Monday, May 27, 2019

Too Much Stuff Brings Me Joy

I'm clean with my body and how I dress. The kids are clean. I'm clean where I cook and eat, but that's pretty much it. I'm a mess and I know it and it's more about clutter than anything else. It's something I have to work on. Here lately it's been getting out of control more and more. I'm almost afraid someone is going to send over a TV crew and will force me to do a show about clutter. I'm afraid that as I'm getting older I'm going to become a Miss Havisham.

The top of my desk clean.
Two days ago you couldn't see the top of this desk. We just kept adding stuff to it to the point that you couldn't even see anything that was there. The only reason I left that gold bird cage in the corner is because my daughter seems to have some things in there, like her quill and ink. I took everything down and put it in a box that she will have to sort through when she comes back from her father's this weekend. 

Those things I left on top may seem weird but they are little things that mean something to me and I can display my daughter's art. I also have two art pieces by Lizbeth Ortiz there, the Bride of Frankenstein from a Post It show and her sacred heart in a shrine box. Later I added my big gold sacred heart and the nest we found outside on the ground.

Things that bring me joy
I went through the whole house doing this. I looked at areas and decided what needed to go. I cleaned out my work space corner in the dining room and that was a feat on its own. 

I've never watched this Marie Kondo woman everyone is talking about but I get the gist of what she says so I'm trying to follow her mantra, "Does this thing bring me joy?" The sad answer is that too much stuff brings me joy! What I do know is that there is such a thing as too too much. I get it. I know that as Americans we are all about excess and I'm no exception.

I posted on Facebook on Saturday that sometimes you have to do something radical to do anything at all. That's how I approached my cleaning that day. I had to be radical and I know that Marie Kondo would not approve on how I went about it. This is in no way advice on how to clean. This is just what I had to do to motivate myself and to make myself move.

I took that basic "Does this thing bring me joy?" concept and added my own twist. I asked myself, "What would you take with you if the house was burning down?" I know kind of the same thing but instead of keeping those things I left them and I removed everything that I didn't need any more or that I was kind of on the fence about, and I put them in boxes. This is the part where I realize I added an extra step for myself but I had to do it this way to do anything at all. I don't have the time to sit there and do the 4 container method: "give away," "throw away," "storage," and "put away." I just needed to work quickly to feel like I was getting anything accomplished.

I put the boxes in the garage and on another day, when I have enjoyed my clean house for a while, I will take on the project of cleaning out my garage. I have some boxes I need to go through slowly to look for paperwork. I couldn't risk losing some things.

Even doing it this way, I spent eight hours on Saturday working on just the kitchen, dining room, hall and part of the living room. There is still a whole hot mess going on in the living room that I need to address. I couldn't believe that working on just those three rooms took me that long. According to my optimistic calculations I thought that I could get through four rooms in eight hours, if I spent two hours in each room. Somehow it didn't work out that way.

Today I'm working on my bedroom, my biggest thorn in my side, the bathroom, and I need to finish the living room.

My goal is to have a clean house where I feel happy but it's also about having a cleaning lady to keep things from getting out of control again. I realize that for so many years as a working mom two people kept my life in order, my baby sitter and a cleaning lady (I had a few).  It has been years since I hired a cleaning lady, first because I couldn't afford it on one income and then my house was too out of control to let anyone see it. I am literally cleaning so I can have a cleaning lady again and bring order back to the universe. Wish me well. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

An Inspired Life

My best friend bought me this journal  by M.H. Clark (Author), Justin Edge (Illustrator) a while back and I thought it was a blank journal. It took a while before I realized that it has a writing prompt on every other page. The opposite page has an inspiring quote.

Published by Compendium, Inc.


This journal has been so extremely therapeutic! I've been writing in it for the past two weeks and it's really made me think about a lot of things. One of the things I've come to realize is that this blog can serve as an inspiring place. No, I don't have a PhD in Psychology, I'm not even certified in any way to give advice. I'm just a regular middle-aged woman struggling with challenges that  a lot of other people struggle with. I don't plan to give advice. I just hope that by reading my quotes, my stories, the sad and the funny, that people are inspired in some way.

Recently I had someone reach out to me on Facebook and she told me that I inspired her to start exercising and running because of my Peloton journey. That really made my day and my month!

I hope that I can continue to do that with my honest and real posts about everything from exercise, eating right, cleaning up my clutter and balancing it all with work, family and trying to write on a regular basis.


Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Perfect Mother's Day Weekend Is Being Alone

Last year my Mother's Day weekend was not so great. On Saturday while at Walmart, putting my groceries in my car, I had a freak accident. I dropped a bottle of Topo Chico near my foot in the parking lot and it cut my ankle open. It sent me to the emergency room for seven stitches.


This year I'm not going to make that same mistake again. For one, I'm not going grocery shopping today. In fact, I've decided that this weekend I'm not going to do any of the things that I "should" do. I'm only going to do things I want to do.

It all started when talking to my co-worker Paula about what she was doing and she told me that she was getting together with her sisters. They do different things every year and I loved the idea. I decided that next year I'm going to stay at a hotel with a spa all weekend. I'm going to get a massage and a facial, I'm going to watch Netflix and I'm going to write.

I didn't always celebrate Mother's Day, but I've started my own tradition. Unlike many women and their divorce agreements that stipulate holidays when they get the kids, I don't have my kids on Mother's Day weekend. It kind of just happened a few years ago. The kids happened to be with Rey that weekend and I told him that the best Mother's Day gift was to be alone.

I have the kids most of the time, I'm the one who feeds them every day, whether I cook or buy food, and I'm the primary caretaker. There are a lot of weekends when they are supposed to be with their dad that they need me, for this or that.  Like two weeks ago it was Seth's birthday on Saturday and I took them to take M's graduation photos and photos of them together on Sunday. I know it's my choice to do those things but I do them because they have to be done and they are part of being a mother. In addition to doing mom things I work full-time and a lot. So a break, a weekend when I get to do just ME things is a gift!

When preparing to write this I Googled "I want to be alone for Mother's Day" and I came across titles like "All I Really Want for Mother's Day is to Be Left Alone with this Masala Chai," "All I Want for Mother's Day is to Ditch My Kids," "Dear Family, Before You Buy Me a Mother's Day Gift, Do This Instead," and "All I Want for Mother's Day is For My Wonderful Family To Leave Me Alone."

I almost died laughing. I love that women are finally feeling honest and open enough to admit what they are thinking and feeling. Yes, Mother's Day is a sweet day to remember our own mother and to remember that we love our children and that they made us mothers, but we don't need all the other bells and whistles. At least not with our kids.

I was sitting at work finishing up for the day on Friday and I decided on a whim to call the Massage Envy closest to me to see if they had an opening. They did so I took the 7 p.m. slot and headed over. I had some time to kill so I stopped in at this great wine bar and restaurant that I don't go to enough, called Plonk. I ordered a glass of wine and their amazing warm brie that comes with hazelnuts, honey and a lot of garlic, with bread on the side. Heaven.

After the wine and half of my brie I went to Massage Envy and had an amazing one hour relaxing massage. I usually like deep tissue massages but this woman had really firm and relaxing hands that had me teetering somewhere between asleep and awake. While I was getting massaged I started thinking about how if I did all the things that I had planned on doing this weekend, mainly cleaning my house, I was going to get sore all over again, basically throwing away the  money from the massage.

So today I woke up late, I had coffee, yogurt and I've posted pictures of me when I first saw my kids being born, my mom, went down memory lane, read and now I'm writing. If all goes well with this weather I'm going to go see two of my sisters this evening to take them some gifts. Time flies when you're just relaxing!

I usually have dinner with the kids on Sunday and then I get them back that evening. This year they are going to see Avengers End Game with their dad, his girlfriend and my best friend at 6:30. We will meet briefly for an early dinner before they go to the movie and then I won't see them again until late evening.

By then I will have to do the regular mom things I do on Sunday, grocery shopping and laundry. That's okay because by then I will have had all of this weekend to do the things I want to do. I'm grateful for that because I know that not all moms can do this. I'm aware of this first world privilege. So thank you to my ex-husband first of all, for giving me these two beautiful kids and second, thank you for giving me this Mother's Day off.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Writing is My Therapy

"We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection." -Anaïs Nin.

My Childhood Home
Writing is definitely my therapy. I've written a few blog posts recently that were really therapeutic and cathartic. The one about menopause is definitely in the top 5. So is my #3yearplan and the one about staying in the pool and finishing the race. The one about building my own personal brand as a writer is a personal favorite.

Which leads me to this post today where I am trying to analyze myself and why I don't care about having a nice big clean house.

I grew up in this house in the picture in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. It was two bedrooms for a long time until my parents added to it. I would say my mother was clean but not OCD clean. The house would get messy and then we would just clean up when it did. No big deal.  The house was not big and we didn't live in a nice neighborhood but it was home and I had loving, although strict, parents. I was happy there and I don't remember ever wishing that I lived in a big fancy house. Sure, I admired beautiful homes like anybody else but it wasn't a life goal to have one. My parents did a good job of always working on it, updating it, replacing the roof, etc.

When I got older and I bought my own house with my then husband I was excited. We found the house on the edge of a neighborhood I had admired for many years. In fact, my mother used to admire this neighborhood too. The homes aren't huge, they are all pre-war and many of them are bungalow or ranch style homes. At first I had grandiose ideas of what I wanted to do with my 1940's style house, with original hardwood floors, like any first time home buyer. But as the years went by and we didn't do anything I started to care less and less about it.  It's a four bedroom house and in the 17 years that I've lived here we only painted two rooms, one upstairs for my step-daughter when she lived here and one downstairs for the kid's nursery. Nothing else. What's worse, we never even fixed one of the upstairs bedrooms to use it. As you can imagine, 17 years have taken their toll on an already old house that has never been remodeled or kept up.

It's like I'm missing the gene that most people have, the one that gives them that desire to have a nice house. To make things even worse than my house being older and run down, I'm also messy. I tried to do research on why I don't really care about things like how my house looks and being messy. Most research says a messy house is a sign of depression, which I don't think I really have. It's also a sign of laziness, which, who am I kidding, is probably closer to the reason.

Then I found this article that states something I've often thought about myself but I don't really like to say aloud for fear of sounding arrogant or like I'm looking for an excuse. It says that "messy people aren't wrapped up in the status quo." Messy people are also more intellectual and like to spend time on reading and writing rather than cleaning. It feels like cleaning and keeping house is shallow and that our time can be better used doing something productive. This was a little bit of a consolation but I'm not 100% convinced that's the whole reason.

I also think about how much it would cost to really remodel this house correctly and the idea of putting myself in that kind of debt makes me sick. Then I get this dreaded feeling. Am I my father? My father never wanted to do anything that was going to put him and my mother in debt. To the point of making my mother angry and frustrated. When I was a little girl she wanted to buy a house in this neighborhood and he wouldn't have it. My sisters used to complain that he didn't believe in doing anything "normal" because "normal" people bought houses and had to make house payments.

However I know that I have to do something drastic soon. It has become a problem for me and something I want to overcome. It's something I struggle with and I've written about it in the past. I'm at a crossroads now. As part of my #3yearplan I need to decide what I'm going to do with this house. I receive weekly inquiries asking me if I'm interested in selling and I don't reply to any of them, even out of curiosity. I know that if I sell it can't be until after Seth has graduated from high school.

One thing that I have been wanting to do and I haven't done yet is to do an exercise of packing everything that means something to me into bins. Just the things that I would keep or want to save if my house was on fire . Everything else I will either give away or throw away. I feel like doing it that way would be so cleansing. And I feel like it would make it so much faster and easier to decide what I don't want to keep. I have seventeen years of accumulated junk.

The only question now is when? When am I going to start on this quest and I know the answer has to be SOON. I have to tackle it one room at a time so that I don't give myself an anxiety attack. I also have to approach it in the same manner that we approached packing up my father's house when he decided to rent it out.

So that is my goal as I head into summer. Pack up my house like it's about to sell or like it's on fire. I need to do something to clear my space and my head.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Staying in the Pool & Finishing the Race

I started listening to Brene Brown talks around 2012, a year after she made her now famous first TED Talk. I actually watched a second one that year called “Listening to Shame” first and then I went back to watch the first one. After that I read her book “The Gifts of Imperfection” and loved it, followed by “Daring Greatly.” I’ve been meaning to read the three books she’s published since then but life has gotten in the way. 


 I couldn't find a picture of me in my middle school swimsuit!

Yesterday and today I watched her new Netflix show, “The Call to Courage.” Wow! Just wow at everything that she says. She tells a story about her daughter and swimming near the end.  I don’t want to give too much away, but the story really spoke to me. 

I struggle with a lot of insecurities like so many of us do, whether we know we do or not. I want to strive for greatness in my life and I fall on my face again and again in certain areas, because life becomes too overwhelming and sometimes I feel like I can’t possibly handle everything. So I decide to concentrate on just one area and to do that one thing really well, whether it’s raising my kids or my career.

Listening to Brene’s Netflix show and this specific story about her daughter reminded me of one of my own stories and thinking about this I realized that sometimes I don’t give myself enough credit.
 
I joined the swim and track teams in the 8th grade. I had no business joining either one but I did it so I could have 7th period gym with all my cheerleader best friends and my friends on the swim team. I learned how to really swim by being on the swim team because I realized once I joined that I really didn’t know how to swim. It turned out competitive swimming is completely different from leisure swimming. Since I wasn’t the best swimmer or the fastest swimmer there was no way I could compete in any of the 50 meter events. So instead Coach Scerbo chose the 100 Freestyle for me. I was not excited about swimming 100 meters but I was glad I wasn’t doing the 200 Freestyle like my friend Serena. I practiced and practiced in our little pool at Hamilton Middle School. My coach even had us swim extra because she knew our pool was smaller.  Then came my first meet at a middle school with a regulation size pool and I almost died. I couldn’t finish the 100 meter event and when I saw that I’d been lapped and had lost anyway, I got out of the pool. This happened at least two more times. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed for being too slow and for quitting.

On the very last swim meet of the season I promised myself that I would finish no matter what.  I’ll never forget that feeling of finishing.  I didn’t care that I had been lapped and that people were waiting for me to finish. I was all alone in the pool just swimming the length. When I got out my legs felt like jello and Coach Scerbo hugged me. I’m sure the other coaches and swimmers wondered why she rewarding me for mediocrity. Because they didn’t know what Coach Scerbo and what my teammates knew. That I had given up every other time before this, that I was embarrassed at being last and quitting. When I finally finished that 100 meter event I’d met my own personal challenge. At fourteen I had learned a very important lesson, to not give up and to go back and to try again and again until I accomplished my goal. What seemed like a small thing to some, was a huge thing for me.

Why do I mention this experience? When you watch Brene Brown’s Netflix special you’ll know. I have to give myself more credit. I have to remember that I may quit sometimes but I always go back and try again. That's been the story of my life and it will be to the end. I'm about to be 50 years old. At this point I have less years left of life than what I have lived. I will make this time count. I will be that girl who stays in the pool and finishes.