My Brain, My Life: Before M.O.M. Snapshot

I haven’t posted since my ENFP-in-desperation bit about a month and a half ago. I’m still desperate. So desperate, in fact, that I’ve taken a little leap and signed up for the Mind Organization for Moms e-course offered by Power of Moms. I’ve had at least one person recommend it, and have read many other testimonies and recommendations over the past couple of years from women who have tried it and had great success with it.

I need success. I need a miracle!

So before I even crack this e-course open, I’m posting my “before photos.” I’ve actually taken photos in the past of my kitchen buried in stacks of dishes waiting to be washed, my bedroom/office hidden under piles of laundry and boxes of papers and overflowing shelves, etc. thinking it might motivate me to make the changes necessary to live a more organized and less stressed life. But because I have no idea where I’ve saved those photos, sorry–none to show right now!

Instead, this is a “verbal snapshot” of my life at present, and what I hope to achieve with this e-course.

I think the title of the course is in itself totally appropriate: mind organization! At this very moment my brain is so clogged with its daily swirl of details about every area of my and my family’s life that I’m finding it difficult to focus enough to even write a cohesive blog post! So please forgive the erratic stream-of-consciousness journaling style of this post. Maybe in a few weeks’ time I’ll have enough margin in my brain to think and write more clearly and concisely! (At least that is my hope.)

For now, I’m battling almost momentary overload, constantly feeling I’m forgetting important details as I rove through my day, and crashing each night wishing I could somehow tame the to-dos in my head. And I’m getting really sick of saying to my children, “Not right this minute…” “Maybe in a while…” “I can’t right now, sweetie…” because I feel so overwhelmed by the tasks of managing this household. Not to mention the weight of guilt every time I knock on my husband’s office door asking him to bail me out of my latest organizational gaffe!

I’m a SAHM. I tried working full time two years ago, when we had a three-year-old and an eight-month old. That lasted about six months before my husband and I decided it was stupid. Every family has to make tough choices sometimes, and for us, the choice of whether I should work outside the home while our boys are little is a “no”–or as little as possible. It just doesn’t work for us.

So now that we have three boys (5, nearly 3, and 14 months), I teach writing one morning per week to a small group of homeschoolers. I love it. It invigorates me. I make a bit of money to add to the pot. However. Reviewing and marking (or grading) student writing is not my favorite thing. Admin is not my favorite thing. Pinning myself down to do these two chores is a tricky task, so even the bliss of my one morning of teaching each week is somewhat clouded by my lack of organization and the strain it puts on me physically–not to mention the tension it creates in our household when I’m trying to juggle my teaching work with household tasks and caring for the boys, and then my husband steps in to help, and then I feel guilty…

My husband is a self-employed solo musician who works from home. He is not a huge fan of small children in general, and while he dearly loves ours, they do stress him out quite a bit. His ideal work environment is a cold, dark, silent room only lit by his computer screen and filled only with the sounds of the music he’s creating or rehearsing. In our current situation, this is virtually impossible. Mainly because we have the three loudest boys (especially the youngest) in the Southern Hemisphere. Pretty sure.

Why do I mention all this? Because I constantly feel this tension between the need to care for, teach, train, and entertain our pack of puppies and the need to keep our household running in a clean and orderly manner so that both I and my working-from-home husband can enjoy a bit of sanity.

Currently that is not the case. In my idealist imagination I can picture what it would look like if I could only enact the plans and strategies I’ve concocted (usually while waiting for one or more children to fall asleep at bedtime), but rarely do I find the energy or time to implement them.

Instead, I move through my days in a sleep-deprived fog (despite making the most of 2-3 cups of coffee each morning), just barely keeping my nose above water. Things I’d like to implement on a regular basis include:

- a cleaning routine

- meal planning

- freezer cooking

- chore system for the boys (well the older two at this stage)

- laundry routine

- daily rhythms like a morning routine/midday “quiet time”/evening routine (for me–the boys already sort of have at least morning/evening routines that we’ve followed from the start, though there’s room for improvement I think)

- devotional time (personal and family)

- weekly scheduling for our family such that there exist:

- regularly scheduled times for my teaching work

- regular slots in which Shane and I can collaborate on music and/or his business

- regular dates with Shane

- regular dates with each of the boys for Shane and for me

- creative times for me to do things like write, sing, craft, draw, paint…

- not to mention social events like coffee with a friend–something I currently feel guilty for considering, given the piles of laundry and papers and so on that plague my mind!

An image from our first flat that evokes the sense of peace and serenity I long for in our current home!

An image from our first flat that evokes the sense of peace and serenity I long for in our current home!

I can’t post this without mentioning the fact that for the past two months and a bit we’ve had a lovely seventeen-year-old Swiss girl staying with our family. Our mutual Swiss-Kiwi friends introduced us, and we’re hosting her for a year so that she can learn English in a native-speaking family while experiencing a new culture and some independence; in return, we are blessed with a “foster daughter” who loves our boys and helps look after them during the day, helps with the housework, and babysits occasionally so we are able to get away for a date once a week or so. This is a bit of dream for us, since we have no family living nearby, and have mostly been on our own for the past 18 months, with the very occasional exception of some close friends stepping in to help.

She is absolutely fantastic. However, her presence has shone a floodlight on my shocking need for organization! She is a very mature and capable young lady, and I am quite confident that we are under-utilizing her skills. I just can’t seem to pull my brainwaves together long enough to orchestrate how she can best help us!

The list I’ve made above might imply that I don’t do much currently in the household management department. I should clarify that I DO achieve something. Our house is reasonably clean and tidy. If you were to walk in the front door, you’d see shoes and coats mostly tidied away, a clear (if fingerprinted) dining table, toys mostly in tidy bins, a couple piles/bags of mostly folded laundry in the lounge, and a mostly clean carpet. I skipped washing up after dinner, intending to crash early after getting the boys to bed late (8pm). Instead it’s nearly 11 and I’m blogging!

When I cook, I tend to cook in bulk so that I have several meals ready for the following days. It’s boring eating the same (or nearly the same) food three or four nights in a row, but at least I know we’re eating nutritious meals and they’re happening (usually) at a decent hour.

We have had a date nearly once a week for the past few weeks–unheard of! But we struggle to find time to work or do creative work together.

So our household is not in total disarray. My brain, on the other hand…

And devotional time currently is limited to praying together on the way to dropping our oldest at school and/or putting them to bed at night, and the once-in-a-great-while reading of the One Year Bible passages together with my husband when we can pull it off without boys drowning us out at the breakfast bar. It’s been at least a couple of weeks since that last happened.

Okay, this ramble will now conclude. All of this to say, here goes. I’m going to try this thing. Maybe it will end on the shelf under piles of papers like so many other nifty ideas… or maybe, just maybe, it will change my life. And my family’s life. Stay tuned…

PS: I have to add that I recognize there are two important pieces to this puzzle; organization is one, discipline is the other. My personality–the “likes to keep her options open” part of it anyway–tends toward bucking whatever organizational system is in place (even the one I’ve created) in favor of doing whatever is exciting and inspiring RIGHT NOW. It will take a new (and most likely divine) level of discipline and submission to a new way for any organizational tool (including M.O.M.) to make a difference in my life. This is what has me worried!

ENFPs: Somebody Show Me the Manual!

Preface: I started blogging in 2005. Nobody blogged in 2005. That was pre-Facebook, so our “blogs” were more like our current Facebook walls. In 2007 I married a New Zealander and moved down under. Then I joined Facebook to keep up with all the friends and family back home, and my blog sort of faded away.

Fast-forward to 2011, when I found myself pregnant and sick and bored, and I discovered that about the time I fell off the blogwagon, it really started moving! Look at all those blogs out there! Since then, I’ve toyed with the idea of blogging again, and jotted down ideas here and there and mulled them over at the sink or in the shower or while feeding a baby… only to put myself off because there is just SO much to do ALL the time!!!! And I have to finish transporting all of my old xanga blogs into this new one, and be sure I have the right categories to sort everything into, and invent the most appropriate tags, and… blah. Enough. Now or never!

So here goes. Maybe I only post once. Maybe this starts a trend. Time will tell. For now, just gotta get this going, if only for me!

Topic for the moment: how the heck do I manage myself and my life, given my personality, my strengths, and my (seemingly overwhelming) weaknesses? Lol, that’s not too broad for one post, is it?

Recently I went searching for inspiration (a frequent activity given how often I feel uninspired and downright depressed with the little I feel I accomplish in a day), and turned to a blog formerly known as “Sorta Crunchy.” After rabbit-trailing around her revamped site for a while, I came across this post that bullet-points beautifully what it feels like to be an ENFP. (I had to double-check to verify that I am, in fact, an ENFP, and found this particular online test helpful, and its questions refreshingly different to many other online measures I’ve tried. Yup, ENFP is me.)

I’ve been wrestling with this issue for–well, my whole life, really! But the older I get (and the more children I have), the more intense the wrestling match becomes, and the more I feel I’m being pinned to the floor by life. I don’t know a great deal about the MB types beyond the E/I distinctions, so no doubt researching this a bit more would help me understand/frame my questions a bit better. But no time for that right now. I need help!

Source: http://www.franchisecompany.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/FranManuals-img.jpg

Instruction Manual

As a wife and mostly-at-home mom of three small boys (currently 1, 2.5, and 5), I am daily struggling to maintain some semblance of order. Some days I feel for a brief, sunny moment as if maybe, just possibly, I might have clicked onto the secret, and my household might be headed for that glory-land of smooth-running order that I imagine will bring relief to my cluttered brain. Generally this chimera of hope has evaporated by the time the bedtime Olympics have concluded, and if I’m still standing (i.e. not crashed on the bed from coaxing the baby to sleep), the reality that tomorrow with all its challenges is on the way pretty much stamps out any wisp of hope remaining. Back to the business of survival.

I’ve found a lot of articles addressing survival mode: Megan Tietz’s one I did find helpful, but perhaps too simplistic for my needs right now. I’ve gone back multiple times to several posts on Conversion Diary that encouraged me, but still didn’t quite hit the spot. And there are others I’m sure I’m forgetting.

Something inside me prods me to keep searching, a sense that if I just hunt long enough, I will discover the secret to organizing my brain and therefore my life so that it all flows. So that I have enough time to do the things I want to do. So that I don’t crumble into bed at night (or early morning) feeling for the millionth time that I’ve flunked the test.

At the same time, I stifle a creeping feeling that actually, there IS no solution. This is just my lot in life. I have to learn to cope with my strengths and weaknesses as best I can. The baby steps I’ve accomplished here and there are not going to magically add up to the brilliantly organized life I dream of, because it really only exists in my dreams–reality can never be so concise.

http://www.ourboathouse.com/data/Blog%20photos/10%20ways/8.31.13comandcentral.jpg

Organized

So I take a step back, try to count my blessings, and also remind myself of the realities of this complex life:

- My husband–I have a husband! I waited a long time to meet him. He’s tall (6’4″ YUSS!!), good-looking, a deep thinker, a brilliant musician, a devoted daddy to our boys, and he loves me in a hundred beautiful ways all week long, like sharing the last of the chocolate stash with me! I could say lots more, but that’s a good start.

- Three sweet, blonde, blue-eyed boys. Wow. I try to just soak that in at least once a day, and it is stunning. I am the mother of three boys! The wild, exciting, exhausting ride of getting to know them has really only just begun, and already I am overwhelmed at it all. Just wow.

- The basics. Shelter, food, clean running water, clothing, beds, and so on. More than what the majority of humanity on this planet will ever dream of. Seriously.

- Eternal hope, plus daily joy in the knowledge that God (as in the God who designed the universe–and me) actually loves me and actually wants to interact with me. I get distracted by stupid mundane things too often and forget to let this one soak in and take effect, but it’s still there.

- Family, friends, and all the joy they bring. As well as the support they offer in so many ways!

And the biggest reality right now is that we ARE in survival mode. Please somebody tell me that it won’t last! Sleep deprivation must end sooner or later, right?! Maybe all my questioning could really be answered in that one issue: getting 6+ straight hours of sleep for more than one night at a time might just solve the bulk of my problems! Or not.

http://faithtakespractice.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/7a205-survive.jpg

Survive

In any case, this rambling post must come to an end. I hope that somewhere down the line (though I can see no further ahead than perhaps this week, which seems quite long and sleepless already), I will be able to look back on this piece and see that I’ve made progress. That I have found more sleep and more peace and less chaos. For now, any useful tips (and helping hands) gladly accepted!

Finding Satisfaction

Okay, I know I quote this guy a lot, but I think he’s just on my frequency or something!  Hope the quote (discovered in my files today as I was hunting for something else) inspires you as it did me:

 

From Steve Fry’s Radical Middle Newsletter, May 2003

 

 

 

“Ultimately, we find ourselves bouncing between purpose and pleasure, looking for inner well being and satisfaction – easily forgetting that satisfaction does not come from purpose or pleasure, but a Person.”

 

 

 

Enough said.

 

 

Grace in Pursuit of Me

…inspired by the quote Steve posted the other day… (and I did not write this, but the words could easily be mine so often!)

 

When silence is all I ever hear in prayer
My words come back like echoes in an empty hall
I feel that I’m beyond Your love
Where hearts grow cold
And never know they’re scarred

 

Darkness finds me all too often now
And easy answers vanish in a mist of doubt
Just when I surrender hope
Your love surrounds me
Lost hearts can be found

 

There’s a Grace that captures the wandering heart
There’s a Power that draws me to be where You are
There’s a restless part of Your heart
That pursues me still
And always will… You pursue me still

 

When we think we’ve stepped beyond His power to heal
Or feel so distant that we’ll never see His face
That’s just when Jesus runs
To bring us back to His embrace

 

There’s a Grace that captures the wandering heart
There’s a Power that draws me to be where You are
There’s a restless part of Your heart
That pursues me still
And always will… You pursue me still

 

(song by Steve Fry, not sure the year)

My Spiritual Genealogy

So I’m working on an “ethnography”–basically my family history–for a class, and looked up this poem that I wrote a couple of years ago (for another class… sometimes I wonder: is there anything I do anymore that’s not for a class?).  Anyway, it’s interesting to go back and read things like this, kind of like reading your journal, so full of emotional connections…

 

Eliza Kate

 

 

 

In stiff lace collar

 

long skirts

 

simple buttoned boots

 

hopeful cheeks

 

your mother bathed with kisses

 

and brave tears

 

you climbed aboard

 

 

 

Arm in arm with Amy

 

the baby sister at fifteen

 

and you just two years ahead

 

Baptist missionaries

 

standing on deck in gray dawn

 

squinting into a salty breeze

 

eager to feel

 

the western earth

 

under your feet

 

your island home

 

behind the sunrise

 

 

 

did you know

 

you would never go back?

 

 

 

Nine years later

 

another passage

 

perhaps he asked in a letter

 

which you answered

 

with delicate lines

 

you would leave your single calling

 

become a mother

 

of eight

 

 

 

you couldn’t know

 

you would never live to raise the last two

 

who died with you

 

 

 

Grandma Meng has told me many times of her mother, Eliza Kate Bosworth, who died while giving birth to two-months premature twins (or more specifically was killed by doctors who apparently knew no better than to pack a suffering woman in ice to try to prevent the early labor).  Some other brilliant soul lined up the six surviving children (of which Grandma was the middle child) along with their father behind the open casket of the mother and babies, heaps of flowers all around, to take several family photographs–at once morbid and strikingly tender.  There’s a look of quiet brokenness on Great Grandpa Keyes’ wrinkled face as he holds three-year-old Glen on his hip.  Grandpa Keyes was 72 at the time, Eliza being his second wife, and these–her children–his second family.  His first were already grown and still living back in Canada somewhere; to this day, I’m still not clear as to why his first marriage ended.  He was a member of the strict Holiness Movement; I’ve no doubt this is partly why he spoke of such matters as divorce infrequently–if ever–with my grandmother.  In fact, I’m not sure that he spoke with his middle daughter about much of anything.  Aunt Ruby, Grandma’s older sister, was his undoubted favorite, perhaps because she reminded him of Eliza. 

 

They’d met in Canada, somewhere near Killarney, his home.  At the moment I don’t recall how the meeting came about, but I’m fairly certain it had something to do with their mutual involvement in the Holiness Movement.  Eliza may have been speaking at a series of meetings that William was attending, or something like that, when they met.  She and her sister, Amy, had left their mother and older sister, Ethel, behind in England to work as missionaries with the Baptist church in Canada.  They eventually became involved with the growing holiness revival.

 

Eliza was vibrant; she always had a hymn or a poem on her laughing lips, and could make almost any green thing grow.  When William Keyes moved his growing family to a run-down building in Sacramento in the mid-1920s to live (complete with holes in the ceiling), she set to work making it as homey as the wife of a hotel elevator man could.  She planted fruit trees and bulbs, shrubs and vegetables; after they’d lived there some time, Pastor Steelburg helped install a bathroom (to replace the old outhouse) and build two more rooms onto the little house somewhere on 43rd Street. 

 

Eliza was also an enterprising evangelist!  She would purchase Bibles, songbooks, and “mottoes” (decorative plaques engraved with verses of scripture or spiritual poems) from a local supplier, and then go door-to-door around the neighborhood selling them.  As Grandma remembers, her mother was often invited in to pray with her customers, and became a favorite speaker at prayer gatherings and Bible studies around town.  Her children weren’t neglected in all of this, however.  They were often right there with her!  She trained them from the time they could speak to sing in harmony, recite poems and favorite Bible passages, and even to preach.  Grandma remembers giving her first sermon, delivered to a congregation of goats in the backyard, at just eight years old.  The Keyes’ dream was to travel around the country as a family of evangelists, leading revival meetings, teaching and praying for the sick to be healed.  Eliza had the children practice by singing with the Salvation Army band in San Francisco.  They even had the vehicle prepared: a “scripture car,” with the words of John 3:16 in large letters painted along the sides. 

 

Eliza didn’t live to see the dream come true.  Grandma was just nine when the babies decided to come early.  Two little boys, Victor (“a victor for Jesus!”) and John (for his father’s middle name), never had a chance to learn their mother’s songs.  They were buried with her, one in each arm, dressed in delicate white gowns.  In the graveside photograph, the other children obediently gaze into the camera’s lense, but only seven-year-old Noble attempts to follow the ridiculous order from the photographer to “Smile!”  His half-hearted grin and large eyes belie the loss he can’t begin to name yet.  Grandma’s nine-year-old freckled grimace, her fierce blue eyes fixed straight ahead, might have told the cameraman that his instructions were out of place, if he’d paid attention.  Roy, the oldest at 12, and Ruby, standing closest to their father, look weakly in the camera’s direction.  Nelva, her dark blonde curls floating down around her shoulders, looks confused; in her five years she hadn’t had her picture taken many times and didn’t quite know what to make of the man with the flashing contraption.  Only Glen, the littlest in shorts, his legs dangling down around his father’s waist, looked down into the casket, as though wondering when Mama was going to get up.

 

It’s a haunting photograph.  And yet, despite the pain and grief so heavy on all those faces, I am drawn to it.  I remember looking at it as a little girl, unable to fathom the depth of loss felt by the little girl in the picture who is now my grandmother.  I still find it hard to imagine; I’ve enjoyed a close relationship with my mother and my grandmother all my life.  Grandma and Grandpa live downstairs now, in the fifth bedroom.  And the more I hear Grandma’s stories of Eliza Kate, the more I anticipate the day I meet this woman in heaven.  I feel more than related to her, almost as if I know her, and she knows me.  Her love: for God, her children, life, beauty, music, poetry, and for others resonates with me.  I can’t know why God allowed the tragedy that ended her life at 39; I do know that the hope he planted in her heart, and that she planted in her daughter’s heart, lives in me.  And I’m looking forward to thanking her.

 

PS: For those who emailed me responses to the character post below: thank you!  I actually haven’t dressed up for class yet.  Class… that’s a sore subject at the moment.  Yeah.  Anyone for Fiji?  Some island in the middle of the ocean somewhere, where no one can find me, where there are no content standards, or assessments, or lesson plans, or TPAs, and certainly no job fairs or departments of education….. sigh! okay, I’ll stop dreaming now and try to get back to work!

Student Teaching Request

Hey Everyone!  I need some inspiration from YOU:)

 

***Who is your favorite (or who are some of your favorite) character(s) of all time? (Real or fictional)

 

***They could be from history, TV, film, literature… just tell me briefly why you like (or hate!) them, where they’re from (some frame of reference in case I’ve never heard of them), and if you have a favorite line/quote, even better!!!

 

WHY do I want your input???? Well…. it has to do with student teaching….. and me in costume…. post/email your reply, and I’ll let you know what I’m up to! (And I’ll post how it went when it’s all done;)

 

Oh yes, and if anyone happened to wonder (not that anyone did, b/c I think I’ve talked to anyone who did already) how that project went a few posts back—it’s done! Finished! I passed! Finally registered for classes a week or so ago (now that the semester’s nearly over, he he), and I’ll be working like crazy from now through the middle-end of June to get all the rest done.  Sigh… so close, and yet so far.

 

Speaking of, I’m debating on whether to participate in the grad. ceremonies this year.  I walked for my BA last year (which was enough of an anticlimax in itself, considering the two classes I had yet to complete), but this year, I think, will be even moreso since May 7 I’ll be smack in the middle of the heaviest part of student teaching with all my big projects still on the table!!! Hmmm…

 

Happy Weekend, all:)