I map out potential layouts for each room and identify space for each need then I'll know where to start.

Step 2: Bask in the glory of having used a measuring tape and grid paper. Then liberate surface space. File errant receipts, shelve books, and maybe even making a pile of unknowns--this and thats--that I don't know what I'm doing with. Look for a pattern of unknowns.

Step 3: Open the boxes. It pains me to think about this step. But I need to see how much stuff can be reduced and first I have to know what I'm dealing with. Make a "keep/kill" pile. (We do this with content at work). Of the items on the "keep" list group all like things together. Take items on the "kill" list to a donation center (or their proper owners).

Step 4: If I bite off a little of the above every night this week, by the weekend I should be able to move any big pieces of furniture around, or find the right vessels to hold certain things. I think that's ambitious enough for this week. If I can do just one of those things I'll be happy. Before and after pictures will be posted by Saturday. Join in the fun if you dare!