A Glass of Tea

Hello.

No luck falling asleep last night.

This morning started out with a sense of being behind and unable to catch up.  As a result, I know that my perceptions of my life are skewed and everything seems worse than it is or even than it was yesterday.

Being tired and anxious and tipping into depression have a way of putting a negative filter on the way I see things:

The budgeting problems couldn’t be solved with a bevy of mathematical geniuses.

I am the only homemaker in America (maybe the world) who can’t keep a clean house.

We have the worst looking yard in the neighborhood.

the dishes, the laundry, the unmade bed, the piles of paperwork to be dealt with, the recycling, the boxes of donations, the stuff to be sorted, the unmade bed, the bathrooms waiting to be cleaned, the books unread, the projects undone, the clock is ticking and I am getting nowhere…fast

STOP.

It’s time for a glass of tea and some perspective…and a talk with myself (preferably not aloud where I can add crazy to the list).

I am doing okay.

Things will be okay.

It could be worse.

There are solutions to the real problems.

Some of the problems aren’t really that big a deal.

The sun will still do it’s thing even if everything doesn’t get done so there is always tomorrow.

I can fold one load of laundry.

I can wash one sink load of dishes.

I can stack all of the paper in one place and deal with it one piece at a time.

I can clear one counter.

The lost things can be found.

And so can peace.

I can stop and have a glass of tea.

I can make the baby laugh.

I could even read a chapter of a book.

And then I can do one more thing to make our home more comfortable.

Comfortable, not perfect.

What I can’t do is everything…right now.

There.

I feel better now.

I’m glad we had this talk.

Until tomorrow…

Peace.

 

 

But wait, there’s more…

When I wrote last Monday, I was coming to terms with life.  I was looking on the bright side.  I was maintaining a positive attitude.

Everything is going to be fine.  Tough times come and they go.  Life is still good.

By Tuesday, I was even making a gratitude list.  I managed about 20 things on that list without getting too trite.  Good health for my family and reliable(ish) transportation that didn’t require a monthly car payment in our extended budget were on that list.

Have I give away too much information?

Can you guess what the rest of the story might be about?

Tuesday night my husband jumped in his truck and my youngest and I jumped in our car (that really belongs to my sister, but she lets us use) and headed off to clean the offices that provide a bit of extra income.

We got the job done and bid adieu to my husband as he set off for work.  Youngest daughter and I headed home.  Five minutes later, I got a phone call as I was sitting at an intersection waiting for the light to change.

It was my husband.  Turns out that as he was sitting at the intersection of Hero’s Way and Highway 183A waiting for his light to turn from red to green there was a horrible accident.  And he was part of it.

A car coming up to the light on the opposite side of the intersection failed to stop at the red light.  She was going pretty fast.  The truck moving through the intersection at 65 plus mph swerved to miss her.  Hit her anyway, went airborne taking out all the signs at the intersection and bouncing off of the hood of my husband’s truck slamming it against the curb and traveling on.

My husband said all he saw when he looked out the window was a truck flying through the air and then his head hitting the inside frame of the window.

Did I mention that my husband has had a previous broken neck and that his neck is fused solid?

He’s okay except for some neck pain.  We’ve visited the doctor and physical therapy is in the works.

Four or five feet further back and the impact of that truck would have been fully on the passenger cab of our truck.

My husband was lucky and blessed and so are we.  That’s the bright side.

The down side.  There is no doubt that our truck is totaled.   The front passenger side tire is somewhere in the middle of where the engine used to be.  It’s a really big paper weight.

The driver that caused the accident had the least amount of insurance to meet the requirements of Texas law.  Her car is probably totaled from what I saw.  The other (much newer) truck is totaled also.  The truck’s passengers were transported by ambulance.  I doubt that there will be any payouts by the time it comes to our turn.

Luckily, we have underinsured driver insurance.  That will help.  The blue book on our truck isn’t much, but it meant the world to us in terms of financial life.

What next?  It’s up to the lawyers at this point.

And the doctors if my husband’s neck injury turns out to be something more serious.

Time will tell.

Nothing serious went wrong on Wednesday and Thursday.

Let’s all breath a sigh of relief.

Oh, wait…the week isn’t over.

Remember Speedy the basset hound?  The nine year old that (for some crazy reason) I adopted because he was surrendered to the pound because his family didn’t want him anymore?  The one that had surgery for the anal tumor.  The one that is incontinent because of said surgery. The really annoying one that follows me everywhere (and I mean everywhere).  The one that needs so much attention that if I won’t pet him, he will simply stand by my chair and rub his own head against my foot.  Yes, that dog.

This morning he woke up and is having trouble walking and whimpering.  It’s probably a spinal problem.  That’s common among older bassets.  He’s on pain meds for now and will go in to the vet on Monday for x-rays.  Then I get to make that decision.  You know the one I’m talking about.  The how much can we afford to spend decision.  The one where you get to place a value on a life…

Other things are sorting themselves out well enough.  Not ideally, but they involve the situations that caused me to invoke the Serenity prayer on Monday.  All I can do is aim for peace and make the best of whatever happens.

…because it is my circus and they are my monkeys.

And all shall be well.

 

 

Be Still

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Encaustic on wood with handmade paper

Today is the long-awaited appointment with the neurologist.  I’m a bit anxious and a bit relieved.  I’m ready to listen, ask some questions and get some answers.  And then I will work on sorting out the details.

Last night was art studio time with my oldest daughter.  We played with wax and paint and the magic of encaustic.  I have decided that art will definitely be the theme of the week…not the creation of any great works, but time to play and imagine and create for the sake of doing…not accomplishing.

My accomplishment this week will be to practice intentional life and to find peace amidst the struggles.

I can’t control life’s happenings, but I can be better about my reaction to all that happens.

I can practice being still when my mind and body are telling me to run.

I can practice being creative when my urge is to be busy.

I can practice being quiet when I feel the need solve problems that have no solutions.

Be still.

Be creative.

Be quiet.

Seek peace.

All shall be well.

 

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…

Journey

Where have I been the last couple of days?  Basically, having a really hard week on the decluttering front that has resulted in a big breakthrough!  I’ve felt like I hit a wall on making progress in my home.  I’ve had doubts that the stuff was the real problem – is stuff causing the stress or is stress causing the stuff?  Am I making any progress or is dealing with the stuff a diversion to avoid real problems.  Just a lot of doubt.

On the advice of a friend, I’ve been kinder to myself and just boxed up some stuff that I can’t deal with right now.  I didn’t want to use that route for everything though.  I’ve been dealing with ten items at a time – pick it up and make a decision – it either goes or if it stays it finds a permanent home.  Then I’ve taken breaks.  Lots of breaks and lots of decisions!

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All this went to the thrift store today.  Storage “solutions” that didn’t work or weren’t needed anymore and lots of random stuff that just isn’t needed.

Usually, when the stuff has hit the box, I’ve wondered why I even kept it at all.  This time, I realized that if I saw some of this stuff at the thrift store, I might  consider purchasing it.  I’m letting go of stuff that I actually like and that I still see potential in.  I’m letting it go anyway.  I feel like that is a big step.

Yesterday, while “supervising” me (keeping me on task), my oldest daughter asked a question out of the blue…

“Mom, did you ever feel like you had a home growing up?”

I didn’t answer.

She continued on…

“Is that why you work so hard to make a home and worry so much about it?”

Talk about a real therapy moment – if you’ve ever spent any time with a therapist you know what I’m talking about.  You spend 45 minutes talking about a subject aimlessly and the therapist sums it up for you in one sentence.

The answer would be that no, I don’t suppose that I ever really felt comfortable, secure and safe in any of the places that I lived growing up.  I knew that none of it was permanent – we moved every year.  My parents had a challenging relationship.  I didn’t have close friends and we weren’t close to any family.

The point of the journey that I’ve been partially documenting and sharing here, is to find some simplicity, peace, and intentionality in my life.

I’d have to say that I’ve logged a lot of steps in my journey this week.  I’ve gained understanding, been reminded to be kinder to myself, and shed a lot of guilt and possessions.

Just as in life, the hardest parts of the journey result in the best views.

Peace.

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.

Happier Days

Happier days are indeed here!

But…

The challenge is cleaning up the mess that’s left behind from days past.  The actual mess that exists in my home from the days that clear thought and any hope of organization were impossible.  The multitude of things left undone because I simply couldn’t deal with any of it.  And, worst of all, the guilt and self-recrimination.  The constant little (but loud) voice in my head that keeps saying “What’s wrong with you.  You are the worst housekeeper ever. Why can’t you keep up with things?  Everyone else can!”

I’m trying to replace the voice with a more positive message.  It’s hard.  And I wonder where the negative messages originated.  Are they literal messages from my childhood?  Am I repeating something that I’ve heard before?  Are they actually my thoughts?  In any case, why is it so hard to be nice to myself?

But, enough of the negative.

Art work has been made – remember the little canvases?

IMAG1045IMAG1048I placed them in a old drawer that I find at a vintage (junk) store.  I wish I could take a better photo because the canvases are very textural and “damaged”.  I didn’t really plan this one out.  Just stared at it a lot and rearranged them…and painted on them some more.  Then last night I started looking at some paper from my stash and decided on houses again.  Then when I was putting everything up for the night…I saw the drawer and it was a done deal.  I like the simplicity of the design and the calming colors.  I like the neatness in the drawer.  Everything all tidy and peaceful.

Hmmmm.  Art imitating what I’d like for my life.  Peaceful, tidy, calm, simple?  I love the way my art can speak more clearly what’s in my head.  How it can become the truth that I am seeking.  How my art can answer questions and clear away the confusion that I am feeling.  Maybe I need to be making more art.

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…

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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…

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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…

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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….