Saturday, April 28, 2007

Excuse me? I'm...what...??

It doesn't happen often anymore, but still I get the occasional flaming email from someone feeling the need to judge me based solely on my decision to be a stay-at-home mom. That's right, you heard me. Based SOLELY on my decision to be a stay-at-home mom.

Apparently, according to this latest... ahem... person, I am not only completely undoing women's lib but I'm also validating men's beliefs that women are "no better than stupid brood mares not fit for anything but a life of sex and servitude". Apparently, according to this... person, I am giving up "all rights as an individual" and becoming "completely dependent on a male" to run my life for me.

Apparently this... person... doesn't know me. At all. Or any stay-at-home moms, for that matter.

I could go on a wild rant about this, but I'm not. I'm exercising my self-restraint, and rather admirably, too, because believe me when I say that this is a subject I can RANT about. I will, however, make just a few observations (for which I'm sure I'll be thrashed wickedly by someone or another):
  • Stay-at-home moms work. Anyone that doesn't believe this should shadow me for a week. And I'm on the "easy" end of the spectrum; I have only one child (which is limited to one "extra" activity a semester) that goes to public school, I live in an apartment, and I don't do near as much baking/cooking as some stay-at-home moms I know.

  • Most of the women that "give up" their "identities" don't see it as such. At most, they see it as trading one identity for another... when they bother to think about it at all. That's not to say that there aren't some rather resentful stay-at-home women out there, but they still make the choice to abide by whatever circumstances make them feel that way.

  • Stay-at-home moms aren't stupid. They weren't stupid before they made the choice to stay at home to raise their children and dedicate themselves to their family, so why is it that people think they're stupid after that choice is made? Our brains don't switch off or fall out, yet for some reason, once that choice is made, people - both men and women - treat us as if we are stupid, as if our brains have indeed fallen out, and our opinions and thoughts cease to matter, no matter what they may be. Surprisingly, this is an attitude we stay-at-home moms periodically have to battle against within our own homes, too. Surprisingly, there are some husbands that occasionally forget how smart their wives are.

  • Women that are so intensely critical of those women that do make the CHOICE to stay at home are no better than the men in our government today who are taking away women's rights over their own bodies. (naamah_darling has a wonderful entry here about those men, and just for the record, I am and always have been pro-choice... meaning that while I don't believe abortion is right, I will fight to the death for any woman's RIGHT TO MAKE THAT CHOICE for whatever reason she may have.) These women seem to forget that just because our fore-mothers fought so hard for women's rights and women's liberation, not all women want to be the all-powerful super-mom proving we can do it all. They wouldn't dream of forcing a woman to have a child against her will, or staying in a marriage she didn't want to be in against her will, or taking away any other freedom of choice rights women enjoy today... yet they're all too eager to condemn a woman for making the choice to stay at home to raise her children. How long, then, will it be before women actively aid in taking away a woman's right to choose to stay at home?

  • It's amazed me time and time again that so many employed women (whether they be married or single, have children or don't) find it offensive that another woman makes the choice to quit her job to take care of her family. As a woman that made that choice, I've been called "selfish", "a traitor to [my] gender", "stupid", and many more things. I've heard the same frustrated sighs (and occasionally confused sobs) from other women who have also had such words flung at them because they made the choice to stay at home. Yet no one - and believe me, I've asked - has ever been able to tell me WHY we offend these women so much. More than once I've been told I am too stupid to understand so they wouldn't waste the time and effort to explain it to me. Is it just because we don't hold to the same beliefs, ideals, and priorities that they do? Or is there something else going on there that I'm just not seeing?
There are undoubtedly more observations I've made over the past decade, but I'm starting to slip into rant-mode and that's not a place I want to go right now.


And a quote that I added on to the last entry. Because when I saw it, I liked it. And more people in this world need to be reminded...

"For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin (real life) but there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life." ~ Alfred D'Souza

Menu; rewind, repeat.

This past week was a miserable failure on my part. A. keeps pointing out that I was BURNED but, yeah, that really doesn't make me feel much better. I know I was burned to the point that I couldn't do anything, but it still feels like I failed for the week. I guess that's an internal issue I need to work on.

Even with A. getting home early (Wednesday instead of Friday), last week's menu was completely thrown out the window. He neither had the time nor the inclination to prepare the dishes I had planned, and I was in no shape to do anything but sit and sleep.

On the plus side, though, K. (sort of) got over that "I can't" thing and learned that she CAN... at least when it comes to cooking. She's quick to point out that I talked her through it, and I'm just as quick to point out that I only talked her through it the first couple of times and the last few times she made grilled cheese sandwiches, I didn't even know she was until I smelled them! She's still VERY hesitant to drain boiling noodles, but otherwise she can cook them without much assistance. All in all, I'm VERY proud of her. Now, if I can just keep that momentum rolling forward...

I'm still suffering through the burns, but they're subsiding quicker now. Not quite as quickly as the sun's love normally fades on me, but quick enough, I suppose. The range of motion in both arms is getting a little wider with each passing day, and by Tuesday morning I hope to be able to wear a shirt (and wash my hair) with very little pain.

Also, this Tuesday there's an open house at the middle school K. will be at next year from 6pm to 7pm, and that same night, she has a bell concert and has to be at (her current) school before 630pm. I talked to the vice-principal of next year's school, explained the situation and he said to show up around 545pm for the open house. We won't be able to make the whole tour and stuff, but he'll personally greet us and try to show us around a bit until the first tour starts. This makes Tuesday evening extremely cramped for time. We'll have to leave here no later than 515pm and won't get back until close to 8pm. I have NO clue what to do for dinner that night as there won't be any breaks for fast food stops, and we either eat around 4/430pm or not until after 8pm.

And Friday... oye. K. has a field trip to MGM Studios (in Orlando) on Friday and A. is playing chaperone. They have to be at school before 7am Friday morning and won't get back until after 7pm that night. Dinner? Who knows. Chances are I'll be by myself, and I'm not entirely sure they'll want to eat when they get home. And me? I'd just as soon eat a grilled cheese sandwich if I'm by myself for dinner.

So the menu this week? Yeah, a bit of "rewind, repeat" going on here, with a few minor tweaks. Sometimes life just works out that way.

Sunday: lunch: sandwiches/soup/leftovers (clean out the refrigerator time!)
        dinner: spaghetti and meatballs, salad, bread
Monday: breaded cod, baked potatoes, broccoli, mixed vegetables
Tuesday: ??? Chick-fil-A
Wednesday: rice and beans, salad, toasted garlic bread
Thursday: Ginger Pork, rice, broccoli Chick-fil-A
Friday: ??? (possibly butter (lima) beans, hoe cakes, salad OR a grilled cheese sandwich for me) Ginger Pork, rice, broccoli
Saturday: lunch: leftovers/sandwiches/soup (possibly home made pizza, depending on how I feel by then and what's on the agenda)
        dinner: Simple Taco Meat with homemade tortillas (still not sure about making my own tortillas), buttery peas & rice (recipe on the same page and just below the taco meat one) more leftovers

[edit] And a quote. Because when I saw it, I liked it. And more people in this world need to be reminded...
"For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin (real life) but there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life." ~ Alfred D'Souza

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Sadly, I'm out of the challenge.

I don't know which hurts worse; the failure or the burns.

On Monday afternoon I was stupid enough to stand outside in the parking lot for five hours and am now suffering through the serious burns that resulted. I'm not sure what condition(s) was (were) so different that day than all those other days I've been outside, but... sometimes things like this just happen.

How bad could this sun burn be, you ask?

Well, first let me say that I'm a natural blond and my skin tends to soak up sun like a sponge. Sometimes slower, sometimes faster. I rarely ever put any sort of sun block on (often opting instead for "tanning" products) and almost never have to pamper a burn after exposure to the sun. Normally, when I spend several hours out in the sun, I get red, the next day I'm pink, and the day after I'm whatever shade of tan my skin has settled on. Very rarely does any portion of the "red" stage hurt.

So how bad am I? Today, right now, I'm about 5 hours away from three full days since the moment when I finally came in out of the sun on Monday, and the aloe gel with lidocaine that K. has been slathering all over my outer shoulders and upper arms both day and night still doesn't do squat for me. The cold wet rags being put on my skin? If you remove them 5-7 minutes later, they're quite warm (K. pointed that out with a shocked gasp yesterday evening), and well on their way to being dried onto my skin a hour later. My skin glows red and is showing almost no fading in color, even around the edges. At least I didn't blister.

A. (who finally made it home last night) has told me to "sit and rest", and that's pretty much what I do. With minimal pain I can surf the 'net (which has led to some great finds in the financial field) but I get twitchy after too long and want to get up and walk around. Typing is slightly painful, and I find that not only am I slower, but I'm also missing keys more than usual with the limited range of motion. Reading is on the agenda, but with some difficulty; holding the book up is slightly painful and turning the pages is pretty painful, but I'm working on it. Eating is out of the question unless someone has the foresight enough to leave something prepared for me where I can reach it without moving my arms too much; I'm finding biscotti and water to be a quite satisfying these past few days. Cleaning myself in any manner is excruciatingly painful, and today is the first day I've not managed a shower (yet. That may change later. I'm waiting for the acete... aceta... generic Tylenol to kick in). I doze a lot, sitting here in my chair in the mostly darkened apartment, and have "comfort movies" playing (GoldenEye [James Bond... umm... 1995? 1996? I don't feel like looking it up] has been playing since late last night, partly because it hurts too much to reach up to the vcr and change it out for something else).

But cleaning? Moving around and... moving? Not a chance. Such activities are forbidden to me right now, and oddly, I'm not too inclined to fight against such restrictions. While I'm not happy about the lack of activity and the failure with the challenge, and watching my family do MY JOB is agonizing to my soul, I'm content to sit in the dark and doze my way through this pain. When I can put a shirt again without sobbing frantically because the shirt touches my skin, I'll reclaim my activities. Until then... I rest, I read, I heal.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


I think there's a very good chance the sun burn is worse than I initially thought. Possibly much worse, but I won't know that until later tonight or tomorrow morning.

I am burned. I hardly slept last night for the pain of the burn, which a rare thing for me. Normally I don't get BURNED and when I do get tomato red, it rarely ever hurts. This HURTS.

And I have chills and a low grade fever. Aside from the pain of the burn and the chills, though, I feel great. Especially on an emotional and mental level. Well, except the exhaustion from not sleeping much last night. And the mild dehydration. I could use another gallon or three of water and a nice long nap.

I think, despite living in the Sunshine State, I don't see the sun enough. I've not actively tracked it, but I've noticed over the past few months that being outside in the sunshine tends to completely banish the depressive episodes when they happen. And I've noticed that those depressive episodes tend to happen when I've been inside for days at a time, only venturing out just at sunrise or sunset, and never really getting any sunlight.

With that in mind, I think I'll have to make sure that I venture beyond my apartment walls at least once every day or two, for no less than half an hour. I can't let it go beyond two days or I start feeling run down, both emotionally and physically, and I think more than half an hour would be too much. Of course, I'll have to wait until after this burn is healed, because I can't see me doing much more over the next few days than trying to cat-nap while wrapped in cold wet rags.


Doing the cat-nap in cold wet rags thing is the ONLY thing on my agenda for today until time to take K. back to school tonight for the 5th Grade Level Performance. By the time I have to get ready for that, I'll know more about how bad this burn really is. It'll be close to 24 hours by the time I have to get dressed and leave for school tonight, and if I'm still in as much pain as I'm in now, then this burn is way bad. With any luck, the pain will have subsided a great deal by then, but I'm thinking I may not be that lucky this time.

So if anyone wants me, I'm cat-napping with my arms wrapped in cold wet rags, and probably shivering myself silly.

Have a good day, world.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I got sun...

You know you're sun burned when the aloe gel you smear on one arm is completely dried before you're even done smearing the other arm.

But I feel better.

I guess whatever bug was occupying my body decided that five hours in the sun (on black top, no less) wasn't its idea of fun, and left.

On the down side of that, I'm fried. I mean REALLY fried, too.

But, I am a natural blond and my skin, though it does burn from time to time, tends to tolerate the sun's fiery kiss much better than another's. It's rare that I have to use aloe gel (it's most often reserved for A. and K.) and I have every faith that I'll be fine in a few days... if it even takes that long. The real tale of how bad this burn is will be told tomorrow morning when I get out of bed.

Also, A. thinks he'll be coming home Wednesday. There's no confirmation on that, though. He'll find out more tomorrow.

I need a nap.


Wow. Last week went kaboom, didn't it? I think my goal this week is to have no more than three changes to the menu I make!

A. suggested last night that he may be back early from his trip, but I have no firm details on that. This made it sort of difficult to plan this week's menu, but this week's menu was a bear to wrestle with anyway. I've been thinking about changing a few of our eating habits (read that prices are rising again and I refuse to pay some them, my food budget is already way too high), so there's a lot of new and "weird" things being cooked this week. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

K. has a grade level music performance this Tuesday so we have another "quick night" where we have just a few hours between her getting off the bus and us having to be at school for an event.

And I think I'm teetering on the edge of being sick. I thought the way I felt Saturday was just punishment for the McDonald's I had Friday night, but nope. It carried into Sunday and this morning - while not as bad - is bad, too. I slept most of the weekend (K. did a fantastic job of taking care of me) and I foresee a great deal of ginger tea in my immediate future.

Also, it's odd to me that I'm 37 years old and don't know how to make any sort of beans from scratch, using dried beans. It should be an interesting week, indeed.

Sunday: lunch: pot pie/frozen meals
dinner: spaghetti and bread
Monday: fruit/soup/grilled cheese sandwiches (helps if we have bread LOL)
Tuesday: Boca chicken things, mac & cheese, whatever veggies are in the refrigerator
Wednesday: rice and beans, salad, toasted garlic bread
Thursday: Ginger Pork, rice, broccoli
Friday: butter (lima) beans, hoe cakes, salad
Saturday: lunch: leftovers/sandwiches/soup (possibly home made pizza, depending on how I feel by then and what's on the agenda)
dinner: Simple Taco Meat with homemade tortillas (still not sure about making my own tortillas), buttery peas & rice (recipe on the same page and just below the taco meat one)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Negotiating with an inner brat

It's lunch time and I'm rewarding my inner brat with a little blog time since she (begrudgingly) agreed that a bottle of water with lunch was a much better option than walking over to the laundry room to drop $0.75 in a machine for a soda.

Just like dealing with most any opposing force, dealing with the inner brat is all about the negotiations. If you're not a good negotiator, you don't stand a chance of having a peaceful ending. I've always preferred a peaceful, happy ending over an ending full of angst, yelling, anger, frustration, and general turmoil so I learned to negotiate. At least with my inner brat (and sometimes my child).

I have recently (within the past 48 hours) learned that my inner brat hates paperwork. She loves the toys - the colored pens and markers, the sticky notes, the folders, the paper clips, etc. - but hates the work part of doing paperwork. This would never do seeing how my desk is cluttered with paperwork that either needs to be filed, shredded, or otherwise dealt with! I had to find a way to negotiate some cooperation.

This morning when I caught my inner brat playing over at VistaPrint, I knew I had my negotiating tool. For weeks (months) my inner brat has been drooling over all the pretty toys there, and I can't begin to count all the time that's been spent laying out business cards (never mind that I don't have a business!! I want a card!!), post cards, and notepads. There have been days that she's even loaded up the shopping cart only to close out the window and walk away disappointed because of the cost. Even my inner brat knows that there are some things that need to be paid before we start spending money on toys.

But if the items are free and the only real cost is the shipping...

My inner brat broke into whooping screams of excitement when the email from VistaPrint was opened and she saw the latest special being offered to us. FREE!! We like free things, especially my inner brat, and off she went. An hour later (I was sluggish this morning LOL) I blinked with the realization of "HEY! I'm supposed to be cleaning!!"

"But... but... FREEEEEEEEEE!!!" my inner brat cried out with widened eyes full of shock that I'd even consider closing out the site.

I sighed and shook my head. "Cleaning comes first. Those are the rules."

My inner brat started to panic, fear replacing the earlier shock. "Nooooo..."

Moving the mouse so that the arrow hovered over the 'x' box, I paused with my eyes locked on negative $85.95 at the bottom of shopping cart and the big bold black letters spelling out the word 'FREE'. "However," I drawled the word out, plotting my next words carefully. "I suppose if the mess on the desk gets taken care of before bedtime tonight, and since it's all free, I can justify the $20 or so it would cost for shipping..."

Life and hope flooded through my inner brat's soul. I had her undivided attention.

Sliding the mouse to the left a little, I continued. "And by 'taken care of' I mean dealt with - put away, shredded, or whatever it needs to have done to it - not just shuffled to the table or the box in front of the desk."

She was cute as a button when my inner brat nodded emphatically. "Desk cleaned. Stuff put away or thrown away, not shuffled. I can do that!"

I chuckled at the sudden enthusiasm for cleaning my inner brat had. I knew it could be opening a whole new can of worms, but I couldn't resist asking. "Really?"

She huffled at me, crossing her arms over her chest and glaring up at me defiantly. "I can!"

I nodded slowly, thoughtfully, and minimized the shopping cart window. "Then it would seem some cleaning is in order. And remember, we have at least one errand to run this afternoon after K. gets home, and she wants computer time too."

After a moment of pouting (my inner brat hates giving up the computer), she exhaled a sigh. "Oh, ok. K. can have computer time later. Can I stack some of the desk stuff on the couch to sort through while she's on the computer?"

I blinked in amazement. My inner brat had come up with a strategy for cleaning? I was impressed. I smiled warmly at her. "That's a very good idea..."

Before I could even finish praising her, my inner brat was cleaning. She cleaned up until lunch time, and is now huffing at me with her arms crossed again, except when she's jabbing a finger at the clock. There's less than an hour until K. gets home. I think my inner brat is done playing now and wants me to get back to work.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sig block, and thanks!

Hey, look. I have a signature block now. Nifty.

I'm not sure of the coloring on it, but it's late and I need to get up rather early tomorrow.

To everyone that's commented on my last menu, thank you for all the kind words!

I had thought to write something else here tonight, but K. was a bit wound up and unwilling to go to bed, and now I'm just too tired. She has bell practice tomorrow morning, too, which means I have to get up extra early.

All things considered, I think I'll go to bed now. Sweet dreams, world.

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Organizational challenge update: day 16

Wow. Day 16 already. Just over the halfway point. Wow.

It's been a week since I updated on this challenge, primarily because I've been busy organizing and cleaning! I've also been having the most fascinating conversations with my inner brat, but haven't had the time (or energy) to post them.

The details of those past (inner) dialogues with my inner brat will have to wait until another day, I'm afraid. Today is a broody moody sort of day for me. The past few days have been pretty stressful... but that's a tale for another time, suffice it to say that I'm not 100% at the moment. Among other things, I am tired (had to get up early to take A. to the airport after being up way too late last night having a rather heated discussion about finances) and cranky. My inner brat is tired, whiny and a little sulky. We want honey lavender ice cream to savor and a hammock in which to sprawl while we read. We have neither.

So, progress. Yes, there has been progress made. Visible progress, no less. Today, however, I look around me and hear my inner brat whispering with her little nose all crinkled up. "Yeesh. Only fourteen more days? Never going to make it. Let's call it a day and do something fun for a while."

I'm tempted to give in. It couldn't hurt to take a break, right? Just for a little while. Just long enough to take K. to Dairy Queen for a Blizzard (this month's Blizzard of the Month is Kit Kat!!) then to the zoo, or maybe the park. Being outside in the sunshine and fresh air would be energizing. Not to mention that A. just left town this morning so we're on our own for ten days and a little fun always helps soothe the sulkiness of him being gone. I can clean tomorrow. I can clean Friday. I have ten whole days without him here to get in the way at night. I can...

But then I look at the calendar and shake my head. No, I don't have ten whole days in which to clean. There are two different events at school during that time frame. And there are other things planned, too. No, I have to clean now. There will be time for emails, blogging, reading, crafting, and playing after the challenge is over, after the cleaning is done. It'll be much better then, too, because there will be so much less clutter getting in the way and so much more space in which to actually DO different activities, not to mention the whole lack of stress surely to be involved because there will be rooooooom to  s  t  r  e  t  c  h  o  u  t   and no worries about balancing things in laps while felines try to "help". No, no playing now. I have to clean.

I hear the whine of my inner brat again as my resolve to clean strengthens. It's a low keen that every mother on the face of this planet knows all too well. It's the sound of a child who isn't getting her way and is gearing up for a Hail Mary play. She is determined to win this fight.

But I am more determined to have the peace of my haven, my sanctuary, back. I want it, I crave it, I need it. And I will have it. So despite the howls and whining of my inner brat I resume my cleaning, knowing full well that it's for the best. I can play later. Right now I have to clean.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Sometimes even the best laid plans get blown all to smithereens. Like last week's menu. The only thing we can do when that happens is pick up the pieces and start over.

A. leaves town again this week. He'll be gone from this Wednesday until next Friday. Ten days.

Also, this Friday evening there is a function at school so K. and I are going to have to do something of a "quick" meal. I periodically pick up frozen Lean Cuisine meals and pot pies when they're on sale to keep in the freezer for such nights. It's supposed to help eliminate the fast food/take out stuff, and most of the time it works. I'm not sure why it's not been working this past week. I'll have to fix that.

Sunday: lunch: ground beef patties, baked potatoes
                dinner: Burger King/Chinese
Monday: breaded cod, mixed veggies, baked potatoes
Tuesday: pasta, salad, garlic bread
*Wednesday: salmon/tilapia, rice, green peas Boca chicken/beef patties, macaroni and cheese, green peas watermelon (and I had a pear)
Thursday: Boca chicken/beef patties, macaroni and cheese, green peas salmon/tilapia, rice, green peas salad
Friday: frozen meals McDonald's
Saturday: lunch: leftovers/sandwiches/soup
                  dinner: homemade pizza Boca chicken patties, baked potatoes

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Organizational Challenge update: day 9

Hmm. Day 9. Um. What happen to all those other days??

Day 4 had K. home from school and we baked. It also saw A. flying back into town. A little bit was done, but not much.

Days 5 and 6 were spent doing Easter stuff.

Day 7 had K. home from school again. I think we played more than we cleaned.

Day 8. That was yesterday. OH! I worked on a shoe box overflowing with papers yesterday. I shredded more than I put into the filing cabinet. A lot more. There was no valid reason I could think of to be keeping electric bills from 2002, water bills from 2004, and bank statements from 1998. I didn't fuss (much) with the files in the drawer except to pull some old records out and shred them. I finished putting together my closed out files. (Closed out files are credit cards that have been paid off and closed. The statements get transferred from file folders to clasp-sealing envelopes with the name of the card on the outside where the return address would go and the word "CLOSED" in big bold letters. They're saved until such a time as I see fit to shred them, and even then I keep the final 3-6 months of the statement in case there's ever a question about me having paid it off.) The most fussing I did was putting the statements/bills in chronological order as I filed them.

Day 9... that's today. I don't know yet what I'll be doing. Probably much the same as yesterday; picking a box/section and going through it. At this point, there's little more I can do. It's tedious and boring, but that's why I have I-Tunes on the computer. And if I'm really good (or finding myself checking my email a little too often), I might allow myself an episode or two of MacGyver later while I'm sorting.

All in all, the progress is slow going. The idea of "pull everything out and then sort it" really doesn't apply to what I'm sorting/cleaning because it's already "out". That's the biggest problem; it's never found a home within my home so I have to decide what to do with some of this stuff. Most of it, I know, can be shredded, filed, or thrown away, but for security reasons I can't just pick up a pile and throw it away. I have to sort through every page to see if there's a social security number on that pay stub or if that missing document I've been looking for is somewhere in the mix.

The same goes for boxes. I don't know what's in the remaining boxes, not because it's been so long since they've been packed, but because I didn't pack them. And as boxes have been opened in the past, it has seemed as if whoever packed them just randomly threw stuff in before sealing it up. There's no rhyme or reason to any of it. And I'm still missing my Bible, the one I had when I was a teen. I've yet to find the box whoever packed it put it in. It's either in one of these final boxes, or it was in the box that A. didn't go through before he threw away a few years back while I was at work. I'm starting to think a lot of my missing items were in that box.

I am finding more and more books every day, and it occurred to me last night as I pulled another half dozen books out of nowhere that I really need to give myself time to read again. Lately my only reading time has been when A. is out of town and K. and I have reading nights or when I'm in the bathroom (even then I don't get to read much because there's this weird and slightly annoying rule in effect about not letting mom being in the bathroom by herself). Realizing how much I've been neglecting my reading time (and myself in general) had me making up a new schedule last night. I'm still tweaking it, but it's coming along nicely. In theory. We'll see how it goes and tweak as needed. My biggest question at the moment though (aside from why am I getting up at 430 in the morning??) is where in the blue flamed abyss am I going to put all these books until I read them?? A fort made of books is looking better and better every day.

So, all in all, I guess I'm chipping away at things. Today is day 9. I have 22 days left. Looking around, I know I'm making progress, but I also know I have to work harder if I'm going to make the deadline.

Which means I should end this post, gear up a play list, and get to work.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Recap of Days

Peggy commented to my "A Decade of Clutter" post (here) that "It sounds like you had a particularly tough few years there" and, well, yeah, I guess they were tough, but those times don't define me. That post was just a small glimpse of a small section of the past decade, mostly written to remind myself why I have the mess I have even though I clean daily (my daughter thanks me often for keeping the bathroom so "sparkly"). Life... it's not all been bad, and I thank God often that things weren't worse than they were. I know they could have been a lot worse, especially with the lack of sleep I had going on there for a while.

That being out of the way, the past few days have been sort of busy, while at the same time... not really.

Friday K. was out of school and though we cleaned a bit, we mostly spent the day playing together. We had a small hiccup in the day when the water went out for a few hours in the middle of the afternoon, but luckily the washer had already finished running so it didn't burn up!

We also made some chocolate chip banana bread, and then giggled at the pitiful way the results turned out. I think I need to either find my old recipe or find a different one than the one we used. Still, it wasn't horrible. It tasted pretty good (it was so good the whole loaf has been eaten already!), and it was fun baking it with K., as she actually helped.

A. came home Friday night, and when he walked in the door (with us behind him) he was greeted by the smell of not only the pot roast in the crock pot (I'd left it on low after K. and I ate so his food would stay warm) but also boiled peanuts in the other crock pot! Surprise!

Saturday... um. Oh. We were supposed to get up early and go to an Easter egg hunt but that didn't turn out so well. A. was tired from traveling and K. was tired from other stuff and I got up out of bed just after 7am and had some quiet time while they slept. By the time both of them got up, all (three) of the holiday events happening were over so we cooked lunch and ran some last minute grocery errands during the late afternoon, coming home to cook dinner and sprawl about with our respective books or to watch tv.

Sunday we went to my mom's and while A. watched tv (Mom has cable) K. and Mom colored eggs, and I sort of helped/supervised. Then we all sprawled about Mom's living room to watch part of a movie then came home to cook dinner.

Today it's rather cool (it's after 4pm and barely 58 degrees F... in Central Florida... in April...) and it keeps trying to rain but isn't really having much luck with that. K. is out of school again today and we seem to be having another "quiet" day. It's kind of nice to be able to spend time in the same room with my family and none of us yelling at anyone else. Another glimpse of another sliver, I suppose. We're all sort of doing our own things, just in the same area with a strange sort of peace lingering over us.

The cleaning? I'll get back to that tomorrow.


Have I mentioned yet that I cook for people that like to eat the same thing over and over and over again? They get... fussy... when I cook "weird" dishes, "weird" being quite subjective in this case and usually meaning it's not something I have ever cooked for them before. While it makes menu planning really easy (copy and mix from the last two weeks), it gets really boring for me. However, every now and then I'll hear something like "this again?" or "We haven't had [blank] in a while..." or (my favorite) "Can we have [blank] again? That was good" and I get to switch something out of regular line up.

Me? I'm more adventurous with my food. Yes, I have my comfort foods, but I like to explore random countries through their cuisine. Also, I tend to eat less meat than A. and K., and it doesn't bother me at all to sit down with half a cantaloupe, an apple, some strawberries, and some grapes... and call that dinner.

And sometimes, just to shake things up a bit, I just slip something new and "weird" in... like the Ginger Pork on this week's menu...

Sunday: lunch: soup, sandwiches
dinner: ham, mashed potatoes, broccoli, bread
Monday: leftover Sunday dinner
Tuesday: (one more time!) Spiced-Glazed Chicken, rice, lima beans leftovers (all the ham is gone now! Except what went into the freezer...)
Wednesday: Ginger Pork, rice, broccoli Spiced-Glazed Chicken, rice, lima beans
Thursday: pasta, garlic bread (possibly salad if there are any salad greens left)
Friday: meatloaf, baked potatoes, green peas
Saturday: lunch: Cracker Barrel (alone with A.)
dinner: pot roast Chick-Fil-A

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Grocery Budgets...

I've spent the past few hours browsing the forums at Frugal Village and a few threads are really intriguing me. In a few places throughout the forums, I've seen people saying that $450 a month to feed 3 people is entirely too much. Maybe I'm misunderstanding them since I lump all my paper products, toiletries, health/beauty supplies, and cat stuff in with my grocery money.

Since the first of the year, I've had to increase my grocery budget from $400 a month to $480 a month. For three people and two cats. We haven't changed our eating habits for the worse, in fact, we've been eating better - more fresh fruit and vegetables, more salads, less meat, less pasta, more rice, organics when the budget allows - but in the past six months I've seen the cost of regular 2% cow milk rise nearly $0.60 per gallon so that it's now anywhere between $3.50 and $4 a gallon, depending on where I look... and that's not even the hormone free/organic milk the kid loves so much! I've watched as the price of apples often sores to over $3 per pound. Bananas are often $0.50 or more per pound. Salad greens - romaine, leaf lettuce, even iceberg lettuce - are usually $2 or more a bunch, and for the three of us it usually takes at least 3 bunches for one week.

Am I shopping in the wrong places? Am I living in the wrong place? Sometimes I wonder.

I believe this topic will need further thought. Right now, I need sleep.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Organizational Challenge: day 3 update

Day 1 was the planning.

On day 2, I actually made a pretty decent-sized dent in the clutter that has consumed my dining room table. Considering that I didn't feel too hot and had the attention span of a goldfish, I was impressed with the progress I made.

Day 3. Today I woke up feeling incredibly sick. I took today "off" as a "personal day", completing only what I call the "core chores" on my massive daily to do list before driving K. to school for bell practice. By the time I got home, my sheets were dry so I took out my contacts, made my bed, and promptly crawled into it. I slept between five and six hours today while K. was at school, and I feel like I could have slept for another twelve or so with next to no effort.

Still, I've managed to go through a nice little pile of papers on my desk this afternoon/evening while K. played X-box and terrorized played with the cats, and I may casually poke at a little bit more tonight if I still feel up to it. It's not lost on me that there are three days gone and only twenty-seven days left of this challenge, and I still have a lot to do.

K. has no school tomorrow (or Monday) and A. comes home tomorrow night. I'm hoping that I can get at least a little help from them this weekend, though in truth I don't plan on doing a lot of cleaning since it's Easter weekend and I'm hoping to do something a little more on the fun side since my ultimate goal is to have weekends free for fun/family stuff.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

De-clutter: the Game Plan

First thing up is to pick an area/room: the living room/dining area combination

Um. I started to do the questions proposed by Laura in her planning post, but, um, got a little silly with the answers (What do you see wrong with the room? It's too small. What organizational tools can help? A sledge hammer!) so I'll skip them. I'm not sure they really apply to my mess and goals, anyway since most of the clutter I'll be dealing with is just... piles of clutter and boxes... from the past decade (and beyond) that sit and stare at me and not active clutter from daily life.

That doesn't mean I don't have a plan, though! Oh heaven's no! I always have some sort of plan for something. (It does drive the husband a bit batty.)

The goal is to be rid of all the junk still here and find places within the apartment for the things we keep. Also, I want to be able to use my table again.

The plan is to give the area(s) two to three hours of my day at least three times a week.

I really can't get more specific than that because the only other specifics I have are my timer and trusty lots bag. And a lot of garbage bags.

A Decade of Clutter

I took pictures earlier while the water was heating for tea, and I discovered something new about our apartment today. It's a photographer's nightmare. It's very difficult to take pictures of an area when you can't get far enough away from it to put it into proper perspective. Everything is too close. Not... stretch out both arms and touch opposite walls close, but still too close.


It occurred to me while I was resizing the pictures and picking out which ones I would (probably) use if I were to post them anywhere that if somewhere were to look at them and not know anything about me, they'd probably report me to some health agency or something! So, a little history, if you please.

When we moved into this apartment ten years ago, K. wasn't even 3 months old and I was still on bed rest following her delivery. (Long story; had complications early in pregnancy and ended up on bed rest nearly for nearly the whole time, was forced into early labor per doctors orders, K. did NOT want to cooperate with that at all and I was supposed to be on bed rest for the first 3 months after delivery. Ok, maybe it wasn't that long of a story...) This apartment was supposed to be a "temporary" thing; a year or two, three years MAX.

That first year, I spent a hectic time adjusting to being a mother and trying to make head and tales out of the boxes that were already here while dealing with two felines and a baby by myself all day then most of the night while A. slept. (Sometimes now when I look back at that time and how frazzled I was, I wonder if there might have been some postpartum emotional issues going on with me during that first year and thank God that if there was, I didn't do anything stupid.) Roughly half of the boxes we had were here, the rest were in storage, and I was in no real hurry to unpack all sorts of boxes I had no part in packing (meaning, I had no clue what was in ANY of the boxes) if we were only going to have to pack stuff up to move again. Some of the boxes had still been packed from the move we made just after we found out I was pregnant and just transferred to this apartment when we moved in.

The second year was just as hectic with boxes still everywhere and a toddler who had begun to chase felines, and felines that had begun to bound over and burrow behind anything they could to get away from said toddler. It was less than ideal for me so I started opening boxes. Slowly. It's hard to spend even 15 minutes sorting through a box when you have no clue what's in it and there's a toddler wanting to "help".

The years get blurry around that time. At some point I went back to work for a variety of reasons, none of which were "I want to go back to work now". Unfortunately, I was working hours like noon - 9pm. It sucked. I was miserable. I didn't stay at that job long and moved on to something better. (I wouldn't have stayed there long even without those hours; I have problems with a customer service based company instructing phone reps to lie to the customers, and I got written up for refusing to do so.) The "something better" was an office job that I loved for about a year. I stopped loving my job after the owner hired a couple of micro-managing office managers, and a problem about who I should report to and who had control over my time developed. I had no problem doing MY job, but when each of them wanted me to also do someone else's job as well, it became intolerable. I could not, and still can not, do the job of three different people simultaneously.

After that job, I had another which lasted right up until a few weeks after September 11, 2001. After that was a job with a company that couldn't decide what department they wanted me in (there were two departments fighting to have me) and ended up laying me off in a budgetary cut-back measure that took the jobs of several hundred other employees as well.

It was during those last three jobs that K. was enrolled in at the private kindergarten and first grade program with the daycare she was at, and subsequently pulled out of there and enrolled into the public school she's at now.

I stayed at home for a while after that, right up until the time A. was laid off and we needed me to work. Unfortunately, the job I got had 2:30pm - 11pm hours. There was little choice in the matter, though; we needed the income desperately. I worked there for not quite a year, waking up at 6am to ensure K. was at the bus stop on time, sometimes winding back down to take a nap but usually running errands until noon when I would eat something and start getting ready for work. After work, I'd get home between 11:30pm and midnight (if I didn't stay late, then I'd get home around 1 - 2 am), nibble on something while I wound down for a few hours then lay in bed still not able to sleep until 4 - 5am only to have to wake up at 6am to start the whole day over again! I slept mainly on Saturday and Sunday, and not by choice. I enjoyed that job - didn't love it, but did enjoy it - but I loved spending more than an hour a day with my daughter more. As soon as we felt confident that A. could carry us with his new salary, I quit that job.

It took me more than a year to recover from that final year of working. My sleep patterns were so fragmented and my brain so fried from lack of sleep that I am amazed that I was even functional for as long as I was. In truth, I'm very surprised I didn't have some sort of mental break-down or do some serious damage to myself or anyone else (Thank you, God). Once I got to a point where I could sleep for more than one or two hours at a time, they were the wrong one or two hours! I had been working nights for so long that my body shifted to being nocturnal (a natural shift since I've been naturally inclined toward being nocturnal all my life), and shifting from nocturnal to diurnal is a long hard road.

I did clean during all those years. At one point, we actually could get to and use my dining room table, but it was more important to us to clean out the storage unit and stop spending that $60 a month, so the boxes ended up on (and under) the table. Not long after that, I started emptying them, often with A.'s help because I was too tired to deal with it on my own. I did quite a bit of cleaning on my own, too, though I couldn't help but wonder why no matter how much I worked it never seemed to make a difference. That led to a lot of time being unhappy, depressed, and completely unmotivated, and one instance when I started dumping boxes out onto the table with a near-frenzied sob of "Why am I the only one in this household CLEANING?? Why is everyone else making messes for me to clean up?? LOOK!! I can make messes too!! Who's going to clean THAT up??".

So what does all that have to do with the clutter sitting all over and around my dining room table and the mess sitting in front of my desk threatening to take over my living room? A lot, actually. It brings us to now. Today. Right this very minute. Ten years (and a few months) later, I'm still in the same apartment, and still have much of the same clutter I moved in with. But I'm less frantic and strung out from lack of sleep these days, and basically I'm back to being me.

Being more sane these days (*giggles*) and great deal less sleep deprived, I want my home back. I want my haven back. I want to use my table, for eating, for sewing, for working at. I want to be able to sit on the floor in the living room and watch a movie or listen to music while I piece together some chain maille. I want to be able to exercise in my living room, or maybe just stretch out and take a nap on the floor with the cats and the kid some rainy afternoon. After a decade of being "temporary" and having the mindset that it's not worth the effort to make this place a true home because we would only be leaving soon, I've finally decided I'm not waiting any more. If this apartment is to be my home for the rest of my life, so be it. If it's to be my home for just another year or two, so be it. Until then, I will have the order I so desperately crave and need. I will have cut flowers on my desk, on my table, on my dresser, on K.'s dresser, or wherever a sad little spot cries out for the brightness of a flower. I will resume my crafts and bake bread from scratch. And with my own joy in all these things, I will create an atmosphere of joy within my home, for my family.

I'm tired of living my life on hold, waiting for the real life to begin.

It begins now.

30-Day Organizational Challenge

I've been giving this challenge a lot of thought over the past few days.

I am participating, but not for the prizes, though nifty prizes they are. I'm doing this for me, and for my family, not for anyone else or any other purpose than our happiness (and my sanity).

The Organizing Junkie suggests posting 'before' pictures because "accountability is a huge motivator". While that may be true, it's rarely ever worked for me. I guess I'm just weird that way. For days, though, I've been puzzling out the picture aspect of this challenge. In the shower this morning I decided that I will take pictures today, but less with the intention of posting them and more with the intention of keeping them as reminders. I'm a big fan of the saying "Those that forget the past are condemned to relive it". Will I post them at the end of the challenge? I don't know yet.

I'll expand on the area(s) I'll be working on for the next thirty days later today when I get the chance. I'd do it now, but I have to trek out into the morning traffic to take K. to school. She has early bell practice this morning.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Family Fun

We went to the AirFest out at the base today.


We were only there for a few hours, and those were the last few hours of the show. We showed up just to watch the Blue Angels fly.

See, Mom had taken K. out there yesterday and they saw a few of the earlier flying exhibits from the car before they had to leave. Mom told K. a lot about the Blue Angels and K. really wanted to see them. So despite all that we had to do today to prepare for A.'s flight tomorrow, we drove the 45 minutes or so to the Air Force base on the other end of town, sat in traffic for nearly 20 minutes, walked nearly 45 minutes from the parking area to where the air show was actually being held, stood around in the sun watching the Blue Angels for 45 minutes, spent the next 30-45 minutes trying to get autographs (got one Blue Angel pilot's and took a picture of K. with him - she was thrilled), then made the hike BACK to the car where we sat for 20-30 minutes before we even got the chance to get back into the main flow of traffic.

It was so very worth it. K. loved the Blue Angel's show, and after several attempts, I managed to finally catch them splitting. The picture quality itself is rather poor, but I'm sure they're much better than what the people taking pictures with their cell phones got. Out of all the pictures I took today, this one is my favorite. I'll be posting others at my flickr account tomorrow.

And with all the fun, there was bound to be a bit of a downer thrown in. The Universe likes to keep such balance, after all. A., being a natural red-head, is burned pretty good on all exposed skin areas. K., being 10 and not quite as fair-skinned as her father, is experiencing her first ever sun burn. Thankfully it's just her shoulders and the top half of her upper arms, with just a bit on her chest. She wore a tank top today. I... well, I'm a natural blond and a reformed sun-loving desert rat (I haven't spent much time in the sun at all in the past 15 years). I'm a bit charred around the edges, meaning my face is all pink and I can feel the heat it in, but I'll be fine in a day or two.

I think K. now understands why I'm always pushing her and her father to wear their sunblock, and I don't think she'll balk so much when I reach for it for a while. I haven't decided yet if I'll keep her home tomorrow or not. I'll decide in the morning when I get her up. It may be a good day to keep her home and let her sprawl on the couch and re-watch Happy Feet while her skin soaks up all the aloe gel it can handle.