Sunday, December 28, 2008

This is Your Brain on Pregnancy Hormones

This Christmas, I found myself both enthused about celebrating, but without my usual perseverance. I'd start something and then it'd peter out. I chalked this up to the over-abundance of endorphins these days. It's hard to care too much about some things, somehow. Not that I am uncaring!! Just that I am feeling weirdly dreamier than usual, and that impacts my motivation.

Added on to the usual too-much-to-do of the season, I found myself more than usually willing to cut back on activities. Yes, I'd bake cookies, but not too many kinds. Yes, I'd decorate cookies with my niece, but if we only got an hour of quality time together, that was still good. Yes, I'll get tickets to the concert, but I won't worry about the other event that I can't find enough energy for, even though I had been looking forward to it for the previous 6 months (seriously, it happened). I'm actually happy with how things turned out, although some people are still lacking in Christmas cards, because you know... I just ran out of steam somehow.

This reminds me of this Summer, actually. I started several cool new projects in the Spring and early Summer, only to find myself... falling asleep and unable to concentrate. Gee, I wonder why that was. Everything started changing, and all the gnashing of teeth and berating and nagging myself to do some things was completely inadequate to giving me any actual energy for those things. It wasn't even that I didn't want to do those things; I just could not concentrate enough to care enough.

So a number of very fine things in my life fell by the wayside. Some things don't feel as interesting or as important as before. I've learned that - oh well - that's just the way it is now.

And now all the things I am trying to do in the next 6-8 weeks is suffering just as badly. I can see that there are some things that just won't get done. Maybe they will sometime in the next decade... or not! And no doubt, there will be other things that I will let fall in the next year because they won't be as important or urgent as being with my child.

I'm not idealizing the self-sacrifice inherent in the situation or imposed by a gauzy stereotype of motherhood. I'm simply acknowledging that my brain is not the same. I'd be more upset about it, but... gosh, when I'm not feeling strung out with anxiety about preparations, I'm still feeling floatyly unconcerned. I guess I'll run with it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

SWDB - Into the Holiday Season

The Simple Woman's Daybook

For Today...December 21st, 2008

Outside my skies and sunshine, barking dogs, and holly berries.

Towards a daily rhythm...changing bed sheets, doing laundry, baking cookies, washing dishes.

I am thinking...that I have to wrap and deliver the gifts for my church's Share Your Christmas program. Among other things, I am giving a clock radio, a set of sheets, a couple of men's dress shirts for men and women in a transitional program, and at least two bags of non-perishable food items for homeless who have not yet started the transition back to life in a building. These are all practical requests and highly appreciated by the recipients. There were many more things on the list that I wanted to give, was tempted to take on, but I can't do them all! I am just happy that the bulk of our giving focuses first on the truly needy.

I am thankful for...the fact that we are not badly impacted by the economic crisis. We do feel the effects, yes, and we do have to be more careful with our spending these days, and even cut back on some things, but it doesn't feel dire. It could be much, much worse, and I am very thankful that we "live small" and can weather the stressors without serious pain.

From the kitchen...cookies baked and cookies decorated and cookies yet to come. Also some leftover stirfry and pasta in a delicious roasted-red-pepper sauce that I hope to recreate. Now to think of what to make for tonight's potluck...

I am wearing...fuzzy velour pants and a sweatshirt.

I am reading...A most excellent novel by Geoff Ryman: The King's Last Song. As The Independent says: portrays two different Cambodias, separated by 800 years, yet hauntingly interconnected. The story involves a precocious young relative of an ancient king, writings on gold, and modern characters, both natives and archeologists, who are trying to create a whole life not bound by the bloody past, and somehow succeeding but not. The characters draw you in!

Also reading The Baby Name Bible by Paula Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz, an invaluable resource for us parents-to-be overwhelmed with choices.

I am creating...a plan for the next week.

I am hoping...that waiting to celebrate the larger family Christmas until mid-January does not rob the occasion of its fun. I am also hoping that the chocolate truffles that I so carefully accumulate for stocking presents survive the wait! Urrr, I don't know about that...

I am hearing...the furnace running, my husband walking through the house and rattling tools around, and A Charlie Brown Christmas album playing.

I am going to breathe deeply...and do my leg stretches. After waking up screaming with terrible leg cramps (trying to turn over), let's not have a repeat of that.

Around the house...piles of books and decorations and tins of cookies.

Bring beauty to my home...stringing some of my favorite glass ornaments along the mantle.
Christmas Bulbs-Mantle

One of my favorite things...getting together with my niece and sister to decorate cookies at Christmas time. It doesn't have to be all afternoon or be done perfectly to be a good time.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...bake gingerbread cookies, give cookies to neighbors, finish gift shopping, make more rice & lentils (good solid food amidst the sugar!), work in the garden, work on clearing the little room, start boxing up the corner of the kitchen that DH wants to renovate, take items to Goodwill, keep myself well fed and hydrated.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...
A Fresh Palette

Sunday, December 14, 2008

SWDB 121408 - Finding Relaxation Amidst the Busyness

The Simple Woman's Daybook

For Today...December 14th, 2008

Outside my Window...a winter garden, drywall dust, a flat of pansies, and the first winter Camellias blooming.

Towards a daily rhythm...keeping up with dishes as I cook and bake and cook and bake...

I am thinking...that's worth dropping some things from the schedule so that I can enjoy the remaining items. I still managed to do two of my three today, and added a quick batch of backing, so I feel good. Relaxed is good. It's also good to hang loose when other crazy things are going on around me.

I am thankful for...being generally healthy and not (thus far) catching any of the cold and illnesses going around. I've been very blessed this way!! I'm also thankful I got to see one of my traveling friends today. She's not scheduled to be back in the area before May, so this was really nice.

From the kitchen...the first batch of pizelles of the season, and a big pot of lentil and vegetable stew.

I am wearing...a purple-blue turtleneck and brown yoga pants and festive blue-purple and white earrings.

I am reading...Wind Readers, which I started earlier but hadn't finished.

I am creating...more space/order and more clutter/chaos, simultaneously! It gets worse before it gets better.

I am enjoy good soup and fellowship tonight.

I am hearing...Ella Fitzgerald singing A Swinging Christmas and Mr. Sweetie drilling into drywall.

I am going to breathe deeply...and ignore the pounding/sawing/drilling I hear from the other room. Not my project to worry about.

Around the house...the tree is up but not the lights.

Bring beauty to my home...colored lights and antique glass bulbs. Flower bulbs for the garden.

One of my favorite things...Christmas choral music. I was listening to the Vienna Boys Choir earlier and basking in the melodies and harmonies.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...dig in the garden (find the iris and move them!), make more cookies, address more cards, shop for presents, draw a diagram for the general (future) garden layout, and return library books.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...
Pizzelle Shadows

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gratitude 1:365

1. Our roof doesn't leak. At one time it did, and then it stopped. I don't know why or how it fixed itself, but I'm glad.

2. Snuggly cats.

3. Four whole quilt squares completed.

4. A mother who cooks me lunch when I come over.

5. Enough ingredients to make several batches of cookies.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Clutter Decisions and STUFF

With all of the reorganization going on around here, I've been reflecting on WHY we find ourselves having to deal with so much stuff. In one of my favorites posts from the Get-It-Done-Guy, he touches on why we end up with so much stuff.

He writes:
Filing systems—paper or not—are notorious for things going in but never coming out. Just remember the final scene of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” They bury the Ark of the Covenant for all time by filing it in a government warehouse.

He adds:
If you’re under 18, you may be wondering what the fuss is. Give it ten years. As you find stuff that’s too valuable, too legal, too fun, or too incriminating to throw away, you’ll want to keep it. One time-honored way is by using a filing cabinet. And yes, even if you’re under 25, you’ll find you want to keep some things that can’t be scanned into the digital world. Besides, your online file folders are probably as scattered as most of the paper ones.

Hahahah! Yes!

For us, it's not just the files or the paper, although the volume of paper itself is pretty daunting. No, it's all the stuff that accumulates for a given project or stage in life. Those interests and passions that generate more material that seems important at the time, then quickly turns into less-important junk after we've moved on to other things. It's like an archaeological dig, sometimes, going through all the layers of our past lives. Poetry, videos, information and instruction, half-completed projects, bumper stickers, notes, maps, books, packages, commemorative pins, decorations, pieces of games, thirty years of drawings and paintings, old diplomas and trophies, screws and renovation materials, and even (oh god!) legislation.

And the thing that keeps me from moving on, aside from the nostalgia, is deciding what is no longer useful or deciding where it needs to go. Somebody might find this useful, so should I try to pass it on or just junk it? Or try to get some money back out of it? Freecycle and Craigs List, here I come. FlyLady, help!

My parents (no surprise there) are bad about passing on stuff that might be better thrown away. I'll never forget the day (some twelve years ago just after I had cleaned house) that my mom dropped off several boxes of childhood memorabilia including cards of congratulations from when I was born. It didn't even know those existed! I didn't need to know they existed! There the boxes sat for weeks in my otherwise clean living room, depressing the hell out of me. I found myself paralyzed by the need to decide of how much of this to keep. It's the all-holy family history, but the torch had been passed to me. Me with the house a third of the size of my parents', I should add. Me with half a house of my sisters and BIL's stuff stored in my basement. Me with clutter tendencies of my own. Me with several previous career/lives with accompanying materials.

I can't remember what happened to the last of those birth cards, but I do know that when my mom passed on a plaster hand-cast from my kindergarten years this Summer, I said, "That's cute" and tossed it in the trash. After all, I realized, no doubt I will have my own child's plaster hand-print in a few years, and I really, really, really don't need my own.

The decision-making can be hard, but I am slowly learning to be ruthless. Ruthless about tossing things, ruthless about refusing other people's cast-off stuff that they can't bear to get rid of. It makes me less-inclined to pass off my own junk, because, really, who wants it?! I need to make my own decisions (as hard as that is), and just do it and don't look back. And I don't want to deal with (throw away) other people's deferred decisions either. Thanks but no thanks.

It's not just that the decisions are many. I'm fighting against a lifetime of conditioning to Not Throw Anything Away. My Depression-era ancestors are still nagging me in the back of my psyche. Okay, there is merit in being thrifty, but not if all those things you save just in case take over your brain and your house. Saving for later use is one thing. Hoarding is quite another, but the line between the two is pretty damn thin. I know it's not just my family, either.

There is also the circumstantial stuff of Neglected Household Blending. Years of books and boxes that have not been sorted for the last nine years. College stuff that has not seen the light of day since it was shoved into the basement lo those many years ago. Stuff that we didn't have time to think about when we first moved and is now quietly moldering below. I guess we could categorize this as Stuff We Could Deal With Later that never found the later! There is no later; it's all junk now.

Then there is the holy Documentation Gene that gives some erroneous justification for keeping old stuff from the past. Thou shalt not throw away history. It starts with old family photographs, borderline-antique ancestral items, and then moves on to "notes from your grandmother when she was in college" and leftover antique-buttons-that-you-can-keep-for-years-for-no-reason-at-all. And...and... mileage from trips from when you were in junior high and recordings from when you were four years old and trying to tell a joke, or one of those times you graduated: four hours of music, speeches, programs, conversation and background noise. Good God! Stop it already!

I feel like I am in a 12-step program to declutter. You really have to live it every day, consistently, persistently making choices about what to keep in your life, what to throw away, what to refuse. And if the decisions are neglected for a while and the piles of junk and clutter start burning again, you have to gird yourself and dive back in with no regrets or recriminations.

It's so tempting, so easy, to put off the decisions. What to do with this or that. Whether it fits with your life purpose, whether it's truly useful or just a stand-in for some ambition or good intention. I don't know the answer. Or rather, I don't know the answer for me. But I know I can't keep accumulating stuff, whether it's stuff I buy or stuff that just moves in and stays. It's suffocating.

We have a small house. We need more storage, no doubt. But I'm saying these days, it's not that we need more storage; we need less stuff. The tidal wave of kid-stuff is about to begin. Save us!

ETA and Chaos

We have about two months before her expected arrival, and I am going nuts. There is way too much to do, and seemingly not enough time to do it in. This is not even including the part about "making the room look cute." This is clearing the space to make room. Complicating the usual preparation are all the projects and tasks we have been neglecting the last few years, both inside and outside the house.

So to organize anything, I have to drag out a bunch of junk to make space, and then figure how what/where to put the junk. In another box? In the trash? Sell it? But then I have to _____. And our basement is already full of random piles of Stuff-We-Will-Probably-Never-Use-Again. I consider it a success if we put the Junk-We-Can't-Get-Rid-Of on some shelving instead of on the concrete so that it looks *somewhat* organized. FlyLady would say that you can't organize clutter. Oh, SO TRUE! Most of it is clutter alright. I just don't have the mental energy to make those decisions right now and decide what goes and where it goes. The easy stuff goes into the trash or off to Goodwill or the thrift store. The hard stuff goes on a shelf.

So I have plans for neatening and organizing (and decluttering- yea!), and some things are getting done. But jeez, I forgot the part about how I have to make more of a mess before I can neaten up. If this post sounds repetitive and disorganized, uh, welcome to my head these days.

In addition, Mr. Sweetie has decided that he needs to do certain things to make the house look presentable for our upcoming house appraisal (don't ask), even though they have nothing to do with the ETA of our daughter. So we have new drop cloths and rearranging of various things (which stresses me out when he wants it done NOW), and oh, did I mention that one of my earrings dropped off the rack as he was moving it across the house? It's... somewhere. Hopefully not down the heating vent or into the basement. On the upside, our gutters are clean.

We hashed out some of our work strategies last night. We have different styles of getting things done, and sometimes thar be clashes. We often just step back and let each other have our project space, but it's more complicated when the projects involve both of our spaces. So let's establish a few key communication set-pieces to mesh our expectations and personal needs a little better. So far, so better.

But here's one project aside from the gutters that is actually proceeding: The hall/linen closet.

I forgot to take a before picture, but here's the after. And it's actually well-organized now, although it might not be obvious considering how full it is.
closet side
This includes things like sleeping bags, blankets, sheets, towels, spare fleece blankets and pillows, tissue, etc.

closet above closet below
Also things like games, several air mattresses, kitty litter, furnace air filters, hand warmers, light bulbs, medicine box, certain appliances, step stool, and oh yeah, coats and jackets as well. Theoretically, this is where the vacuum cleaner lives as well.

My secret here is that I did not take an entire day to tear my hair out over it and make myself crazy. I set my timer for 15 minutes FlyLady fashion and pulled out, sorted, and reorganized stuff for those 15 minutes. Then I took another 15 to put everything back in order and put rejected stuff into bags for Goodwill. Note I did not redo the *entire* closet; I only neatened to the point that I could find things. Or as the Get-It-Done-Guy says, file for retrieval! And I didn't kill myself doing it.

So now we want to have a house-project friend clean and paint the baby's room for us (also involving spackle and wallpaper border removal). It's not vital to gussy up the place, but it would be nice to have that done. And so in order to have her do that, I have to clear the room! Convenient, that. (Now if I could do the same thing to the office, I'd be estatic, but let's start with baby steps, here.)

Little Piles_6882

Here's another project that is actually proceeding: The sorting of the fabric.

The baby's room has had fabric in it for years. Years.
Little Room_6879
And other random stuff from previous careers, but yeah, mostly it's fabric.

It's even been taking up drawer space in the changing table!
Little Closet_6880

So my goal has been to sort all this stuff in some organized fashion so it's not just a Pile-O-Fabric. It can't go into the basement because Hellooo Mildew, and all the closets are taken, taken, I tell you! As are the corners. When my mother offered bigger boxes with the suggestion that we "just stack them in the corners," I had to tell her, "Mom! We don't have any corners left!" (Oh, did I mention that we have a rather small house?) So my current plan is to box it up by color and store it under the bed. This I can do.

Rather than buy yet more plastic boxes, I have been retrieving a set of my favorite sized box for the sorting. Certain boxes have piles of paperwork in them. Others are half filled with other projects. Over the course of a few weeks, I have consolidated and thrown out enough stuff to clear five whole boxes and possibly another two! Yea! That in itself is an accomplishment - fling, fling, fling!

So now commences the sorting. At some point, I will likely include the tossing as well. I doubt I can keep all of it. So far, so good.
Fabric Sorting

I have to keep these successful progressions in mind to hold off the panic attacks. If it weren't for the Do-Everything-for-15-Minutes-At-A-Time, I'd be sunk. At there are still times that I get overwhelmed with just Too Much To Do. I just hope I have some sanity left after the holidays. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Now With Fewer Buttons

It seems that everyone and her sister has or wants a GPS now. In one of the recent Sunday flyers, one store advertised no fewer than 6 versions, hoping that we'd all come in and buy one.

This, I really do not get. Why do we need these things? I know some people are directionally challenged. Years ago, one friend had one installed in her car to keep herself from going perpetually astray. It seemed to be a good solid piece of equipment. Most of us, however, can usually figure out how to get where we are going. So we don't *really* need one of these. Do we?

In addition, these days, we have umpteen versions to add to the one we don't really need. It's become the gadget of the era. Unfortunately, all the gadgets of the world cannot save some people from their confusion. Not naming any names, here, but some people put in some kind of information and get out, well, garbage. They are surprised, yes, surprised! when the GPS tells them to make a circle if they put in the wrong address.

It's not a magic machine. I suspect that all the buttons and functions have become overwhelmingly redundant, so that it takes just as much brain power (or more) to get the thing to work correctly as it would be to just figure out where you are going. But nooo, we apparently want (or think we want) all the features. It's like a cheap stereo, cell phone, or Mp3 player - covered in buttons and glitz with just as much (or less) practicality than a simple version. It's like (still not naming any names) buying yet another new cell phone because you can't figure out the old ones. The newest version is not necessarily going to help you figure it out any more easily.

Do they even make a simple version of the GPS any more? (I am writing rhetorically because I don't feel like taking my time to actually research this question.) I know they do make a simple version of a cell phone because we have one! (It makes phone calls and can receive text messages; that's it.) So maybe a basic GPS exists as well. I do know that most of the backpacking versions with elevation and land feature mapping are only good until a change in the weather after which you have to recalibrate the things all over again before you know where you are.

Why yes, they do make a simple version of a GPS, still. It's called a map. Map skills are good for life. We look at the maps and plot our path. Maybe we'll print something from maps on the web and actually *gasp* outline our route in highlighter pen.

My husband's version of a GPS is even simpler. I ride with him. He calls me "the system." The system says things like "This lane will end in half a mile" or "Don't turn left, turn right" or sometimes "Turn around! You missed your turn!" My husband thinks this is magic because he is sometimes directionally dyslexic, wanting to turn right when he's turned left hundreds of times.

If the system is on high alert, it'll say things like "You're following that guy a little closely" or "Watch out for that car!" Sometimes the system has to be dialed down a little so it doesn't say things like "The speed limit is now * 35 miles * per hour (and you're going 50)." But it does come in handy to alert for "Deer!" and "Cop car!"

Also, the system is wary of creating an unhealthy dependancy. The system is not above staying silent to allow for user learning. However it does come in handy. And it does not require onboard electronics.

I grant you this does not address the coolness factor of having an electronic toy with buttons and graphics. This also does not address people who travel for business and for whom having an onboard computer is actually a beneficial tool. Know know those UPS scanner computer they carry around? Coolness. But for the average person? Pffft!

When we are GPSed up to here, are we as a society going to lose our ability to plot our path across town? When we have this gadget to tell us the "best" route and where to turn, do we give up our ability to evaluate our choices and make spatial decisions? Our brains continually "map" our spatial environment and conceptual connections. If we don't use our brains, those connections atrophy. Use it or lose it, baby.

This system would say it's nice to have a reference, but it's not necessary to have someone hold your hand. So put down the GPS. You can figure out where you are, okay? It's all hardwired in your brain already. No buttons required.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Starting Off December - SWDB

The Simple Woman's Daybook

For Today...December 2nd, 2008

Outside my Window...crinkled dried leaves, some of them nondescript brown, some of them (on the maple) dark red.

Towards a daily rhythm...making lists and checking off tasks. Tracking down those little details and clearing space for new projects. Working ahead on my preferred elements of Christmas.

I am thinking...about whether to take on a new student for the next few months. It would be enjoyable and reasonably lucrative, but possibly intense (every weekday). I don't think I have the energy and attention to manage 5 days a week with everything else going on.

I am thankful for...friends, friends and more friends. Friends who pass on cribs and give out smiles, and give me the benefit of their wisdom and experience. Friends who cook food for me or meet me for lunch. Friends who plan parties so that we can eat, sing, and make merry in the company of community.

From the kitchen...a big plate of broccoli and yellow squash with a little cheese. Also, some tuna noodle casserole - pure comfort food.

I am wearing...a purple "Planetary Peace" T-shirt and my brown yoga pants. Also my favorite black fleece pullover. And loose-fitting socks.

I am reading...three books at once: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (I love, love, love this book!), The Passion Dream Book by Whitney Otto (a cross-era mix of fact/fiction, story/history by the same author who wrote How to Make an American Quilt), and Special Topics in Calamity Physics, a novel by Marisha Pessl (on loan from my niece after she raved about it for a year). My cup runneth over! Also, I'm enjoying reading three strong writings by authors who happen to be women.

I am creating...another list of nutritional goals for the next couple months. I know I could do better. More protein, more veggies, and all that.

I am hoping...that my next 3-hour glycol test shows that my blood sugar is doing fine, thank you.

I am hearing...some wonderful tunes by FloorPlay, and a few French carols in my head.

I am going to breathe deeply...and try to not flinch when my daughter kicks me hard in a soft spot. She's exploring all the corners and trying to push out the walls, too. I'm also trying to find more patience for my perpetually needy cats.

Around the house...I've been digging into random corners and finding more things to either re-file in the basement or give away completely. Just today, I've found stuff in the bedroom, office, kitchen and living room to clear out.

Bring beauty to my home...I bought some pansies and violas (mini pansies) for the winter garden. In this area, pansies don't do well in the summer but they over-winter beautifully. This year, I have mostly purple and cream, deep purple, and orange. I also found some wonderful sherbert-colored ones mixing purple-blues and peach colors. I enjoy mixing warm and cool colors and I'm looking forward to having more color, period, in the garden.

One of my favorite things...planning to buy tickets for the annual Christmas choral concert coming up. Beautiful choral music makes it Christmas for me.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...mix up some batches of cookie dough, cut back old garden brush and make headway on the cards.

Here is some picture thoughts I am sharing with you...

Frost Line Reflections

Criss Crossing Frost Dark