My husband likes to pretend he's working in the yard. In fact, we have no yard, but he does indeed work the land...or rather, the containers of dirt that line our outdoor areas. Having been raised by two farmers - one from the midwest, the other from the middle of the Pacific (Maui) - his thumb is greener than most people's. With nothing but a cement oversized patio and a covered porch, he has somehow managed to grow flowers and food. First we inherited potted rosebushes. Then my mother in-law gave us earthboxes, and he started with my favorite summer crops - tomato and basil. As the variety of plants has increased, so has his set up - installing grow lights in the house to sprout seedlings, very creatively using the minimal space available, and adding greenhouse type awnings to the sides of our patio walls.
We also don't have a garage or basement or any sort of tinkering area, which is not that big of deal since my husband is more of an artist than a handyman, but he can build stuff when he's inspired, so when I requested a fountain, he went to work and made one out of large ceramic pots in three different sizes. Then someone gave us a cute pedestal type fountain, so he spent time getting it to function properly. For Christmas, when he asked what I wanted, I requested an outdoor fire pit (I bet you're wondering how we fit all this stuff on our patio, along with a small table and chairs, and still with a little room for the kids to blow bubbles, do chalk art, etc...well, honestly, it's pretty miraculous), which he initially balked at, picturing the diameter to take up most of the width of the patio.
Well...a funny thing happened on Christmas Eve...he stopped into a bakery which our pastor had recommended, and guess who he saw? Our pastor and his family. He told them he was out looking for a fire pit to give me for Christmas, and then they told him that their landlord had left one in their yard which he said they could keep, but they didn't want it...so, you've figured out the end of the story, but the really amazing part was that it was the tall, narrow kind - called a chiminea, since the smoke rises out of it like a pot bellied stove - so it takes up very little space on our patio and it's whimsically charming. Best Christmas present ever. Smitten by divine serendipity once again.
In local literary news...our neighborhood library was a zoo today - they're remodeling the downtown branch, so everyone has been re-routed to ours, which is tiny. I couldn't find my requested books on the hold shelves - turns out there are so many transfers right now that they had to put them all in a room in a back. I've never seen the children's section look so sparse - the EZ readers had been totally raided. I guess this is a good problem to have..but I will be glad in a few weeks when our sleepy library is back to its normal self, complete with our usual librarian - he's a young-ish guy with a ponytail, glasses, who's reserved but friendly - I'm guessing he's into sci-fi and technology and saving the planet. Today it was a slew of older women running things, probably from the main library, which is about five times larger than ours, and not within walking distance...though we rarely walk to ours since we always are transporting so many books back and forth, and it would probably shorten the life of my trusty bookmobile.
Giving up my best intentions. Giving up my less than best efforts. Giving up legalism. Giving up perfectionism. Giving up my pride. Giving up myself.
...So what am I actually giving up?
My plan to read the Bible chronologically in one year, while also reading it liturgically. After plowing through Genesis and Job - man, was that ground rocky - I completely fell off the wagon around the beginning of this month. I never really did consistently do my readings for Epiphany either, but at least I could pick up with Lent, whereas with the one year plan, I couldn't (or wouldn't) skip Exodus and Deuteronomy to get where I was supposed to be with my reading. That left me no choice but to quit and try again next year...or so my perfectionistic all or nothing mentality almost convinced me...until it dawned on me that I could continue reading where I left off if I would surrender the idea of reading the whole Bible in a year. And if I removed the time constraint, I could even have a chance to study those difficult Old Testament passages that were part of the reason my motivation had waned. Moreover, it would leave space to weave in my church year readings instead of feeling like I had to choose between them. Giving up rigidity was gloriously liberating. I wasn't giving up - I was giving in. Giving in to the God whose plans always turn out better than mine.
Catching up on the Past. I haven't printed photos from the last 6 years. With each upload, my burden to get them sorted and printed grows heavier and more seemingly untenable. So I asked myself what is at the root of this? Guilt and fear. I feel bad that my children (ages 9,7,5) aren't able to see pictures of themselves when they were younger. I fear their memories will fade of special times because they haven't been visually reminded. I even fear my life being cutting short and not having properly documented everything. I finally asked myself, "Is it impossible for them to see these pictures if they aren't in book form?" Not at all. For some reason, I hadn't thought it could work for them to browse through iPhoto, even though they often would do that over my shoulder when it was on my screen. I guess I didn't think it was good enough. I had this picture in my mind of our family gathered around the couch, flipping through pages together, reminiscing. Anything less than that seemed like failure. Now I'm giving up that ideal, as well as the fear its rooted in and the guilt it grows...and giving in to grace. I'm trying to apply that to my other unfinished projects, especially organizational ones - the kids' artwork accumulated over the past five years , a decade (our whole marriage) of filing, and so on. I'm not giving up on dealing with it but I am giving up listening to the ticking clock, surrendering my fears of an unfinished life and guilt over failing to preserve our family's legacy in the "proper" way.
Homeschooling by the Book. Although I love The Well Trained Mind, it sets the bar quite high for providing a classical education. But it's home to me - it's where I started and where I feel safest (there's that fear again) and what feels right. At the same time, its rigorousness is beyond my capacity, so I feel inadequate since I never quite can implement all the reading and projects and subjects, which even the authors tell you not to attempt, but my perfectionism plugs its ears and creates a compulsion to complete every curriculum by the end of the school year. All of this pressure has caused me to overemphasize structure and to quicken our pace. This, of course, drains the joy out of learning, and doesn't give us the time to linger longer over what's most interesting or takes more time to master (for lack of a better word). So I'm loosening up and slowing down and stepping back to look at the big picture. Academics are only one of our reasons for homeschooling, so that shouldn't be steering our course. Once again I'm giving up...giving up the wheel and letting God take the driver's seat, even if that means leaving classical country for new educational lands, or commuting back and forth between them, rather than insisting we stay parked in one spot.
Obviously this isn't just for Lent, but it does seem the perfect (haha) season to start the process of giving up and giving into God's grace, beginning with these tangible areas of my life.
As per usual, life has gotten in the way of blogging, which is as it should be. Being should occupy more space than expression. Doing than thinking. Practice than theory. Living than communicating. This is the mentality I have been trying to live since quitting my former (obsessive-compulsively posted to) blog a few years ago, and more recently. It's a constant challenge and I often fail due to my propensity to all things intangible, chiefly written words, whether my own or others'. My one victory is that I have never texted. But that's mostly because I'm too cheap and lazy.
Really, what it boils down to is that I don't have a sensing preference. I am intuiting with a capital N (iNfj), which means I prefer to operate in the internal world of ideas and ideals, abstractions and concepts, dreams and visions. Extraverted sensing is my inferior function, and I've been developing it ever since I entered my 30s and started having children. Parenthood of young children is a very hands-on role. Physically caring for another human being who needs to be held, fed, clothed, diapered, bathed, wiped (nose, hands, butt), and just generally touched a lot requires the intense use of all five senses, especially tactile.
At the same time I became a mother, I became a homemaker, and that too is largely sensory. I can cook well, but I'm slow, oh so slow, and clean up takes me even longer. But the truth is that I spend more time researching and analyzing recipes than it takes me to make them. And really, this is how I am about everything. School (and I was a professional student my whole life through my 20s) really didn't prepare me for becoming a mom and homemaker. And because of my natural abilities, I didn't learn to manage time well--I crammed and performed well under pressure. Pressure (usually caused my own procrastination) these days results in me being impatient with the kids and yelling. Ack.
...So where am I going with this? I yearn to write, to create, to carry out all sorts of brilliant (or not so) ideas, but I absolutely cannot in good conscience do any of that (including blogging) if my house is not in order. And I don't just mean externally, though that's a big part of it, but not in any Martha Stewart sort of way. Right now our homeschool room is in process, as am I, and I need someone to light a fire under my behind to get me sorting (the story of my unorganized life), arranging, preparing, planning, and just generally getting our little academy ready to open its doors in...oh, just over a week. Already, I feel myself pushing that forward a week, because there's simply no way...
And that, my friends, is the beauty of homeschooling. There is no pressure. And yet there is. Never before have I felt so compelled to get my act together. It may also have to do with a sort of microcosm in our home. This summer I finally got our daughters' room in order. The systems are in place, and with regular checking, it's staying pretty much that way. It was well worth the glazed over eyes and wrecked back I had from strewing a million tiny objects on the rug and figuring out which sparkly speck went with which playset (and we don't even have that many toys!). I also converted our Ikea coffee table (the one with the little sorting slots underneath) into their Calico Critters dollhouse table and toy holder. Whenever I repurpose something (which is pretty frequently), it's like getting a shot of adrenalin.
Systems are key to creativity and productivity. I'll never be a slave to systems, but I intend to master them. First, though, they have to be put in place, which is where I am right now. I've actually been here for years (trying to catch up) but a couple of new things this year are making my dreamy self actually move forward--one is homeschooling and the other is not having any more children. This is the first time in the last seven years that I have not been pregnant or had an infant. My youngest (and my only boy) is totally milking that (no, we're not still breastfeeding!). Much of my daughter's lives at ages 2 and 3 are a blur, because of their siblings entering our lives, so I'm reveling in actually experiencing my son's transition from toddler to preschooler. Speaking of which, he just started going to preschool part-time, three mornings, which is another reason I actually have some hope of not only getting everything in order, but actually doing a decent job homeschooling.
There you have it. The dearth of posts lately and the angst of me having lots of things to say (and the drafts/pictures/recipes to prove it), but absolutely having to abide my conscience and get down and dirty with papers and books and other printed materials which have hindered my life for far too long. I have no intention of going away from this blog, but I don't know how long it will be before I post again, let alone regularly, so pray for me. To follow through. To become fast. To stop reading everything online and crafting emails as if they're novels and looking up 50 too many recipes every night for dinner and all the other zillions of microbial time wasters that keep me from using my gifts, both to bless my family and the great big world my heart aches to somehow give to as well.