Monday, February 25, 2013

Project Optimism Monday - Reevaluate and Strengthen

It's Monday!  And around these parts, that means a focus on being optimistic!  I've committed to make every Monday's post about something optimistic as part of Project Optimism.  The goal is to begin our week in a positive way.  If you want to join the movement, scoot on over to Keeping It Real and learn more!

So what's going on in your world today?  My world is a bit of a mixed bag lately.  In my last post I discussed my commitments for this Lenten season and promised to bring you on the journey with me. The update isn't great.  I was gun-ho and ready to go, but fizzled out just after the first stretch.  What this means in reality is that I failed miserably at giving up alcohol for Lent.  Like, had a beer the very same night I made my last post!  I'm not beating myself up over it, though.  I decided that evening when DH came home with a fresh pack of beer that I wasn't all that committed in the first place and I enjoy having that beer in the evening.  While the original thought was a good one, now's just not the time.
As for the 40 Bags Challenge, it's going in spurts, and drips and drops.  Basically, I've realized that while I'm still committed to the cause, I just don't have a ton of extra time right now.  Keeping up with Little Man is all I can accomplish some days!  And as he's growing, the messes he creates are too.  When it comes down to it, it's more important to me to be there with him than it is to fill up 40 bags of stuff I no longer need or want.  

But that doesn't mean I'm giving up!  I've managed to unpack boxes that have been packed since we moved over 4 years ago!  And I've got a couple boxes (rather than bags) of stuff ready to tote off to the local thrift store to donate.  I've still got plans to do more packing up and hauling out, and I've revised my vision some as well.  I realized that some of the clutter is right here on my trusty ol' computer - so one day, I cleaned out all my old emails that I no longer need.  Sounds silly, but it felt so good to clean it out!  I use Outlook for my many email accounts and getting rid of all those unread junk emails made my outlook much more optimistic (pun intended)!  Yesterday I sorted through the ginormous stack of papers on my desk, filed the ones that needed to be filed and shredded the rest.  And after that, I started on our taxes!  It feels so great to be making progress.

Another thing I've been spending my time on is a new website I joined called Happify.  I discovered Happify while reading The Inklings of Life post about it and joined immediately.  I don't really know any better way to describe Happify without plagiarizing, so just jump on over to The Inklings of Life and check out her description!

What I CAN tell you about Happify is that it works!  All of the activities are based on scientific principle and basically help you learn how to make being happy a priority.  And the activities are easy and fun - I'm really glad I joined.  I encourage you to go check it out!

So, that's what's happening today.  Tomorrow will surely be different, and I'm optimistic it will be happier!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lent and Stuff

Lately I feel like I can't get anything done!  I've got projects I want to get done floating around in my head.  We've got construction projects partially done all over the house.  Boxes that have been packed since we left Florida are begging to be unpacked and sorted through.  My pantry is a disorganized mess.  My kitchen cabinets and counters are cluttered and distracting.  My laundry never seems to be done.  The chicken coops need cleaning.  The taxes need to get filed.  The mound of papers on my desk need to be sorted and either filed or shredded.  My car is a filthy mess.  My closet needs cleaning.  The Christmas lights need to be taken down and the Christmas decorations need to get put in the attic.  I need to add salt to the water softener.  I really want to organize under the kitchen sink.  I need to post on my blog!

AAAaaaaaH!!  That overwhelming mess is floating through my head constantly.  And it gets to be a bit much.  I make mental notes, and TO DO lists that never seem to end.  I think about where to start and get overwhelmed and nothing gets done!  I think about how to focus on small tasks and get a little done at a time and then I start making HUGE lists of little tasks.  And then I need a nap!

Today marks the beginning of Lent, the Christian 40 day period from Ash Wednesday to Easter (excluding Sundays).  As a Christian, I choose to participate in Lent as a time of sacrifice and reflection in an effort to better understand the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross.

Lent is celebrated in many different ways across denominations and cultures.  Over the past few years, I've made my Lent experience a personal one that I haven't shared.  Of course, I never had a blog before, so this year shall be different as I will be sharing my experiences here.

This year for Lent I have chosen to focus on two things.  First, I will be giving up alcohol; it serves no real purpose in my life - it's only adding pounds around my middle and taking money out of my wallet.  Secondly, I've decided to undertake a challenge I've read about online - the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge.

The 40 Bags Challenge will for me mean a commitment to spend a little time each day de-cluttering and clearing out the stuff I've acquired that I no longer need.  After doing some reading about the challenge and thinking about it, it's perfectly obvious to me how beneficial this could be in my life.  Getting rid of the stuff to make room for real life, love, happiness and peace.

Although I'm not Catholic, I found a wonderful description of the benefits, reasons and sacrifice behind the challenge at Simply Catholic.  Not only do they have a great explanation of how the challenge began and the reasoning behind it, they have great tools like a list of places to de-clutter in your house and tags for your 40 bags.

from Simply Catholic's  40 Trash Bags - For Lent
"We have too many possessions, too many aspirations, too little time. We have so many good intentions and so many fears and we are all drowning in excess of everything, we freeze in the face of so much to do then we do not do those things we should. We become victims, buried in our stuff and slaves to our desires."
"If our possessions consume the time and talents that we should be spending on relationships with our God, our loved ones and our community then they are a problem."
"Stuff will never replace what is missing in our hearts, it will never keep us safe from uncertainty, it will not make us more beautiful, healthy, faithful or immune to aging. Clutter will not protect us from the outside world."

These passages stood out to me because as I look around at all the stuff filling up our house, I know a LOT of it falls within those descriptions.  I can't tell you how many times I've sat, rocking Little Man to sleep thinking about what I will try to get done during the few moments he is asleep.  The list of things I want to accomplish is so long that by the time I lay Little Man in his crib I'm often overwhelmed with the thought of even where to begin, like that first paragraph running through my head.  And so I get nothing done.

Saving things and holding onto them, whether for the memories attached to them or because they might come in handy some day in the future is something I've been doing for a very long time.  I believe it's a learned behavior from my childhood.  I was given a lot of stuff as a child and held onto a lot of it for a very long time.  Some people show love by giving stuff; hell, we all do sometimes.  I mean, when's the last time you told someone that instead of giving them stuff as a gift you were going to DO something for them?

And I don't mean to say that gifts are bad.  Or that giving gifts to people you love is bad.  But when you tie so much unspoken emotion up in the giving of a gift that it becomes a symbol that you love that person, sometimes the only tangible proof that you love someone, that's not really a good thing.  There's got to be a better way to make sure that the people nearest and dearest to you know you love them!  But I digress...

When all that emotion and love is wrapped up in stuff, it gets hard to get rid of the stuff.  And so you hold onto some lamp you really hate because so and so gave it to you.  And you keep every greeting card anyone ever gave you as a child, because it's proof they were here and they loved you.  And you keep this thing and that thing and before you know it, everywhere stuff!  Stuff you don't need, stuff you don't use, stuff you don't remember why you even have, stuff you don't know what to do with.  Stuff that you look at and feel overwhelmed because you don't know what to do with all of this stuff.

So, you either continue doing what you've been doing or do something different.  My something different is the 40 Bag Challenge.  And I'm taking you along for the ride!

It is my hope that at the end of this challenge I will be more organized, feel like I've accomplished something, and hopefully blessed others in the process.  It is my plan to donate a lot of the stuff to local charities like Goodwill and Caring & Sharing (a local thrift store).  Some of the stuff I'll sell through Craigslist, E-Bay and maybe even Amazon.  Some of the stuff intended for projects I will make a concerted effort to use.  And some of the stuff will just go in the trash.

I'm excited by this challenge and look forward to sharing my progress with you.  I'm open to suggestions, welcome your encouragement and would love to hear what you're giving up for Lent (if that's your thing).

Until my next post!  Ta-ta!  If you have a few minutes, enjoy this commentary on stuff from George Carlin.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Project Optimism: Getting to the chewy Tootsie Roll Center

So, I'm new to blogging...but I've outed myself.  I actually fessed up to human beings I know in real life that I've started a blog!  Yesterday I told a friend I met way back in elementary school who had been encouraging me to get to it and post on my blog.  Then last night I told Baby Girl and DH while we were waiting for a break in the football so we could watch some really cool commercials.

Turns out I had taught Baby Girl well in the ways of internet stalking, I mean sleuthing, or exploration (yeah, exploration, that's it!), and she had already found this-here page and subscribed.  OH!  The pressure!  Now that people know this place exists, they'll know if I let it wither and die like so many of my previous creative outlets.  And, here I am...offering nourishment to my little bloggy that will!

Lately I've been reading a lot of Mom Blogs and I've discovered so many amazing women sharing their lives one word at a time with us - their virtual community.  I've laughed, I've cried, and then laughed and cried some more reading their words.  (Some of the blogs I'm reading can be found here)

I've been inspired to be a better me.  To find out who I am...a search I started all too recently.  And to begin to express who I am.  So, as you join me on this exploration, I encourage you to explore who you are, too!  No one should wait until they're 38-almost-39 to figure out who they are!

I've been standing in the shadows of a lot of hurt for so, so long.  I've tried so hard to hide all my hurt; but anyone who knows me at all knows that I TOTALLY SUCK at hiding my feelings!  Consequently, for a very long time the only way I could feel "safely hidden away" was to convert all the yucky feelings I wanted to hide into anger.  And boy was I ANGRY!

I do angry well.  It's a safe haven; it's instinctual.  When the world gives you hurt and you reflect it back as anger, everyone takes a step back and leaves you alone.  Alone, there in the shadows, where you say you feel safe, but really you just feel alone.

While stuffing all that hurt way back to the deepest, darkest part of your consciousness feels safe and smart, it isn't.  Much like the diaper pail in my bathroom, all those stuffed down feelings get stinky-stanky and fill up and overflow and start stinking up the whole rest of the place.  And clearing out all that stank isn't as easy as asking DH to take the bag out of the diaper pail when he trudges out the door to work.  Nope, cleaning out all that emotional stank is damn hard work.  And it hurts.  And it's scary.  But you do it anyway because you're so tired of crouching in the shadows feeling alone.  And you're excited to find out what's in there at the core of who you are once you peel off these layers you've been hiding under for so long.

So I guess blogging is one way of peeling back the layers and getting to the chewy tootsie roll center of me.  I'm not sure how many licks it will take to get to the center, but I'm licking and writing and exploring.  It gives me hope and helps me feel optimistic that my future will be brighter than anything I've imagined!


Like I mentioned earlier, I've been reading a lot of Mom blogs.  While reading When Crazy Meets Exhaustion I discovered Project Optimism.  And, to agree with her wholeheartedly, this world we live in could use all the optimism we can throw at it!

Henceforth, Mondays shall be optimistic around this popsicle stand!  Put on a smile, share some joy!  And if you want to join the Project Optimism movement, and I hope you do, here's what you need to know:
  1. Write about something that makes you feel optimistic.  Whatever, just share the hope and joy!
  2. Post on MONDAYS and help start your and all your readers' week off on a good note; include "Project Optimism" in your title.
  3. Add the Project Optimism badge to your blog by going to your dashboard and clicking the Image widget.  Adjust pic to 200hx200w.  Project Optimism badge is here.
  4. Send me a link to your Project Optimism post in the comment section.
  5. Link back to Keeping It Real Mom's original Project Optimism post here and invite all your blogger friends and fans to join the movement!
  6. Encourage the person who linked up before you.  Kindness is contagious!
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