Friday, February 11, 2011

All about ME

Did you know that I’ll be 30 in approximately 5 months?! Well, I am. And right about the time I turned 29 this became a somewhat dreaded thing. Not because I feel like I’m getting old or anything like that. It was more because most of my 20’s has been about change and finding a new normal. In my twenties I graduated from college, got married, had two children and fluctuated from full time to part-time in my job and no-time to full-time in wife-ing, mothering and stress-filled living. I was not at a place in life that I felt I was truly enjoying living.

I wanted to get my life in order, to make progress in everything I enjoyed and to complete or eliminate the things that were preventing me from that.

So I made a list, lots of lists actually. Some on paper, though most were in my head. I thought I knew where I was going, and what I wanted. I set the over-ambitious goal of getting there in a year.

I even started another blog. Feel free to gasp in horror, I’ll wait. I know, what was I thinking. I can’t keep one blog going, why was it necessary to start another?! Well, I was submersed in blogs about crafting and cooking and baking and being organized and couponing to save money and…the list goes on. In reading them, all were, and still are, things that I want to do. I thought by starting a blog about what I was doing, related to those things, I would make progress in accomplishing those aspects of my life.

I was wrong.

However, what I did learn was that having a blog about things that you like to do, but aren’t doing only makes you feel guilty about not doing those things, AND for not updating a blog about them!

But let me tell you, I did not come to that conclusion right away, it took about 6 months.

There were quite a few things that led me to the end of the alternate blog, but mainly it was after a few days of intense attention on Henry, in an effort to keep him on the right track in terms of his attitudes and decision making, that I realized I still had my focus and priorities wrong.

Vacuum b4 dusting started to be about me…and then it changed into a lot about my kids with an occasional post from ME. My new blog was all about ME, butt my life isn’t all about me, and so it wasn’t a good fit.

Don’t get me wrong, I did learn about myself through the blog. So I guess it did serve its purpose. I’ve changed - my thinking, my attitude and my focus.

As a result, I’m reinventing this blog (a bit). There will still be pictures of my kids, don’t worry, but it is going to be more. I am continuing this blog TO my kids. It is a great way to record memories and stories of their childhood, but it is now a way to teach my kids. I want them to know not only the fun things they did, but what life was like growing up from every side. I want them to know what I thought and did when they were kids, because in becoming a mom and growing older, that sort of thing has become so much more important to me and I want it to mean something to them.

So feel free to continue joining us on this ride – no matter where it takes us.

As I delete my alter-blog, are you curious what happened behind the scenes? What I really did learn or do in all of this time? Since it got me to this point and gives a bit more insight to who I am, here you have it:

The Start of a Journey
My life is a mess, but I'm striving to make it a beautiful mess.

Most days there are so many things to do and never enough time to do it. The main problem though, is that I have so many things that I WANT to do on top of the things that I need to do. When a free minute arrives I have no idea where to start.

About two months ago I turned 29.

Less than 365 days now until 30.

I was never one to have lofty goals of "by the time I'm 30....." However, a month or so before The Day of 29 I started thinking. I am not sure how I really got to this point in my life, and I am not so sure that I like where it is at. During my silent meltdown the week of turning 29 I decided it was time to make those lofty goals and set a path for my 30th year and hopefully the rest of my life.

I want to accomplish the things that I need to do, and enjoy the others activities that I want to do. I need to create a balance, I need to get life in order and I need to get my priorities straight.

There is a song on Christian radio stations right now by Amy Grant, and it has become my theme, Beautiful Mess. "Beautiful the mess we are / the honest prayers of the breaking hearts / ... / Better than a hallelujah"

From the first time I heard the song I knew that it was one of those things that would change my life, I just was not sure how. But as time passed, events have occured in my life that have led me to realize that life really is a mess, but with the right focus it can be beautiful.

So join me on my journey, my 30th year, and in living my beautiful mess.

I love how easy it is to procrastinate first thing in the morning.

I snooze my alarm once saying that my hair will survive not being washed for a day. I snooze the alarm yet again saying that I allowed plenty of extra time in our morning, I don't need to get up quite yet. I snooze it one more time thinking that if the kids get up and eat breakfast during Curious George, I could get ready at the same time and we would actually be ahead of the game. Win-Win.

Then the door swings open and in walks child 1, so much for sleeping in late...or later at least.

On Monday I cleaned my house. It was clean for about an hour. By five o'clock the daily tornado had come through, so I said to myself, "When the kids go to bed I'll clean up again." Then after bedtime, I decided that tomorrow would be a better time to attempt another cleaning, I would hate to wake the children you know.

This is one of my 30th goals: To keep things cleaned up and stop procrastinating about doing it!
--to not leave things on the counter when I’m cooking or baking when the cupboard is just inches away
--to not leave clothes on the end of my bed rather than hanging them up.
--to not leave laundry hanging in the basement so long that it smells like basement and I need to wash it again.
--to stop coming up with things to do rather than actually doing them.

This is a daily thing for me, this procrastination. I would never have called myself one in the past, but I'm trying to re-discover myself here. So let's be honest, I am a... ... ...closet-procrastinator. I guess I cannot really admit this charateristic about myself to its fullest extent yet, maybe tomorrow.

Thrifty Acres
When I went through the check out lane tonight at the grocery store, I ended up with the same cashier from the night before. Yes, I was at the store two nights in a row. But worse, she recognized me! "I've been seeing you a lot lately," she said. I told her that my cart was so full I didn't have room for everything so I had to come back. This was partially true. My cart was full, but I wasn't sure what pop I needed to get for a party this weekend, so I had to go back.

I got to thinking though, I was at the store on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week. The same store everyday. A problem? Not if you don't like saving money.

My husband claims that half of his paycheck goes to the grocery store. I am begining to think that he is right.

I tried avoiding the grocery store...impossible, we need to eat.

I tried didn't work out.

I tried buying just what I needed for meals...I couldn't do it. You see this option requires meal planning and well, perhaps that is the part that I couldn't do.

So, I still buy what I need for dinner (this is how I end up at the store everyday!) and I stock up on things on sale that I use regularly. This results in 20 boxes of cereal, 10 cans of diced tomatoes, 8 jars of salsa and a pantry and closet full of food. Which is great, if you are feeding the masses or know exactly what you are going to do with all of these treasures.

However, this can also lead to items you think you will use, and then don't. Case in point, the marble cake mix I threw away that expired 3 years ago. I think that I can still remember buying the mix, it had a purpose at the time. The purpose obviously failed, and the poor cake mix suffered the consequences.

In an ongoing effort to actually eat us out of house and home, I have inventoried, looked through recipes and tried to meal plan accordingly. I'm usually missing a couple of grocery items to finish off the plan, so I head to the store and the vicious cycle resumes.

Goal for the 30th year number 2: To eat through the pantry, meal plan and stick to a grocery budget.

I might have to try this in baby steps, good thing I have about 10 months to perfect it.

The Life of a Fruit Fly
I hate fruit flies!

I love to get fresh produce, but have trouble with the insects that insue.

In an effort to keep my home free of them, I often flap through my kitchen attempting to clap them to death. My husband hates this as much as I hate the flies.

My average is 2 out of 10. But it is just so worth it when there is a dead one on my finger!

Tonight at the dinner table I attempted to get one. I thought that I had a chance. I didn't, the thing got away.

I told my husband that I knew it was an older one, I could tell because it was a bigger one and by its lack of speed in flight. I said that they usually only live 4 days.

My husband then thought I was cruel for trying to kill them when their life span was so short. And that they probably try to fly into a wall to die on their own so that they can escape my clapping.

Either way, they end up dead and I feel better.

Fruit Fly Update
Because this really IS important in the broad scheme of things...I clapped a fruit fly to death tonight. It flew right in front of my face, I backed up a little and clapped.


The best part: My husband was sitting across the room.

I said nothing, just held up my hand. The dead fly was stuck to my middle finger.

Point made.

I'm Letting Go
I have been thinking a lot about my goals. Sometimes I think that they are attainable, and most of the time I think not.

Yesterday my oldest had preschool orientation. I dropped my youngest off, went to school, picked up a celebration lunch in honor of the newest preschoolers (my son and nephew), went back to my youngest, had the lunch, let the kids play and then head home. I was hoping (dare I say praying) that my kids would nap. I should've known better. Before I knew it dinner was upon us, the evening activities and then bedtime.

No goals were met, no progress made.

By this morning the discouragment had gotten to me. Now, don't get me wrong, it isn't like I have 300 goals that I'm crossing one off each day. I just hope to make a step in the right direction each day. Yesterday had no direction.

My mind was in 100 different places. Not only were my goals running in my head, but thoughts about my son and his new beginning as well. I have feared for the last year (and really since he was born) that we weren't teaching him enough, or not the right things, or sheltering him too much from the big, bad world. I worry about him making friends, having fun, getting picked on, embarrassing himself...the list could go on. We headed into school and made through a "practice day". Being there just made me think of more questions, more concerns and more worries. My Mess just got worse.

The whole day ended. I had gotten what seemed like nothing accomplished, added new thoughts to my jumbled mess and realized that getting anything accomplished this year could be impossible.

"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"
Matthew 6:27

This morning on my way to work I was listening to my new Francesca Battistelli CD. The song "I'm Letting Go" came on. As I thought through yesterday, this morning and all that is in my head, I started listening to the words. I have heard this song numerous times, but I had not really listened. God was speaking to me this morning, there is no denying it.

I constantly feel like I'm drowning and there is no getting to the top. I'm holding so tightly to my own selfish ambitions that sometimes I can hardly breathe. I am clinging to my own thoughts, decisions, and goals...which are suffocating.

I said in my first post that the focus needed to be in the right place for the mess to be beautiful. Hearing this song reminded me, yet again, that my focus has not been in the right place.

I'm letting go.

(As I wrote this post the radio was on...this song came on in the middle of typing. The odds of this happening: 100% in God's favor! )

The Domestic Helper
After writing my last post, I'm afraid it might sound as thought this blog is no longer relevant. No, I'm not giving up my goals, I'm just coming at them from a different angle, with a better Christ-centered focus. Although they are my goals, so mostly about me, I'm attempting to not think of them in a self-centered, self-affirming manner. I want to conquer my goals in a way that fulfills my purpose here, to better my faith, myself, my family and to encourage any one else who relates to these thoughts to do same in their own life.

With that being said...

Last year my sister pursued canning, and I went along for the ride. I have since wanted to find a wonderful spaghetti sauce that I could make and can to have ready at a moments notice. I have not been able to find a brand at the grocery store that I have fallen in love with. I've been collecting dozens of homemade recipes, but have not tried any of them. Canning a sauce seemed like the option that fit for now and I thought it would be fulfilling to make my own.

At this point in the journey let me introduce you to my sister. She is often the source I turn to for crafty, creative inspiration and usually the one who is able to actually figure out what I want to accomplish. A lot of my friends think that I am crafty and creative, but they have not met my sister. She takes things to a level that I cannot. I often attempt something, she does it better and then I copy her. I of course do this in a loving fashion, and there is always an abundance of laughter involved. We are now moving on into food explorations, and I am thoroughly enjoying the ride.

My Grandma canned all her life. My mom swore she would never touch it. My sister is a bit more into it that I am, but I'm getting there. For me it depends on what we are going to can, but it really comes down to wanting to do something my Grandma did, as well as having a great time doing it with my sister.

One of my goals is to be "homey" in the kitchen. (Note: this is not home-ly) I want to be able to make food from scratch, to cook without recipes some of the time. I want to try new foods and techniques, to teach my kids how to bake and cook, and to make fond memories that involve all aspects of food.

Back to the sauce. In a recent addition of Better Homes and Gardens there was a simple recipe that seemed to have promise. So in my true fashion, I told her to look it up and let her figure it out.

Last night I "helped" make the recipe. And then held down a stool while she processed it. We had a great time! I brought my camera, forgot that I had it until I got home and so, never took a picture of any of it.

We did taste the sauce, and it was wonderful so far. It is sitting on her counter, so when I get my jars I will post a picture with a little more detail. However, since this was my major accomplishment of the weekend I thought I should document it.

My Pretty Good-Fantastic Curtains
I decided this year to make a few new sets of curtains for my kitchen. I want to be able to change them with the seasons, or just whenever the mood strikes. Yesterday I made some fall-ish curtains.

I brought the fabric home on Saturday and my husband said "those will look nice". I was shocked. This was not what I expected him to say at all. I really didn't think he would say much more than "Oh".

So I worked diligently on them yesterday to get them done in a day. As bright as my kitchen was with no curtains, I didn't need my neighbors seeing too much of us. I completed half of them in the afternoon and the others after 10 pm last night. They are great - if I do say so myself.

And apparently I'm the only one who thinks that. My husband looked at them and said "They look pretty good."

Pretty good.

I think that this is an oximoron of sorts. Pretty - a nice word. Good - what you strive for in elementary school on your report card. However, when you put them together they become something else.

Pretty good.

Pretty, as in almost, or close to good...but not quite good. I'm not even sure how to say what I think, or rather how I feel, when I hear this.

It's like saying:
"Close, but not quite."

"Not fabulous, just pretty good."

How did two positive words turn so negative?

My husband disagrees with all of this. He doesn't understand where I'm coming from. I think that he should have just stuck with the "Nice" comment.

My son listened to this whole exchange while finishing his dinner. When just he and I were left in the kitchen he got down from his chair, came over to me in the kitchen and said "Mom, I think that your curtains are just fantastic!" I even got a hug.

Perhaps there is hope for future generations...because the current one is a lost cause.

A Pretty Good Meal
I have two weeks out of the month when I work three days (normally only 2). These are my least favorite weeks because things get out of control during that time. The papers and dishes pile up, the meal planning suffers, the budget is thrown out the window due to take out and I get stressed.

I decided on Sunday that this week would be different. I thought about what is the biggest stress of the week and realized that it was food. If I don't make dinner we get take out. There usually aren't leftovers for lunch so we go out to lunch and ruin the budget twice in 24 hours. So rather than continue this cycle I made a plan for meals.

Tonight I worked, but put a roast in the crock pot. A nice warm, meat and potatoes meal with leftovers. My husband said "It was pretty good."

After all we been through with this, that is the comment.

I said "Really, you couldn't come up with anything else?!"

I'm thinking of bagging the rest of the week and making him the new cook.

It Didn't Happen Overnight
I recently read a posting on a blog that I visit occasionally. It is a money saving blog with other life tips/posts thrown in. In an attempt to start couponing and building a more appropriate grocery budget I wandered back to see what I could learn. Upon review of a few older posts I came across one that hit close to home, and had nothing to do with my groceries.

Your house didn't get the way it is in one day, so you aren't going to fix it in one day either.

When I was younger I had one room to care for. I rearranged my bedroom every month. I cleaned out my closet regularly. I organized my drawers meticulously. Then I moved to college. I had a slightly larger room to care for and a roommate. We did a great job creating a liveable, inviting dorm room. Then I got married.

I spent the first week of married life trying to put our house together, or away depending on how you look at it. I don't know that I've ever gotten it right. During my first pregnancy I figured the nesting would kick in and my house would get organized...I later changed my deadline to due date of baby #2. There was no nesting during that pregnancy, and my house is still the same as it was.

It isn't that my house is dirty, our socks do not turn brown walking around the house, and it isn't really messy, per's just an unorganized clutter, to put it nicely.

I am constantly re-organizing the same areas, and not making any progress. I try to feel better by saying "If I had a whole day that I could re-work things around here I'd be all set."

First of all, I don't think I'll ever get a whole day to do something this impossible. And secondly...I read that post and things became a little more clear. I know that baby steps are the way to go, but when I have to keep cleaning up the same room, or spot, every time I clean I don't feel like I'm getting anywhere.

MY house didn't get the way it is in one day, so I am not going to be able to fix it in one day either.

So...where to begin...?

This is one of my biggest challenges that I want as a goal. This is the goal that will need lots of steps to accomplish.

Last night I put away all of my loose recipes that I have riped out of magazines or collected along the way.

One task down, 999,998 more to go.

Mother of the Year
This morning I did not win any awards.

By the time we were in the car to go to preschool my son and I had each cried two times - for separate reasons, so four episodes if you're counting.

As we walked up the path towards school I realized that I had forgotten to pack shoes for my son. I then attempted to stop my failure tears before my son noticed and started his own.

In an effort to protect him from embarrassment, I told him that I would quickly get him shoes and bring them back to school.

As I drove towards the store I was quickly trying to make decisions,
--should I go to store A or store B?
--should I buy more than one size? What if the ones I buy are to big/small?
--should I try to fly home instead (we live 15 mins, one way, from school)?
--why am I spending non-budgeted money on shoes when he has 4 other pairs at home?

So, for my stupidity in forgetting the shoes, in an effort to protect my son from potential humiliation, and to attempt to do what seemed best, I drove to store A, bought one pair of shoes and ran back to school.

"These shoes are awesome Mom!"

Oh hallelujah! Crisis averted. Hug child, apologize for screwing up and send him back to class.

"MOOOMM! These are too big, they're too loose" Start both of us.

After trying to explain that he would just have to wear them for the next two hours and then he could take them off, there wasn't much more I could do. I sent him to his classroom and walked away.

I made it to the car before I broke down.

I know...they are just shoes, this is really not a big deal. But this was just the outlet for the tears and failure that had been building.

In an attempt to get life back to normal after the holidays I have put my house, cleaning, personal goals and agenda before my kids. It has been reflected in my attitude, my words and my actions (or lack their of) with my children.

I have been letting them down, and today was the breaking point.

I could go on, but I'm not really sure where I'm going from here. I know where I need to be, but struggle in getting there.

Tomorrow is a new day, and for now, I will start with that.