Thursday, March 31, 2011

Spring break, Pipe Life style.

We have just a few days left of spring break and I can't say this is one of the more memorable ones. And you know what? That's just fine with me.

Sometimes when your life is all about bracing for the next big shakeup, it feels pretty darn good to embrace a little normalcy. Whatever "normal" happens to be.

This is what we've done this week:
- the kids started spring break early because school was called off the two days prior to the scheduled start due to a snow/ice storm. (This is where all the people who escaped to someplace warm for the week shouted "yaaaay!")
- Our big outing was a visit to an RV show where we stuck our heads in, peeked around, and walked through 30-some travel trailers looking for the perfect fit for Steve to live in over the summer. We're looking to sell our current setup and go with something a little larger (read: more comfortable for Steve and for the rest of us when the kids and I visit).
- Steve and I had a little retail therapy and enjoyed a lunch out together - just the two of us. I picked up some things for the house and he snagged some new speakers for his truck and a new game for the PS3.
- The kids played the aforementioned PS3 until their eyes were crossed and their thumbs blistered. Or was that Steve?
- We have eaten dinners together as a family, Steve and I have both kissed the kids goodnight, we take afternoon naps, bounce ideas off each other, talk about everything and nothing.

This afternoon I was touching up some paint on the walls in our front room and I had several windows open to let some fresh air in. I could hear Steve outside working on his truck with help from his brother. The kids were bouncing around ... in and out of the house, riding bikes, helping dad, playing nicely with each other like I wish they always would ... and it occurred to me how boring it all was.

Nothing special. Nothing newsworthy. Hardly anything new to report, even.

Just ... normal. Boring.

Sometimes boring feels pretty darn good.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sometimes ...

... it's fun to discover the pictures my children captured when they took off with my camera.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I don't know what to do with these.

Grandma's spare glasses.

I kept them here at my house in case she misplaced her regular pair. I have no reason to keep them now, and certainly they could be donated to a local service club that collects them. But in the meantime they are here in front of me, reminding me that grandma is not here.

It's been a month since she died. Thirty days. It feels like it was just yesterday.

Since helping to care for grandma kept me pretty busy toward the end of her life, when things settled down after her funeral I jumped right into projects I had been planning to do at home. I figured turning my attention to home and getting back into my own routine would help burn some of that antsy energy I was feeling, and nobody would be here to see me cry while I painted walls or scrubbed floors.

But I have to admit, I didn't do all that much grieving that first few weeks. When a social worker from Hospice called to see how I was doing, it threw me off. I was fine, I told her. Getting back to the usual stuff. She asked me if I had any questions. I didn't. She told me she would be sending me some things in the mail. I thanked her.

When that packet of papers came in the mail, I set it aside. I told myself I knew what they said. And for the most part, I did. But after having a really bizarre dream about grandma the other night I figured there must be something in my psyche needing attention, so I pulled the papers out and had a look-see.

This is what a friend told me and what I've learned to be true: the grief comes at the oddest times. This is what Hospice will tell you and what I have also learned to be true: you can't go around or over grief; you can only go through it. There are no rules about how long it "should" take for a person to go through the grieving process, and everyone grieves in their own way.

So, for the record? In a lot of ways I am fine. But some days are not so good. The pain is worst when I hear of others' losses: the devastation in Japan, some dear friends' loss of a family member this past week, even knowing one of my daughter's classmates is moving away over spring break has my stomach in knots. At times when I would typically be a little emotional anyway I'm now a complete wreck.

But that's OK. That's my "normal" for right now, and for the foreseeable future. And I know there will be more tears, more pain, more dreams and voices and whatever else in the months to come. In a few weeks my parents will be home (again) from Florida and we will start the process of clearing out grandma's house so it can be sold. To say it will be difficult would be a serious understatement. I don't have to help, but I offered to because I think it will help me find some closure.

And that will be just the beginning.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I have a small book of daily devotions that I picked up at church. Each day it offers a Bible verse for the day, an anecdote or explanation from one of several pastors chosen to write in each edition, a short prayer, and a couple of other supporting verses to look up. I like this format. It's not too much for me to absorb while I drink a cup of coffee to wake up in the morning, or after I fall into bed late at night after a busy day. And it helps me work my way through the Bible piece by piece, in small bites, rather than trying to plow through it from cover to cover - something I've tried and failed more than once.

I get something out of these readings every day. (Every day I remember to read them, that is.) Sometimes they make me think; sometimes they cause me to explore something within myself a little further. Yesterday's was particularly helpful in reminding me that everything will be just fine. Even in the midst of a job layoff, we are OK. And I knew this. I knew we would be provided for and for the first time ever I was not at all worried when Steve called to tell me he was coming home.

But there is that tiny little voice in the back of my head that wants me to worry. That voice keeps telling me how tough life could get if this lasts longer than expected. If that voice had its way I wouldn't enjoy this time with Steve at all because I would spend all my time fretting over what isn't happening and what we can't do.

As always, in perfect timing I was reminded of the truth. Monday's devotion was all about walking in faith and trusting that what God promises us will come to fruition. Life will be good. We will live in graciousness and abundance.
Psalm 128:2
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.
Just what I needed to hear.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I might just cry.

If we do indeed get the weather we are "supposed" to get over the next couple of days, I might seriously curl up in a ball and cry.

I know it's still early. Sure, spring has technically arrived, at least according to the calendar, but it's late March in Michigan for heaven's sake. I know the possibility for some yucky weather is still in the cards, but dammit! A possible foot of snow? Are you freaking kidding me?!?

Admittedly, I am one of those people who gets cranky when folks complain about the weather. I mean, it is Michigan. The weather can and does change quickly around here. We live here. We know that. But I've been so spoiled by the recent sunshine and warm temperatures, and I have so been looking forward to getting outside and being more active and getting the yard cleaned up. I don't want any more snow!!! And I'm going to pout if we get a foot of it.

Here's hoping the predictions are way off.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

As the Pipe Lifers' world turns ...

Today is Steve's last day of work for a while. A few weeks, maybe.

Hopefully only a few weeks.

As the weather warms up here in Michigan and things begin to thaw out, the ground turns to mush and that makes it difficult to get much work done with heavy equipment. Also, local municipalities enforce frost laws which limit speed and weight on roadways that could be damaged as the frost beneath the surface melts away. Another hindrance for moving large equipment around. So as spring approaches we've known it was a possibility Steve would have a little break from work, we just didn't know when it would happen.

I'm excited Steve will be around home for a bit. Financially it's always a struggle - or eventually becomes a struggle - when he is laid off, but as far as our family is concerned it's always a good thing to have us all living under the same roof.

That's how our world is turning today, and that's how we have learned to live - day to day, and sometimes hour by hour.

Monday, March 14, 2011

On the search for lighting.

We have a lighting issue in this house. The fixtures that were here when we moved in were (and still are) functional, but are cheap and ugly.

Not even the kind of ugly that could pass for retro or vintage. Think 1970's trailer park kind of ugly. And where there isn't something cheap and/or ugly, we have no light.

So I've been on the lookout for lamps and other lighting fixtures. This is not my forte, but I figure it doesn't take much talent to find something better than this:

I have hated this brassy beauty in our dining room since Day 1. I dislike it so much I've blocked it out of my brain; I don't even see it anymore when I look in that direction.

Until some random point when I do see it, and then I become obsessed with replacing it.

But my frugal nature won't allow me to just pop into Lowe's and pay $150 for a new chandelier. So I've been scavenging local thrift shops in hopes of finding someone else's castoff that I can recycle and spiff up for my own home.

The fun thing about shopping thrift stores is you can find all kinds of other cool stuff on your way to finding what you're actually looking for. Not great for hoarders. Great for people like me who have a mental list of items I'm keeping an eye out for.

Last week I stopped at our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. I did not find any sort of lighting fixture I couldn't live without. I did, however, find a neat old picture frame I'll show you later.

I also took a few minutes looking over a set of lighting fixtures that were cool enough I decided to take pictures in case I figured out some way to use them in my home.

I'm guessing these are leaded glass. They're pretty heavy, and the glass has a detailed pattern. I wonder how much light they give off.

And I wonder if I could think of any other way to use these globes, other than as light fixtures. They're just so cool!

I didn't buy them. But if someone more creative than I (which doesn't take much) can give me any ideas, I'd go back and snatch 'em up if they're still there.


Or am I fooling myself and these are the ugliest things you've ever seen?


Saturday, March 12, 2011

We've been busy.

Among our various projects this week was painting the hallway leading to the bathroom and kids' bedrooms. This hallway had 10 years of grime and greasy fingerprints all over the walls, so it was about time.

Don't judge!

I know what you're thinking. YES, I did clean those walls occasionally. The problem was they had nothing more than (white) drywall plaster on them, so anytime I took a rag to them I dissolved some of the wall away. Nice, right? So yeah, at some point I gave up. I figured anyone who had ever lived with children would cut me some slack.

Anyway, this was an interesting process for a couple of reasons. First, I made the mistake of starting this project in the evening. This means the kiddos were home. And they asked if they could help.


See, I suffer from this disease called Perfectionism. It's terrible. Not only does it cause me to put off doing things until I can do them just right, it also causes me to decline "help" when someone - particularly a minor child - offers to do something I'm sure they can't do my way. Like folding towels, or loading the dishwasher, or permanently changing the color of our walls.

I've been working on the perfectionism thing. I have made great strides since having children and realizing I couldn't possibly do everything myself. Having a spouse who travels so much for work has also forced me to ask others for help, even when it means I might have to give up a little bit of control. I have learned to be thankful for that help and accept it with grace. Most of the time.

But painting? Come on! Painting takes at least a little precision, and if someone dropped a roller or dumped a gallon of paint on the floor, I certainly don't want to be able to blame one of the kids.

Alas, I had no real good reason to say no. So I bit my lip, took a deep breath and handed over a roller.

I did the cutting in with a brush and Rachel handled the larger expanses with the roller.

She did a great job. So good, in fact, I'm afraid she's inherited some of her mama's perfectionism.


Sam helped, too. I couldn't back away long enough to take a picture of him though. The kid has ADHD and his style of painting reflects it. Bless his heart ... he had that paint roller bouncing around the walls like a ping pong ball. And when he was convinced he had given his share of effort, he flitted off to do something else. Which was fine with me.

There was another interesting point of this project.

When the paint was still wet it looked rose-y. Not beige like I expected. Yes, I know you're not supposed to judge a paint color until it's dry, but seriously. It looked pink. It looked so pink that I double checked the top of the paint can to make sure it listed the name of the paint I had asked for. Yep. Behr's Wild Porcini. The same color as the paint chip that had been stuck in a door frame in the hallway for the past year.

I told myself not to panic.

Rachel stepped back, took a look and said, "Yeah mom, it does look pink."


But it's wet, I said. It's wet! Let's finish painting and see what it looks like in the morning.

And by golly, by morning it was dry and the perfect color.

I think I danced a little jig right there in my pajamas.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I am "unstuffing" my life.

I have decluttered. I have minimized (sort of). I have gone through my belongings with a fine tooth comb and gotten rid of just about everything I didn't use or love or want anymore.

But I have never "unstuffed" my life. Until now.

When I saw a group of friends chatting on Facebook about how they were following a plan outlined in some book, I was skeptical. Listen, I've read all the books. OK, many of them. I'm a self-improvement book guru. There can't possibly be a book or blog out there that says anything radically different than what I've already read about strategies to simplify your life.

In a sense, that's true. Andrew J. Mellen's book Unstuff Your Life has some of the same suggestions I've read elsewhere. But there is something about how Mellen presents the questions he insists we answer about how we relate to our "stuff" and how it makes us feel that somehow takes this idea of "I'm not my stuff, my stuff is not me" to another level.

Exhibit A: The stuff that is leaving my home after spending a few hours yesterday unstuffing the kitchen.

Now, that's a pretty big box for someone who thought she had a grip on kitchen organization. (Except the clock radio, which I've been meaning to get rid of for a while.)

It may be Mellen's writing style that drew me in - how he addresses the reader as if he is a friend on the other end of the telephone line. "Go get a notebook and a pencil and write this down. Do it. I'll wait." That kind of thing.

Or it may be the season of life I am in; I only thought I had been brutal when decluttering in the past. Now I'm seriously getting down to business. What's different now is that I am ready. I have no use for things - stuff - in my life that do not bring a smile to my face or add to my life in some other way. So as it turns out, this book came along at just the right time for me to make the most of it.

I haven't even read the whole thing and I would already recommend it. And if you decide to try it, I would suggest downloading it to your computer (via Kindle for PC or a similar program) or straight to an e-reader (if you have one). Saves on clutter that way.

I'm taking Before & After pictures to share with my fellow unstuffers. If I get brave maybe I'll post a few here too as I go through the process.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fat Tuesday?

Today is the Big Day. Fat Tuesday. The day before Ash Wednesday, when the season of Lent (traditionally known as a season of sacrifice) begins.

Sam, the 12-yr-old, is geeked. A day revolving around eating paczki? Those fat-laden, deep-fried, jelly-or-cream-filled balls of goodness? Hello!!

Well. I'm going against the grain. I relented and promised Sam I would bring him ONE doughy ball of goodness today, but the rest of my shopping cart will be filled with fresh produce. 

photo credit
Because I don't need any more fat days. I've had too many already.

And spring is coming. What? It is! And I want to be ready to hit it hard and get some major work (and playing) done outdoors when the snow clears away. And I'd like to be able to do that minus this heavy winter layer of blubber I've been carrying around.

So Fat Tuesday? Meh. I'll let my kids indulge while I eat a banana. My belly will thank me for it.

But for those of you who will be partaking ... enjoy!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Clean Slate Sunday: 3.6.11 edition

I am excited about the week ahead. I have just a few commitments on my calendar and that means I can spend the rest of the time working on fun stuff and maybe even a few things that need doing.

I'm done wallowing. I'm not even going to tell you how many days and nights I stayed in my sweatpants last week, but let's just say I washed them - and me - in very hot water when it was all over. I did get some work  done last week while I was holed up in the house, though. I've been reorganizing my laundry room so it works a little better for the storage and flow we need. That should be wrapped up tomorrow and I can put that room back together.

We had a nice weekend. There's never enough time when Steve is home for just one night, but we'll take what we can get. Finding things to keep me busy makes those days between visits go by a little faster.

Here's to a great week ahead.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Maybe it's a phase. Maybe not.

It's time for an overhaul. On everything.

A fresh perspective. Something new.

Well. The husband and children - and maybe even the animals if they straighten up a bit - can stay. But everything else has a target on it.

I'm antsy. I get that way this time of year. I gotta DO something. Scrub everything down with Clorox or gut a closet and reorganize everything or send a chunk of my wardrobe to Goodwill or ... something.

I want to finally cover the dingy walls in the house with color. I want to get rid of this ratty old furniture and replace it with something different. Not new, necessarily, but different.

I want to tear up the carpet in the living room. I don't even need to replace it right now; we all know I'm not afraid to live with sub-floors. I'm just sick of looking at what's there now. I want to get rid of these lamps I hate so much (Sorry mom. I didn't always hate them.) and light my way with something beautiful that I love. Something I chose, not something we decided to use because someone gave it to us. Isn't it funny how we make something work "for the time being" and then 10 years later we still have it?

Usually I start cleaning when I feel like this. It's amazing how different our surroundings can look and feel when they're freshened up a bit. But I think this year it's a little more than spring fever I'm feeling. The past few days I've been channeling my inner 2-yr-old and asking the question "why?" a lot. Why shouldn't I? Why can't I? Why is this always like this? Why do we do it that way?

Why not?

Why wait?

I'll tell you the answer I keep coming back to: there is no good answer. None that we should be mindlessly accepting anyway.

Sometimes the answer is because we don't have the money to do that right now. Sometimes it's because that feels like too much of a splurge. Sometimes we don't need it, or don't need to do it. Or we don't have the time. Or ... my favorite ... that's just crazy! Why would we do/change/eat/say/watch/try that?

If I dare to go deeper I'd probably admit to a little self doubt. Maybe I'm not worthy of having or doing whatever it is. Lord knows I've had my struggles with self esteem and self worth over the years and I'm always susceptible to letting that creep back in. I hate that. It makes me want to not just get rid of those lamps I hate so much, but break them up into tiny little pieces before I throw them in the trash.

I'm angry. Antsy and angry. Great combination, eh?

No worries. I'm not going to do anything stupid. I've just been doing a lot of thinking these past few days and it's made me consider the possibility of rearranging some priorities. And that's saying something because I thought I had my priorities pretty well in order, or at least well on the way to it.

So there it is. I hate being cliche but it's the ol' "someone I love just died and it reminded me how short life is and that I should live it to the fullest" junk. And that's OK. I just need to harness all this energy and do something positive with it. And I will. No excuses.

No regrets.

Today I start answering the question "why?" a little differently.

Today I start answering the question "why?" with another question: Why not?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I'm in love with The Graphics Fairy.

Ever stumble upon a web site and immediately fall in love and think "how did I not know this existed?!?"


Perhaps you don't surf as much as I do. No matter.

I found one of those awesome-where-have-you-been-all-my-life web sites last night.

Check out The Graphics Fairy when you have a minute. Make that many minutes. If you have a particular interest in vintage-y looking stuff and you're looking for some help with an artsy project, you might want to set aside an afternoon.

Seriously. It will suck you in. I've already been going a little crazy with the virtual bookmarks this morning, and I'm not even into the "vintage" look. But I'm finding all kinds of cool stuff to print out and use in a little display I'm pulling together for a wall in our front room.

It has a butterfly theme. Sorta.

I'm having a hard time deciding between this piece with the gorgeous butterfly wings and this piece with the gorgeous butterflies and moths and some fat ol' caterpillars. I'm leaning toward the second one. But oooooh, there are so many others to consider and they're all free(!!) and so easy to print off to create instant art!

I'm gonna' need more ink.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I'm wallowing.

After giving my friend B the rundown of what a crazy week we had last week, and then whining because this one had gotten off on only a slightly better note, B sent me this in an e-mail:

"Here's my unsolicited advice: after celebrating Rachel's bday, take a few more days and wallow, nap, etc. then, when you are so tired of it all, declare it over."

And that was just what I needed to read.

My friend B (I should give her a blog identity ... like Bertha ... or Beatrice) has been incredibly supportive, not just through recent life events but through ongoing struggles of parenting and attempts at self-improvement.

While I sat at my dying grandmother's bedside, B would send me e-mails (that I would pick up on my cell phone) with words of encouragement or humor, never expecting a response but making sure I knew someone was thinking of me right that moment. It meant the world to me.

So now, having gotten the permission I felt like I needed to do ... well, absolutely nothing ... I am wallowing.

I went back to bed after I got the kids off to school this morning and now I'm having a brunch of M&M's and Diet Dr. Pepper and some yogurt-covered pretzel balls carefully plucked from the bucket o' snack mix I bought last weekend. I'm tired and emotionally spent. Yesterday was my daughter's birthday and thank God I have amazing in-laws who made dinner and had cake for her - and the rest of us. We had celebrated over the weekend with a movie and meal out at Rachel's choice of places, but it's not the same as having cake on your birthday and I didn't even have the energy to go to the bakery and pick one up.

See? I have children to tend to and regular stuff that needs to be taken care of, so no matter how many people tell me to take it easy for a few days, it's hard to do just that. But I know eventually B will tell me to "suck it up, Buttercup!" and force me to put the M&M's away and get on with it. And I will. But today? And probably tomorrow? I'm wallowing. And that's that.

~ ~ ~

I need to say thank you. Thank you to all my friends and family who have prayed for us and sent good vibes our way and who called and sent messages via blog and e-mail and snail mail. It's been a week since grandma died and I promise I won't be writing about her forever but no matter how much we prepare for it - how ready we think we are - it hurts to lose someone we love. I feel like a piece of my heart is missing and it will take some time to figure out how to fill that empty space. Or to just live with it.

Anyway, thanks for your support. It's March now and spring is just around the corner and I'm inspired to do some sprucing up around the house. As soon as the wallowing is complete the fun will begin again.