Saturday, September 22, 2012

We're okay.

With Mark losing his job, the post-partum hair loss finally happening, and Burgundy in her Senior year, I feel like I should be falling apart. The storyline of my life feels Very Dramatic, and I can't help wondering what's wrong with me. The fact of the matter is that while I have my moments of panic and doubt, I'm really okay.

I need to make the world understand, though: I'm very dramatic. I'm the kind of person who panics and tells all her friends about the scary lump that turns out to be an ingrown armpit hair. I put drama on the map, baby. And I'm just not feeling it, not to the degree that I feel I should feel it. Instead, I feel very confident that God is doing something big and weird and a little scary in our lives.

As soon as we found out, we listed our van for sale. I'm taking it to the other side of Houston this afternoon; there's a buyer there who doesn't have transportation to come and look at it, but he says he has the cash to pay. I'm going through the house and listing stuff on Craigslist, and if anything, I'm excited about it. I'm eagerly anticipating the day that I wake up and my house is not full of unnecessary crap.

Once the van sells, we'll have a small emergency fund in place, and our monthly expenses will go down. No more van payment, for one thing. For another, our insurance cost will go down, and lastly, I won't be driving a gas-guzzling tank all over creation every day. Mark and I did a pretty harsh emergency budget last night; we need to try to survive on just unemployment and whatever I can earn with bread making, babysitting and tutoring.

Oh, the babysitting. The day after I posted on Facebook about the job loss, a friend from church contacted me because she needs part-time help in the childcare room during the week. I would just bring Ruby and Holden with me. Essentially, I'll be getting paid to watch my own kids with others' kids.

The next major step is to sell the majority of my crafting supplies. My spinning wheel goes first even though I haven't had the heart to list it yet. I'm listing my weaving loom as well and praying someone with the space for one this large is on the prowl right now. I'm selling my sewing desk but not the machine, and I'll sell the glass cabinets in which I store my yarn, but for now, I'm not going to sell the yarn.

Finally, we have to declutter. The goal is to get the house ready to sell now so that if he can't find a job, and we can't make ends meet, we can sell the house quickly and move on with our lives. The goal is that if we have to let go of all our Stuff, then we choose it, and we are in charge of it. We will sell the house, not lose it to foreclosure. We will sell and donate our stuff, not cling to it tightly until we have no place to put all the stuff we still have.

Overall, I feel a strange sense of peace that this will all work out in the end. I don't feel it all the time, and if I let my mental discipline slip, it can get pretty dark in here pretty fast. For the most part though, we're okay. And I'll just repeat that to myself over and over. We're okay. We're okay. We're okay. It's a prayer, a mantra, and a high-five all rolled into one.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Financial Peace

Sunday at church I was sitting with my family just after Communion when one of the ministers approached me and quietly said, "I need to talk to you after the service."

Allow me to provide a little context. We've had a really rough week. Mark is losing his job, and I'm grappling with the physical and emotional implications of selling our house. I'm having trouble keeping up with all the blogging, studying, and grading I need to do for a class I'm teaching, and several people want bread that I don't really have energy to make. I had been up until after 1:00 AM that morning finishing the bread for Communion, and we were pretty typically late to church.

As Kevin, our minister, retreated, Mark leaned across Burgundy and said, "What did you do?" What indeed? You know that feeling; Mom and Dad found you out. They're going to sit you down and give you a stern talking-to. You're grounded. You failed. And I could not for my life figure out what I'd done wrong. Even as my mind told me he probably had an administrative question or wanted me to make bread more often, my stomach sank into my calves; tears welled up, and with a heavy sigh I slunk out of service to the bathroom where I hid in a stall and cried like a 15-year-old after her first break up. It was my first time to cry since finding out about the job loss on Monday.

After service, I approached Kevin and waited for him to finish talking to his son. Finally he turned and explained that the church was planning another Financial Peace University class, and they wanted to do a testimonial video for the class. In committee, he'd been given to understand that we are big fans of the program (understatement alert!), and he wanted to know if I would be willing to share our testimony on video.

I almost cried again, this time with relief and a little embarrassment. Of course I would record our testimony. I'd share it with anyone who wants to hear it. I want to write it out to send to the ministers prior to the recording, which will be Friday, so I am better prepared with what I consider the most important aspects of the class. I know I've blogged about that in the past, so I think I can dig that up, tweak it, and send it over.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


With Ruby's birth, I leveled up to a whole new playing field of chaos. I thought I knew exhaustion; I was a fool.

Right away, I figured out I'd have to get these kids on a routine, so I started with Holden. Almost overnight he accepted his routine and has been a much more pleasant little man ever since. Ruby's getting there. Most nights, she'll sleep from 10-ish until 6:30-ish. I am very pleased. And sane from all that sleep I'm getting.

Meanwhile, there are a few things I'm doing pretty regularly. Smoothies. Showers. Washing diapers. Drinking chocolate milk. Overall, I'm thinking I need to solidify some routines for myself. I want to get in shape so I can play soccer next season. I want to eat better so I have enough energy to chase these two. I want to make delicious lunches and snacks for my beautiful children, and I want my family to eat dinner together. I want to keep my house clean so I'm not mortified when I think of strangers meeting my pet fruit flies.

Starting next week, I'll be trying it out:

  • I'll get out of bed by 6 AM. Burgundy has to leave for school by 6:30 in just one more week, so this is necessary in the long run anyway.
  • I'll make breakfast and lunch all at once (assuming Ruby does not rise with me), including smoothies for myself, Mark and Burgundy; lunch for Mark; lunch and post-school/pre-band foods for Burgundy, and finger foods for Holden and I for lunch. Lunches might not be the most healthful; if I have to whip up a batch of Krap Macaroni and Cheese, so be it. I will pat myself on the back for Getting Stuff Done.
  • I'll clean the kitchen.
  • Once Holden is playing and Ruby's been fed, I'll run through my standby daily chores:
    • Make the beds
    • Spend two minutes on a crap-magnet
    • Run a load of laundry
    • Wipe down the nastiest bathroom surface
    • Start a load of diapers (work on it throughout the day)
    • Work on my dailies as time allows:
      • Monday: 30-minute blitz-clean
      • Tuesday: Dusting
      • Wednesday: 15-minute trash-toss and 15-minute declutter
      • Thursday: Lead homeschool English class
      • Friday: Pick up outside (20-30 minutes MAX)
      • Saturday: Clear out the car
Now look. There's no way I'll do all of these things every day. I have a toddler, an infant, and a teen. But I want to have a sense of where I should be and of some kind of plan to keep our home sane.

Meanwhile, my got-done list for this weekend:

  1. Cleaned the kitchen (with a little [a lotta] help from Mark)
  2. Took Burgundy birthday present shopping and to a party about 15 miles from here
  3. Bought myself a dress and a few shirts that do not make me look like a rabid "I Love Lucy" horror/fantasy clown (more on that another day, maybe tomorrow)
  4. Cleaned out the freezer (this was over 2 years later than needed)
  5. Washed, pitted and froze over a gallon of cherries for smoothies
  6. Washed and froze about a gallon of grapes
  7. Went grocery shopping
  8. Started a batch of yogurt for smoothies
  9. Cleaned up and reassembled the double stroller we got for !FREE!
  10. Responded to a fellow who might be looking for a room to rent

Saturday, August 11, 2012


I feel a little blue today. I had a haircut this morning, and I look much less shaggy now. I almost bought a tube of makeup. Well, tint-releasing moisturizer. Anyway, I was saved by the outrageous price tag: $21. Good grief. It isn't even real makeup. Just a tube of moisturizer.

Here's the thing: I don't wear make up. I haven't worn it with any kind of regularity in years. Recently, I decided to start using moisturizer just because my face has been feeling tight after washing. And I thought, "Hey, if I'm going to take the 30 seconds to rub something on my face anyway, I might as well even out the tone."  Apparently not. Twenty-one dollars? Really? Thank God I'm a cheapskate. That was a close one.

Many women choose to spend 30 to 45 minutes every morning carefully applying makeup, coiffing their tresses, ironing their blouses and putting themselves together. And it shows. They look great, have their own unique style, and they command a kind of automatic respect I really admire. Believe me, I want to be thought beautiful. I want my husband to think I'm pretty and to pursue me.

Here's the thing: I have very little free time. In that free time, I have a number of fascinating options: I can bake, knit, roll around on the dog-hair-carpeted floor with Holden, snuggle Ruby, or talk smack about music and art with Burgundy. I can write here. While I value appearance, I just don't value it as much as I do my knitting. Or homemade chocolate cake. Or the way Holden dances in place with glee when I stop what I'm doing, drop into a crouch, and say, "I'm. Gonna. GET. YOU."

Please understand that I'm not slamming women who do value their appearance in that way. Thirty minutes a day is not so much time that they won't know their kids or ever make a batch of cookies. I just don't value it myself. Not when I consider the progress I can make on a sweater in 30 minutes (not much).

Anyway, I feel a little blue today. I want Burgundy to come home; I want my house to be clean, and I want my husband to notice me in a way that I'm not really willing to put in the effort to make happen. And that's okay, I think.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Half-Baked Housework

I posted about this a couple of years ago, but I need reminding every now and then.

Half-done housework that covers everything works better than perfectly thorough housework done in one tiny spot.

My mama raised me right. We did not live in a barn, pigsty, pasture, et cetera; we were civilized people. As such, dishes always must be washed, dried (completely), and put away. The floors should be swept, mopped (including corners), vacuumed (move the furniture) and scrubbed (toothbrush and bleach on the grout; that stuff is gross). We must clean in the proper order. Vacuum first, then dust, because the vacuum kicks up more dust, and the furniture must shine all the time.

In the dressers, all shirts must be folded uniformly and stacked carefully in their rightful drawers. We have separate drawers for long sleeves, short sleeves, sweaters, t-shirts, shorts, pants, pajamas, underwear; if not for the limited number of drawers, I could divide and subdivide infinitely like some deranged maestro of the fractal wardrobe.

Yes, I'm a perfectionist.

A few years ago, I had something of an epiphany: I don't have to be a perfect perfectionist. If I redefine "perfect," I can do this without running myself ragged or guilting myself into craziness.

Yesterday when I swept and mopped the kitchen floor, here's what it looked like: I swept the crap on the floor into a pile and leaned the broom against the wall. I wasn't sure where I'd left the dustpan, so I switched gears and did the dishes. When I'd washed everything and set it out to air dry, I rinsed and wrung out my rag and threw it on the floor. Then I paced around the kitchen with my toe on the rag and scrubbed up any spots I could see while standing.

I assure you, my floor is still dirty. The clean dishes didn't get put away until much later. But the floor looks clean, and I had a clean sink for washing fruits and vegetables or rinsing future dishes for the dishwasher.

The idea is along the lines of my Got-Done list: I will do what I can and set aside my idea of what I "should" be able to do. Honestly, I have to give myself a break, because few other people in the world are going to do that for me.

Got Done List

Well, blogging did not make my got-done list yesterday. I promise, blogspot, I thought about you all day. I thought of all the things we would say together, the photos I would post and how proud you'd be that I MADE MY BED. Oh well. It's the thought that counts, right?

Yesteray's got-done list is at the bottom. I want - nay, need - to post the list, but I won't expect the world to read it or even give a rip. I will say that part of yesterday's productivity was due to the presence of my saintly mother-in-law, who comes over at least once a week to help with the kids while I run errands, clean house or whatever else needs to be done.

The hardest part of this got-done-list thing so far is not starting a to-do list while compiling the got-done list. It defeats the purpose, though, to use it as a springboard for examining everything yet to be done. Self-control, I will exercise you! The most important things will float to the top; I have no doubt of this.

Under the list for yesterday, I'm posting today's list because I can; I'll update it throughout the day. And I'll post another blog today about my attitude toward housecleaning. And I'm out.

Yesterday's Got-Done List:
  1. Put fresh sheets on bed
  2. Picked up Margie
  3. Went to 6-week post-partum midwife visit
  4. Had lunch with an old friend (our friendship is old; my friend is not)
  5. Washed, dried, folded and put away a load of diapers
  6. Washed, dried, folded and put away a load of baby clothes
  7. Washed, dried, and hung to dry the cover and straps for Holden's car seat after he smeared them with spinach-pear goop and tried to rinse them with milk
  8. Cleaned Holden's room
    1. Put away the useless baby bed parts
    2. Made the bed
    3. Rearranged the furniture a little
    4. Put away clean clothes
    5. Moved the rocking chair and ottoman
  9. Started cleaning my room
    1. Picked up and sorted dirty laundry
    2. Rearranged furniture a little
    3. Picked up trash and emptied the can
  10. Cleaned the living room
    1. Picked up Holden's toys
    2. Picked up and put in the garage a bunch of cords and crap that Mark moved from one room to another
    3. Vacuumed the rug and the rest of the floor
    4. Spent some time clearing off the "crap-magnet": a knockoff Queen Anne-style side table
  11. Swept the kitchen floor
  12. "Mopped" the kitchen floor and parts of the living room floor
  13. Washed dishes
Today's Got-Done List:
  1. Made my bed
  2. Put together Holden's car seat
  3. Folded and put away a load of clean diapers
  4. Dried and folded a load of towels
  5. Made scrambled eggs for breakfast and forced Holden to eat them because I am a cruel, sadistic mother
  6. Made myself a mocha (saved $4.38 from Starbucks)
  7. Made peanut butter toast for Holden and I for lunch and chased it with leftover sauteed greens
  8. Made Holden's bed and straightened up his room
  9. Started a load of white clothes in the washer
  10. Laid Holden down for a nap (which he certainly is not doing right now)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What have you done today?

I have Attention Deficit Disorder. I don't mean that I simply get distracted easily. I mean that I can not listen to the radio and clean at the same time. I can not fold laundry and watch a TV show. I can't make dinner and have a conversation.

Most people in my shoes have coping mechanisms, and my mom taught me a big one; everybody does it: I make lists. I have a list of laundry loads; a list of large projects; a list of small projects; a list of vegetables and fruits I want to grow; a list of all my yarn, projects, and needles; a list of all the yarn, projects and needles I want; a list of things the kids need, things I want, things I want to do.

With all these lists, I feel pretty defeated most of the time. I will never get to do ALL THE THINGS. I will never have the laundry, dishes, dinner and housework all done at the same time, and I honestly start to beat myself up a little bit about it! Now I have a six-week-old baby, a nineteen-month-old baby, a sixteen-year-old baby, and a husband. Where am I supposed to find time and energy to be superwoman AND do yoga daily?

This morning I was chuckling to myself about that thing that we list-o-philes all do: when we complete a task not on the to-do list, we add it to the to-do list just for the sheer joy of crossing it off. And it occurred to me: Why don't I make that my list-habit instead?

I think this is the best idea I've had in at least 72 hours. I hope that by keeping a list of everything I've done instead of everything I wish I could do, I'll actually feel a lot better. I work my tail off; I should feel accomplished at the end of the day, not defeated and hopeless! So here goes. So far today, I have:

  1. Fed Ruby, changed her diaper
  2. Made my own dang mocha - no Starbucks! That's $4.38 of my husband's hard work I did not waste today
  3. Taken my daughter to the airport and gotten her through check-in for an internship IN ANOTHER STATE OHMYGODNOMYCHILDCANNOTBETHISOLD
  4. Fed Ruby, changed her diaper
  5. Cleaned stuff out of the van
  6. Changed Holden's diaper
  7. Made scrambled eggs and French toast for breakfast for Holden and I
  8. Fed Ruby
  9. Changed both babies' diapers
  10. Killed several dozen zombies on my cell phone
  11. Fed Ruby
  12. Changed diapers, but did not re-diaper Holden fast enough
  13. Cleaned pee and poop off the floor 
  14. Fed Ruby
  15. Washed, hulled, quartered and froze a pound of strawberries
  16. Made myself a fruit, spinach and yogurt smoothie
  17. Made orange juice
  18. Folded a clean load of diapers
  19. Run a load of diapers through 2 of 3 cycles
  20. Gathered dirty diapers from throughout the house for another load of diapers
  21. Washed out the blender pitcher and started cleaning breakfast dishes
  22. Wrote two journal entries (as of 2:00 PM)
  23. Brought the dog in BEFORE it started raining
  24. Fed Ruby
  25. Cleaned up Holden and Mark's bed in the nursery
  26. Folded a load of blankets
  27. Started the third cycle on the 2nd load of diapers
  28. Put away the diapers I folded earlier (updated at 2:50 PM)
  29. Fed Ruby
  30. Set up bed in Holden's room
  31. Put diapers in the dryer
There, I feel better already.

Busy Mama

I recently wrote a course description for a home school writing class I hope to teach this fall. In the description, I indicated that students must keep a journal for class, and then I pointed them to this one, explaining that I will keep a journal for class, too.

Therefore, here I am again. I've been super crafty this year. I made about half a sweater, two baby layettes, two knitted Llama Llama dolls, a couple of lined, zippered pouches, a ridiculous amount of bread and another baby.

Ruby Catriona was born six weeks ago on June 28 at home after only two hours of labor. I still cramp up thinking about it. One of my blog entries will be her birth story.

Burgundy has been kicking [profanity redacted] and taking names. I took her to the airport this morning to fly to Arkansas for an internship at the University of Arkansas with Dr. Christian Goering. She and Dr. Goering will be working on his website, LitTunes, after she interviewed him for her project last semester teaching 8th grade English Literature using pop music and videos.

She's starting her Senior year this month. I can barely wrap my head around that. She had one set of Senior Portraits done this summer, and she's planning another set later in the fall. Of course, she and her current beau are planning prom already; they'll no doubt be delighted to learn that wither they goest, there also shall I be. Fun! I haven't been to a Senior Prom in 20 years. I'ma git all gussied up.

We've spent the summer working on three college entrance essays. All three are pretty generic: someone who influenced your life, an issue you care deeply about, and something you'd like to tell the world. She has done a great job on all three, writing about the teacher she mentored with in the spring; her views on modesty, and her father. When she returns from her internship Sunday, we'll pull up the national common application for colleges nationwide and start that work.

Holden started walking in February at 14 months old. He loves to run and dance, and he has so much of his father's attitude and spirit that I can't help but reevaluate what I think of Mark. Today he got in trouble for hitting me when he couldn't get my attention. I scolded him, and he squinted his eyes up and tried to stare me down with this hilarious toddler-rage side-eye look. When I burst into giggles, he burst into tears. Oops. That pride gets in the way early!

I have one more post brewing in my head, so I'm going to stop this one and start it. I suddenly have so much to say! 

Monday, April 23, 2012


I slept only 3 hours last night. My back aches uniformly from bottom to top, and my arms have that clenched, burning sensation in the triceps that I associate with sleep deprivation. I prowled around the house this morning cursing the people I love for whatever random offense I could lay at their feet. I must be getting a little better, because I recognized that I was irrational. I still have a ways to go, though, because I didn't quite get it under control before I got in the car with Burgundy for the ride to school.

I arrived home about 6:45 and made myself a latte. I took off my pink pajamas with the sudsy rubber ducky print and put on jeans and a t-shirt. I slipped out the front door as I heard Holden stirring in his bedroom (where he sleeps with Daddy) and ensconced myself on the swing in the front yard with my computer.

Here I sit with my now-empty coffee cup. I posted some thoughts on The Hunger Games and its third book, Mockingjay, on Facebook; my mouth tastes like a dirty disposable diaper smells. Off-putting, as aftertastes go. Is it the milk, the coffee, the lack of sleep or the pregnancy?

I miss my blog, and I miss journaling. I miss writing for an audience, the anticipation of knowing they'll love it, wondering if they'll hate it, or not giving a rat's ass because I need to get it out. My connection feels broken, though, and when I sit at the computer, I think of the to-do lists, my schedule, the ways I should be playing with my children, and I give up trying to figure out how to connect. How to make myself care enough about an audience to write something for it.

I suppose that's all. I don't feel connected, but I have written, and now I want to knit. La vie est si bonne.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


While eating my lunch today, it occurred to me that eating at McDonald's should register on my "sin meter" somewhere up there with pornography and drug abuse. It's abuse of my body, abuse of the animals, supporting a corporation that encourages slavery (the toys, wrappers, and boxes) and destruction of the environment (through CAFOs, cross-country shipping, and the excessive wrapping that becomes litter and landfill fodder) and ever-narrowing genetic selection of God's beautifully wrought plant and animal creations (every hamburger should not taste the same, and high fructose corn syrup is not a "real" food).

Sadly, lunch was a quarter pounder with cheese and french fried chased by a manky Dr. Pepper. I need to permanently make the shift in thinking that eating this food and supporting these practices are offenses against God, against Creation-with-a-capital-C, and against my own self. It is Destruction of the worst kind.