Room Tours: The Living Room

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This is the third entry in my Room Tours category.  Our living room was always one of the most used rooms in the house, but I think Covid 19 has pushed it into the number one spot. We are in here to watch morning Mass, do school subjects, read, play games, watch movies, binge shows on Netflix, sit and talk, nap, go on electronics, and more.

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Sarah plays the piano in here, and much of her sheet music is stored near her piano (the rest is stored in the dining room). A circle of fifths print is the wall hanging shown above. I like it because it’s practical and neutral colored. We keep headphones and chargers in the loveseat console. We store DVD’s and Wii U games and accessories in the TV cabinet.

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The rest of our DVD’s are stored on a bookshelf in the nearby foyer closet.

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The living room is open to the dining room.

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On movie nights, we turn the loveseat and the chairs to face the TV, and so everyone can recline with their legs up.  It’s super comfy!  I even moved a chair right in front of the TV when I watched Parasite, so I could read the subtitles more easily.

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We store remote controls and chargers in the end table on the left, and in the right one are kindles and guess what?  More chargers!

I think the “Order” print above the sofa is beautiful and I feel a sense of peace when I look at it.  My kids don’t agree, and Joseph continually teases me with ideas of things we could hang to replace it.

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The room doesn’t usually look like this, as you can imagine, but everything has a place in here, so it doesn’t take long to tidy it up.  Everyone just has pick up their own dishes, books, papers, socks, games, blankets, dolls, laptops, iPads, hair ties, and yes, chargers!

Book Notes: The Intellectual Life, Chapter 1

D7D291B9-7B7C-4F9D-BB1D-A5C0B1DE50F8I created a new category called “Book Notes” where I’ll post my thoughts on books I’m reading, as I said I would do in my last post.  I also created a tag for the name of the book. I think that will allow one to call up all posts about that particular book. My first notes in this new category will be about The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods by A. G. Sertillanges, O.P.  I think this is a great way to begin methodically reading my nonfiction books… by studying a classic book that teaches how to learn!

I don’t plan to summarize each chapter.  Maybe someone else has done that online.  I’ll just write about whatever I find interesting and would have written about by hand in a journal as I do sometimes. This category will be my electronic commonplace book.

“Christianized humanity is made up of various personalities, no one of which can refuse to function without impoverishing the group and without depriving the eternal Christ of a part of His kingdom. Christ reigns by unfolding Himself in men.  Every life of one of His members is a characteristic moment of His duration; every individual man and Christian is an instance, incommunicable, unique, and therefore necessary, of the extension of the ‘spiritual body.’  If you are designated as a light bearer, do not go and hide under the bushel the gleam or the flame expected from you in the house of the Father of all.”  (5)

What excited me about this passage is that it reminded me of something I heard at my Spiritual Exercises retreat last September.  I heard it during the Call of Christ meditation talk and it was something that I had never thought of before.  It was a new motivation.

Jesus is calling me to follow him, like a soldier following a good king into battle.  And it’s a battle that we are sure to win.  It’s a guaranteed victory.  There may be some suffering involved, but the king will be right there suffering with us too.  How am I going to respond? I know I should be generous.  I should have courage.  I should go above and beyond if I want to distinguish myself.  I should be committed.  But here’s what I didn’t ever think about before:  I should have a sense of responsibility.  I am necessary.  Essential.  God depends on me to bring the fire of His love to those around me.  My surrender will bring a unique benefit to the world.  I will leave a black hole in the universe if I do not offer myself as He expects. To me, this means my response is more than an expression of love and gratitude.  It’s my duty.  (And it took my ISTJ breath away.)

So I saw this idea repeated in the passage above, but in this case it’s referring to the vocation of intellectual work.  Or the hobby, for people like me who already have a full-time vocation.  I do think I am called to develop and deepen my mind (as a supplement to my regular work) because I do really enjoy reading and thinking about ideas and it seems to go along with the disposition God has given me.  My interpretation of the passage above is that the calling (whether part-time or full-time) is more than just an interest you may have, it’s something you should be doing. And not half-way, but give it your all!

So that’s one takeaway from the chapter. There are many others, but it’s time for me to cook dinner.

 

A Shutdown Schedule

EE35F5C8-03AF-47BD-8DF2-A3117CDAFCD4Here in Massachusetts, schools are teaching remotely for the rest of the year. Churches are closed, and we are still social distancing. I have about 2-3 hours of extra time each day now; time that I used to spend driving around in my van. I’ve been sitting on the couch, watching Gilmore Girls, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, and loads of movies. (Especially during the last week, when we were on school vacation.) I’ve also been reading novels, listening to talks, doing puzzles, and I spent many hours helping my mother to (possibly) purchase a condo and to get her house ready to put on the market.

This week we are back to school.  I’m trying to set up routines for this new way of life, which may be drastically different for some families; but for us it is similar, in many ways, to how we’ve always lived. I’m currently homeschooling Hannah and Mary, and here is our schedule for school days during this shutdown:

  • 7:00-8:15  Morning Prayers & Meditation, Breakfast & Chores
  • 8:15-8:45  Daily Mass (in our living room)
  • 8:45-9:30  Miles Christi Covid-19 video, Religion, Art
  • 9:30-10:30  Grammar
  • 10:30-11:30  Science, History
  • 11:30-12:00  Silent Reading
  • 12:00-1:00  Lunch & Chores, Break
  • 1:00-3:00  Math, Spelling, Handwriting, Latin
  • 3:00-5:00
  • 5:00-6:00  Dinner & Chores
  • 6:00-Bedtime

Joseph, Sarah, and Rachel, who were attending local college, high school, and eighth grade, are also home with us, doing their schoolwork independently.   They usually join us for meals.  Bobby is still going into work every day. He leaves around 8 a.m. and comes home at different times each night.  Fortunately for me, he’s not traveling anymore.  He likes to eat something and work-out when he gets home. And he usually wants to watch a movie at night. Last night, we walked together on the bike trail, which was very nice.

I want to create some healthy routines for myself in those open time slots.  I’m trying to include a daily walk or other exercise, either after school or after dinner, depending on what else is planned for the day. On some days I clean, go food shopping, attend Zoom meetings, or Facetime or call family members or friends.

I also want to commit to reading more at night before bed. I hope to post here some of my thoughts about what I’m reading to help me with consistency and focus. I often grab one of the many non-fiction books I own and read some of it, then put it down. I am interested in reading the books I own one at a time, from start to finish. If I can stick to the one book at a time, and a little bit each night, I’ll be sure to finish some books this year.  And if this becomes a habit for me, then maybe I can work on another one.

Whenever I set up a new schedule, I’m really just tweaking the one that I’ve had for years. I find it helpful to see it in writing though. I’m really telling myself that these are the things that are important to me.  I know that things will come up to interrupt it. People will call or need help with something.  That’s fine.  But notice that I haven’t scheduled excessively scrolling on Facebook, or reading news articles.  Activities that waste my time or cause me anxiety are not my priority and are sometimes harmful, so when I find myself doing those, I’ll need to ask why.

 

 

Peace During the Pandemic

After at least a week of obsessively scrolling facebook, chuckling at toilet paper memes, and reading news articles; I am back to believing that God has a plan for my life.

So I got off the beam for awhile there. It’s hard not to panic when your food’s running out, there’s a rumor that everything will be shut down for two weeks, Walmart is packed with people who might be carrying the Coronavirus without symptoms (or worse, might cough on you) and every few aisles, you turn down one that is just about wiped out.  Add in the fact that most of the activities that keep me grounded are canceled indefinitely, and the unsettling feeling that I always have when I read sensational media.

I don’t want to feel like I’m reading propaganda.  I just want the facts. I don’t want to read that in a population of 300 million, the number of cases is “ballooning” to 48. I started out with my usual skepticism.  Aren’t we overreacting? Look at the numbers.  How can China’s cases be going down now with only 80,000 cases out of 1.4 billion people?  Are we going to destroy the economy and give up our freedoms for something less serious than the seasonal flu?  Why are people not questioning this?  I understand the argument for “flattening the curve”.  But the argument is only true if the premises are true.  And why is everyone assuming that hundreds of thousands of people are going to be infected, when many of the tests are coming back negative?  And why isn’t testing available for everyone who wants to be tested?

But on the other hand… I don’t want my mother or my father-in-law, who both have COPD to get sick.  And I don’t want my father to get sick, or my kids, or my husband, or me, or my next-door neighbors, or anyone… I’m social distancing.  I’m not letting my kids have their friends over.  I’m dropping groceries off at my mom’s door.  I’m attending ZOOM meetings, talking on the phone, texting, and counting or singing while scrubbing my hands with soap and water just like the rest of the world.  It was all so disturbing.

And it was all so distracting.  Until I decided to take a break one day.  No news, no facebook. I prayed and I journaled. I took these notes from this video.  It reminded me to be patient.

  1. This trial is God’s will. God has a plan for you.  Nothing is so bad that God can’t use it for your good.
  2. Stop thinking of the negative aspects of it.  Start thinking of the positive aspects of the trial.  Discover truths today and dwell on them.
  3. This won’t last forever.  Only eternity is forever.  Answer with faith and patience, not anger.  God has a loving plan for you, be patient.

I struggle with acceptance and surrender.  I think I know better.  But if I think I do, I’m already in a trap.  I have been distracted.  I forgot the truth – that God has a plan for my life.  I must make him the center of my life.  Not curiosity, or knowledge of what’s happening in the world, not seeking to control what is out of my control.  I do not know why this is happening right now, but I will use this time to grow closer to God.

Yesterday, I went to a drive up adoration at my parish.  I listened to a beautiful version of the Divine Mercy Chaplet in my van.  I felt so grateful to be across the street from the Blessed Sacrament.  This experience has opened my eyes to how much I took for granted.  We often had weekday Masses at 7:00, 7:15, 8:30, and 12:10 in different churches in my hometown, and sometimes I’d sleep in or get too busy to go to them.  There would be adoration on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and everyday in the next town over.  And now the church doors are locked.

But God has a plan for me. Today I have hope and I will trust him. I will let him guide me to where I should go, what I should do, and what I should say.  I don’t have to worry.   I can choose to, but I don’t have to.  I can have peace in any situation.

 

God Has a Plan for My Life

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It has taken me fifty years to really believe it. It would take a book to describe how it happened.  It’s been slow and steady.  And obviously, it is still unfolding.

Right now I see it as hundreds of seemingly unrelated events, situations, conversations, memories, and truths learned.  It’s taken thousands of prayers and much pain was endured (never alone).  I guess I wanted to be self-sufficient. Maybe I wanted things my own way.  But letting go of this illusion of control brings me hope.  Seeing that God has a plan that has been there all along, and trusting that His plan is going to be better than mine ever could have been, gives me peace.

I’ve Been All the Living Lost Creatures

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This is what I was thinking during Deacon Roger’s homily this morning. Today’s gospel reading was from Luke 15:1-32. (The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and The Prodigal Son)

I have heard these parables so many times before, that I wasn’t expecting to have a new perpective on them today. I’ve identified for many years with the prodigal son. I went away and wasted my life. I sought pleasure in sinful ways. I’ve experienced the loneliness, remorse, shame, desperation, and sorrow that I imagine he felt. I have known humility and the joy of God’s love and mercy.  (I have meditated on Rembrandt’s painting, shown above.)  He gave me a new life and I was grateful.  I wanted to serve Him and I stayed in close contact with Him.

But not perfectly. I’ve been the lost sheep. I wander off and at some point I find myself on my knees.  And He sees I’m lost and comes to get me.  And He picks me up and holds me close.  And I remember how much He loves me. And I thank Him for always being there for me.  (I have often meditated in churches on sheep paintings or mosaics.)

I could be the lost coin, but it’s hard for me to identify with an inanimate object. I’ve just never gone there.  No lost coin meditations. And I didn’t think I was the prodigal son’s brother either… until today.

When I used to hear the story, I would be happy that I was lost, but then found.  I was dead, but now alive. And I thought the brother was a jerk for not being happy for his brother’s return. Today, I realized that I’ve been the brother!

Somehow, over the years since my own return, I got lost again, right here at home. I started to believe that after all the sacrifices I have made for God, that he should do what I want. Of course, I didn’t realize I was thinking that way.  But I know as I came out of the fog, I’d hear myself say things like: I’ve worked so hard and let God lead me in so many areas of my life. So why do I have to do more? 

Maybe I thought that if I worked hard and didn’t complain (verbally) that I would be happy in Heaven someday.  I don’t know, but it only made me angry and resentful. I believe God wants obedience more than sacrifice, and that He wants me to obey him out of love for Him, not to get what I want.  The anger I didn’t know I had, kept me away from the closeness to Him that I could have been enjoying.

Now I see that the poor brother was lost too.  He tried so hard to please his Dad, but he had certain expectations and some selfish motives hidden from even himself. He was self-righteous and proud that he was the “good” son.  He was giving himself pats on the back and didn’t realize that he too had many faults.  He wasn’t humble.  He lacked compassion and had a hardness of heart that kept him from feeling His father’s love for him.  His father loved him SO much… not for all the good things he did, but because he was His beautiful son.  The brother needed to let go of his anger, forgive his prodigal brother, and have compassion for his brother and for himself as well.  He needed to surrender his own will, trust his father and feel His love.

Deacon Roger pointed out that the parable doesn’t say what happened to the brother.  But I know he can enjoy his life.  He can be emotionally close to his father.  He can be loving to all, even himself.  He can be grateful for what he has and for having such a generous, merciful and loving father.  His father is not a slave driver.  He really cares.  He wants what’s best for His children. And He knows what’s best for them, even though He lets them choose whether or not to trust Him.  And you know how I know?  I’ve been the brother!

 

 

A Big Bowl of Waiting, a Cup of Busyness, and a Dash of Surrender

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It’s been almost 2 weeks since I’ve written here.  Bobby and I have worked three days on trimming the arborvitae bushes at my father’s house, and I’ve brought five of us to seven medical appointments. There was a day spent in New York City, some college visits and a funeral. Life has been busy. But I don’t want to write about being busy. I want to write about waiting.

I had some time to reflect while I acted as Assistant to the Regional Manager. (I mean held the ladder, while Bobby trimmed.)  I thought about how while I’ve been busy these past two weeks, I’ve also been waiting, and how I’ve had many experiences with waiting.

This past Friday, I had hoped that a decision would be made and my waiting would be over.  I was feeling very anxious and expected to feel relief and maybe some peace when this waiting was over.  When it didn’t happen, I was really disappointed and also frustrated. I talked with a friend about it, (and vented and whined) and was reminded that here was an opportunity to let go of my will and trust God’s will.  While praying, I remembered a time when I was newly married and hoping to get pregnant.  After five months of waiting and disappointments, I finally let go of my wanting to have a baby.  I had the thought that maybe I might never get pregnant and suddenly I felt OK with it. Maybe Bobby and I would travel and golf and do service work. I wanted to do God’s will, not my own. I had surrendered.

This happens to me over and over, and it happened again on Friday night. I remembered that God wills my good. I don’t know what that is.  I tell myself that if such and such happens, then I’ll be at peace. Then I focus on it.  And I get anxious when it’s not happening, but the peace comes as soon as I surrender my will, accept God’s will, and trust that He is taking care of me at that very moment and always.

So whether it’s waiting for a baby, a house to sell, a test result, a decision to be made… whatever it is… I have found that what will give me peace is to truly desire to do God’s will, whatever that may be. And to ask Him for help and remember (with gratitude) how good He has been to me throughout my life.  Friday night, I was even moved to say “Thy will, not mine be done.”

Why Haven’t I Finished Yet?

I have been decluttering ever since I moved out of my Mom’s house around thirty years ago.  I found out letting go of possessions was a thing about ten years later.  And I have been an aspiring minimalist since I first heard the word “minimalist” about ten years ago.  So why can’t I get through my whole house and be done with it?

I realize that I will not actually finish, as in never having to declutter my home again.  I expect to go through all of the rooms, annually perhaps, to remove those items we didn’t end up using much, or maybe things we are finally ready to let go of now that another year has passed.  What I am really asking is: why can’t I get through the whole house?

I know I am repeating areas previously finished again and again, getting sidetracked with other projects, watching lots of movies, taking care of my family and basically, living life. But is there a reason why I can’t seem to finish?  Is it not a priority?  Am I afraid to finish?  Am I procrastinating because it’s hard work?  What’s the deal?

Here is where I am currently perceiving myself to be with this project.

These areas are finished:

  • The van
  • the living room
  • the dining room
  • the master bedroom
  • my clothing
  • Bobby’s clothing
  • Sarah’s clothing
  • Sarah’s room
  • the foyer
  • the linen closet
  • the master bathroom
  • the upstairs bathroom
  • the laundry room
  • the kitchen
  • the pantry
  • the utility closet

These areas were finished (maybe last year), but need to be gone through again:

  • the girls’ room
  • Joseph’s room
  • Joseph’s clothing
  • Rachel’s clothing
  • Hannah’s clothing
  • Mary’s clothing
  • the mudroom
  • the extra closet
  • my kitchen desk
  • the schoolroom

These are the areas that have never been finished:

  •  the basement
  • the garage
  • the sentimental items
  • the digital items

These are areas I do not include in this project at all:

  • the study
  • the shed

Looking at this list sheds some light on why I haven’t finished yet. That’s a lot of areas!!!  Is it even possible to be a minimalist and be responsible for all of these areas?  I don’t know. But I do think I see the light at the end of the tunnel. It doesn’t take much time to go through the repeat areas. Then, there are only four main problem areas and sentimental is almost decluttered, so that leaves three that I think are doable with a little laser focus.  I can do this!

Decluttering Sentimental Items

I woke up to the beautiful sound of rain last Thursday morning, and I decided to start working on the VHS-C tape project. My son has been asking me to finish putting these family home movies onto DVD’s. So I worked on it most of that day, and Sunday too. I’ll be continuing this project (when I have the time) until I finish it.

While the movies were recording, I decluttered the school room and went through what I call the “sentimental items”. I organized by categories and made a list of “Sentimental Projects” to be completed at some time in the future. (Winter might be a good time to work on these.)  So basically, I decluttered the sentimental items and made another To Do list! You can see photos below of: my current project’s mess, the pile of photos to scan, my decluttering checklist, and my new Sentimental Projects list. Making progress!

 

Summer Goodness

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I am ready to get back into blogging now, but where to begin?

I can share the small accomplishments of my day so far.  I swam fifty laps (very slowly) across my father’s pool. (Across and back counts as one lap.)  I sold one book online and shipped it to Wisconsin.  I had a discussion about potential colleges with my seventeen-year-old daughter and her piano teacher.  I made my bed?  Ok, I’m stretching it now.

I had high hopes for this summer. For some reason, I thought I would blow through my “To Do” lists. (I have many of them.) Then June taught me that laundry, appointments, paperwork, shopping, and other people take a considerable amount of my time each day. We also just finished an unusual party marathon, in which we hosted parties for a First Communion, a Confirmation, and a high school graduation in addition to hosting and attending our regular spring/summer celebrations.

So my great expectations, left me feeling overwhelmed.  After many days of prayer and meditation, I think I’ve let them go.

I am ready to slow down. I can enjoy my life one day at a time. I can be grateful for the little things I accomplish each day and not worry about what I didn’t do.  I get anxious inside when I want to do everything at once. What needs to be done will be done eventually. I can trust God, be present, and notice the good.