Monday, July 27, 2015

Super Summer #5: Rearranging and Repurposing at Home

Hello friends! Welcome back to my Super Summer series!

Since I've got some extra time before school starts again, we've been doing a bit of shuffling stuff around in this house. Why?
  • We decided to move out of our rented storage unit to save money. The younger two boys weren't putting their closets to good use, so we moved lots of the bins and boxes into them and others into our storage room. I should mention that after our tenth child was born years ago, we converted our garage into a huge bedroom (now used by those two boys), along with a storage room / laundry area.
  • Our dog had soiled the two boys' carpet in the same place a few times and we couldn't get the odor out. So their dad removed the carpet, painted the concrete, and brought in two area rugs. During that process, he also removed some of the furniture that wasn't being used.
  • My fifth daughter is leaving for college in two weeks, so she's moving out of her bedroom, and her teenage sister will move into it. I've been in there helping her pack clothes, books, and papers. Some of it will go in the storage room.
  • I am trying to de-junk the whole house and put more efficient and effective systems into place.
Do you want to see a few pictures of how I've rearranged and repurposed what we already have? I'm hoping this might spark some ideas of what you could do at your house.

One of my sons wasn't using this cart with 10 drawers that a neighbor had given us a few years ago. It sat in the dining room until I decided to use it for filing. It sits next to my desk in my bedroom. It is much easier for me to pull out a shallow drawer to find papers than to unwedge a file folder from a big stuffed drawer or rack. I read years ago that this kind of horizontal filing is often better for fluid/random/non-linear thinkers like me. At first, I labeled the drawers with dry erase markers until I could finalize what I wanted where.

Once I figured that out, I wiped off the marker and attached labels: cosmetics (OK, so those aren't papers to file, but it keeps them handy), money, home school, public school, Mom's health, kids' health, home, events, Mom, and miscellaneous.

On to another room...

Here is the storage & laundry area a couple of weeks ago. Notice the overflowing hampers on the right. There were even more behind the box - probably 8 total! Each hamper had a jumble of dirty clothes from a bunch of different kids, and no one wanted to go digging to see what was theirs, so they had sat there for a long time taking up room. I dumped them all on the floor and sorted into hampers by clothing owner. Then I washed and dried load after load until they were almost all gone. I also banished the excess hampers. The new rule is that you don't bring your clothes to the laundry room until you are ready to put them in the washer. I don't want that many clothes accumulating ever again! I also gave the whole area a much needed sweeping. Imagine the dust bunnies!

I moved this hutch with shelves to where the hampers had been. The hutch had been on top of a son's dresser collecting junk. It was already in the laundry area until we could figure out what to do with it next, so I just scooted it over and filled it with paper goods and cleaning supplies that we buy in bulk at Sam's Club. This clears up other space in the storage room for my daughter to stash some of her stuff. I'll try to keep empty laundry baskets tucked under the bottom shelf, ready for taking clothes out of the dryer.

While I was at it, I cleared all of the junk off of the top of the dryer and wiped everything down. Then I put a plastic bin there to hold the detergent and spray cleaner, and another small plastic container to hold the dryer sheets. I'm planning to repaint the old cupboards above the washer and dryer. Then I'm going to print, frame, and hang photos from our North Carolina vacation to brighten up the room.

This had been a small dresser in the storage room next to the younger boys' room. We used it for storing some of the papers goods that I moved to the hutch. The drawers were breaking, so I took them out. I removed the full cardboard box from the top of it, and put it inside the shell of the dresser. There was another cardboard box on top filled with home school high school text books that I never intend to use again. I pulled it out of there to get ready to sell or give away. Little by little! The two bins that are now on top are for me to put clean clothes belonging to those two boys. They can pick them up on their way into their bedroom. 

This is the "new" floor in the boys' bedroom. I am thankful that their dad spent a few days pulling up the carpet, removing the tacks, and then cleaning, patching, priming, and painting the concrete.

The moving boxes and bins are piling up outside my daughter's bedroom! She's off to UF for her junior year soon, our first to go to school outside of the Orlando area!

My daughter, a sculpture major, is taking most of her art work with her. I am borrowing her whimsical bust of Marie Antoinette (on top of a cake) until she leaves. She's done some amazing fresco paintings that I am going to miss seeing!
That's all for now!

What can you do at your house?

Here's a little more inspiration for organizing from Fiona at Slow Cup of Tea: What is the Purpose of Our Home?

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Super Summer #4: Remembering My Mother

Dear friends,

It's been two years to the day since my sweet mother, Mary Quarrier, passed away after complications from back surgery. I've been thinking of this for days. We all miss her so much.

While I was clearing off bookcases last week, I pulled out one of my mother's old Bibles - this one a Living Bible from the 1980's. She loved rainbows. The Bible case had a rainbow on it, and you can see the rainbow ribbons and butterfly bookmark. 

The rainbow also used to be a logo for the Cursillo / Walk to Emmaus retreat movements which she appreciated so much. According to one page about Cursillo, the colors each had symbolic meaning:

  • Green denotes new life ... growth.
  • Blue denotes new life ... commitment to God, His Church, His people.
  • Purple denotes our dying and rising again along with that of Christ Jesus suffering.
  • Orange and Yellow denote warmth, light, promise of hope like that of candles.
  • Red denotes celebration, joy and confirmation.

I also have one of her journals from the early 1980's. She had been taking notes on a book or a sermon, I think. This is what she wrote about making decisions within God's will:

  1. Is it an expression of our relationship with God?
  2. Will it bring us into deeper union with him?
  3. Does it express to others what he has been to us?
  4. Will it extend the Kingdom of God in and around us?
  5. Is it in keeping with the long range goals which have been discovered in prolonged meditation?
  6. Do we want to do it with a "converted wanter"?
  7. Is it consistent with the 10 Commandments and the message of the Master?
  8. Try it on in our imagination. Follow through to what our life would be like if we did it.
  9. Have we relinquished it in total surrender to our Lord?
  10. Do we have inner peace?

Have you accomplished the reason for which you were born? If not, why not? If not now, when?

I especially like #8 and the note at the bottom. I had been listening to Parker Palmer's audio book Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, and musing about who I was made to be, how I can live out my unique purpose according to my core values, using the gifts that God gave within me. (Note: If you live in Seminole County, Florida you can listen to it for free on Hoopla via this link: Let Your Life SpeakThey also have access to all sorts of major magazines that you can read for free on-line. If you live elsewhere, check to see what your library has available.)

I know I'll be reading more of my mom's journal in the coming days. It's interesting that I saw it today since I've been pondering recently what my mother would say to me now if we could have a conversation. There are so many things I'd love to discuss with her and advice I'd love to ask her as I think through decisions I am making. These notes help me, even if she didn't know she was writing forward into the future for me. I think about choices she made, transitions she went through, struggles she endured. She had a gift for adapting to the challenges of life. She was kind and generous and helpful. There are so many ways I want to follow her examples.

Here is one of the verses highlighted in her Bible:

And here is my eulogy at her memorial service:

  I've been in bed most of the day with a bad headache, so I don't have the mental energy to write more now. I already have plenty of blog posts about her, the grief process, and hymns that we either sang at her funeral or that I associate with her. You can find them here:

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Super Summer #3: A Little Bit of This and That

Dear friends,

Happy Sunday! It's "a little bit of this and that" in this week's Super Summer post.

Do you like sleeping in? So do I when I can get away with it! I think I went a little overboard one day last week, though. On Friday, I posted on Facebook:

I think this is the first time I have slept in until 11 and woken up with no idea it was so late. I had to Google "what time is it" to confirm that no one had changed my iPhone time. I thought it was around 9, which is still way late for me to get up. 
Ha! So I was feeling under the weather for a few days and my sleep schedule got really odd. Last night I crashed around 8 PM. At least I woke up before 7 AM, and I had a lovely quiet morning. Yes, I'm feeling better.

Since I had some extra time before leaving for church, I decided to putter around at my desk. This may seem like an obsession since I've blogged about it so often, but since I am such a word person, any place that gives me unfettered access to reading and writing is a sweet spot for me.

My daughter Lydia recently snitched my desk lamp because something was wrong with our ancient piano lamp. I found a replacement in Walmart a few days ago, a blue clamp lamp to attach to the shelf of my hutch. The blue matches the stuff in that corner of the room quite nicely. Two other benefits: since it's up higher, it distributes the light in a wider beam - and - it doesn't take up any space on the desk.

The only problem is that the clamp wouldn't fit on the shelf if I kept all of my notebooks there. At first I just shifted the bulky notebooks over and put some smaller books there. That looked odd, though, so today I reorganized the whole shelf. I realized that all of those notebooks gave my shelf a heavy visual impression right at my eye level. I took them off and put them on another bookcase. Then I culled through all of the books on that desk shelf and pulled out ones I'm not interested in using any time soon.

I filled the wide empty spot on the shelf with other books that I've been meaning to read on various subjects. Maybe with them right in front of me, I'll get to them faster. The shelf looks so much nicer anyway. It has a lighter, more delicate feel to it.

The picture on the left was taken in March, and the one on the right, today.

One thing I pulled off my shelf while going through books today was the spring edition of Somerset Life. This quarterly journal is published by the same folks (Stampington) as Bella Grace, which I mentioned near the bottom of this Simply Spring post: Pretty and Practical Again. They aren't cheap, but I bought this copy thinking I'd get double use out of it by passing it on to one of my creative daughters. Now that I know where it is again, I'll take another good look at it and then it shall be sweet parting. Good to share!

As I flipped through Somerset Life this morning, I saw a page spread about decorating your desk using tea cups to hold small items.

That wouldn't work for me (that's what my desk drawers are for!), but I did think more about making my sweet spot even more delicate looking. I switched out my pen & pencil container (a big white mug) and replaced it with a flowered container from my dresser.

Then I retrieved a few things from my night table that I bought at Biltmore Estate two weeks ago. (See my photo posts: Biltmore Estate and The Gardens at Biltmore Estate.) I placed the bird coaster and the miniature blue and white vase on my hutch shelf.

Back to Biltmore for a moment. Since you can't take pictures of the interior of the house, I bought their book Biltmore: An American Masterpiece. I'm not sure how much of a design inspiration it can be for me, since Biltmore is the largest mansion in the USA and I have a cottage budget and cottage dreams, but hey...

On to other topics!

This past week, after a yummy (and probably fattening) vacation, I decided to cut out sugar again. I wrote last year about this here: A Change in My Eating Habits. I did really well for about three months, but then... Christmas. Oops. I said I would just eat sweets for a couple of weeks, but then I didn't stop. I wasn't eating as much, but little bits led to more. So I quit again several days ago. But then... Cheesecake Factory. So I figured, maybe I'll just commit to having something sweet only twice a month. I guess we'll see how that goes.

There are sugar alternatives, though. I visited my friend Jessica on Wednesday and brought no-sugar-added Klondike bars. They do have some sugar from the milk, but that's on my OK list. I also brought her some potted flowers as a little get well present. They went perfectly with the Independence Day decor that she still had on her table. We had such a lovely "chat" as she called it, but in reality we had more like a six hour conversation about everything under the sun - politics (which I hate), current news headlines, home schooling, family life, nutrition, ministry, yada yada. It seemed like five minutes. That's what kind of friend she is. I think we both came to the conclusion that what both church and culture need is less of religion and more of Jesus.

Which reminds me...

It's July 12, and though I'm not sure of the exact day, I think it's been 39 years today since this took place: My Story of Liberty in 1976. Once you read that, you'll get why it's related to this one that I posted last July: Hess Family Memorial Reunion 2014.

Also July 12, according to my news feed this morning, is the birthday of King Robert Bruce of Scotland (1274-1329), who is supposedly one of my ancestors. I love the legend and poem about the lesson of perseverance that he learned from a spider. I wrote about using them while teaching English class here: Medieval Legends and King Robert Bruce.

Other posts on my blogs from just this past week:

And a few great mama articles by blogger Sarah Mae:

Grace and peace,
Virginia Knowles

Monday, July 6, 2015

Super Summer #2: Smile. Focus. Begin.

Dear friends,

We just got back from vacation on Friday, and the next day was our American Independence Day. I had so much to do: unpack, put away all the odds and ends from our trip, do laundry, go grocery shopping, make meals, and think about how various members of the family wanted to celebrate the holiday.

Overwhelming? Like yeah! Did I mention I was already tired? Let me back up a bit.

We'd spent the week in Boone, North Carolina at a mountain cabin, which was wonderful, of course. But we'd gone a lot of places, and then scurried to get everything cleaned up again before we left. I woke on Friday morning after extremely fitful sleep (my nine year old rolling around in the bed next to me half the night before I kicked her out, plus a whole parade of bizarre dreams, plus back pain from my accident). We were supposed to leave at 8 AM! What?!? 

When I tried to get out of bed, my joints didn't want to move and I had a headache. I was hungry, but we'd been planning to get breakfast at a drive through on the way out of town so we wouldn't mess up the kitchen again. The kids were grouchy and I was double grouchy and snapping at everyone in sight. Watch out! 

I was driving one of the two vehicles for most of our 12 hour trip home? Yeah, right! Since two of the other adults drove home early, my mini-van would be completely packed with 6 cranky passengers (me, my two teen sons, my nine year old daughter, my very pregnant daughter and her toddler son), luggage, and my grandson's baby equipment? Yow! This was not looking good!

Something needed to change fast!

This is what I did:


And it worked.

Despite the fact that my grandson shrieked and fussed for hours, I somehow stayed calm and cheerful for the whole trip. So did my kids, for the most part. Sorta kinda amazing to me. Because I know how we can get. I chose to change my mood when I climbed in the van, and once I got in that groove, it was easy enough to stay that way. I think that helped my kids keep sane. Oh, and ibuprofen, caffeine, a Chick-Fil-A chicken biscuit, and lots of good music on my Playlist helped me too! I didn't even fall to pieces when I got home!

So that next day, when I had so much to do and no energy to do it? How did I do it? I remembered the way I did it the day before.

Smile. Focus. Begin.

You can too.

Smile. Start with the attitude. Choose cheerful. Or at least calm. Or at least clamping your mouth firmly shut to keep the negative words from escaping. Still too hard? Think of an attitude of gratitude. There must be something good about the day!

Focus. What needs to get done? Top priority? Next? Then next? Just wanna do it just because? Make your list. Choose the order. Maybe alternate the work-y stuff with some relaxation or play here and there. Just know the plan and work it. You might need to adjust, but do it with purpose.

Begin. That means actually get started. Do something and keep going. Get on a roll. It doesn't mean you need to finish everything you start today. But you begin. You make the most of the moments.

So how did it go on Saturday?

  • I got two loads of my own laundry done.
  • I put a bunch of trip stuff away, but not nearly as much as I wanted.
  • I went grocery shopping at two stores.
  • I did a load of dishes.
  • I drove one teen across town to spend the night with a friend, then stopped at a store in that area on the way home.
  • I sat down for a family meal that one of my daughters had kindly offered to prepare.
  • I watched street fireworks outside with a few of the kids and some neighbors.
  • I wrote one blog post about our trip, and started another.

The house was still a big mess, but after church on Sunday, I slept most of the day. I think I earned it. I certainly needed it even if there was still so much to do. Sabbath rest!

Today? I had a chiropractor appointment and then went to my son's orthodontist consultation. I did more laundry. I put more stuff away. I took my daughter to speech therapy. I picked up another son from summer school. I worked on the financial record keeping and budget. I did the dishes and tried to clean up in the kitchen. I made a real dinner. I started another Evernote file for home school planning since we start in about six weeks. I rested several times today. Sometimes that's what it takes to keep going. And there is always tomorrow! We'll get back on track eventually.

Again: Smile. Focus. Begin.

What works for you?

More posts for you:

Our trip to North Carolina (more posts to come when I have time):

Getting stuff done:

God bless!
Virginia Knowles