September 12, 2017

Going Back/Going Home

Ten years ago, when Mr. Go and I left our hometown, a remote place in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we never dreamed we would go back for anything longer than a vacation.

But we've Lived and Learned and our priorities have changed.

Were I a more spiteful person than I already am, I would have dug my heels in and refused to go back, knowing that some people will view it as a failure. As if our seven years in Colorado were for naught, just because we decided not to stay indefinitely.

But A) That is so untrue I almost can't even talk about it and B) I feel sad for the people who hold the narrow view that the destination is the point of the journey.

Colorado has felt like home. It's where my daughter was born. It's where I learned how to be me. I will always love Colorado, the people, the opportunities it offers and the experiences I've had here. There's nothing that says we won't move back in a year or two or 10. But right now, what's best for us is to relieve ourselves of the burden of a too-large home and put that equity to better use.

Mr. Go and I have talked about selling our home for many months, but I was not ready to leave CO. But the more I thought about the prospect of living near family the more appealing it became. Anyone who has raised a child without immediate family nearby knows: it's hard. Not only was having help appealing, but I missed my family too.

So we listed our house for sale with the aggressive timeline of leaving for Michigan two weeks later.

Rather than going the U-Haul route, we decided to downsize and only take what would fit in our cars. (It ended up being 3 car-fulls, as Mr. Go and I drove back labor day weekend for Phish @ Dicks.) We purged the house during the HOA's garage sale weekend and started selling off the large items that would not be making the trip back with us.

The house is now (finally) under contract. But here's the great part: buying a home in Michigan was not contingent on selling the home in Colorado. Houses in the U.P. are so cheap it's bananas.

It's been almost a month in our new home and the perks of a smaller-town living are pretty great. In no particular order:

1. Bike Everywhere
And less worry about being hit by a car!! We no longer live in the 'burbs, where everything is a 10-15 minute car ride across the highway and impossible by bike. We live in town, where I can bike on the quiet streets towing Babs in the Burley Minnow (which btw, is super awesome).

2. Family
I won't bother trying to express my full gratitude for having my family around me again, it'd only bore you and I'd wind up crying onto my keyboard. Suffice it to say, being able to drop Babs off with Grandma to go do something, or bike over to Mom's house for lunch is, at this moment, perfection.

3. Familiar Faces
This has the added benefit of actually making me feel safer. I no longer lock up my bike when I go into the store. My cousin teaches in Babs' pre-school building. I see an aunt at the grocery store at least once a week. This may become tiresome at some point, and of course there are some familiar faces that may not be so welcome but after living so long as a small fish in a big pond where you can go your whole day without making eye contact in public with anyone, let alone a meaningful connection, right now I find it pretty neat.

It takes a special mindset to go back to small-town living after living in a metropolis like the Front Range of Colorado. You have to want it. You have to be able to appreciate it or you'll probably hate it. Undoubtedly, there are downsides. (Fewer options for everything, everyone knows everyone, less to do to entertain yourself.)

But yesterday I dropped Babs with one grandma and spent the morning blackberry picking with the other. Never coulda done that before.

We haven't gone backward. I don't even consider it coming home. We've simply moved our mobile family again for another adventure, and wherever my family unit happens to be--that's home.


July 5, 2017

On Downsizing

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by all the things in your living space? Have you ever tried to find something you knew you had but couldn't, no matter where you looked?

Some people hear the scary word Minimalism and think it means living with one metal folding chair and a spork. This is not true. If that's your thing, great, but minimalism can exist on a spectrum. The things you deem "necessary" are very personal and subjective.

Before embarking on a blog post regarding downsizing and organizing, I'll offer my opinion, since this is my blog and all. Purging your possessions is useless if you're going to snowball into accumulation again. Sure, you could purge twice a year and rotate out your possessions if buying things is that important to you but to me, the need to buy things is a form of addiction. And anything that has the potential to control my thoughts and actions is Not Cool.

The impulse to shop and to own more, better, bigger things is so ingrained in our culture it's hard to know where to even begin un-doing the habit of accumulation.

Our brains are wired to give us a little dopamine rush when we acquire something new. If we want to change this, we need to consciously rewire ourselves and switch the happiness signal onto other things, ideally things that don't require you spend money and give up space in your home to store objects. Like, say, accomplishments that come from within or enjoyment of simple, free pleasures, like quality time or the sunshine. The first step is, as you might guess, recognizing you might have a problem.

"That's all well and good," you say, "but we've already filled up all the drawers and cupboards of our home with stuff."

Don't worry, it's never too late to reclaim your life from your possessions!

Marie Kondo wrote the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. You need not read it. Her self-named KonMari Technique is basically this: Get rid of most of your stuff and you'll never lose track of anything again. She offers some practical tips, which I have condensed for you below.

1. Declutter First, Organize Second

Don't try to organize all your shit. It's just going to get cluttered up again in a week. You need to purge first.

Start with your off-season clothes, go through handbags, shoes, kitchen, miscellaneous crap, and end with sentimental items. Don't start with your keepsakes, it'll only distract you and then your whole day is wasted.

When you dive in to your closet, divide it up by shirts, dresses and pants if you need to, but get allllll of one type of clothing item in one place. Pull them off the hangars and throw them on the bed or the floor together. Make sure you check other closets and the laundry too. Get them all together.

2. Does it Spark Joy?

If you wouldn't buy it in a store now, put it in a bag and donate it to someone who will find joy in it.

Again, you must take out all of your items. Every item you own. You cannot do this just by scanning your closet. You must hold it in your hands and ask yourself, "Does this spark joy?"

If it's not a Hell Yes, for me then it's a No.

Marie advises doing the declutter/purge phase relatively quickly. Instead of doing a little here and a little there, which makes you feel like you're spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere, making it a marathon and doing it all at once (as much as you can) allows you to see results quickly and gain momentum for really making a dent in the clutter.

3. Absolve Yourself of Guilt

When we receive a gift or purchase something we don't end up using, it's simply the guilt of that unnecessary purchase or misplaced guilt toward the person who gave it to us that's holding us back from chucking it. That's not what the gift giver would have wanted for us. Let go of those things without guilt by thanking them for fulfilling a role in your life. They played their part, did their job and now they (and you) can move on.

The gift you received gave you (and probably mostly the gift-giver) pleasure in the gift exchange and opening. That is all the purpose it needs to serve.

That item you purchased and never used or wore, it served a purpose too. It gave you pleasure when you bought it, and it taught you that you don't use that type of thing or that you don't wear that type of clothing.

The purple dress I bought in college and never wore but hung onto for a decade for the simple reason that I hadn't worn it....I was able to let go of it by thanking it for teaching me a lesson. And now it's free to find a new home where it will actually see the light of day.

4. Store like items in the same place

Once you've gone through every single one of your possessions, then you're ready to organize and store. Marie has all kinds of storage tips, such as using a dresser rather than a closet and storing clothes on end rather than in stacks. Honestly I wasn't interested in applying most of it.

But I found this one piece of advice helpful: Store Like Items in One Place.

No more keeping a bottle of neosporin in every medicine cabinet. Gather all of one type of thing in one place. If it's first aid supplies, keep them in the hall closet. This way you can see all of that one certain type of thing and know how much you have. This prevents you from buying duplicates plus enables you to always know where to look when you need this type of thing.

This goes for clothing too. Resist the urge to put off-season clothes away or in another closet. They will eventually be forgotten. By keeping all your things together it ensures you see them all regularly, keep track of what you have, and only own the things that you truly love.


Living light is the ultimate goal in the Go Household. We've made great progress both in reducing what we have and simply stopping the accumulation train, but there are still days when I look at all the junk lying around and want to sweep everything with both arms into a garbage bag and set it aflame.

We have a long way to go to reach our vaguely-defined "light" living but we've been paring down our possessions gradually to get used to the idea of eventually relieving ourselves of 75% of our things. We hope to arrive at a carload or two of only the things that are truly necessary, freeing us up for more mobile adventures.

I hope some of these tips may help with your clutter problems too!


June 19, 2017

Beauty and the Beast Bedtime Story for Kids

We've branched out from Frozen thank goodness, and added some variety into our bedtime stories. We watched the live action Beauty and the Beast and now she's even more obsessed with Princess Belle. I grew up on this story, it's my favorite classic Disney movie but honestly, recounting it twice a day word for word is getting a wee bit tiresome. I know you understand my pain.

Anyway, moms and dads, give your brain a rest and mindlessly read the condensed story to your demanding little ones instead of having to make it all up every night!

(PS: Here's FrozenMoanaCinderella, Little Mermaid, Mulan and Rapunzel too.)

Beauty & the Beast
aka "Mommy Why Did the Beast Take Belle Prisoner?" and Other Fun Questions

Once upon a time in a castle there lived a spoiled, selfish prince. One cold rainy night a haggard old woman knocked on the door, seeking shelter from the bitter cold in exchange for a single rose. Repulsed by her appearance, the Prince turned her away. She warned him not to be deceived by appearances, for true beauty lies far within. When he scorned her again, the woman's ugliness melted away to reveal a beautiful enchantress. The Prince tried to apologize but it was too late, she had seen there was no love in his heart.

She transformed him into a hideous beast and placed a powerful spell on the castle and all who lived there. The Beast concealed himself in his castle with a magic mirror as his only window to the outside world. The rose she had given him would bloom for many years. If he could learn to love and earn another's love in return by the time the last petal fell, the curse would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a Beast for all time.

Nearby, a girl named Belle lived in a small French town with her father, Maurice, who was an inventor. Belle loved reading because the stories in her books took her on adventures she couldn't get in her small town.

May 5, 2017

Making a Mini Bibiliophile

Reading is a huge part of our lives in the Go Household. Helping Babs discover the joys of books was important to us, and a fun endeavor for all, as it simply entailed a lot of reading.

Reading on the side of a mountain in Mexico

Tips to Help Kids Learn to Love Reading

When kids love reading books (or being read to), they develop vocabulary and language skills that will grow and help them in school and all throughout their lives!

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go." — Dr. Seuss

1. Start Reading Together Early

"I feel the need of reading. It is a loss to a man not to have grown up among books." —Abraham Lincoln
"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." — Emilie Buchwald

We read to Babs when she was only weeks old. She had no idea what was going on, but she heard our voices and was exposed to seeing books in Mommy and Daddy's hands almost from birth. Make it the norm early on.

2. Set the Example

Show them that Mom and Dad love reading too! Kids want to do everything you do!

A little light reading from mom & dad's library

3. Keep Books Within Kids' Reach

"Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks." — Dr. Seuss

When they're wee ones, this works best with board books, as grabbing hands will inevitably tear paper pages.

When Babs got a little older, she loved pulling books down from her shelf and paging through them.

Reading on the pot from a young age.

4. Rotate Books

NEW and DIFFERENT books are always way more exciting than the books she's seen a million times already. Here's where the LIBRARY comes in. We go every two weeks and get a dozen new books. She pages through them on her own first before we even start reading. It keeps her interest and keeps me from losing my mind after reading Dinotrux a thousand and seventeen times.

Get different kinds of books too. Princess stories are fun, but there are so many different books available. Books that teach colors, counting and letter recognition -- in a fun way! Get science books and books that teach about different kinds of animals. They're never as popular in the house as the princesses, but every little bit of exposure helps her learn. They're little sponges, soaking up everything you show them.

So make sure you're showing them the good stuff.

April 30, 2017

How to Get Sewing Articles Published

*Shakes dust off shoulders* Hi again. I have not fallen off the face of the earth as you may have suspected. It's just been a crazy spring. Between parents visiting, having sewing deadlines, and being sick for 75% of the last three months it's been what you might *lovingly* call hectic.

But hey, this is cool:

Check that out. They made that badge for me to put up on my blog. I feel so official.

I love writing for Sew News. I worked as Associate Editor for them for 3 years and am so grateful I can continue my relationship with them. The ladies who work there are wonderful people. I get to sew, which I love, I get to help others learn how to sew, how cool is that, and I get paid for it!?! Win-Win-Win

Here are two of my projects from the Feb/March '17 issue:

The day I get a project on the cover-- I won't rest until I make it happen-- I might spontaneously combust.

If you know how to sew and have fun designing your own projects, you can send in queries to get your project and accompanying instructions published in the magazine, for fair compensation of course. Check out their query guidelines here.

If you'd like to query but don't know where to start, contact them to get on their contributor email list. You'll receive Call for Editorial emails, which provide a mood board and a jumping off point for the types of projects they're looking for.

(Machine embroiderers make sure to query to Creative Machine Embroidery magazine, which will be included in the Call for Editorial emails.)

Here are some tips for writing queries, from someone who has waded through them to choose projects for the magazine:
  • Be specific. Identify preferred fabric and color choices. This is something they may work with you on, but it's good to have a place to start.
  • Be unique. What technique are you going to teach that isn't something people see every day? 
  • Provide detail photos. If there's something on the J Crew site you're copying a detail from, include a picture of it. Make sure to identify in the notes or on the picture what detail you're capturing. Include some sketches of the design as well, identifying inner details and seaming details.
  • Be professional. Send each query in separate word or pdf documents as attachments. Include in the body of the email a nice letter, detailing your sewing experience. Once you send in your query, wait patiently. If it's chosen they will email you. If it's not chosen they will email you to thank you. And keep sending in your ideas! They love having a great pool to choose from, and if your project isn't right for the current issue, they may even keep it for consideration for a later date.
If you can sew and think it would be cool to see your projects professionally photographed in a nationally-distributed magazine (which it is), send in a query! You've got nothing to lose!

April 17, 2017

How to Get Out of a Bad Investment

Bad investments, we’ve all made them. Maybe it’s something you expected to appreciate in value – like real estate or a stock. Or maybe it’s something you just thought you really needed, but don’t use – like a bike, a watch, or home exercise equipment. Because we made this purchase there is ego and pride attached to it. Our ego tells us: “Just wait until the investment turns positive.” or “I’d sell it, I just can’t get back anywhere near what I put into it.”

If that sounds like you, you’re giving yourself the worst possible advice. In addition, you’re wasting your time and headspace worrying over something that you should just do something about.

Easier said than done right?

I’ve been following a few pieces of good advice that I wanted to share:
  1. You don’t need to make it back the way you lost it.
  2. If you can’t afford to lose it, you can’t afford it.

#2 has been a driving force behind my decision making for a few years now, I’ve internalized it and I love it. But #1 is a harder lesson to learn.

So… here’s a story about getting out of a bad investment (aka an older Mr. Go cleaning up a mess made by a younger Mr. Go).

A brilliant 25 year old Mr. Go, with plenty of disposable income, decided to buy his lovely bride to be a $10,000 engagement ring. Impressing people was important, and surely a ring of this value would make him look like a total douche badass. So he wrote a check and the ring was his. It was custom designed by a jeweler with a 1ct round cut diamond (that sat up so high it would conveniently rip shirts and scratch people). The jeweler wrote an appraisal for the ring and valued it at $14,500. What a great investment!

Bad investment on left.

What if the ring got lost or stolen? Easy, personal property insurance can cover that; it’s only $9 a month. Mr. Go purchased this ring in April 2010.

Now comes the part in the story where I started thinking more thoughtfully about my future, using my resources to spend time with loved ones while I still can, having a kid and toning down my focus on work.

As my family has continually downsized our needs and simplified our life, there isn’t a lot of superfluous spending. And when something is purchased it always passes the test of advice point #2 and also “Will this purchase improve the quality of our life?” The flip side of the latter question is, “Would getting rid of this reduce the quality of our life?” Mrs. Tell’s answer, in the case of the ring, is a simple “No,” the ring does not add any happiness to her or my life.

But for me, it was reducing my happiness. Every year I would get this stupid premium bill for $109 to insure something I didn’t even want anymore. It wasted much of my time and headspace thinking about what to do with it. Do I stop insuring it and put it in safe? Do I sell it at a loss? Do I wait for diamonds and metals to appreciate in value? Is there a market for used engagement rings? What about the sentimental value?

It was time to take action. I submitted pictures, appraisals and the GIA report to a few online diamond buyers to get an estimate on the diamond’s value and the ring’s value. Diamond buyers were coming back with offers around $4,200. The ring was only worth its weight in platinum plus the diamond chips, so about $500. I accepted reality (remember advice point #1) and took it to a local jeweler to negotiate a deal. We reached a deal where he would buy the diamond and set a new diamond in its place.

I replaced the $4,200 1ct diamond with a $325 1/4ct diamond. The jeweler told me that in 40 years of business he had never had anyone ever come in requesting to downsize a diamond. I took that as a sign that: 1) I’m a genius to realize a bad investment and get out of it, or 2) I’m a dumbass who got himself into a bad investment (or maybe it's a combination of both).

1ct left, .25ct right. What a deal!

Now I should note, with a little expert negotiating, I walked out of the jewelry store with a check for $4,700 and a 1/4ct diamond set in the ring, making it the best offer I got anywhere else. But also noting that the only person that lost (financially) in any of the transactions described above, was me. If you’re interested in buying the diamond in this story it will cost you about $10,000 dollars in this jeweler's shop.

What will I do with the $4,700 dollars? It will go into a non-retirement investment account with every other dime I save (see The No Hassle Approach to Investing). At an estimated 6% annual return I might make my money back on this investment in 10 years. Oh, and over that 10 year period I’ll also save $1,090 in would-be insurance premiums.

There is probably a more sophisticated way to evaluate the cost of this investment, but who cares. It’s a huge weight off my mind and I’ve freed up headspace to focus on more important things. Life is great!

Mrs. Tell and I will be celebrating our five year wedding anniversary on 4/21. I’m proud to say our love for each other has grown now that our time is guided by thoughts and actions, rather than objects. And on a side note, Mrs. Tell loves the “new” ring.

If you’re sitting on a bad investment, stop letting it take time and energy from you, go do something about it.

- Mr. Go

February 8, 2017

Easy DIY Make-Believe Shield

In less than 5 minutes, make a DIY shield for toddler's pretend play. Whether she wants to be Wonder Woman, a gladiator, Captain America or something else entirely, this easy shield is guaranteed to satisfy.

What You Need:
Empty toilet paper roll
Cardboard from a frozen pizza

UDI's gluten free pizza crust comes with a delightfully small cardboard circle.

Let her draw on the shield. (Mom has a Captain America shield you can see in the background so we colored one side of her shield to match.)

Using scissors, cut a hole an inch or so in from one end of the empty toilet paper roll. This is for her thumb.

Center the roll on the back of the shield; tape or glue, and then play!

Tip: A paper towel roll is a great pretend sword. She calls it her 'sword hand' because her entire hand goes inside the end.

Faithful animal sidekick optional.

January 24, 2017

Taking Kids to El Potrero Chico, Mexico

Domestic travel with a kid is one thing, but international?

We took our toddler to El Potrero Chico, Mexico, for 10 days over Christmas and I'm here to tell you: international travel with a kid is not to be feared and you should totally do it.

When our dear friend mentioned rock climbing at El Potrero Chico, which is quickly becoming famous after Alex Honnold free-solo-ed El Sendero Luminoso, we said Let's Do It. The flexibility of my freelance work and Mr. Go's joblessness allowed us to pick up and go.

All we had to do was pick dates and find a dog sitter (for which we used again and it worked wonderfully). We overpacked the car and, with me and Babs in the back and Mr. Go and Our Dear Friend in the front, took off.

We stopped off for a quick snooze, then continued on through Texas for another seven thousand hours. That state is enormous.

Crossing the border into Mexico required nothing more than...driving over the border. A guy peeked in the hatchback. Then of course, you have to navigate several miles to the CITEV, to obtain a Tourist Permit.

The only time we were almost hustled was right there, literally 10 feet over the border. Two men in orange construction vests flagged us down as we were trying to pull away and told us they would take us to the CITEV 'for tips.' We were discombobulated and they looked semi-official in their vests so we said, "Um. Ok."

The men went to their car and Mr. Go rolled up the window, saying to us, "We're not doing that." We waved goodbye to the two dudes and found the CITEV ourselves.

After Mr. Go obtained the Tourist Permit, we didn't stop driving until we arrived at El Potrero Chico. ODF's buddy, wife and daughter had arrived the day before and booked everyone lodging at La Posada.

The road leading up to the canyon is filled with compounds that offer camping and housing. At La Posada our friends got a little concrete house, while we got a truly tiny jail cell with a bed and a bathroom. The bed was like a rock but why would we want to be pampered in Mexico anyway.

Babs and her new friend C, one year older than her, were instantly overjoyed to see each other and hugged upon the first meeting. By the end of the trip Babs began to refer to her as 'my sister.' Aw.

ODF, the climbing expert and all-around Tour Guide of our group (we like to call him Guide Book), took us all up to the crag every day. Some days I stayed back or left early, to get Babs to nap and avoid a late afternoon meltdown. Totally worth it.

Guide Book took us up a 2-pitch on Chico Spire, my very first multi-pitch climb. Pls ignore my finger in the following picture, I was white-knuckling my phone at the bottom of the second pitch.

After Christmas there was a major influx of climbers, and everything got really busy, but for the first several days it wasn't crowded at all. We had our pick of routes and we'd set up the girls with a play tent and snacks at a safe distance. It took us a couple tries to get that part right. Some of the climbs began on the side of the mountain, with no flat area for anyone to sit and relax.

First day, not a good base camp
We found an excellent base camp just below Cat Wall, at a shrine that looks like it's filled with water in the summer. Of course, it's Mexico, so you had to jump a fence to get to it. Just ignore the signs saying not to enter. Everybody's doing it.

Climbing with a group of 5 climbers and 2 kids is a lot to coordinate, and we usually only got in 2-3 routes in the morning. They'd go back out in the afternoon to climb, but I stayed in with Babs. She was overstimulated by like the third day.

After our daily lunch from El Taco Loco, the taco truck down the road in the tiny town of Hidalgo, it was naptime, then margarita/dinner time at 5, play time for the girls and a decent bedtime for all exhausted parties.

the girls dancing at the market
Many of the hotels and restaurants hosted a special Christmas dinner. We stuck around at the restaurant at our hotel. It was fun, but possibly the only thing that wasn't worth the pesos we paid for it. The place was jam-packed, hot and we had to pay full price for our 2-year-old even though she didn't eat a single thing. But I won a shot of tequila in the raffle afterward, so. Feliz Navidad.

We had to swap hotels halfway through the trip. One of the newer establishments, Lemuria was touted as the 'nicest' place in El Potrero Chico. And it was much nicer than the last place. But the mirror in the bathroom was still not attached to the wall, instead simply leaned against it behind the faucet, and the random holes in the building seemed strange to me, a first-world middle-class American.

The grounds at Lemuria:

But the owner made us elote one night (an ear of corn with mayonnaise and hot sauce) and the communal kitchen brought all the climbers together.

Toting Babs around this little patch of Mexico was not hard. I brought a pack of wet-wipes, snacks and a couple toys with us everywhere we went and she was fine. C kept her entertained; they pooled their toys together and ran around like nutjobs.

The local folks mostly adored the kids. Those who had to put up with us for a length of time, like those who worked at our hotels, maybe got a little sick of them running around screaming. But almost everyone we met crouched down to say Hola, rub their hands over their heads and faces (a unhygenic charming regional quirk) and call them muñeca.

I got to use some of my poor high school Spanish. Most of the hotels have at least one person who speaks decent English, but once we ventured into Hidalgo, it was all Spanish. I blundered my way through a transaction at the market (to purchase a lovely pair of fleece-lined leggings that were all the rage) and it was simultaneously embarrassing and exhilarating.

Our lodging felt a little bit like staying at a resort (except without all the luxuries) because we were in a little island of English-speakers. All the guests were rock climbers. That's why people come to this part of Mexico. It secluded us a little bit. But it was a unique opportunity to meet climbers from all over the world. And all we had to do was drive down the hill for tamales, coffee and groceries to get the true flavor of rural Mexico.