I can do this!

blog imageI’m looking forward to the start of a new year. I can crack open that new calendar and write in the special days – birthdays, anniversaries, etc – and dream about summer plans, possible holidays, special occasions with family, etc. It’s lovely. It’s especially lovely when I find just the right pen, or even better – PENS, to do it with. I’ll admit that I am a bit of a calendar/stationary junkie. This year we have the added need for a calendar/planner for homeschool. We’ve introduced the use of Google calendars but I am a huge paper & pen fan when it comes to planning – my brain just seems to work better that way.

I have to admit that since becoming a “stay-at-home” mom (HAHAHAHA!) I’ve had a hard time finding a system that works for us, for me. I find that most calendars/planners are designed for people who work which was great when I was working. I knew the weekly routine and could set things up accordingly ahead of time. It was fabulous. Sometimes things would happen that would require me to deviate a little from the usual but temporary upsets of the norm were easy to deal with. Being at home with big kids and a baby/toddler hasn’t been so easy.

I’ve been struggling with this for a couple of years now. I’ve also settled into that and been okay with the struggle to a certain degree – it’s become comfortable. But it’s not working and that means change needs to happen. So it’s time to figure out/find/implement a system.

My kids are rolling their eyes at me right now…well, they would be if they weren’t in bed. They’ve heard it before. And watched it fail miserably. Or rather, have watched me fail to follow through miserably. I keep thinking about how things were BEFORE…the LAST time I wasn’t working outside the home. I had a great routine. Housework went like clockwork. Laundry was always up to date, for the most part. There weren’t baskets of unfolded half-clean laundry in my room all the time. I had time for me and my business. It was a well oiled machine. I’ve been having a hard time figuring out WHY it worked so well and the last couple of days it dawned on me. I had a system and I WORKED the system.

So. Back to working the system. No more late nights waiting for diapers to finish washing because I didn’t get them put on in the morning (I MIGHT be doing that right now…maybe. Or maybe not). No more wondering where the day has gone. No more failing to do something because I forgot to write it down. NO MORE FLOUNDERING.

It’s important to me that my kids live in a house that works, a home that is clean and comfortable. A place where they know what to expect and when to expect it. It’s important to me that my husband can go to work in the morning and know that when he comes home dinner will be ready or almost ready and he’s free to relax and enjoy his kids. It’s important to me to have time to connect with friends, to be able to plan errands, to have the freedom to work my business, to have regular sleep! Getting things in order is going to help with that immensely!

A new year. A new plan. I’m excited to see what 2015 is going to bring our family. Knowing that there is going to be a plan and a system in place to help things move along relatively smoothly is freeing. Now to get on with the working it part!

I can do it! I can do it!! I can do it!! One day at a time….

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Bittersweet Memories

Routines are hard to change.

Liam and I were heading to the store to do some Christmas shopping. As I drove up Columbia Street, I told my phone, via bluetooth and voice commands, to make the same phone call I have made almost every time I have gotten in the car and headed out to run errands. The ringing of the phone could be heard and then the call connected. Her voice filled my car and my eyes filled with tears. She’s not there and the only way we’re going to ever hear her voice again is on the outgoing message of her voicemail.

My aunt, my dear friend.

See I had this routine. Making phone calls at home with 3 kids constantly clamoring for my attention is always difficult. There is rarely any privacy (if that is needed) and quiet is, well, if you’ve ever been on the phone with me while Liam has been playing dragon you’ll know there is no such thing as quiet. I’ve discovered the best place to make phone calls is in my car between home and wherever I am going.

Lois was always the first person I would call. Sometimes we’d talk for only a few minutes. Other times we’d talk for half an hour. Didn’t matter how long – it was the connection that mattered. The “checking in” that counted.

It’s been 3 weeks since she passed. I’m still having a hard time believing it. And then I am reminded in ways that resemble a hammer to the head, a knife to the heart.

I laid in bed last night thinking about her, of all my memories. There are a lot of memories as I’ve known her for 38 years.

Dancing with complete abandon, while singing as loudly as we could, to the tunes of Mary Poppins on the record player.

Sleepovers every Christmas where cookies would be made and eaten, movies watched, fashion shows (wearing her clothes of course) executed, snuggles had.

Visiting the office where she worked and walking down Victoria Street together to get lunch, feeling oh so very special and important.

Hundreds of thousands of phone calls over the years.

Introducing each of my 3 children to her – she ADORED them and they her. She spoiled them – after school snack wasn’t just an apple with some peanut butter. Oh no. After school snack often consisted of mac & cheese with farmer sausage, or grilled cheese sandwiches, or pie & ice cream! Often it would fill them up so much that come supper time, they weren’t quite ready for it!

Watching and listening to her reading story after story to Liam on our couch just over a month ago.

Family dinners where copious amounts of yummy food was placed in front of us, on a table that was always set beautifully. She had such a knack for pulling together the most mismatched pieces and creating a beautifully comfortable space.

“Shopping” in her closet every time I’d come home for a visit – the woman had incredible taste in clothing! My only disappointment was that our feet were never the same size…mine being 7’s and hers being 9’s.

Driving around town in that little orange “Bug” with the top down in the summer…driving up Columbia Street in the winter in a different “bug” in which the windshield wipers didn’t work very well on a VERY snowy evening. I will never forget Lois driving with one arm out the window, snowbrush in hand, clearing the window every few minutes. We laughed so hard as our feet froze!

She was always the first one to shed tears whenever extended goodbyes were required – and it was not uncommon for those goodbyes to take an hour. Ironically, her own leaving of us was quiet and quick, without any of those difficult and tear-filled goodbyes. She hated them. I hate them.

Christmas this year is going to be filled with bittersweet memories. I expect there will be moments of collective tears as we remember her and miss her presence with us. I also expect there will be quiet moments of weeping after the day is done and all is quiet, when I have nothing but Christmas lights and memories keeping me company, long after everyone else has gone to sleep. While it hurts and it’s hard, I am so grateful that the hurting comes from a place of much love and cherished memories.

Bittersweet memories.

Figuring out this "selfie" thing...not the best picture but memories of a great day go with this (my cousin's wedding)

Figuring out this “selfie” thing…not the best picture but memories of a great day go with this (my cousin’s wedding)

When Life is Noisy & My Voice Gets Quiet

I don’t know about you but I find that the crazier life gets around me, the quieter my voice tends to get. Not my speaking voice, although my family would probably prefer that, but rather the voice that I use to express whatever is in my heart and mind. For some that’s music. Others it is art. Some it’s a physical activity. For me it is writing. When life gets crazy, my thoughts jumble and the one thing that actually helps me process is also often the hardest thing for me to do – maybe because there just doesn’t seem to be time.

Anyway, lately I’ve been really quiet. I’ve been dealing with a lot of stuff and many of my thoughts have become all jumbled up and messy. A great big mess of intersecting ideas and thoughts that have turned my brain into a great big room filled with unending noise and mess. It’s hard to make sense of any one idea. It’s exhausting and has me craving escape and retreat, quiet and aloneness.

I’m honestly not quite sure what I would do if I was granted those things. I’ve become so used to functioning in what feels like a perpetual state of mental chaos lately that the idea of stepping into a place of quiet, peace and tranquility is almost frightening. I can hardly hear myself think these days and to suddenly have space to do nothing but hear myself? I’m not sure I would like some of what I would hear.

But I know that taking time every day to do just that, to enter into a place of serenity, peace, quiet and tranquility is essential for me to continue to function well in this life that is mine. Without it I flounder. Lately I have been floundering big time. I have no patience for anything or at least very little. I start my day dreading interactions to come and end it feeling anxious and frustrated. My ability to balance the daily chores and needs of my family has dwindled significantly as the thoughts in my head grow more jumbled.

I find myself craving silence and space. I long to sit down, without being plagued by the thoughts of all that needs doing, and just be with the thoughts that need to be dealt with. My heart is broken and grieving the loss of a dear dear loved one who I wasn’t ready or prepared to say goodbye to a couple of weeks ago. I’m wanting and needing to be alone with all the thoughts/feelings that come from that. I am trying hard to be a good homeschooling mom, whatever that looks like, but I need time to look over and think through things in order to be prepared for each day. I have a toddler I need to play with, to engage his little mind and body in activities that stimulate and interest him but I need time to bring ideas into being. I have friends that need attention and time. A husband that needs attention and time. A business I am trying to grow. But my brain and heart are such a jumbled mess of all these things that all I want to do is be alone.

And maybe that’s just it. Maybe, after all is said and done, the best way for me to take care of all that needs doing is to take a step back and away, by myself, for a time, and simply spend time alone. It seems almost counter-intuitive to me – that the best way to take care of my family and others is to actually retreat from them. But at the same time, it makes sense. Even Jesus took a step back from ministering to others from time to time. Those who have lived lives of service to others took time away to regroup and re-energize. There are many professions that build sabbaticals into their framework of expectations. Why then, if we allow it for others and have no problem seeing the need for it, is it so hard for moms to allow it for themselves? So hard for me?

I’m not a big “goals for the new year” kind of person but this year that is one of my goals. I want to go away for a weekend by myself, to a hotel somewhere (ideally with a spa! and maybe a giant soaker tub in my room), where I can spend some time taking care of me. Where I can wander nearby shops or go for a nature walk. Where I can enjoy good food, scenery and quiet time. Where I can read, write, plan and organize. I need this.

Sometimes it isn’t always possible to step away from life for a few days and retreat. So what then? I say this to myself more than anyone: a few days away won’t do diddly squat to help if I am not making a point of taking time every day just to be. So it’s time I start carving out thinking time for me. Processing time. Time to be alone with a notebook and a pen, my Bible and my thoughts. I try to snatch moments but often those end up being stolen moments as I retreat for two minutes to pee by myself or in the car as I run to the store for milk. Not exactly good for getting myself back into a good place mentally! So that will be my goal for the next month – to reestablish the habit of alone time.

The noises are loud and my voice is somewhat quiet. But I see hope. I hear the noises getting softer and my voice becoming stronger again. I see chaos becoming order. I see my ability to just be, to listen to what I need to hear, coming back into being. And I feel hope.

Liam My Crazy Little Joy-filled Boy

Liam
My Crazy Little Joy-filled Boy (disregard the mess behind him!)