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.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Oh, it's the Far Northland that's a callin' me away!

I am leading a womens' retreat to the BWCA this summer, and thought I'd post some images from past Boundary Waters trips.  We will be on a big lake, full of islands.  One is called Three Mile Island, to give a sense of scale.

We camp on the lake shore, which is often rocky.  One can hear the water lapping on the shore, and the loons and whip-poor-wills calling.

The surrounding forest is generally mixed pine, fir, and softwoods like birch and aspen.  There are some astounding and ancient cedars.
By August we can hope for fair weather.

I believe this was a picture of our whole family's gear before we loaded the canoe!  We try to pack light.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

How Green Was My Valley

 "O, Brandy Broth is the King of Broth and royal in the rooms of the mouth.  A good chicken and a noble piece of ham, with a little shoulder of lamb, small to have the least of grease, and then a paste of the roes of trout with cream, a bit of butter, and the yolk of egg, whipped tight and poured in when the chicken, proud with a stuffing of sage and thyme, has been elbowing the lamb and the ham in the earthenware pot until all three are tender as the heart of a mother.  In with the carrots and turnips and the goodness of marrow bones, and in with a mixing of milk and potatoes.  Now watch the clock and every fifteen minutes pour in a noggin of brandy, and with the first a pint of home-brewed ale.  Two noggins in, and with the third, throw in the chopped bottoms of leeks, but save the green leaves until ten minutes from the time you sit to eat, for then you shall find them still a lovely green.
Drink down the liquor and raise your eyes to give praise for a mouth and a belly, and then start upon the chicken."

  I recently read How Green Was My Valley, by Richard Llewellyn, upon the urgent commendations of my mother.  It was beautiful.  It was melancholic and nostalgic.  Friends who would rather not read a book unless assured of a happy ending might as well just skip this one, alas. 
"My father always said that money was made to be spent just as men spend their strength and brains in earning it and as willingly.  But just as they work with a purpose, so the results of that work should be spent with a purpose and not wasted.  So in our family, since all the grown-ups were earning except my sisters and my mother and me, there was always thought before the tin was taken out of the kitchen."
"A hundred years before, a craftsman in wood had put love into his job for all men to see in that little pattern of grained woods on the lid and round the sides.  There was not need for him to spend those hours, for the box was made, but that pattern was his kiss of love, and I could see his hands passing over its smoothness, feeling its weight, having joy from the look and feel of it, and slow to let is pass into the hands of a buyer."
"O, blackberry tart, with berries as big as your thumb, purple and black, and thick with juice, and a crust to endear them that will go to cream in your mouth, and both passing down with such a taste that will make you close your eyes and wish you might live for ever in the wideness of that rich moment."
"There is happy are hens.  All day they peck for sweet bits in the ground, twice they come for corn, and in the mornings they shout the foof off to have you to come and see their eggs.  And no trouble to anybody.  I do like a little hen, indeed.  A minder of her own business, always, and very dainty in her walk and ways."

"Bad thoughts and greediness, Huw," my father said.  "Want all, take all, and give nothing.  The world was made on a different notion.  You will have everything from the ground if you will ask the right way.  But you will have nothing if not.  Those poor men down there are all after something they will never get.  They will never get it because their way of asking is wrong.  All things come from God, my son.  All things are given by God, and to God you must look for what you will have.  God gave us time to get His work done, and patience to support us while it is being done.  There is your rod and staff.  No matter what others may say to you, my son, look to god in your troubles.  And I am afraid what is starting down by there, now this moment, is going to give you plenty of troubles in times to come."

"Gaslight, when it came, made people want to read less, for comfort perhaps, and electric light sent them to bed earlier because it was dearer.  But when did people stop being friends with their mothers and fathers, and itching to be out of the house, and going mad for other things to do, I cannot think.  It is like and asthma, that comes on a man quickly.  He has no notion how he had it, but there it is, and nothing to cure it."