19 November 2007

dear m+m: finding fulness

Marta and Marty,

I found your blog by happy accident a while back when I too was blogging. You (Marta) were a link in a chain of girls who seem to all be friends and all share a similar interest in writing, design, and style in general. ...I enjoy your introspective take on life; you seem to really be "full" and happy. My question for you both is this: I am a young mom of four very young children, ages 1-7. Most of my days feel like survival and pandemonium when I would rather they feel joyous and "full". What is your advice for finding beauty in the everyday, for infusing a life with style and beauty on a limited budget, and embracing the happiness around you?

I often feel like all these are qualities gifted to the younger and childless; these people seem to have been given more time for themselves than I, which I realize is a biased thought. Marta, you seem like someone I'd want to sit down with and share a treat and ruminate on how life is beautiful. Please share.

Looking for bliss

marta writes: dear {girl},

wow. what excellent questions. {some i'm not sure how to answer exactly. i've re-written my answer a few times because i want to get this one right.} first of all, thank you for your sweet words. it's an unbelievable compliment when i hear that my words have a small impact on you. i have such respect for mothers, who i like to refer to as super women. you women do it all: the day-in / day-out cheerful attitudes, the endless patience for wiping up spills and letting them do it allbythemselves, the forever bright ideas and afternoon crafts, the excellent in-a-pinch games and stories you tell to make children happy while waiting in lines. i am often in awe of how all of you seem so chic and classy and wearing lipstick. i can barely slap on lipgloss between traffic lights, forget about the lip liner!

therefore i have no real secrets up my sleeve. i will whisper to you a few lifesavers that, in my life, i try and keep in mind. which i hope, in turn can work for you.

  • 01. find a small notebook (available at dollar stores worldwide). place it (and a favorite pen) in your happy little vehicle. write lists (at stop lights if you must). it will help you remember the sweet things your children say, the daily things you are thankful for, the holiday cards you want to send, the name to the song you are loving and want to go home and buy from itunes. it will also help you to remember to buy paper towels. it is your best friend when you hear / see a phone number on the radio / billboard. you can also use this handy pad of paper to write a quick, yet effective i love you to the always-adorable husband or an i owe you for the ever so helpful neighbor across the street. sometimes a sincere sloppy li'l note left under the windshield wiper is better than any scented letterpressed beauty you could buy. {believe me, it actually saved me once from paying the price of sliding into a parked car.} so yes, write in a little notebook. you will fall in love with it. even if pages are torn out, the writing is going sideways and your kids' smushed skittles are all over it. it will be the evidence of you living in the moment. sometimes my best soliloquies come from a thought on one random page of those notebooks.
  • 02. invest in classics. and when i say invest, i mean at h+m. and when i say classics, i mean items you love. unfortunately i cannot buy all my fashionable goods from fancy schmancy little boutiques that are tucked in hidden spots where only the rich and the famous can shop. i have found some of my favorite pieces at tj maxx, target, and nordstrom rack. play around with colorful headbands, trendy earrings, drugstore nail polish; they come cheap. also, an eye-catching bag is probably the best statement you can make. another thing i do is hoard lovelies from beloved closets. meaning, i love a good handmedown. and am not ashamed to admit it. a classic fitted sweater that my mom wore once upon a time is now a favorite + unique top layer that goes with everything i own. plus, i've never seen anyone else in it. {this investing in classics can also work for books, dishes, paintings, stationery.. surround yourself with something you are passionate about.}
  • 03. figure out a way to love yourself. who you are, inside and out. even if there are a lot of things you'd like to change. this is {obviously} easier said than done. this is sometimes an uphill battle for me. every day i try to find the positive and seek out the goodness of both others and myself. nothing is worth beating yourself up about. i know that when i am feeling sorry for myself, i am not the most endearing person to be with. but i do know that when i meet a confident, cheery person, i want to be near them. all the time. their charm is immediately contagious. it really doesn't matter what they look like, who they know, which designer jeans they have on... it's the way they make me feel. charming people have this way to make you feel like you are the number one kid on the block, the funniest person at the party, the most interesting human on earth. with practice, you can indeed become everyone's favorite charming person.

the more you can love yourself and see the general good that life gives to you, the more love you will have to give to others. thus perpetuating a motion that will lead you to more happiness, more confidence, more charm, more optimism, more friends, more life. more fullness. discover joy in the simple things. xo.

marty says:

So often when we're in the middle of something, we don't have perspective. Remember how dramatic life seemed in high school? Isn't it amazing that it was only three years long? Motherhood is like that, too. You're in the middle of an influencial, significant work, but it's so consuming that you often can't see it in perspective. It seems neverending. But it does end, and then you begin to comprehend all the lessons you've learned. It's like a college education compressed into six months. Overwhelming, but worth it. In the meantime, I have five suggestions:
  • 1. Don't take anything too seriously. Everyone will grow out of whatever annoying stage they're in sooner or later.
  • 2. Laugh whenever possible. Look for the funny side.
  • 3. Nobody in the world can be a better parent to your children than you can. You are good enough.
  • 4. Get a good haircut, that's easy to maintain, and put on a little makeup everyday. You'll cheer yourself up when you look in the mirror.
  • 5. Joy isn't frivolous. It shouldn't be an "extra" or a reward. Choose to do the things that make YOU happy.
thank you for your question. this one got me thinking. living a fuller life is something we are all searching for. m, i love the part about cheering yourself up when you try to look your prettiest. why not take time for yourself and doll up a bit, even if it's just to visit the kid's section at your neighborhood library.

i can't wait to hear the reader's wisdom on this subject. please comment with your comments.
have a question for m+m: email marta@martacards.com.


The UnMighty said...

All good advice, for moms and dads.

Lucy R. E. said...

it's funny; my thoughts were hovering over this same topic last night. and i was thinking...i have a friend who reminds me of two guiding principles that help me get through and really appreciate every moment, good bad and mediocre.

nothing lasts forever. it seems depressing at first, but i think of it this way: rough patches will give way to smoother ones eventually so they needn't be fussed over too much. on the flip side, even the smoothest of rides is bound to run into a rough patch at some point, so let's appreciate this moment for what's it worth now. let's not worry about when it will be over or how sad we might be when it goes away. relish every moment .

the second one is connected:
02. minimize expectations. disappointed expectations can be the biggest heartbreakers. whether it's regarding a relationship, a family event, even a trip to walmart. obviously you can't just stop creating expectations. but if you can minimize them, and let each moment become what it was meant to be, you can appreciate and enjoy it that much better, unhampered by its failure to meet what you thought it would be.

now that i've written my own mini-post in your comments, i'll leave with you with my personal mantra:

"wheresoever you go, go with all your heart."

Holly O. said...

What an incredible list. Since having my second baby, I have wondered if I have teetered a little with post pardum depression. I recognize joy and life in some of my friends (especially one of your readers, Miss 100 Percent Cottam) and I so want to have that back. I used to be like that. Not too long ago! But I am seeing the light and I do believe we can all love ourselves, as you said in number 03. And a big part of that is number 02, looking and feeling and being surround by beauty. Thanks for your insight!

Anonymous said...

fabulous advice from both of you. Looking for bliss isn't the only one who would love to have coffee with you!

love.boxes said...

I like Marta's idea.. write it all down. I have an added reason for that. It goes by so fast. My sweet baby is nearing the end of elementary school, not such a baby anymore. How I wish I had written every little cute thing and even the not-so-cute things down at the time so that I could have a perfect memory. A friend of mine said the other day... a childhood is like a snowflake.. it melts away right before your eyes. So even though there is caos. Savor all the moments you can, because you will enter a different stage of life in less than five years.

Secondly, I love these 2 book by Alexandra Stoddard.. Choosing Happiness and Things I Want My Daughters to Know.

I also love Celebrations & Things I Wish I'd Know Sooner by Jaroldeen Edwards.. (who has 12 children).

Also, I agree with Marty, you are doing the most important work there is. Don't let anyone tell you differently. The best way to change the world is to raise good human beings.

Colleen said...

I love this post! I'm a mother of one (so far) and sometimes ask myself the same questions... But then one morning I wake up, look at my husband and little boy, and my wonder at how very lucky I am returns. Thanks for the sweet thoughts and ideas. I definitely need to get myself a little notebook.. or two... or three...

Mike said...


First, Marta writes:

"i can barely slap on lipgloss between traffic lights..."

Anything that distracts the driver, even when the vehicle is stopped at a traffic light, is a potential hazard and should be avoided. While I am sure your statement was used as an analogy to compare the daily accomplishments of the busy woman, wheather she is a mother or simply a busy woman on the go, statements like this from influential members of the blogging media should be worded carefully for those of us impressionable types. Though not being opposed to trying new things, I have never used lipgloss and would not want to cause problems trying to do so for the first time while behind the wheel.

And secondly... I find a small glass of wine after the kids have gone to bed to be helpful.

Jen said...

I couldn't agree more with your thoughts. I especially relate to your "hand me downs" comment. I actually just did that this weekend with a good friend and try to think of it as recycling! I ended up with a few new great staples like cashmere sweaters that I hope to have for a while. Thanks for your great advice.

Tara said...

I haven't even read this entire post yet because I'm in a rush, but I read the first paragraph and am so excited to read the rest that I printed it out to take with me to my business meeting. :)
I completely understand what "Looking for bliss" is asking because I feel this way sooo often. And I am actually one of the younger, childless ones. My own questions about how Marta and similar people seem so full and happy have generated some funny theories. While she figured it was the 'young and childless', I was wondering if it was people from the west. (I'm obviously in the east.) I know it sounds silly, but my mind really did generate that thought. :) Either way....I too desire to be full and happy like Marta appears to be and am really looking forward to read the rest of this blog.
Thanks so much! I'm loving these post!

Anonymous said...

Hey :) Lurker here, I don't often comment on blogs, but I wanted to hear because this post hit me right in the heart.

I sooo understand how this lady feels! When you're a parent and times are tough, bills need to be paid, the car is at the mechanics and everyone needs new shoes or kitty puked all over the sofa, its so easy to get bogged down and miss the little rays of sunshine which ARE there, ALWAYS.

A notebook is a lovely idea, I actually always have a notebook with me, but never thought to record little things the kids say and popping notes under DH's windscreen is a sweet thought!

My own lil piece of advice...
I was very depressed last year, and it took just one sentence from my counsellor to change my world "How do I know that you love me?" Ask yourself this, about your partner, your kids, your friends and anyone else who is a part of your daily life, and ask them too to ask the same question.

We all show love in different ways, we all receive love in different ways. I found one of the hardest things about being a mum is that I seemed to do everything for my partner and kids and didn't feel appreciated.

Asking ourselves and each other these questions helped us to realise we need to remind each other how much we care sometimes.

I put notes in my kids lunchbox to say how special they are, they might bring me a bunch of flowers they stole from the neighbours garden (LOL) and DH is a lot more thoughtful too.

Kids are never too young to learn that we need to do little things for one another, because thats what love is, sharing, giving, as well as receiving.

Ever since my family started being more thoughtful of one another, my world just lit up again, somehow, when you're happy, and loved, everything else just seems to fall into place, and you start noticing the good things again :)

marta said...

these suggestions are wonderful! i love the joined efforts into giving pieces of advice. thank you for sharing your pieces of wisdom. i am thankful for the help. {this advice column is more for me than anyone!}

Anonymous said...

i love everything you and your mom said. your mom is so right about how quickly it all goes by and before you know it, she will looking back and wondering where it all went.
i think the most important thing any of us can do is take a little time each day for ourselves. 'looking for bliss' needs to decide what is the most important thing to her...reading, writing, sewing, papercrafting, etc. and carve out a little time each day to embrace that passion. this in itself is a gift to her children. when children see passion in their parents, it rubs off on them. and a life lived passionately is a life well lived!
okay, that's my two cents!

laura tj said...

you two are really good at this! such lovely and encouraging advices!

Unknown said...

i'm just loving this new feature on your blog.
and marta...
thank you, thank you, thank you for your nice little package that arrived at my door.
you are too nice..

Anonymous said...

what a fab. ? just in time to remind me of the little joys that i may forget if i dont write them down.
i have a little girl who is still a tiny one. i want her to have another playmate for life. i want her to have a sibling as i did but i get down thinking about how i rarely find time for me now-so how it would be with 2. i know this is another phase in life that will pass by quickly. but when youre in it-youre not thinking of how fast it'll go by. youre just thinking of how to get by happily (somewhat).
anyhow -great post

Amy said...

I was reading a blog with a link to this post and this is a wonderful and insightful post. Thank you. I never go ANYWHERE without a notebook. Seriously....

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