When Goodbye isn’t Simple (and probably should be)

I said goodbye to my little earthworm friends today.  For those of you who are new to my blog you can read about them here:

https://faithacrestudio.com/2015/05/21/lets-do-this/

or for the short version – I had an earthworm farm.

When we started working on the kitchen, the worm bucket moved to the living room.  Today, as I tripped over it (again), it occurred to me that I couldn’t remember feeding them recently.  Please don’t report me to the SPCA…they are fine.  Quite content as far as I can tell – busily breaking down newspaper, eating worm slaw, pooping castings and thinking earthworm thoughts (whatever those might be).

My thought process went something like this:

  • I have earthworms in my living room.
  • I’m okay with that.
  • But, I’m forgetting to feed them regularly.
  • I don’t have a garden.
  • I’d like to have a garden.
  • If I did have a garden, it would be rotting from all the rain.  And the drought will return like normal eventually.
  • This is not the year that I’m going to garden.  It’s too late to plant and the beds aren’t ready.  Realistically, gardening is not a good idea this year.
  • Why do I have earthworms then?
  • They were great to have last year when our home school group planted a butterfly garden at the library.  They enriched the beds and the kids thought they were fun (and educational).  That was good.
  • They are in the living room and I am tripping on them.
  • I really enjoyed them and even wrote a post about them.
  • Hmmm.  “Enjoyed”  I didn’t say I enjoy them.  I used the past tense.  Maybe it’s time to let them go.
  • The chickens would enjoy some for lunch.
  • Ewww.  That would be cruel. Well, not really – the whole cycle of life thing.  I could set them free where the chickens would have to hunt them down.  Give the worms a fighting (or digging) chance.
  • Maybe I should just move them to the corner until I make a decision.
  • Having earthworms was fun.
  • Maybe I should make a decision.
  • I could always get more earthworms if I let them go and realize that I’ve given away an important piece of my life.
  • They aren’t really gone if I set them free.  Earthworms deserve to be free out in the big wide world.
  • Unless they get eaten by chickens.
  • “Normal” people don’t have this much trouble making a freakin’ decision.
  • “Normal” people probably don’t have earthworms in their living room.
  • What is normal anyway?
  • Set the earthworms free, already.
  • Sigh.  Sometimes I can be a real idiot.  All this for a bucket of earthworms.  Why do I make life so hard?

This type of conversation happens more often than I’m comfortable with sharing.  I’m sharing anyway (obviously).  I suspect that I’m not the only one with this problem.

For the record, I feel relieved that the earthworm bucket is no longer in the living room.  I don’t think it was the earthworms that I was having trouble letting go of.  If we want to get all psychological about it, I’m probably having trouble letting go of what the earthworms represented for me…

A bountiful garden that nourished my family.  A beautiful and orderly vegetable patch that was bursting with produce thriving on hand-made trellises.  Not a weed in sight.  Organic of course.

Lush flowering plants growing in abundance in the front yard.  The envy of all the neighbors as they cruise our cul-de-sac and see the “Yard of the Month” sign.

Stop!  That sounds like an issue of Country Living magazine.  Perhaps I’m being unrealistic – say it isn’t so!

That’s a lot to expect from a bucket of earthworms.  They are better off now that I set them free!  How could they live up to those expectations?

Holy crap!  How can I live up to those expectations?

The only place that grass will grow in my yard is in the flower bed.  You can’t argue with Bermuda grass – it grows where it wants and can’t be stopped.  It likes my flower bed.  I quit arguing with it years ago.   I have weeds and fire ants and some junk that I’m working on getting rid of.  With all the rain we’ve had, we’re barely keeping the grass mowed.

Gardens are a dream – a good dream, but a dream nonetheless.  It will happen eventually, but in a more realistic version.  I’m working on it.

But first things first.  I decluttered the earthworms.   I made a decision.

One step at a time….

 

 

 

 

Hard to Say

Will this be an interesting post or not?  It’s hard to say at this point.  I’m not sure that I should be attempting to write at all.  This has not been a particularly interesting day in any respect.  Not a bad day.  Not a good day.  Just kind of a day.

Of note, I’ve reconnected with a friend who is battling a cancer battle.  I’ve just kind of ignored the whole situation for a while.  We don’t live close to each other and our lives don’t intercept at all any more except in that weird world that is the internet or interweb or whatever we are calling it now.  Pretty much a mystery to me.

Anyhow, I’ve started reading her Caring Bridge posts and texted her a bit today.   Can we say too many times that cancer sucks and that chemo sucks even more?  I don’t think so.  Cancer sucks and chemo sucks even more.

Her post, in combination with my less than stellar performing digestive system, prompted me today to schedule all of the diagnostic screening exams that I have ignored forever…Pap Smear, colonoscopy, and mammogram.  Ugh.  Ignoring things doesn’t mean they go away.  Sigh.  I don’t know what is more stressful – wondering if something is wrong or scheduling a procedure that’s gonna be unpleasant.

We place so much faith in our bodies and take for granted that they will do what we need them to do when we need them to do it.

A close family member is dealing with the effects of aging and a body that’s performed a lifetime of good and hard service for the betterment of others.  It’s worn out – her body that is.  It’s hard to deal with…aging and illness that force us to learn to ask for help and rely on the help of others.

We’re not meant to live this life alone.  Life is too darn hard.  Why is it so hard to reveal our weaknesses and allow others to be our superheroes?  I don’t mind helping someone out when they need it and I certainly don’t think less of them.  Why is that not a reciprocal act for me – for most of us?

I got a wonderful package in the mail the other day.  A friend responded to my post about giving up Sonic tea runs and sent me a gift of all kinds of wonderful teas.  When I spoke with her she said, “I have tea and you need tea.  We need to be in community and share what we have with each other.  That’s how it should be.”

Amen.

I lift up my cup of tea…Here’s to stepping out of our comfort zone and reaching out to someone in our life (or a stranger) and offering a helping hand.  Let’s not wait to be asked.  Some of us will never ask for help because we don’t know how, don’t realize we need to, or are afraid of rejection based on past experiences.

Let’s share our stories, our skills, our resources, and our time with each other.  Let’s not be alone and lonely.

Nothing.

I talk a lot here about goals and dreams and plans.  Things I want to get done.  Things I need to get done.

I realize that I have a definite inner voice (or critic) that I am constantly trying to please.  Where that voice comes from doesn’t really matter anymore.  Maybe some of us are born with it attached to our perfectionist gene.  Maybe it is recorded in childhood from the voices around us – intentional, careless, or misunderstood language that we recorded as children and carry around with us.

Does it matter?  What’s done is done.  The past is the past and no amount of striving, obsessing, or analysis can change it.

All I know is that I have a choice.  I can choose to continue behavior that doesn’t bring me peace and joy once I have identified it, or…

I can change.

What am I striving for?

For everyone who comes into or might come into my home to think I’m doing a good job as a homemaker, wife and mom?  My family already loves me – just as I am with all my flaws and faults and potential. The love me even when there isn’t a clean towel or two vegetables at the meal (maybe especially then).

For the world to see me as a “real” artist?  I like to make stuff.  That should be enough – to create for the sheer pleasure of it.

For the world to acknowledge that I do enough, I am enough, I have enough…

Unrealistic expectations.  Stupid even.  This is not the first time that I’ve had this realization and I’m sure that it won’t be the last.

Affirmation from the people around you and the world at large is meaningless if you don’t believe in yourself.

What brought all of this on?  Yesterday, I started feeling ill – reminiscent of my emergency surgery almost two years ago.  I was scared enough that I went to the doctor voluntarily today.  It turned out to be nothing significant.

I now think it was stress.  I’m not good at relaxing.  I suck at it.  I always feel the need to be doing something productive.

I have a choice.  I’m going to make the choice to start practicing doing nothing sometimes – Scribbling, coloring, staring, thinking, telling the voices to be quiet,  just being.  Decluttering my possessions is not enough.  I need to declutter negative behavior and unnecessary stress also.

I imagine that this will take some practice.

I have enough, I am enough, I do enough.

 

 

As the Crow Flies

As the Crow Flies is a pretty common saying around here.  We really just live a few miles from a state highway if you look at a map, but it’s about 15 miles driving distance.

A friend once hiked it as the crow flies on the recommendation of my daughter while looking for a lost dog.  This was a bad idea for two reasons.  My daughter is both direction and distance impaired on a major scale and cross-country involves two river crossings, wildlife fences, wildlife including snakes and wild hogs, and ranches with gun-loving owners.  Luckily the friend looking for the dog has advanced military training, enjoyed seeing a zebra in real life and only suffered a spider bite.

Anyway, I’m using this phrase to refer to my decluttering journey.  As the crow flies is a simple enough plan.  Get rid of the stuff you don’t want or need, find a place for the stuff you keep and regularly pick up after yourself and clean afterwards.  Simple, right?

Today, I’m in the master bedroom.  After a fit of sneezing last night, I took a good look around the room.  (No judgement right?)  Piles of stuff, dog hair, dust, spider webs, a few dead June bugs, and more dust.  I had considered this room fairly decluttered.

Found on top of the blanket trunk

  •   three comforters that are used when it’s cold around the house and by spontaneous over-night guests.  It’s summer and we don’t have central air-conditioning right now.  How many blankets do we need?  More importantly, why didn’t whoever used the blankets fold them and put them up?  Two comforters gone to the thrift store. But first, I have to wash and dry them – in the poverty washer.  That’s more than a few miles or a few minutes.  I also found two pillows that look pretty on the bed but we don’t actually sleep with. That’s why they are in the pile.  Gone into the trash.  I’m living in real life, not a magazine!

Found on top of the dresser

  •   a lot of pens which explains why I can never find one at the desk.
  • Various earrings with no matches. Hmmm?  Did I take my earrings off in two different places?  In the jewelry organizer to try to match up.  I need to re-evaluate what’s in there.  I don’t wear a lot of jewelry.
  • A phone charger that I moved to the drawer that holds electronic stuff – most of which I can’t identify.  I need to ask one of the kid’s to figure out what’s good and what’s not.
  • Stuff the kids made me that I don’t know what to do with.  Obviously I’ve just been moving this stuff from one place to another to avoid making a decision.  The easy answer is to keep the kids and get rid of the stuff.  It’s not easy.  I’ve started a plastic storage box labeled “treasures” and placed it in the new storage space.
  • My missing hair brush, two pair of scissors, a Hercules hook, a pile of change and the change bank that I should be collecting it in, batteries, a Band-Aid (new, thank goodness), hair ties, two clean socks with no mates, expired coupons for free salads, and my missing bra

Under the bed

  • a long-sleeved shirt that I bought for the winter never worn with tags (yes, months ago)
  • 6 dirty socks.  3 of them belonging to my children and why are my children’s dirty socks under my bed?  None of them have mates.
  • two more phone chargers which explains why we can never find one.  I guess I need to apologize to my kids for accusing them of stealing mine.
  • coat hangers
  • two food storage containers and a paper plate – all licked clean.  That would be Matilda the Basset Hound and thief extraordinaire.
  • three books that I’ve already read and thought went to the thrift store

Okay, not a lot gone unless you count the dog hair and dust:  a couple of blankets, some jewelry, chewed up storage containers, 3 books and two pillows.

Total time is almost two hours.  The room is clean and tidy. Some more stuff is gone.  I’ll sleep better.  This is not a journey as the crow flies.  I’m definitely taking the long way ’round.

 

Losing It!

Last week ended on a rough note. I kinda lost it. I was so frustrated with life that I just blew. All the little (and some big) things that I’ve been dealing with pretty well, just started to seem like insurmountable hurdles…

The washer?  I’ve been okay with waiting on a new one or a new to us one and have been pretty patient – maybe not happy but working on a plan to get a new one. Until – Matilda the Basset Hound ate a whole lotta cream cheese that she stole off of the counter and threw up all over the sofa. Every stinking sofa cushion. And the stinking is an adjective in more ways than one. Yuck. The washer may sound better with our “poverty fix”, but it’s not washing very well. Yuck. I could only wash a slipcover or two at a time and even then they didn’t look or smell much better. I confess that I took the stick out that holds the washer at the appropriate angle and tried to beat the washer to death.  Didn’t even dent the washer – shattered the stick. Might have scared a few family members in the process.  Sorry guys.

The bad mood continued for two days. Bad moods aren’t productive. They happen because we are human, but they don’t solve any problems. They just create more – like guilt, anger, hurt feelings and headaches. I’ve gotten back to work on the three biggest issues that are causing our life to be less than perfect – the three main obstacles to a simpler, more intentional life:

  • Clutter and it’s contribution to an untidy, less than serene home
  • A diet and exercise that contributes to better health and to us feeling better mentally and physically
  • Financial well-being which includes better money management, a savings account and paid-off debt.

On Friday, we went to Houston to help our second daughter move into her first home post-graduation from college.  She moved from a suburb of Houston to almost down-town.  She did a lot of research and found a cute little apartment in a great neighborhood at a reasonable price.  Very proud of her.  Did I mention that it’s on the third floor?  She decluttered a lot of stuff, but the apartment is still on the third floor. A big thank you goes out to family in Houston that dropped everything on a Saturday and came to help haul stuff up. Up to the third floor in case I forgot to mention it.

She has inspired me to come home and recommence the decluttering effort. I can’t imagine (and don’t want to) what it would take to move us at this point. More has gotta go.

Anyway, I’m working on trimming down the budget some more to increase our debt snowball plan. I went back to look at the totals when we first started so I could feel a little bit more encouraged about the whole process and we have made some!

I’ve re-subscribed to The Fresh 20 meal that we used to use. I’m not advertising here, but I find it to be really helpful. I got an email for 40% off the subscription and it seemed like a good omen. I like it for three reasons:

  1. It helps limit the amount of groceries I buy. I tend to overbuy and we waste some food or just have too much in the pantry. I’d rather have just what we need and use the extra cash to pay on a bill.
  2. It includes a lot of veggies and fruit so we eat healthier. It’s reviewed by a dietician so I feel better about our diet.
  3. The main reason. I don’t have to figure out what we’re going to have for dinner.  That’s less stress for me and we are less likely to eat out at the last minute because I didn’t have a plan.

I’m getting closer to an actual budget (as opposed to a spending record).  I’m using You Need a Budget  which I find to be very friendly for a non-numbers person like me. The subscription is $5 monthly which is worth it for me because it helps keep me on track (and does the math for me). I just found out about Mint which is a free online budget. I’m trying it out, but am struggling with it a bit. It doesn’t track debts as well that are closed credit accounts or medical debts. It links to open credit accounts and automatically tracks payments, interest, and balances. Once again, not an advertisement – just information on what’s working for me.

And that’s why this post is titled Losing It.

Last week, I lost it and had a complete meltdown.  That sucked and was not helpful.

Now I’m to lose it in a good way:

  1. Lose more stuff!
  2. Lose food waste, unhealthy food and lose weight!
  3. Lose unnecessary budget expenses and debt!

Life is all about choices.  I’m going to keep trying to make good ones.

Fragile Vessels

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Years ago I did a commissioned art series for a church pastored by someone that I hold in high esteem and care deeply for.  It was an advent series that we entitled “Fragile Vessels”. These vessels were made out of old papers, lace, and fabrics and were set on the stairs leading up to the altar and lit from within with candles.  The sermon series dealt with the fragility of human life, the appearance of the Christ as a small infant, the resiliency of the human spirit – the complexity that is the Christian faith.

I strongly believe that art should be experienced with more than the eyes and therefore these pieces were handled a great deal – especially by the children of the congregation.  There was damage as would be expected of fragile pieces.

At the end of the advent season, these pieces were returned to me and were carefully stored in a box.  They are among the objects that I have struggled with the disposition of in recent days.

At the time, I was seriously exploring a vocation as a minister.  Since then, my path has changed dramatically.  I don’t doubt that my journey today is the correct one, but would be lying to say that I don’t have some regrets about how things turned out.

I would say that I am still a believer in God, but my interest in “organized” religion has changed dramatically.  I question more and study further.  I am open to the beliefs of others.  I am not so sure of anything anymore.  My faith is not blind.  I am older and more mature.  The world is complicated.  The answers not so clear.

The pastor that these pieces were created with and for is no longer an active part of my life.  I’m not very good at staying in touch with people – even those I care about.  On some level though, I still feel a strong connection with her.  She is fighting a difficult health battle right now.

We are fragile vessels.

Words rarely fail me.  In this case they have.  Prayer just seems inadequate.  I couldn’t sleep tonight thinking about my inability to let go of these art pieces, her illness, our loss of connection, and my failure to find words to articulate my thoughts and feelings.

And then I thought about the fact that many cultures believe that prayer can be carried by smoke in the wind upwards towards heaven.

The fragile vessel made of old paper, lace and fabric wouldn’t stay lit.  The fire kept going out.  And then a light rain started to fall.

Maybe we are stronger than we think.  Maybe we don’t have all the answers.  Maybe we aren’t meant to understand it all or know what the outcome shall be.

Some things are just a mystery.

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What Can I Do With $5

Before you read this post you have to promise not to laugh at my lack of financial prowess.  I’m a reasonably intelligent person who is more inclined towards the liberal arts than the sciences – or economics evidently.  I think I have a general grasp of how loans and interest works.  It was with extreme anxiety that I signed the seven thousand pages (rough estimate) of mortgage documents years ago.  It was just what you did – you bought a house.

Over the last many months, I have come to be at peace with my house.  It’s not my dream, but we are making it so.  I’m excited about our current home improvement projects and I’m very happy with my mortgage payment (especially considering the area we live in).

But yesterday, as I was paying bills and working on our debt payoff, I got discouraged.  Budgets are so black and white…okay, and red sometimes.  Paying off our credit and medical debt is taking forever it seems.

And then I started looking around the bank site that holds our mortgage information.  Sigh.  I’ll be in my eighties when our mortgage is paid off.  Honestly, maybe dead.  Talk about discouraging.

And then I saw this little section called “Early payoff calculator”.  Yea, right.  I’m barely making progress on our other debts.

But, what the hell.  Turns out that if I pay only $5 extra a month on our principal, I can pay off our mortgage two years earlier.  What?  Really?  Are they kidding?  I entered the numbers a million more times.  Same answer.

Now, I’m learning a lot more about mortgages and paying them off.  My head hurts.  I don’t like math.  I really don’t like math.  At all.  But, I do like getting out of debt.

So, I’ve given up my Sonic Drive-In unsweet tea with blackberry.  I started drinking it to quit drinking Diet Coke after my health scare a year or so ago.

I love my tea.

But I had no idea that $5 was that powerful.

Water is tasting pretty good right now!

Journey

Where have I been the last couple of days?  Basically, having a really hard week on the decluttering front that has resulted in a big breakthrough!  I’ve felt like I hit a wall on making progress in my home.  I’ve had doubts that the stuff was the real problem – is stuff causing the stress or is stress causing the stuff?  Am I making any progress or is dealing with the stuff a diversion to avoid real problems.  Just a lot of doubt.

On the advice of a friend, I’ve been kinder to myself and just boxed up some stuff that I can’t deal with right now.  I didn’t want to use that route for everything though.  I’ve been dealing with ten items at a time – pick it up and make a decision – it either goes or if it stays it finds a permanent home.  Then I’ve taken breaks.  Lots of breaks and lots of decisions!

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All this went to the thrift store today.  Storage “solutions” that didn’t work or weren’t needed anymore and lots of random stuff that just isn’t needed.

Usually, when the stuff has hit the box, I’ve wondered why I even kept it at all.  This time, I realized that if I saw some of this stuff at the thrift store, I might  consider purchasing it.  I’m letting go of stuff that I actually like and that I still see potential in.  I’m letting it go anyway.  I feel like that is a big step.

Yesterday, while “supervising” me (keeping me on task), my oldest daughter asked a question out of the blue…

“Mom, did you ever feel like you had a home growing up?”

I didn’t answer.

She continued on…

“Is that why you work so hard to make a home and worry so much about it?”

Talk about a real therapy moment – if you’ve ever spent any time with a therapist you know what I’m talking about.  You spend 45 minutes talking about a subject aimlessly and the therapist sums it up for you in one sentence.

The answer would be that no, I don’t suppose that I ever really felt comfortable, secure and safe in any of the places that I lived growing up.  I knew that none of it was permanent – we moved every year.  My parents had a challenging relationship.  I didn’t have close friends and we weren’t close to any family.

The point of the journey that I’ve been partially documenting and sharing here, is to find some simplicity, peace, and intentionality in my life.

I’d have to say that I’ve logged a lot of steps in my journey this week.  I’ve gained understanding, been reminded to be kinder to myself, and shed a lot of guilt and possessions.

Just as in life, the hardest parts of the journey result in the best views.

Peace.

The Throw Pillow

I went to Wal-Mart today with my sister.  I had a list of things I needed – things I really needed like laundry detergent.

It’s Mother’s Day (so therefore, I deserve a gift, right?)

I saw this pillow.  I was drawn to this pillow – the color and the textures.  Without thinking, I put this pillow in my cart.

And then froze.  And spent a considerable amount of time thinking about this pillow and it’s place in my life.  More time than I am comfortable with.  Here’s a few of those thoughts:

  • I want it
  • it would look great in my new colorful living room
  • I have throw pillow covers from Ikea that I loved when I bought them unpacked in a box waiting for the right spot to be used
  • it will probably end up on the floor with dog hair on it
  • it’s really pretty
  • it’s made in China and I don’t know the conditions it was manufactured in
  • it’s probably made of re-purposed fabrics
  • since it’s made in China, it’s probably a ripped-off copy of something hand-crafted that is too expensive for me to afford
  • it’s affordable (less than $16)
  • it’s probably a ripped-off copy of someone’s original idea
  • I could use that $16 to make an additional payment on a debt
  • still really like the pillow and want it
  • it’s not crafted all that well
  • sigh, deep sigh

I took the pillow out of my cart.  I also took out the $15 worth of craft paper that I just know I could make something really great out of.  My studio is still pretty much packed up and I don’t have a purpose for it right now.  It would go into the “potential use” pile  and I have plenty of that kind of stuff already.

To be honest, my sister then took me to Michael’s and I bought two items that will provide me with hours of crafting/art enjoyment using supplies that I already have (one on clearance that I’ve been watching for a while and the other using a 40% off coupon).  Less expensive than the pillow and paper.

Not a total win, but in the end I’ll have something homemade to decorate my home with rather than a mass-produced pillow that I really don’t need.  I’ll have had the fun of making something and that makes me happy.

Happier than picking up a throw pillow off of the floor and wondering why I even bought it 6 months from now.

Shopping used to be thoughtless and “fun” – until the bills came due.  Now it’s rather like hard work.

Progress!