Old Ways New Ways

old ways

I’ve never been one to jump on the trendy bandwagon and embrace the latest “thing”.  I don’t rush out to buy the latest best-seller or try out the newest gadget on the market.

I’m also resistant to habits or routines and tend to not read the instructions that come with almost everything…except life.  Life comes with no instructions and it would make things easier if it did…not that I would read them so I guess it’s a moot point.

Anyway, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that a common theme has been my desire to live a simpler, more intentional and less cluttered life.

I’ve de-cluttered and organized and de-cluttered again.  I’ve made countless trips to the thrift store with lots and lots of stuff.  I’ve made lists and plans and schedules in an attempt to get my act together and live in a serene and peaceful home…

OR a reasonable approximation of peace considering the ever-changing chaotic circumstances our family calls life.

At the very least, I’d like to keep up with the dishes, not have wads of dog hair clogging up the base boards and occasionally be able to actually use the dining room table to dine on.

I try to keep my expectations reasonable (except when I’m having a cranky, irritable, unreasonable mood swing, but that’s a subject for another blog post).

So, the other day my oldest daughter came to me and said, “Mom, I think we should get the Kon-Mari book and read it and try it out”.

Um. No.  Everybody is buying, reading, and blogging about that book.  Why would I want to do that?  I’m already de-cluttering just fine.  Look at that pile of stuff in the hallway – that’s been there for over a month waiting to go to the thrift store.

Oh wait, maybe I should keep that whatchamacallit that’s in that box.  I might need it.

Okay, let’s be honest.  What I’ve been doing hasn’t been working or I wouldn’t have been working on it for a year -or two – or more.

We got the book.  I started reading it.  My daughter finished reading it and told me what to do.  Old habits die hard.

But, they can die and new, better ones can take their place.

It seemed stupid and like an enormous amount of work, but we followed the instructions.

We piled ALL of our clothes on the dining room table (after we cleared it off which took forever).  We touched every object.  And we got rid of a lot.

We piled ALL of our books on the dining room table (after we cleared it off which didn’t take that long)  We got rid of half of them.

Then, ALL the cleaning supplies were placed on the dining room table (which was clear).  All of the cleaning supplies are in one place where they can be found and hopefully used – cause that’s kind of the point of having them.

And so on…

I don’t know why it’s working…or how.

But it is working.

And we aren’t finished yet.

Something changed.  Somehow.

This is what we’ve accomplished so far…

 

A scary amount of stuff is on it’s way out.  But, more importantly, I’m excited about the empty storage and “organizational” containers.

While clarifying and articulating what my ultimate goal was, something clicked.  Figuring out if an item brought me “joy” made a difference.

In my case, that meant that an item had to be worth the cost of taking care of it.

Not just “did I find it useful”, but was it useful enough that it warranted using it, cleaning it and finding a place to keep it.

I’m still struggling with the “beautiful” category.  I have a corner that has “beautiful” things in it.  I’m slowly making decisions about whether it’s “beauty” is worth the cost of my time to care for it.  As an artist, I can see beauty just about anywhere in anything, but I can’t “afford” to fill my life with it all.

I’m finding that my joy is with less responsibility to things.  A shorter to-do list and more time for the things that I have identified as important:  being kind and patient with the people that I love (and trying to learn that I am one of those people, or should be) and making stuff that sometimes ends up being art.

We lost momentum in the process while I was depressed, but I’ve started back up again.

I’ll keep you posted!

Live Today

So.

I’ve been depressed.  If you understand depression – that’s enough information.

If you don’t – a thousand words couldn’t explain it to you.

I’ve been getting up in the morning and doing the stuff that needed to be done.  I’ve had good days and not so good days.

Unless you know me well, you might not have even noticed that something was wrong.

I’m doing better.

I think I’m feeling free of the “blues”.

Life has more color.

So we shall start the blog with today.

Some of the yesterdays may find there way here in stories.  Maybe.

I’m just planning on living today.

A month or so ago, I bought a paper-making kit for my art classes.  It turns out that it was more for me than for them.  The paper-making classes turned out great, but the last few days have been even better.

I have become obsessed with making paper!

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I’ve cleaned off my desk and shredded junk mail.

I cleaned out my studio and shredded scrap-booking paper and old artwork and leftovers from previous projects.

I’ve shredded all the scrap and left-behind artwork from school.

I’ve shredded old magazines and journals.

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And I’ve been making paper.  Lots and lots of paper.

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And I’m starting to have some ideas for how to incorporate it into an art project.

I’d tired of using other people’s artwork for my mixed media and collage projects and this is the next step.

I’m getting braver and am using confetti and glitter and grass and whatever else I can find.  Some of it works…some of it doesn’t.

I watched the starter video on how to make basic paper (so my class would think I knew what I was doing), but I haven’t done any other research.  I’m enjoying the process as much as the product.

It’s great fun to see how it turns out!

I hope that you are doing some living today and not worrying about yesterday and tomorrow too much.

And I hope that, today,  you make the time to spend at least a moment doing something that helps you smile.  The joy is there.  We just have to take the time to embrace it.

Peace…

 

 

Just Enough

I am good with just enough today.

The house is almost picked up.  There is just enough done to enjoy Christmas day.  The important parts are cleaned up.  We can cook.  There are places to sit.  I am not going to spend today becoming exhausted and stressed out trying to make everything perfect.

Perfect is not happening here.

There is plywood and boxes of tile and paneling and…lots of other stuff everywhere.

Wedding decorations and check-lists are stuffed in every nook and cranny.

Christmas has exploded and landed on every flat surface.

That’s okay.

This year I am determined to remember that my house is not me.  It does not tell the full story of who I am.  I am going to focus on what is most important.  I am going to do just enough to get the job done.

I am not going to lose my cool over undone lists.

I am not going to get so tired that I don’t enjoy myself.

I am going to prioritize and let the rest go.

The perfect holiday has nothing to do with all the ornaments being on the tree or the house being spotless.

It’s all about the smiles and memories.

On a decluttering front…I let go of a whole lotta wood and building materials that had been stored in the tool room (2nd master bedroom closet) and in the new apartment area,

I had held onto it because it had potential. It “might” have been useful for “something”.  That thinking is good up to a point, but when the objects’ potential interferes  with my potential, I need to let go.

Those piles of wood have been moved countless times during the renovation projects this year.  Enough.  It is gone and I felt great relief at it’s leaving.

Once again, why is it so hard to let go of things? Why is it so hard to choose simplicity over things?

Today is not the day to worry about the mysteries of the universe.

I am going to focus on what is important and joyful.

I am going to do “just enough” of the mundane and let the rest go…

I woke up this morning wishing, once again, that I could hit the pause button.  I started off the week with what I thought was a reasonable list of things to do.  I have been accused of being unrealistic in my expectations in the past…with good reason.  I’ll freely admit that I’m a perfectionist although I’ve been working on being a kinder and gentler me.

This was just one of those weeks where the interruptions became the real work to be done.

What I failed to do was realize the amount of unplanned stuff happening and adjusting my expectations.

This morning I was thinking about what I hadn’t gotten done and not what did get done.

Not helpful.

This intentional living stuff can be hard.  It requires diligence, optimism, and a lot of thought.

Mostly it requires a lot of change…a change in attitude, as well as behavior.

Perhaps it can be summed up as learning to be flexible as I change my expectations in alignment with what’s going on around me.

This week four people had to go to work at different places and different times.  We had one car since the truck was still in the shop.  I did quite a bit of driving to and fro.  We made it work, but it took a lot of time.  With patience and planning this is a workable situation.

On Wednesday, I was awakened early by my son with the news that he had “rolled” his ankle and it was very, very swollen.  I told him to prop it up for a bit and we’d see if the swelling would go down.  Then I fell back asleep and failed to wake up in time to go help my sister shop.  Next up, a doctor’s appointment and x-rays.  The ankle is not broken.  This is not actually good news.  Breaks heal more easily than whatever is wrong.  Monday is an orthopedic appointment and probably and MRI.    Not a good day.

On Thursday morning we were able to pick up our truck.  Yea!

On Thursday night the key to our other car broke.  Our only key.  Not good….at all.  One place wanted almost $200 to make a new key.  Another would make it cheaper but required a copy of the title (which I can’t find because the house is a bit untidy and disorganized).

On Friday, the truck would not go into gear properly. Now we have no transportation.And everybody needs to go to work…

Husband manages to get the truck to the repair shop.  It turns out that the cardboard seal on the bottle of transmission fluid ended up in “the thingie that holds the stuff that feeds the something that makes the transmission work”.  I am not mechanically inclined.  That’s the best I’ve got as far as what was wrong.  An easy fix.  Anyway, the truck is running beautifully.

Oldest daughter found a place to make a key for the other car for only $5.  Now both cars are running.  This is very helpful!

This was a challenging week.  The Christmas tree is still not up.  I’ve not shopped much for Christmas.  A LOT of things that I wanted to get done are undone.

There have been a lot of times when I’ve felt frustrated and angry…with myself.  How can a reasonably competent grown-up find it so difficult to keep up with a house and family? This thinking is not helpful.  It just piles on more stress and makes it even more difficult to cope.

I did accomplish a lot this week…just not the things I had planned on.  The emergencies got handled.  Three big bags of stuff left the house.  The studio is unpacked and organized(ish).  The hallway/classroom is set up and workable.  Progress has been made in laying the new floor in the apartment. (I didn’t actually do any of the work on the floor other than moving stuff out of the way.)  We did a lot of school work.  Everyone got fed and has some clean clothes.

I’m starting up the decluttering project in earnest again.  There is just too much stuff around here.

The laundry piles up at an alarming rate.  We have too many clothes.

I’ve once again slowly accumulated to many art project “possibilities”.  More material doesn’t translate into more art.

The same goes for school stuff.  It’s so easy to gather too many potential things to study and learn.

This is all part of my unrealistic expectations.  There are only so many hours in the day and they cannot all be spent in action.  I need to quit trying to “get it all done”.  This attitude is not helpful.

There will always be something that needs to be done.

I can’t do it all.

The important work to be done is to more intentionally seek out simplicity, peace and joy.

That must be number one on the list…

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.

 

Journey

The secret that we share I cannot tell in full. But this much I will tell. What’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.”
― Frederick Buechner, Godric

In looking back over the past month’s postings, it seems that I have wandered far afield from my normal life and, indeed, from the original intent of this blog.

But that’s okay, I believe.

In life’s journey we start at point “A” with a specific destination in mind, but often encounter delays, detours and/or complete changes in our itinerary.

Sometimes we forget where we were going altogether and never find our way back.

Sometimes we get lost and find that we like the new place we found so much that we stay there.

Sometimes we get bored and start the journey again.

Sometimes the weather gets so bad that we can’t see where we are going.

Some of us won’t use a map (or in my case, can’t read a map) and get lost a whole lot.

I’ve known some people that refuse to go anywhere at all.  Most out of fear of what they will encounter along the way.

I also know some people that seem fearless.  The road holds a fascination for them. They’ll go anywhere, anytime…embracing the unknown.

A lot of folks seem to be stuck trudging along trying to get through each day as best they can.  Dealing with the bumps in the road that life can so often produce.  The journey can seem so hard that it’s almost impossible to look ahead and make decisions about what turn to take at the next fork in the road.  They find it hard to experience or interact with the scenery, events and possibilities that line the path they are on.  It’s all they can do to put one foot in front of the other and just keep moving.

Mostly, life is made up of all these variables.

Sometimes we move forward with confidence and accomplish much and sometimes we stop and wait and hope.

Joy and sorrow.

Work and Sabbath.

Building up and Tearing Down…Rebuilding.

Growing and Harvesting.

Starting and Ending.

So…

this blog is not where it started.  It has begun and paused.  Started again and wandered.  Been optimistic and doubtful.  Interesting and…not so much.

It is where it needs to be and moving on.

Just as I am.

 

 

Choices

I had a great comment on yesterday’s post.  She commented that what I was calling a simpler, more intentional life looked a lot like poverty.

Yep.  I have to agree.  It does look like poverty and I really appreciate what she said.  I feel like it’s an affirmation of a step in the right direction.

For me, the difference between poverty and an intentional life is choices.  The intentional choices that are made when we consider the big picture of our lives.  I actually have enough money saved away in my “emergency fund” to purchase a new washer right now.

And a year of so ago, I would have considered my washer situation to be an emergency.  I would have run right out and purchased that new washer because

   what kind of person in their right mind would put up with that kind of rigged contraption?

Now, I wonder what kind of person would spend every penny out of their savings account in order to have a laundry room that “looks right”.  Sure, my contraption is kind of a pain in the ass.  It would be easier to just buy a new washer if I was still trying to keep up with the Jones family (and their credit card debt).

We have sacrificed in order to have that small savings account.  For years, we didn’t have any kind of emergency fund.  And we had plenty of emergencies.  We are doing without in order to not accrue any more debt.  It’s not been an easy change of mindset.  It’s so easy to buy now and pay later.  It’s the American way.

I grew up with parents who were children in the Great Depression.  My Dad left the farm and joined the Air Force.  He jumped enthusiastically into the world of credit and the dream of a better life.  He spent a lot of time (and money) seeking all that the world could offer:  a new car every year, a bigger and better house, lots and lots of clothes…

I don’t fault  him for that.  Every one was doing it.  It just doesn’t work anymore.  Maybe it never did.  When I got my first application for a credit card (before I had even graduated and gotten a full-time job), I jumped at the opportunity.  I was proud of my perfect credit score.  Look at me!  Look at what I’ve done.

It’s literally a house of cards though.  It’s an illusion.  An illusion that’s difficult to maintain.  It’s a dream that brings no joy.

No more.

Sometimes, when I trip over the broom handle holding up my washer, I want to go buy a new one.

Most of the time, I see my rigged contraption and it brings me a sense of contentment and joy.  It’s a choice and I’m proud that I’m making a good choice – a choice that closely resembles poverty, but carries with it a wealth of benefits for our family.

 

 

The Weekend

Where was I this weekend?

I was at my newest part-time job!  I’m working the season at Sherwood Forest Faire just outside of Austin.  It’s a Renaissance festival type of event and I’m toiling away as part of the kitchen crew in an Italian restaurant.  The hours are long, the food is yummy and the people watching is extraordinary.

I’ve always loved these types of festivals and I must say that it is interesting to be “behind the curtain” and get to know the work involved in making them come together.

Today, I’m back home and re-adjusting to my reality.  One of the best things (for me) about working and living there is the exposure to folks that are houseless, but not homeless.  That distinction was an eye-opener for me. I follow a lot of blogs about people who have tossed most of their personal belongings and live a nomadic lifestyle, but to actually see it first-hand is a whole ‘nother story.

I’m sharing my daughter’s “vardo” (renovated tool trailer) on the weekends and space is limited.  I only take absolute necessities and am finding that I need a lot less than I think.  Each weekend I take a little less.  Life is so much simpler in many ways.

I can’t foresee ever hitting the road full-time.  There are some “luxuries” I can’t imagine giving up – showering without someone singing in the stall next to me while enjoying ample water pressure of a consistent temperature of my choosing, for example.

Anyhow, today will involve catching up on real life and keeping one eye open for more stuff that can leave our home.

I’m really motivated to rid myself of mass-produced items in favor of the hand-made and hand-crafted.  Wandering the faire and seeing the work of artists and artisans has been significant as I’ve chatted with them and seen the sacrifices they make for their work.

I’m also feeling the need to get back into my studio.

Mainly I’m going to continue to seek more balance in my life – ridding myself of more of the unnecessary and filling my life with more of what brings peace and joy.

I think I will  busy today.

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…