A Day in the Life/Wednesday Edition

So, in an effort to avoid the continuing drama out there in the big world, I’m going to share “a week in my life”…an exciting moment by moment chronicle of my simple life.  (The exciting reference was sarcasm by the way).  I’m going to focus on the part of the world where I have a tiny bit of control over what’s happening.  Sometimes the whole world is just to much to deal with for my anxious, perfectionist, all-or-nothing personality.

Wednesday is a paid work day for me…at least the morning portion.  I shop with my sister to purchase food and necessities for a home for the mentally handicapped.  Up at 7:00 a.m. which is early for me, and out the door by 7:30 to go pick up the van and my sister and head out.  We start out at Wal-Mart and then head over to HEB to finish up.  The list is usually about the same each week and we’ve got a good routine going. Just normal stuff; meat/protein, lots and lots of produce and veggies, a few treats and other fixings. Usually two carts at Wal-Mart and four at HEB.  We shop both stores in an effort to get the best deals and keep expenses down.  We fill up the van and after stopping by Sonic for our usual, we head back to drop off the groceries.

While I’ve been out, my youngest daughter is expected to tidy up her room and start on school.  She has a reading list to work on and we use a couple of resources on the computer that she can work on while I’m gone.

When I get home about noon-time, we fix something for lunch and then relax for a bit. Yesterday was my husband’s day off and that can change up the afternoon a bit.

As I was eating lunch and catching up on my email and facebook, I saw a posting from a friend who volunteers at the Regional Animal Shelter.  She posted a picture of a nine year old Basset hound named Speedy.  I know what you might be thinking.  Believe me, I was thinking the same thing…there is no way in hell that I need another dog.  Especially not an old Basset hound.  But…I was also thinking “a nine year old Basset hound sure doesn’t need to be in “doggie jail” because his owner decided that he couldn’t afford him anymore and that he was too much trouble .  I told myself that someone else would surely adopt him.  He would be fine.  And then I told myself that I needed to go get that dog.  My youngest agreed after seeing his picture. My husband looked at me and picked up the car keys…I sure did marry a good man.

Off we went.  We agreed to just meet “Speedy” and see how it went.  Once we got there, it turns out that Speedy has a golf-ball sized tumor just under his tail that needs to be evaluated so we have him on a “medical foster”. That means they cover his medical expenses until the situation is resolved and then we can adopt him if we wish.

He is a sweetheart.  Totally Basset.  The world is his to explore and he will walk all day long on a leash.  He has instantly bonded and adopted  my youngest daughter.  He walked into her room, jumped up on her bed and settled in for a nap. Well, first thing he did was find the food dish, of course.  Youngest really wants a cat, but has decided that he’s a pretty good substitute since a cat can’t happen.  Second daughter’s fiance is deathly allergic to cats.

Unfortunately, Barret the dog, or B-dog as we’ve started calling him, is not taking too well to to the new addition yet.  Last night was spent taking the dog’s for a walk together in a non-threatening environment and periodically bringing Speedy out of the bedroom to see Barret in the living room.  Barret had to stay on the leash during these visits and pretty much acted as if Speedy was unwelcome (in a violently aggressive, teeth-gnashing, lunging, and terrifyingly vocal sort of way).  It wasn’t looking good.  Speedy spent the night in his room.  Barret spent the night in ours.  No blood was shed.

The day’s “plan” got derailed by my impulsive decision.  The laundry load-of-the-day didn’t get done.  The dishes didn’t get caught up.  I un-decluttered the one item out of the box – a worn-out sheet that is now being used as bedding for the new dog.

Nothing further got done on the yard.  The homeowner’s association is okay with the progress that we have made, but I have lots of ideas for projects that I want to work on now.  The work that we’ve gotten done has inspired me to keep on going.

Very little actual “school” got done unless you count visiting the animal shelter and seeing what that is like.  Youngest daughter had never been and now has a better idea about what happens to unwanted animals and pets and the very real struggle to deal with an impossible situation.  We talked about responsibility, ethics, solutions, and the possibility of volunteering.  We also discussed self-care, being responsible for ourselves and working out how to build strong boundaries to protect ourselves when dealing with the world.

There is so much that needs to be done to make the world a better place.  I often get overwhelmed and wonder if anything that I do is enough.

Looking back on Wednesday, I am okay with the day.

I lived into the needs of the day.

I didn’t save the world.

My house isn’t spotless.  Everything on the school to-do list didn’t get checked off.  I didn’t declutter anything.  I didn’t make progress on the extensive home improvement projects.   The laundry isn’t done.  We had cereal for dinner.  All potentially failures if I choose to look at it that way…

However, the residents at Hope House had what they needed to be cared for properly. A dog had a warm bed and a lot of attention instead of a concrete floor for the night.  I walked over ten thousand steps for the third day in row.  Everybody in the house had clean clothes to put on this morning and there was still cereal for breakfast.

We all made it through the day healthily and happily.  Our needs were met.  We hung out together and had some fun.  We cleaned up some dog poop.  We watched some T.V.  We cleaned up a little more dog poop.  We met a new neighbor on one of our walks.  The dog pooped outside.

We did no harm and did a little bit of good.

I’m learning to be okay with that.

I want to fix the world.  I want to stop injustice, and right wrongs, and heal the world.  I want everything and everyone to be happy and have what they need.  I want people to stop being mean to each other.  That’s all part of my anxious, perfectionist, all-or-nothing personality.

It’s a little unrealistic.

I am learning to find balance and live with imperfection.

…start with me and work out from there…doing no harm and being kind

 

 

Solid Ground

Hello.

I’m still here.  And, believe it or not, I’ve been thinking about y’all a lot although I haven’t written.

I haven’t written here that is.  I’ve composed many a blog in my head, but honestly haven’t been able to summon the energy to reach out into the world and share – thoughts, feelings or stories.

I’ve identified a new truth about myself and have been spending some time in reflection as a result. After a period of challenges and stress, I have a need to pull in my borders and become a bit of a recluse.  In the past, I believe that I’ve resisted the tendency to do so because it was a sign of weakness.  I don’t believe that to be the case anymore.

August and September were really hard.  I’ve probably mentioned that more than once…

My sister was seriously ill…it is only just the last week or so that the full effects of her illness are being identified.   A lot of the issues are resolving. Some will not.  We are finding a new normal.

My daughter started private school which was a big transition from a relatively unschooling lifestyle.  Time was in short supply and she didn’t get all the attention and support she deserved.  She coped beautifully.  I am so impressed with her.  We struggled to cope with assignments and deadlines and hoped it would all become a comfortable routine – in other words, normal.

Our precarious financial situation deteriorated under the demands of everything that was going on.  Tempers grew short as we all became overwhelmed.  We were all stretched to the limit. We all longed for our old problems, our old life…what had been normal.

It is all too evident that once life has stretched beyond tolerable limits, it doesn’t rebound back into it’s normal proportions.

Things have changed and we can’t go back.

We can; however, seek solid ground and get our feet back underneath us.  And that is what we have done.

I’ve allowed myself to pull back from outside commitments and concentrated on family and myself.  The news has been switched off and I trust that the world will keep on spinning.  There is only so much that I can do and to attempt to do more only results in anxiety, anger, frustration and hopelessness.

Our daughter is back home and we are instigating  a learning plan that fits our needs.  We learned a lot about what works for us, and what doesn’t as far as education goes.  This week has been very good indeed.

The budget is back on the drawing board as we  reassess our goals and the reality of what we can and can’t do to improve our financial situation.

The dreams and plans that we were so excited about at the beginning of the new year last January have been brought back out into the forefront.  We’re evaluating and making adjustments in light of all that has transpired.

And, most importantly, we are resting and actively seeking joy.  There was very little fun and laughter in the last two months.  That must change.

I am exited about having identified my need to stop and rest and recover from hard times…to heal from the damaging results of stress.  Forcing myself to continue on when I’m exhausted and anxious isn’t being brave and strong.  It’s a huge mistake.  It makes me miserable and when I’m miserable…the whole family is miserable.

It’s important to learn from the past, let go of regrets and move on into the future.

So, for now it’s rest and laughter and family as we become comfortable in our new normal.

 

A Different Picture

When I think of simple, intentional living that includes avoiding debt, reducing purchases and living a more self-sufficient life, I get a picture in my head.  Green gardens with chickens roaming free, uncluttered living spaces, and a general air of peace and calm.  You’ve all seen those photos in magazines and all over the internet – living “green”, paying off debt, seeking the good life.  And it’s a great dream!  I’m working on it myself, but sometimes I’m disappointed in how this whole concept plays out in the real world.

The reality is a different picture entirely.0506161701a (3).jpg

So, this is my laundry room (sort of).  I did move the dirty laundry out of the way to make myself appear tidier that I am.  I also picked up the wads of lint that were hiding under the dirty laundry.

The plywood is temporarily covering the ginormous hole from the water leak that remained hidden until the floor caved in.  We’re replacing flooring paycheck by paycheck (no more debt here).

A loooooong time ago, the washer started making a noise.  Not just any noise.  Imagine the most ear-splitting, hair-raising, metal grating on metal sound you can possibly imagine and multiply it by 100.  That’s the kind of noise I’m talking about.  I even blogged about it here and posted pictures of our do-it-yourself washer repair.

In general, the washer has continued to work okay.  It tends to forget what it’s doing and shut itself down mid-cycle.  That’s alright.  I sometimes forget what I’m doing mid-project also.  Did I mention that it’s paid for?

The problem is this:  you can’t balance it and it’s making the noise again.  The dryer (by the door) is level.  The washer thinks it’s level in the position that its in now.  So, I’ve rigged this simple machine lever to hold the washer in the position that makes it happy.  If the washer is happy (and quiet) then I’m happier.

Sometimes the simple life I’m seeking looks pretty crappy.  A worn-out (but paid for) washer rigged in a uneven position using a broken broom handle and a vacuum cleaner. You can’t get to the dryer holding an armful of clothes without stepping over the stick.  My shins are covered in bruises.  If the movement of the washer knock the stick out of place, you have to run down the hall with your hands over your ears and try to get the washer back into it’s “happy place”.

But, today was payday and another $15 went into the new washer fund.  I figured out a solution to the problem.  We had a homeschool lesson about simple machines.  It’s not a pretty picture, but it works.

And by the way, when you let your chickens free-range, they poop on your porch.  That’s not so pretty either.

 

The Ecosystem Under the Fridge

Remember Jiminy and Mulan?  They were the crickets rescued from an untimely death by my youngest.  The ones that were destined to be made into cricket flour granola.  And yes, it’s really a thing – a sustainable, protein-rich food source.

Remember that Mulan escaped and we couldn’t find her because female crickets don’t chirp?  Shortly afterwards Jiminy died.  My daughter believes that he died of a broken heart.  He was determined to escape.  He successfully chewed through the screen two more times before he passed.  I suspect that there is only so much plastic a cricket can ingest before they succumb.

Anyway, it was a sad day.  She carefully placed his remains in an outdoor plant so that he could decompose and complete the “circle of life”.

On with the story…

A couple of nights ago, she notice a tiny (very tiny) light brown cricket on the floor in front of the fridge.  Evidently, Mulan was “with child(ren)” when she escaped.  Much happiness ensued at the realization that the lineage lived on.

I was excited too.  (Sarcasm)  So excited that I thoughtlessly commented, “This will work out great since a tiny green gecko is also living under the fridge.  I’ve noticed him coming and going late at night.”

Youngest quietly asked, “Don’t geckos eat crickets?”

“Um, yes.”  (Crap)

A homeschool science lesson followed.  After lots and lots of googling by youngest daughter, it turns out that Mulan and Jiminy probably had about 100 offspring.

There should be more than enough crickets for the gecko and enough so that Mulan and Jiminy live on.

Google doesn’t answer the question of how many crickets one household needs living under the fridge or whether you actually need a gecko at all.

I suppose you do need a gecko to help control the cricket population.

Sort of a circular question and answer thing…

Kind of like the circle of life itself.

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…



Packaging

  • I’ve struggled with whether to write this post or not.  With how to word it so as not to offend anyone.  Considering all the possibilities of what might go wrong, whether it needs to be said or not, does it matter…

But, the thoughts just keep swirling in my head, refusing to be quieted.  It’s my blog, my little space in the world, and nobody has to read it or like it, but maybe I’m not the only one feeling this way.

Here goes…

What I’d like to say is please don’t package me.  Don’t look at me and make assumptions about who I am and stick me in a box and put a label on me.

I’m a complex person – because I’m a human being.  It just goes with the territory.  I make decisions, I change my mind, I make mistakes, I try to learn from them and I dream of a better world, but live in this one.

I am not a Democrat or a Republican or any other “party” for that matter.  I make my own decisions and prefer not to follow the crowd.  I don’t even know for sure what those party labels mean anymore.  So many issues and so many decisions – how can it all fit under one umbrella.

I guess I’m not a liberal or a conservative either.  I’m uncomfortable choosing one or the other.  Once again, it depends on the issue, the facts, my belief system and how it all fits into the very real world we live in.

I am a follower of Christ although I am not actively involved in a worship community.  I’ve become uncomfortable with the “Christian” label for much the same reason as any other.  So many extremes within the “Christian” community and a lot of directions and movements that don’t appeal to me.  I’ve chosen to go back to the Bible and my understanding of Jesus’ teachings and make my own way from there.

Here’s the tricky one – skin color.  White, black, brown, yellow, red, or whatever.  I’m an artist.  Two of those aren’t even a color and they are all wildly inaccurate depictions anyway.  Millions of people in each group and one label to identify them all?  What the hell?  That’s a pretty simplistic view of the world isn’t it?  White culture.  What does that even mean?  Black culture?  Same issue.  Who made up those categories and made it the standard by which we identify each other?

I suppose that it would make life easier if we could categorize everyone so easily and know what someone believes, thinks and how they will act based on appearance.  I’ve never found it to be true though.

I live in a manufactured home community out in the country in Texas…the South.  I’m a stay-at-home Mom and homeschool.  What assumptions are often made about me?  I’m an uneducated redneck because I live in a “trailer”.  I’m a religious, right-wing zealot because I homeschool.  I’m a back-to-earth, hippy, granola mom because I stay at home with my kids.  Or, my personal favorite, a gun-toting, survivalist, racist because I live in the country, in Texas.  These have all happened, for real.

Maybe it would make more sense to get to know me rather than stick a label on me and call it done.  Let me help you out…

  • I live where I live because it worked out economically and fits in with the lifestyle choices we make.  In short, we’ve got a big-ass house that we can make the payments on.
  • I stay at home because I love my kids, and my husband and I felt that it was the right choice for our family.  No judgment from me if you work outside the home.  Your life, your choices…we all need to make decisions that work for us.
  •  I homeschool for a number or personal reasons…it works for my kids’ learning styles, our family, and fits in with the lifestyle choices we’ve made.
  • I’ve got two Bachelor’s degrees and started on my Master’s.  I’d probably still be in college if I could.
  • I’ve got a garden and we eat a reasonably healthy diet. Nothing extreme though.  I’m not a good enough gardener that we could ever live off the land.  And I’m not sure that I could ever give up Cheetos or Oreos forever.

I could go on, but maybe I’ve made my point.  Let me sum it up for you…

If you’re ever in the neighborhood, please stop by for dinner.  I don’t care what “color” you are, where or who you worship (or if you worship at all), where you come from, what you wear (I prefer some garb of some kind please) your occupation, your life-style choices, your economic level, your political affiliations, your mental health diagnosis, your heritage, your decorating scheme, your gun-carrying status (or lack thereof), or your dietary restrictions (just let me know ahead of time).  If I’ve left anything out, let me know.

I do expect two things:  Respect and kindness for me and everyone else around the table, and lively discussion that does not degenerate into labeling, name-calling, belittling or generalizations.

I don’t hate anybody.  I also don’t love everybody (I know I’m supposed to, but I haven’t gotten there yet).  And honestly, there’s some people I don’t like very much.  I don’t feel the need to apologize for anything someone else has done, but I will empathize with your hurt.  I will try to apologize when I screw up if I realize I did so.  If not, please tell me what’s wrong so we can work it out.

That’s the best place to start…me and you.  One on one.  One discussion and one friendship at a time.  I can’t fix the whole world.  Nobody can.  But we can each work together.  Just don’t stick me in a box and put a label on me…and I’ll try to treat you with the same courtesy.