Where the hell am I?

Well, literally I am here, at home – most specifically seated at my computer desk typing this note.

But in every other sense of the word, I feel very lost.  This may possibly be one of those brutally honest posts – the kind where I throw punctuation and grammar to the wind and just write.  We shall see.

Where am I?

I am lost.

Lost in the realities of stressful everyday life.

There was never enough money and then my husband’s overtime was cut.  Shit.  I don’t blame him.  I feel badly for him.  He works so hard to provide for our family and I know that he’s blaming himself.

Lost in a vicious cycle of trying to get things done.

The house needs so much work.  We haven’t had the time or resources to do any of the planned projects.  The floor in our hall bathroom and laundry room need to be replaced due to a water leak.  We haven’t been able to recover the floors since we removed the carpeting.  The sub-flooring is so difficult to clean.  I so badly want to repaint the walls.  There’s been a lot of living done since we moved in 10 years ago.  It just feels old and dirty and worn-out.

Lost in a stupid battle of self-loathing and self-criticism that spews out on all of those around me.

….If I could just figure out how to make the money stretch far enough.  If I could just keep the house clean enough.  If I could just manage my time well enough to get things done.

A tiny little voice in my head says that I’m doing the best that I can.  The loud voices are yelling that I’m a stupid failure that isn’t good enough.  That it’s all my fault.

I’m tired and sad.  Probably more than sad.  I’m having trouble keeping my eye on the dream…Honestly, I’m having trouble maintaining any optimism or hope at all.

The “I want to” is bigger than the “I can”.  I want to make home-made nutritious meals for my family.  I’m lucky to fix boxed macaroni and cheese.  I want fresh sheets on the bed every week.  Even if I get them washed, they don’t always make it on the bed.  The dog hair on the floor is starting to look like really ugly carpeting.  I don’t even know where the broom is right now.  Let’s not even get into the art-making process. There is neither the time or energy for that.

I know that things will get better.

I just need patience – with myself, those I love and our situation.  I need to take more time to breathe and look for the joy around me.  I know it’s there.

I know that I need to start writing again.  The process of putting words on paper (actually putting fingers to keyboard) is a magical way to stop the racing mind and see things more clearly.

And I know from your kind comments that I am not alone in any of this.  Stressful lives, despair and hopelessness are not uncommon out there in this world of ours.  This difficult and sometimes scary world – this world that is also full of love and beauty.  We can help each other with sharing and kindness.

It’s so often easier to be kind to others than it is to be kind to ourselves – easier to see the hope for someone else’s life.

I hope that each of you can find some small measure of beauty, joy, peace and hope for yourself today.  I am off to find some for myself.



Graduation Road Trip!

No postings for a day or two as the family heads to Huntsville for second daughter’s college graduation!

In preparation for the trip I’ve made a mad clean-up dash through the house so we come back to some semblance of “normal”.

Dishes done.  Laundry done.

And a fast declutter.  Here’s the list for yesterday and today:

  1. jeans with an unrepairable hole
  2. a linen shirt that’s moved past comfortable into just worn-out
  3. an empty storage container
  4. a fitted sheet with worn-out elastic
  5. pillowcase
  6. 2 bed pillows
  7. a book
  8. miscellaneous worn-out cloth napkins
  9. a pair of outgrown shoes
  10. more scrapbook paper


The Ready Guest Room

I have to leave in just a few minutes to go clean an office.  It’s more that a bit ironic that someone pays me to clean someplace especially when that someone knows me all too well and has seen my house at its worst.  Life is funny sometimes.

Anyway…today’s accomplishment – the guest room is no longer a storage room.  The boxes of business documents are stored away.  The room has been dusted and the floor vacuumed.  Fresh sheets are on the bed and extra blankets and pillows are freshly washed and ready for company next week.

There is still some stuff “stored” in there but it is tidy and presentable and welcoming.  Many in our family are in a transitional stage of life.  Preparing to graduate college.  Making decisions about the next step.  Making plans to move out late next summer.  Living here off and on between jobs that take her on the road.  Their stuff is living here while they move about and get ready for the next stage in their lives.  Stuff is being saved until we know if it will be needed.  Stuff is waiting here for a more permanent home.  Stuff is here for their next stop in.

And that’s how it should be, I think.  Home is more than the place that you grow up in.  It’s also the nest that you can return to when its needed.  That safe place that is waiting for you when and if…

At least that’s what I want this home to be.  I left home right after high school graduation.  I never really went back.There is some regret in that for me, but in reality it was the best choice.  I can pretend that it could have been different and that I should have acted otherwise, but I did what seemed right at the time.  Even though distance can change our perceptions of what was – can soften painful realities and make us believe that things were better than they were – we need to be careful about rewriting our history.  My parents were good people in many ways.  Their marriage was challenging and we were never a strong family.  They had their own problems and times were different.  I think that they did the best they could, but it was never good.  At times it was downright horrible.

I always wanted to have a family.  A good family that loved each other and cared about each other.  I was pretty much an only child as my two sisters were much older than I.  Having four children – siblings – was an awakening for me.  The love that siblings have for each other when they are growing up looks different that I expected.  It’s often yelling, screaming, ignoring each other and beating the crap out of each other.  Who knew?  Certainly not I.

But of all the things that I’ve done wrong, I think that creating a family was something that I did an okay job of.  It certainly wasn’t just me.  I married a good man who is patient, loving, strong, and did I mention patient.  He is also one of four children.  That helped.  I wasn’t and am not a perfect mom, but I love my kids and somehow we have stuck together through good times and bad.

So, the guest room is ready for guests of the family, friend and stranger variety.  A lot of decluttering went on in there this last couple of days.   All the hard work and the stress of decision making was worth it.

As I head out the door here is today’s declutter list:

  1. some votive candles that have been hanging around so long that they no longer have their scent.  I have saved back just enough for a short power outage which happens fairly frequently around here.
  2. three books that tell you how to organize belongings.  You can’t organize clutter – you can only get rid of it.  Why are they still here?
  3. a gift bag that we might be able to reuse if we could find it when it was time to put a gift in it.
  4. another batch of socks without mates.
  5. a plastic “organizing” bucket from my daughter’s room

And I’m outta here!


Seeking Normal

Once upon a time there was a woman on a journey.  She started this journey many, many years ago although she didn’t realize it’s importance at the time.  Maybe she realized that it mattered, but she didn’t really define it or name it or make plans for it until fairly recently.

Initially, when she was a child, she just wanted to find normal and be normal and fit in.  That was the extent of her life plan. She didn’t think much beyond doing the next “normal” thing.

As a young child she just wanted to stay in one place longer than a year.  She didn’t want to move every June and be the new kid in school every September.  She wanted to have a birthday party and invite other kids that she actually knew and hadn’t just met.

As a teenager she just wanted a pair of blue jeans.  It was the seventies.  Every teenager wore blue jeans.  Even the really poor kids who were on free lunch and had to ride the bus to the elementary school to eat.  She was a junior when she finally got a pair of jeans – plain pockets from J.C. Penney’s.

She went to college like she was supposed to.  She majored in English because she promised her Dad she would get a teaching certificate so she would always have a job to fall back on.  She had no intention of teaching and snuck in an extra major in Art because that’s what she really loved.

Somewhere along the line she quit making art because it was time to be a grown up.  In her “normal” world, normal people didn’t make art.

Normal people got married, bought a house and had kids – in that order.  They also had credit cards and two cars.  This means that they had debt.  They had jobs – both Mom and Dad – so that they could buy all of the stuff that they needed.  Each kid had their own room and lots of toys and a big yard to play in.

So, she got married.  This was most definitely not a mistake.  He turned out to be a really great guy who loved her and stuck with her through times that any sane man would have run away from.

She had four kids.  Also, not a mistake.  They are beautiful human beings that amaze her with their talent, self-confidence and abilities – despite the fact that she raised them and was pretty clueless most of the time.

The house was really a good idea also.  She worked to make it a home – the home that she had longed for all of her life.  A place she didn’t have to leave against her will. She had vowed that her family would stay in one place and they pretty much did.  They did move, but never left the same general area.  She provided her family with the stability that she never had.

Then one day the kids started growing up.  She had time.  She started making art again.  And she started thinking – about herself and her life.

She thought about the choices she had made and the ones she hadn’t made.  The path she had travelled looking for “normal”.  She thought about the time she had spent on “auto-pilot” because there just wasn’t the time or energy to be introspective and thoughtful.

She started looking around and realized that “normal” didn’t really exist.  At least not the way she had thought.  Everybody had their own idea of normal.

The first really big eye-opener came when her children started living their own lives and made choices different than the ones she had made.  Honestly, some of their choices seemed a bit scary to her.  She worried about them.  She kept her mouth shut (most of the time).  She watched and marveled and learned.

She pondered her choices and decided that there wasn’t a whole lot she regretted.  Each choice had contributed to the person that she had become and she liked herself well enough.  But, she decided that there were things that she would like to change and she resolved to do so.

…To hell with seeking normal.  She decided it wasn’t too late to find her own way and to stop trying to conform to an ideal that had never existed in the first place.  She realized that this was a hard thing to do.  It’s difficult to deviate from a path that you have travelled for so long.

Then, one day she met a young man – a pretty cool guy.  Smart, educated, thoughtful and caring, he had a wide variety of interests and was brave…so very brave. His “normal” was very different from hers.  He carried a magic backpack that was much like Mary Poppin’s bag.  From it he pulled everything he needed.  He needed very little.  He travelled light and was confident that he could meet his needs and wants without owning a lot of stuff.  She was very glad to have met him.

She was coming to the realization that her journey on the well-worn path meant that she often didn’t really look at the world around her with open and inquisitive eyes.  What had she missed?  What had she categorized as normal and not normal?  What limits had she put on herself and those around her?

She found joy in her realization that she was leaving the path she was on and was making a conscious decision to wander.

 Not the End.

The Great Chicken Massacre of 2015

Sigh.  Yesterday was a really hard day.  I didn’t share the tragic event (not sarcasm) because I wasn’t sure if it was something to share.  But it happened and it sucked and it relates to my circle of life posting and to my life as a parent.

We shall refer to this event as The Great Chicken Massacre of 2015.  (Great as in large and not awesome.)

Yesterday morning I went out to open up our chicken coop and to let our eight chickens out for their day.  It was pretty quiet.  That’s unusual.  I don’t get up as early as chickens do and they are usually not happy about that.  I opened the door and only two flew out – Raptor and Savage.  (Yes, they all have names courtesy of the children)

It took me a minute to figure out what the hell had happened.  I even poked one of the chickens to wake it up.  Chickens don’t lay down to sleep.  Sometimes we just don’t want to believe what we are seeing.  Two alive.  Two dead.  Two missing.  Two injured beyond the possibility of recovery.

I hate raccoons.  I understand the whole circle of life thing.  I understand that chickens will be chickens and raccoons just gotta be raccoons.  I hate them.  I’ll never understand killing for killing sake.  Just because.  Not for hunger.  Not out of need.  Just because you can.

By the way, the pacifist in me was quashed by the maternal, protective instinct in me.  Said raccoon has gone wherever dead raccoons go.  Around here it’s an open field away from the house where he can become part of the freaking circle of life and be buzzard breakfast.

The coop has been fortified.  Chickens have short memories.  The surviving two are no longer looking for the rest of the flock.

And, after having to explain the whole mess to my twelve year old who spends time reading to, talking to and hanging out with her birds, we ended up with 15 chicks.  In the house.  At the beginning of winter.  Chicks who won’t be able to go outside to live for months.  Chicks that chirp – all the time.  Chicks that eat all the time.  Chicks that poop even more than they chirp and eat.  Chicks that have to be under a warming light that warms up said poop.  Probably sufficient explanation of the insanity of getting chicks in November.

They are really, really cute though.  The naming process has begun. I have no idea how the kids can tell them apart to know which is which.  Chickens aren’t very good at responding to their name when called so it’s probably a mute point.  Come to think of it, kids aren’t very good at responding to their names and we name them.

On the decluttering front for today:

  1. 3 shirts that do nothing to make me look like a supermodel.  (I’m aware that none of my shirts have the ability to make that happen, but these three are serious fails)
  2. an inflatable cowboy costume that includes a horse that you appear to be riding on.  No explanation for the declutter really needed.
  3. a sweater that has more pills than my medicine cabinet
  4. a fitted sheet.  I already have two sets and although I can fold a fitted sheet (thanks Mom), I don’t want to so I just wash ’em and put them right back on
  5. an oscillating fan that doesn’t oscillate.  It just sits in one place and clicks incessantly as it tries to move.  Annoying to say the least.

As I read back over this list, I wonder why I ever kept these things to begin with.  Sometimes I have no words.

And if you are better at math than I am – 6 chickens gone and 15 coming in means that I actually now have more today than yesterday.  I’m coming to realize that the numbers aren’t so important.  It’s having only what you need and want that counts.

The Ecosystem Under the Fridge

Remember Jiminy and Mulan?  They were the crickets rescued from an untimely death by my youngest.  The ones that were destined to be made into cricket flour granola.  And yes, it’s really a thing – a sustainable, protein-rich food source.

Remember that Mulan escaped and we couldn’t find her because female crickets don’t chirp?  Shortly afterwards Jiminy died.  My daughter believes that he died of a broken heart.  He was determined to escape.  He successfully chewed through the screen two more times before he passed.  I suspect that there is only so much plastic a cricket can ingest before they succumb.

Anyway, it was a sad day.  She carefully placed his remains in an outdoor plant so that he could decompose and complete the “circle of life”.

On with the story…

A couple of nights ago, she notice a tiny (very tiny) light brown cricket on the floor in front of the fridge.  Evidently, Mulan was “with child(ren)” when she escaped.  Much happiness ensued at the realization that the lineage lived on.

I was excited too.  (Sarcasm)  So excited that I thoughtlessly commented, “This will work out great since a tiny green gecko is also living under the fridge.  I’ve noticed him coming and going late at night.”

Youngest quietly asked, “Don’t geckos eat crickets?”

“Um, yes.”  (Crap)

A homeschool science lesson followed.  After lots and lots of googling by youngest daughter, it turns out that Mulan and Jiminy probably had about 100 offspring.

There should be more than enough crickets for the gecko and enough so that Mulan and Jiminy live on.

Google doesn’t answer the question of how many crickets one household needs living under the fridge or whether you actually need a gecko at all.

I suppose you do need a gecko to help control the cricket population.

Sort of a circular question and answer thing…

Kind of like the circle of life itself.

A Regular Thing

Being alone on a Sunday is becoming a regular thing.  Everyone is off at work or a friend’s house.  I’m not complaining – I love my family, but I am probably a loner by nature and this is nice.  Nice and quiet.

I’d like to be curled up under a comforter reading a book checked out from the library – bassets snoring at my feet.  I could be doing that, but I have a goal-directed mission.  I want sustainable “peace”.  Not just the kind that can happen when circumstances allow me to be alone, but the kind of peace that can exist when real life is going on.  Undone projects, dishes, laundry and piles of belongings aren’t conducive to peace.  They are distracting and prevent me from focusing on what is really important.

So, I am cycling between the kitchen sink, the laundry room, piles of old business documents to shred, and clearing counters.

Do I love it, do I need it, can it go…these questions are also cycling through my head.  And a new question that I’m trying out.  Should it stay?  I’ll often come across an item and think “that might be able to go”.  Instead of making a decision, I leave it where it is.  Inevitably I’ll come back to it and donate it.  Why the hesitation?  I’m learning to listen to that little voice.  In my heart, I know where I want it to go.  In my head, I’m still dealing with fear.  I don’t even know what I’m afraid of – not having enough?  Not having the “right” stuff?  Not having a “good enough” house?  Not being good enough?  The answers will come in time.  I have to believe that.

The journey is purposeful (and difficult).  Finding out who I am authentically.  Listening to my heart and tuning out the part of me that longs for acceptance and validation from the world.  Learning to be comfortable with my decisions.  Making choices that are best for me and the ones that I love.

It’s a new month and the beginning of a new week.  What opportunities lie ahead?  What can I accomplish?  Those questions cause some anxiety to be sure.  My heart starts to race a bit.  I can feel the tears begin to form.  Those are signs that I’m heading in the right direction.  I no longer turn away from that anxiety.  It means that I am heading into new territory. Fear is a necessary component of growth for me.  I must walk right into it and not shy away.  The old, comfortable situations aren’t working for me.  They haven’t worked for a long time.  If this sounds a bit melodramatic, so be it.  I’m ready for drastic change.

So, a new month, a new day…a continued journey.  Bring it on!

What Would I Save?

Yesterday, I woke up to the sound of rain and a husband who may or may not have been cussing.  The words were indistinguishable, but the tone wasn’t.  Problem!  I opened the front door to darkness and the sound of rushing water.  The night before we got home late and parked the truck so that the headlights shone on the chicken coop.  That way we could see to make sure they were all locked up tight for the night.  We are having a raccoon problem – more specifically a raccoon eating chickens problem.

And now, the truck was stuck.  Very, very stuck.  Up to the hubcap in calf-deep running water stuck.  And husband is late for work.  And we have one vehicle and two different work schedules to deal with.  Yep, he was probably cussing.

He grabs the keys to our son’s Jeep and heads out to work.  I go in to check the news about the weather (I already know that it’s raining, of course).

Sure enough, bad situation around these parts.  We’re getting heavy rain and the yard is swamped, but farther south in Austin and beyond….holy crap.  We were flooded in by rising creeks and impassable roads, but that was minor compared to others.

We’d already had heavy rain the weekend before.  Rivers rose fast.  Massive flooding.  As I was watching the news coverage, I looked around and wondered what I would try to save if we had to evacuate?  That kind of news puts things in proper perspective.

So this happened…

IMAG1096 (1)…clothes, a lamp, games, towels, and I’ve already forgotten what else.  Two boxes stuffed full and I can’t even remember what I put in them?  Crazy.  Out of here, gone.

There is also a pile of trash on the porch waiting for the yard to dry out enough to haul to the can.  Yea!

In a small corner of my brain I’m wondering if I’ll ever be done.  How much stuff is enough?  How much needs to go?  Will our life be better if I get rid of the stuff.  The house cleaner? The stress reduced?  Is this a good plan?  Is the clutter a symptom or the problem?  More questions than answers for sure.

Our neighbor jokingly calls us the “bad-luck Barrows”.  It does seem to be one thing after another.  Mostly small, irritating stuff.  It’s the continual stress that’s hard.  Waiting for the next crisis.  Not a good way for me to live.  I’m trying to look for the next good thing instead.  A change of attitude is what I need.  I’m working on it.  I’m working on a lot of things.

My daughter is playing a song for me…”Hold on for one more day…break free from the chains…things are going to go your way…”

It’s true.  Good things are happening all the time.  A friend came and helped us “un-stick” the truck.  Lots of stuff has been de-cluttered this week.  I’ve made some art.  My daughter is home this weekend.  It’s Halloween and the kid’s costume is ready.  We’re going to spend the evening with some friends.

Oh yea – it’s 50 cent corn dog day at Sonic.  That’s a good thing!

The Great Escape

The wildlife animal adventures continue here at Faith Acre.  Jiminy and Mulan have escaped.

Last Friday, we went to Homeschool Day at the Austin Zoo.  One of the presentations was by a group promoting crickets as an excellent protein and sustainable food source. Cricket flour granola anyone?  I try to be open-minded.  I did really try to sample the granola.  I love pecans and oatmeal and other “normal” granola ingredients.  Just couldn’t do it.  I really did try.

Youngest daughter took the opportunity to use her newly built cricket habitat (yogurt container with screened lid) to rescue two crickets from certain death.  They have been happily residing in her room along with Indigo the bunny.

They aren’t the big ugly black crickets we have running wild here naturally.  Those are loud and raucous and remind me of grackles or crows or other large black unattractive birds.  Jiminy and Mulan are small, delicate and a light brown.  As crickets go, they are kinda cute.  There chirp isn’t as obnoxious either.  My daughter says she finds it soothing.

Apparently, crickets can chew through screen. They have flown the metaphorical coop.  They are somewhere in our home.  We can hear one of them and the hunt is on.  One is apparently whatever sex doesn’t chirp.  I can see a future insect study in my daughter’s homeschooling future.

My son suggested that we bring the chickens into the house to search for the missing duo.  Hmmmm.  Can’t imagine what could go wrong with that scenario.  Two crickets, eight chickens, a basset, a bagel, and a rabbit under one roof?

I’m going to say no to that idea.

At least my sense of humor is returning.

UPDATE:  The chirping cricket has been found.  I don’t know if it is Jiminy or Mulan.  One cricket looks pretty much like any other to me.  A quick search on the internet tells me that we have found the male. I’m open-minded.  Still don’t know if its Jiminy or Mulan.  I don’t think cricket names need to be gender specific.  Now, my daughter is worried about them being lonely apart.  She is patiently explaining the folly of escape.  In her words:  “pesky cricket”