Hamster Wheel of Life

How has it been almost two days since I last posted?  It seems like time flies by so fast and yet nothing of significance has happened to write about.

…so busy running around the wheel of life like a hamster and never really getting anywhere.

But that’s not really true is it?

In terms of “significant” life-changing events, nothing has happened.

No cure for cancer found here.

No Mona Lisa painted.

Haven’t discovered the secret to world peace.

But the busyness of my life is the stuff of real life.  Things have to be done (sometimes over and over again) and although some of it doesn’t seem to be  all that important, life quickly becomes chaos if it is left undone.

Doing dishes, washing laundry, balancing the checkbook, paying bills, schoolwork, actually paying attention to loved ones, late night phone calls answering life questions (or pretending like you actually know the answers), running errands and dropping everything to fix a problem…

It all adds up to something important – this thing we call life.  One person doing what needs to be done in their life and touching another life in the process.  All connecting and getting things done and adding it all together to create something bigger and better.

I try to remember this.  I often fail.  Today I felt the tiny doubts and darkness start to creep in.  What’s the point?  I can’t “balance” anything when there is more need than supply.  I can’t keep up with all that needs to be done.  I’m losing ground and really tired.  I haven’t finished what needs to be done today and now it’s already tomorrow.

It is tomorrow.  Everything didn’t get done and yet the world hasn’t ended.  In the morning I can jump back on my wheel and start running.

Or maybe not.  Maybe I will choose to do each task as if it is taking me somewhere and not a pointless turn around the wheel.  I can choose to believe that my efforts are important and real and significant.

It is a choice isn’t it.

Not exciting.

Not glamorous.

Lots of dried on food, stains that won’t come out, missing socks, explaining a math concept again, chicken poop, dog hair, and someone asking, “where is my…”.

Or I can choose to see the home-cooked meal, running water, warm clothing, time spent with my child, fresh eggs, dogs that are excited when I come home and family that think I know more than I really do.

What’s happened since I last wrote?  Nothing much and everything!

I hope your journey around the sun tomorrow is more than just running on a hamster wheel.  I think we can change the world!

Decluttered on Thursday:

  1. plastic bowls
  2. a too-big sweater that I love, but someone else needs more than me
  3. 3 earrings – a pair that I never wear and one that has been waiting for a lost mate way too long
  4. a reusable grocery bag – got way too many
  5. a pen that only writes some of the time.  It seems to be the one that I always grab when I really need a pen

And today:

  1. underwear bought in the wrong size and never returned to the store
  2. an empty photo storage box
  3. a scarf – pretty, but I never wear it
  4. a pillowcase
  5. a shirt that I really, really want to fit, but no matter how many times I put it on is still too small

 

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.

Empty Boxes

You know that you are making progress when the “declutter” for the day is empty boxes, storage containers, baskets and the like. That’s what left the house today.  Lots and lots of empty receptacles.  The family room/studio/classroom is decluttered and cleanish.

The only stuff that I didn’t deal with is my art.  Art that used to hang in a church:  art that was made for a life that is no longer the one I am living.  A lot of history including joy, growth and grief.  There are lot of emotions wrapped up in that art.  For now, it will remain tucked in the storage area covered by a quilt.  I know it’s there and I know that I need to make some decisions about it all, but not right now.  It’s out of sight, but not out of mind.  I’m learning to recognize when I’m avoiding an issue that is impeding my journey.  Something that is holding me back.

I keep reminding myself that this is a journey that cannot be traveled quickly.  For now, I’m exited about the progress that I’ve made.  A full pick-up load of stuff is gone to the thrift store and recycling.  The trash can was full yesterday and is already half-full today.

There is space in the room to set up my drying rack so I can cut down on my dryer use.  My art desk is clear.  There are two comfy chairs clear of clutter sitting next to the fireplace ready for winter snuggling.  The school stuff is organized and a plan is in place to read the books that we have on the shelves and to share them with other homeschoolers in the next few months.

I really and truly can’t find anything else in there to get rid of.  But that’s today.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings.  I may become a minimalist yet.

Um, probably not!

Thursday’s “Duh” Moment

We live in a pretty big house.

Sometimes it seems way too big and too much to keep up with, but sometimes…

It seems just right.  Holidays, weekends, all four kids home, guests over for dinner and games…

Sometimes it seems too far away from everything.  A trip to the grocery store, a movie out, going to work, a quick jaunt to the library are all at least 20 minutes away – most trips are more like 45 minutes to an hour.

Most times it seems like the perfect spot to live.  Neighbors that aren’t too close or too numerous and lots of wildlife:  Deer, raccoons, possums, birds galore all wandering or flying about.  Lots of elbow room!

In any case, we are here to stay.  At this point in our lives when we are trying to get out of debt and live a simpler life, we just can’t beat our mortgage payment.  We have four bedrooms, two living areas, and two bathrooms for about what a one or two bedroom apartment would cost closer in.  That’s double the space for less money.

I read articles about families that are downsizing and moving to smaller homes to save money.  That doesn’t work in our area.  There is nothing cheaper than where we are now.  Not with working plumbing and a solid roof anyway.  I’ve done the fixer-upper house.  Even if you do-it-yourself, it’s not a real money saver.

One of the biggest problems with living in a large space is the ability to have more stuff.  We also have a ton of storage space – lots of cabinets and closets.  It tends to fill up fast and because its out of sight, it can be out of mind.

Unless you happen to have compulsive tendencies and obsess over what the inside of your cabinets and closets look like.  I am constantly pulling things out in order to tidy and organize things.

Today’s “duh” moment as I’m attempting to get things “together” for a peaceful holiday season with a lot of guests?

Having more doesn’t equate to doing more.

Having more art supplies does mean that you make more art.  A certain amount of supplies are necessary of course.  I don’t have any idea what that amount would be.  I am figuring out that you can’t keep it all.  Everything may have potential.  I can only create so many things…a finite number.  I can’t easily create anything if…

I don’t have a clear surface to create at or if I can’t find what I need to work with.  Some folks may work well in their packed studios with endless boxes and bags and shelves and…

…but I am coming to the realization that I can’t or don’t.  I need to find out what works for me and quit trying to “look” like an artist and just become comfortable with being one.

More chairs and pillows and decorations don’t make for a more comfortable house if…

…you can’t relax and enjoy the home.  If you are afraid someone will come over and see it as a mess or if you feel the need to constantly apologize for how it looks.

More supplies in the kitchen – dishes, pans, spices, food – don’t make for better meals or better entertaining if…

The dishes aren’t washed, the table isn’t cleared and the fridge is so cluttered that you can’t function in the kitchen.

More clothes don’t mean that you dress any better.

More school supplies don’t mean that you learn more.

More cleaning supplies don’t mean that you clean more.

More books don’t mean that you read more.

More just simply isn’t more.  More is not simple.  More is hard work.

It has to be paid for, picked up, cleaned up, stored, sorted, found, organized, accounted for…

and did I mention PAID FOR?

I know all these things.  Knowing and doing are two different things.  Sometimes knowing has to be realized more than once.  Sometimes I forget.

I have invited a lot of guests for Thanksgiving.  Folks that may not have a family to be with – a home to share a meal in.  I am excited.  I hope they all come.  It means a lot to me.  I want to welcome family and friends – old and new.

I want my home to be ready to welcome them.  I don’t want to apologize or be anxious.  I just want to throw open my door and say “Welcome, I’m glad you are here.”

I have work to do.

I haven’t posted the five items the last several days, but fear not.  Stuff has been going.  I just haven’t had time to take a photo or post.

At least five items have left each day. More old business files have been recycled.  Craft items, scrapbook paper, dried up markers, clothes, pillows, pantry items, trash, and more art and craft supplies – gone.

Today.  Thursday.  I have realized that more isn’t always more.  More stuff doesn’t mean more productivity or happiness or security.

For me, more stuff means more anxiety, more work, and more stress.  I’m so tired of dealing with it all.  I’m tired of it taking up so much of my time, energy and focus.

Change is hard.  Change doesn’t happen all at once.  Change is a journey.  Change is not a destination.

Back to the journey for me.  Happy Thursday to you!

New Day

clutter-is-not-just-physical-stuff-717x1024….from the website becomingminimalist.com

Today is a new day.

-and this was the first email I chanced upon (out of the more than 900 that fill my inbox).  I’ll take that as a sign.  A positive sign.  A bit of encouragement and a thought to carry around in my brain for today.

…while I wash some laundry (including the “doggy” sofa cover), wash some dishes so that we have clean silverware, blow off the carefully planned menu of new recipes and just make some food that I know everyone will eat…

try to accomplish a bit of schooling, sort through the winter clothes and see what fits and doesn’t, fill a box (or two) with giveaway…

put my fitbit on and work towards 10,000 steps while avoiding the bag of candy corn that I bought to decorate cupcakes for my husband to share at work.    I probably should avoid the cupcakes and frosting also.  Crap!

…take a deep breath and balance the checkbook and update our online budget plan.  Remember that these are first world problems and that we are making progress…slowly…

hug and love my family (and myself)…

I’m NOT going to make a list of everything that needs to be done around here and “beat” myself up for not accomplishing it all.   I’ll do the things I listed above and if more happens I’ll celebrate.

I’m NOT going to try and deal with all 900 emails today…although I will try and figure out why I have so many and unsubscribe to the ones that no longer add value to my life.

I’m NOT going to get so focused on following the planned school schedule that  it causes stress. “Rabbit trails” are part of homeschooling. The point is to learn, not to check off items on a list.

Today, I am going to live in the needs of the day.  Do what needs to be done.  Be open to the interruptions – aware that sometimes they are the work I need to do.  I’m going to enjoy the tasks at hand and keep my mind focused – not running ahead to the next thing on the list.

There will be laughter and rest and hugs and smiles and…

it will not be perfect.  And that’s ok.

As promised…

…and I am back today to write another line or two of my story.  We all have one – a story, that is.  While mine currently seems enormously insignificant, I’m going to keep on living it and writing about it anyway.  I know I’m not alone in this struggle called life.  And I am aware that it is not always a struggle.   “This too shall pass” as my Dad used to say.  He stole the quote, but I can still hear him saying it so I’m going to credit him.

Art today…

IMAG1023

I’ve had these little canvases for a while.  I bought them for another project that hasn’t happened yet.  They were just sitting on my shelf and looked lonely.  I’ve started just painting them – and then repainting them – and then layering some more paint.  Now I’ve started sticking on the dried paint scrapings from my desk.  They are becoming quite heavy and textural.

Why?  I don’t know yet.  I suppose they’ll let me know when it is time…

I am not a tidy artist…

IMAG1022

But sometimes, I’m not sure that I’m an artist at all.  But my middle daughter says that I am an artist and she should know.  She will be graduating with her Bachelor of Fine Arts in December.  That makes her for sure a “real artist”.

She tells me to make what I enjoy.  To do what I like to do and not to worry about it all so much.

So I made this recently…

IMAG1030 (2)

 

and yes, those are little plastic chickens on top.  I think it might be a little bit of art therapy.  As I look at it I see little parts of my life reflected.  Some of the “down” moments and quite a few of the hopeful ones.  Art?  I don’t know.

While “doing school” today, my youngest and I stumbled across a poem we both liked.

The Sparrow

 A little bird, with plumage brown,
Beside my window flutters down,
A moment chirps its little strain,
Ten taps upon my window-pane,
And chirps again, and hops along,
To call my notice to its song;
But I work on, nor heed its lay,
Till, in neglect, it flies away.

So birds of peace and hope and love
Come fluttering earthward from above,
To settle on life’s window-sills,
And ease our load of earthly ills;
But we, in traffic’s rush and din
Too deep engaged to let them in,
With deadened heart and sense plod on,
Nor know our loss till they are gone.

It was written by Paul Lawrence Dunbar.  It was a good message for today.  A good message for tomorrow.  Just a simple, good message….

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.

The Broom

…is missing.  I know I have a broom because I used it yesterday.  Okay, maybe not yesterday, but I have swept a floor – in this house – since we moved in nine or so years ago.

Is the Guinness Book of World Records online?  I’m interested to know what’s the longest recorded length of time it has taken to find a  broom in a normal sized house.  I might be getting close – 46 minutes.  Yep, that’s right.  My house is a little bit lived in right now, but it’s not going to be featured on a hoarding show anytime soon.

I just can’t find the damn broom.  I’ve wandered through every room although I’m certain it wouldn’t be in any of the kids’ rooms.  Why would it?  That would mean that they attempted to sweep their rooms.  And that would be impossible because you would have to see the floor in order to sweep it.  (Love you all, but you really do need to clean your rooms)

It’s not outside in any logical place – like on the porches for instance.

Maybe it’s a sign that I’m not supposed to sweep today.  Yep, that must be it.

It’s official.  Housework is done for the day.

I did de-clutter our classroom (again).  I went through every single item one at a time and made a decision on it.  Planning has begun for the next school year.  My last child and she’s going into Junior High.  All the elementary stuff is going away to be shared.

Except the crayons. You can never outgrow crayons.  And maybe the construction paper.  And maybe a few (thirty) picture books that she’s not ready to part with yet.

But the rest?  We’re moving into the big time around here!

Three boxes to the thrift store.  One bag in the trash.  A ton of paper shredded to begin a new life as chicken and rabbit bedding.

Maybe the broom is under the clothes in the laundry room…

Muddying Up the Water

When I started documenting my personal journey towards a more intentional, simple and peaceful life on this blog, I had a vague idea of where I wanted to go.

I honestly had no idea what this blog might have to do with the journey.  I felt a need to reach out in community and to find some like-minded individuals who might journey with me.  I didn’t really have any expectations that anyone would “like” what I had to share or that anyone would “follow” me.

In fact, I thought quite the opposite – I couldn’t fathom that anyone would be interested in what I had to say.  But I was afraid to start a blog, and facing fear was my challenge at the time…so I wrote.  Some folks like what I have to say.  Some have even chosen to  hit “follow”.  And I am grateful for the affirmation.  I’ve gone to every blog and “met” the writer.  I’m struck by the fact, that on the surface, many of us don’t seem to have much in common at all…not age, occupation, country, gender…nothing that commonly brings folks together.

But, we do have something important in common.  We are all searchers and seekers with a belief that things can be better – and a desire to make it so.  We are different and the same.

I had believed, in the beginning, that this blog would find a focus and generally tend towards one topic more than any others. That has not been the case.  It reflects all the interests (and distractions) that make up my life.

I am deliberately not traveling down a straight highway for this journey.  I want to walk off the beaten path and follow rabbit trails along the way.  I want to believe that I am not too old to give up on dreams and aspirations.  I want to continue to learn new things and make choices that bring me happiness and peace.  I anticipate that I will make mistakes and more than a few choices that are not the right fit.  I will become discouraged and disheartened.

And I will find joy and discover that I am capable of accomplishing things beyond what I expected.

That being said, many of the things I need to accomplish along the way are mundane, difficult and challenging.  Not fun at all.

Sometimes solving one problem worsens another.  It muddies the water.  It makes it difficult to see that any progress is being made at all.  It’s hard to remember to take a step back and regain perspective.  To remember to focus on the whole journey and not just one portion of it.  Sometimes I get lost or hit an unmovable obstacle and have to turn around and retrace my steps to find a new way – a way that takes me towards the goal.  Sometimes it feels like I’m going the wrong direction entirely.

I’ve decided to create a plan – a sort of map that will help guide my journey.   Sort of like a business plan, but not so boring.  It will have to include pictures and colors and lists.   Maybe a journal or a big canvas to hang on the wall.  Just something to help when I can’t see clearly.  A plan. In writing.  That’s the next step.  It probably should have been the first step, but….

I’ve brainstormed of list of things that need to be accomplished and/or that I want to explore during the next days, weeks, months, years…  Remember, I’m brainstorming here!  And, not in any particular order:

  • Get out of debt and get our financial status on solid footing
  • Continue de-cluttering until our home “feels right” and then maintain
  • Continually evaluate our living space and whether it’s meeting our needs (size, location, etc.)
  • Homeschooling my last kiddo and preparing her for life
  • Explore gardening and self-sufficient living
  • Art, art and more art – creating, sharing, exhibiting and selling????
  • Improving and maintaining my health
  • Contributing to making the world a better place
  • Staying connected with family and friends
  • Having more fun
  • Work at being at peace with who I am and who I can become
  • Forgiveness
  • Gratitude
  • Letting go of fear

Not a complete list – I’m sure I’ll think of more.

A pause in the journey to let the muddied water settle.  Then to continue on – one step at a time.