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Archive for the ‘Contentment’ Category

I’ve been feeling lately like I have nothing to say. As someone who Says Things as a hobby, this makes me a little panicky. When I have conversations with people these days, my face feels weird, like I don’t know how to communicate anymore–like I’m verbally frozen, and a little bit twitchy. What’s that all about?

And then, I had to speak in front of a group a few weeks ago. Public speaking is something I consider exhilarating and fun. Some people even say I’m good at it. What usually happens is that I prepare and get an outline together and these great funny stories emerge from my mouth when I’m up front–many of which I have no idea are there until they show up. It’s like I watch myself from the side when I’m speaking, and I’m like, wow–she’s good. I wonder how she does it. So I usually count on this sparkly person showing up when walk myself up to the front. This last time, Stutter-girl showed up instead.  And someone who said ‘youknowhwhatever’ every time I was at a loss for words. WHAT? I mean, when I was up front, I kept waiting for the person who knew the outline to just start talking. It was a bit embarrassing, since THAT PERSON was supposed to be me. Grrr. I would prefer to be perfect, please…

I’m chalking it up to spending too much time alone. It’s hibernation time in my neck of the woods, and I can’t believe I ever attended bbq’s and pool parties and hung out in the park after church. Was that me? What was that, like, 30 years ago? Do green things grow here? I’ve forgotten…

I’m not really depressed. I just can’t find my words.

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I have a teeny tiny problem with perfectionism. If I can’t do it perfectly, (I tell myself) I can’t do it. So projects pile up, clutter collects and my life goes from order to disorder in a blink. I have journal entries dating back to 1997 that say the same thing: why can’t I get my crap together? What’s wrong with me? Do I need a professional organizer? Should I pay someone else to clean my house? Why does life feel so hard for me??? (Haven’t I written this blog entry before…)

I’ve tried all kinds of house systems and ordered all kinds of de-clutter organizing books. I joined Flylady.com and bought a Bubble Planner. I’ve asked everyone I know: what works for you? How do you manage kids/house/stuff? Because I seem to suck at it. Even just as recently as last week, I went on an info spree and spent 5 hours (over the span of a few days) on the internet researching organization and productivity and housekeeping. Oh. and how to stop procrastinating. Years and years have gone by while I have tried to find the answer.

I was watching Kung Fu Panda with Sadie when I had my aha moment. Po’s dad finally reveals the secret to his best-selling noodle soup: ‘there is no secret ingredient.’ Then it dawned on me: I have everything that I need within me already. I haven’t been trusting myself. I’ve been beating myself up for not ‘succeeding.’ But what does success even mean? For me, doing something is better than the overwhelmed NOTHING I have been doing. So I decided to change my expectations of myself. Instead of a job well done, I’m going to settle for a job done half-assed. At least it’s done.

So I came up with a Plan for Half-Assed Success. I will add one or two things to my schedule and do them every day until I don’t notice I’m doing them anymore. I will write said one or two things in my planner every day and then highlight them when I’ve completed them. So last week I put in my planner: ‘make bed as soon as you get up,’ and ‘unload the dishes while Sadie eats breakfast.’ I was already doing these things sporadically–so it wasn’t earth-shattering to add them into my life. By the way,  I’m using the words ‘planner’ and ‘schedule’ loosely– I started using a planner at the beginning of January (a cheapy one from Walmart), and by ‘schedule’ I mean ‘the random stuff I do at random times in my life.’ So I did it. I wrote those two things down every day and highlighted them when I finished them. So YAY me! I will celebrate the small successes along the way: I now have unloaded the dishes AND made my bed all of last week and today.

My mom used to say ‘you don’t get praised for stuff you should already be doing…’ but I’m going to disagree with her. I made my bed and I ROCK! (I love you, Mom :))

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See header picture. I took it off of my balcony this morning. And so it begins.

Time to get out my cross country skis…

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I spent Columbus Day making grape jam with my friend Sunshine. She had picked mountains of Concord grapes at a local vineyard, and since I had already been through the jam-making process once before with Industrious Betsy, I was up for another batch (actually 5 batches…). The kids had the day off of school, and Sadie is good friends with Sunshine’s little girl, so I packed up two kettles, picked up a borrowed food mill, grabbed some snacks for Sadie, and we were off.

My favorite kind of day is when I get to live life with people. Making jam by myself couldn’t be NEARLY as fun as working with a friend. We pulled the grapes off their stems, rinsed them, and put them in a big kettle to cook down and get mushy. Then we ladled the slurry into a food mill–the kind with a hand crank (I’m sure Caroline Ingalls used one just like this–it hooks right on to a kettle) and mashed all the juice from the seeds and skin. So in case you weren’t counting, the number of kettles used so far: 2. Then we measured 5 cups of juice into a THIRD kettle, mixed that with a box of Sure Gel, and waited for it to come to a full rolling boil. At that point, we added SEVEN cups of sugar all at once and STIRRED CONSTANTLY until it boiled again for EXACTLY one minute. After that it was a race against the clock: get the hot jam into the jars stat (a big funnel helps) and one pours while one screws the lids on, and it has to happen while it’s hot or the jars won’t seal. So in the middle of the crucial get-it-into-jars-time, of course, the kids need something immediately: we want to paint, we need a snack, can you get me down from here?, I have to go potty…

After we finished the 5th and final batch, Sunshine and I sat on the back porch and complained about all our aches and pains from working so hard all day. See, I always thought I would like to be Amish, but after ONE day of Amish-y work, I was SPENT. How do they do it? Churn the butter, milk the cows, make the quilts?? The one thing I know is that they understand the power of Community. And I think that’s what makes their lifestyle so attractive to me. (That and the bonnets…)

Since I quit my job and started my domestic career (ahem), I’ve felt very alone and lonely at times. Which is interesting, because I know so many people who stay at home for various reasons–and we’re all in the same boat, doing the same things at pretty much the same time. I think I could be a good candidate to live in a commune–then we all could all fold clothes and unload the dishwasher together.

All this to say that I’m experiencing Community here, and I feel like it’s Christmas morning. Life together is one huge present to me from God.

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I started running after my sister died. Well, running is a little ambitious to describe it. Let’s just say someone walking at a very brisk pace could lap me repeatedly. I always thought I hated running, but somehow–right now–it is the only thing that seems to make sense to me. When I’m running, I feel like I’m right where I am supposed to be, doing exactly the right thing. I don’t have mundane things over my head like ‘I should be unloading the dishwasher right now,’ or even meaningful things like ‘I should be sending thank you cards to people so they know I’ve appreciated their kindness during my sorrow.’ Both of those things are important to do, and both feel like insurmountable tasks sometimes. I may not be able to do them, but I CAN run.

I was trying to figure out what is it about running that feels right, and I wrote this in my journal on Tuesday after I came home from the gym:

Running and stretching open me up. I feel creative and alive and connected to myself. I like the feeling of being present–I’m all there when I’m running. It’s like meditation: focused but loose–and I feel released and peaceful afterward. The rock-huge boulder that holds my mind back from motivation is rolled away. I feel worshipful. Joyful. Open.

I’m intrigued by this joy I feel in spite of my sorrow. I don’t know how connected to running it is, but I am experiencing something I never understood before. That I can be mourning and grieving, but underneath know deep joy. Not happiness, necessarily. But a right-ness. Peace that passes all understanding, perhaps?

The sun and the beauty and leaves and the smell of wood stoves and the crisp fall weather–even the pinecones on the tree in my backyard–they are all trying to tell me something. Being in this place, connected to these people at this very time–all of it feels like God is saying: I’m with you. I love you. This grief is not forever. I have plans for you. Look around! See my hand. I am here.

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The cataclysmic event of moving across the country and settling into new routines, new church, new friends, new temperatures, new LIFE–leaves me with so much to say I don’t know where to start. So I’ll begin with a word:

GRATEFUL.

Grateful for so much. But first for the trees. I forgot about trees. I forgot what it’s like to live in and around them. On my back deck I can see and hear a Quaking Aspen–taller than the house, leaves flashing silver in the wind. Then there are the Evergreens. Tall and close–home to woodpeckers; surrounding me with beauty, tucking me away from the busyness of life. I feel like I’m on an extended retreat here, right in my own house.  I needed to be away from this part of the country for awhile to appreciate what I took for granted. I didn’t really notice before and now I can’t stop staring. I found an old, old tree on a nearby trail–big knots, mammoth trunk. I waved hello, and wondered if it had been there even before the college in 1883. I wanted to know what it could tell me.

Also, I was glad no one saw me wave at the tree.

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A few pictures of our journey so far:

(when we finally found the camera!)

Sadie in new living room

I love our new house. I call it The Treehouse. My favorite thing to do is sit out on the back deck. I am decompressing here. I can’t believe how peaceful, how rested, I feel. Of course it’s maddening to have all of my worldly possessions half in/half out of boxes, but we’re slowly getting it done.

We have been WARMLY welcomed here. It is a small community, and people have been dropping cookies off at our doorstep, inviting us to dinner, making us lunch when the movers came, and just popping in to say ‘welcome to the neighborhood.’

Also, I LOVE the weather. Today I had to get out my wool cardigan. We had all of the windows open, and it was only like 60 degrees. Dan and I keep going outside and rubbing our eyes and saying ‘are we dreaming?’ I had forgotten how much I like to be outside.

Sadie counted it up, and she has 8 friends to date. I’ve reconnected with some old friends, and have met several new ones. The church here is really the center of the community–I feel like we’ve gone back in time, and I am loving it. Sometimes I think we are living in Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon. Everyone knows everyone else, and news travels FAST. When we got here, the former owners of the house had a long haired cat. Although the house was SPOTLESS, I was still sneezing. We had to get the carpets professionally cleaned, and the next day a person I hadn’t seen in 11 years came over to our house and asked how my allergies were doing. That was the first thing she asked me. How did she know? ‘Get used to it’, I’m told.

I love it here. The fresh air has done wonders for my soul. I feel like God has given me this amazing gift of a place, and I am overwhelmed with the joy of it. I am so grateful.

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