Focus

It’s been long week.

Youngest daughter is ready for school on Monday.  Uniforms are bought, books are all here, the lunch bag is ready to be packed, and the lunch food is all bought.  We have met the teachers and seen the classroom.  She is more excited than scared now.

Son has started packing for his move.  There are boxes sitting around as he makes grown-up decisions about what to take and what to get rid of.  He is endlessly figuring out finances and making lists of what he might need.

I have a plan for what I am teaching on Monday and have purchased the supplies.  All is not ready, but it can be in a short amount of time.

The house is livable.  That’s really all I can say about that subject.  Unless we are really close friends, please don’t choose right now as a time to drop by for a chat.  I won’t open the door because the first statement in this paragraph is a lie.

Barret the dog is fed for this moment.  By the time I finish this paragraph I have no doubt that he will be heading for the food dish again.  Anybody have any dog food coupons?

The neighbor who has time to drive around our neighborhood and make lists of what is wrong with everyone’s property and then post it anonymously has not yet targeted my house.  I’m sure it’s coming.

There’s just one other thing going on that I haven’t shared because it’s not really my story.  I can say that my sister had two days of major surgery on Monday and Wednesday of this week.  She’ll be coming home tomorrow or Monday.  I am her caretaker.  I don’t mind. We don’t use the “love” word, but she means a lot to me.  This surgery has been hard.

As I was leaving the hospital today, I realized that I was done…drained and empty.  I thought about finding the chapel and resting for a while, but I don’t really have the time to lose it right now.  Everything is holding together rather nicely I think (picture something repaired with duct tape or maybe picture my old washer with it’s stick and ball leveling plan).  I’m okay.  Not great, but okay.

On my way out of the hospital, I saw this through the window….this dove perching on a courtyard fence outside a hospital window.0806161109a

I have an affinity for birds.  More than once a dove, in particular, has made an appearance in my life at a serendipitous moment.  This was that moment.  This day.  I stopped in the hallway and said “Oh”.  Out loud.

With all the craziness around me during the last couple of weeks,  I had lost focus.

Focus on what is important and what is not.

Focus on what I could control and what was out of my hands.

Focus on what needed to be done and what could wait.

But mainly, I had lost focus of who I am.

Dealing with new situations, people and environments, I lost my footing.  I got caught up in looking outside of myself for structure, approval, and truth.  For a person with anxiety issues, this is dangerous ground.

It results in a feeling of inferiority as I focus on what is wrong with me (in comparison to others) rather than what is unique.

It is isolating as I feel worse and worse about myself and tend to retreat from interaction with others.

It is demeaning.  It reduces my view of myself and others to a a set of superficial characteristics that have little to do with who we are as human beings.

The dove had no such issues.  Just outside the hospitial, in the midst of suffering and healing, death and life, sorrow and joy…a virtual microcosm of humanity…this dove was building a nest.  She found a slender piece of grass, she rested for a while on the top of the fence, she flew to her nest and carefully wove the grass into place.  She knew who she was and what she was supposed to be doing.  And she did it.

I know that, as human beings, our lives can never be that simple.  But, we can learn from her.  In the midst of our daily lives, we can never forget who we are and what our job is.

  • I am first and foremost a child of God.  If this is not a belief that you can identify with, please don’t stop reading.  You are here because you can identify with something that I am writing.  Please stay because…
  • I strive to be tolerant of others and what they believe.  This world is a mighty big place and would be a lot less interesting without diversity.  Sometimes I fail at being tolerant.  I keep trying and learning.
  • I am creative.  I make some cool stuff sometimes.  I believe that teaching creativity (and having art sometimes happen as a result) is one of the most important things that we can share with children and adults who are willing to be child-like when necessary.
  • I am stubborn.  Sometimes this is even a good thing.  I don’t quit easily and when I do, it doesn’t last long.  I get back up and keep going.
  • I am learning not to be afraid to fail.  A mentor once told me that she accomplished so much because in her words…”I’m not afraid to suck.”  These are words that I try to live by.
  • I am funny.  Well, mostly sarcastic, but they’re kinda the same thing so we’ll stick with funny because it sounds nicer.
  • I’m intelligent.  I don’t know everything, but am good at sounding like I know a lot. When confronted with something that I don’t understand, I try to learn. I believe that intelligence and education do not always go hand in hand.  Some of the smartest people I know never finished high school.
  • I believe in the choices that we have made as a family.  We live on one income.  We don’t live in a fancy, expensive house.  We drive a old truck that is paid for.  We are working to get out of debt.  Sometimes we do without or make do as a result
  • I’m always scared and insecure and I get up in the morning anyway.  Most days, I even leave the house and venture out into a really scary world and pretend like I know what I am doing.  Sometimes, I even start to believe in myself.

My hope and prayer for you all today..

Believe in yourself today.

Remember who you are.

Don’t get lost in the world.

Focus…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Not Looking Hard Enough

Some days it’s easier to live in gratitude than others. As someone who can all too easily free-fall into anxiety and depression, I’m concentrating more and more on living in gratitude.  It’s one of my most intentional of intentional living goals.

Today would be an easy day to just give into the sadness, gloom, depression, anxiety, worry, and every other conceivable dark and sorrowful emotion that exists.  I’m not going to do that.

I’m not denying the negative things that have happened and are happening today.  I can grieve and feel sad.  It’s just not going to be my whole focus.

Amongst all the stuff that’s happening in the world, life goes on.  Good stuff happens.  Bad stuff happens.  We laugh.  We cry.  We play.  We work.  We rest.

My small, little life continues…sometimes parallel to the lives of others and sometimes complexly intertwined.

Some days it’s really difficult to find something to be grateful for.  In some ways it feels callous to seek out joy when others are suffering so greatly.  The truth is that suffering is with us always whether it makes the news or not.

Seeking joy is an act of faith…a defiant action in the face of violence and hatred.

I believe in mankind.  I believe in peace.  I believe in goodness.  I believe that good people are behaving in kind ways as we speak.  I believe that good wins.

And so, I am grateful for little things.

I am thankful that, although we only have air-conditioning in two rooms of our house and it’s really hot today, someone has offered us a free window unit to help out.  And grateful for a relatively small electric bill that is helping balance the budget this month (as a result of not having central air).

I’m grateful for two paid-for cars that started today when we needed them too.  And hopeful that tomorrow they will do the same.

I’m grateful that my family is healthy and that we are not dealing with serious illness as so many I know are.

I am thankful for a full refrigerator, a new washing machine, a bed to sleep in, and a roof over my head.

I am grateful that I have not seen a snake today.

I am thankful for the chickens that are running around my yard eating insects and providing us with fresh eggs.

Right at this moment, I am grateful for a husband who graciously volunteered to clean up the mess from a beer that exploded in our kitchen because it is so hot in here.  That way, I can continue to write this post.

I am grateful that our family has a plan for a better future as a result of a budget that gives us hope to be out of debt (except for the mortgage)in about two years.  I can’t plan an awesome vacation right now.  We don’t have a pool.  I’m hot. But, I have hope that things will get better.  So many folks don’t have hope.

I’m finding that if compare my life to others and find my life lacking, I’m not looking in the right place.  That’s a choice I’m making.  I can look around me and see what I don’t have or look somewhere else and see that I am lucky and blessed.

I am lucky and blessed.  I have choices and options and hope.

My hope for you today is that you can find something to be grateful for and find peace.

0612161940aDecluttered today:

  1. the equipment for Direct TV – we are finally out from under our contract.  YEA!
  2. a box of old records
  3. 5 empty bottles of shampoo and soap from the shower – how did I not see these before?
  4. an old camera and case
  5. another stack of cut-up magazines

 

And now…today

Two more layers done.  I kind of hate it at this point.  I walked away rather than paint over it.  That’s not an uncommon reaction.  Today was the easiest day to work on it so far.  I really have missed making stuff.  It’s been months and months and months.  I kept saying that I would get back to it when I got this or that done.  As I’ve discussed recently this and that never get done.

I’m not really a flowers in a vase, still life kind of artist.  We’ll let it “simmer” overnight and see what happens tomorrow.

Decluttered today:

  1. some old seeds
  2. 3 shoes (a pair and a shoe and interestingly enough, the random shoe is not a mate for the odd shoe earlier in the week)
  3. a favorite t-shirt that was more holes than shirt
  4. a stack of old artwork that my kids made – I saved my favorites
  5. an old journal that is not filled with happy memories

I’m going to count today a success.  I made a little money and I made a real dinner for the family.  The trash is out before the trash men are pulling into the cul-de-sac tomorrow morning.  I didn’t yell at anyone and used mainly kind words.  I had to drive the dying car without air-conditioning and it made it where it was going and back and I didn’t melt.  I worked on some art and decluttered and cleared off a surface or two.  My youngest and I did a bunch of school.  Oh, and I deposited the money I made in the bank before we were overdrawn.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  Most of the day, I didn’t feel like it was a good day.  But I’ve been regularly reading a friend’s CaringBridge entries and she is relentlessly looking for the bright side.  If she can do it, then I certainly should be able to do so.

So today, I have been trying to live in gratitude – in all things and in all ways…grateful for a car that serves my needs if not my wants, grateful for a small paycheck that was just enough, grateful for excess that allows me to have trash, grateful for people in my life that I love even if they drive me crazy sometimes, grateful for the opportunity to homeschool and spend time with my daughter, grateful for my talents and the desire to use them, grateful to have choices, and opportunity and wise friends.

And that was today.

A Field of Blue

0606161655Here’s the canvas with the first coat of paint on.  I wasn’t really in the mood to work on it today.  It was extremely hard to focus on the canvas and ignore all the nagging “need to do’s” in my peripheral vision. I did it anyway.

I have no idea where this is going or what it might look like when it gets there.  Rarely, I start out with an idea or vision and I actually get where I was going.  Often, I end up somewhere far afield of the original intent.

The canvas journey is not always enjoyable.  Some of it is fun.  Some of it is aggravating as hell.  Some of it is beyond tedious.  Sometimes the canvas finds itself buried for a period of time…days, weeks, months, forever…but, usually I come back to it ready to try again.

It’s not unusual for me to reach a certain point and wonder, “What am I doing, why am I doing it, and what was I thinking when I started?”  Experience has taught me to persevere and push through the frustration.  Sometimes this involves moving in a new direction.

This is all sounding a lot like my life, come to think of it!

As a result, my art work is almost always textural and multi-dimensional with a lot of bumps, occasional rips and mended spots, and layers.

In the end, when the canvas says its done, I stand back and say, “Oh” softly. “That’s what I was trying to say”.  It would have been easier in the beginning if I had know where I was going.  That’s just not how the creative process works for me.  I seem to have to wander around from here to there, double back, try again, and emerge from the darkness into the light.

There’s that life journey again.

Tomorrow, I will add another layer (or two) if the spirit takes hold.  I will need to intentionally look and listen to what the canvas and life are whispering to me.  I’m out of practice.  I haven’t made an art piece in quite a while.  Other things have held my attention.  Important things to be sure.  I need to find my balance again – the ability to make space in my life and my heart for all of the things that I love – and for the things that I don’t love, but have to do anyway.

It’s a start.

The 5 Decluttered today:

  1. a knick-knack that I don’t love enough to dust
  2. a cross that was a gift but isn’t really my style anymore
  3. a small box of art supplies that “might be useful someday”
  4. several spools of thread
  5. a slowly deflating ball that’s been rolling around my studio – original purpose unknown

When Less Equals More

Two posts in one day?

Yep.

I’m ready to move on from decluttering being such a frequent topic.  I’m sure that I’ll never be completely decluttered around here – things will come and things will go as life continues.

But, I would like to focus more on the things that decluttering is helping me to accomplish…like more art, more creativity, more family time, more visiting with friends, more quiet time, more of everything that is positive and life-enriching…

And focus less on the “more” which is less inspiring:  more stuff, more housework, more stress, and more to-do’s that I don’t enjoy doing (that may not have made as much sense as I’d hoped when I thought it in my head.  It may have lost something in translation.)

Basically, I’d like to move on from the getting ready mindset and start doing what I’ve been working towards:  that more intentional life that I keep talking about.

Enough talking already.  Time to start doing is what I’m trying to say.

During this transitional month, I’m going to do one more big decluttering search and destroy mission.  I’ve been trying to  declutter 5 things a day for the month of June.

Here’s the list so far:

  1. a humongous entertainment center type storage cabinet
  2. a pair of shorts
  3. a stapler
  4. a lampshade
  5. a stuffed animal
  6. a handful of socks with no mates (why are these so hard for me to let go of?)
  7. a stack of magazines
  8. a down comforter
  9. seeds saved from too many seasons ago
  10. a stack of outdated “important” papers
  11. a children’s book that I’d been saving for the illustrations
  12. miscellaneous mason jar lids that don’t have jars to go with them
  13. a headband
  14. one shoe (can’t find the other one)
  15. a visual journal barely used – made up of disappointingly flimsy paper
  16. a picture frame with no glass that I kept thinking might be useful for something
  17. a pants hanger that was almost impossible to hang pants on and even harder to remove the pants from
  18. one of three cutting mats
  19. lightbulbs that don’t fit anywhere in the house
  20. a dusty cookbook (if I need a recipe, I almost always go to the internet)
  21. wood scraps saved because they might be useful for something someday
  22. a blouse that doesn’t fit quite right
  23. bathing suits that my daughter has outgrown
  24. a beach hat that has seen one too many trips to the beach
  25. a summer dress that I had hoped to fit into this summer, but that obviously has no appreciation for the fact that I’ve given life to four children

Why am I providing such detail about my decluttering efforts, you might be asking?

Well, if anyone is struggling with clutter, maybe, just maybe, this list could inspire them to search for extra stuff that they don’t need in a new spot – to find things that they didn’t realize they had or hadn’t thought to search through.

We’re not in this alone.  This is something that a lot of folks are working through.   I don’t have any magic words or instructions that can really help.  I’m not going to tell you that having 3 bins to sort into is the answer,  or that there is a magic amount of time that will solve all your problems.  It’s truly about more than just the stuff.  Getting rid of things helps, but there is always an underlying problem that we’ve got to deal with.

The journey is worth the effort – no matter how long it takes.

I know.  I’ve struggled.  I’ve given up.  I’ve started over (and over) again.  I can see daylight at the end of the tunnel (and it’s not an oncoming train).  It’s the light shining on this blank canvas that I’m going to start work on first thing in the morning.

0605161854

Tomorrow will be a new day with less and a whole lot more!.

 

When Laundry is Fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traveling to a Mythical Destination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life is now in all it’s imperfection.

The journey is real and what’s important.

The destination can wait.