Cutting Back, Living Intentionally, and Writing

You may recall that my new year’s resolution was to live intentionally.

So, what does that look like in my life?, I wondered.

Well, I know what it doesn’t look like.

It doesn’t look like worn-out, frazzled mom. It doesn’t look like worried mom juggling deadlines. It doesn’t look like fast food for every meal. It doesn’t look like the illusion of making money and “getting ahead” when, in actuality, the bank account is strained and debt continues to accrue. It doesn’t look like laundry and dish piles.

At least not for me. Not for us. Not for our family.

And so, I posted a plea for advice to you, my dear readers. You had great words of wisdom and encouragement. I felt good, at least, to know that I wasn’t completely crazy and alone, drowning in a sea of demands and deadlines.

Chris and I prayed, mulling over your words and ideas and re-evaluating our “intention” of intentional living in 2010 and decided that we were not, indeed, living with intention. We were being run by our circumstances. We were reacting, not proacting. We were slaves to the tyranny of the urgent demands of everyone and everything else besides those that were most important to us.

On March 15, I worked my last day at the most time-consuming of my four part-time jobs. I have all but closed shop on my Melaleuca “business” (although I am always happy to answer your questions and/or open a membership account for you—just ask). Our church is shutting its doors (another long story of emotional drain for our family—post forthcoming) at the end of the month, so I will no longer be employed there.

That leaves my writing.

I will always write. Writing for me is intuitive and effortless and cathartic. One of the negatives of these last few months is that I have not had the time I would have liked to devote to my writing.

Now I can devote my “free time” to my writing. Truly, I believe this is my gift from God. I feel that I’ve pushed all the other boundaries of my interests and skills. God has revealed to me that while I may be “OK” at many things, there are only a handful that are true gifts.

Writing. Writing here and at Faithful Bloggers and at Suite 101 is where you’ll find me now. I’ll be using my God-given skills for his glory.

If he chooses to bless us with money for that, then I rejoice. If he does not, then I rejoice!

I’ve decided that I will be intentional about living as he’s guiding me. The fact is that he’s placed certain circumstances in my life, which dictate his will for me.

He has called me to be Chris’ wife and all that that entails. He has called me to be mom to my three kids and all that that entails. He has called me to manage this home with the income that he has provided and all that that entails.  And he has called me to write. He has called me to write—since I could string together subjects and verbs in the first grade—for his glory and others’ edification.

OK, God. Show me my next steps. God, you promise that when you require something of your children, you equip them with the grace to accomplish it. I believe it, Lord.

I am intentionally and deliberately believing it.

Image: cohdra at morguefile.com

I’m Going to Whine Now

Typically, I don’t like to post whiney-tale ramblings.

But, hey, I’m in a funk and I have a blog.

And if I can’t whine on my blog, then why have a blog, right?

So, if this is a problem for you, then you can click off my post and come back tomorrow.

I hope you’ll stay, though, and help me. Help me, readers.

Help me figure out my life. 

I’m really overwhelmed right now, and I’m not sure what to do about it.

I know that I have no margins in my life. I first heard about the concept of margin several years ago.

Think of the margins on a piece of paper. That’s the “extra” space that can be used if needed or in an emergency. A place for spill-over. White space that is pleasing to the eye and a soft place to land.

Nope. I have none of that in my life.

(I’m going to get this book, ASAP, by the way. I’ve heard other friends talk about it. It’s been on my to-read list, but I’ve procrastinated. But, I’m going to get it soon. Disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate and receive a small commission for purchases referred to Amazon.)

My life runs from sun-up to sun-down with far more to do than there is time for.

FlyLady wants me to do my routines. Yea, I have no time for routines. Because as routine as routines go, they Still. Take. Time.

Exercising and grocery shopping and cleaning toilets all take time. Fifteen minutes here, an hour there, thirty minutes there. Time.

I need a lot of sleep. Like 8-9 hours to feel really good. But, hey, that takes time. I can either cut corners on my sleep and be grouchy and grumpy and less productive or I can feel guilty about going to bed when there is still so much left undone. (I know that’s crazy. But that’s me.)

All my little part-time jobs are wonderful blessings, and we truly need the money. We count on each little $100 or $200 check to make ends meet each month. So, which $200 check do I forfeit so that I don’t feel guilty when I go to sleep?  In the meantime, which meal/activity/chore is neglected so that I can finish a work assignment?

Blogging and writing are the only things I do for fun. Period. I don’t read. Magazines and books sit untouched on my nightstand. I haven’t scrapbooked since July 2007. That’s terribly sad, but seriously, how in the world can I justify sitting around sticking pictures into books when I have a to-do list as long as my arm? Plus, scrapbooking would require my downloading, sorting, and actually printing pictures. I don’t even want to think about how much time that would take.

Do I stop blogging? Do I stop writing for fun?

Do I shrivel up to nothing because I have no outlet for creativity?

I could go on and on. I know you know that I have laundry, meals, activities, Bible study, and church. I know you know what it’s like to juggle and prioritize.

Am I the most insanely organizationally-challenged person in the world? Or is this just “part of it” and I need to grin and bear it until retirement? 

What should I do? How do I take some of the pressure off? Which ball(s) to drop?

At what point do we simply step out in faith, do away with things that drain us, and trust God to provide compensation (whether emotional, financial, spiritual)?

Truly, I’d love to hear your feedback and any suggestions for me and my family.

Thank you. Whining over.

Image: Morgue File

Balancing the Demands of a Busy Friday

As I continue with my commitment to post every day for NaBloPoMo (oh, my gracious, when will this month be over???), I’m faced tonight with nothing.

Well, very little, at least.

I have a few ideas rattling around in my head, but they require work to compose. You know. Research and thought and wordsmithing (is that a word?), and well–I just can’t muster that up tonight.

So, I think I’m just going to brain-dump, a la, my diary circa 1985, which would give you whiplash just trying to keep up with all the characters and goings-on.

***

Today was nutty. I have a deadline to meet for writing a unit for Bible Lessons for Youth. It was due today. But I didn’t get it turned in today. Monday, people. Monday. I will finish it this weekend.

(And I say that here in this public forum for my own accountability.)

***

After I deposited the boys at school, I scurried to the church office to work on the books (I pay bills and balance the account–one of my four part-time jobs) and get a financial report to our officers. Then it dawns on me that:

  1. I haven’t eaten a thing.
  2. I am starving.
  3. I have a headache that feels like someone is sawing my neck at the base of my head.
  4. I have to get a book order form to Sus’ school TODAY.
  5. I have to leave for a hair appointment in 15 minutes because I look like Shaggy.

Like crazy, I rush home and change for my appointment. I decide to go through McDonald’s drive-thru (true confession time here) for a bite to eat. I gobble down 600 mg of ibuprofen and a Coke (more caffeine).

My headache eases and the appointment is enjoyable. I have just enough time to jet back across town to school and drop the envelope, then pick up the boys, then go back to school to join the pick-up line.

Whew!

I hate days like that, but also?

I’m secretly proud of my multitasking, multischeduling, most-efficient use of my time.

Some days, I really confuse myself.

***

Random parenting tip: If your child wakes screaming/crying with leg cramps, give the child ibuprofen. Get the child up into your lap to snuggle or rock. Rub the leg. Lightly cover the child in bed and/or turn on a fan to make sure the child is not too hot.

All of our kids have these from time to time, and this always works. Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s going on. I can almost time it–about 10 minutes after the medicine, the child is visibly more comfortable and can rest.

I Love Nashville

I just love my city.

I’ve posted before about how my kids have napped beside the kids of country music stars at preschool. Well, yesterday I bravely entered the armpit of Bellevue (aka the Bellevue branch library) with the two boys. Again, they were begging for a Scooby-Doo book. I figured I could maneuver the online catalog pretty quickly and decided I would take my chances on the initation of Armageddon if they were to run wild while I was scrolling through the library catalog.

I had just located a S-D book when a little girl walked up to us. I recognized her and her mom. She remembered my boys from preschool and wanted to say hi. Her mother is country singer Lari White, who also happened to play a role in the movie Cast Away (the woman who drew the wings on her packages and Tom Hanks’ character intercepted them). I, of course, knew who she was instantly. But I totally played it all cool and had a mom-to-mom chat, because you know, she is well, a mom.

And I just kind of loved that little chat we had. And I just love that in Nashville, Tennessee, you bump into regular ole moms in the armpit of Bellevue.

~~~

Tonight, I was so tired from working one of my four part-time jobs. I came home and every piece of meat I had was frozen solid and we had Hamburger Helper last night.

We decided to eat at the Loveless Cafe. I had actually never been, but I totally loved it. It’s really so neat that this uber-famous landmark is—literally—in our backyard.


And just as we were getting out of our car in the parking lot, a friend from the boys’ preschool and his mom hopped out, too. It was such a fun, happy thing. And so, we ate with them and got to know them better. In the process, we discovered connections to friends of their family. That’s always fun, isn’t it? To realize you know someone who knows someone who knows someone? About mid-way through the meal, one of the teachers at the boys’ preschool walked in with her husband. We all laughed because we enjoyed seeing friends we recognized.

This is why I love living in Nashville, especially our little southwestern corner. It feels so familiar. I LOVE bumping into friends from school, church, and the Y at the grocery store, restaurants, and the pharmacy. I love that I pulled behind BlondeMomBlog in the car rider line at our daughters’ school yesterday and hopped out to have a face-to-face chat (we had never met in person before). I love that the grandfather of my boys’ “best friend” (a precious little girl) and my father-in-law once worked together.

I think these little experiences have got to be a wonderful shadow of what heaven will be like: an endless excitement of seeing loved ones—and knowing them completely—and enjoying all that goes with that.

Odds and Ends

I’m running so far behind with—well, with just about everything, really.

  • I bought Twilight to read. I know, I know, I’m like 2 years behind the excitement. But I usually have such a time getting through fiction. Typically, I find it boring and predictable. I have high expectations for the Twilight series, though. I haven’t started it because I’ve set it up as a reward. I get to read it when I finish my latest writing assignment, which brings me to …
  • I have a Bible study unit for Cokesbury’s Bible Lessons for Youth due… um, yesterday. Yes, I’m behind. Yes, I cursed writers who were late when I was an editor. Yes, I will get it finished this weekend. If I have to stay up all night Sunday, it will be finished by Monday.

  • And then I get to start Twilight.

  • In my Back-to-School giveaway, the winner is… my fellow POTATO friend, Chonta. You won’t see her comment on the post because it magically disappeared, but she posted nonetheless. Chonta wins some fabulous Melaleuca kids’ products. (Disclosure: I am a Melaleuca marketing executive and customer. I am compensated by the company when I sign new members to the company. I purchased these products on my own, however, and sponsored the giveaway myself. I received no additional benefit from the company, nor was my giveaway affiliated with the company in any way.)
  • I will post about the first day of school. Hey. I still have Christmas photos on my camera that need downloading. Like I said, I’m just running a wee bit behind. I will get to the first day of school. Stay tuned.

I’m Really Old

As if I’m not already reminded daily (with three children that go 100 mph on air, apple juice, and ten hours of sleep) that I lack much in the energy and vitality departments, I must now face my pre-geriatric reality at work.

I’ve only worked in a few offices, but I would classify garden-variety office employees into three groups:

  1. the kids
  2. old
  3. decrepit

I know you’ve worked with the decrepit folks before. They’ve been on the job for 100 years. They’ve weathered lay-offs and restructurings. They’ve accrued six months of vacation and disappear for weeks at a time to redeem said vacation because they’ll lose it if they don’t. These seasoned veterans possess deep secrets, like where the good pen stash is hidden and how the postage machine works. Their desks are decorated with photos of grand kids in soccer uniforms. They have yard sales out of their cubicles.

The “old” guys are usually in managerial positions. In the “prime of life,” they have either found their niche in their profession or are about to make the next transition to success.

I always regarded the office old folks (about ten years ahead of me) with reverence. They were real grown-ups but had not yet checked out. They had mortgages and mini-vans. They had kids who took dance and went on family vacations. They cut the grass on the weekends.

They were—gasp!—in their forties.

So I’ve always been way below the “old” and “decrepit” categories. I’ve been one of the “kids” who sees movies on opening weekend, reads People, and could not—not even under duress—quote the Nickelodeon preschool morning line-up. I actually remember an office discussion circa 2001 where I was clueless as to who Spongebob was. Clueless. Now? I hum Spongebob songs in the shower and have a Squidward quote on my Facebook page.

At my new part-time job, I’m facing the reality that I’m an “old guy” now. Chattering about pregnancy and labor, children’s programming, and the decline of property values and home equity, I’ve moved into that category. Sadly, I’m displaying all the blandness of the “old” category without much of the “professional successful prime-of-life” aspects.

I’m working a few hours each week as an administrative assistant for a successful company that specializes in web-based training programs. I’m thinking a job at this company for someone in the tech or design fields would be a nice gig. Pleasant company. Growing company. Great future.

Naturally, the place is loaded with new grads or almost-new grads. Lots of people age 25 and under.

I try to fit in with the “kids” at the office. When they start to talk about recipes or weekend outings, I think I’m going to say something fun, youthful, and witty. Instead, most of my comments come out boring and irrelevant. Sometimes I feel like Lane’s dad in Better Off Dead as he consults a handbook of teen lingo when he talks with his son.

One day I was talking to C, a youngish professional, who sits beside me. She’s very friendly and likable. Somehow I tend to relate most of our conversations to the office where I worked before I had children. In my mind, it feels like I just left last month, when it’s been 6.5 years. So, naturally, a lot has changed. It’s actually been TEN years since I started that job.

I managed to turn the conversation that day into “Well, when I worked… blah, blah, blah,” which then became a mini-rant about the idiosyncrasies of a former boss. I was kind of in reminisce-mode-yet-so-glad-I’m-not-there-anymore-mode, while C politely nodded with a glazed-over expression. I concluded with the always-insightful and jovial, “Oh, well. That was ten years ago. 1999.”

C perked up. She said, “Wow. Ten years.”

It then occurred to me that my version of 1999 and C‘s version of 1999 were quite different.

I was beginning a great job, stockpiling bottled water and canned food for the Y2K “catastrophe,” and taking a cruise. I had already been married four years.

“How old were you in 1999?” Bracing for it. Here it comes.

“I was a freshman in high school.”

Uh-huh.

One day, I overheard the group trying to figure out another young woman’s age. They were going through how long she had been married, when she graduated from college, and so on.

Then they said, “She’s got to be ‘our age.'”

Yea. Our age. 30-ish? 30-something? Wait a second. What exactly IS “our age”?

“You know. Like 24, 25.”

And another day, office chatter turned to an Internet posting about a baby who was born at 12:34:56 on 7/8/09 (you see: the 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, and 9, right?). Anyway, that got us talking about weird birth dates and number combinations.

I just happened to blurt out—from my prehistoric perspective: “Well, I went to school with a girl who was born on 6/6/66. Isn’t that creepy?”

C says, “That’s not that long ago.” (Not really sure why she said that. Maybe she could sense my mental gymnastics with carbon dating and wanted to make me feel a little better? But anyhoo… her comment led to another co-worker’s comment:)

“Yea. She’d be… let’s see.. 43 now.”

Forty-three years ago. You know. Before electricity and air conditioning and frozen dinners.

So my fortieth birthday is still more than a year away, but I can’t help being all contemplative as that milestone approaches.

My new job with the “kids” has just accelerated my timetable, that’s all.