Wednesday, April 27, 2011

So Something’s Gotta Give. What Gives?




I began pruning my fruit tree.  Cutting the things from my life that are not as important as the “most important.”  

Now the pruning of one’s tree is going to be different for everyone.  Some people can juggle a large number of balls while others are only able to juggle a few.  I have come to realize about myself that I can’t juggle at all and I would make a horrible clown, the fewer balls the better for me.  And so began the pruning in my life.  These were some of the things I felt I could prune from my life because I, personally, had a bowing tree that was filled with too much.  

The first to cut?

Leading the moms’ group. 

I hated to admit it, but it was time for me to step down from leading my moms’ group.  I didn’t want to, but something’s gotta give, and I am not going to have my family continue being the one that gives.  I ignored my fears of disappointing others.  I began looking for a replacement.

The next cut?

A Bible study group that met once every two weeks.  This one was hard.  There is a guilt that comes with cutting anything to do with the word “Bible.”  But if I do not have the space in my life to make personal, intimate time with God, I think He’d much rather have me cut out an extra Bible activity to make room for Him in my life.

I didn’t want to cut it.  I loved seeing the girls there.  They were a group of girls with whom I had worked with years ago.  We were all teachers together, and we had had the best of the best times together.  But it was time to let it go.  If I was going to make more room for my values, then pruning was inevitable.  It hurt to prune this.  I feared it would hurt feelings, that they wouldn’t understand.  And in the end, they didn’t.  I had tried to explain myself, what I was going through, how overwhelmed I was, but all they heard from my lips was, “I am pruning you.”  I didn’t actually say these words because I wasn’t pruning them, I was pruning the twice a month get together.  But no matter how I tried to comfort them and explain, unfortunately, they were hurt by my choice. 

I found that pruning things from your life is hard and sometimes it hurts.

The next to cut?

Some of my hobbies.

I love to paint, watercolor, acrylic paint, restore furniture, whatever.  This was the next to give.  Someday, in a different stage of my life, I will have time to take part in these activities, but for now, they were to be put on hold.  My husband had been asking me, begging me to let him clean out our garage of all the projects I had collected over the years.  He had been asking me for years to stop making “project” purchases. 

I caved.   

I finally came to the realization that the physical clutter of these things were making my mental state cluttered.  I bent to my husband’s desires.  It wasn’t easy.  Let me tell you.  There were some projects with great potential, but was I really going to put my time into them instead of where it matters?

I watched as he pulled my treasures from the garage and put them in a giveaway pile. 

Goodbye wooden dresser that would have looked lovely painted a light shade of turquoise. 

Goodbye you adorable shelf you.  You may not look beautiful now painted all black and glossy, but I saw the potential in you.  That is why I bought you.  I had great plans for you.  You would have been a soft shade of pink.  I would have found a place for you…. somewhere.

Goodbye corner cabinet.  Remember when I found you?  I too will never forget you.  You are actually going to a dear friend’s house because at least I can visit you there.

I let my husband go through our garage and empty out all of the pieces I had been planning on restoring. They had been sitting, waiting for me in the garage for a very long time.  I hadn’t gotten to them, and I realized I was making the conscious decision to not get to them, but to let them go.  

By the time he finished, half of the garage was freed up. 

This pruning was hard.

As the truck pulled away with all of the things I had been holding onto, a small tear fell from my eye.  I waved to my treasures.  I gently wiped away the melodramatic tear, and then I turned around.  I turned to look at the empty space.  This empty space in the middle of my garage was so comforting to my eyes. 

Hmmm.  Empty space

I was attracted to it.

I wanted more of it.  

I pulled up a chair and sat right in the middle of it. 

This feels good.

Then I realized:

I want more empty space in my life.  

Link 
 I think I am going to go modern.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Are You "That Person" at a Party?



Are you “that person” at a party?

I have been, let me tell you, and I am sorry if the recipient of it was you. 

Over the years, I attempt to better myself, stop doing the things that make people cringe while you are talking to them.  I believe I have gotten better, matured, but every once in a while, I do it again.

“Or you could use corn syrup,” my friend A'Leah suggested concerning the question I just asked about what type of sweetener I could use for a certain recipe. 

“Oh, no, I don’t…” I paused, trying to stop my tongue from continuing, not wanting to be “that person.”  But my tongue lost all control over itself and started doing things like moving around in my mouth as my vocal chords made sounds.  My words kept going, ignoring the warning signs my brain was waving at my talking hole. 

“I don’t use corn syrup.  It’s not good for you.” 

I said it, and as the last word “you” exited my mouth, I knew what was coming. 

A'Leah turned toward me, her eyes met mine, “Oh really.  Why isn’t it good?”  She had a slight tone and a cracking smile on the side of her mouth. 

I had no idea why I thought corn syrup was bad.  I just knew somewhere in the deep files of my mind, I had heard something, read something, and I didn’t file away the facts, I only filed away the line, “Avoid corn syrup.” 

I looked at her, almost attempting to quickly scroll through my brain files to grab onto something, but I decided to give up and said, “I don’t know.”

Ya, I had become "that person" again. 

I went home that night, surprised to see this same awkward moment played out upon my television set.




And if you are “that person” at a party and you corner me and tell me things that you don’t know the facts about,

Know that I will listen and I will believe you, whatever you tell me. 

We will be “that person” to each other. 

But let’s keep our voices down low so nobody can hear us.



Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Fruit of My Life


The fact is:

I am not living my life around the people and things that I value the most. 

To be able to change I need to figure out where I am spending all of my focused time and energy.

So I made a list of what I spend my time doing.   

laundry, church, Bible study, dates with husband, playing with kids, reading to kids, quiet time with God, cleaning, changing diapers, running errands, cooking, shopping, talking on the phone, volunteering, side business, emailing, texting, blogging, Moms' group, girls' night out, coffee with a friend, play dates, hobbies (reading, crafting, restoring furniture etc.)

I sat back and took a look at this list.  This is the fruit of my life. 
 

I then decided to take a look at my values.

I took a piece of paper and drew a tree.  This would represent my values. 




I drew three large twigs hanging from it.  I wrote my values above each twig God, husband, and kids.  I added a bonus twig titled “Time for myself” because if I don’t have that then I end up going crazy. 

What I found out, when I looked at the fruit of my life, is that some of the “fruit of my life” did not fit under any of my values.     

I was attempting to place all of my fruit on my value tree.  But the problem was that it all couldn’t fit.  I found my tree to be so heavily weighed down that it left my tree at its breaking point.  It hung low, drooping over, nearly stroking the ground.  

I needed to do some pruning.  It isn’t that I am doing unnecessary things with my time.  Some of the things I am doing like laundry need to be done, can’t be cut, and don’t have a place under one of my values.  I came up with a name for these, the uncuttables:  laundry, cooking, cleaning, brushing teeth.   I don’t like them.  I don’t want to do them, but they need to be done.  I can’t cut them even if I want to. 

My husband and I evaluated our lists together.  According to our fruit, we were not living according to what we valued most.  And we were about to make decisions that would force us into spending our time doing things we didn’t value, like working for something we couldn’t afford.  We wanted to stay in Southern California.  We wanted to live in the best neighborhood to send our kids to the best schools.  We were about to buy a house that we could not afford.  Dan was going to just add another job onto the two he was doing all ready.  Would this decision allow us to live according to our values?  Would we have time to go to church, spend time with God, have time for family and family vacations?  How about time for our marriage?  This decision would have left my husband working all of the time or me having to go to work to keep up with the bills. 

Sure we value our kids, and we value them getting the best education, but is giving up time with them and time with the family to stretch ourselves to be able to afford this life worth the trade out?  What we value the most is our family.  If we have to give up time together as a family for a better education or a better neighborhood, well, then isn’t it better to sacrifice the latter to be able to spend more time together?  And what if there are other options where you can get the best of both worlds?

We decided it wasn’t worth the trade out. 

And so we determined the final answer to our dream neighborhood was a final, painstaking, nail in the coffin, NO.  We found this door to be closed tightly.  And we decided to dare not pry it open.

We saw that it was time to go through the “fruit of our life” and make the cuts that did not line up with our values. 

My dream neighborhood was the first to be cut.  Ah man.  That cut hurt a little.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What are my Values?


My values?  Oh, that’s an easy question to answer. 

God. 
My husband. 
My children. 

Of course.

Hmmm, then why am I spending the least amount of my focused time on them?

When life gets crazy, overwhelming, busy, what is the first to be cut? 

Oooo, I cringe to say the answer:  God, my husband (and sex), and my children.  

Pause.

I take this in.  I do not want to forget this realization.

Gulp.

Do they even notice?

*****
We sat at the dinner table in silence, each of us in a thought world of our own.  We are doing what we are supposed to.  Eating dinner together.  My children won’t rebel in their teenage years.  I have read the correlative studies. 

But is it the act of eating that brings a family close together? 

My mind is on too many other things to spark up a conversation that would hold the attention of us all.  I don’t have the mental energy to talk about Diego, Legos, and Dora the Explorer.  I don’t want to bring up Dora the Explorer anyway because my daughter keeps thanking her for our food at dinnertime prayers.  I can see she deals with a little bit of idolatry in her heart there.  Don’t want to encourage that.  It's gotten bad enough.



The ringing of the phone broke the silence of our meal. 

I jumped up to get it.  It was a call I had been expecting.  I did the silent pointing of my finger toward the phone indicating to my husband that I needed to take this call.  I exited mid dinner. 

I remember my dad always being interrupted by the phone at dinnertime.  I always resented it.  I loathed his real estate business because of it. 

But this was different. 

This was an important phone call for me.  The song The Cat’s in the Cradle and the Silver Spoon began playing in the back of my mind.  I cut it short when it got to the part, “When you comin home Dad, I don’t know when…..”  I didn’t need to feel guilty about this.  I wasn’t doing the same thing… or was I?

Once the kids were all in bed and the kitchen was all picked up, my husband’s affections turned toward me, or rather “turned on” toward me. 

 
“Dan, I am tired.  Not tonight, please.”

When did his attention lose its appeal to me?  When did I begin to take his affections for granted?  I am just too tired, worn out.  I have nothing left to give.  It has all been sapped from me today, and yesterday, and the day before. 

If love has to be cultivated, I am not doing a very good job at it. 

Am I too busy to be loved by him?

*****
My Bible and journal sit on the shelf.


He is waiting.  His love burns for my heart, and my heart aches to be filled by Him.  My soul is empty. 

How does an empty soul feel so heavy? 

Am I too busy to be loved by Him?


Do they notice I haven’t made them my priority?

If they haven’t noticed, they will soon.  The ‘second best’ always figures out their place in your heart or, better said, lack of place.

I am going to do something about this.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Decorating According to Mary- Children's Rooms

Decorating is such a fine art, and my friend Mary has it down to a "T".  I have known Mary for about 15 years, and her decorating skills amaze me.  

Mary is the one who wouldn't let me in her car with my homemade portable vodka cleaner.  Whatever.   

Anyway, Mary has the most adorable ideas for decorating children's rooms.  So sit back and be prepared to have your eyes tickled in a pleasant manner.


 A Place to Pull up a Chair




Organizing Children's Books 'n' Things




 Vintage Books for Classic Style
 


Second Generation Toys

 



Simple Storage



 




An Added Touch of Light

  
Mixing Patterns 




An Inviting Area for Play




 Making Storage Adorable




A Little Bird Chirping a Pleasant Tune



Mary, you amaze me!  Love your style and ideas for decorating children's rooms.  Thank you for sharing with us!

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Habit of Busyness


I am wondering the reason why I am so busy.  What am I doing with my time?  Do I really need to be doing everything that I am involved in?  More importantly, if I am so overwhelmed with life, why am I participating in so many things? 

To be able to do anything about this, I need to know why I have this habit of busyness. 

Moms have a lot to do, that’s a given.  But I am talking about the extras that throw me over the edge, the things I may be able to do something about.  The things in life that throw me...




So I decided to take a look at some of the things that may be at the root causes of busyness.

1. Feeling guilty saying no to people.

2. Living a level above one's means and having to keep up with that financial pace.

3. Busyness may bring a feeling of importance.  It can be exciting.  It can give the busy person a feeling of purpose.

4. Perfectionism.  A desire to do it all and do it really well and a difficulty delegating for fear it won’t be completed a certain way.

5. Busyness may mask pain. 

Could my problem be “all of the above”?

Mmmm, let's see...

1.Do I feel guilty saying no to people?

Yes, I do feel guilty saying no to people.  I don’t want to disappoint them.  I am also flattered when they want to spend time with me.  I want to be friends with everyone.  But being friends with everyone takes a lot of time.  Is that even possible?  I am finding it to be wearing on my family.

2. Do we live above our means?

Well, I guess I do shop at Ross Dress for Less a little too often.  I like the mall.  I buy a lot of shoes, but that is because I have bunions and my feet hurt in all my shoes, so I keep buying them to find that perfect pair.  I think that that perfect pair is a set of orthopedics.  Maybe buying myself a pair of orthopedics would save me a lot of money.  I would only need one pair of shoes.  I would look like a grandma wearing them, but at least I would be comfortable. 

We do have a lot of bills, and that may increase when we decide to buy a house. 

3. Does it make me feel important?

Of course!  I feel like a doctor when my phone is constantly going off.  Um, excuse me while I take this call.  I have been expecting it.  Oh, text!  Someone loves me and wants to talk to me.  A new email!  Whoohoo!  I got mail!  My adrenaline starts to flow.  Did somebody say my name on Facebook?  Stimulating!

I am a little social bird.  I like to laugh and make people laugh.  I love people and want to be with them constantly!  Fun!  Fun!  Fun!  Keep it coming.  Play dates.  Coffee dates.  Library dates.  Beach dates.  Oh and don’t forget Girls Night Out!  Knowing people, being loved by people, being in constant contact with them makes me feel important. 

Yah, I think I have a major problem with this one.

4. Do I have a problem with perfectionism?  Is it difficult for me to delegate, not do it all myself?

Nah, I don’t think I have a problem with this one.

5. Am I busy because I have pain that I want to be distracted from?

My grandma, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, had a stroke, and her health began to fade fast.  Her body began to shut down slowly, and then after time, it shut down all together.  During this time of uncertainty of where we are moving to, I am dealing with the death of my grandmother as well.  I don’t want to feel the pain, therefore, I distract myself.


So I may have some issues to bring before the Lord.

This habit of busyness has gone on too long.

It is time to revamp my schedule.


I am interested.  What are your root causes of busyness?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Could My Habits be the Problem?


Maybe I check my email too often. 

Maybe I answer the phone during times when I should let it ring.  

Maybe I should wait until I have down time before I respond to texts. 

Maybe I have over committed myself, my family. 

Every time I cut something out of my schedule, it seems other commitments sneak into replace it.  I want to simplify but am not sure how to.  I want to make changes, but how do I make changes when I don’t know what the problem is?  

I asked a trusted mentor mom of mine, a mother of four grown children, “If you could change anything about your past parenting, what would it be?”

Her response:

You asked if there was anything I could change regarding my past.  Well, hind sight is great.  We all make mistakes and have regrets.  My daughter was a dancer and she eventually was at the dance studio six days a week.  My two youngest were very athletic and played soccer, basketball and baseball.  They would have their regular season and then get picked for the all star team.  The sports then overlapped and we were always running here and there. Our weekends were filled and we missed church a lot.  We would not have a lot of family dinners together.  It seems like someone was always missing.

I would change all of that. I wouldn't miss church which would teach them about putting God first. I wouldn't let them do multiple sports and I would make our family and family time a priority. I just look back at those days of running and wonder how I did it all and I was always exhausted. I even can't remember a lot of memories from that time because I was just too busy. That is the saddest part of all. Don't let your life be so busy that you can't remember things. So I am with you on the simple life. God wants us to put Him first, then our husband and then our family. Everything else just doesn't matter.


Do we all just become ragged worn out taxi moms who can’t remember anything?



Oh no.  It sounds exactly like the road of motherhood I was traveling down.  


Why am I traveling down this road?  Is there another path I could take?  I need a road map.  



Could moving out of the hustle and bustle of the big city be the direction I need to go?  Could that simplify my life?  Would I really be able to entertain this idea that I have been so adamantly against?   

Before considering a major, drastic change like this, I had to find the answer to a question I had had for a long time.  

Is life more simple in different places?
   
I decided to interview people who had moved out of state to simplify their lives.  I ended up on the phone with a friend of a friend who had moved to another state from Southern California.  I asked this woman, a complete stranger, “So is life really more simple up there away from the big city?” 

Her answer was revealing. 

Eye opening. 

Enlightening.

The lady answered wisely, “It depends on your habits.  If you move and bring your fast pace habits with you, then no, it won’t be any more simple than down there.” 

Hmmm, my habits.  I never realized that my habits could be the problem.

The last thing I wanted to do was make major changes in our lives and then come to find out it was my habits that were the problem.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

How Alcohol Cleaned up My Life

Do you know what I found to solve the dirty problems of my life?


Vodka.



So there I was, looking for an all natural cleaner, in the aisles of the grocery store.

Something that was safe and nontoxic.

Something that wouldn't bother me with its fumes.

Something I could wipe the children's toys with and then they could lick them right after.  Because my 7 year old, 5 year old, and 3 year old all still lick toys.

Something I could spray around food when I need to clean the kitchen counter or sink while still in the middle of preparing food.

Something I could clean my vegetables and fresh fruit with.

Something I could spray the kids' hands with to quickly disinfect them.

Something I could spray in my mouth when life gets too hard.


Just kidding.


Anyway, it's my favorite cleaner.  And it has many more uses than I listed above.


The Recipe:

3 parts water
1 part vodka

Oh and an important tip:  Call it something else besides vodka because it is weird when your child calls across the house, "Hey Mom!  Where's the vodka?"

He uses it to wipe out the inside of his lunch box.

You can also keep a small spray bottle in your purse or car as an "on the go" hand cleanser.  But make sure you don't label it "Vodka" because your friend Mary won't let you ride in her car for fear we will be pulled over and convicted. Easy solution.  I crossed off the word "Vodka" and wrote the word "Disinfectant" below it.

It is also great if you want to make your own disinfectant wipes.  Fold up several paper towels in a gallon zip lock and squirt the vodka solution into the bag until the towels are damp.  I always take this with me to parks and public places to bath the kids with after they have rolled around in all the germs.

May alcohol clean up your life as it did mine!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Why is My Mind so Distracted?

As soon as I pull myself out of bed in the morning, my mind becomes flooded with all the responsibilities and things that I need to do that day.

I immediately go to my computer and turn it on. 


I think to myself, “I am just going to check my emails, just to see if anyone sent me one.”  I don’t have time to respond, but I am curious.  

I pull up my emails, and low and behold, I got mail!  My question is answered; I indeed have messages from friends and loved ones.   

Now I am excited.  What could they possibly be trying to tell me?  What if it is important?  Oh, maybe it can’t wait!  

O.k.  I will just read them, but I don’t have time to respond.   

Oooo, someone has a question or problem that needs me!  It's so urgent.  So important.  They can't live without me!  I can't take care of it now, but when I get home from taking my eldest son to school, I will write back.  My thoughts begin to process how to respond- later, of course.  I can’t be late again today.

My middle son creeps up the stairs, asking if Dad is still in bed so he can go upstairs to cuddle with him.  My first born then appears followed by a little voice downstairs calling, “Mom!  Mom!”  My baby girl is ready for me to get her out of her crib.   

In the hustle and bustle, where is my mind’s attention?  I can say for sure that it isn’t in the present happenings.  It is thinking about the emails that I need to respond to.  My mind is focused on something else.

“Mom, look at the clouds outside.” 

“That’s nice, honey.  Now eat your breakfast.”  My deep contemplations about emails were interrupted.

“Honey, did you see anything for me at the post office?”  My husband asks me.

“Hugh?  What did you just say?” I can't hear anything but my thoughts.  
 All of their voices sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice,
“Wha Wha Wha Wha and Wha.”  That is all I hear. 

Their interruptions begin to invade my busy mind.  I am a little annoyed.

I am seeing a pattern.  I am allowing myself to be constantly available to everyone and everything else.  Whoever and whatever interrupts me takes first in line.

I feel like I am living a “call waiting” life.   

I may be with someone, but if a text, phone call, or email alerts me with its chime, my concentration becomes divided.  My attention is constantly elsewhere.  Could it be, I have ADD?  Maybe my mind is just completely and utterly overwhelmed.




I am like a hamster on its hamster wheel, running in place, tired, weighed down, and not accomplishing much.

I want to stop the madness!  I want to focus, really focus on the present happenings in my life.  I want to be with, really be with the people who are around me.  I don’t want to be physically in one place but mentally in another. 

I am missing out on things that matter because I am focusing on things that don’t.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Distracted


What is important to me? 

When did the unimportant begin to take precedent over the important? 

The most precious things in my life are my relationship with God, my relationship with my husband, and my relationship with my childrenWhy then was I giving them the least amount of attention? 

I am so….distracted.

I wake up in the morning, my head is clear and I am ready for the new day.  I am going to be focused today.  When my children speak to me, I won’t be thinking of the emails I need to respond to.  As I am reading a book to my baby girl, I will focus on the words that I am reading instead of noting in my mind the phone calls I need to return.  I will sit down and play with my children when they ask me instead of saying, “In a minute.  In five minutes.  Oh, Sweetie, I am so sorry we have run out of time to play your game.  It is already nap time.”   

I won’t let the phone interrupt me.  I will ignore all texts that attempt to pull me away.  I will wait to look at my emails until nap time. 

The end of the day drew near. 

I did everything the way I had hoped not to.  I functioned as a busy bee.  A hamster running on a hamster wheel, running in place.  I had not accomplished much, but yet I was so overwhelmed.  Tired.

The unimportant took precedent over the important once again. 

I am not fully present in these precious moments that could be all mine. 


 

My mind is so distracted.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sake Salmon Teriyaki with Sesame Squash

 
Photo: Matt    Food Stylist: Jason 


2 cups uncooked jasmine rice
2 ¼ cups water
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup sake


5 tablespoons sugar
½ tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1½ pounds salmon fillets 

Combine rice and water; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer 15 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.

To make teriyaki sauce, combine soy sauce, sake, and sugar. In a saucepan bring mixture to a rapid boil.  Reduce heat to a light boil, and continue boiling until sugar is dissolved.  

Sprinkle one side of salmon with ½ tablespoon sesame seeds.  Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until hot.  Add salmon, sesame seed side down; sauté until browned.  Set aside until teriyaki sauce is ready.

Return salmon, uncooked side face down, to skillet.  Pour teriyaki sauce over fish.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.



Side Dish ~ Sesame Squash

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 medium zucchini, cut in half, then cut into strips
2 medium yellow squash, cut in half, then cut into strips

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

While salmon is cooking, in a separate skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add butter, zucchini, and squash.  Cook until lightly browned and tender crisp.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, salt, and pepper over vegetables.  Serve with salmon and rice.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Tardiness- A Badge of Honor


There is a reason why I am late every morning.  

I have three children.

No matter what time I arise, tardiness seems to be the case.

And when I do leave on time, there is sure to be traffic to entrap me until tardiness is certain.

When did tardiness get such a bad wrap anyway? 
Tardiness is a reminder to me of all that I have accomplished for my family in the morning.  It means I spent some time brushing hair and teeth.

I believe that tardiness should be a badge of honor. 

People should throw me high fives and say, "Well done.  What a job you did this morning!"  When the teacher marks my son tardy, she should mark it with a star instead of a solemn check mark.

So for all of you moms out there who are unable to make it anywhere on time, Kudos to you.  Wow, the jobs you must be doing at home! 

Rise up and feel proud with me that we have accomplished just a little bit more by being late.