Books that Survived

books show us

When I was a kid, I read all the time.

Unless I was drawing.

But mostly I read.

In college I stopped reading so much because there just wasn’t time.

After college I started reading a little bit more, but never as much as when I was a child.

And then I had kids of my own.

I continued to read, but not for myself…for them.

During the great declutter of last month we placed all our books on the  table.1004171728a

We got rid of anything that we weren’t going to read again, were never going to read or that was readily available with our new library card.

And then there were these books:

1105170941.jpgThese I pulled out as books I had acquired because…

well, because they “spoke” to me.  They had content that I thought could help me become more of the me that I want to be.

They cover topics like art and fear and creativity

and life and peace and spirituality

and so much more.

And they have been sitting on the shelf…some for a long, long time.

Some I started and never finished.

Some have never been opened.

Now they are all in one place – by my chair in the living room where I often end up sitting and watching television because it’s easy.

I will see them when I go to sit down.

And I will no longer ignore them.

I am going to read them.

Because…

kid president

Peace.

 

Live. Create. Tell the Story

 

live create tell th story

I’ve been asked how hard it is to write and share personal details of my life on this blog…

(and the tears start now)

To be sure, some of what I have written has been difficult to share. Some of what gets typed never gets published. Sometimes the mouse hovers over the publish “button” and time passes…and more time passes…and I take a deep breath…and “send” what I have written out into the world. And I worry that it sounds stupid or that I shared too much or that nobody will read it or care.

One of the things that I know to be absolute truth (and there isn’t much that fits into that category) is that, as human beings, we are called to share our stories. It’s why I once believed that I was called to the pulpit as an ordained minister. Now, I tell my stories here to a different audience.

I don’t know who needs to hear what I have to say…that I struggle daily with the uncertainty of whether I have value and purpose and am deserving of continued existence.

Writing a blog is an interesting thing.  To sit down in front of a screen and keyboard and “talk” to an audience that you can’t see.  There are no reactions, no head nods, no eye contact that allows you to gauge how receptive your audience is.

You just have to believe that your stories…

and by extension, all of our stories  – of our experiences, successes and failures, the documentation of the steps we take are what matter.

The relationships, the sharing, the moment when our being on this planet for just another day makes sense…that’s why I write…

– for myself and for someone out there who might be needing to hear what I have to say

– someone I will probably never meet

– someone who is wondering if their story matters

We are all important and we are all part of the story that is being written every moment of every day…

sometimes by what we do (or don’t do), by our words, our brush strokes, our act of kindness, our prayers, our presence.

Some of us accomplish big things that attract attention and praise…

most of us will never be noticed or acknowledged or even know that what we did today mattered…

So, let’s try this –

Tell your story today.  Share.

Let someone know that the “words” they wrote (or are writing) in your life matter.

And  (most importantly)  if someone who was a part of your story has somehow disappeared in the midst of all the busyness of life, find a way to let them know that their words are important..

That they matter.

They made need to hear it.

Live.

Create.

Tell the story.

Repeat.

P.S.  This is not at all what I sat down to write today.  The words just took on a life of their own and this is what happened.  Life and stories are funny that way…

 

 

 

Possibilities

edward-albee-optimism-quote

Yea!  I’m writing three days in a row.

Things must be going better.

That’s not the only sign.  Optimism is definitely the word of the day.

My laundry room has been tidy and clean for over a week…

and I’m able to see and appreciate the tidiness and organization instead of the unfinished plywood covering the floor that needs replacing. Well, I see the plywood but have hope that someday it will be fixed along with all the other stuff…that’s progress enough for now.

I went out with my sister and we visited the thrift store…something that I’ve been avoiding lately because I don’t want to undo the de-cluttering progress that I’ve made.

And (holy crap, batman) they were having a half-price clearance event to get ready for all the Christmas stuff.

(Insert a brief moment of panic when I saw that sign)

But, I did okay.  I held some things and made good decisions. Only a few things came home and most were on my mental list of things I need (or really want) but can’t afford.

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  1. A can for storing pet food.
  2. A whole foods cookbook that has been on my Amazon list for a while.
  3. A trashcan for next to my chair in the living room where I do a lot of cutting while watching t.v.
  4. A new wallet because my old one is almost worn out.
  5. Fiesta saucers to go under the herbs I’m going to start growing to save money because they are called for in every recipe I’m cooking lately. These were cheaper than actual thingies to go under plant pots and are colorful.  Win, win!
  6. A curtain tie-back because two went into the storage closet and only one came out and there are two windows in the bedroom.  They even match!
  7. A good book for homeschooling that I’ve looked at several times but couldn’t afford
  8. Pencils, because who doesn’t always need pencils?

I’m happy because I don’t see any regrets there and I actually saved a significant amount of money.

It’s been a good day.

Dinner is in a crock pot on the counter.

Today is payday and we made it through the last pay period without going in the red.  We barely (and I mean barely) maintained a positive balance, but that’s enough for now.  The important stuff got paid and by that I mean we still have electricity and water and food.

I read an article today that indicates we aren’t middle class. That was kind of a bummer…

But, today I am able to focus on the good.

We have a floor and a roof and walls all around.

Many don’t.

We have food in our pantry and refrigerator and a means to prepare it.

Many don’t.

And today, I can see my blessings.

With depression, that is not always possible.

With depression, optimism is not always a choice.

Without hope, the world is dark and lonely and impossible.

Today, things seem possible.

May your day be filled with light and possibilities…

 

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!

A “What If-er”

 

Mood swings, irritability, frustration, guilt and self-recrimination.  That seems to be my constant lately.

Some days I wonder if it’s worth the effort of maintaining any sense of optimism.

Some days, hope is hard to come by.

And then, something happens that turns things around and lightens the load…

On Mondays, I teach a class of Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders at a small private, Christian school.

I pretty much teach a process over product class and place the emphasis on the “what if” idea.  What if you try this…what will happen?  I emphasize creative thinking.  When the class project is done, the kids get to work (play)  in their journals and work with all of the scraps that we have collected in what they have dubbed the “what if” box.

Yesterday, as we were working on a owl drawing and painting project, I shared a story from my own early elementary days.

A long, long time ago when I was about your age, I was working on painting a plaster owl in art class.  We didn’t have an art teacher or classroom at the school I was attending at the time.  It was my regular classroom teacher and she wasn’t an artist. We had red, yellow and blue paint.  I remember that I wanted my owl to look like an owl with lots of colors and texture.  I was young and didn’t know how to achieve that so I kept layering on paint…lots and lots of layers.  The paint began to muddy and crack. My teacher told me that I was doing it wrong and took my owl and washed all of the paint off.  She returned it to me and told me to start over and do it the correct way.  I didn’t want to finish the owl because I was afraid that I wouldn’t do it right.  It’s important to follow instructions, but it’s also important to try new things and not be afraid to make mistakes because sometimes that’s how we find the answers we are looking for. 

After I told the story, my little artists finished up their project for the day and  moved on to their journal time.

As they were working, one of the boys in my class who I often suspect doesn’t listen very much because he is always talking, stopped drawing in his journal and said to me…

Miss Kelly, what if God gave you that teacher who messed up your owl so that you would become a “what if-er?  What if you were supposed to become a “what if-er so you could help me be one to? ‘Cause I think I’m a what if-er like you are and we’re supposed to figure stuff out.  Is that even a word?  What if-er?  I think it is and I think that’s what we are.

Well.

What if I’m supposed to be a what if-er and I have just forgotten what that means?

What if it took a child to point out to me that there is a purpose and a meaning to my life that I have lost touch with?

What if I just keep trying things out and remember that life is a process and not a product?  And that I’m going to make mistakes and that’s okay.

What if I quit striving to reach the destination and spend more energy on seeing the joy in the journey?

The destination is a mirage that you never actually arrive at.  The journey is the reality and there are magical moments to be found…often when and where you least expect them.

Here’s to what ifs and the what if-ers who explore them…and to the joy to be found in the exploration…

And here’s to the purported wisdom of owls and some art teachers (including myself) and the actual wisdom of small children…

 

– and to following the instructions (mostly) and then celebrating the beautiful, varied and sometimes messy results of our “what if ” life.

I Once Was Lost

Hello.

It’s been a while.

I haven’t wanted to write very often and when I did, I couldn’t.

This has probably been the worst I’ve ever been.

alone

It hasn’t all been bad, of course.  It’s honestly been a roller coaster ride.  Bad and good.  Highs and lows. Fun times and disasters (literally).  We’ve had hurricanes, a Carnival cruise, new health issues for my sister, unimproved health issues of my own, a worsening financial situation, unemployment and job searches, and car troubles.  Some of it was our life, some of it our children’s.  All of it managed to bring forth a serious depression that I am just now dragging myself out of.

There are, of course, a lot of stories to be found in the past several weeks (or is it months?), but it is late and I need to sleep.

Suffice it to say that I have been very lost.  So lost that I was not sure that I would find myself again.  I couldn’t write.  In fact, there were days I couldn’t think my way through the most basic of activities.

There were even days when I didn’t care if I made it through the day.  I didn’t care about anything.  I especially didn’t care about myself.

I felt nothing and everything.

As with most challenging times, lessons can be learned.  Experience is the best teacher or so I’ve heard.

Over the last couple of days, I seem to be in an upswing.  During the times that I did feel a sense of hope, I’ve continued to research my current health issues that I am coming to believe are all related.  I think stress is a common denominator and still believe that diet is key to resolving a lot of what is going on.

I’ve started a journal of sorts that chronicles what I’m eating, exercise, stress, and mood swings.  It will be interested to see if a pattern emerges.

I have been lost and not for the first time.

But today, for the first time in a long while, I believe that I can find the answers I am looking for.

And so the journey continues…and so does this blog.

 

 

Scenes from a Life

This morning’s breakfast:  fresh juice made from brussel sprouts, kale, spinach, lemon, cherries, plum, banana, radishes, and grapes, and a bowl of steel cut oats with fresh raspberries.

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Initially our grocery bill went up as I figured out how much to buy at one time to keep fresh vegetables and fruits available until the next trip to the store.  We live about 20 minutes from a store that offers good, fresh produce so I try to only shop when I going in “to town” anyway.  We are starting to figure it all out and juicing helps because I can juice the extra when it starts being “less fresh”.  Nothing is really wasted because of the compost pile and chickens, but I’d rather the people around here get first chance!

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We’ve been trying new (to us) produce and I discovered this cute little fella on a road trip to Houston last week.  It’s a Rambutan if you’ve never happened upon one.  Sadly, it was more interesting looking than it tasted and isn’t particularly nutritious.  It tastes a bit like a not particularly sweet grape.  Still, it’s fun to try new things…

This weekend found me spending some time in the studio starting a new project, laminating art cards and finally finishing a previously started canvas.  I’ve actually been more successful in the studio the last couple of days.  I’m thinking it might mean that I’m feeling better in general.  This last year was not a good year in the art department for me.  I’ve struggled to work consistently and have thrown many a project a way.  Since making stuff is my “happy place”, I’ve missed studio time a lot.  Forcing myself to work is not fun.  Hopefully, that is changing!

It was a busy weekend.  We have started putting some serious time working on the yard despite the heat.  We’ve been working in short spurts and trying to do the majority of it in the evening when it is cooler (relatively speaking).  No pictures of that since it mainly involves lots of sweat and moving rocks from one place to another.  Not very interesting! I’ll take some pictures when the progress starts to show.  We’ve got two acres of beautiful land covered in tall grass, weeds, rocks, trash, debris and beautiful old oaks.

My work in the yard may be another indication that I’m feeling better.  I normally have little tolerance for the heat.  I still don’t like it, but I’d rather exercise and accomplish something than just walk nowhere on the treadmill.  The treadmill is in the air-conditioning though.  Hmmmm.

I hope your weekend had some accomplishments in it or at least a few moments of joy.

Peace!

 

 

The Research

After I got out of the hospital this last time (a second round of multiple hernias and intestinal obstructions plus diverticulitis), I took quite a while to recover enough for everything to return to normal. I quit eating meat because that seemed to be stressful for my digestive system and I was struggling with a loss of appetite.  I wanted to (and needed to) lose weight, but I knew that not eating wasn’t a good option.

I found that I didn’t miss meat all that much…except for maybe bacon.

I didn’t set out to become a vegetarian.  I definitely didn’t plan on becoming a vegan.  I didn’t even know what the term “whole food, plant based diet” meant.

It just sort of started and didn’t stop.

Then one night when hubby was working late and I couldn’t find anything good to watch on Netflix, I happened upon the documentary section and started browsing…

I don’t remember which one I watched first, but here’s a list of what I’ve watched so far:

  • Forks over Knives
  • What the Health
  • Sustainable
  • In Defense of Food
  • Plant Pure Nation
  • Food Choices
  • Food, Inc.
  • Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead 1 & 2
  • Fed Up
  • Super Size Me
  • Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue

Most of these were watched while walking on the treadmill.  I found them to be very motivational!

Some of them seemed a wee bit crazy at first.  A very radical step away from cultural norms.  A lot of that seems more normal now that I’ve embraced this journey.  Some of them are still too crazy for me.

I’m also currently reading (and using recipes from):

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I’ve noticed some benefits other than health related ones so far…

Dishes are much easier when you aren’t cooking with animal based products and extra oils!  They pretty much just rinse clean.

The chickens and rabbit are very happy and well fed and the compost pile is filling up nicely.

And the amount of trash we are producing is significantly less.  We are recycling more efficiently and there is little that actually goes to waste.

Grocery shopping was harder the first couple of times we went after starting this.  Label reading took on a whole new meaning and many previously favorite items were reluctantly placed back on the shelf.  Then it became a sort of treasure hunt as we would read labels in the store and joyfully shout out, “We can eat this!” or “I found something!”.

Even though we thought we were pretty savvy shoppers, I was totally caught off guard at the amount of sugar (in various forms) that can be found in almost everything!  And how many ingredients does it really take to make bread, cereal or salad dressing?

Now the majority of our shopping is done in the produce section.  We shop for a rainbow of colors and I know words like phytochemicals and lycopene.

Our spice collection is growing beyond salt, pepper and garlic.  We still don’t like curry, but we’ll try it again at some point because our taste buds are slowly reawakening to natural flavors.  Smoothies with just fruit now taste too sweet to me and are reserved for dessert status.  Our added salt intake is greatly reduced.

I miss butter…on toast and potatoes and well, everything.  But, I don’t miss it as much as I did three weeks ago.  I’m sure my arteries don’t miss it at all.

This is challenging.

And interesting.

I think my mind is starting to wake up a bit as I pursue more knowledge about my food, my body and my health.

Good food for the body and the mind.

Steps in the right direction on this journey…

The Next Step

It’s been more than a month since I’ve posted here.  I’ve written (or tried to write) a few times, but the words sounded negative, without optimism, and frankly, more than a little whiny.

Why did things keep going wrong?  How unfair that the harder I tried to simplify and improve our quality of life, the worse things seemed to get…

  • a car accident that totaled our paid for truck…the only functional car that we owned
  • another emergency surgery adding thousands of dollars to our debt, not to mention the cost of the stress for our family and the damage to my health
  • the auto insurance for the person who caused the accident determining that our vehicle was worth less than two thousand dollars
  • the same company deciding that my husband’s health expenses could total $300.00, but no more
  • my husband still in physical therapy for the pain in his neck and back
  • my husband developing hypertension – possibly as a result of the stress
  • my daughter who is not yet thirty getting blood pressure readings that are way too high

and the list could go on…

See what I mean about feeling like a miserable, whiny person whose life was out of control?

I’ve not been in a good place.  This next sentence is hard to type, but here goes…

I’ve been so depressed and without hope that suicide has seemed like a real and viable option on more than one occasion.  I share that only because I know I’m not the only one out there who visits that “place” occasionally.

I don’t remember where I initially came across the phrase “treating the symptoms instead of the cause”, but I did happen upon it somewhere…probably in researching health and weight loss because I am determined not to have surgery again.

And that phrase triggered some pretty deep thoughts, reflection and insights.

Yes, I can be a victim and take medications for my blood pressure.  And I can blame my health issues (past, present, and future) on my genetics.

Or, I can take responsibility for my choices and choose the type of journey that I want to make.

I can make choices and have some control over my life.

This same thinking applies just as well to the condition of my home.

I can treat the symptoms of a cluttered, untidy home that does bring me peace and comfort…I can clear this counter or tidy up that pile.

Or, I can exert my energy on resolving the cause of the problems in my home.

I feel that my journey has renewed life.

Changes are already being implemented.

Some are scary and against standard societal norms.

I’m working on being ok with that.

The stuff I’ve done so far has been good.

Now, I’m going to the next level.

I’m excited, I’m scared, I’m optimistic, I’m apprehensive…

And I anticipate that I’ll be back tomorrow to post again…