Uncommonly good things

*This post is sponsored by Uncommon Goods. The thoughts expressed and attempts at humor are 100% my own.*

My daughter loves to play hopscotch. And, I love to watch her play hopscotch. The thing I don't love? Drawing the hopscotch. It's my own fault. I insist on using every last grain of chalk as it whittles away on the sidewalk and I'm one millimeter away from scraping the skin off my fingers. 

That's why this rug caught my eye:

It's designed to be a decorative solution to a rainy day and perhaps, not the solution to my own laziness. Hopscotch all the time! 

This is one of the many reasons I decided to partner with Uncommon Goods; in addition to supporting a community of artisans, designers, and creative thinkers, their online shop is full of unique finds. Check this out:

Wait for it: It's a personalized mixtape welcome mat. *Swoon. And then cue that scene from Say Anything*

If the song In Your Eyes is stuck in your head now, you're welcome.

Uncommon Goods also offers practical things for the home. (What? A mixtape welcome mat isn't practical?)

 

This wood laptop stand is perfect for my mid-century modern home office. I adore my Macbook Air but I'm constantly battling headaches because of the weird thing I do to my neck when I'm typing on it. 

And, I'm not sure if this f-bomb paperweight goes with the decor, but raise your hand if you want it:

(Me! Me!)

Uncommon Goods offers plenty of great gifts for weddings, graduations, and anniversaries. My 17th wedding anniversary is coming up, and, as I typed that, I had to do the math. Is 17 years when you start losing count? So this card game would be nice to have around: 

It helps you recall big and small memories and access the lifetime of stories you carry around with you. 

Another way to remember the important things: Letters To My Future Self. My sister-in-law got my son this exact same gift for his birthday, and it's a great way to create personal time capsules:

Uncommon Goods believes there's a story behind every product, and the company gives you a chance to learn more about the people who made them. When you're surrounded by all that inspiration, I understand when those who work there say, "We have a feeling the future will be uncommonly good."  🖤

Related reading: What I'm watching and loving (my latest post for Skirt! Charleston.)

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This is where we are

This was the year. The year when my firstborn child, my sweet son Dillon, stopped making valentines for his classmates at school. The conversation went something like this:

"Uh, am I doing that this year?" 

"I think so," I replied. "I got an email from your teacher saying there were 24 kids in the class—14 girls, 10 boys—and if you send valentines you have to give one to each student. And no special valentines for special someones."  She included that last part because puberty is coming. Or, perhaps it's already here. 

"Yeah, but it's not mandatory, is it?" 

"Oh. Maybe not. Let me check." I sent a group text to some moms.

Me:  The 5th grade boy wants to know: Valentines or no valentines? 

Boy mom 1:  Ha! Same question at our house. I bought some for my son just in case. He asked if he really has to take them out of his backpack. 

Boy mom 2:  I keep asking my son and he said no to valentines. So we're not doing them this year. (grimace emoji)

Boy mom 3:  My son says no. 

Girl mom:  So funny! My house is all about Valentine's Day. 

Actually, even though Dillon opted out, our house was all about Valentine's day too. My middle child, Blake, who's in second grade, said he wanted to make valentines out of construction paper. He and his younger sister Cate had fun making these happy heart faces, complete with lifesaver eyes, bedazzled noses, and glitter smiles:

And, when I realized we didn't have to produce valentines for a third classroom full of kids, my reaction was part relief (because making valentines is kind of a pain) and part mourning (because I wasn't ready for Dillon to be done). 

But, this is where we are. 

 

My 5th grader, no-Valentine-maker turned 11 today. 

My children are now 5, 7, and freaking 11. No more babies. I am decidedly out of the toddler-chasing, diaper-changing stage of motherhood, the stage that has defined my life for the past 11 years. 

And, to be honest, I have trouble falling asleep at night. It's not like I didn't see this day coming. I've written about it before. And, it's not a bad day. But it's definitely a new day. My family is growing and changing at what feels like the speed of light, and I'm trying to catch my breath. 

But that's the constant state of motherhood, isn't it? Just when you think you're getting the hang of things, it's time to move on. 

I've been a mom for 11 years, and I've been blogging for nine of them. Writing helps me process the relief, and the sadness, and the beauty we experience when life is in transition. I find myself looking ahead to fall, to the new school year, when I send my youngest off to elementary school for the first time and my oldest off to middle school for the first time, and I wonder what this writing space will become.

What stories will I share? Because my children aren't the only ones changing, I am too. If I had to pick one word to describe how I feel about what lies ahead, it's curious. Because, if I've learned one thing about motherhood so far: It's never exactly what you imagine. 

Onward, my friends. 

Angie

ps: There's a construction paper heart stuck to my fridge. It says #bestmom. Although I'd question whether that's actually true, my kids (for now) still think so, so I'd call that #winning.

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Small acts. Great rewards.

Back in 2009, I wrote blog posts for an online magazine that aimed to inspire and empower work-at-home moms. As it turns out, most of my stories were about my inability to do any actual work (or shower, or pee) while simultaneously caring for young children who needed my attention.

That was also the year that I met Abby, a writer living in Baltimore and raising two young sons. One day, she commented on one of my posts. She wrote something like, “Are we the same person? I feel like you’re living my life!” We’ve been friends ever since.

Our online chats led to talks on the phone and over Facetime. Then, Abby flew to visit me in Charleston. Later, I flew to Baltimore to visit her.

During one of our in-person visits we wondered aloud: How can we capture the essence of the conversations we’ve been having for years? Storytellers at heart, we brainstormed ways to share our ongoing dialogue with other women: our failed attempts to achieve work-life balance, our desire to redefine society’s narrow definition of success, and ultimately, our determination to live joy-filled lives.

“What about more good, less grind?” Abby suggested during our creative powwow.

“Yes!” I replied. And with that, we had a tagline, a hashtag, and a mission statement all in one.

We decided to create a joint Instagram account to document the good moments that happen all around us, in the midst of our everyday lives. We agreed to a publishing schedule, and a year and a half later, we’ve never missed a day. But I didn’t realize how remarkable that was until last summer, when my dad died.

“I don’t think I can post today,” I told Abby when she called to express her condolences. I had absolutely nothing good or inspired to say.

“Of course,” she replied. After all, it’s only Instagram. We know we can always trade days, or skip a day, or stop the whole thing anytime. One of our most important rules: no stress.

After we hung up, I thought back over the past several days leading up to his death, and my eyes fell upon the stack of mementos from my life that my dad had saved—newspaper articles, graduation announcement, wedding invitation, a story I’d written about him for school. I spread them out like a collage, snapped a pic, uploaded it to Instagram, typed out some thoughts on the tiny keys of my phone—about how we had a way of communicating without words—and hit “publish.” Then, I felt a deep sense of comfort, relief.

There’s an ease to our project, to be sure. Plenty of cute kids and sunshine. But on the worst of days, it stretches us. It challenges us in all of the right ways. Our underlying commitment to not force or fake the silver linings has cleared a path for those authentically good moments to reveal themselves.

 

This post originally published on Skirt.com for their "All In" issue. 

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