Friday, December 4, 2015

Pretty, happy, funny, real, advent!

I pulled it together and made our prayer place prettier. I cleaned it up. It is simple, but works. We went out in the snow and gathered greens on our morning walk. Well, I did while thhe kids clobbered one another with snowballs. I would like to add some cedars boughs. Sure we can find some soon. I have candles in the roght colors, and a beautiful Christmas candle with mother and child I made last year that will suffice for one more year.
I put the home made animals over by the potted plants (which in itself is a little corner of charm I pulled together in the front window. Potted up herbs before the garden froze!) and little hands moved them back to the prayer place, so somebody really cares about them. Some were broken when friends came to play recently, so maybe we will make a fresh batch?

So happy to be doing an Advent devotion daily! I just love it! The middle son told me this week that he likes our little prayer things, and some children have begun chiming in on the prayers, instead of just reading them. So, I will count that as pure joy and call it happy indeed.
I am also so happy to be using the Charlotte Mason educational methods. This framework of ideas is just the right level of structure for us, and we are beginning to see the fruits of our labors. It is adding up to joyful learning! All the little, humble pieces fit together and become a bigger, beautiful whole.

Eldest said yesterday that he likes seeing people's eyes more, now that it is winter. He said everyone is squinting in the summer. I like that way of thinking of it. Here, in these dark, perhaps drear days, we have our eyes wide open. We are watching. At least until the blinding, icy sunshine of January!

Thinking hard about trying to get the house more ready for hosting holidays. Tumbling it around. We are quite hopitable in certain ways, and not in others. Great in having folks over for special dinners on regular weeks, not for any fanciness at all.
So wondering what is next. I do avoid certain types of work, while embracing others. Taking to simplify more... What can be shed to be more ready? Which are the damp, dreary places that need attention next, and what ruinous corners can we nicen and reclaim, to the glory of god?
I caught a renewed vision for the valor of handwork, order, and the faithful fight against encroaching chaos on our trip in Appalachia. It is a real and difficult work.
Also real: I cannot seem to upload pictures from my tablet to blog. There must be some simple solution, but it has stymied me for the moment.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Satchel for Sketching in real life.

Pretty: Artwork

       Trying to rekindle my art, I read a biography of E. H. Shepard, who drew the original pictures for the Winnie the Pooh books. I was struck by Shepard's life long practice of drawing all the time!  He just drew everywhere!  On whatever he had! On both sides of all kinds of scraps of paper! All the people and exciting happenings and characters around him!

 I'm trying to make my art fit my real life rather than changing my life to accomodate art. 
So---I pulled together my art essentials to make this old satchel a grabbable art kit! The leather bag is military surplus from somewhere in Europe. I've had it since high school.  It's beginning to crack, but I'll use it as long as I can.  The stamp is too faded to read.

All that stuff fits into the satchel, (9.5x8x2.5") which has a shoulder strap.  Pencil, ink, paint; plein art, illustration; I'm ready. 

I've started working more on real watercolor paper.  I don't really want all my sketches to be on the edges of church bulletins and crowded round about with notes about other things.  This sketching is all the art I have time for!  I might as well set myself up to do it in a way that will be satisfying.  This way, if I get a drawing I like, I don't have to tear or cut it out of something, or leave it cloistered in a notebook, or sacrifice whatever is on the back of the page.  I can put it up on the wall, give it away, ink it or paint it.

At the moment, I'm working on a little booklet that will have recipes and instructions for baking bread.  It's for a little class coming up where I pretend I'm a live cooking show for a few friends. 

Happy: a clear work space!
This is my secretary, a piece of furniture that I mildly hate.  It is about as big as our refrigerator, though much less useful. I have thought about painting it.  Fie on faux wood panelling! Most of it is oak, varnished and slightly spattered with stain.  Was the natural oak grain not grainy enough? It's a little too high to actually work at, so I mostly just pile things on it.

I have lately, however, been keeping it straight more of the time! This is a miraculously tiny amount of stuff for this space! There are bottles of ink in that little box.  My parents shop at Trader Joe's a lot, and they just have the best packaging.  I begged the box off of them when they'd finished the chocolate that came in it.

Unfortunately, the second picture of the secretary is the after. When people come over, I panic and pile and stuff.  It was our day to have the whole beautiful little pile of children at our house, and I haven't undone from that.  I did, however, manage to keep up with dishes through the day, and that is something to celebrate!
The whole area is waay better than it used to be. 
See the pencil sharpener?  I screwed it right on to the secretary.  It was mounted in a closet when we bought the house!  What a deal, right?  I'd been looking for one just like this for a long time, and it's great! It sharpens any size pencil.  It does not sharpen crayons.

Gibbie caught us a whole walleye dinner in June, fishing on the St. Croix. We fried them up, for our family plus a couple guests, and were able to offer some seconds!

Funny: The kids love to make a huge mound of bubbles when they do the dishes.  I think Ezra is about to do them here.  That's why he's so happy.  William is mad, even though all he has to do is straighten shoes, the easiest job in the world.   Some people, not mentioning any names, like to blow the bubbles all over the kitchen.

Real: Can't find the kids?  Look up. This is a pear tree, climbed to avoid picking cherries last month.

 I've noticed quite a few people basically don't want kids to climb trees much.  As in, see a kid in a tree, tell them to get down. I'm not sure whether the concern is for the children or the tree, but it doesn't bother me too much.  We do try to avoid trees that are very small!  If the branches are bending down when climbed, let that tree get bigger!
Anyhow, happy summer!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wise Woman's words, via MacDonald

 From The Wise Woman and the Princess; a Double Story.  by George Macdonald:

That is my part of the work.  
Now you do yours.
But first let me remind you that if you had not put it off, 
you would have found it not only far easier,
but by and by quite pleasant work,
much more pleasant than you can imagine now,
nor would you have found the time go wearily.

She sat down again to think
what was to be done.
But there is very little indeed to be done when 
we will not do that which we have to do.

But just because she ought,
she wouldn't.
Perhaps she feared that if she gave in to doing her duty once, she might have to do it always--
which was true enough--
for that was the very thing for which she had been especially born.

We read this story; a novella, a fairy story, what? on the women's canoe trip just a month ago.  It's an old favorite of mine.  Still turning it over in my head.  And working on doing and enjoying the work I have been given.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Pick-Me-Up!

So, I'm planning my work and working my plan with Mystie Winckler at Simplified Organization.

These kids are helping me plan my work and work my plan.  Can you tell?

As I said in the last post, I talked a couple of friends into signing up with me for this e-course to simplify and organize my life.  I've been working on this for years -gulp- but this format is really helping me.

This summer has been fulfilling artistically--it's been jam-packed with creative and personal projects!  But all the practical stuff has spun into chaos!

The course is really positive, really practical, and really purposeful.

The big surprise so far is the positivity.

 I had slid into despair over my house!  I hadn't noticed.  I just thought I was bad at organization and increasingly forgetful.  This summer did a lot of explaining, "I'm so sorry... I totally forgot.  You see, I'm just really bad at scheduling... and getting things done.... I'm like a pocket with a hole."  In fact I was starting to tell myself that all the time, like a pocket with a hole.
One of the beautiful things this summer has been face painting.

Mystie's admonitions to smile at my family while working, and take my discouragement and turn it into gratitude?  Like a splash of cold water, waking me up.  I hadn't realized how much I was internalizing this sad picture of myself.  I also didn't realize how little I was smiling.  One of my kids confirmed it the other day when he said, "Why are you sad today?  I just wish you were happy." I wasn't unhappy--I was happier than the day before!  And, while shopping, I took my little one in the restroom/changing room to try on some clothes and he said, "Do you want to be in the bathroom by yourself?  So you can cry, Mama?"  This underlined for me the attitude I project about our life--one possibly more negative than I actually feel--and how greatly it affects them.  How they love me and care how I'm doing, whether I realize it or not. What a difference some smiling could make.

Happy fun from Willem's birthday party!
Do we tell ourselves the truth about ourselves?  The truth sets us free.

I clicked "done" on each of the activities in the first module of the course because I had started them, but I don't want to rush on by.  I think I will take some time to go over each one and work on it some more.  Isn't that the advantage of a self-paced course?

Kids get elaborate in their requests if they can ask for anything--full face and both hands!
It's also helping me to see what I really do.  Before, I just thought that I didn't do enough.  That Not Enough felt inexplicable and intractable.  How could I ever do Enough if Not Enough was so hard and tiring?  This course is not at all just giving me a new or longer to do list, but helping me to actually do what I have been attempting for so long--making a better list, one that will be both more effective and less tiring; and having a more free and competent approach to the whole plan.

The tasks in the first module of Simplified Organization are things I can do.  They are doable things. Not cleaning and organizing the whole house all at once!  They have been difficult for me because the attitude shift is seismic, but they have made an immediate and positive difference.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

On the Simple Life

So we just returned from a week (almost) in the wilderness. This is a picture from our trip two years ago, and that was ALL the stuff that our family brought.  I think one of the reasons I love camping is that it's the only time I'm away from our stuff.  When we're on a canoe trip, everything on my To Do List, I can do that day.  And there is little enough of it that I needn't write it down.  And I do do it.  No regrets.  No crying over the undone, or hauling piles of Undone up and down stairs. 

I love, in the wilderness, how little we can live on.  How we don't need so much because we have learned what just the right things are, and just how much.  I find that there's less in between me and God.  I can hear better.  Think better.  Breathe more deeply.

Every time I go, I want to bring it back.  I want to cast aside everything that hinders.

I want to imitate my train-hopping friends who carry all their stuff on their back. 

So, because of that, and a series of consecutive days with long bouts of crying over my inadequacy at cleaning, which I've been trying so hard at for YEARS and my overwhelmedness at life's big busyness, and some prayer and really feeling ready to do something drastic, (in a constructive, ok, I really need help kind of way) I tentatively signed up for Simplified Organization by Mystie Winckler.

I think this woman is a genius.  I've been trying to put it together.  So hard.  This summer I did some creative directing/ design work for our church's day campish adventure for kids, and it was so clear to me--I can do some creative things other people can't, but I am deficient in organizational and administrative ability.  I flourish when creating, but give me a list of things to get done, and I will not only not get the things I blithely promised I could pick up, I will likely forget which notebook I wrote it in, worry about it a great deal for a while, and then
forget I ever had it. 

Over the years, I've learned a lot.  I've been sighing with recognition, taking notes, bewildered, and stymied by FlyLady, Messies Anonymous, Getting Things Done, Hoe Comforts, Pomodoros, and a host of other people and groups teaching about homemaking, housecleaning, simplification, and organization.  I even had a wonderful housemate who invested a great deal of time helping me clean and simplify and purge every room of our house, including the basement.  It was a labor of love!  I needed a lot of hand-holding in order to let go of things.
Doing lots of projects like this may be a contributing factor to our home's exuberant spirit and lack of tidy.
I've learned and implemented a ton from Leila Lawler's great blog, LikeMotherLikeDaughter, Margaret Kim Peterson's profound and unlocking book, Keeping House.  I've really learned things.  I always have a meal plan and (twenty minutes after my husband was ready to leave for the grocery store) a shopping list.  Still, I read another book, underline everything, and discover that I already know what I need to do. I figured it out when my first son was eighteen months old. I did it for two weeks, stopped, and forgot what it ever was.  My house is not usually reasonably tidy.  Neither is it usually disastrous.By y standards, at least!

But it is usually too chaotic to comfortably host another family with little kids for a day of lessons and play.  Which we need to do regularly!

So I'm trying this e-course.  Which is a big deal for me, since I'm kind of allergic to technology and screen time.  But it's self-paced and I got two real-life friends to sign up with me.  I figure we can talk in real life or at least on the phone; that make it more friendly and realistic for analog me.
It's safe to say that nearly everyone in my family is  better at making things than cleaning them.

So, after that lengthy prologue, a short update:

I'm getting our space for lessons ready this week.
I'm not going to use google calendar, but may try to get more space for my calendar in my planner so it will be more effective.
I'm using simpler, shorter daily to do lists.

I was initially frustrated by the first module's philosophic emphasis on attitude.  I decided to work through it faithfully.  It is more practical than I first thought. As in, she addresses practical stuff too.
But the attitude bit itself was also practical. For me, it means replacing critical thoughts with gratitude.  This has made an immediate difference.
I realize that most of the books I've read advocate an apocalyptic cleanse of the house.  That I have done.  More than once!  Apparently what I need is more a change in behavior.  And deeper, my mindset and expectations?  Still getting my head wrapped around this.                                                                                                                                            
Smiling when I'm overwhelmed and discouraged?  Sounds cliche.  Sounds Little Orphan Annie fake.  But also sounds kind of pleasant.  I'm giving it a try.