if you notice dust…

kunj-parekh-392037-unsplashI don’t normally offer advice here since I feel that I am a barely functioning adult on my best days, but this is an exception.

if you buy a new LED desk lamp because you are having trouble seeing things on your desk and

if you manage to plug in said lamp because your daughter has super-organized all the cords at your desk and you can’t figure out which cord goes to the old desk lamp that you are replacing and

if you turn on the new lamp and it shines brightly on the extreme amount of dust built up on the computer keyboard because you couldn’t see all of it  in the dim light of the old lamp ( or maybe, honestly, I just managed to ignore it) and

if you try cleaning it with a paintbrush and

if big “stuff” starts falling out and

if you start wondering what all is underneath the keys…

do not under any circumstances attempt to visually inspect the keyboard any further because you will…

then pry up one of the keys and gasp and

then you will go get q-tips and

then you will spend an insane amount of time trying to clean the keyboard and

then you will be unable to properly put the space bar back on and

then your daughter will have to try to fix it and

then she will sigh loudly and start researching nursing homes again.

I’d advise either working in the dark, continuing to ignore the dust, or buying a new keyboard.

And now I am off to clean out the extra room so it can become purposeful and beautiful again.  Wish me luck…

and by the way, now the right shift key doesn’t work.  crap…

Peace.

Once Upon a Time

Journal page number…

Just my opinion…

So much noise

So much activism

So much pointing of fingers

So little love

At the end of this chapter

How will the story read

I believe that nobody will win

And there will be no happy ending

0625181714

If an act is done out of love, but requires an act of hate or violence to accomplish it, how does that work out?

I believe we call it war.

And we are fighting ourselves.

A Journey Shared

I think I’ll just start typing and see where the words take me today.  I have a story to tell, but there are many dimensions to it and I’m not sure what is the most significant element.

I’ll start at the beginning and we shall see where we end up…

Yesterday, I went to the grocery store with my sister to pick up a few things that the family needed.  I say needed because we’ve been in a sort of financial dilemma for the last couple of months.

By dilemma, I mean that a combination of miscalculations on my part and factors outside of my control have combined to mean that there is just not enough money.

We’ve eaten down the pantry and freezer and are being creative about meal making.  No worries, we are pretty creative types.  Still, honestly, there has been some stress around our household about the situation.

Anyway, I arrive at the grocery store with my sister and as we are parking we notice a young family with four small children standing around a car with the hood up.  Various car parts that appear to be from the engine are leaning up against the car.

It is obviously a bad situation, but since I know nothing about engine repair and don’t know what I might offer to do to help in this situation, I continue into the store with my sister to purchase what I need to feed the family through the weekend.

I complete my purchases, excited that by combining markdowns, sales and coupons, I am able to buy quite a bit for a relatively small amount of money.  To be completely honest, I didn’t spend more than we had available so I won’t overdraw the account.  Life is good.

On our way out of the store, that same family is at the service desk.  The four children are sitting quietly nearby,  Mom and Dad are doing something with some Western Union paperwork.  My sister walks over to talk with them and upon completing the conversation discretely hands the dad all of the cash that she has.  My sister does stuff like this all the time.  She’s a giver.

I help my sister out to the car and while unloading our groceries, I ask her what their story is.

The mom had landed a job cleaning at a hotel just up the street from the grocery store.  The hotel was letting the family stay in a room while she worked there.  She got laid off because they were overstaffed.  The family had resorted to living in their car which had now broken down.  They had found someone to fix the car, but were attempting to make arrangement to get everything done.

Four kids, no job, no home…

I don’t know what choices or decisions guided them to that grocery store and that parking lot and that situation.

I’m not even sure that I completely understand the choices and decisions that have landed me where I am today.

The journey is complicated and we make a thousand choices and decisions along the way.  Sometimes, we take the right turn.  Sometimes, not.  Anyone of us could end up homeless with a broken down car in a parking lot.  Of that, I am sure.  For millions around the world, that would be a step up.  Life is crazy that way.

What I do know is that in that moment I was hit full force with the realization that “need” is relative.  I had just purchased groceries that I was certain that I was in “need” of.

Now, in comparison with the “needs” of this family they seemed like luxuries.

I did some calculations in my head and went back in and purchased a gift card for the family.  The groceries I had purchased for the next few days will need to stretch further than I had planned.  I’m okay with that.  I’ll be eating them in my house at my dining room table.  My family will have a car to drive to work in.  There is a paycheck coming in the future.  It won’t be enough, but we will make it work.

I wanted to do more, but at least I know that they won’t be hungry for a day or two.  And I hope and pray that they hold hope in their hearts and that there journey will become easier.

I have continued to think about that trip to the store.

Did I do enough?

What else could I have done?

What was my responsibility?

If “need” is relative, what standard do I use to determine our needs vs wants?

Many questions.

Many choices and decisions.

Lots more to think about.

Need vs Want.

Sharing.

Kindness.

The journey continues.

kindness

Voila!

It turns out that I’ve been doing life all wrong…and now I’ve got it all figured out (not really, and I would never tempt fate or the universe by saying something that outlandish.)

 

All this time I’ve been making a list of everything that needed to be done and then failing to complete the list.  Therefore, at the end of the day, I felt like a failure.

On Monday, I just put three things on the list that had to be done and completed all of them:  I took a shower, successfully taught my art class and washed my bedding and remade the bed.

Win!

I also accomplished some other stuff that was on the “would like to get done” portion of the list.  I don’t remember what those things were since it was days ago, but I know that I felt good about it nonetheless.

So, the choice is make a short list and get it done and be happy…

OR

Make a long list and don’t get it done and be unhappy.

I’m going to choose the short list and be happy.

Voila!

Lesson learned.

Who knew that I couldn’t do it all?

Well, I knew it of course, but I kept trying to do it anyway.

Maybe this time I’ll remember to be more realistic (and kinder to myself).

Or, more likely, I’ll be writing a post similar to this in a couple of months.

Still, I’m going to count it as a positive step forward on my journey and it’s even in the “right” direction!

P.S. Of course, I forgot to put “feed and water the baby chicks” on the list and that’s a pretty important thing to do.  BUT, I remembered to do it and they lived another day so we’re not going to let that detract from my success.

Old Ways New Ways

old ways

I’ve never been one to jump on the trendy bandwagon and embrace the latest “thing”.  I don’t rush out to buy the latest best-seller or try out the newest gadget on the market.

I’m also resistant to habits or routines and tend to not read the instructions that come with almost everything…except life.  Life comes with no instructions and it would make things easier if it did…not that I would read them so I guess it’s a moot point.

Anyway, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that a common theme has been my desire to live a simpler, more intentional and less cluttered life.

I’ve de-cluttered and organized and de-cluttered again.  I’ve made countless trips to the thrift store with lots and lots of stuff.  I’ve made lists and plans and schedules in an attempt to get my act together and live in a serene and peaceful home…

OR a reasonable approximation of peace considering the ever-changing chaotic circumstances our family calls life.

At the very least, I’d like to keep up with the dishes, not have wads of dog hair clogging up the base boards and occasionally be able to actually use the dining room table to dine on.

I try to keep my expectations reasonable (except when I’m having a cranky, irritable, unreasonable mood swing, but that’s a subject for another blog post).

So, the other day my oldest daughter came to me and said, “Mom, I think we should get the Kon-Mari book and read it and try it out”.

Um. No.  Everybody is buying, reading, and blogging about that book.  Why would I want to do that?  I’m already de-cluttering just fine.  Look at that pile of stuff in the hallway – that’s been there for over a month waiting to go to the thrift store.

Oh wait, maybe I should keep that whatchamacallit that’s in that box.  I might need it.

Okay, let’s be honest.  What I’ve been doing hasn’t been working or I wouldn’t have been working on it for a year -or two – or more.

We got the book.  I started reading it.  My daughter finished reading it and told me what to do.  Old habits die hard.

But, they can die and new, better ones can take their place.

It seemed stupid and like an enormous amount of work, but we followed the instructions.

We piled ALL of our clothes on the dining room table (after we cleared it off which took forever).  We touched every object.  And we got rid of a lot.

We piled ALL of our books on the dining room table (after we cleared it off which didn’t take that long)  We got rid of half of them.

Then, ALL the cleaning supplies were placed on the dining room table (which was clear).  All of the cleaning supplies are in one place where they can be found and hopefully used – cause that’s kind of the point of having them.

And so on…

I don’t know why it’s working…or how.

But it is working.

And we aren’t finished yet.

Something changed.  Somehow.

This is what we’ve accomplished so far…

 

A scary amount of stuff is on it’s way out.  But, more importantly, I’m excited about the empty storage and “organizational” containers.

While clarifying and articulating what my ultimate goal was, something clicked.  Figuring out if an item brought me “joy” made a difference.

In my case, that meant that an item had to be worth the cost of taking care of it.

Not just “did I find it useful”, but was it useful enough that it warranted using it, cleaning it and finding a place to keep it.

I’m still struggling with the “beautiful” category.  I have a corner that has “beautiful” things in it.  I’m slowly making decisions about whether it’s “beauty” is worth the cost of my time to care for it.  As an artist, I can see beauty just about anywhere in anything, but I can’t “afford” to fill my life with it all.

I’m finding that my joy is with less responsibility to things.  A shorter to-do list and more time for the things that I have identified as important:  being kind and patient with the people that I love (and trying to learn that I am one of those people, or should be) and making stuff that sometimes ends up being art.

We lost momentum in the process while I was depressed, but I’ve started back up again.

I’ll keep you posted!

But wait, there’s more…

When I wrote last Monday, I was coming to terms with life.  I was looking on the bright side.  I was maintaining a positive attitude.

Everything is going to be fine.  Tough times come and they go.  Life is still good.

By Tuesday, I was even making a gratitude list.  I managed about 20 things on that list without getting too trite.  Good health for my family and reliable(ish) transportation that didn’t require a monthly car payment in our extended budget were on that list.

Have I give away too much information?

Can you guess what the rest of the story might be about?

Tuesday night my husband jumped in his truck and my youngest and I jumped in our car (that really belongs to my sister, but she lets us use) and headed off to clean the offices that provide a bit of extra income.

We got the job done and bid adieu to my husband as he set off for work.  Youngest daughter and I headed home.  Five minutes later, I got a phone call as I was sitting at an intersection waiting for the light to change.

It was my husband.  Turns out that as he was sitting at the intersection of Hero’s Way and Highway 183A waiting for his light to turn from red to green there was a horrible accident.  And he was part of it.

A car coming up to the light on the opposite side of the intersection failed to stop at the red light.  She was going pretty fast.  The truck moving through the intersection at 65 plus mph swerved to miss her.  Hit her anyway, went airborne taking out all the signs at the intersection and bouncing off of the hood of my husband’s truck slamming it against the curb and traveling on.

My husband said all he saw when he looked out the window was a truck flying through the air and then his head hitting the inside frame of the window.

Did I mention that my husband has had a previous broken neck and that his neck is fused solid?

He’s okay except for some neck pain.  We’ve visited the doctor and physical therapy is in the works.

Four or five feet further back and the impact of that truck would have been fully on the passenger cab of our truck.

My husband was lucky and blessed and so are we.  That’s the bright side.

The down side.  There is no doubt that our truck is totaled.   The front passenger side tire is somewhere in the middle of where the engine used to be.  It’s a really big paper weight.

The driver that caused the accident had the least amount of insurance to meet the requirements of Texas law.  Her car is probably totaled from what I saw.  The other (much newer) truck is totaled also.  The truck’s passengers were transported by ambulance.  I doubt that there will be any payouts by the time it comes to our turn.

Luckily, we have underinsured driver insurance.  That will help.  The blue book on our truck isn’t much, but it meant the world to us in terms of financial life.

What next?  It’s up to the lawyers at this point.

And the doctors if my husband’s neck injury turns out to be something more serious.

Time will tell.

Nothing serious went wrong on Wednesday and Thursday.

Let’s all breath a sigh of relief.

Oh, wait…the week isn’t over.

Remember Speedy the basset hound?  The nine year old that (for some crazy reason) I adopted because he was surrendered to the pound because his family didn’t want him anymore?  The one that had surgery for the anal tumor.  The one that is incontinent because of said surgery. The really annoying one that follows me everywhere (and I mean everywhere).  The one that needs so much attention that if I won’t pet him, he will simply stand by my chair and rub his own head against my foot.  Yes, that dog.

This morning he woke up and is having trouble walking and whimpering.  It’s probably a spinal problem.  That’s common among older bassets.  He’s on pain meds for now and will go in to the vet on Monday for x-rays.  Then I get to make that decision.  You know the one I’m talking about.  The how much can we afford to spend decision.  The one where you get to place a value on a life…

Other things are sorting themselves out well enough.  Not ideally, but they involve the situations that caused me to invoke the Serenity prayer on Monday.  All I can do is aim for peace and make the best of whatever happens.

…because it is my circus and they are my monkeys.

And all shall be well.

 

 

Travel well

Monday mornings present an interesting juxtaposition of thought for me.

On on hand they are an opportunity…a new beginning and fresh start.  A chance to write down that to-do list and accomplish…whatever it is that needs doing.

On the other hand, Mondays can just be frustrating.  So much to do and so much undone from the week before.  The feeling that this week might be just as difficult, or more so, than the week before.

The latter thought process is not helpful.  It is self-defeating and starts the week off with negativity.  Nevertheless, the thoughts are a reality and cannot be ignored.  Sometimes life can seem to be an endless loop of beginnings and endings and not much in the middle.

So, today I shall acknowledge that sometimes life is frustrating.  And that sometimes the end of my week does not meet the expectations of the beginning.

And I shall continue to try and live in grace and hope…and be grateful for the opportunity a new week provides.  I’ll make a new list and continue to be optimistic about the possibilities that this week of my life might offer.

I will attempt to live through the ups and downs that these days of my life will certainly serve up.  I know in advance that there will be failure and tears and happiness and beauty.  I will travel through the challenges and dwell in the good.  That is my plan for this week.

And now is the time to share the news that I have been alluding to over the past several weeks.  I can share the part of the story that is mine.

Our son, Jacob, has joined the Army.  He completed the last of the process and was sworn in last Wednesday.  He reports for training the middle of this month.  There is much I could write about this journey.  I shall keep it simple.

I am his Mom.

I love him.

I am proud of him.

I am afraid for him.

This decision has been a long time coming for him.  I have watched him carefully consider it.  Research it.  Carry it in his heart and revisit it from time to time.  This is what he feels called to do.

I believe in him and am in awe of his ability to listen to that “voice” that is guiding him.  I have struggled my whole life with finding my way.

I read a quote the other day.  I can’t remember where.  “To find your purpose, follow your passion.”

He is doing that.

Travel well, my son.

May we all find our passion and our purpose and travel well.

 

Happenstance

I wrote some days ago about realizing that the journey I was on was not progressing as well as I would like

…about coming across some journals from years ago in which I expressed frustration with circumstances that are relatively unchanged today

…that the methods I was using didn’t appear to be very effective

…I’m still decluttering, and trying to find time for things I want to do, and attempting to maintain a simpler and cleaner home

…change has happened, but not as much as I would like

I wrote that there needed to be a new plan, but I had no idea what it might be.

I was frustrated.

I was hopeful.

I was anxious.

 

Then, by happenstance. I downloaded the game, gin rummy, onto my phone.

I’ve never been good at gin.  I just thought it might be a good distraction, and hey…it was free.

Do you play gin?  It’s pretty simple in theory.  You have a limited number of cards and need to form melds (sets) before your opponent goes out or you get stuck with points. I’m not going to try to explain the whole game…the important part to understand as far as this post goes, is to know that getting rid of “deadwood” is the key to winning.

The game I downloaded has a range of opponents for you to challenge.  They are ranked in skill from not very good to pretty much unbeatable.

When I started I couldn’t beat any of them.

I played anyway.

Then, I actually went and read all of the instructions just to make sure I understood what I was supposed to be doing.

I still lost a lot, but not quite as much.  I started beating the worst player every once in a while.

I started watching what the best players were doing.

I realized that I was playing the same way I had always played…trying to put together the same type of hand over and over again.

I kept losing.

Sound familiar?

Sound like the way I’ve been working on my house?

That’s what I started thinking.

I started discarding cards…ruthlessly.

I stopped saving cards that would make melds that I wanted to make

…and started saving cards that could and would actually win the hand.

I discarded long-shots.

I stopped holding onto cards that were no longer useful.

I didn’t keep a card just because I liked it (I’m partial to hearts).

If it wasn’t going to contribute to a winning hand, I discarded it.

I quit picking up cards that “might” be useful.

A hand plays out quickly.

There is no time for a lot of “maybe” and “someday”.

Holding onto deadwood is no way to win.

I can now beat any of the opponents except for “Jane”.  I’m pretty sure that she cheats. She wins a lot.  She seems to be very lucky.  Yep,  I think she’s cheating.  I may quit playing against her.

In any case, by happenstance, this game taught me a lot.

Help can come from the most unlikely places.

Who knew?

Life is short.

A day is even shorter.

I’ve got to play the hand that I’ve been dealt.

I can’t hold onto cards (stuff and emotions) that aren’t helping me to build the hand that I need to win the game.  The game being the life that I’m hoping to live.

The wrong cards or too many cards won’t ever come together to help me achieve my goal of a simpler, tidier, more comfortable home.

I need to ruthlessly discard cards that are keeping me from assembling a winning hand.

If I have something that I used to like but don’t any longer, it should go.

If something was expensive, but I don’t love it, keeping it just takes up space that could be filled with a more important card.

Just because something once held deep meaning, doesn’t mean that it gets to stick around forever. I change and the things that are meaningful can change also.

There are only so many cards allowed in a hand.

Holding onto the wrong card means that there is no room for the right card.

I have to make sure that I have the right cards.

Oh, and it helps to make sure that I fully understand the rules of the game – the direction I am headed and my ultimate goal.

Clothes that don’t fit right or don’t fit at all.  Gone. Even (or especially) if I am holding onto them because I like the idea of wearing them rather than the reality of wearing them.  You know, all those clothes you keep taking out of the closet and dropping onto the floor – never really wearing anywhere.

Beautiful things that fit the image of who I would like to be, but don’t fit into the reality of who I am – a woman who hates to dust and despises clutter.  I’m talking about those beautiful home magazine pages of meticulously displayed collectibles and art.  I love the way that looks.  It just doesn’t translate into my real life.  I need to be realistic about the life I live and the way I live it.

Things that I used to use all the time, but don’t use any longer.  Interests and needs change, but I don’t always adapt the stuff I have to reflect where I am right now.  I don’t have four kiddos at home all the time now.  I don’t cook the same.  Life has changed.  Stuff needs to be reassessed.  Holding onto stuff from when all the kiddos were home and little doesn’t stop the progress of time.  Those days are gone.  It’s time to let go of the “cards” that are no longer serving a purpose in my hand and start building a new hand.

There are no excuses in gin.  There is no justification.  Deadwood goes or you lose.

There comes a time when you have to quit talking about what you want.

A time when you have to quit explaining why you can’t have or do what you want.

You have to do what is necessary to make space or time for what you want.

And you have to do it.

 

 

The New Beginning

Well, here is yesterday’s journal page where I began to work out the details of my New Year slogan that  I wrote about yesterday:

1227161020

Yep, that didn’t go so well.

Here’s what happened…

In celebration of the success that was our Christmas Day, I decided to take a short nap.

I define success by reaching the conclusion of a big holiday event without verbal disagreements evolving into a physical altercation.

If there is more than one person present in the house during a major holiday, I feel this is a somewhat hopeful goal, but probably doable.

I don’t like to set the bar too high.

I avoid all possible Christmas advertisements featuring magical Christmas festivities or any sappy Christmas movies that feature perfection as their story-line.  I have found that these are not representative of real life.  I personally like Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation.  I believe it to be a realistic goal to strive for.

Anyway, I decided to reward myself with a nap.  That fit within the parameters of my New Year Plan, right?

Taking a nap in this house yesterday was akin to meditating on the Titanic.  It wasn’t a complete waste of time, but it wasn’t very successful either.  Between the telephone calls, the knock on the door, the barking dogs, the dog fight over the plastic container of leftovers stolen from the counter, and the set of cabinet doors that got knocked down during said fight…it took almost 3 hours to get  30 minutes of sleep.

The journal page did not get done.

I did think about it though.

Points for me!

I woke up this morning in a determined and optimistic mood.  Today was a new day.  The journal page beckoned!

Then there was the bad tire on the truck. Oh yea, and the missing key-lock that allows one to access the spare tire on the truck. No access to the spare. Great for theft protection.  Not so great when husband needs to be at work in an hour…and work is 45 minutes away.

And the missing keys to the other car.  They have since been located…in Houston in my daughter’s car.  Not helpful at all.

Today will be a day to be a taxi service.  Unless I can journal while driving, it is unlikely that the page will get done today either.

It’s a good thing that I started my New Year a week early.

At this rate, I just might get started before 2018 arrives.