And so, I said yes

Journal page 21:

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I got a phone call last week asking if I would be interested in teaching two art classes at the private school I taught at last year.

I was hesitant.

Last year was a real struggle at times for many reasons:  some of them were “me” issues and some were issues with the school situation.

I was distracted by things happening at home and was not always as prepared as I would like to have been.  I was teaching Kinder through 2nd grades in the common lunch room area and there were continual distractions as people wandered through.  I’m not totally displeased with the school year overall, but really feel that I could have done better.

This year they asked if I could teach Kinder through 2nd and 3rd through 5th.  I’d be in a small classroom and that is a much more pleasant situation.

I was still hesitant.

It is a large time commitment and I am trying to spend more time making art.

I’m getting ready to be a grandmother.

I’m homeschooling a high-schooler this year.

And so on…

I said yes…

for three reasons.

  1. Without a doubt, the money I’ll make would be helpful as I continue to try and pay down our debt (and for art supplies which are expensive).
  2. I feel that it is important to expose children to art and I am distraught that art is considered to be an “elective” instead of a required subject, or not necessary at all!
  3. I love watching children as they create and discover what they are capable of.  In the early years children (for the most part) believe they are artists and that all things are possible.  Their freedom of expression and interest in play are inspiring.

So, I said yes.

Almost immediately, the anxiety set in.

Will I be able to manage everything?  Did I make a mistake?  Will I do a good job?

My anxiety has been very manageable lately.  I am making progress on the house.  My mood has been mostly stable.  I am back in the studio.

I’m worried that this will upset the balance I’ve been working to maintain.

This is definitely a step outside of the comfort zone I’ve been dwelling in.

Early in the summer, I had drafted a rough schedule of lessons I would do if I was asked to teach again.  I hadn’t anticipated two classes and older students.

Now, I need to get to work and finalize the projects and draw up a supply list.  School starts on the tenth of August.  I want to be better prepared this year.  It will definitely lessen the stress.

I also need to consider the loss of a day at home while planning our homeschool year.  Youngest daughter is taking three classes outside the home this coming year:  American Sign Language, Theater Production, and Spanish 2.  I’ll be covering the rest of the subjects here at home.  Her outside classes are on Wednesday and I’ll be teaching on Friday.  That leaves three days at home to do the rest.  It’s not too early to start planning that out.

All shall be well.

Last week’s Kon-Mari de-clutter of clothes resulted in a box ready for the thrift store.

We are getting ready to put new flooring in the third bedroom that has been sitting empty for over a year waiting on the money to repair it.  It was damaged by a water leak under the house.  One wall also has damage from a water leak in the adjoining bathroom.  Once completed, oldest daughter will move in there from the second living area that she has been occupying along with my studio.  That will give us space to spread out a bit more and accommodate the activities of our busy family.

Unfortunately, that empty room is not really empty.  It has become a catch-all for all kinds of junk.  That’s the declutter project for the rest of the week.

Along with the art journal, several art projects are in process:

 

It’s been busy so far this week and now will be even more so.

Lots of planning and de-cluttering and creating…

All good things.

Yes, all shall be well.

Peace.

A “What If-er”

 

Mood swings, irritability, frustration, guilt and self-recrimination.  That seems to be my constant lately.

Some days I wonder if it’s worth the effort of maintaining any sense of optimism.

Some days, hope is hard to come by.

And then, something happens that turns things around and lightens the load…

On Mondays, I teach a class of Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders at a small private, Christian school.

I pretty much teach a process over product class and place the emphasis on the “what if” idea.  What if you try this…what will happen?  I emphasize creative thinking.  When the class project is done, the kids get to work (play)  in their journals and work with all of the scraps that we have collected in what they have dubbed the “what if” box.

Yesterday, as we were working on a owl drawing and painting project, I shared a story from my own early elementary days.

A long, long time ago when I was about your age, I was working on painting a plaster owl in art class.  We didn’t have an art teacher or classroom at the school I was attending at the time.  It was my regular classroom teacher and she wasn’t an artist. We had red, yellow and blue paint.  I remember that I wanted my owl to look like an owl with lots of colors and texture.  I was young and didn’t know how to achieve that so I kept layering on paint…lots and lots of layers.  The paint began to muddy and crack. My teacher told me that I was doing it wrong and took my owl and washed all of the paint off.  She returned it to me and told me to start over and do it the correct way.  I didn’t want to finish the owl because I was afraid that I wouldn’t do it right.  It’s important to follow instructions, but it’s also important to try new things and not be afraid to make mistakes because sometimes that’s how we find the answers we are looking for. 

After I told the story, my little artists finished up their project for the day and  moved on to their journal time.

As they were working, one of the boys in my class who I often suspect doesn’t listen very much because he is always talking, stopped drawing in his journal and said to me…

Miss Kelly, what if God gave you that teacher who messed up your owl so that you would become a “what if-er?  What if you were supposed to become a “what if-er so you could help me be one to? ‘Cause I think I’m a what if-er like you are and we’re supposed to figure stuff out.  Is that even a word?  What if-er?  I think it is and I think that’s what we are.

Well.

What if I’m supposed to be a what if-er and I have just forgotten what that means?

What if it took a child to point out to me that there is a purpose and a meaning to my life that I have lost touch with?

What if I just keep trying things out and remember that life is a process and not a product?  And that I’m going to make mistakes and that’s okay.

What if I quit striving to reach the destination and spend more energy on seeing the joy in the journey?

The destination is a mirage that you never actually arrive at.  The journey is the reality and there are magical moments to be found…often when and where you least expect them.

Here’s to what ifs and the what if-ers who explore them…and to the joy to be found in the exploration…

And here’s to the purported wisdom of owls and some art teachers (including myself) and the actual wisdom of small children…

 

– and to following the instructions (mostly) and then celebrating the beautiful, varied and sometimes messy results of our “what if ” life.

I Once Was Lost

Hello.

It’s been a while.

I haven’t wanted to write very often and when I did, I couldn’t.

This has probably been the worst I’ve ever been.

alone

It hasn’t all been bad, of course.  It’s honestly been a roller coaster ride.  Bad and good.  Highs and lows. Fun times and disasters (literally).  We’ve had hurricanes, a Carnival cruise, new health issues for my sister, unimproved health issues of my own, a worsening financial situation, unemployment and job searches, and car troubles.  Some of it was our life, some of it our children’s.  All of it managed to bring forth a serious depression that I am just now dragging myself out of.

There are, of course, a lot of stories to be found in the past several weeks (or is it months?), but it is late and I need to sleep.

Suffice it to say that I have been very lost.  So lost that I was not sure that I would find myself again.  I couldn’t write.  In fact, there were days I couldn’t think my way through the most basic of activities.

There were even days when I didn’t care if I made it through the day.  I didn’t care about anything.  I especially didn’t care about myself.

I felt nothing and everything.

As with most challenging times, lessons can be learned.  Experience is the best teacher or so I’ve heard.

Over the last couple of days, I seem to be in an upswing.  During the times that I did feel a sense of hope, I’ve continued to research my current health issues that I am coming to believe are all related.  I think stress is a common denominator and still believe that diet is key to resolving a lot of what is going on.

I’ve started a journal of sorts that chronicles what I’m eating, exercise, stress, and mood swings.  It will be interested to see if a pattern emerges.

I have been lost and not for the first time.

But today, for the first time in a long while, I believe that I can find the answers I am looking for.

And so the journey continues…and so does this blog.

 

 

Be Still

IMG_0094
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.

 

Last Night

Last night I started to think that survival might be a possibility.  My fever broke…and returned…repeatedly.  I lost count.  The congestion started to clear.  I was coughing.  A lot. I decided to try  spending the night in the recliner so that hubby might sleep.  Someone needed to.

As always the ever faithful Matilda, the basset was by my side.  Sleeping is her best thing. She only does three things well:  sleeping, running away during walks to make new best friends and eating.

She does other things.

No.  She doesn’t really do anything else.  Just the three things.

That’s really all she does unless you count whining and baying at 4:30 every afternoon because she’s ready to go on a walk.  I don’t really count it as a separate activity because she only does it so she can go on a walk and run away.  It’s an essential component of activity number two.  Not a separate activity at all.

Anyway, last night I carried (lugged) her to the recliner and we both kind of fell into place. She’s a pretty hefty chunk of dog.  That’s a result of activity number three which includes the sub-component of stealing every possible bit of human food that she can gain access to and she has miraculous skills for a dog of her height and breadth.

Where was I?

Oh yea, she landed in place right beside me.  I must have dozed off for a bit because when I woke up I was perched on my side on the arm of the recliner.  One leg was thrown over onto the sofa next to the recliner.  Matilda the basset was snoring loudly and contentedly on the other 98% of the chair.  She also had all of my Very Hungry Caterpillar comforter.  Life can be unfair at times.  Unless you are Matilda.  She seems to have very few problems at all as far as I can tell.

There wasn’t really a reasonable way to get out of the position I was in.  If I rolled forward I would end up on the floor.  Well, the top half of me would have hit the floor.  The brain part, mainly.  That seemed a bad idea. I couldn’t get up because I couldn’t get a foot on the floor.  I tried rolling back into the chair, but Matilda didn’t wake up enough to move.  Or maybe she woke up enough and it just didn’t seem to be her problem.

I’m betting on the latter. That’s probably why I like her so much.  She’s very confident about her own self-worth.  She just assumes that she’s worthy of love.  She doesn’t try to be anything other than what she is.  She’s a Basset hound.  She doesn’t try to be a normal dog and bother with silly things like fetching a stick or paying any attention at all to you when you call her.  She doesn’t try to be a watchdog and guard and protect our home.  She does no tricks to try and please you.  She is who she is.  She sleeps with me every night. She is loyal – as long as no one within her hearing range opens a Cheetos bag.  This would include most of the subdivision.  Distinguishing the sound of a Cheetos bag must be something only a Basset can do.  All chip bags sound pretty much the same to me.  Other than Cheetos, I’m pretty much her favorite thing.  That’s okay.  We all have our price.

We are friends.

We accept each other’s faults.

We like each most of the time.

Sometimes we disagree.

We aren’t mean to each other (on purpose).

Sometimes we screw up (she steals my food and I get mad at her).

We work it out.

I finally wiggled back into my 30% of the chair.  She protested…a lot.  We worked it out. She kept the blanket.

I couldn’t get to sleep for a while.  I started thinking about friendship.

I thought a lot about friendship.  The friendships I’ve had.  And the ones I haven’t.  There were a lot of revelations, realizations, aha moments…  It turned out to be a pretty good therapy session.  I cried.  A lot.

I think I’ll share…

in a couple of days.

For now, let’s start with…

Friends are important.

I’m not really very good at friendship sometimes.

And sometimes I don’t believe that I am deserving of friendship…of love.

This all probably causes a goodly amount of stress.

But, things can change.

I can change.

Life can be better.

Peace

 

Reality Check

So….what’s been happening since my last post?  Too much it seems.  And that’s not a new situation.  It seems that my body is sending me a reality check…via my eyesight.

And that has certainly caught my attention.

Here’s what’s been happening.

It all started mid-summer.  Remember mid-summer around here?  It’s okay if you don’t.  I can barely remember most of it and I was the one living it…a short re-cap:

Two of my oldest kids moved out on their own.  We were preparing to enroll our youngest in private school (after homeschooling all of our kids for the last 20 something years).  My sister had surgery that turned into a medical disaster of long-term duration.  We were in the middle of numerous renovation and just plain fix-it projects around the house.  We were caring for a seriously ill dog.

Am I forgetting anything?

Probably.

Let’s just say that I was feeling pretty stressed.

I noticed that I wasn’t seeing very well.  I figured that my eyeglass prescription had changed.  I was really busy.  I put off going into the optometrist.  Things didn’t get better.  I started moving my glasses to the top of my head and doing everything up close.  I started watching television without my glasses.  With my eyesight, that means I was listening to the t.v. and not actually watching it.  I started having headaches.  Driving at night was almost impossible.  I started avoiding the computer…important stuff like email and the budget.

I lived with it.  I pretended that everything was fine.  I didn’t really tell anyone. That’s what a “good” mom, wife, person does.  We soldier on.  That’s what I was raised to do.

At the end of December, my husband and kids dragged me to the eye doctor to get my new glasses.

During the exam (which I failed miserably) the doctor commented that my script hadn’t changed all that much.

Hmmm.

Interesting – since I can’t see much of anything…everything’s blurry.

We ran through the test again.

And that’s when I noticed it.

I was trying to read the whole line of letters.  And I couldn’t.  When I tried to focus on one letter at a time, they were going in and out of focus…rapidly.

When I mentioned it, the doctor said “hmmm”.  It’s one thing for me to say “hmmm”.  It’s another thing altogether for the doctor to say it.

Long story short (too late, I know!) it’s not my eyes at all.  It’s my brain.  I’m now seeing a neuro-developmental optometrist.  And having Neuro-Visual therapy.

I’m a reasonably smart person.

I don’t know crap about any of this.

Yet.

I’m learning.

There’s a lot of big words.

Basically, I’m stressed. Not “normal person I need a spa day” stressed.  I am apparently in constant “flight” as in the fight or flight thing.  I’ve heard references to this before from a psychiatrist when we were figuring out whether I was depressed or anxious (or both).  That’s why I take an anti-anxiety med.

I’ve lived with this for a while.

I write about it here.  I’m trying to live a more intentional life. I’m looking for joy.  I’m decluttering crap.  I’ve been working on it…I really have.

Apparently, I’m not doing enough.  Or I’m not doing it right.  Or….I don’t know right now.

I do know that this has all gotten my attention.  We talk about stress.  I know stress is bad.  I know it.  But I didn’t really know.

I knew that stress could cause problems physically.

I knew that it could happen…someday.

But this is scary stuff…right here and right now.

My body is tired and running too fast and things aren’t working right.

Right now, we are at a fixable point.

So, it turns out that my new slogans for the new year were spot on.

Rethink…

Reimagine…

Reflect…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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…

You May Be Wondering…

If you follow this blog and read it…hey, I’m a realist…life gets busy…things get undone…

Anyway, if you follow and read this blog – I am appreciative.  I would love to write each of you a thank you note, but I forgot to mail my bills off last month, so I wouldn’t be waiting anxiously at the mail box.  A simple thank you will have to do.

And, one more time – if you follow and read this blog you may be wondering what happened to Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday – the continuing saga of “a day in my life”.

Rest assured, those days did happen and they happened despite my desperate attempt to find life’s pause button and stop for a minute.

Any attempt to chronicle the individual activities for each of those days would likely be a work of at least partial fiction.  That would probably make for more interesting reading, but frankly, would take a bit more effort than I can rally right now.  It is 6:30 on Wednesday evening and I am ready for bed.  I finally just pretended that I had a pause button, and closed my eyes and took a nap today.  I just woke up.  The nap didn’t help with all of the things that needed to get done today, but I feel better able to face the struggle.

I am relatively sane.

The Christmas lights have been plugged in.  We didn’t actually hang them on the house.  We just sort of threw them into the crape myrtles in front of the house.  They look suitably festive.  They are out of the Christmas box and in the yard.  They are twinkling.  We are not the best decorated house in the subdivision (or the worst).  We are neither overachieving, nor underachieving.  We are just achieving.  I’m okay with that.  That fits in with my goal of simplifying, but still celebrating the season.  My youngest daughter will not be growing up with the Griswolds (Christmas vacation) or Scrooge.  Just us. That is as it should be.

 

The days since I last posted have been filled with going to work, handling some pesky medical issues, retrieving stranded family members (car issues), making wedding preparation lists, driving people to and fro, a holiday bowling party, more medical issues, a couple of emotional meltdowns (adolescent, young adult and menopausal), and a host of other life moments.

It has now been hours since I started writing this post.  Dinner has been cooked and eaten.

Issues.  Conversations. Family.  Life.

Now, I shall post this.

Then…

I shall load the dishwasher.

I shall load and unload the washer and dryer.

I shall wander into my studio and look around.

I shall work on explaining the function of the new doggy door to the pack.  That’s a story for another day.  Stay tuned.  Sometime tomorrow or the next day…depending on how it goes.