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Archive for the ‘homemaking’ Category

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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Well, I didn’t hate Christmas. It didn’t suck. Surprisingly. Though I did have a few moments where I wanted to hurl myself off of the mountain side because the physical pain would have felt much better than the waves of grief that shoved me hard underwater at random and unexpected times. I found myself muttering dumb dead sister; sad and mad and totally resistant to the fact that I had to be without her. I’m just glad it’s over.

But all in all it really was ok. I mean, we didn’t have to spend 20 hours in the car to see our family–AND Dan and I got to stay in a hotel while Grandma Judy supervised the cousins sleepover party at the Noyes house. Sleeping in never felt so good. I also must mention the hours that Sadie and Grampa John (Smith) spent together watching the strongest man contest on ESPN. I kept hearing Sadie gasping and yelling Grampa! That guy just pulled a TRUCK with his BARE HANDS! And then he would make some comments and I would hear him chuckling. She was so into it.  I think it was a highlight for him too. Nothing like a FULLY ALIVE six year old to ease the pain of loss–even if for a short time.

Now that I’m back, I’m concentrating on making some changes that I think will help lift the funk I’ve been living under. As usual, it starts with my House. I’ve been so paralyzed since August. Not like I was super house functional before (um…….) but for the last few months it’s been TORTURE to do even the smallest thing around the house. I’ve done a lot of wandering and napping and more than my share of self-loathing. I’ve felt lost and listless and just plain despondent. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that grief hangs on and hangs on and looks sometimes like depression and/or laziness and a lot of times like personal failure. But I’m not going to beat myself up anymore. I’m not going to stare helplessly around me and believe that I cannot move forward, because I can. I can take teeny tiny steps–I can start small and declutter one shelf, one drawer, one lazy susan at a time. I can decide to look through a smaller frame and refuse to be overwhelmed. I can believe that I don’t have to be perfect.

Also, I’m going to do a lot of running. I need all the endorphins I can get.

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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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Roller Coaster is so cliche, but it fittingly describes my summer. When we first arrived in NY I felt this sense of home–a comfortable familiar even though we we’ve been away from this town for 11 years. I was in wonderland–a cool breezy land of green enchantment. The trees, of course, but also the people. The extrovert in me was 100 percent GO–meeting new people everyday, reconnecting with old friends, barbecues, play group–where am I Heaven? People dropping cookies off on our doorstep, coming home to a gift of homemade bread; feeling so embraced, so welcomed. Top of the coaster excitement.

Then Dan actually has to go to work. Oh. So this isn’t Playtime Summer Vacation? I have to readjust to planning meals and keeping the house in order and wrangling an extremely social and extroverted near 6 year old–you know, do my part to contribute to Team Noyes. But now I have to relearn everything because I keep opening the wrong drawer when I want to grab a spoon, and my shopping/meal planning system doesn’t work here because I live out in freaking nowhere now, and Sadie is asking me four hundred times a minute: what are the plans for the day? I miss my friends in Arkansas–the ones you could pop in on, or call and say ‘we’re comin’ over, get the coffee on (Where IS my coffee, Shannon!?) And it dawns on me that I really have to start all over again with all my background because lots of people here don’t know me from Adam’s housecat, and these things take time. So I feel all lonely and wonder where I fit in, and worry that people are just being nice to me because they feel sorry for me because I’m really that annoying person who is totally intense and shares too much the first time I talk to someone. So my insecurity makes me all irrational and  tight faced, and I’m sure I’m missing out on everything EVEN THOUGH I have been invited to many things. I keep wondering why I feel random bouts of depression, and Dan reminds me that TIME is the answer, and that feeling at the bottom of the roller coaster is totally normal when you move to a new place and reality sets in.

Despite everything, though, the great thing is that I know we are supposed to be here. I feel excited and hopeful for the plans God has in store for us. For me. I don’t know yet how my day to day life is going to shake down once school starts and I can go to a Bible study and we get into more of a routine. I know that sooner than later I’ll find my place here in this community–the people here have been awesome to me, and I’m so thankful for being included so far. I know it’s going to be alright, even though I panic once in a while.

It’s about trusting, really. And letting go. Which I do when I ride roller coasters, by the way.  I love those wooden rickety ones that make you feel like you are going to fly right out of your seat. I purposely go slack and not hold on because I like the feeling of being held in, even when I think I’m going to fall out. The less I resist the twists and jerks, the smoother the ride feels. If I’m clenching on for dear life, I get whiplash.

Holy Cow, what a ride.

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It’s the usual summer stress: convincing Sadie that she DOES NOT need to be occupied every second of the live-long day. She does NOT need a friend over the minute her first friend of the day leaves. Same issue, different state. What is most frustrating to me is that I have created this world for her. I have scrambled and schemed and made plans and provided her with a fairyland life where all her almost 6 year old dreams come true. She doesn’t have to learn to entertain herself…not when Shelley-the-Cruise-Director is at the helm. Bored? Let me fix that for you. I’ll dance and sing and win the Camp Counselor of the Year award. Meanwhile, deep inside me rumbles resentment and anger. I’m upset because she NEEDS me to entertain her. But I can’t be angry at her…though I want to. I want to say Stop being so demanding of me! I want to shout Leave me alone for two seconds to read the paper for crying out loud! I want to run away and escape, but I can only blame myself, and I’d be taking my stupid-self with me.

It’s sticky; sticky. I have this anxiety that Sadie will have the same experience as I did as a kid (following my mom around while she cleaned…) so I do the OPPOSITE, which is not get a thing done around the house when she is home for fear that she’ll feel that cleaning is more important than her. There is no balance here. Because I end up wanting to send away my demanding child, the monster that I have created with my own dysfunction. She hounds me, hounds me, hounds me, and then I lose it and shut her out completely in a stompy huff. AND the house is still a mess. Same coin–different side.

It’s not like this is a new issue in my life–I’m sure I’ve devoted many blog posts to it. Which is why I created a category called “Things I can’t stop talking about.” I’ve had this suffocating attention/resentful ambivalence issue with Sadie literally since the day I brought her home from the hospital. Sometimes I think it’s because Sadie is an only child. (Another subject I can’t seem to stop talking about…) Like I believe the solution in a perfect world would be to say “Go play with your sister!” But my rational brain tells me that if I had two children, I’d have twice the anxiety, and I’d be worrying that one or the other one would need to go to therapy and talk about how I didn’t give them enough of my undivided attention. As it is, my one child is going to go to therapy because her mother is alternately ‘let’s play’, and angrily ‘leave me alone.’

A big fear of mine is that Sadie will get this message that she is a burden, or just an issue that needs to be slogged through, and not a person who I deeply love. As it stands, she is a tool in God’s hands for sure, and I know I need to learn these lessons quick: setting boundaries, allowing her negative emotions, finding my own healthy detatchment, and basically figuring out how to NOT bend my life around the whims of a six year old.

Yeah, she’s going to need therapy for sure.

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Quick update…

Three families are looking at our house today. At least one of the three is so interested they are going to the bank, and may have an offer for us. We leave in 5.4 days. Talk about the 11th hour.

Thanks, dear ones, for praying. Now I must speed to make the house BEAUTIFUL…

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Well, first of all, the Nibblers made an offer on another house. We were next in line if the sellers rejected their offer, but alas, offer accepted. We have now lowered our price and are hoping that will make a difference. We’ll be okay even if we don’t sell before we leave, but life would be a teensy bit easier if we sold it. Or at least had a contract on it.

I cleaned my house today in preparation for all of the traffic we’re hoping to get. I’m getting to be a real pro, by the way. Today I didn’t even realize I was cleaning. I totally tricked myself. WHAT did I DO before I had my ipod? Oh yeah. Nothing. At present, we have spatulas, knives and other kitchen essentials in the garage, and everything else (except my coffeemaker) that used to grace our counter tops now live in Dan’s car. This could get dicey since I need the canister of Splenda for my coffee…but you do whatcha gotta do.

11 days and counting.

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