Grace

My fingers on the keyboard.

What to write?

So many things happening in the world and my life:  world tragedies, a college graduation, homeschool to catch up on, holiday preparation or lack thereof, housework or the lack thereof, illness, my last art class today and it’s lesson plan or lack thereof, 3 broken-down cars in the driveway, planning transportation for four people with only one car, politics, stupid people, a friend’s surgery, the fragility of life, priorities, a vivid idea for an art project in my head, kiddos coming home, kiddos leaving, finances..

All swirling around in my head.  What to do first?  What can wait?  What doesn’t need to be dealt with at all?  What can I do?  What should I do?

No wonder that it can seem easier to do nothing at all.  Anxiety complicates it all – depression takes hold.

So easy to say, “Simplify!”  But, what does that really mean?

Eliminate what’s not essential.  Figure out what matters most.  Prioritize.  Have realistic goals.  Have a plan.  Don’t buy what you don’t need.  Don’t do what you don’t need to do.  Don’t have what isn’t useful or what doesn’t bring you joy.

But, day to day, the whirlwind of the everyday can sweep away the plan, the priorities, the intent to live a more simple life.

Life isn’t simple.  People aren’t simple.  The unexpected happens.  People do stupid stuff that messes with the plan.  I do stupid stuff that knocks me off track.

What word do I want to type?

GRACE.

That’s the word I want to live into today – in all of it’s definitions.

The grace of forgiveness.

The short prayer of thanks.

The simple elegance or refinement of movement.

The courteous goodwill.

The attractively polite manner of behaving.

The bestowal of blessings.

To do honor or credit to…

GRACE for you, for me, for the whole world.

Amen.  (so be it)

What Would I Save?

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

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

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

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

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

So this happened…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is It Bedtime Yet?

I overslept.

I forgot to charge my phone.

I had no car to get to work.

I was teaching my class and subbing for another teacher today.  Twice the kiddos.

Lesson plan?  No, of course not.

Thawed something for dinner?  Nope.

Any clothing even remotely appropriate, clean, and ready to wear to class?  Can you guess the answer to that one?  (No)

A dog puking up something on the floor?  Yes.

Did I forget to make the bed and did the muddy dogs made themselves at home on the pillows?  Yes.

Was it a bad day?  No, not really.

I found a ride to class.  I managed to get enough charge on my phone to make it through.  We had a “free-for-all” art class and everyone seemed to have fun.  Hubby’s bringing home something for dinner.  It turned out to be a dress-up day at school so no one cared what I was wearing.  The washer and dryer are both working so in the sheets go.  The dog puke?  Nothing good to make of that…so we’ll just clean it up and let that go.

And – I managed to find 10 things to get rid of today.

Eight pieces of outgrown clothing from youngest daughter.  Sharing the good stuff with a friend and pitching the worn-out stuff.

And, from under the bathroom sink – not one, but two cans of out-of-date athlete’s foot medication.  Both expired in early 2014.  We evidently don’t have a big problem with fungus around here, but if we do, I don’t think we’ll treat it with medication that is almost two years out of date.  What’s strange is that I distinctly remember cleaning out underneath that sink not so long ago.

IMAG1069

Decluttering is all about peeling away the layers, I tell you.  There is always something else that can go.  Good riddance!

Until tomorrow…

Want versus Need

Definitely a recurring theme around here lately – want vs. need.  Just when I think I’ve got the concept figured out, something happens that reminds me that my point of view can be very skewed.

It started with a trip to Target to pick up a few essentials.  And who can go to Target and just get what they need without wandering around for a bit and seeing all kinds of stuff that they need (want).  Youngest and I ended up in the Halloween section.  She’s thinking about her costume and dreaming big dreams – and that in my opinion is the fun part of Halloween.  Forget the candy – Who can I be?  That’s a great question.  Who/what can I dress up as?  What can I imagine?  What can I pretend?  The big night when I can wear a costume and be whoever (or whatever) I want!

She’s perusing the aisles keeping in mind the parameters.  No complete costume that costs $25.00 before accessories.  Have to use your imagination.  If we buy it this early, you can’t get bored and change your mind.

As she’s looking we can’t help but notice some of the other families around us.  Several kids each and a cart full of Halloween.  They sent the kids down the aisles and said “pick out a costume”.   And they did:  the costume, all the accessories, the matching candy bucket, and a few pricey Halloween decorations for good measure.  “Mom, I need this to go with my costume”.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not judging their purchases, decisions or child-rearing practices.  Maybe they have that kind of money.  Maybe they have good credit.  Maybe it’s their once-a-year splurge.  It’s really none of my business.

What I do know, is that my kid picked out fox ears, a fox tail, and a fox nose, said I’ll use a plastic bag for my candy or find something at home, and was done.

Not going to lie…she certainly noticed those other kids shopping.

We had a good, long talk about want and need.

About what happens when you get everything you want as a kid and then grow up.  And find out the world isn’t really all about making you happy.

About kids in this country and certainly elsewhere in the world who will never get that one night of dressing up and getting way too much candy – about the kids who will never know a decent meal, much less a piece of candy.

About this simple truth:  you can’t have it all – no matter how rich you are or how hard you try.

About being careful who you are comparing your life to when figuring out if you have enough or not.

…The people in Target who dropped about $400 for one night of fun or the folks who weren’t in Target getting anything at all?

…The people up the street who have a “nicer” house or the people around the world who don’t have any home at all?

…Our paycheck that doesn’t quite reach until the next payday or the people who don’t have a paycheck at all and would really like to be earning one.  Not to mention the folks who are working two full-time jobs or multiple part-time ones just to keep the roof over their heads.

This was her big life lesson this week.  I know she’s thinking about it.  I hope it helps her to make better and more thoughtful decisions about her wants and needs.

But, I’m afraid its not a lesson you learn once and are done.  That you get it all figured out and don’t need to worry about it any more.  There’s just so much cool “stuff” out there.  So much to want.  So many advertisements skewing our perspective.  The fallacy that “this” will make up happy.  “This” will make our house clean.  “This” will solve that problem.

It seems that I have to revisit the subject of want versus need a lot

After the Target visit,  I was thinking, “It is really time to figure out flooring for this house.  I need to get these floors done.  (Remember, we pulled up the carpet a while back).  A trip to The Home Depot ensues.  Conclusion:  no way in hell these floors are getting done any time soon.  Now I feel sorry for myself because I really need new flooring and we work hard and we should be able to have new flooring and there just isn’t enough money and it really isn’t fair….

And then…

…I’m made aware of a family I know that lost their house to foreclosure
…and am reminded of a friend who has opened up her home to two families that needed some help getting their life together
…and a group of folks that live in tents and live paycheck to paycheck and job to job and help each other out – sharing whatever they have
…and the family I know who need a new floor (not just floor covering) and a new roof and a couple of windows
And I have a good, long talk with myself about want and need.  And I’m thinking about it.  I’m hoping it will help me make better and more thoughtful decisions about want and need.  Until the next time…

A Tiny Little World

Depression is hard…trying to keep going and not let on that you are struggling.  Doing what has to be done.  Tired all the time.  Battling the hopelessness.  Frustrated because the negative feelings aren’t fully connected to the reality that you are living in.  Knowing that things aren’t really all that bad, but mad at yourself because you are unhappy anyway.  Not living up to the expectations that you are placing upon yourself.  The little voice in your head that gets louder and louder – criticizing and commenting on all your failures.  Knowing that the folks around you (who don’t live with you) are unaware of the struggle.  Pulling into yourself bit by bit until only you only have to deal with your immediate surroundings, decisions you can’t avoid and work you have to do.  Realizing that you’ve isolated yourself from anyone who might be able to help because you don’t want them to be aware that you are weak and less than perfect.

…an unhappy tiny little world…

I’m peeking out a bit today.  This vicious little merry-go-round ride I’ve been on is not fun.  I’m blogging today and I will write again tomorrow.  I promise myself.

Life has really been going on rather normally I suppose.  Most people around me would probably be surprised to know how hard the last few weeks/months have been.  What’s been happening since I last wrote regularly?

I’ve got three part-time jobs now.  Part of it is for the money – we are really working on getting our debt paid down.

My newest job is teaching at a private school that opened in our little town.  Did I share this already?  I’m teaching art one day a week and am really enjoying it.  I was pretty sure that I would like it, but am actually surprised at how much!  It’s been fun to get to know the kids and to see how talented some of them are and how enthusiastic they all are.  The art lessons are supposed to complement the history curriculum and they are studying the Renaissance.  That’s challenging to do in one hour, one day a week.  I’ve been lightly touching on an aspect of Renaissance Art and then adapting a lesson to be both fun and fit into the time we have.  Today we did a “stained glass” project using tissue paper, laminating sheets and a laminator.

My youngest and I are fully into our homeschool year.  It’s been sooooo different having only one “student”.  We’ve actually “done” school almost every day and are hardly behind my schedule at all.  We’ve also managed several field trips (other than trips to the grocery store).  We’ve visited the Blanton Art Museum and the Austin Zoo so far.    Not bad for a self-described eclectic un-schooling family.

We’ve been working on the house doing some small maintenance and renovation projects.  Right now we are working in our hallway which is almost large enough to be a room on it’s own.  Three of the bedrooms, the classroom/studio and hall bath open into it.  It also contains a built-in desk, counter and two upper cabinets.  I’ve decluttered enough that the cabinet above the desk is almost empty so we are removing it.  It overshadows the desk and looks cramped.  We’re putting in a simple shelf instead.  Less stuff, less clutter and a more open airy feel.  All the walls are going to be painted Polar Bear white.  I’m ready for simple, uncluttered and peaceful!

Still sorting through stuff and trying to see how little we really need.  Layer by layer we are downsizing.  About a box a week is going to the thrift store and the trash can is always overflowing.  Where does it all come from?!?!

Not much is happening on the art front.  I just haven’t had the energy to complete anything.  Anything I did attempt just didn’t measure up to my expectations.  I’m cleaning an architect’s office and have been gifted a lot of flooring and upholstery samples.  I’m planning on playing with them and seeing what I can come up with.  Lots of fun colors and textures!

Time to open the blinds, throw open the windows and let the breeze blow in.  No more shutting out the world!  There is joy out there to be found, lived and enjoyed.  I’m going to give it a try…



Choosing to look for the joy

Hmmmm…been a long time away from here and it is ever so hard to start writing again.  Lots has happened and there is a small component of guilt as well.  The perfectionist in me struggles with not doing everything well…if you can’t do it perfectly, don’t do it at all…  That’s the “old” me, or rather the me that I’m trying to outgrow.  But old habits die hard – especially if we stop paying close attention and start living on autopilot…

…which is what I’ve found myself doing a lot of lately.

I simply stopped looking for the joy.

Honestly it’s not been the summer that I dreamed about – full of fun, memory making activities and lots of restful time to prepare for the school year ahead.  It started off well enough, but somehow snowballed into one challenge after another.

But there was plenty of joy to be found.  It all depends on how I choose to look at it.

We did get our back mortgage caught up with all of it’s late charges!  Without a doubt that was a joyful thing indeed.  And we’ve been working through the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover so I even managed to set up our emergency fund.

Then…

The dryer died.  Dead.  It’s been coming on for a while.  Remember the crazy noise and the on-line repair tutorials.  Not this time.  Thank goodness for that emergency fund, right?

Then the thermostat started going out on the oven.  Guessing temperatures, anyone?  Hubby found a great deal on one at work.  A great deal!  Okay, we’ve got the emergency fund and we need an oven. Done.

Then…the BIG one.  The “what-the-hell did I do wrong to deserve this crap” break-down.  Our  central air-conditioning unit quits working.  In August.  In Central Texas.  Three service calls and estimates later, we have a price for replacement.  The general consensus is that it can’t be fixed as it’s over 10 years old and is beyond repair.  Cost:  around $7000.00.  No emergency fund for that, my friend.  We’re “camping in a few rooms of our house with some loaner portable A/C units.

Then, there’s the vacation at the beach that came with it’s own set of issues.  Two car break-downs that resulted in repairs and a trailer rental to haul one home.  A trip to the minor-emergency clinic and a case of bronchitis that turned into an asthma diagnosis, and….  Well, you get the picture.  A vacation to remember, right?

But, that’s where the title of this story comes into play.  “Choosing to look for the joy”.  I’m not going to lie.  I’ve been in a bit of a depressed mood.  (That may be an understatement)  I haven’t been choosing to look for the joy.  I’ve been sad.  I’ve been “down”.  I’ve been feeling sorry for myself.  I’ve wondered where you can turn in a resignation letter to life and just quit.

Then…yesterday, this story start writing itself in my head.  And I stared seeing the bits of joy that have happened this summer.  Quiet moments for the most part.  They didn’t shout out their arrival like the A/C breakdown did.  The joy just sort of happened and waited for me to notice – and appreciate.  I just got so busy running from one problem to another and worrying that I never stopped to be grateful for the good stuff.

Bad stuff has happened aplenty this summer.  Lots more than I’ve shared here.

But…here’s a small listing of the joy that’s come along for the ride…

  • a solid roof over our heads to shelter us and a caught-up mortgage to keep it over our heads
  • new knowledge about money management that I am sharing with my kids so that their life can be easier and they can learn from my mistakes.  Knowledge can be powerful.
  • Health insurance that made medical care available for us when we needed it.
  • The most beautiful beach weather I’ve seen in all the years we’ve been going to Corpus Christi.  Calm winds, bright skies, moderate temperatures, no seaweed, and clear, clear water.
  • A lovely card in the mail from someone I’ve never met in person, but who sensed that I need some love
  • A new, part-time teaching job at a private school close to home.  I’m teaching art once a week and am already in love with my kids.  Such talent and enthusiasm!
  • Friends that have been there along the way and have helped out when we need a helping hand.
  • A successful first week of school for us.  One week in and we are only two days “behind” schedule.
  • A fun field trip to the art museum that included my hubby.
  • Children who are finding their own way in this “big ole world” – making decisions, making mistakes, trying new things and discovering their own joy.

It does seem that life has been “one step forward and two steps back” for too long around here.  So many things are broken and need to be fixed (literally and figuratively).  I get tired.   It can seem hopeless.  And pointless.  Like I said, I can’t figure out where to turn in my resignation…to life.

But, I don’t have a lot of “quit” in me.  And, I’m not going to “plod” through one step at a time.

I am going to take it one step at a time, but I’m going to choose to “step lightly”.  I’m going to look for the joy…I’m going to search for it.  I’m going to do whatever it takes to find it.

This is the life that I have.  I am grateful for it.   I’m going to choose to look for the joy.

Hello Strangers

I’ve been away for a bit…a combination of struggles, achievements, good news, life decisions, family, and projects has been keeping me busy.  In other words – life.

Most of it’s not particularly interesting.  Some of it is possible opportunities that would require serious adjustments in our life and are still in the thinking stages.  My head is just full of “thinking” and I’m having trouble sifting through and putting much into words to share.

But, I’m still here and chugging along.  All my kiddos are at home right now which is fun (and busy).  I’ve been whittling down my “to do” project list.  This cabinet has been in my dining room unpainted for several years.

IMAG0930Ugly, I know.  I guess I just got used to it or kept seeing the potential instead of the reality.  It didn’t take all that long.  Don’t know why I waited, ’cause now it looks like this…

IMAG0938

What a big improvement!

Our family has also started working through the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover.  We’ve had a “sorta” budget for a while.  We mainly just tried to track our spending and keep our heads above water, but now we’re actually budgeting.  Baby steps!  I’m using YNAB (You Need A Budget).  I’m finding it to be very user friendly and accommodating for an inept numbers person like myself.

Then, this last week I’ve made a menu plan that we shopped for and are following.  I seriously cut the amount of money that we were spending on groceries in our new budget.  I chose meals that used a lot of what we already have on hand in the freezer and pantry so a lot of the “shopping” was done here at home.  I spent very little at the grocery store.  Hopefully, this we make meal time less stressful and healthier.  I try to cook at home and eliminate the convenience food and eating out, but we are balancing a lot of different schedules.  When I’ve done menu planning in the past, its been great.

Like I said, most of what’s going on around here is pretty boring.  I’m just trying to focus on becoming more organized and making life simpler in the process.

A lot of areas in my life seem out of control and that’s an unpleasant feeling.  I tend to be a perfectionist so I tend to avoid doing some things.  You know, waiting for the perfect moment, the perfect supplies, or knowing that the outcome will be as good as I’ve hoped.

Painting done imperfectly is better than an unfinished cabinet.  A “close enough” color, a few drips, and recycled knobs look pretty great.

Budgeting done imperfectly is better than uncontrolled spending.  Paying something to everyone is better than not making payments of any kind.  Progress may seem slow, but eventually we’ll get out of debt.

A meal plan (even if it isn’t followed exactly) is better than last minute junk food meals or take-out.

Things done imperfectly still are a blessing to my family.  It’s just hard to take baby steps when I want to fly.

Well, hello there…

I think I’m coming back to the land of “normal”.  I also believe it and I am quite certain that thinking and believing are two different things.  So, I’m going to conclude that there is a definite improvement in my “being-ness” since both thought processes are in play.

We had a fun Fourth of July celebration at the home of old friends.  They are friends that we have known for a long time and are not necessarily old although not as young as they used to be.  It was going to be a smallish celebration, but as most good parties do, it grew and grew…  There was laughter, food, beer, tension, fireworks (mostly the actual physical kind, not the human interaction kind) and more food.

I was stressed going into it all, but by the end of the night was doing pretty well.  Time spent with folks you know and who know you can be healing.  And I did not kill any small child who threw loud noisy things to the ground behind me.  I don’t know what those explosive devices are called AND the small children will never throw them near me again, but I didn’t permanently harm any of them…I promise.

Today saw us dropping my oldest daughter off at her summer job.  She is working a Renaissance style childrens’ summer camp.  She’s the daughter with culinary school and an in-process degree in Food Service Management.  She’ll be working in an unairconditioned kitchen in July in Central Texas.  Fun times…

Did I mention we helped her convert our old trailer into a Vardo type habitat for her stay.  She decided that a tent might be too rustic for her for a month (Gee, you think?).  IMAG0865IMAG0868IMAG0875IMAG0871

She did almost all of the work herself with some manual labor assistance.  She got an air-conditioner and everything….pretty sweet.  I totally forgot to get a photo of the finished dwelling…a description will have to suffice.  Corrugated metal on the ceiling, a sari-fabric hanging light, a full mattress covered in pillows, fabric lining the walls, a desk/table with storage underneath, and a chair.  Very snug, cozy and climate controlled.  I’m almost jealous…except for the whole kitchen job thing…been there, done that.

I followed up our morning excursion with a three hour nap.  I definitely feel better.  I woke up to a quiet and empty house.  I took a moment to wander through and assess the level of untidiness.  On a scale of one to ten with ten being complete chaos, I think we’re hovering around a 13.

It’s pretty “lived-in”.  That’s okay.  We’ve done a lot of living so far this summer. I love a challenge.  I will start out tomorrow with my list in hand and start to tame the beast.

For now, I’m going to be happy to be me.

Boris the Hog

I know you are all anxiously awaiting an update to yesterday’s post…Be Careful What You Wish For.

Well, Boris the hog has arrived and is presently residing in our hallway packed in ice and awaiting processing.  Why “Boris” you might ask or perhaps why any name at all.  Beats me.  My kids have this weird thing about naming things:  cars, pets, wild animals, furniture, art pieces, pretty much anything at all.  “Boris” was named by my son who is my kid and sometimes child-like although technically an adult in the eyes of the law.

Processing has been delayed somewhat by my husband being moved to the night shift at late notice.  Working days or nights – two totally different worlds and a huge adjustment when change happens.

Anyway Boris is going to be part of our Fourth of July celebration.  A friend is going to allow us the use of his smoker to prep the ham and bacon.  Some parts are going in the freezer and the rest will be a feast for friends and family.

I’ve got to share my second daughter’s reaction via text.  She is living away at college and read my post before I had a chance to talk to her and share the news.  She is my little animal lover and in some ways was born into the wrong time.  She would have fit in very well into the culture of the sixties.  She is all about peace. love and tie-dye shirts.

Here is the text conversation (my words are in italics, hers in bold text):

“A hog?”

“Oink”

“Thank you. From who?”  (This should probably be read with a great deal of sarcasm)

“A friend”

“Well, not to complain or ask for a lot.  But if the pieces that resemble what it originally looked like (nose, ears, eyes, legs, feet, tail, etc) could be gone or “away” when I get there Wednesday that would be sweet.  Otherwise the chances of me eating any of it will go from 60% to 10%.  Again not trying to make anything difficult.”

“Will do.  If it helps it’s a wild hog that is a vicious destructive critter”

“It does, but I will still see Wilbur”

It constantly amazes me how my four children can all be so different and so much the same at the same time.

All in all this has pretty much been a week of amazement so far…

  • Amazement that I’m still walking around and reasonably sane.
  • Amazement about some really good news that I’ll probably share later.
  • Amazement at the fun and sometimes strange (in a good way) folks that I meet through this blog.
  • Amazement that I raised some pretty cool and wonderful children that are growing into amazing people (despite my parenting)
  • Amazement that I have a hog sitting in an ice chest behind me.  Next to the broom because although I found it, I still haven’t used it…

Living with an awareness of the amazing world around us is definitely not a bad thing.

Peace.