Sunday, August 17, 2014

Independent Rhythm


We have one more full week of Adam being gone, and then he'll be home. As much as I miss him (and I do miss him, very much) I've never been one to let emotions keep me from functioning, so I settled into a pattern of independence pretty quickly. The show must go on, as there's a Small Person depending on me, and tasks have been piling up.


Weekdays (and Drill weekends) are pretty much the same all the time, whether he's here or not - breakfast for Brooklyn and I, then either running errands or staying home to clean/do laundry/play (that's her contribution), depending on the day's needs. Although, with only needing to feed two people instead of three, we've been able to stay home every other day and only had to make a couple of trips to the grocery store.


Brooklyn takes a nap about 4 hours after she gets up, and I've been using that time to reset all of the things she's gotten out, eat lunch, and write (letters, notes, or blog posts). Since her naps average 2 hours, which is less time than it sounds like once you're actually in it, that's usually about all I can get done. I've been trying some stretching/yoga as soon as she lies down, and I think that's actually helped me focus and center a little better than if I skipped it. That's a routine I've developed over the past week, and it's definitely one that I like.


After-nap we've been playing it by ear. Sometimes Brooklyn wakes up delicate so we spend the time before dinner quietly sitting and reading or contemplating a toy. Most of the time she's more than willing to go pull everything back off the shelves, leaving me to put away the morning's laundry or cook (lately I've been making quiches, and rice in large batches, so we can eat on them for several days with minimal daily preparation).

Even when Adam is home, we rarely eat dinner all together, since I try to at least keep Brooklyn on a consistent schedule. She and I have been having dinner (she eats better if we're eating the same thing at the same time), then I clean up the kitchen for the day. I have finally come to terms with fact that I do not always have time to put dishes away as they're created, so I've been just running water in everything and leaving it in the sink 'til after dinner. By that point it doesn't take long to rinse everything and put it in the dishwasher (and I only have to fight the I know it's the perfect height for you but no you can't sit on the dishwasher door battle once).


And after the toys are put away, the bath is had, the jammies are on, the bedtime story has been read, and Brooklyn is safely tucked in, my relaxedly organized day falls apart if I'm not the only one home. Because the rest of my schedule is contingent on having the evening uninterruptedly to myself - otherwise I only really have the two hours of naptime to get things done and that is entirely not enough. And I don't get anything done when he's here because we see each other so little that it seems like a waste to spend that time doing anything besides directly interacting.


Don't get me wrong - I deeply enjoy spending my evenings with Adam (short as they are). But I have gotten so much accomplished in the past week... I've read two books, finished cleaning up the front bedroom, moved what furniture I could, written 8 letters/notes, done my last bit on The Thing I Can't Tell You About Yet (hopefully soon though!), faithfully and immediately responded to every email and RSVP-needed invitation, knitted, watched a few movies, and gotten my dresser half emptied - with time to take a bath if I'd like one, and still managing to be in bed by ten.


His schedule when he's home is so unpredictable (home from work sometime between 4 and 9pm, working one weekend a month...) that it's impossible to schedule around - because that would require a reasonable sense of When Things Happen. But as sure as I leave tasks 'til after dinner, he comes home early - and if by some abnormal burst of energy and motivation and cooperation from Brooklyn I manage to have everything done, then those are the nights he gets home late and I'm left with no productive way to pass the time (besides knitting. Or reading. But those can both be put down when he gets home, making them less absorbing than the race of trying to get something finished). I've been trying to get everything done that I can before he gets back, so I'll only be left with normal, repetitive, daily tasks (which I'm trying to streamline so that they will be possible in a shorter time frame) and all of the extra things (like getting Sprout's room ready) are out of the way.

Any tips (or just empathy!) for creating order without a predictable schedule?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

August 16th: an ordinary day


If we had a Burch Family Motto, it would be "No ordinary days." Because there aren't any ordinary days - it's all in how you look at it. So when I flipped the page on my perpetual calendar this morning and saw this, I immediately took it as a yearly one-day photography challenge. Because I will seize any excuse for a photography project, and I haven't done one in awhile, anyway.


Because this August 16th happened to be a Saturday, and I have strong feelings about Saturdays, after a sensible breakfast of oatmeal (for Brooklyn) and quiche (for me), we went to Dempsey Bakery to see if we could beat the mad rush for cinnamon rolls. We did - they also still had apple fritters, so that's breakfast tomorrow (for me. Brooklyn does not have a sweet tooth, except for fruit).


While we were in that part of town, we ventured into Argenta Bead Company for a pink silk ribbon. I am not a huge Keeper of Mementos (if it's something that can still be used, it seems wasteful to hoard it, and if it's not, then why are we keeping it, again?) but I did think that at some later point Brooklyn might appreciate having the cards that were given to her during her first few years of life - and if she doesn't, then they're hers to do with as she pleases and my feelings won't be hurt. I found a box that I already had to put it all in (I just need to find a home for my thread now...), then went on a grand hunt to gather a few things from the various places they'd been stashed - Valentine cards, her first birthday cards, the little footprinted tag that was on her hospital bassinet, and the tiny striped hat they put on her at the hospital.



Brooklyn spent the rest of the morning Scattering (which is pretty typical) and "feeding" me a toy cupcake. She also brought me a block with a B and a bear on it, so we quested things that began with B (like a ball, a book, and a toy blueberry). She contributed the blueberry, as well as a blue toy elephant.


I made lunch while she napped. A rummage through the fridge and cabinets turned up a little uncooked pasta, not-enough-cream-to-make-another quiche, and some Parmesan cheese buried in a drawer (why do I even use the drawers? I always forget about what's in them...) which came together quite nicely to make some amply alfredo-sauced penne (my sauce-to-noodle ratio was a bit off, in a good way).



After an hour, Brooklyn woke up extremely offended. We sat on the balcony and had a snack, then she played until she had a meltdown because I told her to leave Adam's books alone - so we tried Nap Mark Two. 


That lasted an hour and a half, and she woke up much happier, and I was able to spend the time reading/journaling my way through Let's All Be Brave (which I'm almost finished with).



That expiration date on the battery package? They mean it. My camera batteries died (of course) midafternoon, and the only batteries I could find had an expiration of June last year. I opened them up and was greeted by the strong scent of corrosion, and opted for an adventure to Walgreens (where batteries were, happily, on sale) rather than risk further compromising my already slightly abused camera.




While there, we also got a Redbox movie and snacks, and my evening plan (now that Brooklyn's in bed) is caffeine, chocolate, George Clooney, Matt Damon, and knitting - and talking to Adam at some point. (One more week, one more week, one more week...)


I agree with The Nester - an unmade bed is more inviting...

Since part of the challenge included gratitude, here are some things from today that are going onto my 1000 Gifts list (plus a few extras):
- Brooklyn sleeping through the night
- gluten free cinnamon rolls
- a few fresh peaches from "the Russian farmer" (who did indeed sound Russian) at the farmer's market
- silly selfies (and that she gets excited about them)
- happening to have the ingredients for a single serving of alfredo penne
- sitting on the balcony, teaching Brooklyn the fine art of commentating on passing cars
- the batteries I needed, on sale (almost half off!)
- also the snacks and movie being on sale, too
- no rice thrown at dinner (that makes it an entire day passed without food being thrown!)
- 9 days and a wake-up until Adam comes home

So there was my [un]ordinary day - how was yours?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tell...

It's Five Minute Friday! A weekly flashmob of bloggers, all joining together to write for five minutes (no stopping, no editing!) on a prompt provided by sweet Kate, then linking up and sharing a little comment love. For more posts, more details, and/or to join in, head here!


1. God made you on purpose and unique.
2. God has called you to be brave.
3. God will equip you to do it.
[from Let's All Be Brave by Annie Downs]

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
[2 Corinthians 5:17]

I want to add to the beauty
To tell a better story
I want to shine with the light
That's burning up inside
[from Add to the Beauty by Sara Groves]

A few Sundays ago, I was sitting behind someone who intrigued me. He looked to be a little older than me, broad-shouldered and muscular and wearing a sailor-striped shirt that accented that fact, one earlobe was pieced, he was wearing hipster-esque glasses, and his blonde hair was buzzed back and sides but left long enough to comb over on the top. He was rocking the look, and it was obviously one made through conscious decision - I wanted to talk to him, ask him what he would do if he could do anything for a living (and if he was already doing it). The next week he was on stage, playing a guitar with the worship team, and I was glad to see him there. That gave me pause. Why do I care? Because he looks different than anyone else there. We go to a fairly diverse church, but there's still quite a bit of sameness. But this guy stood out.

It got me thinking about something that's been bugging me of late - it's always bothered me, but more so recently than before. I grew up on a steady diet of The Depravity of Man (which I still agree with - a glance at this week's news headlines is more than enough to display humanity's fallenness), but the concept of "new creation" that I absorbed was one where everyone stopped being anything that they were before, not just the sinful selfish parts, and instead became proper cookie-cutter Christians. A portion of that mentality was probably due to my own misconception, but at least some of it was taught. But that didn't seem to line up with a God who created such diversity. I mean, really... there are over 750 species of butterfly in North America alone; He could have just made one kind for pollinating flowers - or not made them at all, and left the job entirely up to the bees. But He didn't.

So somewhere between the reality of a God who bothered to make different kinds of bugs and the white plantation owners who, less than 200 years ago, told their black slaves that they'd be white in Heaven (!?!), there was a disconnect. If He has a purpose for me, so I need to be obedient and faithful to Him, but every aspect of who I am will be erased as a part of that purpose, then why does He need me at all? Won't someone else do just as well?

I rewrote the following paragraph several times before settling on this format. Because I am not a final authority on such things, nor do I wish to appear to be one - but these are the conclusions that I've reached.

- I believe that God made each and every person wholly unique and for a purpose. That when we were born, where we were born, our natural tendencies and talents, what physical characteristics, attributes, and even weaknesses we may possess are all important to the part we play in His story. Even the Fallen may be turned to good, as part of a tale of redemption.
- I believe, then, that "new creation" refers to heart and habits. That it is not definable as a hairstyle, dress code, diet, socioeconomic status, pastime, occupation, language, or ethnicity. The Church is meant to be a body - it seems popular to use that reminder in order to get people to do unpleasant tasks ("someone has to be the less comely parts, you know!") but it is then conveniently forgotten when a bartender, homeless veteran, or someone who's just a different color than everyone else present shows up.
- I believe, in the same line, that even the BC (before Christ) parts of our lives are important to our stories, and so we cannot make judgments based on anyone's past, regardless of the life (or body) altering decisions that may have been a part of it. A new creation deserves a new perspective - because we shouldn't be staring sourly at them, anyway, but marveling at the glory of God's redemption that's leaking out of them.

So, I am passionate about knitting, and I believe that He has a plan for that, and it can be used for His glory. I am motivated rather than discouraged by opposition - not a good thing when I'm directing that toward rightful authority, but invaluable when convicted of being in the right in the face of opposing Darkness. I bear the soul-scars of past sin struggle, and I believe that honestly and openly sharing those scars can bring healing to myself and others. I have a weird natural wiring for marketing, and while I haven't really found much of a use for it yet, I have no doubt that He will use it for the building of His Kingdom when the time is right, if I'm willing and available.

Opening our hands and giving up our gifts, talents, and dreams may not mean saying goodbye to them --- it may just mean willingly turning them over to the master Creator who can perfect them, then give them back and send us forth to wreak renewal and restoration, for His glory and not our own. After all, He's the One who instilled them in us to start with. 

So instead of wet-blanketing those whose talents differ from ours, let's encourage them to add to the beauty. Instead of hiding our own in a closet, let's let them shine for His glory. And instead of giving silent assent to those who seek to present an illusion of perfection, let's tell a better story - one of His redemptive power over our brokenness!

Circular

This week's gifts...
752. Mum taking off work after Brooklyn had a rough night, knowing that I might need the help
753. Sweet baby smiles in the grey twilight before dawn, after 8 hours of intermittent screaming
754. Grace from my mother-in-law for a cancelled meeting
755. Pedal Pops at the Farmer's Market with my Dad
756. Stopping because of construction three times on the trip home - it was pouring rain so hard that not moving was a relief
757. and arriving home safely (even if it did take an extra hour because of storms) and finding Happy Handwritten Mail in the mailbox
758. Getting to attend the singing part of church - Brooklyn was delicate and we had to leave after that
759. Internet and sermon podcasts for when things like that ^ happen
760. Sharing a bowl of rice with Brooklyn for dinner - she shares quite well, and occasionally offers me a bite instead of taking one herself
761. Sleeping in
762. Errands successfully accomplished - the rest of Little Rock seemed to be having a bad day (or, at least, an impatient one) but we survived and made it home in one piece
763. Getting my desk satisfactorily organized (and only making one purchase to get it that way!)
764. A balcony - all my life I dreamed of having a second-floor view and apartment-dwelling provides that, with no stairs to vacuum or banisters to dust!
765. Three more green days 'til Adam comes home! (I'm using a rotating selection of colored pens to write him a long letter, a different color each day)
766. Remembering the little block of square tiles that I had for making coasters out of, while I was wondering what I'd use as a coaster on my desk
767. Apartment maintenance - because otherwise I don't know what I'd do when something that I can't fix breaks while Adam's gone
768. Knitting while listening to a podcast of Sunday's sermon
769. A good stretch before getting out of bed - silly perhaps, but I haven't felt like I've had time to stretch before Going and Doing, and taking that moment was oddly refreshing
770. Being informed of/invited to a friend's baptism - "God really worked through you to find me" (emphasis on God)
771. Adam's pay being delayed due to a system error - I never would have thought to make cinnamon toast out of the English muffins that are buried in the back of the freezer otherwise!
772. #fmfparty


I spotted a set of chair magnets at the Four-Legged Bird last week, and was inexplicably drawn to them. In retrospect, it was because they spoke to me of rest.

Rest. That's something I've been seeking with increasing desperation. I've napped - then regretted the tasks not completed. I've done the tasks, hoping for peace - only to be faced with more. I've read and studied, certain that my problem stemmed from some sort of horrific spiritual failure, to no avail.

But then it hit me - maybe there's not a deep existential cause. Perhaps the issue is that I'm woken up multiple times a night, don't take the time to sit down and eat proper meals, and I've been pursuing rest so desperately that I've driven it away. Maybe I need to relax before I can, well, relax.

So that's what I've done the past few days. I've made for certain sure that Brooklyn has gotten a substantial dinner so she won't wake up hungry in the middle of the night, worked out ways that she and I can eat meals at the same time so that I can actually eat all of mine and at the proper temperature, and taken a few moments between tasks to calmly and quietly rest - reading a chapter in my book for the month, stretching/yoga, knitting a bit, working on the long letter I'm writing to Adam... little things. After Brooklyn's gone to bed, I've finished up whatever I had started earlier and then gone to bed myself. And it's actually starting to help.

It's funny how circular things are sometimes... letting go of stress during a stressful situation before that situation is resolved, acting in faith even when you don't feel it --- being grateful for something in the middle of it, before you've reached a hopeful end. Counting gifts is helping me to see how that circular reasoning can be applied to other situations - and I'm grateful for a simple solution, after being so bent on there being a difficult one!


The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness! The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will trust in Him.
[Lamentations 3:22-24]

Won't you join us in counting (and recounting!) His mercies anew? Just grab a journal or notebook (it doesn't have to be fancy) and a pen and write them down, then join us each week to encourage each other by sharing all of the blessings we've spotted. Catch up on everyone's posts and if you don't have a blog, feel free to participate by commenting, instead!

Check out these #NewEveryMorning hosts, as well, and don't forget to use the hashtag on Twitter so that we can find each other:
   Kayla [at] Renown and Crowned
   Kelsey [at] Faith Fun and the Fergusons

What areas of struggle in your life have a simple solution, that you tend to make harder than necessary?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Joy Comes in the Morning

Linking up with Kaitlyn Bouchillon and other #fmfpartysnailmail ladies over at Kaitlyn's new space today - head here for more details, and more posts on encouragement!


Last Monday, Adam left for a three week long military school in Louisiana. After seeing him safely off, Brooklyn and I headed to Fayetteville - stopping to check the mail on our way. In it was an #fmfpartysnailmail letter (from Alaska!) that included a sweet note and a little card with a photo of a bird's nest and Zephaniah 3:17 on it, which was a very nice way to begin our trip.

The week started well - a good drive to my parents' house, getting to talk to Adam every night, accomplishing the tasks that I needed to while I was there. Then Brooklyn and I started getting progressively less sleep each night (once because she wanted to snuggle, once because she was having tummy trouble, and finally because she woke up at 2am feeling better and wanting to play). By Saturday we were both exhausted and just needed to be home.

As I started loading up the car, it started to rain. We drove out of it on our way to the interstate, but before us loomed a beautiful, dramatically lightning-splintered black cloud. Because I am of the belief that rain moves so your best bet is to hope you're moving in the opposite direction (which we were) and can get out the other side, I drove on.

For the next 3 hours, we drove between 45 and 60mph (trending toward the lower end of that scale), windshield wipers on full speed, doggedly splashing along and dodging the occasional traffic barrel that had been washed out of place. Overpasses provided enough respite for half a breath, I was tempted to stop in the one tunnel that we went through because it was so peacefully, quietly dry, and the three stretches of construction we encountered were a welcome relief because they did mean stopping for a few minutes.

At one point a wall of pouring rain (and we were already in the rain, this was just rainier) loomed up in front of us while the sun shone tauntingly to our right. I sighed, and felt like I was living a one-afternoon metaphor of how my life's been going lately. It seems like discouragement just keeps pouring down, and the brief breaths and breaks that I'm able to get aren't nearly enough - and when I count gifts or ask God how on earth this is for my good or His glory, then I'm offered the prospect of a bit of hope that ends up not following through.

We finally got free of the clouds and spent the last hour of our journey (what normally takes three took us four) in the fading light of a sun that was in the process of being swallowed up by the storm we were leaving behind. I checked the mail as we pulled in, and found another #fmfpartysnailmail letter - this one from Canada, with a bright, sweet note offering prayers for patience and a little watercolored card bearing the message "Joy comes in the morning."

It was an encouraging reminder that I desperately needed. It took us a day to reset (we were both still worn out yesterday, and my empty-the-fridge-before-leaving-town tactic backfired as we had to visit three different grocery stores before we had the supplies to make a meal) but this morning was noticeably better. We both felt much better, we successfully ventured, I organized and Accomplished Things and pinned that little watercolored reminder to a newly-hung bulletin board, and if you'll excuse me, I need to go make a bowl of rice for us to share for dinner now.

How have you been unexpectedly encouraged?

A Space to Write

After I got home on Saturday evening, following a week in Fayetteville that was intended to be relaxing but ended up being somewhat stressful, I was overwrought and slightly frustrated (at nothing and no one in particular) and relieved my tightly-wound feelings by moving what furniture I could (thankfully, my single-girl furniture is all break-down-able and easy to move piecemeal and reassemble, and that's what I was moving) and I learned something about myself in the process: I work better when I have a dedicated space in which to work.


I got it all set up how I wanted, and was rather pleased with the result. The Nester should be thanked for the idea to "shop your home" and find things you already have - Adam made a couple of cubes that we used on our kitchen counter for plates and cookbooks at our last apartment, and Brooklyn had been using as bookshelves here, and I requisitioned one of them as a stand for the printer (which in turn became a stand for the little (in)courage perpetual calendar that I got at the Dayspring outlet while I was visiting Fayetteville). We have an extra kitchen chair (because Brooklyn's highchair is taking up one space) that's been sitting awkwardly in the living room  for several months that was a comfortable height for my dining-table-turned-desk, and it's now serving a useful purpose and not being awkward anymore.



In searching for my mousepad (which I never did find) I came across a pretty issue of GreenCraft from last summer that I decided to use instead. And now I have something to look through when the internet is slow - a win both ways! I also moved my old pretty pen cup (that I found years ago at Terra Studios) from the counter where it has been living to within more convenient reach.



Remember that corkboard I decorated in January? It's been sitting in a closet, while I hunted high and low for mustache pushpins. Which apparently went out of style the month before I started looking. I had given up, when Mum and I were in The Mustache in Fayetteville (looking for something else) and finally spotted some last week. I felt like the Annie Barnett print from last month's Hope*ologie (a let's do/let's not list) went with it nicely. I also couldn't resist moving the framed blockprint card that I got at Four-Legged Bird awhile ago from in our dining area to over here - because I may be a schemer, but I'm not the only one (and I love the Beatles reference).



Brooklyn and I ventured forth this morning and found a pretty basket to organize some of my letter-writing and journaling supplies - the last of a birthday Target gift card well spent! (Brooklyn's contribution was being distractingly adorable while I was trying to decide between tall-and-square or short-and-rectangular.) I was happy to find one big enough to put my clipboard and letter-writing 3-ring binder in, among other things - they've been an avalanche hazard up to this point, teetering uncertainly on the bottom of a stack of other things made of paper. And that was the only purchase I made in order to complete the space - everything else was stuff we already had, somewhere else in our apartment.


It was such an unexpected relief to have a designated workspace that I sat down yesterday afternoon while Brooklyn napped and wrote 5 notes and a 7 page letter - it reminded me of what a friend said last week about how writing is something that you have to practice. I didn't think that I was out of practice - but with an increase in writing, I'm finding that it's becoming easier. I should start memorizing poetry again and see if practicing that helps my memory in general...

Do you like to have designated spaces for certain tasks, or can you do quite well perched on the couch with a laptop or spreading a project all over the bed?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Fill...

It's Five Minute Friday! Founded by Lisa-Jo, it's a weekly flashmob of bloggers, all writing for five minutes (no stopping, no editing!) on a prompt provided by sweet Kate, then linking up and sharing a little comment love. For more details, more posts, and/or to join in, head here!


I don't remember when I first got a planner. I do know that it was a dark pink one with a little ruler and some stickers in the back and a slightly padded cover that snapped closed, and I was very excited about it because we had to order it from American Girl and then I impatiently stalked the mailman until it came.

As soon as it arrived, and with every subsequent planner, I promptly sat down and filled in the information from the days past (I don't think I've ever managed to get one before it started) and then went in and wrote down the things that happened in a regular and predictable manner (like, church or weekly knitting meetings). If there wasn't something written on every day, then why did I even have a planner? Even if it was a very tenuously made plan, I would still write it down, just to have something to write - so there were a lot of small parenthetical "nvm"s (neverminds) scattered throughout.

After a few years, I noticed something. I was filling all the pages with writing but there was still a sense of emptiness, and by March I would usually fall off the planner wagon because my schedule was so rote that I had it memorized (what of it hadn't been nvm'd). By fall I would have forgotten this and I would excitedly get a new planner. I'd choose a type slightly different than the year before, subconsciously, like the fact that the layout was lined or unlined made some sort of difference. Like having a pretty place to keep track of all of the amazing, fun adventures that I had would somehow make them happen.

The funny thing was, whenever I did do something grand and exciting, I didn't ever need to write anything down. Sometimes the adventures were spontaneous and unplanned, and the ones that weren't were sufficiently memorable that I was able to mentally keep track of them (or I used a complex system of Post-It Notes, instead...)

Now I need a planner again, because I can't keep up with four different people's schedules - my life is filled in a different way. Things don't happen the same way every week, and appointments are planned months in advance (due dates, Army schools, haircuts, pediatrician check ups...) I've also learned to accept the spontaneous adventures, knowing that looking back on a mostly blank planner is probably my best indicator of a life that was gone out and lived, instead of only being dreamed about.

So, are your days actually filled with wonder (be it small or great) or do they just have the illusion of fullness?