Thursday, January 20, 2011


Have you read A Minute of Margin by Richard A. Swenson, M.D.?  It is 180 Daily Reflections on "restoring balance to busy lives".  I started reading it last May and found it so inspirational that I sent a copy to Superman.  Then I returned my copy to the library.  School started again, the holidays came, snow came, my teeth acted up, and here we are in January and I'm out of balance again.  I don't feel frazzled, but I feel scattered and out of focus.  My life is beyond my emotional means.
Click here to see the book at Amazon

Reflection 7 in A Minute of Margin begins with this quote:

"Still another step to simplicity is to refuse to live beyond our means emotionally.  In a culture where whirl is king, we must understand our emotional limits.  Ulcers, migraines, nervous tension and a dozen other symptoms mark our psychic overload.  We are concerned not to live above our means financially, why do it emotionally?"                        -Richard Foster, Quaker Theologian, Author

That is where I am right now.  Reflection Number 7...  Somewhere between putting the house back in order after the holidays and restarting school with the kids, I've lost my rhythm.  I think I introduced too many hard-scheduled new things at once.  We have homeschooling skiing (an amazing deal we couldn't pass up) on Thursdays, we volunteer at the animal shelter on Tuesday mornings, Buttercup has Drama class on Monday evenings, we've reinstated Friday Celebration on Friday mornings, and we meet up with Charming every Saturday afternoon and evening.

The house is clean and well-kept, the laundry is up-to-date, and the school-work is getting done.   My days seem to be passing in a blur.  Meals feel slapdash and I'm not getting to exercise the way I "need" to in order to feel sane.  Projects are moving along slowly (because I am not insane and only do a little bit at a time) and I'm not having much time to devote to them. 

On the outside, we're making things happen and meeting our commitments.  On the inside, I'm unsettled and feeling rattled.   Does that sound weird to you?  My days are running together as the weeks race by.  Sometimes I look around and wonder how people do what they do.  So many families I know do so much more than we do and seem to do it well.  But we're readers, dreamers, and we need unscheduled time.  We don't do well when we're overbooked and "overbooked" to us means something different than it might mean for them (or you).  How do you do it?  How do you decide when you've had enough?  No one really talks about it, but we're not superwomen or Stepford wives.

So, I'm rereading the book and  I'm looking at our schedule.  I've got to figure out a) how I might make it work better or b) if I have to get rid of something, what will we be getting rid of.  I'm figuring out how to hit the "reset" button...we need it.  We can't do all the things we want to do right when we want to do them.  Sometimes, we have to say "no" in order to say "yes" to a fuller, richer life.   Less really can be more.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Looked Out My Window This Morning...

and realized I live in a winter wonderland.

Sam isn't particularly impressed.  (I wonder if he's remember "winter" in Southern California.)
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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lots of Irons in the Fire

When you read DIY blogs with any regularity, you are presented with beautiful "before and after" pictures of amazing projects.  These blogs make it appear that these talented people live their lives sequentially, going smoothly through one project start to finish before they begin their next amazing project.

My life doesn't work that way.  Not even close.

Right now, I have a lot of irons in the fire.  If kept a photo log of them all, I would present them in nicely laid out progression of completed projects.  But I don't...I'm lucky if I can remember to snap ANY pictures along the way.  Still, I'm doing some fun stuff, so I thought I'd share some of it with you.

Finishing the garage gave me space to start working on others things.  In addition to the bathroom off the laundry room, I've decided to tackle the red bathroom.  Yes, red.  Learning to put on make-up with a red bathroom was quite a challenge, let me tell you.  This bathroom is the only room in our home that hasn't been painted in the five years we've lived here.  Why?  Because the paint was so horrible (it bled red every time I wiped it down), I was just sure that I'd have to use oil-based primer and it would be a horrible job.  When I was at Home Depot earlier in the week, though, the girl at the paint counter encouraged me to try Behr Ultra, Home Depot's new paint with primer included.  Painting meant the weird chair rail needed to be removed and, look, there is a strip of wallpaper that needs to be removed.  Yippee! 

Why did they leave this when they put up the chair rail?
  A lot of work needs to be done before I can think of actually painting, but still I am thinking about it.

For $2.50, I brought home a "flat" sample of the color I'm thinking of using.  She promised it would cover and I think she's right. 

There has been no bleed through. I'm so jazzed!  Maybe this won't be the horrific project I think it will be.  Yeah, I know, it will still be a big project.

While I was upstairs, I decided to add this shelf to our closet.  I love it.  It finishes the closet perfectly and gives me some much needed storage (which, you might notice, I already filled).

Love this shelf!  Only $12 and some effort!

In between all of this construction, I've been raising this cute girl...

and turning her into a crazy cat lady.

Should I be worried that Valiant took this pictures of his sister and the cats?

One of my cats thinks she's a dog and sleeps on the dogs whenever she can.

Cat-Dog?  (She's certainly big enough!)

She also heard that I'd decided to add pictures of my shoes to their respective boxes to make my closet more organized and wanted to be in on the project.

Needless to say, the project isn't done yet.

Oh, and Buttercup and I started volunteering at a local animal shelter two days a week.  (Valiant says he can't do it because he'll want to bring all the animals home.)

Still working on the laundry room and the attached bathroom.   So, here's the truth...I don't think anybody's life actually flows neatly.  I think we can make ourselves crazy holding ourselves to those "after" standards.  Life is messy, even when the pictures aren't.  The fun starts when we embrace it all. 

Yep, a lot of irons in the fire.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

If You Give a Mom an Idea...

Sometimes I think that the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is actually based on the real life adventures of moms.  Seriously. 

Let me explain...

A few months ago, I had the bright idea that it was time to paint the laundry room.  My neighbor is a General Contractor and needed a little work and I really wanted to the laundry painted.  Unfortunately, in the middle of the project, he got "real" work and the area behind my washing machine and dryer have not matched the rest of the laundry room since then.  With the holidays put to bed for another year and temperatures in the mid 30s, I finally decided to pull the washing machine and dryer out of their area and paint their "cubby" myself today.  So far, so good, right?

Well, pulling out the washing machine and dryer out from the wall exposed the fur and other detritus of life that accumulated under those machines since the last time they were moved out from the wall.  Sigh.  Since the space I was going to be working in was very cramped, I needed to vacuum out comes the vacuum with the hoses, etc. 

Got vacuuming and cleaning done and I made short work of painting behind the big deal.  (I'll show you all when it all done...I have to make a cushion for a bench and put up some art.)

I was using the lovely utility sink that Superman made for me during his last vacation to clean all the painting paraphernalia and looked around my garage.  Big mistake. 

I actually saw the garage, darn it.  All the stuff that has been put off since before Thanksgiving suddenly "showed".  I couldn't deny the mess.  (Valiant seems to know where to find equipment, but not where to put it back, so it all gets "thrown" in the vicinity of where it belongs.)  Also, like my desk, if I know something belongs in the garage but I don't have time to deal with it, I instruct the kids to put in "on Dad's workbench and I deal with it later".  Well, later arrived today.  Cold or not, I needed to tackle this garage or we wouldn't be able to find a way in by Spring.

Armed with a space heater (it is so cold!), an iPod and speakers, and a broom and dustpan, I tackled the garage.  Again, it didn't occur to me to take a picture until I'd already begun digging out, but this is what it looked like when it occurred to me to share this journey with you.

It took 3 hours (!), but I got it done.   Superman's work bench is beautiful.  (I even changed the bulbs in the fluorescent light fixture!)  My work bench is beautiful. 
The plants I'm wintering are organized.  (The dead ones have to stay  until I can't get to the compost.)    I even repaired the dog kennel.

See, it is just like Give a Mouse a thing leads to another...

P.S.  Do you see that round thing in the AFTER of my workbench?  That is a $20 dining room table that I'm going to refinish when it warms up...I'm so excited.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Taming the Beast

All during the holidays, my desk was the dumping ground for anything I couldn't deal with right when it came up.  "Mom, where do you want me to put this widget?"  Just put it on my desk, Honey.  "Mom, what should I do with the mail?"  Just put it on my desk, please.  Why? My desk is in the basement and I can keep the rest of the house presentable when my desk has become a beast.  Sending anything to my desk gets it out of the main level of the home and allowed me to continue to bake or cook or wrap or entertain without stopping.

After Christmas, however, it was time to tame the beast.  Oh, and I really mean "beast".  Look at the picture I took AFTER I'd already started to put stuff away in its proper home.  (Yes, that means the desk was worse than this before I thought to pull out my camera.) 

The problem with a messy desk (at least for me) is that it is a mirror of a messy mind.  Yes, the stuff was out of sight, but it was not out of lay there, weighing on me.  Waiting for me and taking my mental attention from other things.  Taming this desk was important for my organizing season fresh start.

Now look at my desk.  Looks good, doesn't it?  More than that, it feels good.

When my desk is in order, everything seems to fall into place with ease and my minds feels as uncluttered as the desk appears. 

Doesn't it looks good?  I'm pretty pleased with how it looks, if I do say so myself.  (Now I just need to finish painting down here!)

Monday, January 3, 2011

I Love Christmas, but I'm so ready for "Organizing Season"

No, really, I do.  I love everything about the holidays and, yet, when we're done with them, I heave a sigh of relief.  When it is all said and done, I'm ready for the chaos of the holidays to give way to the sanity of the post-Christmas calm.   I'm the lady who would take the Christmas tree down on the 26th if my family wouldn't mutiny.  Seriously...the Christmas decorations begin to disappear right after the Christmas dinner dishes are done.  With Superman away for the holidays this year, the chaos that is part and parcel of the holidays seemed magnified this year.   Don't get me was still fun and Santa was very good to my family, but...I was ready to be done and my fingers itched to put the holiday decorations once the kids had retreated to their Christmas corners to play with their new belongings.  It turns out, though, that this year was one of my "better" years because the "de-Santa-fication" process did begin on the 26th and was finished on the 27th...I even got the tree down on the 27th!  Can you believe it?  Superman protested, but really couldn't stay my hand.  Most interesting of all?   I did it all with nary a protest from my children.  I think we were all ready to be done and get back to normal.  It is so freeing to put the stuff back in the storage boxes to come out next year.  Don't you feel so much lighter after you've reclaimed your home from the festivities?

The best part?  The "de-Santa-fication" process ushers in one of my absolute favorite times of year:  Organizing Season!!  I love Organizing Season.  I think it is no big mystery why the chaos of the holidays leads us all in to desperation as we approach reclaiming our homes and our routines and strive to improve on both.  Evidently, it is not just me!  Target, Home Depot, and the like are all advertising storage bins and organizing solutions...apparently lots of people feel the urge to organize after the holidays.

I don't buy more storage solutions, however.  I end up feeling so "light" after I've put away the Christmas decorations that I want to get rid of MORE stuff.  So I do.  During my much-needed technology break, I cleaned out my kitchen and got rid of old pantry items, and equipment I haven't used in years.  How many cookie cutters does one family need?  Anyone? (Superman, we really don't need a "Cocoa-motion"...I'm sorry.)   I went to the buffet and cleaned out the old, wrinkled paper napkins that have collected there over the past year...organized the cloth napkins and few paper plates I have and made everything in there much more deliberate and less haphazard.

Then I headed upstairs to my linen closets...old towels are on their way to the animal shelter (did you know they're desperate for towels?), old sheets are donated to thrift stores, and clothes that haven't been worn in years are gone. 

I scrubbed under the bathroom sinks and got rid of cleaning supplies that are gathering dust.  Do you do that?  buy something and end up NOT liking it, but keep it in your cupboard for some unknown reason?  If you do, bite the bullet and get rid of it all.  I got rid of lotions, hair products, and other weird stuff that was unused under my sink.  (How do I get all that stuff?)  I cleaned out my make-up drawer and got rid of tons of stuff that I haven't used and won't.  (Oh, this is so hard for me.  I love, love, love make-up.  The only problem?  I don't really wear much of it anymore.  So, why am I holding on to it all?  Weird.)

Finally, I headed to my desk/sewing area.  We went from three printers to one wireless printer that serves all of us. (I was able to give our two printers to a family with a boy away at college with no printer and the family had no printer, so both needs were met.  I'll admit I felt good about it.)   I got rid of craft supplies that I'll never use.  I organized my notions and patterns.  I cleaned out my desk and got rid of old pens and pencils and other miscellaneous office supplies.  Went through our homeschooling books - yes, the same ones I went through in September - and got rid of a bunch more...if I haven't used them by now, I'm not going to used them.  I cleaned off my magnet board.  Went through my collection of JoAnn's and Hancock ad's and made sure I only had the most current ones.  I even switched out some of my old storage boxes for new sleek ones, making the room a little calmer...we need calmer.  All that is left is the top of my desk...I'll be working on that this week.

After all, that, I felt terrific...until I read Almost Organized's post about her junk drawer.  (She's another lady who likes to reclaim her house after the holidays...we're like twins.)   She decided to join a meme hosted by Bowl of Lemons and the first task for January was to tackle the junk drawer.  The junk drawer!  I hate it, but I've been ignoring it.  It is my nemesis.   No more.  I finally cleaned out my junk drawer...I feel great!

Here is all the stuff that was in the tiny drawer (I forgot to take a picture of it inside the drawer). 

Here is all that is in the drawer now.  (Yes, I need those lighters in my stove doesn't light without one.)

Isn't it amazing how one little change can make you feel so much more in control of things?  I just love it when that happens!