January 22, 2016

Motherhood Parables: The Walk-in Closet

Here's number three of my Motherhood Parable Series:

The Parable of the Walk-in Closet
I always wanted a walk-in closet! When we first got married we lived in an apartment. Two different apartments, actually. The closets were so tiny, I thought them a joke. (Really, they were standard small room closets, just not a walk-in). And I loved clothes! I had a bunch and I love wearing different layers and types of clothes to match the seasons. >I< NEEDED my walk-in closet.

Well, it wasn't until we bought our new house that I got my walk-in closet. It wasn't a big closet, but the fact you could step in, turn around and go back out made it it a walk-in. I thought, "This is ok, it's close enough."  But it wasn't the walk-in closet I really wanted! In fact, I still had two boxes of clothes in storage and a huge sweater box/trunk at the end of our queen bed.

Anyway, as dreams of a big walk-in closet with tons of shelves and places of all sorts of knick-knacks and such ran through my head, I started feeling like I had too many clothes. My problem was that I just kept accumpulating thrift-store clothes and donations and rarely got rid of them. I would "make do and wear them out" and then get rid of them. That is a good practice, in theory. However, I realized that I didn't wear most of the clothes, and that they were more of a burden to me in having to deicide what to wear and how to match things, than a blessing.

So, I started getting rid of anything that I felt was just "blah."
Then I got rid of anything Paul hated.
Then I got rid of things that I just had since high school that made me feel like a little kid, instead of the mother of three that I am.
Then I started going through things that looked worn, old, etc.
Then I started paying attention to colors and styles. And I got rid of colors that washed me out. And styles that didn't flatter my body type or my personality.

Four trash bags later I narrowed my stuff down to one trash bag full of clothes. About three shirts in each color, and six in the neutrals. About 6 skirts/dresses. About 8 shoes. A box of layering tees in the colors I love that coordinate with the colors of shirts I liked. I now had a basic color palette in my closet which made mix-n-matching much easier. And my closet soon wasn't looking so full.

Not only the closet, but the closet result overflowed into narrowing my jewerly and accessories down. I got rid of my jewelry box and just kept those things that were meaningful and matched my specific color pallet.

I still honestly. feel like I have too much stuff. Too many clothes. Too many shoes. Too many necklaces. And so on.... But I have come a long way. And you know what? I never even think about a bigger walk-in Closet now. I just bought a few closet organizer boxes for simple keeping of my specific clothing articles. A shelf for workout clothes. Box for socks. Box for underwear, etc. We even got rid of our night stands and dresser! And everything fits in our closet perfectly. And we have just one box for seasonal clothes that we keep at the top.

In fact, I even got rid of my lime colored shoes that I liked. Just because I'd bought them right after my mission and thought it was my spark of uniqueness back then. But I don't need that anymore. And I don't want to feel like a teenager, or in that stage of life. I've moved on to a new phase. It's so delightfully freeing!

Lessons Learned:

  • Our clothes make a statement. And since finding purpose and meaning in how I dress myself, I feel more purposeful and intentional in creating the life I desire.
  • I had too much stuff! It's easy to accumulate, but takes work to let go. Am I willing to think through those things?
  • "Wear it out and make do" works, if you are using it and like it. But if not...give it to someone who will use it more than you!
  • Better understanding my personality and what I like and want helps me choose and stick to a set look and feel that make me happy, instead of just wearing whatever is around, or trying to match other's styles or personalities. and it makes picking out clothes and shopping a breeze! More mental energy for the other things I really need to focus on.
  • More or bigger isn't always better. I frequently don't need more. I simply need to evaluate what I have and align it with what I want. The leftovers need to disappear. This creates not more stuff and greater organization. But rather, less stuff that is high quality and more meaningful and simplifying in it's effects.

So...what stuff do you just keep because it's around and you already paid for it?
Is the motivation of holding things a fear of letting go?
Are you too emotionally connected to the past and items that are holding you back in your maturing and moving into whatever season of life you are currently in?
Could you picture things you own on someone else, instead of you?

Motherhood Parables: The Messy High Chair

Here is the second parable from motherhood that has come to mind frequently...namely everytime I clean the high chair (daily).

The Parable of the Messy High Chair
We have a one year old baby. And boy does she love throwing food and squishing food all over her high chair and floor. I'm always surprised at how food gets in the most-inconvenient-to-clean corners of that chair. And I'm also surprised at the amazing sticking power sweet potato and other foods have. once dried. Some I would compare to the power of super glue! Seriously...not fun. Anyone who saw our high chair when baby first started eating would've thought I never cleaned it.

I wipe things down quickly if I get a chance. But frequently I don't get it all before it hardens. So Some would just pile on and I'd have crusty mountains piling up on the sides betweent he bars. Don't judge me as being a bad mom because of my messes! :)

Anyway, the first few months I didn't want to clean that high chair because it always involved a half hour of scraping and strenuous work. I used a pastry scraper. IT wasn't fun trying to scratch and force all those pieces of hardened gunk off...and especially in the corners.

IT wasn't until I stopped and actually thought about my approach and wondered. "Is this the best approach? Then I thought about my washing dishes. If a dish was left on the oven and the food remnants hardened in the pot, I always tell Paul to soak it over night and then I'll wash it in the morning. I'd rather spend two minutes washing it the next day, than Paul's 30 minutes trying to scrub it out late that night.

Isn't it the same with the high chair?
So I sprayed it with lemon water and went back ten minutes later with my rag and got most of it accomplished just fine, without a scraper.

Lessons learned: 
I am not the best cleaner.
I don't like cleaning things when I don't know how to do it well and it takes a ton of my effort, time, and energy.
Lemon water and a good soak is often times what crusty old dried food needs to get clean.
And I should just clean it up before it dries--but that's the ideal and honestly...not gonna happen as often as I'd like.

I think about this all the time in lmy life. What are my approaches to the things I do?
I especially think about it a lot with homeschool. Are things easier or harder than they should be?
What feels natural and nice and what feels forced and hard to do?

So, I will keep this question in my mind. And every time I see my high chair. :)

Motherhood Parables: The Wood Floor

There are so many lessons to draw from simple daily experiences that I decided to start a mini-series called "Motherhood Parables." There are two in particular that I think about a lot. One experience is about our new wood floor.

The Parable of the Wood Floor
This is s story about two people and a common floor--and the transformation that resulted.

Take Me, Shelley: I grew up shopping at thrift stores, garage sales, dollar stores...you get the point. I loved getting a good deal! I loved having tons of variety and exploring various styles, etc. My Dad would go garage sale-ing all the time and come back with the results  of "a good deal" all the time. It's what we did and how we stayed within our budget and lived "simply."

Then there's Paul: We aren't opposites exactly, but he definitely didn't grew up the same way. I don't even think he stepped into a thrift store unless he needed a costume for an event. And he certainly didn't like the dollar store and would frequently ask me why I bought "cheap junk " from there that is just going to break.

Now saving money and finding deals is a good way to go. It's especially great for if we have kids and they are just going to trash their clothes anyway. Might as well not spend $20 on something that will only last a month or two before they ruin it. But, does buying junk get our children use to being ok treating things like junk? A question I've never pondered until we were surrounded by junk and by kids' careless habits. Were they just kids? Or was this a habit learned from my shopping tendencies? Hmm...question to ponder.

So...imagine us moving into a nice new home. It was a quick-move-in home--which means that the builders had picked out all the interior details and such. Which was nice for us, because we didn't know what we wanted, and were just fine with the espresso-colored cabinets and silver fixtures. However, after years of living in it, our tastes have started to change--to develop.

Last summer I kept staring at our junky linoleum  kitchen floor and cheapest possible carpet. So cheap you can practically see through it and all sorts of surprises get caught down in it. I never really minded before, because I thought, "We have kids, it's perfect for now." But as I stared and stared, I wondered, "Why? Why do we have these things I actually don't like?" The answer was easy--"That's just the way is came. It was what I was used to."

As I thought about that I imagined what type of floor I wanted to have. And I saw a beautiful wood floor. As I pictured it, I felt uplifted and refreshed. I felt more beauty and joy. So I posed the question to Paul. He thought and thought. Then we shopped around a little just to amuse ourselves. But we thought, "We don't need a new floor. That's silly. Let's make do with what we have."

"Let's Make Do with what we have." --That's another parable I'll expound on.

But for now, I realized that there was some reason I couldn't explain of why I needed a new wood floor that cost money and was an inconvenience to put in. We were able to use our stove for a week and also have to move the fridge and dishwasher. It was hard. But it gave up new opportunities to think about the things we do daily without thinking about it. So we went ahead with the new wood floor. For some reason it just made sense to both of us from somewhere outside our logical minds.

With no oven, I was able to spend a week thinking about how to eat without one. We used a Thermal Cooker and a portable gas stove and I learned some emergency preparedness tactics. Cool! I normally wouldn't have self-imposed that experience on myself. But this was an opportunity.

We never use the dishwasher anyway, so I thought. Wow. I like having this space empty for my step-stool and recycle bin. Let's just get rid of this. Convention says everyone has one, but we don't use it...so why have it. Now that's gone.

The fridge...it was a pain to move, but was doable and there really is nothing special about that. So on we go with the story.

We decided on an orange bamboo floor that was on sale. Paul got a few tools for laying wood floor, And after a few weeks. Voila. In was the floor. (To this day we still haven't finished the edges) But the floor is amazing. IT transformed our home. The feeling is totally different! Our kitchen linoleum and great room carpet made the area feel like two different rooms. Now the space is extremely open. The color just contrasts and complements the espresso cabinets and beige walls so perfectly balanced, with a general warmth that exudes over the whole area.

I thought to myself, "How did we go so long without this amazing piece that creates such a strong change in our home?" And the answer..."We didn't know any better. We hadn't thought of it before. We weren't used to or experienced with wood floors. It just never occurred to us--the potential."

Now I'm not saying everyone needs a wood floor. It's like a haircut. Different cuts for different face shapes and blah, blah blah. But...we finally have something that fits us, our personality, our home atmosphere we are going for. And when those all align--wow. There is true harmony.

Now, i have to tell you. I'm a horrible deep cleaner most of the time. Paul will readily admit that he deep cleans our bathrooms. I, on the other hand, would rather organize and find a home for everything in the house. I know exactly where everything is. But Paul always notices when things aren't clean. We just have different focuses. I tidy up. He cleans.

So with the new wood floor, it requires extra care. Such quality needs to be well-maintained. Paul questioned how I was going to keep it clean, since I struggled keeping the linoleum clean. And the answer has been it isn't a problem. Why? I love my floor. I appreciate and value it so much--it brings me joy--that I can't help but want to take care of it and clean it. I realize the importance of not letting water sit on it too long or it will ruin it. So I take care of it. I have tools to take care of it, so it is easy for me. And we established rules for the kids so they too understand the importance of being gentle and careful with it.

The result?
Well, the transition was hard at first, for the kids. And we got some scratches from kids not thinking or not understanding the effect of certain toys being dragged accross, etc. But overall now, the kids get it. Ethan has to clean up his floor messes right away. We put felt pads under some furniture that could scratch. I sweep at least once a day--but I was doing that already. And the list goes on.

My Lesson: by having quality that fit our needs, desires and feel of our home. And by establishing rules and a foundation of appreciation and understanding the floor and reasons why we treated the floor well. We set expectations that our children rose up to. They aren't as reckless and have more awareness. They understand what good quality is. They appreciate nature and know where wood comes from and how certain things do and don't work with wood--so they better appreciate nature. And I understand better why I never liked cleaning--I didn't value the result or the materials. It was a task to do, instead of the results to be pleased with. I realize I have transformed. I love quality when it matters and am ok spending a little extra (though still on sale) if it will benefit and transform me and my family or our house to better reach our ideal and potential.

There are many other lessons and things I could go on about, but this is running much longer than expected. So if you read this whole thing. Give yourself a pat on the back. You made it through.
And hopefully there is something helpful for you in this.

 Life is about learning and transforming and getting better acquainted with our true potential. What is your true potential. How are you transforming? What new experiences and opportunities surround you?

January 11, 2016

Einstein Quotes

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” 

“If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.” 

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” 

“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.” 

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” 

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.” 

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” 

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” 

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” 

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” 

“You never fail until you stop trying.” 

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” 

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” 

“Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.” 

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” 

January 2, 2016

New Year: Looking ahead for 2016

Ok...it's that time of year we turn over a new leaf and begin again. Who's ready to Renew their efforts?

I always think of in the scriptures in Luke 2 where it talk about Christ's younger years. There's not much known of that special time in his life, but I like these two thoughts:

1. When his parents couldn't find him and search all over, they eventually found him days later in the temple. His response? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (v.49)

2. Then the summary of Jesus's daily efforts and the direction he was focused in...“Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” (v.52)

Little do we know of the particulars, but those two thoughts are a parallel for us...to establish a framework:
1. What is my mission, within God's framework?

2. How do I improve myself in the various roles and in the different realms (social, physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, etc.)?

Keep in mind...this isn't striving and hard core goals to make you cry. This is uncovering and becoming in-tune with your desires inside you. And then finding order and balance in your life to help it roll forward.

So, here is a simple visual to help breakdown your vision into functional and feasible plans.... It even looks like an eye or target. :)
(Instructions for the visual...and then examples beneath.)
1. First establish your core priority and foundation of the Spiritual dimension. (There isn’t much room for this, so I normally do a separate section on the bottom.) For me, I typically focus on this beautifully simple scripture that prioritizes my focus:

Matt 22:35-40
Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.So here's 
a glimpse into a simple, general tool I use each year to reestablish my focus. It is a visual I draw in the back of my journal (so I know right where to find and refer to it often).

2. Then For each category, on the outer side, write a vision statement of how you see your best self—the ideal.  And in the inside write some goals and details needed to get you closer to that ideal. The key is that you establish a vision--and  a plan to work towards it. Not that you hit it exactly...but that you are working towards a higher aim daily.
3. If things are too hard or you don’t feel motivated to work towards it, adjust your goals. Your vision is a beautiful thing. Don’t make your goals blur your vision or make it feel heavier than it should be. You are great and the potential is within you already. Your vision is just better aligning your view of your own potential. Clear off those temporal glasses of present circumstance or looking back, and begin to BE who you already are, but have forgotten.

Example: Spiritual
I want to live my fullest potential and be in-tune with the spirit to know and act on what Heavenly Father needs of me for the benefit of others.
- feast in the scriptures daily: asking questions and writing answers
- invite uplifting music into my life when need extra support
- pray daily for opportunities to serve and give

I want to see goodness and truth in the things I read and learn about and seek a variety of opportunities to expand my views and cultural experiences.
- read a book a month
- try an ethnic recipe each month
- invite people into my home to share a cultural experience
- ask people I know to explain thing to me that I don't know much about

Example: Emotional
I want to have an awareness of my feelings and the feelings of those around me. Being present with those I'm with--thus knowing how to empathize with those in need. Being cheerful always through receiving all things with a grateful, childlike heart.
- write in my journal to get out my thoughts and feelings at least weekly, if not nightly
- use prayer as a way to get out my feelings and thoughts and work through them, turning them over to Him so I can best be objective in my judgments
- slow down and take time to just listen. Less talking.
- Reciprocate any and all forms of giving in word, deed, etc.

Hopefully that will get you started in the right direction.... Just remember life is not a race. Don't push yourself. "Men are that they may have joy." And joy can be found in aligning our vision and priorities and then as we daily seek help in realigning with those, God can provide us the opportunities and pieces to fit into our vision and get us closer from point A to B. We don't have to do all the work. Just set the course and be prepared to follow. :) Happy journey 2016!

Also, for those who are interested in chakras or symbology, etc. I do this same thing for more areas and it is so meaningful for me in deepening my understanding and appreciation for all those areas of my understanding too. SO I invite you to try it if you are familiar with the seven chakras, or however many you want for numbers. Maybe one day I'll post a big thing on that and some other perspectives on self-improvement and gratitude. What matters is that the tool you use if helpful or meaningful for you.