Bye-bye Easter Bunny

WHEN THE KIDS HAVE GROWN, holidays just aren’t what they used to be. Granted, holidays were never full of hoopla in our house, but we were all together. Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day … these types of holidays weren’t huge deals in our house. I don’t know why exactly, but I’ve never been one to make a big fuss over such holidays.

TODAY IS EASTER. Three of our kids have to work. One is working right now, and two are probably sleeping because they have to work later tonight. The fourth child (now 16) and I are attending her best friend’s baptism. After that, we don’t have any plans at all.

Bye-bye Easter Bunny

bye-bye easter bunny

Photo by Thirteen-Thirteen Photography – also posted on 100 Layer Cake-let.

My sister-in-law invited us to their house at 10:00am, which is when they are sharing a special message at their “home church” or fellowship gathering or … I’m not sure how to describe what she does or if it even has a name yet. A church plant or “life community” in the home type of deal. She’s going through some sort of training, but I don’t understand it. I’m not knocking it. It’s a rising trend it seems, too. I know another couple else who is doing this in their home. At any rate, it was too early for us considering our kids’ plans and schedules.

Speaking of schedules … time to get going!

HAPPY EASTER … however you celebrate – or don’t celebrate!

The Day After

Day After ChristmasYou wanna know something about my brain? No? Well, that’s alright. I’ll tell you anyway. It’s defective. There. I’ve said it. I have a faulty brain. At this point in my life I blame it on the not-managed-by-medication ADD combined with aging. It’s the day after Christmas, and I have the day off. The hustle and bustle of the season is over, and I thought it would be a perfect day to do something I used to love to do but now only long to do. It would be, but my brain had other ideas. It’s full of thoughts, and my heart is full of emotions, and together they make one interesting soup. Let’s see if I can isolate some of those ingredients to come up with somewhat of a coherent blog post.

I’ll start with over-abundance. More than ever, this really stood out to me this Christmas. Even in our own current state of belt tightening, we have an over-abundance of material possessions (aka: stuff). It has taken us a number of over-spending years to accumulate much of that stuff, and we’ve worked on that considerably. That’s why it stands out to me even more as I observe others adding to their over-abundance of stuff. Pictures of Christmas trees with oodles and gobs of presents flooding out from underneath resonated deeply with me this year. We had just a puddle of presents under our tree. My heart ached a little (OK, a lot) because I can’t help but compare and because I don’t want to be pitied.

Being in the financial situation we’re currently in has been an eye-opener. Not only do I see what careless use of credit can do, but I also see that there is so much stuff out there that we don’t need. Oh my gosh, there were so many things I would throw into a shopping cart for no other reason than I wanted it and then blindly hand over my credit card at the checkout! Every time I go through an uncluttering phase and come across such items, it disgusts me a little. I beat myself up. I’m becoming the opposite of an over-spender. I’m not quite there yet; more so with myself than with my kids. I can’t tell you how many things I look at in stores and really want but know that I don’t really need and then leave it there.

Like my favorite ornament here with exhausted Santa soaking his feet after a busy Christmas season, I just want to rest for a minute and be thankful that it’s over. I’d say I’m looking forward to a new year, but I’m not sure that’s true. If I knew that the new year would bring better times, then I’d absolutely be looking forward to it. I’m thankful that we made it through Christmas without going completely broke. This was due to having one less car payment plus a considerable amount of overtime I worked in November.

If my defective brain were better at planning enough to come up with a financial forecast, I might feel better. It’s the unknown that’s causing the anxiety to hang around. I have this ultimate budget formulated on Excel with an entire workbook of expense tracking. I’ll try to make that a New Year’s resolution one more time. My goal is to update that budget over the weekend and then stick to it in 2014.

I think I’ll end it there. There is so much more I wanted to vomit onto this page, but spitting this part out caused enough anxiety (and a bit of depression). Perhaps my next post will be brighter.

My Basement’s Back!

October 30 was moving day. A few months having an extra human and a dog turned into 10 1/2. The final month included an additional human. I got my basement back on October 30 when they moved into an apartment! What used be a makeshift bedroom (often with clothes, blankets, and dog toys all over the floor) is now this…Hey La! Hey La! My Basement's Back!I’m not sure what to call it now. A bonus room? It’s a space for sleepovers, TV watching, game playing, or just hanging out. It’s a space for guests to stay … if they’re not too squeamish about sleeping in a basement space that is very roughly finished. It’s not the most beautiful space, but we’re fortunate to have it. For that, I’m thankful!

Once I returned the futon to a couch, I added a couple new toss pillows and a cheap rug from Big Lots to cozy it up a bit and to cover the stained carpet. For a cheap rug, though, it matches the space perfectly by pulling out the brown as well as the light blue carpet that shows around the edges.

Some things really fell behind during that 10 1/2 months, mainly my photography. My website hasn’t been updated that entire time, and I didn’t actively pursue any sort of marketing to high school seniors because I knew I wouldn’t have the time to spend in my office editing photos much less creating the marketing. My blogging fell drastically as well. The new monitor to hook up to my laptop with the broken screen helped only a bit. We set up a small desk for it in the living room. It just didn’t have enough RAM to process raw photos, and there were too many distractions to focus on writing. I’m not sure where we’ll move that now. The Christmas tree has to go where the desk is currently situated. I won’t think about that now. I’ll think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day! (Said in my best Scarlett O’Hara imitation.)

Plans now? I’m not quite sure, but it will definitely include at least a few hours per week focusing on photography work. Perhaps I’ll even venture back into making jewelry. Whatever the case, I should create a schedule to stick to. Without a schedule, I’m a mess! No focus! No direction!

So this was a scattered, near train wreck of a blog post. See? I’m out of practice!

St. Louis Zoo

The final leg of our trip to St. Louis included a visit to the zoo. Of course I’m always drawn to the history of places, and the original buildings with their detailed architecture are beautiful! A lot has changed since the last time I was there. Trees are bigger, the sea lion and seal exhibit in the center has been redone, and it’s very easy to get lost in there now with all the growth. Of course, it rained not long after we got there and kept raining. We put on rain ponchos and tried to keep trudging on, but it got to be too much for our injured party between the rain and the hills. Her ankle couldn’t take it for very long.

Here are the places and animals we did manage to see…

The Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis

Going to a live show is an amazing experience. The first live theater production I ever saw was The Nutcracker at St. Louis’s Fox Theatre. I don’t remember if I was 18, 19, possibly 20 – it was definitely before I was married. I went with my fiance’s mom, his sister, and his now sister-in-law. I remember the total awe I felt as we walked in the doors and fully understood immediately why it is called the Fabulous Fox! The Chinese-inspired ornate details everywhere give a feeling of luxury that makes your evening (or day) even more special. It’s the total package!

I suppose not everyone considers attending a live show to be special. Perhaps they take such things for granted. As someone who currently can only afford to go to a show if the cheapest tickets remain available long enough for me to swoop them up, I consider it to be extremely special and make sure I soak up every minute of the experience – from getting ready to the final bow! The additional eye candy around every turn of the Fox Theatre makes that experience anything but boring!

Here are many (probably TOO many) photos from a tour I took with my girls and my in-laws when we were in St. Louis for a short visit in July. {Click first picture to view full size images.}

Oh to be a photographer for the big shows! Here are some school productions I’ve shot.

Brewery Tour

All the years I lived in St. Louis, I never took the tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. I had to do the whole tourist thing 13 years after moving away to see the brewery. :D My two favorite parts of the tour were the amazing architecture and the free beer at the end of the tour. It sure puts the new tilt-up buildings that make up the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Ft. Collins, CO, to shame. They just don’t build things like they used to. Now it’s all about how fast they can get it built and opened.

Enjoy…

 

40-Something

I believe I was 43 when this photo was taken.

Age 43Genetics! I hated this DNA when I was a teenager and in my 20s. I had twins when I was 23, and I swear I detected looks of pity when out alone in public with them as babies as if I were a teen mom. Everyone said I would be grateful for such a youthful look when I got older. It took a long time, but I truly am grateful. However, there is a flip side to that coin. People my age seem to think I’m younger than they are and therefore don’t have the same life experience to “fit in” their gatherings, conversations, or what-have-you. Maybe they’re right. I don’t have the experience of years of pessimism and worry about what may be. I’ve been an optimistic person with a youthful spirit who enjoys being silly and having fun over stressing about things I can’t change. All that is starting to catch up to me now, though, and it’s starting to take hold of those youthful genes causing them to deteriorate a bit more rapidly.

I’m grateful for “youthful” genetics, if there is such a thing. I quit smoking in my late 20s, and though I tanned on purpose every now and then when I was young, I stopped doing that a long time ago, too. As for the youthful spirit, it’s still in there, but I find the cranky old lady coming through more often than I’d like these days. Work stress, life stress, and the deflating feeling that some of the things I want to accomplish in life will never happen because there isn’t enough time OR money, I fear, are starting to create permanent scowl lines on my face. Now I’m stressing over things I can change but either don’t quite know how or it takes a lot of time, effort, and hard work to change.

It was after the above photo was taken that some very unexpected major life events happened back-to-back. There was the job change thing, and the medical thing. Enter the stress and panic. :(

I find myself falling way behind on so many things. Trying to get caught up is like trying to swim to the surface of the ocean in a tropical storm. Just when I break the surface and gasp for air, a huge wave crashes over my head forcing me back under water again and again. If only I could take a whole month off work to accomplish everything I need to get done. Two weeks would be spent getting my house and daily routine in order, a little more than a week would be spent doing fun things, and the last few days would be spent relaxing and doing absolutely nothing but reading or watching TV. A girl can dream!

I’m 46 now, and my face is sinking. Gravity is winning. The extra 10+ pounds on my little body is assisting gravity. I’m starting to get that wrinkly, loose skin on my neck that shows when I lift my chin. That spot between my eyebrows is showing evidence that I furrow my brow often. I’m not scowling because I’m angry. I’m scowling because I’m worried I will never catch up … I’m worried that I appear not to care when the truth is I’m an introvert trying to be an extrovert but failing miserably. I suck at planning, and I suck even more at sticking with a plan. I suck at showing that I care because I don’t want to appear fake. I’m not an over-the-top gushy type of person, but I do care! So I worry that people think I don’t.

I keep thinking that if I could only get caught up, a lot of this stress would be lifted so I could relax more, have fun more, and do more for others. There’s always something new, though. I scratch two things off my list, and five more things get added to my list. AIR! I need air! If I take a minute to breathe, more things pile up to be done.

I welcome any comments with tips for catching up and staying on top of things. Any suggestions of sleeping less will be passed over. Seven is my magic number. Any less than seven hours of sleep per night for more than one night makes me a very unpleasant person.

Weary and Burdened

I was just telling my daughter that I’m exhausted and moments later, I opened Facebook to find this at the very top of my news feed:

Weary and BurdenedI am the type that needs down time. It seems so many people these days are driven by such a sense of urgency. They must be doing something at all times. Every waking hour of their days is filled with something to do. When did it become shameful to do nothing at all?

I sometimes think for a very brief moment that maybe it would be better if I worked five 8-hour days instead of four 10-hour days. It wouldn’t! I work from home and have no commute or need to get gussied up and then change into comfy clothes after work. I work in comfy clothes! That extra day off (today actually) is perfect for me. The nature of my job, however, often has me working 15-30 minutes past the time I should be clocking out. I also take a one-hour lunch break. So I spend nearly 12 hours each day in my office (yes, I come upstairs for lunch usually, but you get the picture). At the end of the day, I just want to fix a quick dinner and collapse in the family room to watch a couple shows before heading up to bed, catching 40 winks, and then getting up to repeat the whole thing all over again. :)

So four days per week, not much else gets done around the house. It’s still amazing how quickly crap piles up around here in those four days. Piles of “I’ll get to that later”, but later never seems to come … or later gets filled with other things to do. Some of those things are “need to do”, but just as many are “want to do”. We shouldn’t completely sacrifice those “want to do” things. Those are important to our mental health!

Though my husband lives with a sense of urgency himself, it was easy to persuade him to take a drive up to Estes Park last weekend. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing, and we didn’t leave early enough to spend a long time up there, but we were out. I enjoyed the drive, but I did feel a bit like Clark W. Griswold at the Grand Canyon. I enjoy just sitting and doing nothing. Of course there weren’t many people to watch (people watching is fun), and it was windy. Who knew doing nothing needed such careful planning. Next time, we need to leave earlier, pack a lunch, and find a spot to picnic and enjoy doing nothing.

Mountain SceneryWith breathtaking views like this, who needs busyness?

On that note, I’m off to get ready for a meeting over coffee followed by errands, laundry, a little house cleaning, and photo processing. I can do all that in five hours, right?

 

Morning Routine

Morning Routine - KitchenMonday through Friday, it’s the same thing… Pour a cup of coffee, reboot the dishwasher, wipe down the counters and kitchen table (follow with Lysol wipes on surfaces, handles, knobs, and buttons if people are sick), and give the dogs food and water. On weekends, I start the coffee instead of using the automatic setting because we get up a little later. :) This only takes about 10-15 minutes.

What baffles me are the crumbs that keep reappearing on the kitchen table. Almost every time I return to the kitchen throughout the day, there are new crumbs on the table that I wipe away and put in the trash where they belong. How hard is it to wipe away crumbs after one’s self? Mind boggling! A close second to that is a tie between goopy gunk left on counters or stove top and dishes left in the sink when the dishwasher is hungry for more dirty dishes. <sigh>

Compared to people who don’t have such luxuries, these problems are microscopic potatoes, though. Glass half full: I’m thankful that I have a kitchen as well as a family to make it dirty!

Family Meetings

Or just good old-fashioned time together as a family having conversation?

The term “family meeting” gives me the heebie-jeebies. It sounds so serious and business-y. There are times, however, when a more serious conversation is necessary. Some discussions should not be put off while waiting for the perfect opportunity to bring up the subject matter. So those conversations seem to fit under a more formal “family meeting” title.

This can only serve as a bandaid for so long…

Free Beer | Anheuser-Busch Brewery TourI’m KIDDING! :D (a little)

I wonder how many people hold regular “family meetings” and actually have written agendas. Feel free to comment and share your take on family conversations vs. formal meetings.