Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Life Changing Magic of Looking Up

I'm a sucker for self help books.

Actually, I'm just a sucker for the written word.  If you want to get through to me, write it down!  I refuse to listen to a podcast.  I will skip the video and go straight to the transcript below.  And if there is none, well, it probably wasn't too important to begin with. 

My whole life pretty much revolves around books, articles, blogs, newspaper clippings, cereal boxes.  I devour whatever my eyes come across.  This is how I learn, relax and find inspiration.

I am often in need of inspiration.

In August it was Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full by Gloria Furman.  These simple but profound gospel meditations exhort mothers to seek the all sufficiency of Christ through every challenge.  It was like a drink of cold water on a summer's day.
Last month it was The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer.  It prompted a few panic attacks and an Amazon buying frenzy in an attempt to get my sloppy school up to Classically Inspired standards.  I have yet to recover.

This month has been all about The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  Since school has started, the house has definitely been neglected.  Oh, who am I kidding?  I haven't dusted regularly since my second child was born.  I need help!

I first heard of  TLCMOTU when my friend, Rebbecca showed me this really weird way of folding one's garments.  It was like origami, for jeans!  Then I heard how this quaint Japanese lady thanked her socks.  Every day!

Like a cherry blossom, the KonMari method of decluttering, folding and organizing began to blossom across my consciousness.  She was everywhere!  When I finally looked into borrowing it from the library, there was an eight week waiting list.

The timing was perfect.  I could not have dreamed what began as a remodeling project would end with my ten year old in the hospital and TLCMOTU was going to be the key to pull it all together.

Cy has asthma.  Unusually well  behaved asthma, ninety percent of the time.  This is the other ten percent.  When his airways react, they are stubborn!

We have been planning on getting rid of our nasty carpet for years.  But, you know how it is.  Projects are daunting.  You've heard the old proverb, "It's easier to live with the carpet you know then take a chance on the tile you don't".  Or something like that.  But Miss Sherry upset the whole thing when she gave me re-upholstered chairs as a birthday present.  After that, the dining room just HAD to be painted!  And so it went, one change fostered another until at last, we had the ancient carpet removed and wood styled tile installed and the living room painted.  My hope was that this would eliminate the heavy, dusty air in our home and be much healthier for Cy.  And I think it will do just that.  But at about the time we did all this is when Cy started having allergy trouble.  Which led to Strep Throat.  I could see him declining every day.  I gave him his rescue inhalers faithfully.  We went to the doctor repeatedly, but it wasn't enough.  I couldn't keep him out of the hospital.

So, what does all this have to do with TLCMOTU and origami for jeans and the twisted title?

You see, in the hospital I had time to reflect on the book I had just finished.  I was uncertain while reading if it would do me any good.  I mean, some of her requirements are just too wacky.  She actually communicates with her stuff !!!  But, I have been seriously and literally asking God for wisdom to get my home in order.  I have felt convicted for not better utilizing all my resources and for all the waste.  I have been chafing under the distinct  impression that things were not the way they were supposed to be.  I was missing something.

And now, I'm being reminded that it's my duty to keep my son's room the cleanest room in the house.  I remonstrate with myself for being too lax to enforce strict medication regimens.  I am bewildered to learn that my open window, line dried clothing, candle burning, flower child policies might have contributed to Cy's locked down airways. 


Something has to change.

And so I look up.

Because the only Life Changing Book is God's Word.

There are no rules to life other than the two great commandments: Love God and Love Others.

I don't have to do things exactly the way it is written in some old book.  It's not the power of words on a page from a guru of education or from a guru of organization that holds sway over my life.  It's the power of God's revealed will in the Holy Bible.  It's the power of the Holy Spirit, indwelling, nudging, guiding me through this mess we call life.  And, sometimes, He guides me to interesting books that have applicable tips.  Have you ever prayed over what book to read next?  Try it some time! 

What I am learning right now is to pray over every. single. thing. 

*The grocery list
*The grocery sales for the week
*The menu
*The To Do list
*When to chuck aforementioned list
*School curriculum
*When to panic over children's reading levels
*When to chill over children's reading levels
*What color of tile to choose
*How to remove gum from the dryer
and last but not least
*How to organize my home

God cares about each and every one of these issues.  He created me for this job and He created this particular job for me.  He has promised to give wisdom to everyone that asks.  Habits of thrift, industry and excellence are praised in His Word as virtues to be cultivated.  Why not look up and ask your Father?

And so, I know things have to change.

I look up.

Here is the game plan, subject to change as God leads:

I will embark on an extreme purge of our junk worldly possessions.  Armed with the KonMari secret to letting go of the superfluous, I will no longer be held to my junk by guilt.  The Japanese mindset is very mystical.  The objects have personalities and souls.  Miss Kondo brings this to her closet by treating the shirts the way the shirts want to be treated.  She has no guilt for releasing an item that no longer brings her joy.  It has fulfilled it's purpose, either as a gift to bring joy or as a purchase to fulfill a need or maybe just to teach a lesson such as, "I hate that color and will never buy it again."

 So, am I saying that I should adopt this Eastern mystical view? 

No!  It is an Animist and Shinto superstition.

But what if I held each object in my hand, thanked God for the purpose He had for it in my life and then either carefully put it away to be used and enjoyed or thankfully released it as it's purpose has already been fulfilled?  What a different approach to cleaning!  No more guilt.  No more hanging on to things that have no purpose in my home.  Keeping only what is needed and treasured.  Taking care of each treasured blessing, instead of tromping all over the fallen clothes on the bedroom floor. 

This is my vision.

This is my mission.

My family's health depends on it.

My sanity depends on it.

I hope to keep you updated as I implement this exciting new outlook in our home.  I can hardly contain myself over the laundry origami!

Cy is home now, after two days in the Pediatric Hilton.  We enjoyed the time together, one on one.  We, or at least he, had great food, cable TV to watch Walker, Texas Ranger and the History channel and a seriously gorgeous view out the window.  It almost felt like a retreat.  Now that we're home, I'm getting up every four hours to administer breathing treatments.  My darling husband, who held down the fort while I was gone, is snowed under by the flu.  I'm exhausted and overwhelmed.  But, what else can you do when weighted down, but look up?

The view is worth it!

Friday, October 23, 2015

In Which I Tidy My Unmatched Socks

I began Marie Kondo's cute little tome, The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up, this week.

I must say, it is a very timely book as my house is currently a wreck.

I must also say, I am torn betwixt eagerly embracing her method with all my heart or tossing her book into the library return cart with greatest disdain.

Once I decide, I'll let you know.

In the meantime, I am feverishly reclaiming my house from the twin vortices of remodeling and a major family trip.  Because, you know, Elle's 4th birthday party is TOMORROW and I'm having about thirty family members over for a girly tea party!  I don't have time for stinkin' tidy and toss.  I'm full on stash and dash!

Or at least, I should be.

There is so much for me to do and I can't settle down to do any of it, hence I am sorting my socks and blogging about the experience.

Marie Kondo actually has a theory about such behavior.  It explains why we have to feverishly tidy instead of studying for exams and such.  She says that instead of addressing the inward turmoil in our heart, we futilely address the turmoil in our surroundings.  Hmm, I'm going to have to think about that one for a bit.

Anyways, I know you clicked on this to hear about my socks, and I am loathe to disappoint.

Imagine this basket, full to overflowing with lonely socks
This was my official home for displaced socks.  A broken down laundry basket.  I would toss all single socks into it.  Once we had all run out of clean and matched socks to wear I would call a sock party.  Sometimes we would play Go Fish . . .

"Do you have a white ankle sock with a green stripe on the toe?" 

"Go Fish!"

I can't imagine Ms. Kondo doing such a thing with her socks.  She insists they be treated with respect.  Since I haven't actually read her sock strategy yet, I'm forced to improvise.  Because of intensive re-arranging in my room, I have recently lost my designated "sock nook".  Beside, broken down laundry baskets full of errant socks don't spark joy.  At least, not for me.

What does spark joy?


My shoe box of socks!
This is the latest and greatest in sock matching innovation.  Behold, a shoe box filled with ziplock bags filled with sorted socks.

Here it is, all broken down . . .

1 bag of men's dark socks
1 bag of men's white socks
1 bag of boys mostly dark socks with some assorted color
1 bag of boys mostly white socks with some assorted color
1 bag of boys once-upon-a-time white socks
1 bag of girls socks
1 bag of MY* socks

*there are only two in there.  I respect my socks.

I will, theoretically, compare each newly recovered unmatched sock against my organized sock data base, hopefully matching Bonnie with Clyde and restoring them to circulation.  After a few months, I should know which socks have mates and which were tragically eaten by the dryer.

There you have it.  The broken down laundry basket with the hopelessly lost socks will be thrown out.

Because broken down laundry baskets with hopelessly lost socks just don't spark joy, doggone it!

But shoe box data bases do!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Summer Summary

Alvin, the Bee Keeper

Summer tends to intimidate me.

I feel this crushing pressure to make the season magical with campouts and homemade ice cream and fireworks and lightning bugs galore.  Then there is the awesome garden that I will manage along with educational opportunities that I will craft.  And, I will rest and recharge and be raring to go when fall arrives.

It's not too surprising when I burn myself out around the 4th of July.

It happens every year.

This year I decided to try a slightly different approach.  It's not that I scaled back as much as I tried to be more intentional in what I did and recognize when I actually achieved a goal.

To begin with I made a list of all the things I wanted or needed to do this summer, a bucket list, if you will.  I wrote it all down on two pieces of paper and duct taped them to my bathroom mirror.  (I can never find normal tape when I need it!  I don't mind using duct tape, though.  As they say, "Duct tape is silver, silence is golden." )

I really enjoyed writing my goals down and having them where I could see them every day.  It helped me not forget about some of the important events.  In the throes of VBS I could look at my list and say, "Oh yes, this is really important to me.  I am accomplishing something that I value.  Here it is on my list."  Same thing when we hit a day where we did absolutely nothing.  Instead of wondering if I should be up and doing I just looked up at my list and said, "Nope, I'm right on plan."

Summer Goals

* Math games and reading daily - Hahahaha hahahaha!  Nope, that did not happen, self congratulating post in early June notwithstanding.  My summer school program withered on the vine, just like my cantaloupe.

* Weekly Nature Hikes - My sides are too sore from laughing at the first point to be able to do this one justice.  No, we did not go on weekly nature hikes.  I tried not to step foot out of doors after the temperature hit 90.  However, we have gone hiking at various nature trails all throughout the year and it has been tons of fun.  I will definitely make the weekly hike a feature of my Autumn Goals. . . ha!

The Pond at Turkey Mountain

*  Boys Shark Party -  Now this one we actually did!  It was so much fun to celebrate all three boys birthdays at my Mother-In-Law's house.

Dee with his Shark Eye Roll

Aunt Brenda makes the most amazing cakes!

The Three Stooges

  * Family Vacation -  This one was all Robert's idea.  And it was a blast!  Deathly hot, but a blast.  We piled into the van, drove to Murfreesboro, Arkansas and dug for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park.  It was epic!  From the Heavener Runestone to the Spiro Mounds, through the Winding Stair Mountains into Southwest Arkansas, we visited a Civil War fort, swam at a water park, drank way too many orange sodas and got absolutely filthy.  It was road trip heaven.

Picture a vast field of volcanic ash

Imagine a band of intrepid prospectors in Civil War slouch caps
The heat index was 115, but that didn't deter Cy
We didn't find any diamonds, but I took home five jewels!
* Church Camp - This was an absolute wash.  Literally.  Due to historic flooding, all the campgrounds in the state of Oklahoma were underwater, so we just had to cancel it this year.  I was a little relieved.  It tired me out just thinking about it.

* Vacation Bible School - We did get to participate in VBS this year.  The kids had a great time learning about wisdom.  The highlight of the week was playing kickball with slip'n'slides and wading pools as the bases.

* Swimming Lessons - My gracious and generous Father-In-Law insisted that the children take swimming lessons this year.  So, for two weeks Cy, Dee, Alvin and Elle ventured forth to our instructor's house ALL BY THEMSELVES.  That was huge for me.  I'm so thankful for all they learned.  Elle has morphed from a tick that clung to my legs to a little dogfish bobbing around in her floaties.  Alvin and Dee both made huge strides in swimming independently.  It was definitely worth it.

* Library Program - I managed to haul my brood to several of the library events this summer, but not near as many as we used to.  But that is okay.  I did just enough to check it off my list.  Everyone earned their summer reading coupons, which was awesome.  But half the coupons wound up lost, which was tragic.

* Shakespeare In The Park - We didn't actually go to this.  And that was a win.  After a hectic week, we really needed to just be still and rest. We had a quiet night at home and watched Star Trek.  Boo-yah!

*Symphony In The Park and Old Fashioned Picnic - We weren't entirely uncultured swine, though.  We made the Symphony which is a free event at the Gutherie Greens every year.  The kids love orchestral music!  Especially when it's a fun program with plenty of Disney songs.  Cold fried chicken with grapes and Triscuits are magical when packed into a wicker picnic basket.

* Bowling - Every year I sign us up for Kids Bowl Free and every year we only bowl once.  On Alvin's birthday.  And speaking of Alvin's birthday, it was a fun packed day.  It was non stop action all day long.  And it was very low cost.  First we met up with several families for a Nature Hike at Oxley's Nature Center. Then we stopped at the park for sandwiches and to play in the water.  After that we met some more friends to go bowling.  After bowling we all went for fried pies at Fulton's Pies and Pies in Broken Arrow.  One more stop at WalMart for a Star Wars cake and we finished the day at Wednesday Night services with our church family.
This is one sticky, tired six year old.
  * Preserve Produce - Does eating your weight in fresh Pico de Gallo count?

* Movie Marathon - We watched Gods and Generals and Gettysburg to go with our Civil War summer.

* Read Aloud - We read Rifles For Watie on the porch swing all summer long.  Cy is plotting how he will write a sequel someday.  A great book that blends Civil War with Oklahoma and Indian history.  I love this story!

* Stock Up On School Supplies - Note to self, Dollar Tree is NOT the cheapest place to but notebooks and pencils.  But, at least I got it done!

* Clean House - Define "clean" . . . I did utilize some old diaper boxes to organize my pantry


* Birthday Camp Out - Dear Sons, I am so sorry that the promised camp out never materialized.  I had the best of intentions, I really did.  But the plain truth is, I pooped out.  However, I promise that each one of you did have fun and do something special on your birthday.  Here is the proof:

Discovery Museum on Dee's birthday, a la library reading coupons
Slide made of packing tape
Ultimate Jenga
Mt. Rushmore LEGO sculpture.
As for you, Cy, we celebrated your birthday at the OKC Zoo.  It just happened to be $1 admission day, too!  Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of us at the zoo, so I'll just stick one in of you in your toga addressing the Roman Senate.

Beware the Ides of March!
* Grandparent Week - The second week of August has been officially set aside as Grandparent week.  In that one week, there are two grandparents with birthdays as well as Cy.  It's typically the last week before we start back to school.  It just seems right to spend one last week in OKC and just focus on having fun with all the grandparents and great grandparents.  I absolutely treasure this time.

Grandma Joan reads the best stories!
"Sugar Daddy" accompanied us to the zoo.

Grandma Kimball gave Alvin this fan that belonged to my dad. He was tickled to own an "invention" made by the grandfather he will never get to meet.

* Planned Days of Doing Nothing -  There were about three . . . No, really, there was plenty of down time for important things like,

Tipi construction

T-Shirt Decorating

Standing Up For A Cause We Believe In

#drawthelinechallenge to end abortion

 And some really awesome naps!

So, that's our summer in a nutshell.  There was nothing really fancy.  No Disney World.  Just lots of simple and low cost fun.  I hope it generated many memories.

I know I treasured every moment.

I really enjoyed writing my goals down and having them where I could see them every day.  It helped me not forget about some of the important events.  In the throes of VBS I could look at my list and say, "Oh yes, this is really important to me.  I am accomplishing something that I value.  Here it is on my list."  Same thing when we hit a day where we did absolutely nothing.  Instead of wondering if I should be up and doing I just looked up at my list and said, "Nope, I'm right on plan."

What's The Point?

Howdy, folks.

I've missed y'all like crazy!  I do believe this is the absolute longest I have ever gone without writing.  But, you see, I've been so busy this summer doing important stuff. 

Like really important stuff.

There was a mission trip to Antarctica.

I traced the Nile to it's source.

The Nazi's never did succeed in stealing the Ark of the Covenant.

Oh, and I shined up the Holy Grail with some leftover silver polish in the junk drawer.

How was your summer?

Sigh.  Who am I kidding?  I might as well come clean and confess.

I forgot my Google password.

It's a little embarrassing.

My conscience is still bothering me.  There's more to it.  I really did forget my password.  And it really did take me an embarrassingly long time to figure out how to reset it.  And I really was busy this summer (although I don't actually own any silver polish, neither own I silver to polish) but there is another reason why I have not written a thang in over two months.

I got to reading all these Other Blogs.  Blogs that are professionally designed.  Blogs that go viral on Facebook.  Blogs that are written by exalted beings that begin with "Dear Sisters" and go on to dispense timely, relevant and convicting pearls of wisdom to the unwashed masses of overwhelmed mothers huddling in their closets.  And I think, "Who am I to write anything?  I haven't even showered today?  What could I possibly say that these ladies haven't already said in a much pithier way?"

In other words, I'm jealous.

I'm comparing myself to others and finding myself wanting.

But that is wrong.  If God uses this web log to encourage somebody or make them chuckle, then my day has been made.  Bu, I really can't pretend that I'm out here on the blogosphere writing life changing stuff that everyone around the world MUST read.  It's too much pressure.  There's too much I am struggling with myself.  You see, I kind of lost focus what this blog is really all about.  I started feeling like every post had to be profound or spiritual or have a life changing homeschool tip or have gorgeous stock images of barefoot toddlers amongst wildflowers and sunbeams. 


So, let's get back to the basics. 

Why am I even here?

 I exist to glorify God.  I'm still a work in progress.  I am NOT some spiritual guru like Beth Moore.  I don't have answers.  To anything.  I can't tell you the best homeschool curriculum.  I can't give you 7 Weird Tips To Get Your Husband To Pick Up His Dirty Socks (you won't believe #5 is even legal!) 

Here's what I can do.  I can look up to my Father.  I can laugh at myself.  I can write about all the ridiculous things that happened so you can laugh with me too.  Every now and then I might have a really cool insight that I want to share.  Or maybe I'll just copy out a poem from Kipling because my brain is fried and the closet is dark and I just ran out of chocolate.  Something, anything is better than nothing.  Because I'm a writer. And a writer has to write or shrivel.  And I get really ugly when I'm shriveled.

So from now on I hope to write regularly.  It may not be the stuff Pulitzers are made of, but it's my life.  And I'm thankful for it.