A Summer Schedule

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Summer of 2020.  It’s starting out as usual in some ways… laps in my dad’s pool, movie nights, and eating ice cream; but in many ways it will be different.  My family’s annual Fourth of July party has been canceled. Birthday and graduation celebration plans are up in the air.  I’m wondering whether or not I should invite my adult son over to visit us, when I’ll see my friends in person again, and when it’ll be considered safe to hug my parents.

And, we are wearing masks.

Staying in the day, in the moment, without thinking about all the future unknowns helps me to enjoy my life.  It’s easy for me to worry or to get frustrated when I read news articles.  There are recommendations and mandates, postponed decisions, and perhaps, inconsistencies with the decisions being made.  There are things I don’t fully understand, having only partial information, and these same things are clearly out of my control.

So my priority for this summer (and always, but I get sidetracked), is prayer.  I want to find a balance of prayer, work and rest.  So here is the basic plan:

  • 7:00-8:15  Hygiene, chores, morning prayers, breakfast, spiritual reading and meditation
  • 8:15-9:30  Mass, rosary, start laundry
  • 9:30-11:30  Projects/food shopping/weekly cleaning
  • 11:30-12:00  Reading (fiction)
  • 12:00-1:00  Angelus, lunch, chores, finish laundry
  • 1:00-4:00  Driving lessons, French lessons/pool time, work out
  • 4:00-6:00  Shower, dinner prep & eat, chores
  • 6:00-10:00  Angelus, meeting/movie/blog post, family time
  • 10:00-11:00  Iron, hygiene, night prayers, reading (non-fiction)

I’ve been trying to follow this schedule for a couple of weeks now.  I’ve not been praying the rosary or the Angelus consistently yet.  Because it hasn’t been raining much, we’ve been swimming at the pool almost every day.  I also haven’t been consistent with my reading times. Projects, movies, hanging out with Bobby, and helping my mom (or the kids) seem to take over my time.

One benefit of following a schedule, that I noticed recently, is that it helps me to enjoy the present moment.  Doing the tasks that need to get done at a certain day/time each week, helps to get rid of the overwhelming feelings that I am behind, or forgetting things I need to do, that clutter up my mind and make me feel anxious.  For example, knowing that we are going to clean the house on Friday morning, or that I’m going to take Joseph driving after lunch, allows me to relax when I’m reading a book on the couch, or sitting at the pool with my family.  I don’t have the guilt that I should be doing something “more productive” at that time.

I can also see when I am avoiding doing something on my schedule.  Sometimes there may be a good reason for doing so, but other times I may be avoiding feelings, or maybe my priorities have gotten out of order.  So the schedule can also help with self-awareness and with being intentional as people often say nowadays. Most of all, I hope it will help to make God, rather than me, the center of my life.

 

Experiment #1: Downsizing Eyes

6BBC3B66-1EB1-4505-9FD3-E088D48A7849My step father passed away on December 27, 2019. He and my mother had lived together for thirty years.  They weren’t pack rats, and they were fairly organized and clean.  For the past few months I’ve watched (and sometimes helped) my mother give away and throw away their possessions in order to downsize.  I helped my mother buy a one bedroom condo, which is closer in proximity to my sister and me.  Then two weeks ago, we helped her move the possessions she wanted to keep into the new condo.  Last weekend, she decided she wanted to put her house on the market by the end of the week, and yesterday it was listed.

For five days we spring cleaned, painted, posted items on the “letgo” app, gave items to their new owners, and filled up a 15 yard dumpster.  Then on the sixth and seventh days, I rested.  Today, I’m thinking about the whole experience.

Letting go of a home you lived in for forty years as you are grieve the loss of your spouse is my mother’s story.  Saying good-bye to my childhood home and remembering my step father and my grandparents, who also have passed away, and who were a big part of my life back then, is my story; but not where I’m going with this today.  I’m pondering the downsizing of material possessions.

Those who know me well, know that this is a big topic of interest for me. Decluttering, purging stuff, minimalism, voluntary poverty, and downsizing… they are all related in my mind.  And now I have this fresh, first-hand experience (not my own) of answering the questions:  What do I want? What do I need? What am I willing to let go of?

It’s hard not to notice the fact that I will one day go through this downsizing myself, or if I die first, my family will be throwing out and giving away my possessions.  So why am I keeping things that I do not use on a regular basis?  It motivates me to do another pass through my home with the eyes of a downsizer.

Experiment #1:

Imagine you are moving into a tiny one bedroom home next week.  It has a small living room, kitchen, bathroom, and very little extra storage.  What would you take with you?  What are your favorite things?  What do you use all the time?  What is most important?

This will not help me to get rid of any of my husband’s or my children’s belongings.  And I will, of course, need to keep many extra articles of furniture and shared items in the common areas.  But let’s see how this experiment will affect my own stash of personal belongings.  Results will be the subject of a future post.

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.

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!

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.

A New Season

My second son will be graduating from high school soon. While gathering up photos to use in a slideshow I’m making for him, I visited an old blog, called My Thoughtful Spot, that I kept from 2006-2010. I really enjoyed reading some of my posts. I was funny back then. I know I had more time to write, because I wrote while I was nursing babies, which was… all the time. It got me thinking that I’d like to write like that again. (It was basically an online journal.) I wonder if I can make time for it now.

My life has changed so much since those days. Or maybe I have changed.  The old me was very hopeful, grateful, and enthusiastic about parenting, home management, homeschooling, organizing, decluttering, and simplifying, even though I am sure she was tired from the pregnancies, nursing, waking during the night, and caring for babies, toddlers, and young children.

I am different now.  I feel like I am in some kind of transition period. Maybe it’s a new season of life.  I feel like I don’t have any experience with it, yet in a way I do.  My children are 20, 18, 16, 13, 10 and 8. Although I’ve never had a 20 year old before, I have been 20. And even though I’ve already been a mom to children of the other ages, I know I can’t be the same parent I was before. Will they be getting the new and improved version?  The older and wiser me?  I sure hope so.  And I hope writing here will help me to not take myself so seriously.

Book Quotes: Uniformity with God’s Will

I needed to hear these today:

“Little man,” says St. Augustine, “grow up. What are you seeking in your search for happiness? Seek the one good that embraces all others.” Whom do you seek, friend, if you seek not God? Seek him, find him, cleave to him; bind your will to his with bands of steel and you will live always at peace in this life and in the next…

God wills only our good; God loves us more than anybody else can or does love us…

Let us place ourselves unreservedly in his hands because he will not fail to have care of us…