Hello Strangers

I’ve been away for a bit…a combination of struggles, achievements, good news, life decisions, family, and projects has been keeping me busy.  In other words – life.

Most of it’s not particularly interesting.  Some of it is possible opportunities that would require serious adjustments in our life and are still in the thinking stages.  My head is just full of “thinking” and I’m having trouble sifting through and putting much into words to share.

But, I’m still here and chugging along.  All my kiddos are at home right now which is fun (and busy).  I’ve been whittling down my “to do” project list.  This cabinet has been in my dining room unpainted for several years.

IMAG0930Ugly, I know.  I guess I just got used to it or kept seeing the potential instead of the reality.  It didn’t take all that long.  Don’t know why I waited, ’cause now it looks like this…

IMAG0938

What a big improvement!

Our family has also started working through the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover.  We’ve had a “sorta” budget for a while.  We mainly just tried to track our spending and keep our heads above water, but now we’re actually budgeting.  Baby steps!  I’m using YNAB (You Need A Budget).  I’m finding it to be very user friendly and accommodating for an inept numbers person like myself.

Then, this last week I’ve made a menu plan that we shopped for and are following.  I seriously cut the amount of money that we were spending on groceries in our new budget.  I chose meals that used a lot of what we already have on hand in the freezer and pantry so a lot of the “shopping” was done here at home.  I spent very little at the grocery store.  Hopefully, this we make meal time less stressful and healthier.  I try to cook at home and eliminate the convenience food and eating out, but we are balancing a lot of different schedules.  When I’ve done menu planning in the past, its been great.

Like I said, most of what’s going on around here is pretty boring.  I’m just trying to focus on becoming more organized and making life simpler in the process.

A lot of areas in my life seem out of control and that’s an unpleasant feeling.  I tend to be a perfectionist so I tend to avoid doing some things.  You know, waiting for the perfect moment, the perfect supplies, or knowing that the outcome will be as good as I’ve hoped.

Painting done imperfectly is better than an unfinished cabinet.  A “close enough” color, a few drips, and recycled knobs look pretty great.

Budgeting done imperfectly is better than uncontrolled spending.  Paying something to everyone is better than not making payments of any kind.  Progress may seem slow, but eventually we’ll get out of debt.

A meal plan (even if it isn’t followed exactly) is better than last minute junk food meals or take-out.

Things done imperfectly still are a blessing to my family.  It’s just hard to take baby steps when I want to fly.

Miscellany

Today I am giving myself permission to waste away the day in miscellaneous tasks.

Quite a few of my chairs (of the dining room and desk variety) have seen better days and I lucked into a lot of 3 sturdy and cheap replacements at the thrift store the other day.  As a result there is now a plethora of seating options laying about in my dining room.  Picture a hoarders’ assortment and you get the idea.  On most days there are four of us around the table.  On weekends and other gathering days there can be as many as twelve.  Then there is the classroom which requires two at the school table and two at my studio table.  Today I am sorting through and picking out the best in need of no repair, discarding those beyond hope, and working on those that are in between.  Glue, paint, new woven seats for the ladderbacks and we are good to go.  I think 10 is a good number.  They can move between the dining room and classroom/studio.  We’ll never need them in both places at once.  Desk chairs can fill in for a crowd.  So, a fun task – making the old look new again – or at least eclectic and fun.

Then, I’m working on the odd bits of unfinished projects that I sorted out a while back.  Finish them or let them go…that’s the plan for today.  Quite a few supplies are stacked about with each unfinished project.  This should free up the supplies to go back into their storage containers.  My desks will be freed up for new projects that are lurking in my head.  The whole cycle can start up again, BUT I’m hoping that I’ve made enough progress that I’ll stay on task better and not jump from idea to idea.  I’ve set up a tidy little space for journaling ideas so I don’t have to worry about “losing” them until I can begin work on them.

I’m also hemming some fabric from IKEA that got hung as curtains without actually ever being completed.  I don’t imagine that many others have noticed that they were unfinished, but I did every time I glanced their way.  It will be good to see a finished project instead of an incomplete one.

Lots of little (ish) tasks, but most of them fun and creative.  I imagine that quite a lot of cleaning and de-cluttering will get done along the way.  Once new chairs are in the dining room, I’ll want to clear surfaces.  Once the surfaces are clear, I’ll probably want to sweep and mop the floor…and so on and so on.

The list is pitched for the day in order to get this all done.  I’m struggling quite a bit with anxiety and the resulting sadness lately.  I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but it’s really wearing me down.  I’m hoping that completing some of these tasks and adding in the creative element will give me a sense of completion and forward progress.

I’d really just like to take a nap.

A cue from Mary Poppins!

This week I’m taking the advice of Mary Poppins in my de-cluttering ventures!

In every job that must be done
There is an element of fun
you find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game

 And every task you undertake
Becomes a piece of cake
A lark! A spree!
It’s very clear to see

That a…
Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go dow-own
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way

A robin feathering his nest
Has very little time to rest
While gathering his
Bits of twine and twig

Though quite intent in his pursuit
He has a merry tune to toot
He knows a song
Will move the job along

Since I’m a big fan of birds and have been working on “feathering my nest” to make it simpler, more welcoming, and more intentional it seemed a good fit.

I’ve been stalled on making much progress (by stalled I mean discouraged, feeling hopeless, and considering giving up).

But, it’s just not in my nature to give up for long – so….

…a game it is.

I know someone who is moving into a fancy-dancy awesome new place and while I’m not jealous, (I’m happy for her because she’s worked hard and truly deserves this blessing) I’m a bit sad that I don’t have the option to “start over”.

So…I decided to make it an option of sorts – starting over that is.

Room by room as I follow my cleaning list, I’m going to envision what that room might look like if it were a new room in a new home that I was moving to.  What would the room look like?  What would I take with me to my new place?  What would I get rid of so as not to move clutter into my new space?  I’m taking notes on what renovations/repairs I would like to see including paint color, etc.  Then we have a to-do list to work from as funds and time become available.

Today is Master Bathroom day.  My husband is installing a new sink faucet that we’ve had, but never installed.  On the list of future improvements is a new shower unit.  Our shower has a crack that isn’t leaking yet, but…  I’d like new flooring because the old flooring is worn out.  And I think a bright coat of white paint is in order.  Bright and clean and spacious.

New lights above the sinks would be nice.  The ones we have came with the house and are boring.  That’s fairly far down on the list, but this is a wish list.

Having a list of needed/wanted items will help us out in searching down bargains.  We’ll know what we need when we spot it.  The list will also help us make repairs and updates in a more timely fashion.  A plan is a good thing!

In the discard pile are some old cosmetics that I never use.  Truly, I don’t know why they are still there and have made it through past de-clutters.  Also gone are my youngest daughter’s bath/shower toys.  She’s outgrown them, but I don’t know which of us is more reluctant to part with them.  Everything in the bathroom is useful or loved.  Nothing extra.

Our old towels are staying and not on the list to be replaced.  They are still more fabric than holes and perfectly functional.  Keeping in mind that I want to simplify and reduce waste, I find that I see a simple beauty in them.  They serve a purpose and there is no reason to run out and buy new ones.

I’ve finished up with a good scrub-down of the room – right down to the baseboards and trash can.  Less stuff = faster cleaning.

The game is on!

Layers

Something happened yesterday.

It didn’t seem like much at the time.

I was working through my cleaning list and dusting.

Have I mentioned that I really don’t like cleaning house?  Don’t get me wrong.  I love a clean house – a lot.  I just don’t like the process involved in getting there.  That may not be true now that I’m typing out the words. I don’t like always living in a mess.  I don’t like cleaning when there’s always more to do.  I don’t like feeling like it’s a lost cause.  That I can never win or catch up.

I sort of enjoy the wiping down of a counter and feeling the satisfaction of a job well done.  Cleaning a grungy floor and seeing it shine.  Opening a fridge and knowing that everything in it is fresh, useful and available.

I don’t like having to do a load of dishes, putting ten things in the trash, taking a load to the compost pile, and returning a number of things to their proper place – and then wiping down the counter.

I don’t like sweeping up a full dustpan of crap, putting up three pairs of shoes and figuring out what-the-hell that spill was – and then mopping.

I don’t like opening the fridge to prepare dinner and seeing a mess – out-of-date produce that didn’t get eaten because it was shoved to the back instead of in the overflowing produce drawer.  Meat that got thawed and not eaten because a schedule changed.  Leftovers that got forgotten.  Waste.  Not being able to grab a healthy snack out and going to the pantry for “easy” instead.

I like the ideal of caring for and cleaning our home.

I don’t like the idea of struggling to get to the point of being able to clean.

And that, folks, is why I starting de-cluttering to begin with.

Now, back to what happened yesterday while I was trying to dust.  I picked up an item to clean it off and that little voice said, “get rid of it”.  I tried to ignore it because this was an item that has been passed over for de-cluttering for a long time.  Years.

Here is the conversation that went on it my head (please don’t judge, I know I have a problem with stuff):

“Get rid of it”

“But I love it.  It’s on my list of favorite things.  Things I might actually grab on my way out of a fire”

“Get rid of it”

“What if one of the kids likes it and would be sad if it was gone?”

Silence

“What if I get rid of it and change my mind and really want it back but it’s gone forever?”

Silence

“I know.  I’ll pack it in a box and store it away and that way if I miss it I can get it back out.”

Silence

Sad to say, I actually did find a box and wrap it up and put it in the box.  The box sat on the dining room table and I found some other things that fit into the same “once loved” category.  A lot of things.  Now, there is a box on the table and I can’t clean off the table.  We can’t eat at that table.  We can’t play a game on that table.  The stuff is still here.

I’ve been at this de-cluttering game for quite a while now.  I realize that it will never be completely done.

It’s like peeling away layers.  I am at the center – the heart – of this place called home.  New layers are formed and old layers need to be peeled away to make room for the growth.

I have chosen to live more intentionally and to make choices that will foster my growth into the life I dream of for me and my family.

The early layers that needed to be removed were fairly easy.  These layers are closer to my heart and are becoming more challenging.  It’s scary to think of how many layers have already been discarded and how many more there might be.  What will I find when I get there?  What mistakes might I make on the journey – how much will it hurt?

I think I’m getting closer – hence, the voice that is getting louder and saying “get rid of it”.  That voice has been there for awhile and I’ve heard it.  But, I’ve had trouble responding.

It’s hard to learn to trust yourself.  It’s all wrapped up in the big picture – trusting yourself and loving yourself.  Listening to your own voice and not the voices of your childhood, your past, your “inner critics”.  Taking control of your life – including owning your mistakes and learning from them.  Looking forward and moving forward.  Remembering the past, but not holding onto so tightly that you don’t have open hands available for the next gift and opportunity.

Of course, it’s not just about the stuff.  The stuff is just a symptom.  But, it’s part of the process.

I’m getting up from here and the box is going to the car – off to the thrift store this afternoon.

The table will be cleared and I will make it shine.

I Like It

Every once in awhile I make something that I like.  That I really like.  It’s not because it turned out as I planned or because I know it’s “good” art.  (Who the hell knows what good art is anyway?)

I hit a point in the process where I look at it and know that it’s complete and that I did a good job.  I made something that I like.  It’s hard to describe.  And the word “like” might not even be the correct term.  I like it…maybe it’s more that I’m content with it – or satisfied – or it fills a need that I didn’t know existed until I saw it right there in front of me.  Crafted with my very own hands.  Created from within me.  A small part of me that is unknown to everyone else and probably almost as obscure for me.

…That elusive quality that eludes description or explanation.

It doesn’t happen often.  When it does happen I sometimes find that the folks that look at the work don’t see what I see.  And conversely, when people like a work, I often can’t see what they see in it.

When it does happen – that piece of art – I’m sure that if Leonardo, Picasso or the person standing next to me said, “That’s a piece of crap” – it wouldn’t matter to me.

I just wouldn’t care because I know that this thing that I made is exactly what its supposed to be.

The other day when I was down and discouraged, I went into my studio and found a bowl in the uncompleted project pile.  I pulled it out and looked at it and started working on it.  And put it back down again.  Late last night I found it sitting in the middle of my work table and I picked it up again.

And finished it.  I like it.IMAG0917IMAG0918IMAG0919IMAG0920

Let’s Write Something Different

I had finished writing today’s blog post and was just about to hit “publish” when something stopped me – you know – that little voice in your head that whispers “this isn’t what you’re supposed to be doing”.

I read over what I had written and it sounded okay.  Not exciting and nothing out of the ordinary, but I live a fairly unexciting and ordinary life, so….

What was the problem?

I read it over again and still didn’t know what was bothering me, so…

I took a deep breath and erased it all.  I didn’t save it just in case.  Just gone.

And now I’m typing on these keys and waiting to see what gets written.

Still waiting.

Aha.  “I took a deep breath and erased it all.  I didn’t save it just in case.  Just gone.”

I don’t think I’ve been very honest with myself lately.  I’ve been talking (and writing) the talk lately, but haven’t really been walking the walk.

I’ve let things slide.  Maybe that was a good thing to take a break…rest is good.

I’m not making much progress on the house. I’ve de-cluttered a few things here and a few things there, but not really with any plan or goal.  It’s steps in the right direction, but not very focused.  We’ve lived here for almost ten years.  I’m not the same person I was and we’re not the same family we were.  I’d like to re-do some things and repair a lot of things.  Finances are an issue and a hindrance, but there are things I can do now.  I’m going to develop and write down a plan that will facilitate the “new” home I want.  We can’t (and I don’t want to) move, but it can be a complete transformation.  I’m going to envision the way I’d like things to be and eliminate what doesn’t fit the dream.  Each room can have new paint and a new fresh look to fit in with the new life we are making.  I can’t repair and paint now, but I can choose what stays and what goes and prepare for the rest.

I haven’t been eating as well as I was.  After my surgery, I completely changed my diet:  veggies, fruit, whole grain, less carbs, no junk.  After the blood sugar scare, I cut out sugar as much as possible.  Then it was a few chips, a bite of dessert, just a little of this and a bit of that.  I kept saying it was just today and that tomorrow I would get back with the program.  Yea, right (sarcasm).  Today, I’m clearing out the junk that has crept back in.  I don’t need it – none of us need it.  And to keep it honest – as I am typing this, I am eating cereal that is healthy – so healthy that I’m fairly certain that my chickens would enjoy it more than I am!  Just sayin’.

I’ve also quit exercising enough – I was busy, the kids were visiting, it was hot – tomorrow I’ll walk…

And making stuff…art.  That’s fallen by the wayside as well.  Until yesterday, when I was so down that I turned to it out of desperation.  It shouldn’t be a last resort sort of thing.  It’s an important part of who I am and I need to make stuff – a lot, not just “when there’s time”.

It’s time to take a deep breath and do what needs to be done.

Living with intention requires…intention.  And attention.  I’ve spent enough time just drifting along and I have committed to living my life.

  • Time to draw up a plan for our “new” home that fits our needs and wants.
  • Time to eat healthy, exercise and maybe lose a few more pounds.
  • Time to create.

Now to get back to work (and fun).  Break time is over.

I Shall Get My Hands Dirty

Some days you wake up with a head full of dreams and a heart full of hope and…

the day doesn’t measure up to your expectations.  Maybe it couldn’t because your expectations were too high – you hoped and dreamed of too much, but…

I’m not going to dream smaller dreams or hope for less and…

instead of feeling down and giving up, I’m going to get my hands dirty…

I’m going to make something and paint something and fill up the empty spots within myself by creating and doing…

I shall get my hands dirty.

Rest

Friday night I was tired.  Not really sleepy – just tired – the I don’t want to think, make a decision, or accomplish one more single thing kind of tired.

I ended up sitting on the sofa, re-re-watching a movie, eating popcorn and sharing it with my dog.  A movie where the good guys win and the bad guys lose and there is no doubt which is which.

There were things undone on my list and a million more that could be on the list, BUT…

We have accomplished so much around here lately.  Things are getting done that I had given up on doing.  The time spent together is more intentional.  All in all, life is good and better than it has been for awhile.  Not perfect, not “done”, but moving along towards a goal…a dream.  That’s all good stuff.

BUT…sitting and resting is good stuff too…and I tend to forget that.  I usually keep striving and going, thinking that I will rest when it’s done.  That’s a misstep on my part.   There are limits to my ability to “do”.  It will never all be “done”.  I am somewhat of a perfectionist after all.

If I don’t pause every now and then, there is really no sense to all the doing.  There is no appreciation of the progress and no realization of the accomplishment.  There is no joy.

So, today I will rest some.  There is a part-time job that has to be done.  But if it doesn’t have to be done today, I’m not going to do it.  I’m not going to look for projects.  I’m not going to look for things that need to be done.  I’m not even going to proof this blog.

I’m going to sit and look at what has been done and enjoy.

Rest.

What People Need

It’s Friday evening and another week is ending.  My husband and son are off to work.  Both are temporarily on the night shift prepping for inventory.  Oldest daughter is still at camp.

Second daughter who is home during summer break is not actually home but at a friend’s house.  Her summer session online class started already:  She is taking Introduction to Philosophy.  I watched part of her first online lecture with her last night.  I think I’ve lost a lot of brain cells since college.  I took  Philosophy a few or more years ago and made an “A”.  Last night  I felt like I was watching the professor’s lips move, but didn’t understand a single thing he said.  Either he is the worst lecturer ever or I need to start exercising my brain.  It’s probably me.  Those were some really big words he was using!

It’s just me and the youngest at home tonight.  She is tired from a week of getting up early (for us) to go to Vacation Bible School.  She was invited by a friend from the homeschool group.  She had a really good time and made me quite proud with some of the things she shared when she came home each day.

I guess I’ll share here that we aren’t active in a church congregation and haven’t been for many years now.  There was a time when I was the one running the show…Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, etc…  I’m still a believer in Jesus, but have lost interest in the organized church.  I don’t begrudge anyone who attends and do believe that there are some great churches doing great work out there in the world.  I’ve just moved on, in a sense, to a different place and it isn’t a good fit for me anymore.

I have a lot of friends who live in a lot of different belief systems – some are followers of Christ to varying degrees and quite a few who aren’t.  I’m good with that…more than good.  I love being surrounded by people who think differently than I do.  I love the discussion of and exposure to differing ideas and ideals.  I can’t imagine only hanging out with folks who believe or live just like me.

I personally choose to believe in a God because it gives me comfort knowing that life isn’t a series of random events happening for no particular reason in no particular order.  I need to believe in something.

Mostly, I just desire to be a good person.  A person who does good things and will leave the world in a slightly better condition when I move on.  The concept of Jesus works for me in that respect.  Kind of like a great role model.  The Bible is also a pretty fascinating piece of literature with some good stories and guidelines in it.  Do I believe it is meant to be taken literally in all aspects.  Ummmm, NO.  The world changes and the people in it change and we have a brain that we should be thinking with.

You won’t find me preaching here although I’m sure my beliefs will slip in every now and then.  This blog is about my life so it would be hard to leave out much.  What I’m trying to say is that’s just not what I’m here to write about.  It’s not so much that I don’t want to offend anyone or am trying to attract a certain type of reader.  My faith is just an intrinsic part of who I am and I don’t feel the need to share at every opportunity.  Once again, I’m not judging or rejecting different viewpoints…I personally follow blogs that are very “Christian” and some that aren’t at all.

As people we are all so different…we come from different backgrounds, experiences and cultures.   As a result, we have different needs.  We will just naturally believe in different things.  We are all seeking something – some truth.  Many times we are talking about the same thing, but using different words to describe or express it.

What a beautiful world we could live in if we were all more tolerant of our differences and embraced our similarities!

I’m aware that there are those that would classify me as a lousy sort of Christian and some who would believe I was way too Christian just for writing what I’ve written.  I’m a people pleaser so it saddens me to think that anyone wouldn’t like me for any reason, but since starting this blog, I’ve become braver.  I’m just doing the best I can in putting together a belief system that helps me to lead a  life that is good for me and beneficial for the world I live in.

Back to what led me onto this “rabbit trail” in the first place…my youngest came home from VBS the first day and told me that she needed to bring an offering the next day.  Ooops – been out of church for awhile and forgot about that.

She volunteered that they were collecting money to send talking Bibles to Africa. Okay, not really my thing, but okay.

The next day, she came home and told me that one of her teachers had a collection jar on her desk to provide meals for children in Africa.  She said,”I hope it’s okay that I put my money in there instead of the Bible collection.  If people are hungry, they need food. I think that it’s more important that we feed them first.”

I just smiled and told her that I thought that was a good idea.