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Thursday, May 1, 2014

May looks to be promising in so many ways

Dear friends (and I do think of you as friends, you've been so kind and supportive, and offered so many valuable ideas),

Sometimes life just keeps on spinning and spinning, until you realize that it has spun out of control. You don't know how you got there, but your life is now too full, too complicated, and spread too thin.

This is where I found myself in early April. I had said "yes" so many times to so many people, that I couldn't do everything that I was committed to, and do it all well. This is key. If I do something, I want to do it well. So, I spent the second half of April attempting to take some of the "busy" out of my life.

There's a lot of common wisdom on how to unwind a too-tight life. For the last few weeks, I've been trying to implement many of these suggestions, such as:

  • spend some time choosing what will be your priorities. This is a no-brainer for me, most of the time. Serving God, my friends and family are what and who matter most.
  • begin saying "no" to people and things that don't reflect your new priority list. So, I've begun doing this more. I realized that I don't need a long, expanded reason why I can't contribute time to something. Just a simple, "oh, I'm so sorry, but I have something on my calendar that day". And that is true, I have ME on my calendar that day.
  • use a calendar and only fill it partially. This is really freeing. When I allow myself to have fewer appointments on my calendar, I actually achieve more concerning my list of priorities (see the first point). How much a person fills their own calendar will depend on how much activity they can not merely tolerate, but also find enjoyment from.
  • find the "good thing" about each of your commitments. Sometimes the "good thing" is time to do something you never find time to do at home. Sitting in the dentist's waiting room while kids have their appointments gives me time to read that book I've got sitting on my night stand. Other people might bring cross-stitch, knitting, quilt-piecing projects to fill the time. I also like to bring a pad of paper and pen, and detail the next day's activities, or plan the next month's dinner menus. In a grueling 1 1/2 hour wait during appointments this past month, I was able to plan the entire month of May's dinner menus. Had I not put that time to good use, I would have flipped through the waiting room's magazine selection for about 30 minutes, then grown restless, and watched the clock for the remaining hour.                                                                                 Another way to find that "good thing" for me, has been to bring an audio book, to listen to on long solo drives. I've had many late evening pick-ups from university for one of my daughters this quarter. The bus schedules don't suit late nights on campus. So, I find myself driving downtown to pick up one daughter, on a regular basis. Instead of bemoaning these long, long drives, I bring a book on CD with me, to listen to, not just while on the road, but while sitting in the parked car waiting for my daughter to finish up with ushering duties.
  • schedule "vacations" from your normal routine. Instead of a week of household chores, I've set aside entire weeks to tackle large chores, such as getting our outdoor area ready for summer cook-outs. I gave myself permission to let the mopping and dusting slide for the week. And, I recently just "gave" myself a two-week vacation from blogging (and other projects). I was able to accomplish quite a lot by not having my thoughts split between so many areas of daily life.
  • give yourself a needed day off from all work every once and again. I am trying harder with this one. My goal is once a fortnight to do something just for the joy of it. One day while cleaning out the junk drawer, I came upon a bottle of my kids' bubbles. It was a beautiful, sunny April day. So, I went outside and blew bubbles for about 30 minutes. This was sheer joy, and could in no way be construed as "work". So worth it. And I would suggest you try this some day when life feels to be nothing but drudge work. For joy on a larger scale this month, what day could be better for doing something just for oneself than Mother's Day? I have plans to visit a local botanical garden with my family on this Mother's Day. Have you planned anything special for your day this month?
  • in at-home work time, work at something enjoyable that still fills the bill of doing "work". This I am very good at. I love baking, and I often will bake and skip the other housework for the day (okay, so maybe that's a bit out of balance, the house could use at least a pick-up at some point in the day). When I combine fun with productivity, life feels good. A few days ago, I made the year's supply of vanilla extract, and thoroughly enjoyed the entire process. I have a particular method for getting maximum flavor from vanilla beans. I'll post that in later this month, as well as how I get vanilla beans for free (and you can too). I also took the time to make a huge batch of pie pastry which I rolled and put in tins for the freezer. In going through my selection of pie tins and plates, I counted 8 assorted pie tins. So I made a double batch of dough (enough for 10 single crusts), filled all 8 tins, then rolled up the remaining 2 portions onto empty waxed paper and foil cardboard tubes (I can use these 2 for top crusts). (Here's a pie pastry post from a couple of years ago. There's a link to the fool-proof recipe I use there as well.) Summer pie season is underway here, with the rhubarb harvest in full swing. Having the crusts all ready to go means I can throw together a pie in about 10 minutes. 
In late April, I made quite a bit of progress in the area of unwinding my too-tight life. I hope to carry this through May, as well. One change I am making with creative savv is I'll be posting fewer times per month, but still on a regular basis. As I'll be writing fewer blog posts, I'll be using facebook more often for some of my smaller frugal activities. Yes, it looks like May shall be a very good month, indeed!

Now get out those bubbles and start blowing!
Cheers, my dear friends,


  1. Good morning!! I kept checking the blog daily...just in decided to come back early!! Imagine my delight when I clicked on my favorites list and you had posted!! And this post was RIGHT ON TIME!! Thank you! Such a freeing post! Your Georgia friend, Lona

  2. Hi Lona,
    It's really great to have made time to be back to blogging! I've missed connecting with all of you.
    I hope your part of Georgia hasn't been touched by the bad weather.
    Have a great day!

  3. Our area wasn't hit, but about 30 miles south of here suffered from severe wind damage. Downed trees and such. I thank God for His protecting hand. Lona

    1. So glad that your area is okay, and very sorry for those not so fortunate.

  4. Great post Lili! I'm glad you're handling this time of feeling stretched in all directions with your customary wisdom.

    1. Thank you, Sarah!
      I think this is an area of my life that I'll need to keep coming back to and examining on an on-going basis.

  5. We all need to regroup sometimes and I'm glad that you've taken time to do it for yourself. I love to blow bubbles. I take them to work sometimes and put them on my desk for anyone who wants a little diversion. Everyone likes it.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      What a great idea, to bring bubbles to work! Blowing bubbles is the ultimate de-stressor, as you have to slow down in order to blow them properly. You can't be in a rush or you won't get any bubbles! Great idea!

  6. There's some really good tips here, Lili! You have such a wonderful, positive outlook, too!

  7. I wouldn't have thought to check to see if you were back except I saw that you commented on another blog ... welcome back! And know that I was laughing when I read that sometimes you skip dusting. Well, sometimes, I actually do the dusting I should have done ages ago! I believe dust provides a protective coating for my furniture ... ok, I just hatehatehate doing it!!!!!!!!

    You know, I have *learned* all of your points that you wrote about many times in the past, but it seems like I frequently need reminders. Maybe I should bookmark this page for my own personal reference when (not if!) my life spins out of control again.

    On a completely different note--love your picture with the china/flowers/beadboard. We installed beadboard in our kitchen during the reno and my old-fashioned soul loves it.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Thanks! I missed connecting with all of you, and just had to come back!

      Ugh, dusting! I've got a very dusty table in the entry hall calling my name. I like your thinking -- its a protective coating. It also reduces glare.

      I poured through vintage kitchen books before doing our kitchen, and fell in love with the look of beadboard. It just speaks happy family, gathered around the kitchen table at the end of the day. I wish I could see photos of your reno! You need to start a blog!

    2. Hmm, reducing glare ... I'll add that to my list of excuses ...

      I have many old magazines (Victoria, anyone???) that I looked through for inspiration, and I always came back to white cabinetry with beadboard walls. Bonus that beadboard is inexpensive. I LOVE my kitchen. It's not grand but it's light and charming. I found online instruction for window cornices made with fabric, batting, and duct-taped foam insulation boards, and I am ridiculously pleased with how they turned out. I found a tablecloth on clearance at Target that I fell in love with so that was the fabric I used. Both large-ish windows now have cornices for under $30 for both. Yes, sometimes I think it would be so much fun to have a blog to share these ideas with (and for tricks to deal with wonky situations that we all encounter in our homes!) but I think right now that would push me over the edge and make me feel overwhelmed. Maybe later ... if I do, you know I'll be coming to you for advice!!!!!!!!!

    3. Those Victoria magazines may have resale value on ebay. Several years ago I was looking for a particular issue and found it on ebay.

      I totally get how a blog could push one over the edge!! I won't push, promise!

  8. I learned a valuable sentence from a very dear friend." I know should be expected that I will say yes but right now I just have to say no" I only wish I had heard it earlier. It is the perfect "no" without offense or without being defensive. It has allowed me to say "yes" to things I really want to do or feel are very important

    1. Hi Anne,
      That is a very good answer for when you're asked to do something that you haven't time or energy! You sound gracious, while still saying "no".
      Thanks for sharing that!


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