M.O.M.: Slow and Steady Wins the Race?

“Lacks follow-through.” I’m not sure when or where I first heard this phrase applied to me, but it was likely in an academic context. Possibly in a work review. Whatever the case, I feel like I’ve just pulled the sheet off the biggest, ugliest, skeleton-elephant-in-my-room (forgive the mixed metaphor!) and now it’s sitting there in all its scary awfulness making me quake in my seat.

But ask anyone who knows me well, and they will probably agree with me (even if they do try to soften the blow by throwing out some encouraging positive aspects of my character): while my life is replete with good intentions, I have pretty universally sucked at following through on quite a few of them.

I’m picturing a clever little artistic representation I did of the human brain back in 11th grade, using a silhouette of the head of Calvin of Calvin & Hobbes fame to surround my artwork. I’d learned to draw him pretty well, and thought my teacher would enjoy my injection of humor into a serious assignment–since I did also include all the required elements. Turns out he thought it was great! He scribbled a nice note on my paper (which I’ve kept in a binder somewhere), and I felt my effort had been recognized. My score on that assignment? Zero. He also wrote “too bad it was late!”–a phrase that has haunted me all my life.

procrastinating-and-rationalizing

I’m also picturing my master’s degree certificate. Funny story. The date on it is 2006. I did actually enroll in the required courses back in 2006. But I didn’t complete those courses until 2012, just weeks before my alma mater (a victim of the failing economy) shut its doors permanently. Had I not finally done the work (thanks largely to my enduring husband’s prodding), I would have no degree, and my transcript from that now-bygone institution would read “No Credit” for the two courses I didn’t quite finish.

With this current project, Mind Organization for Moms, or M.O.M. for short, I’m following roughly the same route. Eager beginnings, followed by distraction after distraction (some completely legitimate and some ridiculously silly), followed by fizzle. However, in mulling over this post–wanting to track the progress I HAVE made–I realized that even if I didn’t do another step of this process, it’s already benefited me hugely. Here’s a quick breakdown of what comes to mind:

  • Cleared my email inbox (and my mind!) by honing in on actionable versus non-actionable messages, taking it down from hundreds unread to less than 30 per day (I love Gmail filters)
  • Identified the various “inboxes” in my life so that I could move away from losing important information/tasks in the black hole that is my handbag, for instance!
  • Created a sweet little workspace in our room that is GOING to be the hub of this upcoming system, complete with a place for everything… just need to move on to getting everything in its place!

MOM desk hub

Granted, it’s taken me six months just to get THAT far, but as I skimmed through photos from that time period looking for relevant ones to post, I discovered some beautiful images of this life we’ve been living and had to smile wide. Christmas, our second son’s 3rd birthday, travels to visit family, excursions with friends, lots of good food, good fun, and sweet moments. Suddenly I didn’t feel like time had been wasted exactly :) (The photo below was taken about a week after I wrote my last blog post; our second son had gotten up early that morning and went to explore the pantry all by himself! Now we keep it shut with bungee cords…)

Pantry on the floor

So, while I’m tempted to explore the motivations and inner workings of my psyche that propel me through these bouts of almost foolhardy procrastination, to get to the bottom of it once and for all and solve the real issues, I have to acknowledge: that act in itself is a procrastination technique. And I’ve fallen for it (or thrown myself into it) far too many times not to recognize it. Instead, I will simply acknowledge the very real anxiety I’m feeling right now at the thought of tackling M.O.M. Assignment #4: Collecting ALL the “Stuff” (including digital tasks and a “mind sweep”–shivers), and then JUST GET ON WITH IT as my blessed husband would say! So here’s to getting over myself and getting on with it! Will hopefully post another update sooner than later as to how this has gone…getonwithit

Mind Organization for Moms (M.O.M.)–Initial Thoughts and Reactions

I watched the YouTube overview videos provided with the basic M.O.M. e-course at the end of last week. Together that was a little over two hours of my time, if I recall correctly. I placed the printed overview version in a 3-ring binder and followed along, and I think I now have a basic handle on how the system works.

My initial thoughts are an interesting blend of excitement and hope mixed with fear, anxiety, and disbelief.

Excitement because I’m the kind of person who is pumped by new ideas still in their conceptual stage. I LOVE LOVE LOVE talking and dreaming and brainstorming ideas, looking at possibilities, imagining how they MIGHT work, etc.

Hope because I’ve never embarked on a system like this in my life (that is, one designed by someone else as a complete organizational package), and the thought of having a mind free from stress related to planning, scheduling, tasks, routines, etc is beyond tantalizing–life is stressful enough without all of that! I would dearly love to offload that chunk of stress somehow, and if this is gonna do it for me, I am definitely hopeful about that!

I’m also trembling with fear and anxiety, and disbelief is holding back my hope like a choke-chain on a Labrador puppy.

I’ve tried to get organized a thousand times in my life and each time have failed pretty dismally. I HATE the feeling of being overwhelmed by tasks and deadlines and responsibilities, and the nagging sense that I’ve forgotten important details. I also know my weakness in this area all too well; my above-mentioned enthusiasm for new ideas quickly fizzles into apathy about the time the details of setting next actions begins, and by the time action is actually required, I’m off in search of other, more exciting (newer) ideas to explore.

So when I consider this new program and start to feel hope rise, that old sense of failure almost simultaneously leaps up and shoots it down, reminding me of how I’ve face-planted every other time I’ve tried in the past, and before I even begin I’m feeling defeated!

It doesn’t help that when I googled ENFP and “David Allen Getting Things Done” (which I also ended up buying for the Kindle, just to get a sense of the original principles and also share them with my husband–who doesn’t need the “momminess” of the Power of Moms version), I found a heap of articles on why GTD (and likely therefore M.O.M.) hasn’t worked for people with my personality type. Yay.

Just writing about this reminds me of a similar struggle that I’ve heard so many people share about, that of food cravings/dieting/weight battles. I’ve been fortunate thus far in life that my weight hasn’t been a major struggle to maintain, but I certainly relate to the love/hate relationship with certain food habits (like binging on sugary/starchy foods–my weakness). The emotional warring I’m experiencing over this whole productivity/organization topic is very similar to that of someone cycling through diets and eating plans and such.

Ultimately, it’s that age-old battle of going against our grain–learning discipline in some area, denying our first instincts and developing habits that aren’t natural or native to us. We want the payoff, but the work required to reach it can seem soul-shatteringly difficult, if not impossible, at times. It seems that most of us who engage in this battle frequently experience defeat, and many do give up the fight.

But a few persist. I’ve read stories from people who HAVE fought the battle and won. It is possible.

I think one thing I have to keep in mind is that even if this system does work for me (and it will no doubt take practice, trial and error, and customizing it to work for MY life and MY family), all the stress in my life is not going to magically go away. It may relieve one area of stress, but I will be disillusioned with it if I go in expecting that life is suddenly going to be a breeze.

So that’s where I’m at right now. Cautiously hopeful is perhaps the best description of my state of mind. But I have to keep moving. The longer I sit here thinking about it, the longer it will take to see a difference–if, in fact, any difference is to be seen!

Onward and upward, I hope.

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)