Tuesday, April 24, 2012

That "good" kind of tired.

I am exhausted.

Eggs. Hoss. Ted.

But it's that worked-really-hard-out-in-the-fresh-air-and-sunshine kind of exhaustion, so it's all good. Except that my entire body hurts, too.

And I mean everything hurts. From stem to stern. Even my fingertips.

Yesterday I spent most of the day shoveling sand to fill in low spots in our yard, and peeling sod away from one end of the house where I decided I'd build a flower bed. I planted a few perennials there a couple years ago and thought I'd be fine mowing around them. I was wrong. What happens is either the grass grows a foot tall before I find the time to rip it down by hand, or I lose half my hosta plants because I insist my teenage son go all the way around the house with the weed whacker.

Today I bought some landscape timbers and this evening Sam and I started setting them in place to define the edges of the flower bed. It won't take very many, but because we're working on a bit of a slope it takes some time to get them level. Hopefully I'll finish that up tomorrow and then I'll just need to get some good soil to fill in and I can plant some more plants there, too.

I also have a stack of lumber and plans drawn out for some more raised garden beds. These I'm going to build at the end of our patio with stone pavers in between. There's nothing like walking out the front door and picking fresh veggies for dinner or some fresh herbs to add to a salad.

I'm really getting excited to put some plants in the ground - some veggie plants that will eventually provide us some sustenance, and some colorful annuals. But it's still a little early in the season and I'm not crazy about having to cover plants to avoid frost, so I'm keeping busy with preparations. It's so rewarding to see the progress after a few hours of work, and to know that I will enjoy a lot of the things I'm working on year after year.

If my body cooperates and the rain holds off I'll be back out there tomorrow. And I'll take some pictures. Tonight, I rest. Sleep's gonna' come pretty easy.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


It's quiet here. Breakfast is done, kids shuffled off to school, dog taken out. I can hear the clock ticking. The refrigerator hums. The dog's nails clickety-click on the tile floor as she searches for a spot to settle in.

I'm enjoying the last few sips of my coffee before I dive into whatever I decide to work on today - probably the master bedroom and bathroom. Because somehow that's where everything without a home goes to live. It's one of the struggles - and benefits, really - of having no place else to put stuff. We sure don't have a whole lot of room to keep more stuff than what we really need or use or love. And since clutter makes me anxious, and I don't like being anxious, I'm forced to sort and purge those things regularly.

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."                   
~ William Morris

What a great euphemism for life: we should sort through the clutter occasionally, and get rid of or pass along what we don't want or need. Old routines that don't work anymore, friends who drag us down, commitments that have us ... over-committed.

I don't even watch the news much anymore. Which is saying a lot because the news used to be my passion. But these days, with plenty to keep track of in my own life, the alternative to not knowing every detail of what's happening in the world is knowing all the details and being in a constant state of emotional unrest. It doesn't mean I don't do my own small part to make the world a better place; it just means I have made a conscious decision to focus my energy on my family and my home and the things that make my world a better place.

I enjoy the quiet. I thank God I am able to take the time to watch the sun come up and feel it warm my house as I wake up and prepare for the day. I look around and I see a home that I love and pictures on the walls of people I love. It makes me happy. With all this, what more do I need?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Will work for food.

I watched a documentary some time ago about making bread. It was about how the art of making bread is all but lost, and how if we could get back to making our own bread - measuring, mixing, kneading, taking in the smell and feel of it - we would be healthier, calmer, stronger, more appreciative of our food.

That's the Reader's Digest version.

The documentary was kinda' cheesy but the idea of it made sense. Making bread takes time. It takes patience. And probably some specific muscles that don't get worked out often enough.

I was thinking of that movie the other day as I made a sandwich for lunch. My bread came from a bag from the grocery store - but it is at least some of the "healthy" stuff with whole wheat and all those grains. "Bird seed bread" my family likes to call it.

So I got a couple slices of bread out, I'm thinking of the "let's make bread and sing Kumbaya" movie, and I grabbed a knife and started carving at the previous night's leftover chicken (rotisserie, purchased at the deli counter). Then I sliced a tomato (can't wait until I can grab one straight from my garden!) and rinsed off a big piece of green leafy lettuce.

That whole process reminded me of another snippet I had tucked away in my brain. It's from one of Dr. Phil McGraw's books, The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom. Someone loaned me the book several years ago, and while I cannot tell you the 7 Keys, I can tell you the one concept I do remember reading about: that if you don't have to work a little bit for your food, it's probably not worth eating.

Making a salad takes some effort. Cooking dinner takes time. Cutting up an apple or slicing some not-too-processed cheese is not as easy as grabbing a box of Wheat Thins (*love*) or unwrapping a granola bar (also *love*). But those things that take a little more thought and effort are often going to be the healthier choices.

Day by day I am trying to make more of those healthier choices. Damn those old habits of grabbing something easy and quick! I have the time, I just need to use it wisely - to plan before I fill my shopping cart, and keep putting healthy options in front of my kids. And myself.

Change - even small changes over time - doesn't always come easy, but sometimes it is necessary.

I find it rather cathartic to stand at my kitchen sink mindfully washing a bunch of grapes, spreading peanut butter on a sliced apple, making a hot breakfast for my kids. I can see how kneading bread a couple times a week would provide the same kind of peace. It's that joy we get from nurturing the people we love - I need to hold on to that feeling and seek it out when what I think I want to seek out is a handful of leftover Easter candy.

It gives a little different meaning to "working for food" doesn't it? But that's exactly what I need to do.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Making mornings a little less dreaded.

In my best Yosemite Sam voice: "I hates mornings."

If you've been around here for a while or know me personally even a little, this is not news. Mornings and me, we go way back. We've never had a great relationship. I envy people whose bodies naturally come alive before, say, 6 a.m. My body prefers something a little later.

Over the years I have tried - and failed - to train my body (and brain) to wake up earlier. Sometimes I want to get my day started at the crack of dawn. I've got stuff to do. And I have kids to wake up and get ready for school. If I oversleep, everyone does. But no matter what time I go to bed at night, no matter what time my alarm goes off in the morning, my whole being resists rolling out of bed.

Alas, I keep trying.

I do love coffee, but I have never developed the morning coffee habit. I even set my Keurig to turn on at 6 a.m. so it's ready to go when I hit the kitchen. But most mornings I'm just not ready for that slap in the face of caffeine first thing. Sometimes I'll brew a cup just for the smell, though, and warm it up to drink after I get the kids to the bus stop. This doesn't solve my getting-out-of-bed dilemma, though.

I have tried exercise first thing in the morning. (Stop laughing.) (Oh, and ... FAIL.)

I have tried putting the alarm clock across the room so I have to get out of bed to turn it off. This just makes me mad. Not a great way to start the day.

I have tried heading straight to the shower. This is still a contender, but doesn't work when I've already hit the snooze button six times.

I've tried a wind-up alarm clock. You know the kind - you get one shot, no snooze button. So that the urgency of knowing I had somewhere to be would force me to get up as soon as that alarm went off.


I have tried dedicating my mornings to God. Fifteen minutes of prayer and devotion before the rest of the house wakes up. But even a daily date with my Lord and Savior has not been enough to coax me out from under the covers.

It's ok. I love Him just as much at 9 a.m. as I do at 5:30.

I've tried stretching like a cat. Wake up every limb, get up on all fours and stretch out my back (which would benefit me as the day goes on). But no. Stupid cats! They sleep all day anyway.

Why is this so hard?! I actually love to watch the sun rise. When we travel I like to leave early and then see the rest of the world coming alive around us after we've been on the road a while. It's just that first hour or so, the shaking the sleepiness from my brain and getting the gears turning that I struggle with. I have been this way all my life. One of my children is exactly like me in that respect. I feel for him. I try to wake him gently in the mornings and give him plenty of time. He growls at me. I never (ok, rarely) just flip the light on like my brothers used to do to me. That's as bad as having to get out of bed to turn off the alarm clock. We're talking The Incredible Hulk kind of bad.

Mom, I am so sorry.

I'm trying a new approach. This week I've been using the alarm feature on my cell phone. I set it to wake me with a song I like, it fades in and slowly increases volume. I tap the screen for a 5-minute snooze. When I'm ready to really wake up I just let the song play, then I can turn off the alarm, check my e-mail, on-line news sources, say hello to my peeps on Facebook, or whatever.

So far I'm totally diggin' it. Which is interesting because I despise having the TV on in the morning, yet here I am using an electronic device to help me wake up. Maybe I don't mind the phone so much because it isn't blaring commercials at me and I can pick and choose what I see. And the kids don't come out of their bedrooms and stare at it like zombies.

This is my current favorite:

Yes, I wake up to Jason Aldean every morning. Or at least his voice. Don't judge.

This is much more pleasant than that cranky ol' alarm clock buzzing at me. And a pleasant wake-up means a happy mama. And everybody appreciates a happy mama.

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Clean Slate Sunday: Easter 2012 edition

I sure wish I had gotten a picture of our family at church this morning. I've really enjoyed seeing the pictures friends are posting on Facebook of their children and families all decked out in their Easter best. But it was a small miracle all four of us made it to the sunrise Easter Vigil this morning anyway ... I didn't want to push it by asking the kids to feign bright eyes and bushy tails for a family photo.

It's been a really nice day. I always love walking into our church on Easter morning and - after the solemnity of Good Friday and a stripped altar - seeing the bright white linens, smelling all those pretty spring flowers, and watching the kids turn their heads to see candy-filled Easter eggs tucked in every corner, on every window ledge, in each pew, and scattered all over the place. I love the celebration, the reminder that we are forgiven, the fellowship with friends and family.

And so here we are again on a Sunday evening, a full weekend in the rear-view mirror, Steve back to work for the week, and household tasks calling my name.

I am ready for summer. I'm ready to ditch the alarm clock and let Sunday night be just another night. I do appreciate routine and my kids seem to do best when we have at least some semblance of a schedule, but I'm plum tired of school mornings. I'm tired of always feeling like we're rushed to eat dinner, finish homework and get the kids prepared for the next day, every evening. I'm ready to relax.

I'm looking forward to getting some things done in the yard this week. The grass needs to be mowed (I can't believe it, considering it's only April 8) and there is some cleanup to do still. Other than that I only have a couple of things on the calendar ... though it tends to fill in pretty quickly once the week gets started.

I hope everyone has had an enjoyable and blessed Easter. Looking forward to a fresh start tomorrow ...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Four years.

April 2nd has been on the brain for a couple weeks since we learned today would be the day Steve would be back to work. And it finally hit me a few days ago - April 2nd was the last day I worked in an office at a full-time job.

That was four years ago.

At the time it was pretty monumental for our family and a huge leap of faith for me to walk away from my job to be a stay-at-home mom. Because even after you crunch the numbers and see how much it really costs to commute to the office, order out lunch a couple times a week, keep yourself looking presentable, pay the daycare lady, and keep up with all the incidentals that pop up, there is a sense of security in knowing you have someplace to be every day, and at the end of the week that check will be deposited into your bank account.

As it turned out, my job wasn't helping us all that much financially. And if you account for all the emotional turmoil I put myself through over not being available enough for my kids, my job didn't help at all.

It wasn't that particular job. I didn't hate it. It was the job, the kids, the house, the husband, the bills, the responsibilities, and on and on ... and I lost the ability to focus on any one thing. When I made that mental list of priorities my family was at the top of the list. And that job - the one I didn't hate, but didn't love either - was keeping me from doing everything I could for the people I love most.

Honestly, I don't even remember April 2, 2008. There was no grand exit or anything. Just lots of hugs and well wishes from my co-workers. But I do remember the days following. For about two weeks I slept every chance I got. It was like I had been running a marathon and it was finally over and my body needed to recover. And I do remember that the weather was beautiful that spring, and many evenings I took a walk with Sam and Rachel. It was refreshing ... new ... and I felt so good.

The past four years have been interesting for us, and we sure have had our share of highs and lows. There have been times when I thought it might be necessary for me to join the workforce again - and I was willing to do whatever I needed to help support my family - but I think I finally figured out that getting a job isn't the answer. Walking by faith ... trusting that God will take care of us ... that's the answer.

So today feels like a new beginning for us. Maybe a little more symbolically than really, but the excitement over what's to come? It's there. I look at the future with a little less (OK, a lot less) trepidation than I did four years ago on this day.

There are even more great things ahead for us. I just know it.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Clean Slate Sunday: The end of Spring Break '12 edition

I'm happy. We had a wonderful week while Sam and Rachel were on spring break and Steve was home getting ready for the start of a new venture. I'm sure the kids would have liked to be a little busier, but I rather appreciated not traveling and being able to stick close to home.

Of course we waited until the last minute to get a few things done, so Steve and I got up early this morning and I helped him finish packing up the trailer. Mostly by saying, "Don't forget to take (fill in the blank)" and sipping coffee so I wouldn't fall asleep in the middle of Pastor Bill's sermon today.

It was a nice week of reconnecting and reminiscing, and I'm still a little giddy at the idea that we will see Steve again in a few days. We might get to see him every weekend until the kids are out of school for summer, if all goes well. We're all pretty excited about that. It's the little things, I tell ya'.

Steve and my dad and my brother Jim will be working together. Again. They headed out this morning to their home-away-from-home base in southern Michigan, having the trailers set up and the job site checked out by the time I talked to Steve again this evening.

Handsome trio, aren't they? 
Dad, Steve, Jimmy.

They're a force to be reckoned with, these guys. I'm pretty proud of all of 'em.

Tomorrow begins a new week. Kids go back to school. Steve back to work. Me back to ... everything I do. Have a blessed week.