The Work of My Hands

“The real enemies of our life are the ‘oughts’ and the ‘ifs’. They pull us backward into the unalterable past and forward into the unpredictable future.  But real life takes place in the here and now”  – Henri Nouwen

 

I wanted to put in a garden this year.  I had hoped for a greenhouse.  I’d planned on building numerous raised beds and filling them with the compost I was making and then planting seeds.  I’d intended to have all my existing beds weeded and dug and ready for spring.

There is no greenhouse.  Two raised beds are built but not filled with soil.  They lean against the side of the house. There are weeds in my garden beds.

I ought to have gotten more done.  If I’d gotten these things accomplished, I would be ready for the garden that I had hoped for and envisioned…

But now, today, I have a choice.  I can work with what I have here and now and choose to place my seeds into soil…

or leave the seeds

in their packages

in the shoe box

on the shelf

in the cabinet

in the dining room

in the dark

where they will surely not sprout and grow.

How many other aspects of my life does this same thought process apply to?

Brushes not dipped into paint create nothing.

Blog posts not written can’t be read.

Cards not created and mailed can’t be received.

Art cards not imagined, created and shared can’t be found.

How often does my fear of imperfection or failure or rejection keep me from trying?

I have all the “seeds” I need both literally and figuratively…

seeds and soil and canvases and paint and ideas…

I also have fear and anxiety and doubts…

It is my choice to make…

Dwell on the mistakes and rejections of the past?

Anticipate with fear and anxiety the future?

Or do the work of my hands in the here and now with the potential to bring a little hope and beauty and light into the world?

Today I choose to believe in the potential of the seed to sprout and take root and grow and bless the world.

Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts from the Shower

It’s easy to believe in an absolute truth when standing in a crowd of those who believe the same thing.

When we are children we are taught in black and white, right and wrong, good and bad.

At some point we should grow up and start experiencing the potential truth of other values. In part, I am referring to value as it exists in art.  Value is the lightness or darkness of tone or color. There is a whole lotta gray out there between the black and white.

If you spend all of your time in the same place you’ve always been…the coffeehouse, the workplace, the congregation of fellow believers, your neighborhood, your comfort zone…you are not challenged.  Absolute truth is comfortable.

If you hear something over and over again, you’ll tend to start believing it.  That happens in our childhood when we learn basic values from our parents…our family…our people.

Then we start venturing out into the world.

By high school, we are usually full-on challenging our formerly held “truths” – the truth of our parents.

I don’t believe that means we are always thinking for ourselves.

It often means that we are just taking on the beliefs of the crowd we are in.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong.  As humans, we need others.  It’s nature.  It’s science.  It’s who we are.

There can be safety in that crowd, that herd, that gang of like-minded individuals. Comfort even.

But there is even greater danger.  Danger to those that are not in the “in crowd”.

In the next couple of days, if you look around you and find that you are in a crowd that believes in the same “truth” that you do…

Make sure that you have shone an intense light on the truth that you are espousing.  Have you thought it through?  Are your thoughts your own?  Are those thoughts comfortable?      Are you challenging and redefining that truth?  Do you feel the need to “defend” it? Are you comfortable and safe?

If you consider yourself a champion of the oppressed, the different, the marginalized, does your protection apply to all people who believe differently than you?  Does everyone matter?  Did you decide who was worthy of your efforts or was it a group decision that you threw your hat in with?

It’s not brave to stand in a crowd and defend your “truth” in the safety of numbers.  A majority of voices doesn’t define what is true or good or right.

Truth is not found in argument, in protest, in noise, in conflict, in chaos, in darkness.

Truth is when you are alone, in contemplation, in intelligent thought, in light…

Make your voice known.

Share your truth.

Make the world a better place.

Recognize that truth, as you understand it may differ from the belief of the person standing next to you.

Rejoice and be glad that you are able to stand next to and with someone that you do not agree with.

That is freedom.

That is these United States of America.

 

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.

 

Depends on how you look at it…

I was determined that today was going to be a sunshine kind of day.  I’m not giving up on that.  I trying out the “depends on how you look at it” mindset.  So far, so good…ish.

My sister hasn’t been looking too great since Friday.  Of course, Friday is the day you always start feeling crappy since it’s right before the weekend and you can’t get in to see the doctor.  She’s also a bit stubborn so I pretty much have to let her decide on her own what she’s gonna do.  Over the course of the weekend, I was getting pretty worried, but kept my mouth shut.

This morning she decided that she’d like to go to Wal-Mart and pick up a few things.  And maybe call the doctor.  Instead, I drove her to the doctor’s office.  Just by chance her doctor’s physician’s assistant was available to see her.  By the time we got into the office, my sister was extremely short of breath.  Her oxygen sats were in the mid 70’s to low 80’s.

An ambulance was called and off we went to the hospital again.  This time tests revealed that she had a sizable pulmonary embolism.  The biggest one her doctor had ever seen in someone still moving.

Whew!  I’m choosing not to dwell on the what-ifs.  What if we hadn’t gone into the doctor’s office.  What if they hadn’t transported her to the hospital.   What if….

I going to look at it a different way.  Thankful that it all worked out like it did.  That she is in the hospital where any emergencies can be addressed right away.  That treatment has been started.  Hopefully, we can get everything resolved and she can truly be on the mend. Her surgeries were on the 1st and 3rd.  She’s tired of being tired and sick of being sick.

I’m starting to think that my hope of getting to September and things calming down may not be realistic.  It seems that I still have more lessons to learn about living a simpler, more intentional life.  This month has been the “graduate” school level crash course.

So today, I am learning to seek the positive side of the situation.

To not dwell on the what-ifs.  To be grateful for any little thing that goes right.  To let go of the things that go wrong.

To not spend too much time trying to prepare for the what-ifs and just enjoy the right now.

To look for the sunshine peeking through the clouds and be grateful for the blessing of the rain.  Both are an essential part of life.

 

 

I’m Still Here

Hello world.

I’m still here…at home ignoring the piles of clutter, cobwebs and unwashed dishes.

The laundry is caught up.  That’s me – always looking on the bright side.

My sister’s recovery continues.  We’ve been watching lots and lots of British murder mystery shows on Netflix and a smattering of classics like Columbo and Rockford Files.  Variety is the spice of life as they say.

Youngest daughter just completed week three of school.  All in all, we’re doing okay. We’ve fallen a bit behind on our Tuesday and Thursday work, but I’ve stayed in touch with her teachers and we’ll catch it back up.  Certainly a lesson in prioritizing and learning that you can’t do it all.  First things first.

Oldest daughter and son are moved into their new digs.  I keep finding things left behind and have a box for each one that I’m dropping things in.  I’m going to count that as a bit of decluttering if that works for all of you.

My life seems crazy hectic and absurdly slow at the same time.

Some days are filled with a doctor visit, and lengthy outing to the grocery store or a 911 call and subsequent visit to the emergency room following a slip and fall (my sister, not me) in the bathroom.  Luckily no major damage done although a hip fracture was briefly a possibility.

Other days are quiet and restful with binge T.V. watching.  I’ve almost finished a rag rug that I started ages ago, but never took the time to finish.

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This month has been one of the hardest I’ve ever had to make it through.  So much has gone wrong – much that I’ve not even written about for lack of time and the fact that I feel that I should only whine so much in public…

Let’s just say that our dependable old and paid for truck may be ready for hospice.  The floor is definitely done for as the result of the air conditioner leak.  There still isn’t enough money.  You get the idea.  All just normal life stuff, but added together just a lot.

As difficult as everything has been, I’m beginning to view August of 2016 as a blessing of sorts.

I’ve been dreaming of and longing for simplicity in my life.  That’s hard to find in the midst of living.  At least I was struggling to discover it.

This month I’ve learned that simplicity is always there.  It’s discerning the simple that’s the challenge.  There are always choices to be made.  When life becomes too busy and complicated, I don’t believe that it’s because we’ve totally made the wrong choices.  It’s that we’ve failed to make any choices at all.  We’re allowing everything to rank as number one on the “got to do list”.  That’s impossible and a miserable way to live.

Simplicity may just be realizing that some things must be done and some things can’t be done and being comfortable and at peace with what is.  Constantly reviewing a list of things that are waiting to be done is exhausting.  Trying to get it all done is even more exhausting.

Seems like such an obvious thought.  Sometimes I can be hardheaded and slow.  Maybe even stubborn.  It takes me a while to catch on to the obvious.  Maybe this is a lesson learned…

Sitting with someone who has no choice but to sit is important.

Finishing a rag rug is important.

Washing dishes is important.

Doing a math test is important.

Talking on the phone to someone who needs to be heard is important.

Some things rarely or never make it to the top of the list.

Figuring out which is which is simplicity in action.

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

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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

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