Finding Enoughness

75/365 A Measure of Self Worth

75/365 A Measure of Self Worth by ~*Leah*~ on Flickr

Last week, I reviewed Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. It got some good feedback (even from the author!). One of the comments left was this one:

I don’t get it?! what’s wrong with having things and living a happy life?! why do we always have to cut back on things…

And I thought, “Those are good questions and deserve a post reflecting on them.” So here we are.

There is nothing wrong with a) having things and b) living a happy life. However, they are not inclusive of each other. We all know of the people who have lots of things and don’t live happy lives. Need examples? Look at the celebrities who unexpectedly lost their lives to substance abuse– legal or otherwise. And of course not having things doesn’t mean you can’t have a happy life either. If you actually know people who live below the poverty line, you now they are not all living unhappy lives.

The bottom line is, having things is not an indicator of happiness. Personally, I believe everyone has a baseline of happiness that is tied to having things.

Ok, let’s think about food for a minute. Everyone needs a certain bare minimum of food to survive. After you meet that bare minimum, you should take in food and manage it in a way to maintain your body in a healthy way. We all have our own personal cutoffs when it comes to food– that level where you know you’ve exceeded the amount you need to be healthy. The beauty is, we have actual evidence of this right? We have indicators of whether we’re managing our food intake properly. You can be underweight, healthy, overweight, obese, or morbidly obese. When you hit the range of excess– overweight, obese, or morbidly obese, there’s only one way to get back to healthy– eat less.

The important thing to remember is this– although there are standard indicators of whether or not you are eating correctly, there is no standard on the exact amount of food a person should take in to be healthy. A quick search on the web reveals the “recommended” number of calories a young woman takes in a day is different than a young pregnant woman. Children at different ages have different recommendations as well. Bodybuilders require a different amount of calories than an average man. And anyone who’s ever even bothered counting calories knows that’s not the whole story.

We know that I have a different metabolism rate than you do so even though we might be the same age, weight, and height I need less calories a day than you do because I metabolize differently than you do. We also know there are different types of calories right? There are healthy calories and empty calories for instance. So you see, what works for me as far as how much food I should eat will simply not work for you.

Money? Is the exact same thing.

The hardest part is determining your financial number of calories. But, it’s just something you have got to do. What do I mean?

Figuring out your own personal “enoughness”.

What is enough house for you? What is enough car for you? Enough clothes? Enough entertainment? Enough education? Enough charity? Enough beauty? What is enough time spent earning money?

We are told throughout our lives, “The sky’s the limit!” and it is, but it’s most likely not the right limit for you or for me or for anyone really.

Determining what is your very own enough is one of the most liberating experiences you can imagine. Just getting started on figuring it all out generates a really calm feeling in your soul.

Why?

We don’t like endlessness. We don’t like not knowing where we’re headed. We don’t like not knowing the plan. We don’t like being at the mercy of others.

When you don’t take personal responsibility for determining your very own Enough, you are putting yourself in the hands of others. And you are putting yourself in the hands of two types of others– the type who are as clueless, blind, and lost as you are and the type who have their own levels of Enough set and they want you to get them there.

Now that I think I squared away the first half of the comment, let’s do the second half–

why do we always have to cut back on things…

Try this little mental exercise for me, ok? I’d say close your eyes but you wouldn’t be able to read the rest of it. So, empty your mind as much as possible.

In your mind’s eye, picture yourself. Go ahead and do a really good job fleshing yourself out there. Don’t do an imaginary you or a fantasy you. Add the pounds. Put some clothes on even if it’s a bit wrinkly. Figure your hair out. Give yourself a facial expression you like. Don’t forget the details– a wedding ring, shoes, glasses or contact lenses, a laptop case or a purse, etc.

Ok now that you’ve got you, add anyone you help support in a significant way. Children, parents, siblings, significant others, etc. And now put yourself in your home. Map out all of your rooms. Drop all of your furniture into them. Fill your fridge up the way you’ve got it right now. Go ahead and turn the TV on. Check the closets. Open the drawers. Have a pet? Don’t forget to set out their food and water.

And just keep going. Think about any car you might have. Think about everything you and/or your loved ones did in the past week. Think of the doctor visits, the breakfasts, the lunches, the dinners, Valentine’s Day, the movie rentals/streaming, the craft projects, the groceries, the clothes you laundered, the floors you washed, the toilets you scrubbed, the ride to and from work, and so on and so forth.

Do you see “enough”? Do you even see abundance? If you are honestly looking at just YOU, you most probably do. When we start bringing in other comparison points, things diminish and lose their luster don’t they?

And that’s the point. Just like your food diet is not going to work for me, your neighbor’s things are not going to work for you. Once you’re at Enough, everything else isn’t going to do anything for you. Just like with food, you can even reach a level of Too Much. And that’s when you start cutting back and doing so joyously.

When you’re losing weight, do you bemoan the pounds as they roll back? Do you suffer anxiety as your clothes becomes looser and looser on you? Of course not! Because you know you are on the way to health.

This ties back to what I mentioned in my review of 7. The unique thing about her approach was she turned her diet into an opportunity to benefit others. And maybe this is something you can try if the idea or act of cutting back in your life disturbs you. Imagine if there was a way doctors could take the weight you lost and give it to someone chronically underweight. Wouldn’t that motivate you to lose even more? The same thing applies with charity.

I’d like to believe that most of us care for people outside of ourselves. That’s the beauty of Enough. When you have Enough, you’re free to give and care for others. You can send your niece to college. You can volunteer at a hospital. You can donate to a food bank or a homeless shelter. You can hire a cleaning lady for your friend with cancer.

We tend to focus on people who have more than us when we seek comparison. And when we do, it’s pretty yucky feeling. We don’t stack up. But if we compare to those who have less, I believe we will more often than not  find ourselves wanting to help and we will always feel grateful, which is a pretty nice feeling.

So there you are. That’s my very long answer to your very short comment. What about you, readers? Do you see enough? Do you see abundance? Do you compare a lot to others around you even in external ways like TV shows, movies, ads, etc.? Are you still working on figuring out your Enough?

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Review- 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

Oh this book. This book took me completely and utterly by surprise. For Christmas, a friend gave me 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess because she thought I’d like what she took to be the general theme of the book from the blurb in the back– this lady scales back in 7 aspects of her material life. Yeah I love that stuff.

What is not glaringly obvious from the main blurb in the back is that this book is written by a pastor’s wife who’s also a speaker on Christianity. You have to look at the fine print for that and then it’s like “How in the hell did I miss that?”

When I started the book, this was an unpleasant surprise. Holy bible quotes everywhere. Not to mention the fact that God, Jesus, Christ, Jesus Christ, Lord, Holy Spirit, etc. get mentioned about 5 times per page. Usually bible quotes combined with a zealous use of Jesus name drops is very much not a good thing for me. My hypocrisy senses start tingling and I usually back away as quickly as possible while trying to not draw attention to myself.

But this is a book, not a person, and there WAS the whole thing about cutting back the excess in the seven areas of her life: Food, Clothes, Spending, Media, Possessions, Waste, and Stress. And she even broke it down into monthly projects. Which I always am a sucker for. Always.

Oddly enough, this book was part of a rhyming event in my brain as I had lately been thinking about the Republicans and the huge conservative shove to strip down “entitlement” programs in favor of a smaller government and more money in their pockets in the form of lower taxes that they have somehow mixed up with a fervent “We love Jesus and the Bible and truly want to protect Christianity” message.

And I kept thinking about how damn hypocritical it felt to me because even though I don’t practice anymore, I sure as heck know all about “Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ” thanks to being raised by a really strict Catholic family and going through Catholic education from Kinder through High School. I’ve read the Bible thing those guys love front to back, inside out . Heck I even used to read the Bible out loud for the benefit of others as I was one of the lecterns at Church. And if there’s one thing I know about the Jesus that is in the Bible, it’s that he can’t possibly be the same Jesus the Republican candidates vow to love and protect to woo a bunch of Christian votes.

It turns out Jen Hatmaker apparently sees a lot of the glaring hypocrisies in American Christian churches today that I do. I can’t stand churches and I can’t stand the Christians that practice what I see as a Capitalism is Awesome form of Christianity. She is just way totally nicer about pointing them out than I am.

Let’s face it guys, Jesus was a dirty homeless hippie. You want to know the truth? Every time someone makes a derisive comment about “bleeding heart liberals” one image comes to mind:

If you really think the same dude who gave away free wine for his first miracle and later sat on a mountain giving away fish and bread all day would be against programs like Food Stamps or WIC, you’re wrong. If you think the same guy who made it a point to always seek out and include society’s shunned ones would be against extending this and other forms of assistance to as many people as possible, you’d also be wrong. If you really think the same guy who walked around healing lepers, restoring sight to the blind, and even raising people from the dead would be against free health care for everyone you’d be totally and completely wrong yet again. If you think the guy who talked about how awesome the Samaritan guy was for helping feed, shelter, and heal a total stranger no questions asked would want people to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps, well I’m pretty sure you’re in the totally wrong church.

You can imagine then why Jen Hatmaker turned my insides cold when she made the observation that, speaking on a personal finance level, you could interpret “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” into an equation where you live off 50% of your income and use the other 50% to love all of your neighbors.

I think it was around there that I started thinking, “Oh wow. She is a total Jesus Christ lover geek but she actually gets it. That’s… rare.”

Jen’s story is inspiring, moving, and interesting. Lots of people do projects where they eliminate this, that, and the other from their lives in big ways. But until Jen’s book, I was yet to read someone who took the experience and turned it into a movement to help those around her. De-cluttering is only half the battle. I missed the memo but I’m glad I got it this time.

Personally, I don’t think you need to be associated with a faith or a church or anything to look around you and do good for the world but I would likely be very interested in at least linking up with a church like Jen’s because it would give me an excellent way to lend a hand to the community. That moves me greatly.

Personally I found that my favorite thing about the book was the fact that I would read her experiences and think, “That is a brilliant idea. I want to do that for someone. How would I even start to do something like that?” Her book is a reflection and a call to action. A really loud, persistent one that somehow manages to remain humble and honest at the same time.

I strongly recommend the book even if you’re like me and things like churches and Jesus Christ give you the Hypocrisy Heebie Jeebies. Because I actually think Jen Hatmaker might be authentic. What she is teaching and what she is practicing makes more sense to me as an example of a true Christian than the classic modern representations of Christians today.

If you feel there is just TOO MUCH in your life– too much crap, too much stress, too much noise, too much madness, too much sadness, too much to deal with– grab this book. I think you’ll be moved.

By the way, the rhyming events continue. Last night, I caught this completely nauseating piece about Christian Louboutin at the Bal Harbor Shops. While I think many of his shoes are beautiful works of art, I can’t move past nausea thinking of the cost. I honestly wanted to weep when the woman so breezily admitted to owning about 100 pairs of the red-soled extravagances. Something is really messed up in our world. I’m glad there are people like the Hatmakers working to change things. I want to be one of them too but man is it scary.

P.S. What is a rhyming event? The term comes from this RadioLab podcast (omg I forgot to tell you about the Live Show of theirs I went to last week- future post) called “The Universe Knows My Name“. I like to think of them as dots waiting to be connected. Coincidences that can’t be so easily brushed away.

P.P.S. I keep thinking about this book every time I read another update from the many participants in Carla’s De-Cluttering Challenge for February. Rhyming event, rhyming event, rhyming event!

Post-Thanksgiving Pre-Christmas Nesting

Home is where the Heart is
Home is where the heart is” by Linda Yvonne on Flickr

It’s a weird time of year for me. Exhausting and exciting. Tiring and titillating. Wearisome and whimsical.

Lately, the condition of my home has really been rubbing me wrong. Every room in the house has a mess in it of varying size and degree. Some parts of the house don’t smell great. Walking through the house is somewhat of an adventure as you’re likely to either run into or step on something if not do both.

Cleaning out for the garage sale was a big help but it wasn’t the complete answer. So I’ve kept at it.

Sometimes, it’s been a very frustrating thing for me. When you have children especially, housekeeping is truly a Sisyphean task. And there have been moments where this sort of realization has smashed into me and left me frustrated and even depressed.

It’s something like I’m moving the fifth load of laundry into the dryer and am suddenly horribly coldly aware I’ve done this four times in one weekend already and I will likely do it again in another day or two. Horrible. Why. Am. I. Doing. This.

And yet there are moments of redemption too. Brief ones. But you have to clutch to those because the other ones will drive you mad.

Moments like this past weekend where I was busting my ass to get my kitchen beautiful again. I mean, I went to bed at 3 in the morning on Sunday, from cleaning the house ok? It’s still not done, not even close, but that’s not the point of the story.

The point is I was working on the kitchen and I was taking things down from the window sill to wipe it down and at first I thought, Why am I even bothering with the window sill? No one cares about the window sill. And then I suddenly sort of changed moods and switched gears. Suddenly I was doing something to give my loved ones a nice home, one similar to what I had growing up.

And that felt good. And that felt like a good motivator. And I rode it till 3 in the morning. And I’m still riding it because I know it’ll (most likely) eventually evaporate.

But I think to counter the eventual feel good vibe evaporation (quite the scientific term, believe you me) I need to ride it long enough to devise a system. Or maybe not even devise but re-implement.

Like (practically) every good female on the internet, I have been seduced by the FLYlady. I’ve toyed with her process and have had varying degrees of success. Mostly I have two big problems with it– it’s not compatible for a single full time working mother of three children and I really just can’t ever finally love housework. I know she says it’s about finally loving yourself but I beg to differ. I just won’t go into it all right now.

The thing is, whether I like her or not, whether I have the time and patience to put her system into effect completely at my house or not, there is one basic part of FLYlady’s system that works– routine maintenance.

My mom is a domestic diva. She is of the old school lineage that truly takes pride in a home’s appearance. I remember the house always being clean, or at least smelling that way. To this day, when my mom brings something she’s laundered at her house, it always smells a million times better than my laundry and it lasts way longer too. My mom has told me, in a million ways, that essentially FLYlady is right. Cleaning your house is something that has to be done every single day. Like brushing your teeth.

You know how you wouldn’t leave your house in the morning without brushing your teeth? My mom believes you shouldn’t go to bed at night without cleaning something in your house, preferably a lot of somethings.

Even though it’s still hard for me to admit it, Mom’s right. And that’s where the program comes into place. I actually had a house I was proud of a while ago. Which is funny because it was also the time I had a body I was proud of and lots of people out there would say it’s not a coincidence.

And the crazy part is this actually happened during a time in my life where I was a single mom.

I’m unhappy with my home and my body these days. They both feel dumpy and frumpy and neglected. But this post isn’t about my body, it’s about the house. So I’m going to start making up my lists of daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. And I’m just going to keep riding the wave into a more standard program of routine maintenance. It worked so well for me once before, I know it can work again. And the kids are older and can join in more ways than they were able  to two years ago.

So that’s where my mind’s been these days. With my home and putting some heart into it. What about you?

By the way, random question but when should I open up Tinsel my Christmas Pig?

Garage Sale Recap

It's TRUE!

There are so many ways to say it, and so many things to apply the concept to but you really have to clear the old to make room for the new. Change is such an inherent aspect of being human.

It seems having a garage sale is, for me, a great way to flush out my life and invigorate it with newness.

I don’t have garage sales often. And honestly, I strongly dislike prepping for them and actually doing them is a major strain on me as well for a number of reasons in a number of ways. But it just so happens both times I’ve done a garage sale have resulted in so much good coming out of them, they’ve been deemed Totally Worth It.

My first garage sale I did the year before last. And maybe a garage sale every other year is a good thing for me. Just enough time to accumulate enough stuff to make it worth the agony perhaps.

Yesterday was my second garage sale. I’ve been working on it for days. I’m pretty detail-oriented when it comes to garage sales and I always feel like I just don’t have enough time. This time, I felt way more prepared than the last time but it was still pretty taxing.

We cut the string and opened just after 9:00 AM. In my city, there’s a regulation that forbids beginning the garage sale earlier. But we had a ton of stuff and so we roped off the driveway while we set up. Some people were not amused and a couple were extremely pushy but thankfully I had a couple of friends who made awesome bouncers too. When we were (mostly) ready, we got going. The vast majority of the little to mid-size things went really fast, probably in the first couple of hours.

Those are the most tedious to deal with but my friend, The FacePainter, was on-hand and she was awesome. She loves garage sales and just knew what to do and how to make it work really smooth. I think most of the transactions that included the small things were handled by her.

The bigger items, furniture, went in the afternoon. And it almost all went.

Best part of the day, maybe even week?

A woman pulled up and was eying my dining room set. “How much for the dining table?” she asked. “Twenty bucks,” I said, “with the chairs.” She started crying and hugged me. She thanked me and told me I had no idea what I was doing for her. She then spotted a sofa I had in the back. “How much is the sofa?” she asked. “Also twenty bucks,” I said. The smile on her face was SO bright. I told her she could have both for $35 but she said no way and paid the full amount.

She ended up telling me the super brief version of her story. It was something along the lines of her being sick for a very long time, being unable to work consistently for years, and everything in her house becoming severely neglected as a result. The stuff she was buying from me was stuff that was her taste and that she could actually afford. She was so happy. She also ended up buying a nightstand for $5 and some clothes we were selling at a quarter each. She bought a couple of items for her granddaughter who was with her too and some of the avocados I had picked that day.

That’s the thing I like about garage sales. I was glad things I was letting go of were able to help her, to make her feel better. It’s amazing when you see the ripple of effect of charity or good deeds.

There’s a reason I was selling my dining set and for as cheap as $20.

On Saturday, I got a phone call from my Aunt. I had told her I was having the garage sale because in purging my closet to the bare bones, I found a bunch of clothes that I had barely worn which were way too small for me but would likely fit my goddaughter (who funny enough had just donated a bunch of shoes to me not that long ago). She was super excited about my having a garage sale because she was de-cluttering as well. She wanted to donate the items to me but she wanted to know if I was allowed to sell furniture at my garage sale. Of course I was.

Well, in that case, she wanted to know if we could think of a way to get her dining set to me because they wanted to change. They’d had it for years and they hardly ever used it because they had it set as the formal dining room and was too out of the way.

I told my aunt that yes my garage sale allowed furniture to be sold but if she was just going to give it to me to sell so I could have the money, I was going to keep it for myself. I told her to send me a picture because I wanted to be sure I was thinking of the right dining set and that I hadn’t confused it with something I had seen somewhere else. Sure enough, this is the picture that arrived in my inbox. Note: This is the dining room in her house, not mine!

It includes the table, the chairs, and the buffet. I love it. It’s so beautiful. And there’s no way I could afford a set like that any time soon. Just no way. The set I had was a $150 bargain from IKEA that I built all by myself. It was nice and modern looking but it was showing signs of wear. And that was fine, because I have kids and I know that’s just what they do, but this was too wonderful to pass up on. My uncle decided since I was going to keep it, he’d arrange one of his delivery guys to bring it to the house for me some time this week.

And that’s the way I ended up being able to sell my dining set to this woman who was so very grateful for the chance to improve her situation as well. Ironically, the sofa she bought was the same sofa my Aunt had donated to my Grandmother who then donated to me when I was between couches a couple of years ago. Good deeds lead to more good deeds somehow some way.

Clearing out the old summons in the new.

A new (to me) dining set isn’t the only stuff I received in the course of the garage sale. Funny enough, I cleaned out two closets: Eldest’s and my own. My friend brought a bunch of clothes to the garage sale– clothes from her sister and clothes from her boyfriend’s co-worker. The sister has a son slightly older than Eldest so I found heaps of clothes in Eldest’s size and a lot of it perfect for a Miami winter. I couldn’t believe it! And her boyfriend’s co-worker is a shopaholic who apparently runs the gamut in sizes because there was everything in there from size 0 to size 8. I’m in the size 6 to 8 part of the spectrum these days which was my closet was empty and depressed.

Not anymore! I got a gorgeous wool coat, some beautifully tailored suit jackets, a couple of great dresses, a beautiful top that is perfect for New Year’s, and sweaters (which I had purged very rigorously).

And I was able to keep the good vibes going forward. I found an absolutely stunning 100% silk blouse that I just knew was my grandmother’s style. I had her try it on and she loved it. She was so excited about her little garage sale gift.

We also got a free TV from the Boyfriend who moved in this week. It just became too difficult for him to continue paying rent and child support and car insurance and other bills on unemployment. So he’s with us until his situation improves. The TV is in the kids’ newly cleaned out and reorganized play room. They’re going to flip out when they see it today.

When everything was done, I counted out the money. I made $334.75. I dumped the $1.75 that was in quarters into Tinsel the Christmas Pig, put $4 into the Worlds Finest Chocolate envelope since we sold some of those, put $24 aside for field trip money, and was left with $305.

I promptly found a Christmas themed container and dumped it in there properly jump-starting my Christmas shopping fund.

I don’t think of myself as a Garage Sale Guru but I will tell you the Top Three things that worked for me:

  1. Price everything clearly. I found a pack of neon color dots at Walgreen’s that, paired with a black Sharpie, worked wonderfully.
  2. Price everything at your lowest price point. Remember, if you have an item for sale in a garage sale it is because you have made the decision this item no longer belongs in your life. The ultimate goal is to get rid of it. I don’t give items that don’t sell a second chance and I don’t think you should either. If it doesn’t sell, I pack my car and immediately deliver it to Goodwill. I immediately post the large items on Craigslist’s Free Section and put them on the curb. When I say, “Everything must go” I mean it, and you should too. It’s better to get the quarter for it at the garage sale than the zero you get for it at Goodwill. Besides, it also goes much faster when it’s priced super cheap. The less time you’re out there, the better. I actually didn’t do this for my furniture items and wish I did because I don’t think I would’ve been out there as long!
  3. Price things as uniformly as possible. For instance, you can have clothing split into four categories– 25 cents, 50 cents, 75 cents, and a dollar. Put all of the 25 cents stuff together and label it clearly. Do the same for each bin and put some separation between them so things don’t get mixed together too much. Maybe do the bin of 25 cent clothing, a bin of kid shoes, a bin of 50 cent clothing, a bin of purses, a bin of 75 cent clothing, a bin of adult shoes, a bin of dollar clothing, and a bin of belts, ties, and hats.

I know the rest of the United States is entering the unfriendly weather season but tell me about your past garage sale experiences or plans for future ones! I really want to become a garage sale shopper. I said it last time I had a garage sale and never did it. This time really reminded me how much I should at least try it, especially when I got the chance to shop my friend’s goods! What turned you on or off to garage sales?

WIP Wednesday: Doll Parts

Here’s what I’m working on right now crochet-wise. If you like this sort of thing, Tami’s got more.

Ok I have to admit, every time I take out the head I think of Fraggle Rock.

I’m taking my time with these toys, not because they’re fidgety or fussy but just because I’m sort of enjoying being leisurely about the whole thing and sort of meticulous too. I don’t know if you can tell, but I ran out of the skin tone yarn I used for the head and neck and the arms are in a different tone. I don’t think it’s a huge deal and I doubt my daughter will care much. I actually plan on doing something fun with the legs so we’ll see how that all plays out soon. I also realized the other day I still have pieces to do on the other panda but all in due time. Like I said, no rush and it’s fun to just sort of pick them up and do a little bit and yet it looks like a lot. That’s one of the huge perks to amigurumi– just a few short rows and you’ve got a huge portion of your project done!

The other thing is I’m reading like mad. I finished The Red Pyramid and started on Soulless. Soulless and Hornet’s Nest were tied at my last comment count so I decided to go with who got the votes first and it was Soulless. Besides it lets me postpone Hornet’s Nest just a little bit longer. I’m having loads of fun with Soulless. Just eighty pages in and I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to recommend this to lots of friends. My biggest problem with it is I find myself constantly craving tea and biscuits and I don’t even partake of that usually! I’m also fiending for a bustle and parasol.

Oh, another thing I’ve been working on is the house of course. I’ve mentioned it so many times before but over the weekend I did the linen closet and I now I have two big bags the Veterans are coming to pick up tomorrow. I sort of want to declare my Home Office done as well but… it’s not entirely there yet. It also keeps getting messy too easy so I have to troubleshoot that and get it smoother. Almost though, I can feel it! The Playroom/Laundry Room is also ALMOST there though I’m still scratching my head over a few things.

I got good news today and I guess it’s worth mentioning because my finances are definitely a Work in Progress. It looks like I’m getting a tax refund after all and it’s a very good amount that I was not counting on at all. I don’t know when it’ll come in or anything like that just yet but I did get the paperwork and I’m really extremely overwhelmed with shock and relief. I’m definitely fighting tooth and nail the extreme desire to round up my kids and scream “We’re going to Disney World!” but that money has more important uses right now and besides I want a trip to Disney funded the right way. I paid a CPA to do it and in my case it’s well worth it. BTW, I’ve sent almost $3,000 in payments towards my debt so far this year. I have a little sidebar tracking my goal of $11,000 in debt payments this year. I might raise it in a couple of months when everything smooths out and I have a better idea of what to expect money-wise.

No break for me today, Ex isn’t taking the kids as scheduled. He’s claiming work is way too demanding and keeping him too late. Eldest actually looked a bit disappointed when I let them know which, honestly, surprised me half a second. Children are such interesting creatures.

Ok yes, I actually had a mini cry when I saw I was getting a refund. There, I admitted it.

WIP: Doll, De-Clutter, Divorce

Today’s Wednesday and I’m supposed to show you my WIP except my camera’s gone missing. So, instead of showing you, I will tell you that I am working on this pretty little doll also from Milky Robot. This is the second pattern I’d won on her giveaway post. One panda is complete (you’ll see him Friday if the camera turns up) and the other panda is 80% complete. The patterns are crystal clear and easy to follow. They’re not inundated with pictures but you’re not left unsure what the heck you’re supposed to do. My panda doesn’t look like her panda but I went with a very different approach facially and I’m still not great at sewing all of the parts together (you’ll see what I mean).

Something else I’ve been working on is de-cluttering of course. I’m on a year-long mission to go through my house space by space and purge, clean, and organize. So many changes already, and it’s still so early in the year. There is definitely a lot of truth to the idea one can only handle so much stuff. The less there is, the easier it is to keep neat and tidy even with three mini godzillas precious angels running around. This week, I got a couple of boxes my grandmother had in her garage that were mine and started picking through those. One was full of photos—old photos. Photos from before Ex and I separated. Sorting through the pictures, and chucking so very many away, made me realize a few things.

Uno. He really did/does have an alcohol issue. Just because you’re a mostly functional alcoholic, doesn’t mean you’re not an alcoholic. Most of the photos he’s in feature him holding some sort of alcoholic beverage, or passed out behind a row of bottles, or show boxes of beer in the background. He needed a drink every day and didn’t care what it was. I remember on days we didn’t have beer or wine or mixers, he’d pour himself a glass of straight vodka on ice and drink that—usually more than just one.

Dos. We were really, really young (I was also super skinny holy crap), quite foolish, and badly misguided. He really did not want the family life. It’s obvious in the photos too. So many of the photos that have him with one of the kids, it’s with him on the sofa, looking away from the camera at the TV, with a kid on his lap or next to him. There’s one where Eldest was just a little fat infant and he was smashing his nose and the face Ex was making… just total annoyance and irritation. It hurt to see that. When he was looking at the camera, he was usually frowning or deadpan. The only exceptions to these photos are family, friend, and group photos. In other words, he was only happy being a family man when others were watching.

Tres. I really don’t make a bad mom or even wife or even friend. I know I made some mistakes, but I also admit I was really young and really scared about what was going on. I was also stubborn and likely suffering from post-partum but too proud to seek professional help. And yet, I saw in so many pictures all of the handmade cards I’d made him and the kids. You should’ve seen all of the cakes and treats I used to make for birthdays and holidays. When it comes to people I care about, I’ve always made a concerted effort to spoil them rotten—even if the favor is unreturned.

I’ve done a lot of purging this month of really old things tied with lots of emotions. It sucks while at the same time soothes. But, it really is very easy to get rid of things when you’re in a world of hurt. I reduced three big plastic bins of my old keepsakes down to one. I whittled down two overflowing photo boxes to one with a bit of room. I know I can do more and get rid of even more, but it’s also tiring and in the case of photos, tedious. So, I’ve made my first round and I know that when it’s time to get into the living room, I need to make organizing photos a project. But, I’ve got a great start and even found two empty photo albums.

Meanwhile, I am not reading anything at the moment which is just crazy considering the insane pace I’ve been keeping. I have finished Outlander (fun) and Organizing from the Inside Out (meh). I just can’t decide which book to read next from the several I have available to me. But, it does feel quite good to be reading voraciously again and I’ve decided to revise my reading goal after all. Initially, I’d set my brain to read eleven books and crochet eleven projects this year. I’ve read sixteen books already and we’re not even done with March. So, I’m going to go with 60 books as my new challenge because challenges are supposed to be challenging. At first, I was thinking 48 but then I was like, “Hey! Stop being such a wussy book worm, nerd!” and I changed it. So, for the love of Shakespeare, please send book suggestions my way. I’ve found several other book worm bloggers that I’m following and am blatantly stealing ideas from them but they may not be enough! I also pillaged Time’s list of 100 best English language novels and took my first round of picks from there as well. Although I do have a page here entitled Books I’d like to Read, I’ll probably keep it to about ten to fifteen titles long. The majority of my “to read” list is on Goodreads (sorry NicoleandMaggie).

Tomorrow’s the big day. I did talk to Ex yesterday and he’s definitely not going to the hearing which is a relief for me. He’s also making some sort of payment today, but I suspect it will only be half what he’d promised me. I’ll enter the final amount he’s in arrears for tomorrow with the income garnishment. I just don’t think he’s going to ever catch up otherwise. Because it’s half, I don’t have to borrow money from my parents, but I’m not sure I’ll have a very good rollover for next month. Since he’s starting a new job in the next few days, I am sure there’s going to be income issues as there’s always one delay or another with a new job’s first paychecks.

I just keep chanting “It’s almost over” between deep and steady breaths alternated with stuffing junk food in my mouth.

Last night, I made Peanut Butter Cookies—from scratch. That’s right: this working single mom of three made cookies from scratch on a weeknight. And they were delicious. Even my Mom said they were and even Abuela said they were ok (she actually said they were “rico” but very begrudgingly). The other night,  I asked my mom if she had any good general reference cookbooks she didn’t really use anymore that I might borrow (forever, sorry Mom) and she brought me two. These might really get me going in the kitchen. It’s nice to have a couple of big books like this. There’s options, but not too many options that you’re overwhelmed like what happens when I do recipe searches online. They’re reputable cookbooks and I really love working with a recipe. The cookies were made with a recipe from the ever classic Joy of Cooking. I had all of the ingredients on hand. It turns out, I enjoy baking. I was reminded of this while looking through those old pictures too.

Maybe I’ll have a Divorce is Sweet Dessert Party.

Like money, like home

climbing
“Climbing” by tcnikki on Flickr

I wish every day was like these days right now. These days when there is nothing but major confidence coursing through my veins and I know, with every fiber in my freaking body, things are going to be ok. I just know that my kids and I—we’re going to get through this not just alright but on top of the world. These are the days when everything just seems to be click, click, clicking as one thing after another falls into place. These are the days where my climb uphill is steady, sure, and brisk. These are the days where progress doesn’t feel like a figment of my imagination, it’s obvious and clear. I’m happy and patient and able to find just a little more energy to get this done, and then that too. The thing is these days are numbered. In my case, these days are lasting about seven to ten days tops and then, it’s like the tide comes in and I’m just overwhelmed with a sea of dark thoughts, doubts, anger, impatience, frustration, ineptitude, betrayal, insecurity, and loneliness. And on those days, well it’s just an entirely different experience.

But right now? I’m making the most of it, trying to build on it in the hopes of pushing it out a bit farther, making it last a bit longer. I keep reading that one of the best things to do when depressed is to accomplish something, no matter how small. These feelings of accomplishment do a lot for us and it’s something I’ve personally felt and have even written about previously. The problem, of course, is finding the motivation to actually do something and then to believe you won’t go screw it up in a massive way. So, they suggest you do something really small. And then build on that and do something just a bit larger. And so on and so forth with the end result hopefully being you’ve dug yourself out of the rut. Sometimes it works, sometimes the dark is too deep.

Of course, just because you’re feeling good doesn’t mean you don’t have to go out of your way to accomplish things because there’s no rut to climb out of. For me, I see this as a major opportunity to really get ahead and put some major distance between me and the things that really tend to pull me down when the positivity starts evaporating from my system—like money, my parenting, and my house. So, while I am quite effective of getting rid of things when the days are dark (“All of this crap is useless. Life is useless. Moan. Whine. Etc.”), I’m more effective at actually putting a nice shine on things when I’m feeling good.

For instance, last night I was up late again clearing some more surfaces and then, why not, filing away some papers, polishing the dining table and chairs (in full view of my Abuela’s lit kitchen window because I want her to see that I actually do clean, dammit), and wiping the glass tables, and doing a quick little vacuuming of the area rug, and so on and so forth. My living room, dining room, home office, and kitchen are as glorious as they can get cleanliness-wise and it feels good. The space actually feels breathable, calm, and open. While I don’t necessarily believe, or disbelieve, in feng shui, I most definitely acknowledge there is a change in energy, feeling, ambiance, whatever you want to call it, in those spaces now. MutantDaughter walked through it this morning and then walked all around it, taking it all in without my having said a word about any of it and finally sort of swooned, “This is all so clean.” It makes my heart pang because, obviously, this is something she appreciates and I can give it to her, and her siblings, with just a little bit of work. Not just that, but there’s encouragement to be found because even though these rooms are absolutely gorgeous right now in their cleanliness, it really didn’t take much work or even time from me to get them that way. I think I probably spent a couple of hours, max, cleaning and picking up last night. And yet while a few months ago I would have told you that I could spend ten hours cleaning in my house and not have anything to show for it, this is the farthest thing from the truth right now. The reasons, I’m guessing, are because I’m eliminating and working at it a little bit every single day.

I know there are lots and lots of money analogies out there, like a healthy wallet and a healthy body, for instance. However, maintaining your house in order is much like, if not exactly like, maintaining your money in order which is probably just like maintaining your body in order because really it doesn’t matter what it is, it’s all the same—maintaining order. And this is why I think everything click, click, clicks when you start working hard at one. This is why there’s domino effect on top of domino effect. Because the habits you learn while working hard at one thing, inevitably have something at the core that transfers to something else.

I have been eliminating things from my house since Ex moved out almost two years ago. Everything unnecessary and not loved has been slowly moving out and the more stuff goes out, the more clearly I evaluate the things that remain behind making it even easier to then go and move them on out too. It works with money too. Debt is, depending on the guru you talk to, either mostly or completely unnecessary. Like clutter, it is just too easy to accumulate and it easily overwhelms you taking its toll on all kinds of unexpected things like your marriage, your career, your education, and your health. The more debt you eliminate, the better you feel, and you are able to look at the debt that remains in a clearer way—and most likely determine you don’t really need that debt either. Like clutter, what takes a long time to build up can easily take just as long, if not longer, to clear out. But if you just keep at it, and get rid of it by the handful or truckload, it’ll be gone one way or another and you’ll be feeling so much lighter, freer, and better.

That’s not all there is in common between my house and my wallet. Every day, I look at my money. Most days, it’s just a couple minutes as I open up my spreadsheet and enter any transactions from the day before and simultaneously check my ING account for any surprises. Some days, it takes a bit more time—especially on the last day of the calendar month/first day of my fiscal month. This is the day I can put in up to an hour, scheduling my bills, double-checking my budget for discretionary expenses vs. “fixed” expenses, etc. There are also the planning days where I spend some time thinking about what is coming the next month, and later this year, that I need to have money ready for and just how much I’ll need to have and all of that. The point is, every day, I dedicate some time to my money matters. Most days, it’s pretty minor and some days, it’s not.

The same approach works in my home. Every day, I do some kind of work in the house. Some days, I do more, some days I do less, and some days I do the housekeeping equivalent of full marathons. But, even those big days in both the financial and housekeeping arenas, get easier and easier as the weeks and months go by. Because every day that I put some work into either thing, I’m reducing the amount of work that needs to go in on the bigger days. And as the days and weeks go by, not only do I make the Big Days a bit smaller, I also get so good at doing the daily tasks that they take less and less time and effort. Sometimes I have found myself almost disappointed at how easy it was to schedule bills or loosely plan my budget and go back and triple-check I really, truly, definitely didn’t miss anything. It even becomes easier to delay spending and one by one, “things” start to lose their magic hold.

Last night, I had finished scrubbing up two pots from dinner that night and was halfway working through the pan when I realized I was almost done scrubbing the pots and pans from dinner that night and it hadn’t even occurred to me how unpleasant this task was. I’m not saying I was enjoying it, but I wasn’t mentally whining about it. Why? Because I’m getting used to it. And that magical scary ick factor it had on me is slowly starting to slip away because every day I do it, and they’re sitting there shiny and dry it’s like they’re softly telling me, “See? It wasn’t so bad.”