Friday, May 17, 2013

It has been awhile

So it's been awhile...a very long while, as in, over a year. Since I've posted on this blog, that is. And it's very possible than anyone who ever cared to read this blog has long since moved on and quit caring or waiting for me to say anything else. I know I did.  But I'm back from my long trip, or detour, whether or not anyone cares to read what I say. I need to unpack my bags. I have things to say. And I'm not making big, beautiful promises that I can't keep. I may be very sporadic in my posting. I may get excited and be very consistent in blogging and then suddenly skip it for months...or years. But oh well.

Life has happened to me. And it's still happening. Recently, a big blow came my way that really threatened to knock me off my feet. It was a good try, but ironically enough, I'd been dealt enough 'big blows' in recent months that it only shook me. I've still got the jitters; I'm not totally over it. However, it's done enough good shaking that the wheels in my head are rattling and turning again. It's caused me to pause and question what I'm doing.

So what am I doing with my self-chosen "career"? I'm a stay at home wife. What exactly does that mean? I really am asking myself these questions right this moment. This is all improv. So here it goes:

   -I'm writing a novel. Didn't think I'd ever get to it, but I woke up with a light bulb one morning and I've been going ever since.
 
   -I recently discovered Mrs. Meyer's cleaning products, and I've fallen hopelessly in love. Cleaning feels like a country garden picnic these days (at least for my nose). I'm particularly taken by lavender and basil.
 
   -I have an obsession with my Burpee's gardening catalog. We go on dates together--secret little getaways. And then I dream. I've become very good friends with the multi-colored carrots and the hydrangeas.

   -My nose has become my new favorite body part. If something smells good, my nose takes over the driving and I go along for the ride. I'm infamous for getting stuck in Bath and Body Works for longer than is healthy. I've been flirting with the idea of selling Salt City Candles. Not sure if I will yet.

   -I have a new vacuum. For a woman without children, this is big. It's like getting a dog for people who love  dogs. It makes me happy. It looks like a contraption from a Star Trek show. Sounds like one too. It has a separate canister for the attachments. Kind of a new phenomenon for me. A phenomenal phenomenon. It works really well.

   -We've been eating a lot of yogurt lately. Yogurt for breakfast, yogurt based salad dressing, yogurt dip, yogurt sauce for fish tacos...Yogurt. It's what's for dinner.

   -My husband and I have a fairly new budgeting system that we don't follow perfectly the T, but as Ren always says, "That's the gist of it." I follow the rules of it pretty carefully, and I love it. It makes me feel in control of my wallet and gives me the freedom to plan ahead. It's based on the system from the book Rich on Any Income. You can find it on Amazon if you're interested. Or I might post about it if I'm in the mood so you can get the "gist" of it.

   -I've been house hunting pretty solidly for the past year and a half. If it's for sale in the San Luis Valley, I've looked into it. I've got my eye on one right now. We'll see what happens.

   -I am a new frequenter of writersdigest.com. On rare days, I even go to the library and pick up a Writer's Digest magazine to sift through. It's becoming a habit.

   -I am an unofficial teacher's aid...for my husband. I get to do lots of sorting, filing, grading and just plain old assisting with high school Spanish "stuff". I actually really enjoy it most of the time, especially when I get to do it with Ren instead of without. I'm happy that I can lighten his burden a little, especially in his first year of teaching.

   -Sherwin Williams doesn't see me quite as often lately as they did for awhile, but I still go in now and again to collect color chips. I think I was an interior decorator in a past life;)

I think that's enough for now. I need to go take a shower and make my bed. No. Of course it's not almost 10:00. I never wait that long to get going!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Believing in Good Things to Come

I keep telling myself that I'm going to start posting more "practical" things, like recipes and cleaning tricks...and I will...but I've learned to not shrug off my "emotional" phases or ignore promptings to share my thoughts, even if I feel like I've been talking too much. I just couldn't help myself today. I had to share this video, and I'll tell you why in a minute.


About a year and a half ago, Ren and I set out for a new adventure in our life together. We had a moving truck full of stuff, which Ren drove, and a little car--also full of 'stuff', which I drove behind the truck. I will readily admit that I was terrified. I was raised a country girl (and taught to drive on quiet, dirt roads) and the thought of moving to a "city", no matter how small in terms of citydom, left me petrified. There were elements of moving that excited me, but I didn't know how I was going to manage driving in a new place, being away from all family (except Ren) for the first time ever, and I couldn't picture what my life was going to be like. It was a big, looming question mark in my mind.

Well, we survived the drive from Colorado to Utah, and we also survived unloading the truck. But I really wondered if we'd ever survive the record heat of August 2010, the close quarters of married student housing, and the confusing maze of traffic and more stores than I cared to count. As soon as we dropped off the U-haul and accepted that Utah was now home, I found myself extremely depressed and overwhelmed. My question mark was melting into a puddle of mud surrounded by boxes and clutter. So this was my life.

I toyed with the idea of getting a nanny job, and even had an interview. I felt like I needed to "do" something--I couldn't possibly stay home and not make money with finances so tight, could I? I also thought about going back to school, but money didn't allow for both Ren and I to do it just then. Getting a job didn't happen (until later--another story), and so I decided that for a time, at least, I had an excuse to stay home.

 It's really quite impossible to write a short summary of the events of the months that followed. It seems more effective to just describe what condition I was in, what I felt, and where it led me. To begin with, I was tired. I think I've pretty much always been tired before now (and even now, I'm no stranger to fatigue). I became familiar with the term "insomnia" much too early in life. I was also sick--emotionally, physically, spiritually. I had exhausted all my reserves of patience and strength and vitality, and I was slipping into a dark place of confusion. I was suffering from anxiety and depression, which I can see clearly now, but at that time I was in denial. I didn't believe it was "valid"--I just thought I was being a wimp. And on top of this, I was afraid of the word "NO". If someone, anyone, asked me to do something, I felt a moral obligation to say yes, regardless of what I could handle. The combination of all of the above was awful. It wreaked havoc on my already worn out self, and even more so on my marriage. I know my husband loves me, because he didn't run away screaming. 

I did not like myself. I felt fat. I felt stupid. I felt lazy and worthless. I felt negative and non-social and like a black hole that sucked joy from everyone around me, especially my husband. I felt like I had to apologize for everything I did and thought--for everything I was. Is this bad enough for you yet? Well it wasn't for me. I decided that my life wouldn't be complete til I had volunteered myself to babysit for everyone I knew and teach their children piano lessons, hoping that then, maybe then I would have some shard of worth as a person.

Too many times, I found myself curled up in a ball crying like a helpless child--and that's exactly what I was. I'm so grateful for the angels in my life, seen and unseen, who brought me strength when I had none. Without them pulling for me, I just might have given up. And I am so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father. I've always prayed. My parents taught me to pray before they taught me to dress myself. But I haven't always prayed fervently. In the beginning of these hard times, I don't believe I was praying fervently. But trials have a way of really bringing you to your knees, over and over again. Through this, I found my God once again. He had not left me. I had just stopped looking to Him.  

Yesterday was my wedding anniversary. Ren and I have been married for 3 beautiful, heart-wrenching, heart-warming years. My growth as a person has been more pronounced and powerful in these past years than in any other phase of my life. I feel like I have just stepped out of a chrysalis, and I am now enjoying my life as a butterfly. I'm not used to it yet. I've spent so much time seeing the world from the ground, and flying is a little scary. It's definitely a new feeling for me. Forgive me for my metaphors, but a girl is allowed to be slightly cliché and romantic on the anniversary of her wedding (or the day after) to her sweetheart.

So back to the video--you'll just have to see it for yourself. You'll know why I picked it. I can't ever get through it without crying, because I know now what it means. You have to keep going. You have to keep believing things will get better and keep praying for answers. They'll come, along with so many other good things. I promise.

What good things have you found in your life? What did it take you to get there?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Being Content in the Seasons of Life

"Snow Flowers" by Dan
The other night as I was lying in bed, I was overcome by a sudden longing to have children. It hurt. I found myself pleading in my mind with my Heavenly Father to bless me with this good desire. And then a very sweet, quiet thought came to me. It was this: How many women would postpone having children to be able to have better relationships with their husbands? You have that. Be happy.
It stunned me. And it took away the sting of my unfulfilled want. 

As I've thought about this over the past week, it has merged with another theme that has consumed my thoughts lately, and that is the seasons. I've noticed that at this time of the year, when winter is gently (and sometimes not so gently) melting away into spring, I find myself getting very restless. I get a glimpse of the glory and splendor of spring, and I feel suddenly very entitled to it. I want it, and I want it now. When a beautiful day becomes gray again, and the winds and snow return, I get angry. I don't want it to snow anymore! I demand. Winter should be done by now. Can't the weather just make up its mind?! The sad irony of these thoughts is that I'm not really asking the weather to make up its mind, I'm demanding that God make up His mind to match mine. I'm insisting that I know what's best.

An equally sad irony of all of this is that when I feel this way, I inevitably miss the beauty of the season that I am currently in. I wish it away and label it as unnecessary. I decide that the transition from winter to spring is not important because it isn't what I want.

But as my eyes are opened, I find myself thinking about what I can do to take advantage of this unique season in my life. My husband and I are no longer newlyweds, by our standards (on March 13th we'll have been married 3 years). But in many ways we can still enjoy life like newlyweds. We have ample time to talk to each other, read books together, go on walks, and even go shopping at the grocery store together if we want to. We have flexibility in our schedules and, though we don't wish for it, freedom from the burdens of caring for children. We've been granted a beautiful season to enjoy life together, just the two of us, and what a pity it would be if we were to cast it aside and say it isn't important!

Everyone has a different life story. For some, that place between winter and spring might actually be having children, and feeling overwhelmed. Or maybe it's the stresses of adjusting to married life. Or perhaps it's financial difficulty. Whatever it is, there is bound to be some striking beauty hiding beneath a layer of ice. And my guess it that it's a kind of beauty you'll never experience in the full heat of a sunny day when everything is green. Don't miss it. 

How do you enjoy the different seasons of life?


Friday, February 17, 2012

Accomplishing Your Goals "Little and Often"

There is something very charming about a British accent. It can turn an ordinary statement into a very sophisticated one (at least to a Westerner from the U.S. who is easily amused). Perhaps that's why I'm so taken by the Autofocus System. I first learned about it through a desperate online search for "housewife help," or something along those lines. I was looking for any solution I could find to the dreaded "overwhelm" that comes with juggling all of the tasks of homemaker. I stumbled onto a youtube video, that I have since lost track of, of a woman with ADD or ADHD (can't remember which) who used the Autofocus System to get herself out of chaotic messes that periodically built up in her life. Something about this woman's cheerful confidence amidst the clutter and chaos she was surrounded with really spoke to me. She was a real woman with a real solution.

There are several versions of the Autofocus System, and it seems to be continually evolving into something new and improved, but I'm still particular to the version I first came across. It goes something like this (this is the "Quick Start" directly from the website):

1. The system consists of one long list of everything that you have to do, written in a ruled notebook (Note from Annie: each item is written on an individual line)  (25-35 lines to a page ideal). As you think of new items, add them to the end of the list. You work through the list one page at a time in the following manner:
  1. Read quickly through all the items on the page without taking action on any of them.
  2. Go through the page more slowly looking at the items in order until one stands out for you.
  3. Work on that item for as long as you feel like doing so
  4. Cross the item off the list, and re-enter it at the end of the list if you haven’t finished it
  5. Continue going round the same page in the same way. Don’t move onto the next page until you complete a pass of the page without any item standing out
  6. Move onto the next page and repeat the process
  7. If you go to a page and no item stands out for you on your first pass through it, then all the outstanding items on that page are dismissed without re-entering them. (N.B. This does not apply to the final page, on which you are still writing items). Use a highlighter to mark dismissed items.
  8. Once you’ve finished with the final page, re-start at the first page that is still active.
Mark Forster, the creator of the system, suggests (as do I) that you start with these steps then read the rest of the directions on his site when you're ready. I also suggest that you watch this video to explain it as well.  Just to Recap (in my own words):

Make a list of things to do, clearing everything and anything from your brain that's floating around and causing confusion and indecision. Run your finger over the items on the list without focusing too much on any of them. When one stands and and seems "ready to be done", make a dot by it with your pencil (that means you're committing to it) and do it...but only as much as you want. If you get tired of it or decide it's not time, write it at the end of the list (or cross it off if you don't want it). It's so simple, and yet so effective, for me anyway.

The reason I love this system is because it allows me to play Bingo Brain and still accomplish important tasks in an orderly fashion. And it removes the guilt that often comes when I make a plan and don't stick to it. It's a plan that allows freedom and spontaneity. It's like an unplanned plan.

I hope it works for you, or at least gives you some ideas.

How do you cope with indecisiveness and being overwhelmed?


Living the Adventure


When Ren and I were dating, I asked him if he ever woke up in the morning just bursting with excitement for the new day ahead of him--if he ever looked at each day as an adventure. He said he hadn't ever experienced waking up in quite that way, but he was inspired that I did. He shortly thereafter name me "Adventure Annie" (only one of the many titles he's given me). I woke up this morning feeling just this way. In fact, one of the many things I was looking forward to experiencing in today's adventure was writing this post, because I want to share my joy with you.

I really do see life as an adventure. Being a homemaker has rekindled that flame for me. Yes, I did lose hold of it for awhile. After we got married, the stresses and challenges of my new life refocused my vision and I had to rediscover "Adventure Annie." Working outside of our home made it especially hard for me to hold onto my beautiful vision of life. I've come to the realization that I have a personal need for my own well-being. That need is to be at home. But more on that later.

What makes me so excited about each new day? I've asked myself that many times, and I can't say I completely know. But I do know that at least part of it is that I'm excited to choose what I do with my time (it's sort of like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book). I realize that this is unique in many ways to the occupation of "homemaker." Not everyone can design their day around anything they want. This is just one reason I love what I do. But as much as I love choosing the course of my day, I must admit this has often been my least favorite part of homemaking. Why? Because it's so hard. It's hard to be your own boss, your own motivator, your own time-keeper. It's so hard, in fact, that at times I've even questioned if I want to be a homemaker at all, because I didn't know if I could keep "choosing" my own day every day. It takes a lot of discipline and self confidence to go forward with a plan designed by yourself and not doubt whether or not it was the best use of your time. But, once again, through trial and error and a lot of prayerful searching I've discovered some ways to counter the intimidation of being my own boss. I want to share one of them with you today. I'm actually going to post it separately because it's somewhat extensive, and I think it needs its own space. Bon voyage!

If you have any experiences to add to my "adventure log," please leave a comment. Comments are encouraging!   

Monday, January 30, 2012

Smile Though Your Heart is Aching

I am a firm believer in the power of music. It can heal a broken heart and bind up painful wounds. Or it can simply lift you when you're feeling a little blue. I'm having a so-so day. Not terrible. But I'm just feeling sort of sluggish and zombie-like. I'm also feeling negative thoughts knocking at my mental door, and I'm trying not to let them in. But I listened to this song a little while ago and it did cheer me up.


"Smile" by Nat King Cole



Just a little side note about this song (and really the reason I love it so much, besides the fact that it's just so good) is that Ren and I danced to this song on our first date. He was so charming, and I was gone in an instant. Like I said, it's a good song;)


 I hope it can cheer you up too, if you're needing it!

What lifts you out of the blues? Any inspiring songs to share?

Apparently the first link I posted for this song has been disabled. Here's a different one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I85ApzR43jU  

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thoughts on Perfectionism

I am a perfectionist. And I'm not ashamed of it. I used to be ashamed of it, so much that I decided I had to stop wanting anything that seemed good to me, because I thought maybe I was being selfish and expecting too much. But I'm over it now (or so I tell myself), because I've realized some things:

1.  Something in me needs to experience perfection sometimes.
2.  Telling myself I can't have anything that's perfect makes me really, really want everything to be perfect...and it also makes me angry.
3.  There is something divine about the whole, unblemished, perfect somethings we come across in life.
4.   It can be satisfying, and even healing, to create something so perfect that everything about its very existence makes me smile and sigh with contentment.

I could probably add a lot more to this list, and I just might do that...later. But for now I want to elaborate a little on my philosophy of being okay with perfectionism, and how I got here.

I have an obsession with cleaning my bathroom very thoroughly. It's quite extreme. It started when I was given the assignment at age 12 of cleaning the bathroom every week. It was simple enough. I did all the basics my mother had shown me, then stepped back to take a look at my good work. It was good work...but not quite good enough. There were just a few more things that could make it even better.

So I took the shampoo bottles from the shower and lined them up by the sink, along with every item from the medicine cabinet...every tube and container and vial. I washed and polished each one before replacing them in the cabinet (which I had just cleaned). Then I organized the drawers that held the hair brushes and barrettes and straightened the towels under the sink. I took a butter knife and a rag and cleaned every spec of dirt from the baseboards. I washed out the trash can and even cleaned the toilet brush and its holder, as well as the plunger (as I said, it's quite extreme). When I finished many hours later, I surveyed the fruit of my labor. It was perfect. Just the way I wanted it. The bathroom was so clean, I was almost inclined to curl up right there on the floor with a book (which I actually ended up doing later).

This became a standard ritual. Somewhere along the way, my mother noticed. "Didn't I ask you to clean the bathroom this morning?" She asked me at 4:30 in the afternoon as I replaced the now clean plunger and trash can beside the toilet. "It should only take you an hour, at most, to clean the bathroom. It doesn't need to take a whole day." But for me, it did. I just couldn't stand not cleaning the bathroom perfectly. Anything less seemed like a waste of time for me. And eventually, I put this idea even further into practice.

If I was too tired or too short on time to clean the bathroom perfectly, I simply would not clean it at all. Coming from a family of eight children, a bathroom that goes more than a week without being cleaned can be nothing short of disgusting and disastrous. And it was just that. Because of my love of very clean bathrooms, I got into the habit of running to close the bathroom door when the doorbell rang if it was not a week when I had cleaned the bathroom. I was torn between two worlds: Perfectionism and Stark Reality. I believed I could only be happy when I dwelt in perfectionism, but my dealings there became less and less frequent as my expectations increased. 

Thankfully, I've overcome this vicious cycle in my time as a housewife (for the most part). I've developed a method to keep me in reality and yet still allow myself to visit "Perfection" if I feel so inclined. I've decided that I need to allow myself to be as perfect as I can be in certain things, just because I like them that way, but only when I prepare and plan ahead, setting aside time for one specific something that I desire to do perfectly. And so, during that period of time, I can obsess and tweak as much as I want--after all, I'm not taking time from something more important or drawing out something that could take less time. No, I'm spending time that I've set aside for something specific simply because I want to.

So now my bathroom cleaning goes something like this: Most of the time, I sweep the floor, scrub the tub and toilet, wash the mirror, and wipe down other surfaces as needed. Not all at once, just as needed. And then when I get the itch for a perfectly clean bathroom, (usually during holidays or when company's coming) if I want to, I set aside time to scour the bathroom from top to bottom. And the result is dazzling. No guilt. No regrets. Just because I like it that way.

What are your ideas about perfectionism? What do you have to have perfect, just because you like it that way?