Sunday, July 15, 2012

Living Life on Hold

There are many lessons I am learning during this period of time that I am convalescing after a recent surgery. For a person that is normally running full throttle with my job for much of August through May each year, I kick it down several notches and redirect my focus to family and home for the remaining two months of the year. Things were thrown out of the norm when I had an unexpected illness in March that brought me to a quick stop and a slow restart. This uncovered another health condition which lead to the need to have surgery during my summer break. I normally make plans during the early spring months for many summer activities including day trips, vacations and entertaining family and friends throughout my warm weather break. Projects around the house and time to just hang out with my kids at home are also planned around a few training days and professional development opportunities for work. This year was different. I didn’t plan much, if anything for the summer break time, but I did invest in memberships to the zoo, the children’s museum and a season pass to an amusement and water park. My surgery was delayed several times, so I took advantage of the month between the end of the school year and my surgery date to do some family activities that I knew I would be unable to do later in the summer. It was not really an ideal situation, as I didn’t know from week to week how long it would be before my activities would be restricted, but I tried to make the best of it with several impromptu day trips. 

My first lesson has been in patience. The act of waiting for others to decide the “best” time and conditions for my actual procedure was frustrating. I thought that I was ahead of the game by getting recommended tests and consultations scheduled before the school year was out. Since I was expected to need a full 8 weeks for recovery and my break is just shy of that, the plan was to have everything scheduled for a week or two into my break. This would leave me with time to prepare and do a few fun things with the kids and ample time for recovery before I was back at work with a heavy workload during the first month to six weeks of my annual contract. Regardless of what I tried to plan for, there were delays. I was expected to go through further tests and wait a bit longer. What I have learned about myself is that I am not patient. Patience is a virtue that I was forced through circumstances beyond my control to accept. I am still working through my patience during recovery. I have a long list of what I would like to do, but most of it is not practical with my current restrictions. I have a list of down time activities that I thought I’d be able to do, but haven’t had much of an attention span although that is finally getting better. I was planning on doing some reading, writing, scrapbooking and watching a few movies. I have yet to stay awake through any movie and can barely focus on reading a blog, my friends’ social network updates or even magazine articles. I hope my attention improves as the medications diminish in the days and weeks to come. Scrapbooks are very impractical as I am not able to sit at a table and layout pages, pictures, etc. yet. I hope that that condition improves as well, as I would love to get some progress while I have days of time to invest in the next few weeks.

Another lesson has been in giving up control. Someone else is doing the shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc. and although I can tell others what I want, it sounds awfully ungrateful to complain to my family, who are nearly waiting on me hand and foot, that they are not doing things my way or to my standards. This acceptance that all is fine the way my family is doing it, leads me back to my first lesson, which is patience, as I must wait until I am able to take these tasks back in hand. I am grateful that my lack of control is temporary. Even when I was in the hospital, I was contemplating why I can’t just enjoy someone else doing all this for me. But I could only think that it will be x number of days until I can get home and then x number of weeks before I am back to my old self. Almost two weeks ago, I read a blog about a mother that went into the hospital to have her second child and gave an amusing account of how it was like a vacation for her. She noted that she and others thought of a hospital visit as a bit of a mini vacation with meals prepared and cleaned up, kids being cared for somewhere else by someone else, plenty of time to read. My view of hospitals is far different. I so wanted to avoid the place that I had my youngest two children at home. Yes, if I had the choice I would vacation at a spa or resort and it would probably cost much less in the long run, the food would be better, and I would not have to deal with the fog that comes from the drugs that the hospital must administer to keep me comfortable. 

There is another lesson that is peaking my attention as I am at day 12 of my actual confinement. I need to keep focused on living my life to the fullest I am able despite what it brings. My mantra to live and love life must come to a head every day. This starts with appreciation of the people that love me and are here today, whatever the given day that I am blessed to live. I must also make sure the activities I choose are positive and I must live in the moment and not miss what lessons, opportunities and gifts living this day brings. This sounds a bit sappy, especially for me, but if I don’t focus on loving my life, and the people that are on this living journey with me, then I very easily fall into being quite pessimistic and once I start focusing on the faults that can be found in any situation, I find myself feeling dissatisfied. This is not a new lesson for me, but something that is back in focus after the fog of anxiety, anesthesia,  narcotics and being totally off track has set the agenda to just surviving day to day. I want to live life. There is a big difference.

So even though the restrictions of my current situation still have me on hold with many of the things that I think I should be doing, I need to be patient with myself, let go of control of what I can’t do and decide what I can and will do today. I can write today. I still am experiencing a short attention span, but through multiple attempts at the keyboard, I have written this blog. It should be enough for me to be satisfied if I actually live well and make accomplishments despite my limitations.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Great Closet Cleanout Begins

This is the fourth year that I have challenged myself to clear out the closets at the beginning of my summer break. And I'm not limiting myself to closets this year, but I will also declutter and organize cabinets, drawers, shelving and the sheds outside. Since I have already done a clear out last year, and a spiff up of some of the drawers and cabinets during my winter break this should not be a daunting task. On the other hand, I did acquire some new kitchen gadgets and tools at my latest Pampered Chef Cooking Shows that I have hosted or attended. I have also purchased some new tumblers and a serving tray to match the patio dishes that I got last summer, and a NuWave oven for cooking on the countertop, outside and when we are at a camp spot. I hope to have some new outdoor kitchen storage before too many weeks pass as well. It would have been great if FLYLady had a Super Fling Boogie Challenge going about now, but I'll just have begin one of my own.

     Where to begin? I started late last week in my master bedroom. It is supposed to be my place of refuge and peace and so it made sense that it come first for me.As I cleaned out my bedroom closet, I noticed a small bag and a box that were items that were stash-and-dash from a quick cleanup a few weeks back. I pulled out enough clothes to fill a small bag that I will donate and then straightened up the shelves. I still need to figure out a solution for my shoes. They are currently lined up across my closet floor under the hanging clothes. I looked at a couple of different shoe racks yesterday at the home and garden store, but really haven't found what I want yet. I'll keep my eye out and do some online research as well. I also straightened up my clothes dresser. It took all of five minutes. It feels really good to have these two areas checked off my list. I still need to put away the stash and dash items that are now on my desk, but they were not technically a part of the closet anyway. As for the rest of the bedroom, I am not going to touch Joe's closet, but he promises to revamp his own in the near future. I will also tackle the entertainment center, desk and bookshelves at a later time. I'm not really sure how much effort they will require or even when I will begin. But next, I am on to the kitchen...

                                                                                                                                          Break Time!!!!

     Pantry cleared out for shelf build                                            


FLYLady's plan has us working in the Kitchen Zone this week, so that has become my second area of focus. We have decided to expand the shelving in the pantry from five 14x21-inch white plastic shelves to four-15x81 inch shelves.and room for storage bins and the dog's sleep crate underneath.  We picked up the finished shelving yesterday, but they only had 5 of the 12 L-brackets we need for the project, so I spent some time today prepping the area in wait for Joe to come home. He worked later than normal tonight, but stopped to pick up seven more brackets so we could get the shelves up tonight. I have also started with the sorting and decluttering of  the cabinets in the kitchen. The canned and boxed goods are now sorted into like items on the dining room table and waiting for their new home.

 New shelving in pantry. Moving food and appliances will wait until tomorrow morning.

Monday, May 28, 2012

My Summer Bucket List

There is a lot I want to do with my family and friends this summer, and there are also a few personal goals I want to accomplish. I know that if I don't get these things on the calendar they won't happen. I have just a short ten weeks and the little boys have about 11 or 12 weeks left (and they've already been out for over a week now) until we have to report back to our time-pressed school year schedules. Some days and activities will get some extensive planning and other days will be carefree with nothing at all on the agenda. Most days will be somewhere in between, with activities that don't need a lot of preparation or effort. 

Oh, the Places We'll Go: We plan to go on a weekly day trip (zoos, amusement parks, water parks and play fountains, museums, etc.). We also plan to head out to do some serious camping at least once each month during the summer months, including September.

Oh, the Things We'll Do: We will have a family night and spend the evening together at home once or twice each week  watching a movie, playing games, working on craft projects, etc. And I plan to spend a day or two each week creating pages in the family scrapbooks.

Oh, the People We'll See: The best part of summer is getting the chance to visit family and friends, go together on day trips  or invite them over to swim or have a cookout. We will not be venturing far from home this year, so we hope that some of our family from out of the area will make their way this direction.

Oh, the Books We'll Read: I'm planning on reading some good fiction (nearly) every day, mostly with the help of my Kindle and my new electronic library card. The little boys will read with the Summer Reading Club. We will visit the public library and new and used book stores, as well as accessing our home library to get books that they are interested in delving into during summer's quiet moments.

Oh, the Things We'll Grow: This year, for the first time in a couple of decades, I have a small kitchen garden in which the boys and I have planted fruits, vegetables and herbs. It's only 160 square feet, but there is a variety planted there. I also have an even smaller flower garden that has been started and several pots I plan to put flowers in around the patio.

Oh, the Food We'll Eat: We want to go to great places to eat: some that are new and others that are family favorites. The kids want to explore places where they can eat "free" so we may do some Monday and Tuesday night dining out, as those are the days that most commonly have the offer available. We will be visiting the local farmer's markets and at least once we'll go to the city market that is about an hour's drive. During the trip we'll get a variety of fresh produce and enjoy an experience my boys have learned to love. I also want to introduce new foods and cooking styles into the menu at home and finish our outdoor kitchen so we can do the bulk of the summer cooking outside (and hopefully a lot of autumn and spring cooking as well).

Oh, the Closets We'll Clean: This is the time of the year that I find it easiest to lose a bit of house weight. Closets get reorganized each year, and for the past several, I've done the purging and straightening up over the summer months. No storage area will be left untouched. We will also organize the cabinets, drawers, shelves, bins and sheds.

Oh, the Blogs I'll Write: I really miss creating my regular blog entries. Time has just got away from me. I hope to write on a more regular basis as I have a lot of ideas I'd like to share.

So my bucket seems to be filling up fast. My family and I are ready to dig into summer. I hope you enjoy more than a few lazy days enjoying a summer breeze and a cool beverage yourself, and then that you accomplish any goals you set for yourself or your family.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

My Life in Organized Disorder- Part I

"Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer." — Denis Waitley  

When I think about what I want to be, to have and have accomplished, I am looking at my future with varying degrees from necessity to wishful fantasy.While looking in to my future, I set goals and try to live in the present. I work toward what I want, sometimes with great fervor and other times with distracted failure. There is not much in between. I am an all or nothing kind of person. If I keep my eye on the future prize and avoid distractions, all is well. Of course when I allow distractions to enter into my present, I lose the focus of what is to come. Sometimes that is okay. The present moments are more important than the goals of the future in some instances, especially if the present moment involves relationships with family and friends. But when the distractions are just that, often mindless, solitary disruptions to the routines of my life, then I get off target and at best achieve mediocrity.

     In reflection I find in the past several months, despite working toward one goal or another, I have lost my drive and with it focus. I have felt burn-out in my career and challenged in my spirit and health. I have found myself feeling both careless and unappreciated at work, and the load of responsibilities have increased steadily over the past several years. Health and spiritual issues have forced me to reevaluate my priorities and shut down in those areas that are not at the top of the list. I need to get back on track and get all of my priorities straight. Thank goodness for my family and good friends that have picked me up in my personal life and a few of my work colleagues that have gone above and beyond to help me with focusing on the "have-to" list at work and picking up the slack on those extra things that are expected.

     I have worked these past months on setting goals, making lists, and even naming the time that I want my goal to be accomplished. Some things have happened, just as planned, because I wanted them to happen and allowed others to take charge. These accomplishments are few. The other things that I have set as goals have nearly vaporized due to lack of effort and attention. I feel a bit sad thinking how little effort was put into the things that I would have liked to have happened in my life. Am I depressed? Is this a result of the burn-out I feel at work? Is this a response to my lack of control of my health? Whatever the cause, I need to rise out of it all now. I feel the need to regain myself and take back control that has been lost.

    So how do I get back on track? What do I need to do to increase my motivation to achieve my goals, let routines guide the mundane tasks and cut out those pesky, but in-the-moment enjoyable, distractions and disruptions? I guess that would be to recognize my distractions, list them, put them in the forefront so I may deal with them as what they are; goal-killers, routine-avoiders and time-wasters. If I don't do this, I will continue to lose control. I will lose who I am. I feel that in the moment, my free time has been great, but my spirit, my family, my health, my finances and my career need a boost. I find it hard to focus on more than one of these at a time, but they all need to get both short, and long-term attention. It is almost selfish to continue as I have, avoiding what I need to do and what I can do to improve the areas of my life.

     My distractions and diversions are many, but usually work in cycles (as does my productivity when I'm in gear). I think my habits of allowing the phone, computer, TV, books, social networking, games and often people get me off task are easily recognized as distractions. But there are other time-destructing habits that I find I must bring to light. Shuffling papers that should have been dealt with when they first entered my home or desk at work, doing things myself when they should be delegated because I want the control, and procrastination of tasks that are high priority or routine are probably more a problem than the activities that can be used as rewards.  I read an idea that made me cringe, as I really don't feel the need to control others, just my own personal space. Never-the-less, the avoidance of doing what you should, being late, and procrastination are all really ways of taking control in a passive-aggressive way. So really, I am treating myself badly. And that reflects on to the people that I have chosen to include in my life and personal or professional space. OUCH!!!

     In order to become more in control of my life in a more positive fashion, all of the enjoyable activities that I have placed in my life are now going to become my rewards. I do not want to cut them out completely, but to use them as a reward for accomplishing my short-term goals, for completing steps accomplished toward a goal, and for following through in those mindless tasks that are part of my daily/weekly routines. And likewise, all of the habits and behaviors that I have adopted to try to gain control in a passive-aggressive manner need to be replaced with positive and effectively productive behaviors. Hmm.... There is much to think about and change in my future. 
"My success, part of it certainly, is that I have focused in on a few things." — Bill Gates