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.

Where is the Middle?

Upon the occasion of my most recent birthday (the one where I turned 55), I did a little bit of computation.

Unless modern medicine and science steps up it’s game, I’m not middle-aged anymore. Technically, I wasn’t middle-aged last year either, but I don’t remember thinking much about it.  I suppose that I might have thought about it and forgotten.  That’s entirely possible, seeing as how I’m closer to old age than middle age at this point.

Anyhow, living to be 110 year of age seems highly unlikely given my genetic inheritance.  I know that it’s not all about nature – nurture and environment play a role also.  Let’s evaluate that for a bit, shall we…

I’m a child of the sixties.  You know, the generation that ate margerine instead of butter because it was so good for you. And, what do you mean that potatoes aren’t a vegetable?  Okay, we’ll have salad – iceburg lettuce with Miracle Whip.  Don’t forget those brand-new convenience foods that are making Mom’s life so much easier…Tang, potted meat, boxed mac-n-cheese, jello and canned ravioli.  I’m eating better now as an adult (most of the time) so that probably won’t kill me outright.

The one activity that I am a bit concerned about though is that classic evening activity we all enjoyed in the South…running behind the mosquito fog truck …DDT shower anyone?  Plus I did spend a number of years in the Rio Grande Valley watching the crop-dusters present their show as they sprayed the crops several times a year…

Oh well, all of that is in the past and out of my control.  Other than learning from the past and remembering the good stuff, the past needs to be history.

And worrying about whether I’m going to make it to 110. or 56 for that matter, is pointless.

I have no guarantees.

None of us do.

I have right now.

And I have hope for the future.

What I do with the time is mine to decide…well, not mine totally.  Other folks factor in somewhat…my family and my friends have some say on what happens with my time.  But, the  choice of who I let share my time is mine to make.

Okay, strictly speaking sometimes we lose control over who and what comes into our life for a time.  Bad stuff happens.  Rude people happen.  A moment or more is lost to circumstance.

But the choice is still ours – the choice of how to look at it and how to live in the time we have.

Here’s a story.

I was out with my sister the other day and we were driving along.  I saw an assisted living center with the name “Autumn Leaves”.  I innocently commented that I thought “Autumn Leaves” was a pretty cool name for an assisted living center.

My sister who is 70 years of age and was near death more than once this past month, had another perspective.  About the autumn leaf reference she replied, “Yeah, drying up, falling off of the tree, being raked into a pile, and burned…”

Okay.  Maybe I didn’t think my comment through.  That happens more often than I’d like to admit.

At 55, I was more focusing on the whole life cycle thing.  And that I like autumn leaves.  They’re pretty when they change colors and float about in the wind.  Maybe I was thinking about composting them and enriching the soil for next year’s planting.

At 55, I like to think that I’m still green and on the tree.  I’m busy reaching towards the light providing the tree with nourishment and cleaning the air.

At 55,  I’m not ready to turn brown and fall off the tree yet.

I’ve met very few people in my life who are ready for that…at any age.

So, I’m going to try and quit thinking about my life as having a beginning, a middle, and an end.

There may well be a Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter.  That I can’t change…but I can keep having beginnings when I choose and as often as I need to.

I can end things that aren’t positive and beneficial for me when need be.

I can choose to do it all with joy.

And when it’s my time to fall off the tree, I can become the best damn mulch for the future to grow in as a result of the joyful choices that I’ve made.

 

Normal

Today was a day.  It was Thursday, to be exact…a thoroughly uneventful day.

This is the third blog post that I’ve tried to write in order to share my day.  All the posts have  been so boring that I’ve about given up.

But, since writing is often how I make sense of things, I’m persisting and am tapping away at the keyboard once again.

Please keep in mind that I have no idea what I am going to write about, and there are no promises that anything remotely interesting will result.

For foreshadowing, let me share that all the schoolwork is caught up and my sister is back home at her house.  She’s not back to where she was before all of this started, but making progress.

So…

I got up this morning.

I went outside to let the chickens free from their coop.

I went back to bed.

My brief trek through the house on the way to the front door left me overwhelmed.

I lay in bed and started making a mental list of all that needed to be done now that life was returning to normal.

I thought about just staying in bed.  I felt the anxiety start…

And then I said aloud, “Enough”.

I was tired of being tired.  Done with feeling like I couldn’t catch up.  Worn out from facing deadline after deadline.  Sick of feeling like I was failing at everything.

So today there was no list.  I didn’t try to accomplish anything.  I didn’t have a goal.  I didn’t plan to finish cleaning the house or even a single room.  No expectation of catching up the laundry or the dishes or the dusting.

I just did some stuff.

I watered the plants and pulled off some dead leaves.

I washed, dried, folded and put up a load of laundry.

I emptied a couple of trash cans.

I sorted through my paper stash and thought about what I might create next.

I wandered through the house wiping away a cobweb or two and a bit of dust.

You can’t really tell that I did much of anything at all.  The house doesn’t look all that different…or better.

But I feel different and better.

My actions may have seemed random, but they were intentional.  I spent time in my home saying “hello” to my life…the life I had before it all started spinning out of control the first of August.  I was reacquainting myself with the routines that I missed when other things took priority.

And now, I feel calm (or as calm as someone with anxiety can ever feel).  I am looking forward to getting back to my “normal” life.  Hopefully, I’ll remember some of the things I learned this month about what’s important and what’s not…about what needs to be done and what can wait.

All I know, is that a little routine and even a bit of boring sounds pretty good right now.

As I sit with my art journal watching a stupid movie on Netflix tonight, I’ll be thinking of those that are living away from their “normal” right now.  And for those that are adapting to a new “normal” because their life has changed in a big way…

…for the friend who beat cancer but continues to battle the after effects of the treatment.

…for the friend whose cancer has returned and who is facing uncertainty and change.

…for the friend who adjusted to the new “normal” of Stage IV cancer and is now entering experimental treatment with an unknown outcome.

When life takes a crazy turn and we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, it can be crazy hard.  We find ourselves looking back at what was and we just want to go back to the familiar…the normal.

Going back isn’t an option.  We are where we are.

Staying put isn’t an option.  We have to go somewhere.

It’s not about courage or bravery.  It’s not like we have a lot of choices.

The life we have is the one we live.

If we have a choice in the direction we can take, we make that choice…left, right, or straight ahead.  And pray that it’s a good choice.

We cry, we yell, sometimes we pull the blanket over our head.  We worry, we cope, we fail at some things and succeed at others.

We make a difference because we try, not because we did it all right.

And through it all we find comfort in the little things…

…in watering a plant and nurturing life.

…in wiping away a bit of dust or a few tears.

…in sorting through and thinking of what we might create with what we have.

And perhaps, most importantly, for finding something to be grateful for amidst it all.

 

And…stop.

Whew.  I feel like I just finished a race.  I crossed the finish line this afternoon and I feel like sighing the biggest sigh of relief everrrrrrr.

We got to school this morning – we we early (a full five minutes before assembly started), completely dressed, all of the proper books in the backpack, lunch bag packed (peanut free which I found out about late last night), and a hot breakfast eaten.  I spoke with all of youngest daughter’s teachers after classes and they were all surprised that we are essentially “unschoolers”.   She did that well in orientation, class discussions and syllabus presentations.  One teacher expressed disbelief that it was possible to get to the age of 12 without learning cursive, but life will go on.  The world will continue to spin and she’ll still get her papers written sans cursive.  We’ll learn it as quickly as we can, but it’s just not that high on my priority list.

Best of all, she was sad when the day ended.  She did beautifully.  She handled the classes, got along with everyone, made some friends and wants to go back!  Yea.

My Monday art class only has five kiddos in it which I will celebrate.  Last semester I had a dozen or so.  They were all great kids, but that’s a lot of art to teach with just two hands.  Five students means we will get to do much more challenging projects.  I’m so excited about that.

My sister is improving greatly following her surgery.  That’s a huge relief also.

All the stressors of the last couple of weeks have come to a resolution and I am done – both mentally and physically.

I feel like a balloon with the air whooshing out.  Not a terribly clever description, but it’s the best that I can come up with right now.  The grammar in this blog isn’t so great either, but I think that I’m managing the spelling pretty well.  I’m happy with good enough.

It’s  been challenging and I haven’t always maintained the best attitude.  There have been some short-tempered moments and more than a few episodes of self-pity and low self-esteem.

Okay, if I’m to be honest,  I’ve been in a crappy mood and seriously wondered if I was going to make it to this finish line or not.

Now what?  I don’t have to get up early tomorrow.  There isn’t a mile-long list of things to do and organize.  No more stuff we have to buy and figure out how to pay for.  No big uncertainties to face.

Just normal life to deal with. After dealing with all of the stuff that’s been happening lately, my old challenges seem easy in comparison.

And now, to bed.  I shall sleep soundly as befitting someone that has life totally under control.

Yea, we know that’s not the case, but just for tonight we shall pretend that it is so.

Life is good.

Hey there

I’m still alive.  I’m hanging in there…barely.  So much is going on and I’m finding that the more stressed I get, the less I can multi-task.  Maybe it’s age or maybe it’s the stress.  For whatever reason, I’ve been getting the essentials done and letting whatever could slide do just that.

I’m realizing though, that the things that I enjoy and that bring me happiness, often don’t make the cut as essentials.  They are the things that drop by the wayside and that just increases the stress and dissatisfaction with my life.

That’s not a good way to live and certainly not an intentional life.

Sure, some things have to be done whether we like it or not…dishes come to mind right off the bat.

But there has to be more to life than dishes.  Please!

After a rather loud venting of my frustration with the unfairness of life last night, I took a moment to assess what was going on…after I stopped yelling and crying and feeling sorry for myself.  It was a rather long moment.

Now it’s time to start finding a balance again.  It seems like it’s back to the beginning, but I have made progress.

It’s not really going all the way back to the beginning of this journey.  So much has changed.  There’s less clutter and more organization.  Priorities have been identified and ordered.  I know so much more about my life, dreams and plans than a year or so ago.

It’s more like I wandered a bit off of the path and not in a good way.  I lost my way, but I know the direction I need to be going.

The main problem with not being vigilant about where I’m going is that I tend to lose sight of the progress that I’m making.

Optimism becomes lost in the day to day struggles.

Neglected tasks become harder and harder to get back to.

Habits become less habitual.

Little piles of clutter become big messes.

And it just seems to become impossible and hopeless and…sometimes even meaningless.

That’s how depression can take hold.

But today is a new day.

I’m writing this post and although there is so much that I haven’t shared – it doesn’t all have to be written today.  I can just start with this post.

The washer is washing away and some of the dishes are drying on the drainboard.

A whole truckload of stuff left the house last week and another box is already being filled.

The table is cleared and that’s a start.

There is a lot going on in my life…lots of changes.  For someone who dislikes change, I’m not quite ready to label them as good (although I know that they are).  I just feel overwhelmed by most of them.  I’m dealing with them…one step and a few tears at a time.

Those are blog posts for tomorrow and the next…

I’m back and that’s enough for right now.

Prayers and positive thoughts for whatever changes and challenges you are dealing with right now.

Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Days

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

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

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

Some days, I get it done.

Other days, I don’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am a work in progress.

Decluttered the last couple of days:  nothing.

Created the last few days:  nothing.

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

Good enough.

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

 

 

 

Knowing vs. Worrying

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowing that simple fact makes everything easier to deal with.

Decluttered the last few days:

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

 

One. More. Step.

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

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

0614161423

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want life to be easy and perfect.

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

Life is not easy and I am not perfect.

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

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

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

One step…a lot of hugs.

Life.

Decluttered yesterday and today:

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

0614161522

 

Today is Friday, Right?

What do you mean it’s Saturday?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday’s declutter:

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