Some Days

Some days, I’m ready to take on the world.  I work the budget, earn a bit of money, do a few dishes, get a meal on the table, run the laundry, teach my kid(s) a thing or two, and watch a show with the hubby on T.V.

Some days, the world takes me on.  I manage to get out of bed….that’s about it.  There isn’t any more happening.

What’s the difference in those two types of days you may be wondering.  Hmmmm…me too.  I have no clue.  It doesn’t seem to be the amount of sleep I get or the events of the day.  The stress level doesn’t appear to change significantly.

Some days, I get it done.

Other days, I don’t.

Sometimes, I even manage to make it through the list of to-do’s that I’ve planned for myself.  It seems to take all of my energy and concentration to accomplish that though.  I’m more easily distracted and less inclined to do anything extra – like decluttering or being creative.

I’ve decided that those days are okay.  And I’m learning to accept myself as I am and acknowledge that it’s alright that I’m not able to do it all.  I am my own worst critic and project those expectations onto those around.  When I’m frustrated with myself for not being “good” enough, I start to believe that everyone around me is expecting better of me as well.  I feel guilty and get defensive.  Then I get stressed and angry.  Then I yell.

One of the things that I’m working on is not trying to figure our what everyone around me is thinking and feeling all the time.   That’s not my job.  I know that behavior is rooted in a childhood of angry parents and constant discord.

I need to feel my own emotions and let others work out their own feelings.  If I have a problem with me than I need to work on that.  If someone else has a problem with me, they need to express it and we need to work on it.

Some days I just feel overwhelmed by the stress I’m dealing with.  I’m coming to believe that a lot of that stress is self-initiated.  I’m creating it by having unrealistic expectations of my own making.

It all boils down to being kinder…to myself and those around me.

I am a work in progress.

Decluttered the last couple of days:  nothing.

Created the last few days:  nothing.

That’s okay.  I’ve spent time with family, shown up for jury duty, cooked three full meals, cleaned the toilet, done 5 loads of laundry, said yes to my son adopting a dog, let said dog in and out 3,000 times, fed said dog 300 times, mopped up said dog’s sloppy water drinking puddles too many times to count, worked on math with youngest daughter, and written one blog post.

Good enough.

I hope that you gift yourself some peace today.  We are enough, we have enough, we do enough.

 

 

 

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Knowing vs. Worrying

 

There are many changes happening around here.  Change can be challenging when you are the type of person who likes to believe that you have it all under control.  Change can mean admitting that everyone is not okay and that there might be a better way to do things.

Change can mean that “growth” is taking place and changes are in order to accommodate that growth.

It would appear that the current art project is a reflection of that.  The glass jar is now obscured, although we all know that it’s there…buried under several layers now.  The house has evolved and will continue to do so, I expect.  The roots appear inadequate now as a foundation for the house.  They worked for the jar, but need to grow to support the new structure.  What’s it all mean?  Good question.  I’ll leave that up to you.

The biggest change around here has been our new attitude towards money – specifically the purchase of the new window unit.  We all agreed that change needed to happen.  We would be most uncomfortable living in a home without air-conditioning when the temperature is 95 degrees and it’s June.  It’s only going to get hotter.  We briefly considered attempting to get a loan of some type to solve our problem.  That would be solving one problem and adding to another one.

We are committed to getting out of debt.  We managed to not add to our debt and purchase the air-conditioning we needed.  Less than a year ago, we would not have had the information we needed to work through this issue in a responsible manner.

Because we started a budget (You Need a Budget) and started using Dave Ramsey’s Snowball Debt Reduction Plan, we are better equipped to make responsible decisions.  I recently found another tool, UndebtIt.com, that is also helping.  This site calculates our debt accounts, payment amounts and projected payoff date.  I love having programs that do the math for me.  I do not have a head for numbers.

I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed the brutal process of getting our finances in order.  It was hard to face the amount of debt we had versus the income we have.  It was a shock to see how long it will take to pay off everything.

But now we know.  We know how much money we really have and it’s not the amount on the paycheck.  Now, when I am shopping, it’s easier to make the distinction between want and need.  There is a goal in place to work towards.  Knowing, even when I don’t like the information I have, is better than not knowing and doing nothing to improve the situation.

We have the beginnings of a savings account to handle true emergencies.  I know how much we need to pay on each debt monthly to reach our goal.  Unexpected things can still happen and throw a metaphorical wrench in our plan, but I’ll be on top of the situation and have a better idea of how to deal with it.

I’ve spent a lot of time reading about debt.  I’ve read the advice of experts and personal blogs discussing specific stories and solutions.  I don’t normally give advice here – if someone finds something of use or inspiration here that’s great – but I don’t have any great insights or answers (just my stories).

In this case, I’m going to make an exception.  If you are struggling financially, in debt, and spending way too much time worrying about money, it’s better to know the facts.  It’s better to have a budget and a plan.  It’s better to face the facts right now and start the process of fixing the problem.  Denial doesn’t help.  I have shed many a tear over our finances.  I have blamed myself and everyone around me for our problems.  I have ignored the situation and pretended that everything was okay.  We have paid out money in bank charges and late charges and interest.

Not any more.  Now, I know where we stand.  There is a goal, a light at the end of the tunnel and hope.  It’s easier to make financial decisions when I understand the consequences. We no longer are living a life where it seems like the current situation will never end.  Things are going to get better.

Knowing that simple fact makes everything easier to deal with.

Decluttered the last few days:

  1. a ball cap
  2. a small shelf
  3. some old records
  4. a bank for spare change
  5. a cookbook
  6. another ball cap
  7. some more socks with no mates
  8. some textbooks
  9. curtains
  10. expired medication

 

One. More. Step.

Do not be afraid.  This is not going to be a whiny, woe-is-me posting (although I’m kind of perched on the edge right now).

I know I have a good life.  I can look up towards those that appear financially more stable and down towards those that are struggling much more than I am.  That means that I am somewhere in the middle.

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As I sit in front of my tiny fan writing this post, I am contemplating the arrival of my new window air-conditioning unit that will be in place by this evening.  The tiny fan is doing it’s very best…spinning it’s little tiny blades as quickly as physics will allow.  It’s hot as hell in here.  I’ll live and these couple of days will make me even more appreciative once the cool air is blowing once again.

Brainstorming, debate, research, numbers-crunching, and realism have allowed us to figure out a way to make it through the summer…without accruing any debt.

A central AC unit is out of the question.  We really wanted to put in ductless air conditioning units sometimes known as “splits”.  They are energy efficient and allow for zone cooling which is good for our really big house and fluctuating body count.  Alas, they are out of our price range (for now) and require some construction time.  Stress is pretty high around here and the home projects never-ending.  I voted against any more to-do’s on my poor husbands list.  He has enough projects to keep him busy without adding any more.

We played with numbers and re-arranged the budget in such a way that this window unit purchase is feasible.  Who needs groceries?  The fridge and pantry are full and the family has all voted to eat what we’ve got while being cool rather than eat what we want in the heat.  That was actually not a hard decision.  With the new window unit, two portable units that we have and the gifted air conditioner on its way, we can cool the whole house!

I’m proud of the fact that we worked through this problem and found a solution that didn’t involve any more debt.  We’ve have made so much progress in so many ways.

Still, life can be hard sometimes.  It’s so easy to see the things that are undone and to get weary.  It’s easy to be overwhelmed by situations and to want to give up or to give into the frustration.  Gratitude can be hard to come by.

It’s important for me to count the little “wins” and to practice patience.

I want it all now:  cool air to flow out of the vents, the bathroom put back together, the debt paid off, the new floor finished, the painting done, the yard cleared, the decluttering done…

I want life to be easy and perfect.

Then I look around at the rest of the world and feel ashamed and guilty.

Life is not easy and I am not perfect.

All I can do is take one more step in the right direction.  I may pause or stop after that one step and shed a tear or two.  I may lose my cool and yell at someone I love.

I will apologize and pick myself up and take another step.

Things will get done and fixed. Something else will need to be done and something else will break.

One step…a lot of hugs.

Life.

Decluttered yesterday and today:

  1. a hand soap dispenser
  2. a contractor size bag of construction by-products off of the back deck
  3. a bucket
  4. a hose reel
  5. a laundry hamper
  6. two empty plastic storage bins
  7. a pair of jeans
  8. the bird’s nest off of the top of the cabinet from last spring https://faithacrestudio.com/2015/03/27/a-bird-in-the-hand/
  9. the cabinet that held the bird’s nest (one more step in the kitchen redo
  10. a stand for holding fireplace tools – all the tools have disappeared and we don’t use the fireplace

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Not Looking Hard Enough

Some days it’s easier to live in gratitude than others. As someone who can all too easily free-fall into anxiety and depression, I’m concentrating more and more on living in gratitude.  It’s one of my most intentional of intentional living goals.

Today would be an easy day to just give into the sadness, gloom, depression, anxiety, worry, and every other conceivable dark and sorrowful emotion that exists.  I’m not going to do that.

I’m not denying the negative things that have happened and are happening today.  I can grieve and feel sad.  It’s just not going to be my whole focus.

Amongst all the stuff that’s happening in the world, life goes on.  Good stuff happens.  Bad stuff happens.  We laugh.  We cry.  We play.  We work.  We rest.

My small, little life continues…sometimes parallel to the lives of others and sometimes complexly intertwined.

Some days it’s really difficult to find something to be grateful for.  In some ways it feels callous to seek out joy when others are suffering so greatly.  The truth is that suffering is with us always whether it makes the news or not.

Seeking joy is an act of faith…a defiant action in the face of violence and hatred.

I believe in mankind.  I believe in peace.  I believe in goodness.  I believe that good people are behaving in kind ways as we speak.  I believe that good wins.

And so, I am grateful for little things.

I am thankful that, although we only have air-conditioning in two rooms of our house and it’s really hot today, someone has offered us a free window unit to help out.  And grateful for a relatively small electric bill that is helping balance the budget this month (as a result of not having central air).

I’m grateful for two paid-for cars that started today when we needed them too.  And hopeful that tomorrow they will do the same.

I’m grateful that my family is healthy and that we are not dealing with serious illness as so many I know are.

I am thankful for a full refrigerator, a new washing machine, a bed to sleep in, and a roof over my head.

I am grateful that I have not seen a snake today.

I am thankful for the chickens that are running around my yard eating insects and providing us with fresh eggs.

Right at this moment, I am grateful for a husband who graciously volunteered to clean up the mess from a beer that exploded in our kitchen because it is so hot in here.  That way, I can continue to write this post.

I am grateful that our family has a plan for a better future as a result of a budget that gives us hope to be out of debt (except for the mortgage)in about two years.  I can’t plan an awesome vacation right now.  We don’t have a pool.  I’m hot. But, I have hope that things will get better.  So many folks don’t have hope.

I’m finding that if compare my life to others and find my life lacking, I’m not looking in the right place.  That’s a choice I’m making.  I can look around me and see what I don’t have or look somewhere else and see that I am lucky and blessed.

I am lucky and blessed.  I have choices and options and hope.

My hope for you today is that you can find something to be grateful for and find peace.

0612161940aDecluttered today:

  1. the equipment for Direct TV – we are finally out from under our contract.  YEA!
  2. a box of old records
  3. 5 empty bottles of shampoo and soap from the shower – how did I not see these before?
  4. an old camera and case
  5. another stack of cut-up magazines

 

Alliteration is Good…unless it’s Saturday’s Snake

We’ve had a very wet spring season following an unusually warm winter.  As a result, the news has been full of dire snake warnings and reports of snakes in homes.  Ugh.

Kind of everyone’s worst nightmare unless you are one of those weird people who like snakes.  Some reptiles are okay – even interesting – from a distance.  One or two are even okay up close.  Snakes are horrible.  I’m not going to apologize or try to understand snake lovers, at all.  I understand, intellectually, the necessity of snakes in the whole ecosystem thing.  I don’t want to exist peaceably with them.  I want them to live somewhere else.  If they venture into my world…they will die.  They have their space – somewhere else.  I have mine.  I really, really, really don’t like snakes.

Last night, when my youngest went out to lock the chicken house, she heard a rustling in the leaves and saw a snake.  With relative calm, she came to let me know.  I encouraged her (shrieking) to go tell her Dad.  There are, after all, women’s jobs and men’s jobs.  Snakes – definitely man work.

Husband deftly shot the head right off of that 5+ foot rat snake.  End of story, right?

Tonight, youngest daughter quietly suggested that it might be my turn to shut up the chickens.  Sure, no problem.  Son bravely volunteered to accompany me armed with his sword:  A Dunedain chieftain’s longsword that was used by Aragon.  Not the actual sword, but a replica.  Inwardly I was laughing at him.  As I was locking up the chickens, he asked why we had left the snake in the netting surrounding the chicken yard.

I replied that the snake had been thrown way across the yard to be part of the ecosystem – to be eaten by some kind of predator farther up the food chain.

He replied that this had obviously not happened as the snake was right there in front of him.

Sure enough, there was another snake.

Oldest daughter comes to the rescue with the shotgun.  Son and oldest daughter argue over who will shoot the snake.  I will spare you the ensuing lengthy discussion (argument) between siblings.  Oldest daughter shoots snake with the double barrel shotgun.  Son claims she missed and she claims she winged him.  To be fair, the snake had a very small head.  It was dark.  It is unclear whether she mortally wounded the snake.  Son hacked at the snake’s head with his sword.  Son’s friend removed the snake’s head with a bowie knife.  I’m pretty sure the snake was dead at that point.

During this process, I have called husband at work.  He is listening to the play-by-play commentary by youngest daughter as she sits in the house watching through the window.

He repeatedly asks what kind of snake it is.  It was hard to tell at this point.  Remember, it was dark outside and the snake was not in one piece anymore.  Closer examination of the corpse revealed it to be another rat snake.

A cleansing ceremony with fire has completed the evenings’ events.  The snake has been doused with lighter fluid, cremated and finished off with a fire extinguisher.

Oldest daughter is online looking for ways to discourage snakes from taking up residence around here.  A brainstorming session came up with numerous possible solutions including ordering mongoose urine online.  I’m encouraging further research.

Decluttered today:

  1. a snake
  2. more construction left-overs
  3. a shirt
  4. a pile of cardboard boxes saved for some unknown future use
  5. a bowl

Today is Friday, Right?

What do you mean it’s Saturday?

I’ve been really tired the last few days…so tired that I’ve given into the urge to nap.  I just haven’t been able to make it through the day.  The one day that I didn’t nap and wake up naturally (without the aid of the alarm), I was most unpleasant by evening.

Youngest daughter has been battling a cold or serious allergies.  In this part of Central Texas, it’s hard to tell which and I don’t suppose it really matters what you call it.  When you don’t feel good, you don’t feel good.

It’s possible that I am falling victim to the same malady.  Or it’s possible that I have some sort of cyclical mood disorder that is causing the tiredness.

Once again, I don’t suppose it really matters what you call it…

Learning to listen to what my body and moods are telling me has been hard.  I was raised to bravely soldier on through “twelve foot of snow”, injury, and illness.  Naps were frowned upon and illness had to be serious if you were to stay home from school.  I once went to school for two days with a broken arm until my Mom decided that maybe something really was wrong.  I’m not knocking my upbringing…they were who they were and did the best they could.  I survived.

But, resting when I’m tired and letting go of expectations for those days is something I’m learning to do.

So, today feels like Friday and that’s okay, right?  Some creativity took place and some decluttering got done.

Learning to take care of myself (without guilt) is part of the journey too.

Every day doesn’t have to be my best day yet.  Some days can be just average or complete washouts in terms of things accomplished.

Not every action can be quantified.  Sometimes no action can be the best course of action.  These are hard lessons, but definitely worth learning.

Here’s Friday’s photo:0611160947 (1)(Posting these is a bit like posting a naked picture of myself.  I did not anticipate that.  Posting my art at all used to be difficult.  I worked through that.  Now, sharing the process is the hard part.   The process is slow and not linear.  There are do-overs and changing directions.  Welcome to the way my brain works.)

Friday’s declutter:

  1. a pillowcase
  2. fabric
  3. some tea-light candles
  4. an extra grass collection bag for the lawnmower
  5. a stuffed animal

 

 

Today Needs a Prayer

I don’t talk a lot about my faith on this blog.  It’s not that I’m embarrassed about what I believe or out of some sense of political correctness. Mainly, it’s because at this point in my life, my faith has become more personal and inward. I think it may be a growth period for me after a long period of dormancy.

In any case, for the most part, I believe political correctness is a load of manure. I do, however, believe in being respectful of others’ beliefs or lack thereof.

But today needs a prayer. Feel free to substitute any vernacular that fits your life: happy vibes, positive energy, smoke signals, loud and raucous profanity, meditation, or the like…you get my meaning, right?

Today needs a prayer for those going through changes. Any change, whether perceived as good or bad, can be traumatic. It may involve a wide range of emotions including, but not limited to grieving, anger or joy. Change is hard for most (if not all) of us.

Today, I pray for those trying their best to find their way in the world. Especially for young adults trying to figure out this thing called “being a grown-up”. Wanting to be free of the constraints of parental control and influence…flapping their wings madly…terrified of all the choices and possibilities…peeking back over their shoulder at the shelter they are leaving behind. Some have a nest they can be welcomed back to if the need should arise, but so many don’t have that option, if indeed they ever did. My prayer is that they find a safe place to rest when their wings are tired. A soft place to rest their head when the journey is too hard. A springboard to launch from on the next leg of their journey.  Growing up is hard and should not be done alone. I pray that they have community with friends and family or friends that are family.

Today, I pray for parents whose children are referenced in the above paragraph. A prayer for patience and tolerance and forgiveness…that they remember their transition and act wisely. That they open the door for their children and hug them as the leave. Most importantly, that they leave that door open and are ready to give another hug when their child returns…either triumphantly in success or despairingly in failure.

Today, I pray for those experiencing loss. Especially for those who have lost a parent. Even as an adult this loss is hard. You may have achieved independence and become the “grown-up, but the child within is always there. You are an orphan. The person who has always been there is no longer there. You can no longer peek back over your shoulder at that shelter you so desperately fled years ago. We never lose the need for that anchor.

Today, I pray for those dealing with serious illness and aging. For those coping with the changes that are occurring as their body no longer performs for them as they have become accustomed. For loss of independence and freedom. For endless hours in waiting rooms and treatment rooms and recliners trying to rest and heal. For the uncertainty and loss that is a constant part of this new life they are living.

Today, I pray for the caretakers…the folks who are sheltering the ones in need, making casseroles, fetching glasses of water, running errands, and standing ready for whatever…

Today, I’m rearranging things to welcome a loved one to our home, attending a funeral, checking in on a family member, and planning a piece of prayerful art work for a friend.

Amen.

And now…today

Two more layers done.  I kind of hate it at this point.  I walked away rather than paint over it.  That’s not an uncommon reaction.  Today was the easiest day to work on it so far.  I really have missed making stuff.  It’s been months and months and months.  I kept saying that I would get back to it when I got this or that done.  As I’ve discussed recently this and that never get done.

I’m not really a flowers in a vase, still life kind of artist.  We’ll let it “simmer” overnight and see what happens tomorrow.

Decluttered today:

  1. some old seeds
  2. 3 shoes (a pair and a shoe and interestingly enough, the random shoe is not a mate for the odd shoe earlier in the week)
  3. a favorite t-shirt that was more holes than shirt
  4. a stack of old artwork that my kids made – I saved my favorites
  5. an old journal that is not filled with happy memories

I’m going to count today a success.  I made a little money and I made a real dinner for the family.  The trash is out before the trash men are pulling into the cul-de-sac tomorrow morning.  I didn’t yell at anyone and used mainly kind words.  I had to drive the dying car without air-conditioning and it made it where it was going and back and I didn’t melt.  I worked on some art and decluttered and cleared off a surface or two.  My youngest and I did a bunch of school.  Oh, and I deposited the money I made in the bank before we were overdrawn.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  Most of the day, I didn’t feel like it was a good day.  But I’ve been regularly reading a friend’s CaringBridge entries and she is relentlessly looking for the bright side.  If she can do it, then I certainly should be able to do so.

So today, I have been trying to live in gratitude – in all things and in all ways…grateful for a car that serves my needs if not my wants, grateful for a small paycheck that was just enough, grateful for excess that allows me to have trash, grateful for people in my life that I love even if they drive me crazy sometimes, grateful for the opportunity to homeschool and spend time with my daughter, grateful for my talents and the desire to use them, grateful to have choices, and opportunity and wise friends.

And that was today.

Yesterday’s Post Today

I’ve just heard a new saying (new to me anyway).  I looked it up and it exists in many forms and has been attributed to various sources, but I’ll choose this variation:

Everybody wants to save the world, but nobody wants to do the dishes.

That was pretty much my day yesterday.  Not the dishes per se, because I didn’t actually do all that many dishes.  I’m talking about one of those days where it is suddenly eleven o’clock at night and you have no idea where the day went.  Nothing got done that you planned on doing, but you were busy nonetheless.  I couldn’t really tell you what I did, but I’m pretty sure that I didn’t literally save the world.

It was one of those days where I just kept doing what needed to be done…. just everyday life.

I don’t think that we value these kinds of days enough.  It would be awesome (in the true sense of the word) to get to the end of the day and know that you did save the world.  But, how many of us get to do that in one fell swoop?

I know some people that I think are doing amazing things to make the world a better place, but most of them would disagree with me and claim that what they were doing wasn’t all that important.  They tell me that they are just doing their job.

When I ponder this sort of day, I often think of the word vocation.  The word vocation originated in the context of Christianity as in a calling.  It’s meaning has changed somewhat in today’s usage and people often use it to describe their work or career or job, but I like it’s original intent.  It’s a word that covers the kind of day that I had yesterday.

A day where you do what needs to be done: spend time with someone who needs you, hold someone who doesn’t feel well, make a late night meal for someone who is hungry, provide a bed for someone who is tired, welcome someone into your home who needs a place to stay…

None of these actions save the world, but they do help to make it a better place.  That’s important work and to do it with love and without resentment or expectation of self-benefit – that’s a vocation or a calling.  (Okay, sometimes you may be tired and resentful, but you fake it and do it anyway because we are only human, after all.)

Choosing a vocation and living into it is what makes a life worthwhile.  It’s not necessarily exciting or glamourous. It probably isn’t.  Sometimes it’s hard to remember that what’s being done makes any difference in the world at all.   Millions of people may not feel our love, read our words, hear our songs, see our art, or experience any of the things that we do in the world, but the few who do are enriched by what we do.

We need to believe and remember that…every day.

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I did spend a few minutes on the canvas.

And I did declutter five things:

  1. two pairs of shoes
  2. sunglasses
  3. a pair of shorts
  4. a bowl that’s a weird size and doesn’t stack with the other bowls on our now open shelving
  5. two dead plants – I can’t grow cilantro no matter how hard I try.  Aargh!

I may even write today’s post today…we’ll see how it goes!