Cold Water on a Hot Day

Today I am thankful for cold water on a hot day

or in other words…

Our water heater isn’t working.

It’s been going out for a while.

It is officially gone.

It’s not so bad, really.

Our electric bill is lower.

I am boiling water for dishes which I am actually enjoying…

it somehow makes dish-washing more intentional and important.

There is thought involved.

It is less of a task and more of meaningful ritual.

Showers aren’t even bad.  We are in our first heat wave of the summer.  Temperatures outside are slowly rising…an interesting reversal of the temperature of our water slowly decreasing.  A cool shower is a blessing in this heat.  Not first thing in the morning, but a pleasant respite in the evening.

Now, if this were winter it would be a whole ‘nother story.  I would be hard-pressed to find anything to be grateful for in this situation.

I could try.

You know, we have running water and we don’t have to trek 10 miles uphill in both directions to get water.

It would be a valid point, but nevertheless, you would not find me in the shower in the middle of winter without hot water.

But, for right now, it is good.

As is the de-cluttered and organized hallway and living room.  Another small box of stuff going to the thrift store and another bag of trash/recycling ready to go.  The empty plastic storage bins are still empty.

On to the kitchen (insert tiny sigh here)…

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

 

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.

Yesterday’s Post Today

I’ve just heard a new saying (new to me anyway).  I looked it up and it exists in many forms and has been attributed to various sources, but I’ll choose this variation:

Everybody wants to save the world, but nobody wants to do the dishes.

That was pretty much my day yesterday.  Not the dishes per se, because I didn’t actually do all that many dishes.  I’m talking about one of those days where it is suddenly eleven o’clock at night and you have no idea where the day went.  Nothing got done that you planned on doing, but you were busy nonetheless.  I couldn’t really tell you what I did, but I’m pretty sure that I didn’t literally save the world.

It was one of those days where I just kept doing what needed to be done…. just everyday life.

I don’t think that we value these kinds of days enough.  It would be awesome (in the true sense of the word) to get to the end of the day and know that you did save the world.  But, how many of us get to do that in one fell swoop?

I know some people that I think are doing amazing things to make the world a better place, but most of them would disagree with me and claim that what they were doing wasn’t all that important.  They tell me that they are just doing their job.

When I ponder this sort of day, I often think of the word vocation.  The word vocation originated in the context of Christianity as in a calling.  It’s meaning has changed somewhat in today’s usage and people often use it to describe their work or career or job, but I like it’s original intent.  It’s a word that covers the kind of day that I had yesterday.

A day where you do what needs to be done: spend time with someone who needs you, hold someone who doesn’t feel well, make a late night meal for someone who is hungry, provide a bed for someone who is tired, welcome someone into your home who needs a place to stay…

None of these actions save the world, but they do help to make it a better place.  That’s important work and to do it with love and without resentment or expectation of self-benefit – that’s a vocation or a calling.  (Okay, sometimes you may be tired and resentful, but you fake it and do it anyway because we are only human, after all.)

Choosing a vocation and living into it is what makes a life worthwhile.  It’s not necessarily exciting or glamourous. It probably isn’t.  Sometimes it’s hard to remember that what’s being done makes any difference in the world at all.   Millions of people may not feel our love, read our words, hear our songs, see our art, or experience any of the things that we do in the world, but the few who do are enriched by what we do.

We need to believe and remember that…every day.

0607161124

I did spend a few minutes on the canvas.

And I did declutter five things:

  1. two pairs of shoes
  2. sunglasses
  3. a pair of shorts
  4. a bowl that’s a weird size and doesn’t stack with the other bowls on our now open shelving
  5. two dead plants – I can’t grow cilantro no matter how hard I try.  Aargh!

I may even write today’s post today…we’ll see how it goes!

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!.

 

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.