Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Decluttering II: The Mess

I could sit here and write that the state of my house is not reflective of the state of my mind, but that would be a lie.

I'd love to say I'm one of those absent-minded professor types whose surroundings are a mess, but who knows just where everything is.

Yes, I'm one of those absent-minded professor types, but I rarely have any idea where my keys are. Or the book I'm reading. Sometimes I even misplace my dinner, only to find it in some weird place, like on top of the bookcase.

Here are some "before" pictures. Life has not gone as planned these past few days, so there are no "after" pics yet.

And if someone gives me that old "Don't-be-such-a-perfectionist-because-now-that-you're-a-mom-your-house-isn't-going-to-look-like-House-Beautiful-and-you'll-just-have-to-learn-to-live-with-a-bit-of-mess" line, I'm going to throw a dirty sock at them. I'm sure that, at any given time and any given place in my house, a dirty sock is within arm's reach.

Bookcases and random baby stuff that needs to be put away (or given away)

More bookcases and random baby stuff.
Anyone need a jumperoo ... or two?

Stacks of books on every surface ...

.... along with random folders and baking soda boxes

Grad school notes (top shelf), old yearbooks and photo albums
(bottom shelf), and doubled-up journals dating back to the 1980s

The pool table. Our house came with it. Obviously, we don't play pool.

This is kind of a neat stack. These cassette holders are now empty.
They were full last week when we started purging.

The book-and-album shelves don't look too bad.
Other than the shelves themselves being ugly and cheap.

On to the bedroom ... this is the top of my dresser.

My bedside table. Sometimes I wish I could see the clock from my
bed, but I can't. It's hidden behind stuff.

The floor next to my dresser. Leftovers from this past weekend,
when we went to visit my parents. (The books on the bookcase all used
to be on my tiny bedside table. I finally put a bookcase in there so I
could clear off the bedside table. Lotta good that did, huh?)

The top of my bed. No, there is no underwear in this picture.
(I had to look closely to make sure, though!)

Now for the kitchen. This counter isn't that messy. It's just cluttered.
I had more pictures, but I started to get depressed. You might have noticed that some of the bookcases are missing books. I've removed about 60 of them and am giving a lot of them away to friends. Here's a big stack from my religion/theology collection that I've decided to part with:

It hurt to get rid of some of these.
I sincerely hope to have some "after" pictures soon. Or at least an "after" to photograph! Stay "tuned."

Toddler Tuesday

It's been a few weeks since we've had a Toddler Tuesday, and I'm afraid it will be a few more before I can sit and write a nice, long update about Miss Anne. Here are a few quick bullet points:

- Anne had her 15-month appointment last week. She weighs 18 pounds, 11 ounces (3rd percentile) and is 30.5 inches tall (46th percentile). She's still a very little girl! The doctor said we shouldn't be concerned about her weight. I'm not. Honestly, I'm kind of glad that we don't have to worry that she's eating too much.

- She's talking up a storm. All one-syllable words so far, but my ... that girl can communicate! One month ago, we counted 22 words. Now she's saying at least 40, maybe more, including mama, dada, gee (GG), paw (Paw Paw), up, Keith, Mo, Anne, Nee (Nina), toes, key, baba (milk), frah (Froggie), car, no, yeah, knee (not to be confused with Nee), talk, cat, woof (her word for dog), and teeth.

- We visited her GG and Paw Paw last weekend. She calls them "Gee" and "Paw." How cute is that? She would point to my mom and say "Gee!" Made my mom's day every time.

- She can pucker up for a kiss. I would say, "Go kiss Paw Paw," and she'd walk across the room to him, lips puckered the entire time.

- She can blow kisses. She blows kisses all the time.

- She used to wave by opening and closing her hand. Now she has more of a "Miss America" wave.

- She's starting to take more of an interest in puzzles. She still hasn't quite gotten the hang of them yet.

- She's not asking me to read to her as much as before. She prefers to read books on her own. Fine by me. I sit in the glider and read my book while she sits on the floor and reads hers.

- Her favorite foods are spaghetti, ham, broccoli, cauliflower, and Ritz Crackers. She has no taste whatsoever for anything sugary, including fruit and chocolate chip cookies.

- She says "yeah" and "no" and seems to know what they mean.

- She knows all her body parts.

- She's started to undress herself. That's OK with me as long as she doesn't take her diaper off while she's in bed at night. So far, so good.

- Last night I asked her if she could say "Nina." She got a huge grin on her face, pointed at me, and yelled, "Nee!"

- We're still breastfeeding. I'm thinking our days are numbered, though, because I need to start taking a not-safe-for-breastfeeding medication soon.

- She loves to go down the "big slide" at the local playground. All by herself. Feet first, on her stomach. The girl has no fear.

- She loves to climb. She is constantly climbing--steps, into chairs, onto the coffee table. Heaven help us.

- Changing her diaper has become a major ordeal. She writhes and turns and won't let me change her. I'm having to strap her down like she's a mental patient.

- Two weekends ago, we went hiking in the Siler Bald area of western NC, and our little girl hiked, for the first time, the entire width of the Appalachian Trail.

- She's the greatest 15-month-old. Ever. In the whole wide world.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Decluttering I: The Calm Before the Storm

We're going to declutter our library this weekend.

We have a lot of books. Thirteen hundred of them, at least. That's about how many we had when we Dewey Decimal'd them in 2009. And I've gone one a few too many amazon.com shopping sprees since then.

Oh, amazon. Why do I feel tempted, right now, to log on and order six books on decluttering?

Sigh. Don't go there, Nina. Just don't go there. Stay away from amazon.com. At all costs.

Our house goes "live" on April 1 (meaning it will be on the market and available for viewing). And, even though I love a house full of books (really? do you think?), we have two very good reasons to declutter our book collection:

1. An uncluttered house makes a better impression on potential buyers.
2. Books are heavy. If this house sells and we need to move, I don't want to have to move them.

I'm not looking forward to this. Sure, it will take a lot of time, but that's not my concern.

My concern is that so much of my sense of who I am, and my sense of self-worth, is wrapped up in all those books.

It's true. I like being Someone Who Owns Lots Of Books. I like what that says about me. Or what I imagine it does.

When I'm gazing at my bookcases (not that I've had time for that in a while), I feel a cozy sense of security and well-being. I feel a sense of fulfillment.

It's true. My books make me feel good. They make me feel whole.

They also make me feel smart. And oh, how I love feeling smart.

I'll admit something else: If I visit your house and see that you don't have a lot of books, or you don't have the right books, I'll be tempted to judge you.

(Oh, great. Now I’ll never get invited anywhere again.)

Seriously, though. Getting rid of books this weekend will be like getting rid of my fingers.

I’ve been preparing myself, mentally and emotionally, for this. One thing I did was surf the Internet earlier this week for tips on book-decluttering. I found some good tips. My favorite (and I don't remember where I found it) was to write down the title of each book I don't want to part with because "I'm planning to read it someday."

Then, start an amazon.com wish list with those titles. Or just store them somewhere.

If I ever decide I really, really, really need the book, I can always buy it again.

And if I've had the book for 20 years and still haven't read it yet ... chances are I won't want to buy it again anyway.

If I think about it and can find the camera, I'll plan to take some pictures of the decluttering process. It ain't gonna be pretty. If I post the pics here, I'll be sure and have a "Warning" message at the top of the post.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Decluttering and Merges

My six months hiking the Appalachian Trail were probably the most clutter-free six months of my life. (OK, so my baby crib was probably pretty clutter-free, but I don't know.) Everything I needed for six months was either in my backpack or in a "bounce box" at the next post office. It was Spartan living, and I loved it. Never, not once, did I waste 20 minutes looking for my keys.

In real life (as in, not trail life), I am a magnet for clutter, and I spend an inordinate amount of my time looking for stuff--keys, money, cell phone, iPods. (I hate that iPods are getting smaller and smaller. I miss the good old days when I carried a boom box the size of a large briefcase.) Every few years, I have to re-read  Organizing from the Inside Out and start my life over. It's a wonderful book, and one of three self-help books that have actually stuck with me through the years. I'm just chronically unable to keep up with the good habits it fosters.

There are two areas of my life that aren't typically cluttered: my bookcases (most of the time), and my thoughts when I'm writing.

Everything else? It's like I have a disability with concrete things (DWCT disorder?). Ask me to store a phone number in my head, and I'll keep it there for eternity. Ask me to hold your money or your purse or your keys, and you're taking a big risk that you won't see those items again for a long time. I will forget I have them, absently set them down somewhere, and not be able to retrieve them when you ask me to do so five minutes later.

We're putting our house up for sale soon. At the moment, it's so buried in clutter that no one will want to buy it. Please understand that we are NOT like those crazy pack rats on that TV show. But I swear our stuff is replicating in our closets, on our countertops, in the gear-storage room.

So we need to declutter. Fortunately, I seem to be experiencing a "merge" of sorts, where things I'm thinking and doing are falling in line with things I happen to read here and there. For example, Marla is reading a book on decluttering. I just read Freedom from Tyranny of the Urgent, which was quoted recently on another blog I read (I can't remember which, but it was a mergey post on decluttering). I randomly picked up another book last night, one that isn't a self-help type book, and the author began by saying her life had become too cluttered with "stuff."

So, all this merging must mean God wants me to declutter, too. Right?

I followed Marla's links to Tsh Oxenreider's Simple Mom site and printed out some PDFs she'd made of decluttering checklists. And last night at 10:30, Hubster and I got to work—not on anything from the checklists (yet), but on something we’ve needed to tackle for years: our cassette tapes.

We're keeping only the homemade "mix" tapes, and only for a few days (since we have about 200 of them). I'm going to keep the jackets of some (where the names of the songs are listed), so I can reproduce the order of the songs on my iPod. Once I find it.

Question: Are you a clutter-magnet? What are some techniques you use to prevent clutter in your home? If you're over 35, did you carry a giant boom box in the 80s, too? Or just a Walkman the size of a pocket dictionary?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Happy Belated Birthday, Bach!

Yesterday was J.S. Bach's birthday. I was so busy all day that I completely forgot about it until late last night.

To celebrate, I'll listen to you-know-who all day. It's been a while since I've done that.

Anne, by the way, has learned to say "Bach."

Apologies for the poor picture quality. I have a cheap cell phone.
She likes to flip through the Inventions book when she's "playing" the piano. It looks like she's trying to find just the right piece to play.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Multitude Monday #15

Well. It has been a long day, and a long week. Time dragged and time flew. I feel like I missed twenty gazillion hours of work (and lost that much PTO), but I was really gone for only a day (Friday, the day of my mom's surgery).

And the weekend? Crazy scheduling, four house guests Friday night, a business/pleasure trip for Dan, and my sister's daughter with strep throat. Sigh.

Thanks to my dear friend eArThworm, I have a great little notebook for writing gratitude lists. It's small and light enough that I can carry it just about anywhere. So, while I was waiting for my mom's surgery to be over, or getting ready to go to sleep at 1 a.m., or taking a "mommy break" while Anne read books to herself, I would steal a few minutes to write down the blessings I could count at the moment.

And there were quite a few!

235. a baby's snaggletoothed smile

236. solitude, even at the office

237. hiking trails

238. stirrings of an old dream I thought had long died

239. possibility

240. a dryer rack full of clean dishes

241. finding the other sock

242. brown-mottled bananas

243. everyday items that have meaning--the mixer, a gift from my brother; a hand towel, a gift from Mrs. Shirley from more than a decade ago

244. a hand-print picture on the fridge, a gift from Ella

245. a handful of Kashi Cinnamon Harvest cereal

246. the sound of coffee dripping

247. being the only one awake in the morning

248. generosity

249. parents who model unconditional love

240. knowing that, if anything happens to my mom in surgery, she knows I love her

241. a two-year-old's prayers for her grandmother

242. seeing my mom's eyes open after they wheeled her back from surgery

243. long talks with my dad

244. steel-cut oats

245. apples

246. old friends visiting, talking trail

247. seeing bleuets and violets outside my office building this morning

248. SPRING!

249. REBIRTH!

250. being Anne's mom

holy experience

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Mommy Is Sick

We're not sure what's wrong with her, only that she had to be rushed to the hospital in Asheville an hour or so ago. The doctors aren't sure what's causing her pain, but they're trying to find that out, and hopefully we'll know more later tonight.

Those of you who pray, please keep my mom in your prayers. She's been in a lot of pain. One thing we do know is that she needs gallbladder surgery; however, she can't get the surgery until they find the source of her other pain.

I love my mom. :-(

3/18 Update: My mom has had a rough week. She's scheduled to have gallbladder surgery early this afternoon. I've haven't have much time for personal e-mails this week, so I apologize for not responding to those of you who e-mailed me asking about my mom. I'll post an update later to let you know how she's doing. We appreciate your prayers.

3/19 Update: The gallbladder surgery went well. We are thankful that they were able to do the surgery laproscopically, which is an easier surgery with a shorter recovery time than traditional surgery. She is in a lot of pain at this point. If you pray, please pray that she has a smooth recovery and that the pain remains under control ... and soon is a thing of the past.

3/20 Update: My mom was discharged from the hospital late this afternoon. Yay! She's home resting and recovering. Thank you for your prayers.

Toddler Tuesday

I'd hoped to write something this morning, but I slept like the dead until 8:00. So here I am, posting a few quick thoughts during my lunch hour.

Miss Anne turned 15 months old last Saturday.

She has learned to blow kisses. She repeats everything we say (or tries to). She's become very cranky at night, so we think she might be teething again.

She seems to be trying to potty-train herself. Heaven help us.

Last night, I was holding her near the fruit basket, so I asked her if she could point to a banana, and then an apple, and then an orange. And she knew them all! This isn't something I've taught her. Maybe she learned it at Angela's. Maybe she just picked it up. Either way, I was surprised.

Her favorite foods these days are broccoli, cold cuts (which I give her sparingly because of the sodium), and ... yes, Ritz crackers. Anne apparently did not inherit my sweet tooth; she'll turn down a cookie in favor of a Ritz or Goldfish cracker any day. And she prefers vegetables and meat (salmon! beef! pork! chicken! turkey!) to fruit.

Is this really my child?

She's learned to run, and she loves to climb. She's now more interested in walking (rather than climbing) up and down the steps, but her legs or so short that we need to hold her hands. That's fine with her. She likes taking the big steps.

She also loves to climb onto her rocking chair and rock, rock, rock. Sometimes she lets me sit in front of the chair and push it to rock her. The other day I watched her do the same thing with a teddy bear.

We got out the Mardi Gras beads a couple of weeks ago, and she can't get enough of bead-wearing.

She's such a sweet girl. I love her so much.

This kind of a disjointed little report, but it's lunch and Miss Boo is waking up and it's time to nurse. (Yes, we're still nursing.)

Oh, speaking of "boo," she likes to hide behind the shower curtain. When she peeks out at me, she says, "Boo." Not "Boo!" Just "Boo." With a period. It's the cutest, sweetest thing ever.

Monday, March 14, 2011

"Slavery to God is perfect freedom."

"St. Augustine expressed a paradox of the Christian life: 'Slavery to God is perfect freedom.' In other words, commitment to the will of God--the purpose for which we are designed--offers freedom to become the person we are meant to be--freedom to travel along the road of God's choice."

                   - Charles E. Hummel, Freedom from the Tyranny of the Urgent

Multitude Monday #14

This is my first Multitude Monday in two weeks. Or maybe three. Once again, I managed to let myself get swept up in the urgency of life's demands and forget to be still, and be thankful. It was no easier last week; my mom had to go into the hospital with gallbladder-related pain in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, and then I ended up with a lot of tooth pain, for which I'm getting a root canal today. We're hoping my mom can have her gallbladder surgery scheduled for tomorrow or Wednesday.

I didn't go to work on Tuesday, which meant I had to work Saturday so I didn't lose PTO. (I've been the red for PTO for most of the time since I got back from maternity leave ... long story.)

So, I had a one-day weekend. My mom is at my sister's house, an hour and a half away, and I was too tired for three hours on the road Sunday afternoon, so Dan, Anne, and I spent the day together. After church, Anne had a nap, and then we packed up and headed out to the Appalachian Trail.

Crossing a bridge (Yes, I was a little nervous!)

But enough of my life. Onward to thankful thoughts ...

224. the fact that my mom was at our house, and not alone, when she started having the gallbladder pain. She was in so much pain she couldn't move, not even to reach over for a phone.

225. the fact that gallbladder surgery (laproscopic) is apparently relatively simple these days.

226. insurance that pays 80% of root-canal costs.

227. a beautiful Sunday afternoon for hiking on the AT

228. my 15-month-old blowing kisses for the first time

229. running up the trail with Anne in my backpack, both of us saying, "Woooo! Woooo!" and laughing

230. Anne's "hoo" echo: If Dan or I need to call the other person in the house, or on the trail, or (yes) in public, we'll yell, "Hooty hoo! Hooty hoo!" Anne seems to have picked up on it, and she echoes us when we say it, only she says, "Hoo!"

231. the way I've stopped craving orange juice in the mornings since giving up sweets for Lent

232. Lent

233. my "confession" friend, Katie

234. hiking -- the strong feeling in my legs and lungs, the weight of the pack on my hips, the feel of the Leki poles in my hands, the sheer joy inherent in the rhythm of walking on a trail

This is a short list today, but I need to get ready and go into work early. Hope everyone has a great week!

Here are a couple of pictures, since I haven't posted any in a while:

Anne loved riding in her new backpack
(a barely used Deuter Kid Comfort II, found on craigslist)

Dan showing Anne how to read a map
I hope to post a few more pictures for tomorrow's Toddler Tuesday. Meanwhile hop on over to Ann's blog to read more bloggers' thankful thoughts today.

holy experience

Friday, March 4, 2011

Five Minute Friday: The Mirror

This week I'm participating in The Gypsy Mama's Five-Minute Friday writing exercise. I actually participate every week, but I rarely post what I write because it's well-nigh impossible for me to write anything for publication without obsessively editing it first.

But this one came out pretty "finished-sounding," so I'll publish it here. The Gypsy Mama's topic for today was "When I Look in the Mirror, I See ..." The idea is to write for five minutes flat, not editing, and to publish what you come up with.

What I wrote ended up being kind of depressing. But I like it anyway. (And I promise to go back and "edit" only if I see a typo.)

*************************************************

When I look in the mirror, I see ...

A gaunt, aging woman with bloodshot eyes and sprigs of gray hairs sprouting from my scalp, and from my temples in particular. Dark circles under my tired eyes. Unsmiling face. Plum wore out.

Hair hanging past my shoulders, much longer than it should be, because I haven't been to a hairdresser since last July. My hair looks as exhausted as I feel.

I don't like looking in the mirror. I never really did.

When I was a teenager, I spent hours at the mirror, fixing my makeup just right, moussing and gelling and curling and teasing my hair. Or, on darker days, berating my own reflection for its chubby cheeks, its fat thighs. I remember all the weighing and looking, weighing and looking. How many hours did I spend weighing myself and looking in the mirror, hopeful that somehow I'd become a little bit thinner? And always hating my reflection, no matter what I saw?

When I was in my twenties and thirties, I didn't have time to look in the mirror. Or if I did, I suppose I liked what I saw well enough and went on with my life.

Now that I'm in my 40s, I look in the mirror each morning and see an old woman. Forty isn't old, I know, but I feel like I've aged a few decades in the last five years.

I'd always looked a good ten or twelve years younger than my actual age. No more.

Depression, sleeplessness, and far, far too many hours spent at the office, or in the classroom, or mindlessly in front of a computer. Not nearly enough time spent in the woods, writing, making music, doing what I love.

This neglect, it's showing in this reflection in the glass. Too many years of being tired, too many years of stretching myself thin, too many years of living with eyes closed to beauty and hope.

Maybe I should have looked in the mirror more.

*************************************************

Want to join me and others in Five-Minute Friday? Go to The Gypsy Mama's blog and find out how!

Happy National Grammar Day!

It's National Grammar Day in America. How are you going to celebrate?

Start by reading Grammar Girl's Top Ten Grammar Myths, and feel free to use all the appropriate passive voice constructions, split infinitives, and grammatically correct long sentences you want today ... and every day!

A Future Blogger?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Poem: "The Agony," by George Herbert

I just realized I missed the anniversary of George Herbert’s death by two days. But I guess I don’t need an anniversary as an excuse to post one of my favorite Herbert poems.

The Agony

        Philosophers have measured mountains,
Fathom'd the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walk'd with a staff to heaven, and traced fountains
        But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sin and Love.

        Who would know Sin, let him repair
Unto Mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man, so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
        His skin, his garments, bloody be.
Sin is that Press and Vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruel food through every vein.

        Who knows not Love, let him assay,
And taste that juice, which on the cross a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
        If ever he did taste the like.
Love is that liquor sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as blood; but I, as wine.

(By George Herbert, 1593-1633)

(Taken from The English Poems of George Herbert, ed., C.A. Patrides)