Tag: simplify

100 happy days

#100happydays#100happydays is a Facebook challenge.

{You can read more about it here}

I decided to assign this one to myself today because I felt it first. I felt it when my phone pinged after a crazy day at work and cancelled plans for after, no plan for dinner and no nap (still hanging on to the last days of first trimester, y’all). I looked and saw my friend Deanna’s words

I discretely snapped this for you.

What was it she snapped? A photo of my daughters’ pediatrician in Illinois during her kids’ own visit. Oh, how we loved Dr. C.! And how we miss him. He was so fabulous… had three daughters of his own, never panicked or gave us trendy advice, always smiled and spent time with us, and when we were losing our health insurance, made sure we had plenty of samples for Kaity’s nebulizer.

We have a good doctor here, but when you spend 2 straight years of well visits and plenty of sick ones with your little almost-Irish-twins, you grow attached.

That Deanna knew the picture would make me smile, possibly make my day… well, that is pretty fabulous too.

Feeding the birds leftover tortillas at Chipotle
Feeding the birds leftover tortillas at Chipotle

I think we often equate a happy result with a grand gesture… planning, formality, fanciness, bigness. And then, when we look back at the times we spend preparing The Grand, the effort was often more draining than the result deserved. Or perhaps, the process was happier than the outcome.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the simple. Look at your day. What moments made you smile? What notions made you laugh? Did you give anyone a hug or an encouraging word? Did you appreciate anything you saw in nature? Did you listen to your favorite song one time? Did you call a friend or hold your husband’s hand?

It doesn’t have to take much. It doesn’t take much. When I look around and see dissatisfaction or even misery in our first-world experience, it is usually due to unrealistic expectations or misplaced energy.

A trip to Target... Randa's not in pain. She's singing, I think :)
A trip to Target… Randa’s not in pain. She’s singing, I think :)

So I take the challenge of 100 days. I accept the opportunity to find pleasure in one of my favorite Friends episodes being on at bedtime, or my child saying something completely hilarious first thing in the morning… to be satisfied by a family outing to Target on a Sunday night or to be fulfilled by a 4-text conversation with a faraway friend.

Happiness is accessible. It is simple. It is a choice.

Take the challenge with me. And clap along…!

Limbo does not exist

Looks like we might have one more Happy Birthday Jesus celebration here.
Yes, I am crying in the 2009 version. Shut up.

Since we got married, we’ve been saying, We’re going to move.

First it was when Paige graduated high school (anticipated: 2012).

Then it was to be when Josh graduated high school (2009).

Then it was this year, and so the house when up for sale.

And now we wait.

During all the other times, when making long term plans, we would say to each other, and advise J&P: “Make plans as if we’re staying.” But since that ugly black and yellow sign went up on our lawn in the beginning of May, we’ve been living in a limbo state.

Do we plan parties?

Do we become church members?

Do we put up holiday decorations?

Do we sign up for classes?

Do we…should we…what if we…?

Since we’ve returned from the big trip, I have found myself sick of “that place.” There’s stuff I want to do. There are things I want the kids to do. There are stabilizations and solidifications (possibly, I made those words up) I want in place.

So last week, we filled out church membership cards.

Rod explored some continuing education options and affiliations.

I signed Miranda up for ballet class.

Paige is looking at some junior college courses for January.

And I’ve planned Miranda’s birthday party and Christmas Eve to be here…in our house, where we live.

I thought we would be gone by now, but I am ok with being here. I thought I’d be missing my IL friends by now, but instead, I’m hanging on tightly.

I feel like I was ready to bungee jump: All the tethers were strapped on and secured, my heart was pumping, my knees were bent, I was ready to jump and…

Someone told me to wait a while.

And I’ve deflated. Because…it’s a long way down!

(Another fitting metaphor: kinda like when you think you’re going to sneeze and then..Pow. Bam! BOOM! Nothin’).

We need to sell this house. We need to continue our efforts to simplify and focus.

But we need to live, and God…did not create a limbo. So I refuse to live there anymore.

If you’re not busy December 24, Christmas Eve will be at our house.

If it sells by then, I might be hosting on the bus, but the invitation is still open.

We have an MLS #

There’s a shopping bag on the floor of my pantry filled with packing tape and permanent markers.

It’s in my pantry because I am decluttering like mad.

Because people are going to be looking at our house.

Because it’s up for sale.

Because we are moving.

To Tennesseee.

(Yes, I still have an English degree and I know those are sentence fragments, but it’s how I’m processing this).

Well, I’m not really processing this. I’m just trying to avoid the subject and enjoy the decluttering. Paige’s room has never, ever, ever been so neat.

And I have never, ever, ever been so cutthroat in throwing stuff away.

Everywhere I look, there is an opportunity to pack something that we don’t use often, or throw something away that was unnecessary/ugly/not worth it/broken/no longer useful, etc.

I like that part of moving, a lot. It makes things cleaner.

I like, a lot, that Rod and I and the family we made are staking out new ground together, that we will enter a town as The Burton Family, that we will live in a place we picked out together, that there will be a lot less ‘splaining to do, a lot fewer phone calls to our home asking for people who don’t live there anymore.

Yeah – this move is about much more than geography for me. I have 33 years of friends and anecdotes and landmarks and details in the 10 square miles that surround me, but I also have mistakes and consequences and reminders and knots about running into so-and-so somewhere that I am ready to leave behind…not to mention our winters, our salty roads, our taxes, our corrupt politics and increasing crime rates..

That said, I am completely NOT thinking about the Monday mornings after a trip when I am not besieged by mommy friends with playmates for the girls, NOT thinking about the birthday parties and book club meetings and Monday girls’ nights and Aurelio’s pizza orders and seeing someone I knew since first grade at the pediatrician’s office encounters that will no longer happen, NOT thinking about being much more than a train ride away from a summer walk up Michigan Avenue.

I love Nashville…oh, and the timing is so strange. Places we were falling in love with and making plans for new memories just 3 weeks ago are utterly devastated after the floods this week. All our people there are safe, but a lot of people are not. I guess in some ways this is showing me how much my heart is there, because my heart is aching for dear Music City.

The FOR SALE will be out there in a few days.  And if this house sells before July, we’ll be living on a bus until July, when we can take some time to find a new home. And if it doesn’t, we’ll be doing the delicate dance of, “Is this the last time we will____?” for an agonizing unknown period.

But at some point, it will, and we will go, and I’m excited, and I’m worried, because then what?

Clearing the Space

Orginally published: Adventures in the Life of a Southern Gospel Wife ~ January 2010 ~ SGMRadio.com

The twist-ties from the Made in China extravaganza litter every hidden crevice of the house. The food that inspired belly rubs and third helpings is wrapped in its Gladware, likely until trash day. The cookies, initially attacked while they were too hot to eat, are reduced to stale crumbs, and my insistence on playing Christmas carols until New Year’s Day is now met with rolled eyes instead of goofy sing-alongs. The decorations feel like clutter. Oh, and at least two strings of lights plus the tree top are now officially burned out.

Post-Christmas can be depressing. Nothing looks as magical as it did the weekend after Thanksgiving. The anticipation is gone, and it seems the wonder is as well. We know the answer to this: it lies within the misplaced good intentions of what we make Christmas. This Christmas night, after a good cry, I told my husband it will change next year. I will not spend all day in the kitchen. I will not spend all month writing cards to people I never see and shopping for that “perfect thing” when the kids are happy with Target’s dollar-bin spatulas. I will not let another Christmas Eve AND Day go by without heading to church to set aside time, real time, to reflect on the Reason why we bother, or at least, what is supposed to be the Reason. The build up and the aftermath of our Christmas this year was simply lovely, but the day seemed empty, and that’s part of why my “resolution” for the New Year seems so clear. It’s time for a cleanup.

When we got back from our “2nd Christmas,” the one in Ohio with Rod’s family, I spent the evening indulging in my OCD with several categories of trash bags, baskets, and bins, organizing the girls’ new toys and getting rid of things with missing pieces or whatever they don’t play with. I made a stack by the tree of unopened packages to return or give away, because I don’t think more than one set of creepy giggling Elmo hands (yes, HANDS) should be allowed in one household, and I don’t envision my husband, who keeps his shoes on until bedtime, relaxing in a Snuggie, ever, even if it is Kentucky blue. Rod laughed at me as I classified art supplies, play-kitchen accessories, and plastic musical instruments for our 3 and not-quite-2-year-olds, but the process was cleansing for me… and inspiring, too. As I sorted and tossed, I smiled at the memories already being made by our young children, how Kaity excitedly refers to our “Christmas Treat” (tree), how we sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, how the most animated Miranda was on Christmas Day was when my dad blew bubbles for them in our family room, how they love to dance at the end of every movie with their daddy and me.

Why, in light of all the simple and good that comes naturally, do we feel the need to fill our Christmas with Stuff? Just one more DVD, gift card, shirt, baby doll with party and play clothes, Meaningless Thing? It’s the same reason, I suppose, we do it to our lives. There are so many pretty, snazzy, hi-tech, competitively-priced gems out there that are often hard to resist. Who doesn’t want a bargain coffee grinder? A two-for-one zoo membership that can only be used on Wednesdays? A gift with purchase?

I think, for 2010, my answer to those questions is Me. I don’t want anything else. I don’t want another item in my house (I even resisted the Kitchen Aid mixer offer. You cooks know how hard this was! But you also know how much space one of those requires, and my counter doesn’t have it).  I don’t want another activity, no matter how fun or reasonably priced, written on my calendar.

What I want is to take care of what has been given to me as a steward, a disciple, and a leader in my family. I wrote last month about simplifying, and that theme continues to build as I ponder the unnecessary. I don’t need to dress my toddler in a sweater/coat/hat/gloves/boots to take her to music class when we can sing and dance in our kitchen. She won’t need a full pasta dinner for 30 to celebrate her 2nd birthday; she’ll be happy with familiar faces and macaroni and cheese. And 500 people on my Facebook list whom I haven’t seen in 20 years or who never comment on anything likely don’t care if the pictures of her in her birthday dress make it online before midnight.

I am not criticizing any of these things, but I am making it my goal for the year, for my family, to put away and when necessary, throw away, that which muddies the space, regardless of how pretty it is. The model for the family we have is as simple as this: Our kids need us, and we need God. It is more important that I spend time with my Lord than I spend time categorizing our digital photos and correctly tagging my blog posts. It is more important that I spend time hugging, singing to, and blowing bubbles for my kids than baking them a castle cake (which will inevitably look like a misshapen lump anyhow) or finding them the perfect version of “Jesus Loves Me” on iTunes (what could be more perfect than our, ahem, special version of three-part-harmony?). It is more important that I call a friend or my cousin or my Gramma when I have 10 extra minutes than I scroll through to see what 30 random people are cooking for dinner (Note: I’m not leaving Facebook, just putting it in perspective).

When I look ahead to the coming year, I see opportunity run amuck for my family. The tasks we’ve already taken on are growing. New doors are waiting to be opened. Likely, we will be forging new ground that will change everything for us. We don’t have room for anything extra, be it gadgets, pounds, or organized play. Time is precious, that which we dedicate to our Father and that which we share with our loved ones. How will we spend it?

I vote for spending the first portion of that time clearing the space. Then I vote for singing and dancing on whatever floor we find ourselves.

Happy Clutter-Free New Year. May God bless you with health, opportunity, and many reasons to celebrate.

The twist-ties from the Made in China extravaganza litter every hidden crevice of the house. The food that inspired belly rubs and third helpings is wrapped in its Gladware, likely until trash day. The cookies, initially attacked while they were too hot to eat, are reduced to stale crumbs, and my insistence on playing Christmas carols until New Year’s Day is now met with rolled eyes instead of goofy sing-alongs. The decorations feel like clutter. Oh, and at least two strings of lights plus the tree top are now officially burned out.

Post-Christmas can be depressing. Nothing looks as magical as it did the weekend after Thanksgiving. The anticipation is gone, and it seems the wonder is as well. We know the answer to this: it lies within the misplaced good intentions of what we make Christmas. This Christmas night, after a good cry, I told my husband it will change next year. I will not spend all day in the kitchen. I will not spend all month writing cards to people I never see and shopping for that “perfect thing” when the kids are happy with Target’s dollar-bin spatulas. I will not let another Christmas Eve AND Day go by without heading to church to set aside time, real time, to reflect on the Reason why we bother, or at least, what is supposed to be the Reason. The build up and the aftermath of our Christmas this year was simply lovely, but the day seemed empty, and that’s part of why my “resolution” for the New Year seems so clear. It’s time for a cleanup.

When we got back from our “2nd Christmas,” the one in Ohio with Rod’s family, I spent the evening indulging in my OCD with several categories of trash bags, baskets, and bins, organizing the girls’ new toys and getting rid of things with missing pieces or whatever they don’t play with. I made a stack by the tree of unopened packages to return or give away, because I don’t think more than one set of creepy giggling Elmo hands (yes, HANDS) should be allowed in one household, and I don’t envision my husband, who keeps his shoes on until bedtime, relaxing in a Snuggie, ever, even if it is Kentucky blue. Rod laughed at me as I classified art supplies, play-kitchen accessories, and plastic musical instruments for our 3 and not-quite-2-year-olds, but the process was cleansing for me… and inspiring, too. As I sorted and tossed, I smiled at the memories already being made by our young children, how Kaity excitedly refers to our “Christmas Treat” (tree), how we sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus, how the most animated Miranda was on Christmas Day was when my dad blew bubbles for them in our family room, how they love to dance at the end of every movie with their daddy and me.

Why, in light of all the simple and good that comes naturally, do we feel the need to fill our Christmas with Stuff? Just one more DVD, gift card, shirt, baby doll with party and play clothes, Meaningless Thing? It’s the same reason, I suppose, we do it to our lives. There are so many pretty, snazzy, hi-tech, competitively-priced gems out there that are often hard to resist. Who doesn’t want a bargain coffee grinder? A two-for-one zoo membership that can only be used on Wednesdays? A gift with purchase?

I think, for 2010, my answer to those questions is Me. I don’t want anything else. I don’t want another item in my house (I even resisted the Kitchen Aid mixer offer. You cooks know how hard this was! But you also know how much space one of those requires, and my counter doesn’t have it). I don’t want another activity, no matter how fun or reasonably priced, written on my calendar.

What I want is to take care of what has been given to me as a steward, a disciple, and a leader in my family. I wrote last month about simplifying, and that theme continues to build as I ponder the unnecessary. I don’t need to dress my toddler in a sweater/coat/hat/gloves/boots to take her to music class when we can sing and dance in our kitchen. She won’t need a full pasta dinner for 30 to celebrate her 2nd birthday; she’ll be happy with familiar faces and macaroni and cheese. And 500 people on my Facebook list whom I haven’t seen in 20 years or who never comment on anything likely don’t care if the pictures of her in her birthday dress make it online before midnight.

I am not criticizing any of these things, but I am making it my goal for the year, for my family, to put away and when necessary, throw away, that which muddies the space, regardless of how pretty it is. The model for the family we have is as simple as this: Our kids need us, and we need God. It is more important that I spend time with my Lord than I spend time categorizing our digital photos and correctly tagging my blog posts. It is more important that I spend time hugging, singing to, and blowing bubbles for my kids than baking them a castle cake (which will inevitably look like a misshapen lump anyhow) or finding them the perfect version of “Jesus Loves Me” on iTunes (what could be more perfect than our, ahem, special version of three-part-harmony?). It is more important that I call a friend or my cousin or my Gramma when I have 10 extra minutes than I scroll through to see what 30 random people are cooking for dinner (Note: I’m not leaving Facebook, just putting it in perspective).

When I look ahead to the coming year, I see opportunity run amuck for my family. The tasks we’ve already taken on are growing. New doors are waiting to be opened. Likely, we will be forging new ground that will change everything for us. We don’t have room for anything extra, be it gadgets, pounds, or organized play. Time is precious, that which we dedicate to our Father and that which we share with our loved ones. How will we spend it?

I vote for spending the first portion of that time clearing the space. Then I vote for singing and dancing on whatever floor we find ourselves.

Happy Clutter-Free New Year. May God bless you with health, opportunity, and many reasons to celebrate.

Meditate on the Simple

It’s hard for me to blog right now..not just because of the ever-present time constraints, but because life is so full of all these simple yet monumental events that I don’t know how to write about them in a simple, blog-gy way.

My little girl is about to turn 3. She is about to start dance class. She is helpful and sure of herself and is learning her first Bible stories. She is absolutely beautiful, which she knows, but is no more beautiful than when she is sitting still and unaware that her adoring mommy is staring at her.

Sometimes I still can’t believe she is mine!

Her baby sister is zooming along like the firecracker we predicted she would be. She talks a mile a minute..sometimes we even understand her. She is in her Cling To Mommy stage and her Pre-Terrible-2 stage. She throws hilarious tantrums and has a perfect cartoon swagger. She has the sweetest blue eyes I have ever seen.

Cannot believe she is mine either.

Life is rolling along after these two. There are such whirlwinds around me most of the time that I too often have to stop and remind myself that for this season, everything will come back to these little kids who still need me for almost everything.. and pretty much everything else I touch or manage or plan will go on just fine without me.

I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about simplicity, hearth & home, common goals. It seems many of the people in ‘my world’ feel a similar longing to pare down, slow down, choose quality over quanitity. I find this message flashing like a big ol’ neon sign most days, and yet just a few weeks ago I said “Yes” to 2 more projects, in the midst of KK going to the ER and other life signals that seemed to blare, ‘Just say no!’

I am working on sacrifice of Extra Things. Some of it is easy.. a magazine here, a TV show there, an outing here, a thing-I-just-have-to-read/create/attend there. Some of it, not so much. Last week I was battling a cold.. sore throat, sinus pressure, eventually a cough. I didn’t change any plans. I kept going.

Friday afternoon I had the Big Plan that before a (very important) kiddo birthday party and a (n equally important) adult dinner date, I was going to Work while the babies napped. To make a long story short, my laptop, as I pulled it from my bag, was Wet. WET! And then it wouldn’t turn on. I took it upstairs and waited for Rod to look at it. I told him if it was fried, I was going to ‘fall on my sword,’ which is our phrase for kick it, throw in the towel, quit, accept failure, run screaming from the building.

It wasn’t fried. He got it to power back up almost immediately. (He is my hero, still and again).  And yet, I just wanted to cry. (Maybe I did.. I don’t remember). And then I said, almost in apology, “I’m not going to work. I’m not working again until Monday. I need a few days off. I need to rest. I need not to get sick.”

I said it so much like a question that he laughed at me. Then he talked to me in that Husband Voice – you know the one. . like he is dealing with a very pretty mental patient. Why is this even a question? Lay down. Take a nap. Don’t work until Monday. Call Haylee, see if you can help out next week.

Done. And done. Of course I didn’t take the weekend ‘off.’ I still drove to various places, did laundry, fed people, wiped small booties, dried big tears, and ok, posted a few things on Scoops and maybe answered a few emails. And I did also forget that Rod is going to be gone 3 nights this week & 3 more next week before we leave for Branson and the Big Press Conference and.. you know. All that stuff.

But I have called in some extra help this week (thanks Haylee!). I feel much better physically. And today was, in many ways, a perfect day. In fact, the weekend was filled with pretty darn good times with a mixture of friends and family and downtime with the kids and a even a stolen moment or 2 with Rod that didn’t involve him rescuing my hardware.

A theme in many of those conversations with good company: Simplify. Simplify. Calm and peace and stability and contentment starts in our homes, and we all know that that mood starts with The Woman. If I am freaking out over deadlines all the time, what does that say to my kids? If I am afraid to ask for help or take a break when I need one, what does that teach them?

I am meditating on the Simple. And so begins what looks to be a crazy 2 weeks for us. I am meditating on the Simple.