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This past Lent, as I do every Lent, I went about doing an examination of conscience in preparation for the sacrament of reconciliation. One of the ways that I do this is to review a printout that I have of the Ten Commandments that also has more specific offenses relating to each Commandment. Whenever I get to “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother”, I usually tend to skip this one. My mother died almost 42 years ago; my father a little over 22 years ago so I figured this didn’t apply to me.

This year, as I was reading the chapter “Dancing for Joy” in the book Rediscover Jesus by Matthew Kelly, as part of the Best Lent Ever program, my mind began to wander.

 

The more we close the gap between the life we are living today and the life Jesus invites us to live through the Gospels, the more we will experience that joy.

So what stops us from closing the gap and dancing for joy?

— Kelly, Matthew. Rediscover Jesus [Kindle edition], Locations 1525-29

As my mind wandered, I realized that “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother” did apply to me. More specifically, “Honor Thy Father”. Some time after my father died, he appeared to me in a dream. He was glowing, similar to how angels are pictured to be in old paintings, although with much more light. In this dream he spoke to me. He said “Hold His hand and test the waters.”

Anyone who knew my father would know that he never spoke like that in real life. His last words to me in real life were “have a good time.” I knew this meant that he knew he was dying. He wanted to let me know that now it’s time to live my life. Since I was a teenager (he had his first stroke when I was 13), I put my life on hold to take care of him. Now, at 23, it was time to live the life I was meant to live.

“Hold His hand and test the waters” I’m sure refers to the time when Jesus told Peter to come to him, but in order to do so Peter had to walk on water. As long as Peter kept his focus on Jesus he was able to do the seemingly impossible. As soon as Peter got frightened and turned his focus away from Jesus, he began to drown.

 

When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.

— Sir Winston Churchill

By letting my anxiety take over and not trusting in God, I’m betraying what was essentially the last words my father spoke to me — the last wish my father had for me, and what God, the Father, wants for me. Letting my anxiety take over and not trusting in God prevents me from being the person God intended me to be and in all likelihood prevents me from fulfilling whatever purpose God intended for my life. And, as Matthew Kelly says, it also prevents me from feeling the joy that God intended.

So, how would I answer the question posed earlier: “So what stops me from closing the gap and dancing for joy?” I’d say my anxiety. But how do I let go and let God? So far, the only answer I get is “Just do it.” Unfortunately, it’s not that simple when dealing with chronic anxiety. Logically I know that I shouldn’t feel anxious when I do, but logic doesn’t make my anxiety go away. I need some other method of dealing with it.

I always say that books are put into our lives at just the right time. When I was pondering the questions above, I couldn’t find anything specific in the Rediscover Jesus book to help, but a non-Catholic book that I read before Lent did resonate with me. I highlighted several passages in Harnessing Your Emotions by Andrew Wommack. Perhaps I will review those again. Taken as a whole, perhaps both of these books along with prayer and scripture reading, talking to God, and listening in the quiet moments will help.

For months before my jaw surgery several years ago I would have panic attacks, then a day before the surgery, without me doing anything differently, a great peace came over me. I just knew everything was going to be OK. I’ve never forgotten that feeling. I want to feel that peace again in all that I do. I pray that God shows me the way if it is His will.

 

Where will your adventure take you and how will you go forth? Will you be like Peter, hedging your bet and looking at the storm-tossed waves? Or will you choose to see only the outstretched hand of Jesus?

–Kelly, Matthew. Rediscover Jesus [Kindle edition], Locations 1994-97

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Resolutions Revisited

Another new year is fast approaching and like many of you my thoughts turn to resolutions for that new year. Except my resolution for the new year is to continue with the resolutions I set back in 2012. Back in 2012 I made four resolutions:

1. Relearn to crochet
2. Start and finish sewing projects
3. Read all the unread books on my bookshelf
4. Start writing again

So, two years later, how am I doing with my resolutions?

1. Relearn to crochet. As you saw from my post, “One Down”, back in July of this year I completed my first new crochet project in years: a lap blanket. It “only” took me a year and a half to complete!

The next two crochet projects on my “To Do” list include a cover for my Kindle and kitchen towel toppers. Thanks to my cousin Nancy for passing along a crochet pattern book that includes the pattern for those towel toppers!

2. Start and finish sewing projects. Technically, this cross-stitch project (below) was lumped in as a sewing project, even though it’s not what one normally thinks of as sewing. Although… it does use a needle and thread!

Old Presque Isle Lighthouse Cross-stitch
This has since been framed and is waiting to be hung in our downstairs bathroom once the renovations are complete. If you’d like to see pictures of the real Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, visit my 2009 travelogue post here.

My future sewing project list includes slipcovers for the cushions on my rocking chair in the living room, a pillow for when I do yoga (if I lie on the ground without my head raised, I get very dizzy), and a book cover (yes, even though I have a Kindle, I love to read paper books too!).

3. Read all the unread books on my bookshelf. Hmm… Well… 2013 didn’t seem to be a good year for this. Judging from my reading list here, I seem to have read more newly-acquired books than books that were already on my bookshelf. I’ll try to do better in 2014.

4. Start writing again. As any of my regular readers know, this one slipped right through the cracks in 2013. My last post was in July 2013 (and even before that, my posts were sporadic). In mid-July 2013 I was appointed to Chair the Welcome Committee for our homeowners association. I assumed the role after the previous Chair could no longer fulfill her term due to personal issues. I had no idea that, even with a volunteer helping sometimes, I would spend so much time on this endeavor. As a result, my spare time has been greatly reduced and so has the time I have to spend reading, contemplating, and writing about my thoughts. Although I am happy that the Board had the confidence in me to do this job and I am pleased that I was able to organize and bring up to date some aspects of the administrative end of this job in such a short period of time, I do miss having the time to write. Perhaps when my term expires in 2016, that pull to have the time to read, contemplate, and write will be stronger and I will pass the baton on to the next Welcome Chair knowing that I have hopefully made a positive difference in the neighborhood during my tenure and that I have left my successor with more efficient systems to do his or her job going forward.

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One Down

Joyce's Crocheted Blanket 2013

One of my 2012 New Year’s resolutions was to re-learn to crochet. One of my on-going resolutions is to declutter. Combining the two when faced with a skein of yarn I didn’t know what to do with, I decided to crochet a blanket (fully aware that I would have to buy more skeins of yarn… one skein turned into four). The result is the lap blanket you see to the right. And, some left-over yarn that I will probably end up donating to the Arts & Scraps organization.

One project down, many more to go. Perhaps my next creative endeavor will be a cross-stitch project I bought a couple of years ago in Alpena, Michigan.

Note: click on the picture if you want to see more detail.

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Additions and Subtractions

Hard to believe but nearly three-quarters of a year is behind us. That also means that it’s been three-quarters of a year since I made my new year’s resolutions. Just to jog your memory, in addition to my ongoing effort to declutter, my 2012 new year’s resolutions are:

1. Relearn to crochet
2. Start and finish sewing projects
3. Read all the unread books on my bookshelf
4. Start writing again

So, how am I doing at this three-quarter year mark? Well…

1. Relearn to crochet.
Haven’t touched my crocheting since June. The last thing on my mind when the weather hits 90 degrees is crocheting a blanket. I do intend to start up again when the weather gets cooler. Hopefully I’ll have the blanket done by next summer.

2. Start and finish sewing projects.
Except for sewing up a couple of holes in a shirt, I haven’t started nor finished any sewing projects.

4. Start writing again.
Back in July, while sitting on the lawn at a Michigan State University carillon concert, I scribbled a poem. As for blog posts. Those have still been few and far between.

3. Read all the unread books on my bookshelf.
If you have been following my reading list, you’ll see that I’ve read 18 books so far this year. Pretty good, huh? Well… Eight were actual books on my bookshelves (virtual or otherwise) when I made my resolution. Two were free e-books that I acquired after the resolution was made and have since regretted letting them clutter-up my Kindle (I’ll leave it to my readers to decide which two I’m talking about). Six, the Complete Peanuts books, I also acquired after; however, I’m very glad that I made the decision to buy them. I thoroughly enjoyed reading them. Can’t wait for the next set in the series to come out! The other two were library books. And, this weekend I bicycled up to the local library to check out a couple more library books: 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith (a recommendation by a colleague. Thank you, Monique. So far I like the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books better, however.) and In Cheap We Trust by Lauren Weber (this has been on my “To-Read” list for a couple of years now, even though I can’t remember where I heard about it).

So, my new year’s resolutions have mostly fallen by the wayside. The only one that I have kept (even with detours) has been the “read all the unread books on my bookshelf.” Then, what have I been doing with my time? Surely I can’t be picking up a book every free moment I get!

Ah yes, there’s that on-going resolution to declutter. Well…

I have put a few things (emphasis on few) in our “Donate” box.

I’ve put a few more things in a box for Arts & Scraps. I know I have a few more things to sort through that I can add.

I recently sent a box of unused school supplies to Develop Africa. For years I had a bunch of unused pencils and packs of notebook paper sitting around and I often wondered where I could donate them. Although the notebook paper was from my college years (I graduated back in 1996), some of these pencils are older than I am. My father saved pencils from when he worked as a meat cutter. Many of the pencils, complete with Polish flag, advertised “Kornacki’s: Manufacturers of Quality Weiners, Sausage & Luncheon Meats. Kornacki Packing Co., Hamtramck, MI, Phone Trinity 3-4830”. As you can tell from the phone number, these pencils are quite old. It’s been decades since the first two numbers in a phone number were signaled by a word. And, although Kornacki Packing Co. seems to be out of business, there is someone with the name of Kornacki running A & R Packing Co, Inc. in Livonia, Michigan. Perhaps a grandson, or great-grandson of the original. Despite sending off the pencils, I still have a cigar box-sized box of used pencils that I’ve again started to use (used to be a pen user exclusively), so hopefully, eventually, the supply of pencils in this household will reach a reasonable quantity.

Other than that, even my decluttering has fallen by the wayside.

So, what’s been keeping me busy? Earlier this summer I decided to start on some home improvement projects. Since buying this house over two years ago, I’ve wanted to repaint a few rooms and change out the hardware on cabinets in all the bathrooms (we have 2 1/2). Not as easy as the home improvement shows make it seem. I’m also not very good when it comes to choosing colors. So, I started with the master bathroom. We already had paint that nearly matched the counter top, so I decided that was the logical place to start. Taking off the old hardware was easy. Painting was fairly easy, even with having to contort my body into various positions to be able to reach the back of the cabinets to paint them. Because the specs on cabinet hardware have changed in 40+ years, all the old holes had to be filled in, sanded down, and then re-drilled. I’m becoming more of an expert at using wood filler and sandpaper. My husband has been doing the re-drilling of holes and putting on most of the new cabinet hardware. The master bath cabinet is done and it looks much better than it did before. I still haven’t picked out a wall color. All I know is that I want a shade of yellow to match the tile in the shower.

I’ve since moved on to the half-bath downstairs. For this bathroom, I’ve picked out colors for both the trim (white) and the walls (a sandy brown). The cabinets again needed refurbishing in the same way that the master bath cabinets needed refurbishing. But, there was much more I wanted done here. I didn’t much care for the gold towel bar and the once-gold toilet paper holder. The new cabinet hardware is silver and I wanted the towel bar and toilet paper holder to match. Unfortunately, I didn’t measure our old towel bar, so the new one is shorter, and because I bought it about a year ago, I can’t return it. Although I can re-use one of the brackets, the other one had to come off. Toilet paper holders don’t come in various lengths, but the new “standard” length is longer than what they were 40+ years ago. So, again. I could re-use one of the brackets, the other had to come off. Removing the brackets was easy. Then there were the wall anchors. Not so easy. What was left was a couple of holes in the drywall. My husband has since been teaching me how to patch drywall. Once the drywall is patched and sanded, it’s back to painting. Mostly. There are also a couple of old-fashioned once-gold sconces that we want removed. Luckily my husband knows how to do electrical work. We’re just going to put covers over the holes after the sconces are removed, instead of patching the drywall. I bought a framed mirror that’s wide enough to cover up the hole covers. I’m hoping to finish the project by Thanksgiving. We’ll see what my husband’s schedule looks like…

In the meantime, another detour… because my husband told me that the drywall patching compound was not going be good for too much longer, I suggested that we move on to my home office. The previous owners used it as a bedroom and had a large mirror hanging on the wall. Shortly after buying the house my husband removed the mirror, but there are various wall anchors still embedded in the wall. And the wall that was behind the mirror is painted brown. The rest of the wall is blue. There’s currently a bookcase in front of the brown patch of wall. So, for the near future, I’ll be moving the stuff off the bookshelf, moving the bookshelf into a closet (where it was going to eventually end up anyway), and then removing wall anchors and patching drywall in my office. The downstairs bathroom will have to remain in a state of disrepair for a while longer.

Perhaps by 2013 I will have moved on to the upstairs guest bathroom. Trying to pick colors for this bathroom has been an adventure. The large two-sink counter top is a brownish/mustard yellow color (Yuck!). What matches brown/mustard yellow (or in Glidden’s color palette: Homemade Butterscotch)? I decided that I wanted something like a chocolate brown for the cabinets (and possibly trim). That should set off the silver cabinet hardware nicely. After trying Glidden’s color palette online and then matching it up with color swatches in the store, I’ve decided on Cinnamon Spice for the trim and cabinets and Antique Silver for the walls. Though I’m still not 100% sure about the Antique Silver (which is actually more bluish)… The shower curtain has some of these similar colors in it, so maybe it won’t look too weird. Maybe. Like the master bathroom, I’m still weighing my options on the wall color.

With all of the detours I have taken this year, what I’ve learned so far about my resolution-making is this: Shorten the resolution list to one or two items, especially if the resolutions are long-term projects (prioritize and simplify!).

So, the newly revised resolution list contains a few subtractions and a new addition:

1. Relearn to crochet
2. Start and finish sewing projects
1. Read all the unread books on my bookshelf
4. Start writing again
2. Finish refurbishing the downstairs bathroom.

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Six months ago I made the following resolutions, in addition to my ongoing resolution to declutter my stuff:

1. Relearn to crochet
2. Start and finish sewing projects
3. Read all the unread books on my bookshelf
4. Start writing again

So, how am I doing at the 6 month mark? Not as well as I had hoped.

1. Relearn to crochet

I’m making progress on a blanket that I started crocheting in January. I’m about a quarter of the way done. I haven’t learned that many stitches. Just the basics for now. I started this project in order to use up some yarn that I had lying around for years. But, of course, one skein will not do for a blanket so I had to buy 3 more. Not sure which is better for my decluttering: having one skein of unused yarn or, in the end, having yet another blanket lying around the house. I have a feeling my cat will be happy though. Another soft place to sleep.

2. Start and finish sewing projects.

Haven’t started or finished one. Still have the materials sitting in the closet waiting… with hopes.

3. Read all the unread books on my bookshelf.

As you can see by my reading list (see tab above) I haven’t gotten through very many books in the past 6 months. And, some books I’ve read this year haven’t even been my books. After I read the last library book, I vowed to not read another until the books on my bookshelves are all read.

4. Start writing again.

For those of you who follow my blog, you know the answer to this one. I don’t do much writing at all and haven’t written a line of poetry for a couple of years. This mostly has to do with the new schedule since we moved into our house back in 2010. I don’t get up to start my day until after my husband leaves for work. Previously, when my husband worked 50 miles away, I could get in a full day’s work and still have about an hour to think, meditate, read, or write before I had to start dinner. Now, with my husband working 4 blocks away, as soon as I leave work, I have to start dinner. No time to think, meditate, or read. And, as a consequence, no inspiration or time to write. What about evenings, you say? A second problem is that there’s no room in this house in which I can be alone with my thoughts and relax. No room in this house inspires creative thought. Unfinished home-improvement projects, clutter (not mine!), and lack of comfortable, relaxing surroundings contribute to this situation, with no end in sight.

So, how’s the decluttering coming along? This too has slowed recently, ever since I had the flu in April, the after-effects lasting an entire month. I haven’t even been doing the minimum of decluttering one item a day. But, I do manage fits and starts. Recently I cleared out 4 plastic drawers so that I can unpack a few boxes of pictures, memorabilia, and such. As a result of this clear-out, I was able to move my small file cabinet into my closet, rather than having it out in my office, and I re-arranged a few things. It’s amazing how much “lighter” the room feels when the file cabinet, an old computer, and a few other things moved out of the “living space” of the office. My next goal is to declutter enough from my other closet to fit a bookshelf in there and use it for storage. That will free up some more room in my office living space and allow me to paint a section of wall to match the rest of the room. The room is blue, this section (that was behind a mirror that the previous owners left) is brown. Eventually, when my husband is free to help, I’d like to remove the previous owner’s 1980s window treatments (multi-colored balloon valances) and put up something more suited to my taste. But, this will have to wait until after we get new windows (hopefully this year!).

As you can see, making this house a home that’s comfortable for me to live in takes more than my decluttering efforts. The list of house projects keeps growing. The time my husband has to spend on any of these keeps diminishing. I don’t have the know-how to do many of the things that need doing. Priorities keep getting shifted. And, in the end, nothing gets 100% done. In the meantime, the house looks like a construction project in progress…

And, with summer coming and late spring temps approaching summer-like highs, I’m guessing the motivation to continue with these resolutions (formal and informal) will wane ever more.

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Letting Go

It’s been about three months since I made my new year’s resolutions. So, how are things progressing?

Most of my free time in the past three months has been spent decluttering and organizing:

I’m proud to say that after starting out with files in two plastic file bins and a small two drawer file cabinet, I now have consolidated the files into only one plastic bin (old tax papers) and the small file cabinet. I still have papers to weed through and organize so that the file cabinet isn’t so stuffed, but the major work has been done. I save articles that are of interest and that I think would be useful. This was a good idea, except that once I put them in the file folders in the cabinet, I never looked at them again. Once I go through all of these articles in this process, I decided to put them in clear page protectors and then put them in three-ring binders (I have quite a few sitting around in plastic storage drawers) organized by topic. Then these binders will go on my bookshelf. That way, when browsing for something to read on my bookshelf, I have a greater than average chance at re-reading some of these articles that I clipped. It also gives me a chance to use some of the three-ring binders that I (and my husband) had kept since college.

A couple of years ago I set out to price the cards in my baseball card collection. I used a standard price guide to determine value, and then wanted to contact Kruk Cards in Rochester, Michigan to see what they would offer me. Then we moved out of the metro-Detroit area. I couldn’t find a similar establishment in the area where I live now, so I decided to go online and find out more about what buyers were offering others for cards similar to mine. Turns out that my cards, most of them from the 1980s, were basically worthless. My husband said that I should find some kids that would want them. How was I supposed to do that? So, I posted on my Facebook page that I wanted to give more than 2,300 baseball cards to whoever wants them for free. I got no takers. So, I got back online again and after a while found the non-profit Sports Cards for Kids. They’re looking for donations of sports cards of any kind and the donations go to The Boys and Girls Club, a children’s hospital, and a couple of children’s homes in North Carolina. This felt like a good place to donate my cards. I re-packaged them up last week and sent them off this past weekend.

In my decluttering of files I ran across a print out for Arts & Scraps, a charity in Detroit that provides art and crafting supplies and kits to classrooms and organizations to foster creativity in both children and adults, including those with developmental disabilities. I craft and sew, but I also have craft supplies and material from past projects that I no longer wanted and until finding this brochure (and double-checking online to make sure that this organization still existed), I didn’t know what to do with. Two weekends ago I donated a large box of supplies and have another, smaller, box mostly full. I’m still going through my stuff so I’ll probably have more to donate. I also vowed not to buy any more crafting/sewing supplies until all of my currently unfinished projects are finished.

Except

I was inspired by a post on one of the minimalist blogs that I read, one dealing with “good” china that is never used. The blogger and commenters basically said “why not use it?” I decided to do something with a sweater that my aunt, my mother’s sister, gave me years ago. The sweater was my mother’s, but really had no meaning to me other than it belonged to my mother. For more than 10 years it sat in a plastic bag in my memory box taking up space. In fact, I forgot what it even looked like. I first got the idea to make the sweater into a throw pillow. In my planning I decided to take the sweater out of the plastic bag and realized that even though I remembered it being a pullover style, it was actually a cardigan. Well, can’t make it into a pillow (or, if it was possible, it would be too complicated for my sewing skills), so I abandoned that idea. I also remembered it being very small, but when I took it out of the bag, it actually looked like it would fit me. So, I tried it on. It fit perfectly. Now, the winter white, black, and grey pattern isn’t exactly me, so to speak, and, the buttons didn’t all match perfectly, but I decided that I would stop storing the sweater and actually wear it from time to time. I’ve worn it three times already, and now the style doesn’t look as dated to me as when I first put it on and I’m liking the pattern better too now. But, something has to be done with those buttons! So, while I was out this weekend I picked up some plain black buttons to replace the mismatched white/yellowed buttons on the sweater. Add one more sewing project to the stack…

All in all, stuff to keep is slowly being organized, shelves are being cleared, storage bins are emptying, and more and more boxes of stuff are going to various charities. Hopefully by my next quarterly update I’ll have made significant progress on my other resolutions to crochet, sew, read, and write.

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Burdens

A couple of weeks before 2012 began I stopped playing Farmville and resolved to do the following with all the free time I was going to have:

1. Relearn to crochet
2. Start and finish sewing projects
3. Read all the unread books on my bookshelf
4. Start writing again

These goals are part of a larger picture. Feeling burdened by all the stuff in my life I decided to reassess things, both physical and psychological. First reassessment came with Farmville. In the beginning it was a fun diversion. But, more recently, the more I played, the more I realized it was just something to kill time and not something that I was truly enjoying. And, the more I thought about it, the time spent doing this something that I was not truly enjoying was taking time away from things that I did, at least at one time, enjoy. So, I made the decision to stop playing. But, now what?

Again, feeling burdened by the stuff in my life, I decided to be mindful of what I had and mindful of what I bring into this house. I have to ask myself: Do I have a spot in my life (the life I want) for this? If not, it gets donated, or tossed in the garbage or recycling bin. And in the case of new things, not get bought at all.

An ongoing project this. Perhaps throughout the year, I’ll stop again and re-evaluate my progress. Hopefully a year from now my burdens will be lightened and I will have made room for the truly enjoyable.

As of this writing, I have already made progress:

1. Organized my address book and vowed NOT to save address labels from friends and relatives. I will now, upon opening a letter or card, double-check to see whether I have the most up-to-date address in my address book. If so, the address label gets tossed. If not, I will enter the new address immediately, then toss the label out.

2. I started crocheting a sampler blanket. So far I’ve relearned the chain stitch, the single crochet and the half-double crochet stitches.

3. Almost finished reading We Were the Mulvaneys, by Joyce Carol Oates. This book is definitely NOT a keeper. It goes in the donate pile.

4. Organized two drawers in my office closet. Now the envelopes are actually in the drawer marked “Envelopes”. In the process I found some mementos from long ago. Some that no longer have meaning were tossed, others will be donated. And, in among them was a beloved pendant that was my mother’s. For years I thought that maybe it somehow got accidentally donated or tossed away. I was very thankful to learn that it did not!

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