Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Confession time -- I was a slob

My office companion, Vincent Van Gogh
As a young mom, I was a total and complete slob. So much so, that after she'd spent the night with me in the hospital as my husband was dying in the burn unit, my friend, Kathy, drove back to my place and cleaned. And cleaned. And cleaned. We knew I'd be getting a lot of out-of-town guests for the inevitable funeral and my house was... well, let's just say it was a mess. I can never repay her for that. It was an incredible gift to me, matched only by the gift of later introducing me to my current husband. But that's another story.

When my kids were little, I lived by the mantra, "Cleaning and scrubbing can wait 'til tomorrow, for babies grow up we've learned to our sorrow. So quiet down cobwebs and dust go to sleep, I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep."** It started getting awkward by the time they were in their teens.

Living in disorder is bad for your health, on many levels. A mess leads to stress. Period. 

My favorite mode of cleaning up was running around the house with paper grocery bags and throwing everything into them, then stashing them in the laundry room and closing the door. Voila! No more clutter. Visible, that is. Just because it's hidden doesn't mean it isn't there.

I can't count the late payments I shelled out simply because I couldn't find the bills. Stress.

I spent hours cutting out coupons, thrifty mom that I was, but couldn't find them when it was time to go to the store. Wastefulness.

The kids' "widowed sock" bin was overflowing, not because the dryer "ate the socks," but because the mates were buried under the coupons and bills I couldn't find. Stupidity.

I was a slob. 

So much so, that on occasion, someone would knock at my door and I'd tell the kids to be quiet and pretend we weren't home. After all, I couldn't expose my pigpen to the outside world. So many missed opportunities for fellowship for a young stay-at-home mom who, quite simply, should have taken the time to clean her house.

Oh, the regrets. The many times the kids wanted to go swimming or to the park, but I said we had to clean the house first. It didn't get done and neither did the outings. (Confession: tears are making their way down my cheeks right now. Tears of deep, deep regret).

Why am I sharing this with you? In hopes you don't make the same mistakes I made. If you can't seem to control the clutter, figure out a way to do so. I know that's easier said than done. I spent quite a lot of money on books and magazines full of organizing tips. I bought more than my share of decorative boxes and baskets, certain they were the answer to my clutter dilemma. And, quite honestly, I still struggle with this issue, mostly in my office. 

Back in November, when my workspace started filling up with clutter, I vowed to clean it before Thanksgiving... before Christmas... before tax time... before I left for the conference... before company came for a week... before.......... Yeah, I still struggle. 

I am happy to announce that I finally got it together in my office (for the most part). Of course, it involved another purchase. I found a wooden bookshelf at an estate sale during the last hour of the half-off sale. For $7.50 and a fresh coat of paint, I had the motivation to clean up the mess. I resisted the urge to "box" things (my new version of the brown paper bag trick). Nope, I actually went through things and organized them. I even found some receipts for last year's taxes. Good thing I filed an extension in April!

Living a life of clutter and disorder can lead to a lot of stress for a family. My office clutter affects only me, so I don't have the "mommy regret" I experienced in my earlier years. But it does affect my productivity and is a real time-waster. How many hours have I spent looking for things I needed? I shudder to think of how that time could have been better spent.

Do I have advice on how you can break the slob cycle? I wish I did. I do have a friend who is a psychologist-turned-professional-organizer. Joyce Wilde has an organizing blog and a book coming out (hopefully soon). Her focus is on the psychological aspects of clutter, etc. I wish I'd known her in the 80s! I recommend checking out her blog to see if there are tips you can utilize to break your own slob cycle.

One tiny bit of advice I can give you is to make the beds every day. Seriously. It makes a difference. I only started doing this on a daily basis within the last year or so (I know, for those of you who are bed makers, you're appalled by that confession), and here's what I learned: a made bed looks out of place in a messy bedroom. Therefore, after the bed's made, I tend to clean up any clothes or clutter laying around from the day before. And I can't tell you how good it feels to walk into a clean room at the end of the day. Well, yeah, I can tell you: it feels so good.

So, here's my question to you: do you make your bed? 

** While many attribute this poem to an unknown author, some sources note the poet to be Ruth Hulbert Hamilton.

Monday, July 29, 2013

How my smart phone helped make a perfect day even better -- A Christmas in July story

Disclosure: I am participating in the Verizon Voices Boomers program and have been provided with a device and six months of service in exchange for my honest opinions about the product.

Don't you love the cover for my phone?

I haven't written about the Sabbath Experience in awhile, but that doesn't mean I'm not engaging in it any longer. This past week, after hearing the incredible weather forecast, I decided to take a break midweek. No, it wasn't Sunday, but Thursday's day of rest was exactly what the Great Physician ordered!

On Tuesday, I asked my husband how he felt about celebrating Christmas in July with me on the 25th. He thought it was a great idea. Then he realized he'd already made plans to have breakfast with a friend that day. 

"No problem," I told him. "I'll just go with you, sit in a different booth and work, and then when you're done, we'll head out."

So that's exactly what we did. And, yes, I did put in about an hour of work sitting at King's restaurant in Wexford, PA. But it was a pleasant, stress-free hour working on the blog. 

Around 11, we headed north on Route 19, with windows down and Christmas music blaring. We sang along with Bing and Frank and Ella as we searched for antique shops along the way. Antiquing is something Bill and I used to do fairly often. We both enjoyed it, but in recent years, have found little time for it. Christmas in July seemed like the perfect opportunity to revisit our old pastime. 

One of four vintage glass holdbacks
We stopped at a shop not even one month old, and I picked up a lovely pair of earrings and some fabulous 1930s art deco curtain holdbacks that I plan to give to my sister for Christmas (no worries about her finding out about them . . . she never reads my blog!). 

As we drove, we stopped various places to browse, shop, and eat. Finally, while we were in Volant, we spent some time in the field by the river. We watched a water snake's antics for awhile, then we sat on a bench and I read a couple of chapters aloud of Unconditional, a book by my new friend, Eva Marie Everson. Bill and I started a tradition of reading a book together every summer. It's one of my favorite things to do. After picking up Unconditional at the last writers' conference I attended in June, it seemed like the perfect pick for this summer. So, we sat and read together in the coolness of the early evening. Then we played a bit on the playground equipment and wooden train (hey, we're all kids on Christmas, right?).

Heading toward home, we decided to take a different route; one we'd never driven before. Then, I got an idea of where we could have dinner.

"I love it," Bill said, "but how are we going to figure out how to get there from here? I don't even know exactly where we are."
That's when I pulled out my Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx HD smart phone that I'm using as part of the Verizon Voices Boomer program. I hit the microphone on Google and said, "Brewery in Slippery Rock."

Bill reminded me, "That's not what it's called."

Before I could answer him, there it was on my screen -- North Country Brewing Co. Then I hit the directions button. 

As someone whose never had a GPS and has relied heavily on Mapquest, the VZ Navigator was a godsend. I just might get used to this feature! It found our location and led us to . . . well, I'd like to say it led us directly to the restaurant, but the ramp to I-79 was closed and somehow it missed that. 

"As soon as you can, make a legal U-Turn," the voice kept telling us as we drove past the intended ramp. I must admit, that was frustrating. After all, wouldn't you think road construction would be something the Navigator would be privy to?

Finally, we convinced it to recalculate and take us a different, more scenic, route. We found the restaurant, had a lovely meal, and headed home.

"I don't remember how to get out of here," Bill admitted as we got into the car. 

"No problem," I assured him, pulling out my phone.

No problem, indeed. We drove home, content with the magic of our Christmas-in-July day. While I respected our time together and kept my phone in my purse for the most part, there were times he found it acceptable for me to check my email, etc. for brief periods. It was, after all, not technically a holiday and I do have a business to run. It sure was convenient to be able to check on things with my smart phone. And, it provided some peace of mind for me as I was away from my office for the entire day.

A Sabbath day of refreshment with a little bit of romance thrown in. Ahhh. Delightful. And aren't the earrings fun?

When's the last time you took the day off?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Vinegar Friday -- a perfect line drying kind of day

My retractable clothes line from my porch to the oak tree and back


It is an absolutely beautiful day in Western Pennsylvania! And perfect for line drying.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating: Don't forget to add a 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar to your rinse cycle in place of fabric softener. DWV softens, disinfects and is non-toxic, unlike conventional fabric softeners. Toss some wool dryer balls into the dryer, or better yet, hang your laundry on the line and let the sun and wind dry your clothes without using any gas or electricity. Bonus: your laundry will smell amazing and your utility bill will be a bit cheaper. It's a win/win!

Keeping it green with vinegar,

Find out why you should avoid fabric softener here.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Supermom! How I birthed my baby -- Part 15

Today, I'm happy to share the story of two births, written by a friend of mine. Jennifer Cormier is currently a stay-at-home mom to a 2 year old and a 3 ½ year old. She has experienced much in her very short life, but her outlook on life has remained positive.In her free time, she blogs about parenting and her experience with child loss. She is currently looking forward to embarking on the new adventure of being a working mom and a move from southwestern Pennsylvania to Staten Island, New York. You can follow Jenn on her blogs -- Angels & Rainbows -- Jenn's blog on child loss and miscarriage, and Sweetpea Fairie -- Jenn's blog on parenting and life in general.

I am a 32-year-old mother of two beautiful, sweet, caring little girls. My husband and I cannot have any more children. This is not how we had planned for our lives. However, life threw us some curve balls. We've gradually adapted to our life now as parents of two very active little girls.

We consider ourselves very blessed, because both my husband and I were both told we would never have children. In fact, I was told to not even try to get pregnant . . . ever. When I was just 24-years-old, I was told that my body would not allow me to carry a child to term. Because by this time I had already had three miscarriages. By the time I met my husband, we both knew, if things worked out between us, we wanted to try to have children of our own.

About six months before we got married, my then soon-to-be husband went to have a fertility test done. The results were 99.99% that we would never have any children of our own naturally. We tried on and off for a little over a year to have children. In December of 2008, I was feeling sick, along with being tired most of the time. By my birthday, we were fairly certain I was pregnant. We were so excited and elated about the thought of being parents. While I was at work two days later, I began to miscarry. I immediately called my primary care doctor and left work early. I went home to rest, try to relax, and let nature take its course. My husband came home early that day, and held me all weekend long as I cried.

One month later, in January 2009, we took an at home pregnancy test. It was positive -- I was indeed pregnant. This time, we headed straight to my doctor who sent us directly to a wonderful OB-GYN. The entire pregnancy was closely monitored. As the time came near, we went and toured the hospital where we were going to have our child. While I had a very detailed birth plan, I can honestly tell you that nothing fully prepared me for the delivery process.

While I labored at home, I focused all my attention on a picture of my late mother on my dresser, I wound up crying because she would not be there to help me have my child. I looked at my husband's nightstand and saw a picture of his late mother. Trying to relax and breath, I began to feel overwhelmingly alone, despite my husband's constant loving touch. He helped me in and out of the bathtub, up and down while lying down and sitting down. He was my constant, and I surprised him because, despite the amount of pain I was in, I did not swear at all. He told me I could yell at him and scream if I needed to; however, I don't remember doing so. Our oldest daughter's birth is a bit of a blur and a haze as I ended up needing an emergency caesarean. Our oldest daughter’s delivery was not as I had planned or had expected it to be. 

Fast forward to early January of 2011, when we are expecting yet again. This time I wanted to try to have a vaginal birth after a c-section (VBAC). As the time neared, I started having contractions. However, they weren’t consistent, so it is chalked up to being Braxton Hicks. The next day, we headed off to an ultrasound to check on the position of our little one, only to find out while still experiencing some labor pains, that our sweet bundle of joy was transverse breech. The ultrasound tech called the doctor to see about scheduling a c-section that day. However, my OB declined and advised we set up an appointment with him the first thing the next morning. So I went home where I continued to experience labor. I lacked an appetite, so I did not eat much. Every time I did manage to eat anything, my body quickly rejected it. So I stuck to water and ice chips at home all night long until we headed off to the OB appointment the next morning.

We were brought in quickly to see our OB, who explained that he would prefer to wait until the baby's lungs had developed more, perhaps another 2-3 more weeks. After much discussion, we ultimately agree to have our little girl that very day. It wound up starting out as a slow admitting process, but sped up when my contractions became increasingly constant and steady. Both of my OBs and their intern wound up rushing from lunch to the Operating Room. My husband was there the entire time, calm and cool as a cucumber. I remember my youngest daughter's birth more clearly, but bits of it are still hazy.

I am so thankful for modern medicine, because without it, I would not be here to tell you my birth stories. I would not be here to be the mother I am to my very sweet girls. My birth plans didn’t pan out as I had thought they would. But I was blessed to have two wonderful rainbows after experiencing more than a lifetime of loss. I wish both my mom and my mother-in-law would have been in the delivery room to coach me through the labor process. But my husband and I feel that they both sent us our very sweet girls. Thank you for reading my birth story and I hope if you've experienced a pregnancy loss that you, too, will be able to someday have a birth story of your own.

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