Mom, why are they singing the same words again? Hal, that’s called a refrain or a chorus. It’s a pattern people use to write songs. The repetition helps to communicate the meaning. (This is an excerpt from a December conversation we had on the way to preschool one snowy morning while listening to the radio.) Red white, red white, red white. It’s a candy cane pattern, Mom! (She’s learning about patterns at school right now.)
It’s playing, again. The beat is fast and frenetic. I could run a marathon at a sprinters pace with the cadence of this song. Ironically, I’m not sure I’d ever make it to the finish line at this pace. The chorus repeats itself again. It’s my voice. It’s Hallie’s voice. It’s a conversation with a friend. Slow down, Melissa.
This is the refrain of my life.
I pare down my closet, my kitchen gadget drawer, the amount of presents under the Christmas tree, and the varieties of rice we keep. I talk about minimalism a lot. I wrote a book about it. It’s a practice I like to practice. It’s easy to practice minimalism in my material life, well, most of the time. I’m still hanging on to that copper stock pot that’s basically the same size as my dutch oven. I don’t really need both.
And then there’s my work life. A couple years ago, this space became my full time job. I stopped designing websites and devoted all my working hours here. This space is complicated for a lot of reasons. It’s a space that’s deeply personal and feeds my need to create. But it also feeds my family, funds 10 rounds of lemon meringue pie recipe testing, and pays off that expensive Minnesota winter gas bill. It’s a space that’s tangled up in my everyday. In so many ways, my work is my life. The work part never ends. Not even on holidays, when the site crashes the day before Thanksgiving. Just keep sprinting.
This is also the refrain of my life.
There’s a beautiful copper stock pot sitting on the shelf of my work life too. I’m struggling to get rid of it, even though I don’t need it. How do you work like a minimalist (and not a maximalist)? How do you define enough for your work life? How do you then stop at enough? How do you conquer your email and to-do list without letting it conquer you? These are the questions I’ve been asking myself lately.
I’m calling this the year the year of the pivot. Because something has to change. It might be as small as learning how to gracefully say no to a very good thing in order to protect my most sacred things. Or maybe it will be a larger shift. I’m not sure. For the sake of my relationships and my mental health. For the sake of putting down my phone. For the sake of quieting that frenetic refrain playing yet again.
Sprint, slow down; sprint, slow down; sprint, slow down. The repetition of the refrain helps to communicate meaning. (I guess I’m learning about patterns too.)
I took two full weeks off between Christmas and the New Year. We went to Texas to see our friends and family. I invited myself over to my friend’s house and threw together a baked oatmeal from the random bits of my parent’s kitchen. She’s had to delete a couple things out of her diet while nursing, so I made a naturally dairy- and gluten-free Orange Poppy Seed Baked Oatmeal. There’s no telling how my experiments will turn out. This one was good, so good I made it again when we got home, and then one more time for you.
The Orange Poppyseed Baked Oatmeal is a bright a bright spot on a winter morning. It’s sweetened with maple syrup and orange juice and speckled with poppy seeds. This recipe is naturally dairy- and gluten-free.
2 c. old fashioned oats
1 tbsp. poppy seeds
1 tbsp. orange zest
1 tsp. aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 c. coconut milk
1/3 c. maple syrup
1/3 c. fresh squeezed orange juice
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large egg
about 1/4 c. unsweetened coconut
Prepare the dry ingredients. Preheat the oven to 375°F. In an 11.5″ x 9″ enamel pan (or similar), add all the dry ingredients and stir to evenly combine. Set aside.
Prepare wet ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients until evenly combined.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until evenly combined. Smooth the top and wipe the sides of the pan with a spatula or a paper towel to keep the pan clean. Bake for 10-11 minutes. Sprinkle the coconut on top and bake for an additional 3 minutes to toast the coconut and finish baking the oatmeal. It’s done when the edges are lightly golden and the top is firm to the touch. Serve and top with plain whole milk yogurt if that’s your thing. (It’s our thing.)
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