My grandmother is and always has been a talented knitter. She also used to crochet, cook marvelous meals and bake desserts from scratch while conserving every last little morsel of each ingredient and putting it to good use in feeding our family. Seated in the living room and reading books or watching a favourite cartoon, I used to observe in fascination her long fingers as they moved elegantly on the two needles that clicked almost melodically, all the while producing an intricate pattern out of a mere strand of woolen yarn, creating sweaters to keep us warm through the winter season. Enchanted with this magical, alchemical process, I begged her to teach me to knit. And so, on a cold afternoon in early January, my grandmother sat down with impatient five-year-old me, attempting to teach me the knit stitch using the Continental method. That episode ended in tears, but I never gave up.

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Necklace handcrafted by Mr. Wanderlust.

Two years later, after moving to live in a different country with my parents and sister, I walked into a local stationery store that also stocked a small selection of needles and yarn on a demure shelf. Immediately, I was seized with longing memories of my Babushka, and my mom purchased the materials for me: red acrylic yarn and golden metallic 8 mm needles. I continued to practise every day, or whenever I missed my dear grandmother. When she visited us, three years later, I was ready for her to teach me the purl stitch and continued to make and unravel simple scarves for the next few years, whenever Nostalgia paid a visit to me. Those scarves were peppered with missed stitches and other blatant errors in spots where I should have purled instead of knitting. Having tried numerous times and become frustrated with the cast-on method Babushka taught me, I created my own cast-on technique; although it wasn’t the easiest technique, at the time, it served its purpose and allowed me to start making yet another red acrylic scarf.

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We moved once more since then, and many years later, while in undergrad, I discovered that knitting had somehow become a chic hobby. I became a bit bolder in telling my peers that knitting is one of my hobbies. With a skip in my step, I returned home from several shopping trips to the bookstore, giddy about learning new techniques from the ‘how to’ books, ready to move beyond making scarves using dollar store acrylic yarn. I continue to refer to those books for tips on stitches and techniques that remind me that, although I may be an intermediate-level knitter, I’m still a beginner in some respect. I’m comfortable with that notion.

Today, in-between work and family responsibilities, I am fortunate to spend just 30 minutes per week with my yarn and needles, usually while watching a family movie with Wanderlust Juniors. I hope that for my children, the scarves and hats I make for them will continue to keep them not only warm in the snowy winter months but will also remind them that love often shows up in the smallest details, in the finest stitches. Love is spherical, moving beyond time and generations, knitting together stories and memories that culminate in one special piece gifted selflessly to someone special. To me, that is the definition of magic.

Do you knit? How did you learn? Please share your story by leaving a comment, below. Thank you, also, for sharing this blog with a friend! 

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Keeping: Lego. Please read the text for an explanation.

Last year, we launched a minimalism project in our home. It’s still going strong today. I am not a proponent of labels of any kind, and I would not be quick to describe myself as a minimalist. My definition of minimalism might be different from the definition of someone who lives in a white-walled studio apartment with three pieces of sleek modern furniture in the living room and two pieces of cookware in his kitchen. Our home is far from looking like Bea Johnson’s, though I admire her style and will continue to borrow tips from her. To me, minimalism is a concept that is as unique as the person who chooses to subscribe to its lifestyle. Does our home look empty? No. Wanderlust Juniors’ Lego collection continues to grow with each birthday and Christmas, to my chagrin. I continue to remind myself that sometimes, simplifying doesn’t only mean detoxifying our home of material objects; more often, detoxifying means cultivating an attitude of equanimity toward the clutter of my loved ones.

We continue to work toward detoxifying our home and have found that, although it becomes a natural process after the first big cleanup operation, it is a constant work in progress to discern what we want to keep in our home and what must go. I created a list of items that we have discarded and those that we have kept following our big cleanup:

 

What we discarded:

Books and magazines

I used to collect yoga, fitness and nutrition magazines, keeping them for the myriad articles to which I was sure I would refer over and over again. In truth, there were a few useful recipes and tips in the magazines, but not enough to warrant holding onto the growing stacks that took up space in the basement. I took photographs of interesting articles or recipes and saved them on my computer’s hard drive. I also used to purchase cookbooks. Although I did enjoy perusing the books in search of tips and recipe ideas, overtime, I created my own repertoire of recipes to which I continue to return. If I do need to find a new recipe, I use good old Google. I have donated or gifted the cookbooks. With regard to fiction and non-fiction books, I have kept the classics, as well as other favourite books that I enjoy re-reading. I choose to keep the books that I look forward to sharing with my children. For those of you wondering, I do read on the Kindle sometimes, but prefer printed books. Mr. Wanderlust’s library mainly consists of non-fiction books on geography, history, philosophy, and comparative mythology.

Children’s art work

I’m one of the millions of moms who feel a pang in their chests at the mere thought of throwing out their children’s art work. I still feel that pang from time to time, but have learned to deal with it in a pragmatic yet sentimental way that suits our family. I choose a few art pieces that are special to my children and/or to me and Mr. Wanderlust, and we keep those in a box. I take photographs of the majority of the artwork and email them to an address I have set up for Wanderlust Juniors. In those emails, I also provide updates for the boys on their latest interests and challenges. It’s my hope that when they will be older, my children will enjoy the trip down memory lane with this extensive documentation, and will cherish the several ‘favourite’ original works of art that we keep carefully tucked away.

Clothing, makeup and skin care products

I have a simple rule: Whenever I purchase an item of clothing, I discard a similar worn item. This means that I only purchase shoes when the current pair I have starts to look shabby. This rule applies not only to my wardrobe but to the wardrobes of Mr. Wanderlust and Wanderlust Juniors. I purchase clothes for the children twice a year, on average, and replenish their clothes as they outgrow them. I should also mention that I only purchase makeup items or my basic skin care products (if you’re wondering, those skin care products are sweet almond oil, cocoa or shea butter, baby lotion, and J.R. Watkins hand cream) when the tube or bottle is almost empty.

Single-use kitchen gadgets

Several years ago, I purchased a cake pop maker. I used it a handful of times before tossing it into the back of a cupboard. I used to bake our own bread in a bread machine until I realized that I prefer a special type of bread that I purchase at the local grocery store and haven’t been able to recreate at home. We have donated the bread machine and sold the cake pop maker via a local buy-and-sell Facebook group to a father who wanted to spend some time baking with his daughter. If I want to bake bread at home, I can always spend some time kneading it by hand and bake it in the oven. Or, I could use our stand mixer.

What we kept:

Favourite mixer

I enjoy baking. Immensely. Although I could stand in the kitchen while furiously working out the forearm muscles of my right arm while whisking batter, I choose instead to use that time helping Wanderlust Juniors crack eggs or grease the baking sheet for the cookies. Our orange Kitchen Aid mixer is lovely and we use it for everything, including kneading dough for bread and cinnamon buns. For now, we have no plans to discard it.

Photo albums and journals

I do not enjoy looking at photographs on the computer. In my old-fashioned way, I love scrapbooking and documenting our family adventures with little notes and (yes) stickers. Wanderlust Juniors and I spend a long time studying the photographs while seated on the living room sofa, laughing together while sharing stories, learning about one another’s unique perspective of the memories we built together. For that reason, I continue to print photographs, and although this contributes to the growing number of photo albums in our home, those albums are worth all the moments of bonding that they allow us to create.

I have kept a journal since I was in my early teens and started to discover a love of writing. I use my journal for everything from recording insights, inspiring quotes, stories, planning vacations, and planning weekly menus. My journal is my personal, private version of a Pinterest board.

Pretty dishes

I will preface this paragraph by explaining that I do not have many fancy dishes that I keep for the special times when we have company for dinner. However, I do keep an extra set of dishes for those occasions. I’m referring here to a special set of cappuccino cups and saucers, espresso cups and saucers, a set of fine tea china, and cut crystal glasses that we have inherited from our families. We enjoy this small collection and it’s special to us. Most importantly, it brings us joy. Will we buy additional items to contribute to the existing ones? No way.

Travel souvenirs and gifts

Before we settled down and had Wanderlust Juniors, Mr. Wanderlust and I used to collect travel souvenirs everywhere we went. We have acquired enough of them to fill a few small shelves. Those shelves are also occupied by gift souvenirs brought to us by friends and family members upon returning from their world travels. The items themselves are meaningless, but the stories they contain allow our house to feel like our home, reminding us of our journeys and values. These days when we travel, we abstain from purchasing souvenirs, or buy only the ones that we truly want to have, and preferably ones we can use, instead of admiring them on a shelf.

Knitting yarn and needlework projects

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Also keeping: a few favourite items that I knit for Wanderlust Juniors.

I will confess that I used to collect yarn. Knitters tend to be notorious collectors, and it’s logical. We know the great value of good-quality yarn and we search for bargains that we refuse to pass up. However, when I realized that my yarn collection – a relatively small one when compared to the collections of many fellow knitters – had to be cramped into the small cabinet in which it’s stored, I knew something had to change. I stopped buying yarn. Just. Like. That. These days, I use the yarn I have for the projects on which I’m working. I no longer rush to finish a project in order to start another one, nor do I have several projects on the go at any one time. I knit fast, but in short increments of time. This is due both to my work schedule and commitments at home. If I pass by a pretty yarn shop into which an invisible and undeniable force lures me, I walk into it as I would into a museum. Oh, it’s difficult to resist reaching out to touch the soft, candy-coloured fibres, and sometimes I give in. Then, acknowledging that I don’t need to buy new yarn, I walk out of the store. In case you’re wondering, I also avoid walking into clothing stores in order to browse. It helps that I don’t enjoy shopping and despise the mere idea of walking into the typical mall.

The bottom line:

I don’t believe that the goal of minimalism is to discard every trinket in our homes until we are left with the bare necessities. I do believe in creating a home that feels comfortable and reflects the lifestyle of the family that occupies its space. A lifestyle of minimalism is the opposite of a lifestyle of over-consumption of food, technology, and various other resources. Minimalism is about practising awareness with each decision, with the ultimate goal of creating a lifestyle of ease and simplicity.

Would you like to leave a comment regarding your own interpretation of minimalism, or your criteria for what you choose to keep or discard? Please do so in the space below.

Do you know someone who might enjoy reading this blog? Please share it with a friend via email or social media!

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My word for the year 2015 was ‘declutter.’ I worked to minimize clutter – physical, mental and emotional – while making more space for who and what truly matters in my life at this time. I will continue this practice of simplifying, of minimizing noise and clutter in order to maximize my creativity and become more present, connecting to who I am at the core, instead of allowing my possessions to define me.

I have minimized the number of projects on which I’m working at this time. And yet, the projects are still there, still beckoning me forth, seductive in their command. Writing, yoga, music, and crafting do define me and always will. I have designed a schedule that allows me to maximize my time at work, at home with my family, and my time alone, used for creativity and exploration. I reshuffle, re-prioritize while wondering whether the current model expands or hinders my potential and the potential of my family dynamic.

Some days, the pieces that make up my identity are naturally, easily woven together; on other days, they pull apart at the seams until I tend to them again with pins, needles, thread, and soothing whispers. I remind myself to slow down, to let the pebbles scatter as they will. I can always pick them up later. What is in front of me now? Where should my focus be? How can I shift my priorities at a moment’s notice while maintaining balance? Then I remember to focus on the hug, to inhale, deeply savouring the scent of the head of silky soft chestnut hair that presses against my chest. I exhale into the softness and remember to listen to the subtle pleading sounds that are so easily missed when I go through my ‘to do’ list, checking off one item after another, feeling productive yet missing what is before me.

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I choose to linger. I choose to pull my arms around my sons and my husband into a tighter embrace. I choose to be present while trusting in the knowledge that creativity is borne from moments that challenge us to acquiesce completely. What is before me, right here and right now? What demands my attention? The dance of balance inevitably continues as I delicately tiptoe from one element to another, trying to stay grounded and reminding myself of my myriad roles. Will they still be here? Will they continue to transform me, or will I become a different person? I entertain the possibilities while remaining curious, retreating to my comfort zone of boundless daydreaming before gently, reluctantly, bringing myself back to the moment, adjusting my focus, amplifying the whisper-thin message: Presence. Presence. Presence. 

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This photo has nothing to do with mice or capsule wardrobes, but I thought I would spare you from having to look at photos of jars of organic peanut butter, or empty mouse traps.

What do mice have in common with a capsule wardrobe? What does Mr. Wanderlust have in common with mice? Read on to find out…

“Mice. Again,” I murmured to Mr. Wanderlust in the middle of the night. This wasn’t the first time those uninvited guests paid us a visit.

In reply, he turned to face me.

“I’ll set the mouse trap, but I need access to the roof from your closet.”

With a groan, I rolled onto my other side and attempted to go back to sleep. At least Mr. Wanderlust didn’t have to ask about peanut butter, which is always well-stocked in our pantry and which Wanderlust Juniors and I are forced to eat at a distance from Mr. Wanderlust. He’s not allergic; he can’t stand the smell. The mice do generally take a fancy to it.

Every night for two weeks, we woke up in the middle of the night to sounds of vigorous scratching somewhere directly above our bed. The sound would then transition to something akin to a small marble being rolled on wooden boards. Sometimes, the pests’ work (or is it really play?) would start earlier in the evening while we read in bed before turning off the lights. Our cat Tigger, from her cozy spot at the foot of the bed on Mr. Wanderlust’s side, would gaze up in half-interest. What more could she do? At the very least, we felt reassured that the pesky visitors wouldn’t dare to sneak into any of the rooms of the house located below the roof, from fear of being captured by chiseled feline claws. It doesn’t matter that the cat herself has never in her life seen a living mouse. Would she know, instinctively, how to hunt?

The scratching bothered us. What annoyed me almost as much was the idea of having to move my clothes out of the closet to make room for a ladder, which Mr. Wanderlust would then use to climb up to open the small square door to access the insulated attic. During our last mouse-trapping operation, I made temporary homes for my off-season clothes in the closets of the bedrooms of Wanderlust Juniors. And so, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this time, the move was almost automated. Not only did I relocate the warm-weather items out of the closet but also created a new winter capsule work wardrobe for myself, all within 10 minutes. I may have even performed a quick happy dance in the crowded closet. That will teach me to procrastinate!

After two weeks of navigating around the ladder in order to access my sweaters while listening closely for any new sounds of scratching, only to be met with silence, we realized the mice are onto us. Either they are stealthy or perhaps they migrated elsewhere for the winter after rooming with us. We are keeping the leftover peanut butter in a jar in the garage, just in case the noisy squatters decide to return. Then again, perhaps they, like Mr. Wanderlust, have developed an aversion to peanut butter and now see it as a deterrent.

In any case, I’m left with a cozy capsule wardrobe for the next few months.

Are you enjoying this blog? Please take a moment to share it with a friend. 

Happy New Year!

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We spent a quiet holiday week at home, making Lego creations; playing board games; reading books; practising yoga and dancing; making music; knitting; watching movies by the fireplace next to the Christmas tree; and going for walks. Although the snow arrived belatedly several days after Christmas, to the delight of Wanderlust Juniors we spent a morning making snowmen in our front yard. Walks in the winter always seem to be more pleasant with a bit of snow on the ground.

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We rang in the new year quietly. Mr. Wanderlust and I stayed up until 1 a.m., making plans for the upcoming months while drinking champagne that we received as a present from my parents and munching organic tortilla chips. I joked about having already broken one of my resolutions: avoiding snacking and generally eating after dinner. In truth, I do not believe in making resolutions. However, I do set aside time to review the year that has passed and set intentions for the year ahead.

I learned several years ago that when we make resolutions based on external factors such as someone else’s research about the best diet and the most effective forms of exercise, we soon forget about the resolutions because they do not reflect our truth about ourselves. What works for one person might have a very different effect on someone else. Reading Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better than Before, reinforced my own hypothesis. At about the same time when I accepted this fact, I stopped paying close attention to ‘health and fitness’ advice that so many people readily bestow upon anyone within earshot. I also became aware of my own previous tendency to offer unsolicited advice. Instead, I chose the freedom of creating space for myself to study my own habits and get to know myself better in order to create positive personal changes.

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To set my clear, true intentions for the year ahead, I ask myself about my heart’s desire. I ask myself how I picture myself at my ultimate best state — this includes perfect physical, mental and emotional health and wellness. Those are my guidelines for setting intentions. From that space, I am able to create a vision for the year ahead. When I know how I want to feel, I can make positive changes to bring me closer to that ultimate state. (That is also how I know that snacking between meals and eating late in the evening are, for me, a recipe for indigestion.)

Year after year, I continue to return to the same intention that encompasses all my other goals and allows me to stay true to my ultimate vision: To be the best version of myself, every day. 

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Do you make New Year’s resolutions? What are your intentions for the year ahead? Do you follow certain guidelines while creating intentions? Please leave a comment below and feel free to share this blog with a friend.

Wishing you a wonderful start to 2016!

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We hope you have been enjoying the holidays with your loved ones, in your favourite ways. For that reason, we are keeping this post short. If you do happen to have a few quiet moments and wish to do some quiet reading over a cup of coffee, we invite you to catch up with our posts that you may have missed, or ones that you might wish to re-read. Please also feel free to share this blog with a friend who might enjoy following our stories.

Wishing you a wonderful remainder of 2015 and here’s to more reading, writing, and mindful living (infused with moments of creative daydreaming) in 2016!

The following are the nine most popular posts of 2015, listed in random order, based on page views and the number of shares:

1. Better than yesterday

Disappointments happen sometimes, especially in circumstances beyond our apparent control. We could have. We should have. We would have. Empty words. Hurtful words. Sugar-coating for children only results in stifled anger. We may not have handled the situation with grace or even maturity, but we can always work to be better people today than we were yesterday.”

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2. The Dharma Wanderlust creative method

Several years ago, we wrote a post to explain the process behind our wooden creations. Since the recent unveiling of our Sea Turtle Collection, we have been pleased to welcome new clients to our website. In addition to our earlier post, we would like to walk you through the process of making each wooden turtle pendant.”

3. Marriage lessons from the past  nine years

Sixteen years ago, on July 17th, we went on our first date. I was 16; he was 19. By our second date, four days later, it was clear to us both that we were quickly falling for each other as we strolled through a west-end neighbourhood. Seven years later, on July 22nd, we exchanged our official vows in a landmark Toronto wedding location just down the street from where we first enjoyed getting to know each other, listening to each other’s stories, fascinated by our differences and wondering about common personality traits. Now, 16 years later, we celebrate nine years of marriage and 16 years of deep connection.”

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4. Happy loner

I have always enjoyed my own company. I sometimes wonder whether it’s selfish to admit this fact. The truth is, spending time alone helps to nourish my soul in an honest manner that allows me to take better care of my loved ones.”

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5. Project house detox

This impromptu de-cluttering session led to a change of perspective. For the remainder of that day, whenever I stepped into another room in our house, I asked myself whether we need all the material items we managed to acquire over the past 7.5 years after moving into our current home. Pawel and I have never had a fear of letting go of material objects. Neither are we serious collectors of random tchotchkes. Yet, there seemed to be too much stuff that we do not need. I grew tired of seeing busy kitchen counters. I spoke with Pawel and explained to him that I wanted to edit our home and throw out, sell, or give away various pieces that we do not need to keep and/or do not enjoy. To my relief, he told me he’s on board.”

6. Choosing love over a tidy home

I do my best to keep a balance between working diligently to uphold my highest standards and choosing to ignore a less-than-perfect home from time to time. In fact, the two go hand-in-hand: when I feel calmer and able to overlook the mess of toys strewn around the living room, I am a better mother to my children and partner to Pawel, better able to uphold those high standards. Some days, I feel exhausted after an hour of nagging my children in agitation about tidying up their rooms. Inevitably, 15 minutes after they reluctantly put away their toys, the living room once again looks less than ideal. Interestingly, when I make a choice to be a bit softer in my approach, more willing to overlook the mess until bedtime, I have more energy to be a kind, fun mom.”

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7. Skipping the small talk

Small talk has never been my forte. When bumping into a person I don’t know well, my mind often goes blank after the polite greeting of, “Hello, how are you?” On a good day, I remind myself to ask about my conversation partner’s interests and use one of those as a jumping point into more interesting territory. The problem arises when I meet a person who, like me, keeps his cards close to his chest and doesn’t enjoy divulging any information about himself to someone he just met for the first time. Talk about an introvert’s nightmare!’

8. I don’t watch TV. I don’t miss it.

Not watching TV allows me to make time for mindful activities that I truly enjoy. I do make time for reading, writing, yoga, meditation, crafting, and (yes) sleep.”

9. The capsule wardrobe experiment: Autumn 2015

When I first heard of the idea of the capsule wardrobe, approximately two years ago, my curiosity peaked. I know that there are many great reasons to create a capsule wardrobe – namely, to save money; to eliminate the need to decide what to wear in the morning; and of course, to practise better discernment of what items we enjoy wearing, what we need, and what we no longer need but to which we have been holding on. It’s a great method of redefining our style. After flirting with the idea for many months, I finally took a deep breath and spent some time choosing my favourite pieces for my autumn capsule wardrobe.”

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See you in 2016!

Warmly,

Katia and Pawel (Mr. and Mrs. Wanderlust)

 

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Chocolate No. 24 inside the Star Wars and Kinder advent calendars has been eaten.

Latté, our Elf-on-the-Shelf, has written his ‘adieu’ letter to Wanderlust Juniors. He tells us that after Christmas with his famous busy family in the North Pole, he will be off on a surfing vacation in the South Pacific before returning to resume his duties for 2016. We all will miss Latté, for various reasons that relate to the magic of traditions old and new.

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The annual Christmas cookies have been baked with the help of our two little elves, and packaged to be enjoyed with our loved ones. A separate plate of cookies, along with a glass of organic milk and a locally grown carrot (for the reindeer), will be set for our special guests tonight.

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The exquisite festive centre piece gifted to me generously by my boss adorns our dining table. Last year, on this day, I received a job offer. This year, I am grateful for abundant opportunities in the year that has passed.

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The Christmas trees — the main fresh tree and a smaller artificial tree that is the children’s own — have been redecorated several times to perfection by the youngest Wanderlust Junior. I particularly appreciate the new ornaments that the boys crafted to add to the collection.

Mr. Wanderlust and the eldest Wanderlust Junior are still buzzing with inspiration after watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens two days ago. This has inevitably translated into countless hours of Star Wars Lego creations and the related pretend play.

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I feel lighter, sassier, and more playful, as I always do after some pampering at the hair salon.

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I was overdue for a haircut but had to wait for the front layers to grow in order to accomplish the asymmetrical pixie cut that I was coveting.

In blustery but unbelievably warm 14˚C weather in southwestern Ontario, we share the warmth with our loved ones close to home and send it to those in other parts of the world. We miss them dearly every day, and particularly during the holidays.

From our family to yours, wishing you the merriest Christmas!

Warmly,

Mrs. and Mr. Wanderlust

 

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Necklace by Dharma Wanderlust. Click for more unique handmade jewellery by Mr. Wanderlust.

As I sat down at my computer to write this edition, I hesitated. How will this post be perceived? Will those who know me judge me harshly after reading the post? Will people understand? Then, I came across Joshua Rothman’s article Virginia Woolf’s Idea of Privacy in The New Yorker, and felt a jolt of confidence at the reminder that I’m not alone with the status of a loner. It also reminded me of how much I enjoyed reading Mrs. Dalloway in English 101 in the first year of undergrad, inspiring me to pick up the book again, soon.

A week ago, I drove alone to listen to Kate Morton speak and to meet her briefly while she signed my copy of The Lake House. I had invited my mother-in-law to join me, given that we both are devoted fans of Morton’s work. Since my mother-in-law was not available to join me at the event, to attend which she would have had to drive for over an hour, I went alone. Driving along dark rural roads, I listened to the new album by Enya while heeding the directions of the GPS. When I entered the charmingly decorated hall of the golf club, with Christmas lights and poinsettia sparkling festively, I snagged a solitary spot close to the front of the room at a round table full of women who arrived as a group. I learned many years ago that one advantage of attending events alone is that a solitary seat can almost always be found if not in the front row then in the second row of a crowded theatre or hall.

The lady beside whom I sat down asked me bluntly, “Did you come alone?”

“Yes,” I replied with a smile while removing my coat and draping it on the back of the chair.

“You must really like Kate Morton,” she said.

“I do.” Small smile. Simple. No unnecessary explanations or additional small talk.

I have always enjoyed my own company. I sometimes wonder whether it’s selfish to admit this fact. The truth is, spending time alone helps to nourish my soul in an honest manner that allows me to take better care of my loved ones.

At about five or six years of age, I started going to see children’s movies alone at the theatre across the street from the apartment building in which my parents and I lived. Sometimes, at the behest of my mom, I would reluctantly invite along my friend Pavlik, our neighbour from the fourth floor. I felt mildly annoyed every time he would turn to me during the movie to ask me a question or make a comment.

I remember getting puzzled looks from my friends’ parents who would offer me a ride home from school on a rainy day only to hear my answer: “Thanks, but I like walking alone in the rain.”

I enjoy eating alone in restaurants or hiding with a book in the cozy corner of a quaint cafe. I love visiting art galleries and museums alone. I need to be with my thoughts, to process certain experiences by myself and for myself, without feeling the need to speak with the people next to me or worry about whether they are enjoying the experience as much as I am. Of course, these days, I rarely have the opportunity to do the above, given my family and work schedule, but whenever possible, I do steal away a few hours for myself.

As Rothman quotes Woolf in The New Yorker, “There is a dignity in people; a solitude; even between husband and wife a gulf; and that one must respect … for one would not part with it oneself, or take it, against his will, from one’s husband, without losing one’s independence, one’s self-respect—something, after all, priceless.”

I love spending precious time with my family and friends. It’s healing to sit down with a person with whom I connect on an intimate level and have a real, honest, deep conversation that flows easily, devoid of banal gossip. I prefer to spend one-on-one time with my husband and close friends in a quiet environment that allows us to hear one another, rather than in a loud, crowded venue. Sometimes, it can feel great to attend a play together and discuss it at length afterward over a cup of tea. At other times, it feels just as great to attend a play alone.

Society expects us to want to be with others all the time, and when we deviate from that expectation, we are seen as odd. I’m not immune from that judgment. I still sometimes second-guess my confidence. Yet, it’s possible to be a happy loner and I’m convinced that there are many of us out here, quietly lurking in a café, scribbling contentedly in a notebook, relishing the experience of our own company.

Would you openly admit that you are at least a wee bit of a loner? How can we change the stigma that surrounds introverts and private people in today’s society? Please feel free to leave a comment below to add to the discussion.

If you know someone who would enjoy reading this blog, please share it with a friend.

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Interesting Links:

The Power of Empathetic Thought (Goop.com)

“On a more personal level, I think we need to move beyond the emotionally illiterate world of online “like” buttons. If you see, via Facebook or other platforms, that a friend has done something interesting or has gone through something tough, like a family death, don’t just “like” their post or write a one-line comment. Phone them or Skype them and have a real human interaction.”

On personality, emotional labor, and surviving the holidays (Modern Mrs. Darcy)

In the podcast, Cain explains that introverts can be extremely, genuinely social—even for long periods of time—and enjoy being so. But for true introverts, putting on this extroverted front over a period of days or weeks is exhausting.

This phenomenon has a name: it’s called “emotional labor,” and it’s what you experience any time you project (or, to put it not-so-nicely, fake) an emotion or attitude that doesn’t come easily.”

Brene Brown: The Anatomy of Trust (Supersoul.tv)

“Trust is built in the smallest of moments.”

A very powerful talk about cultivating self-love and self-respect in order to build trusting connections with others.

Another quote from the speech that truly struck me: “I don’t trust people who don’t love themselves but say ‘I love you.'” (Maya Angelou)

Nov29a

My most recent quick knitting project, completed in about an hour yesterday, enjoying a cozy spot on the small Christmas tree decorated by Wanderlust Juniors.

Current Listening Material:

Enya – Dark Sky Island

I have been a big fan of Enya’s music since I first heard The Celts in the early 90s. Enya’s music continues to accompany me through joyful times and difficult situations. Most recently, while saying goodbye to our cat Meeshu, the veterinary clinic played The Celts album in the room where Meeshu and I shared a few final moments together. I am delighted with the new album and glad to find the music consistent with Enya’s previous material.

Enya – And Winter Came

This is a Christmas season staple for me.

Loreena McKennitt is another of my favourite musicians and this is a beautiful collection of older, traditional Christmas songs.
Nov29b
Currently on My Nightstand:
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Enjoying the beautiful Christmas Market in Toronto last weekend.

DSCN0099This evening, I drove to Uxbridge, a small community northeast of Toronto, to meet and listen to one of my favourite authors, Kate Morton. I was first introduced to Morton’s work several years ago while on maternity leave with the littlest Wanderlust Junior. I asked friends for book recommendations and one of them shared with me a copy of The Forgotten Garden. I devoured the book in under a week, reading during nap times and after the kids had gone to bed for the night. I had stepped into a fairy tale the likes of which I used to step into and become lost for hours. I felt a profound connection with the character of Eliza and allowed myself to wander through the idyllic English countryside.

In turn, I introduced my mother-in-law to Morton’s words and together we read and discussed The House at Riverton, The Distant Hours and The Secret Keeper. The Secret Keeper is my favourite book of Morton’s yet, though all the reviews I have read swear that The Lake House, the newest brilliant work, is her best yet. I can’t believe I held out this long before getting my hands on my copy, but I’m glad that the copy I have was signed for me.

During the interview, the beautifully charming author candidly and lightheartedly talked about how much she enjoys plotting the story line, scribbling away in her notebooks, as well as the editing process and its multiple layers, through which the story becomes polished to its final presentation. She revealed that the part of actually sitting down to write the story can sometimes be challenging as she seeks the right words to describe certain profound feelings of the characters or works to illustrate on paper a picture she holds in her mind.

DSCN0101“All good writers are observers, whether they are introverts or extroverts.” She spoke about the images that inspire her stories, including the shapes of the sewage drains on the streets of London on which her eyes rest during a daily walk. I speak and write frequently about the importance of maintaining an attitude of curiosity and in fact, I believe that writers need to be both mindful of the environment around them and also able to ask questions that will shape stories about the objects and people they encounter.

During the audience question period, I asked Ms. Morton how she overcomes the challenge of transforming feelings and images onto the page when words refuse to come or sound utterly flat. Her answer: Get the first draft done but don’t give up afterward. Continue reworking it, polishing, editing.

When it was my turn to have my new book signed, she smiled at me warmly.

“Do you write?” she asked.

“I try,” I giggled nervously.

“I think that’s true for everyone,” she assured me.

All I can do is continue trying. The inspiration is always there, the story ready to reveal itself to the curious observer.

Have you read The Lake House or any of Kate Morton’s other books? Please leave a comment to share your insights with me and other readers (no spoilers, please).

Do you know someone who loves Ms. Morton’s stories as much as I do? They might enjoy this blog post, so please feel free to share it via email or social media.