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.

0607161124

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!

When Laundry is Fun

0603161257The new washer is here!  Researched and pondered upon and paid for with cash.  My original intent was to purchase the cheapest washer available, but then wiser heads provided counsel.  Thank you family.  We purchased a more expensive washer, but one that will last considerably longer and is very energy efficient.  If you do an average of 6 loads of laundry a week on the cold setting, the washer has an estimated energy cost of $11 annually.  Of course, I did 6 loads of laundry the first day!  Still, it should save us money in the long run.  Purchased on Memorial Day weekend, there were all kinds of sales, specials and rebates applied, so I am happy with the expense.

Our special needs budget is depleted and we go back to saving for the next item on the list.  It’s a rather long list, but the “joy” factor in saving, waiting and anticipating is well worth it.  It’s also new to me.  I grew up in an environment where if you needed (wanted) it you went and got it.  I am proud of the intentionality of this purchase.

The washer has been named “Tony” by my youngest daughter because it sounds like Iron Man when it fires up.  She has spent considerable time watching the clothes spin and slosh around.  “It’s like a fish bowl, but you don’t have to worry about the fish dying.”  The first load found us all huddled around the washer watching for longer than I care to admit.

Today, I am reminded of the simple joy to be found in doing laundry.  Taking a pile of dirty, smelly wrinkled clothing and transforming it.  Being mindful in the transformative process.  Sorting and filling the washer, measuring out the soap, watching it tumble…transferring the wet load to the dryer.  Pulling out the warm, fresh items and carefully folding them into a neat stack.  Quietly doing a task that I’ve done a thousand times before, but taking the time (and effort) to realize that even such a menial and mundane task is a blessing to others and a luxury that most of the world will never know.

Remembering that I am privileged to have as much as I have – electricity, a washer and dryer, a home to shelter it in, clothing and linens in an abundance, family to make things dirty, and the burgeoning ability to manage it financially with more wisdom.

Over time, it’s possible that washing will become a mindless task again…one in a list of many that I struggle through, but maybe not.

Perhaps, this very intentional purchase signals a significant change around here.  That would be a blessing indeed.

Traveling to a Mythical Destination

Today I’m thinking about my journey and doing a bit of re-evaluating.  Tweaking the steps and direction just a bit to accommodate that little thing  we like to call reality.  Mostly, I’m refiguring the whole journey versus destination dynamic in an effort to be a little kinder and gentler to myself and those that I love.

Perfectionists (say it isn’t so!) don’t live squarely in reality.  We tend to envision a world that is equal parts imagination and myth.  When confronted with reality we tend to react with disbelief and anger that turns into self-recrimination and weariness…just a few short steps from hopelessness, frustration and self-defeat.

A To-Do list two pages long written in colorful markers with tasks written in specific categories?  You bet.

Maybe even rewritten a time or two so that it looks good and nothing is forgotten.  Not that I would ever do the latter.  Nope, not me.

Carefully checking off the completed tasks and marveling at how great things are going to be when the list is completed.  Confident that this list will enable us to get everything done.

Surprised when it doesn’t all get done and with a feeling of great self-awareness we comment, “Maybe the list was a little long.”

Surprised when our eldest daughter comments, “Duh, you think?”

How’s this for profound?  This journey of life isn’t done until I’m dead.  I can’t get it all done, completed, finished.  Duh.  Why am I racing in an effort to get to that mythical place called “done”.  It doesn’t exist or at least not in the way that I’m imagining it.  No amount of mapping, or planning or list-making will make that destination possible in the sense that I can sit back and say, “I’m done.  I can sit and relax now.  I did it!”

As I dust, more dust is forming and falling.  As I wash, dry and fold a load of laundry more is being dirtied…

(unless we become nudists which isn’t happening.  Not that I have anything against nudists…each to his own…I try not to judge…but honestly that would be hard to do if we were all running around naked.  Comparison would seem to be inevitable, I imagine and I prefer to leave all of that to the imagination.  Not in a creepy way though.  I don’t walk around imaging everyone naked.  If we ever meet and for those I do see, I’m really not imagining you naked.  I promise.  Honestly, there are a couple of people I think about being naked, but they aren’t anyone that I know in person – just a couple of celebrities, you know.  Not that you would be unattractive naked – I don’t want to be insulting.  The human body is a marvelous and beautiful thing.  I just don’t think about it…except for those few exceptions that I mentioned previously.)

But, back to the point I was trying to make…housecleaning will never be done, and that includes decluttering.  The yard doesn’t stay mowed.  Raising and nurturing children doesn’t really ever finish – our tasks and responsibilities just evolve.  Errands are never all done. The healthy lifestyle is ongoing.  As problems are solved, new ones crop up.  Appliances wear out and need to be replaced.  Stuff happens and is happening…

“Done” doesn’t exist.  I can’t get there.

I can travel a journey that has less stuff and clutter and stress so that the traveling can be easier and more spontaneous.  I can carry less and be more aware of the sights and experiences along the way.  By spending less and getting out of debt, I can worry less about how to fund my life journey.  That will give me more options when deciding where I want to go.  By being more realistic about the steps I take, I can be more optimistic and at peace, instead of traveling (or stopping altogether) with a negative attitude.

I need to quit looking at that mythical destination and focus more on the journey…

This magical trip we call life…I want to smell the flowers (but not necessarily plant them), watch my children grow, pet my dog, hug my husband, hear what people have to say, rest when I’m weary, make stuff, and absorb every bit of it.

There are too many things that I neglect doing because I’m going to do it when “I’m done”… done with housework, when we’re out of debt, when I have time…

When “I’m done” is too late.  When I’m “done”, I’ll be dead.

Life is now in all it’s imperfection.

The journey is real and what’s important.

The destination can wait.

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….

 

 

 

 

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.

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!