Friday, March 7, 2014

Make it Do or Do Without

I've often thought about how one of the concepts we've really lost as a society is the old mantra

"Use it up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without"

It's pretty much the opposite of our consumerist culture, where we have disposable-everything at our fingertips.

But (like so many things from the past) there's plenty of wisdom in this.  Figuring out how to make something work is economical, and often the creativity and accomplishment makes it quite satisfying.  (Like last spring, when I challenged myself to make this quilt for Anna using only materials I already owned)

I have a recurring problem of items of clothing being too short.  (I'm beginning to think that even cold water shrinks things little by little).  I realized with the "color block" trend (for all I know the trend actually ended two years ago, but please don't tell me if that's true...), I could start fixing things, and not have to keep donating and replacing my favorite things.

The latest project was one of my favorite tunics from Target.  The average American female would have been fine with its original length, but since I'm 27-going-on-72, I require a bit more coverage in the upper-knee region.

So, I cut off the bottom hem, made a quick band of some coordinating navy fabric, and attached it.  Now I can wear it again (for another...2 weeks?...note it's hanging sort of weird in the picture because of early bumpage - that awkward stage where exactly 0% of my clothing fits comfortably or correctly).

Speaking of making do and doing without - this whole remove the Internet temptation thing has been really great.  I'm not going to list everything I got done yesterday (it's embarrassing, not to mention I'd go over today's allotted time for being online).  The biggest benefit is I find without the easy distraction of clicking around online, I'm either doing something I actually want to do, or doing something that is actually restful (who knew, staring at a bright screen at 10 pm does not have that effect).  So then I have more energy to do productive things with Anna or around the house, or tackle little sewing updates that have been sitting on my to-do pile for months (ahem, above tunic).

It fits with my whole discipline/schedule theme, and makes me realize that bringing your life in line with the virtues (here, self-control) makes your life much better.  All the "rules" of faith can be a turn-off to some people, but I think it's fairly obvious that God made them for a reason.  Certainly, there are challenges of doing the right thing (I'm thinking in bigger pictures than using or not using the Internet), and I don't want to minimize that, but the point is that God really has our own happiness in mind when He directs us in certain ways.

So, yeah, I don't think you're supposed to "enjoy" your Lenten sacrifice as much as I have - it's a good thing this was just part of my overall Lenten observations.  Perhaps it will get harder and more of a "sacrifice" later on when the novelty of "hey, look!  I just finished another random thing I've been meaning to do for months" has worn off, but we'll see.  I'm already finding myself less interested in things online, and - happily - less distracted even when I'm on the computer.  I know I have limited time, so I get in and out and do the things I really want to do (like writing this post) and not the things I don't really care about (like a 10th check of Facebook).

Down-side of a quickie-post, I have no clever way to wrap it up.  So...goodbye?  (until next time, of course)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What took me so long?! (Procrastination Analysis, Part 2)

Apparently in my last post, I didn't adequately impress upon you, dear readers, the dire state of home management that I find myself in many days (judging by the "don't worry about the cheerios on the couch" comments!)

So here's another picture, circa 12:30 this afternoon. For more context, I was wearing pajamas when I took the shot.

Anna was down for her nap, and I was trying to finish up a meal plan and grocery list (which absolutely has to be done early in the day, or else I will lose energy and it won't get done and I'll put off the shopping for another day).  

There are all sorts of excuses (many legitimate) for the state of the kitchen, including how awful I felt while cooking dinner the previous evening, how quickly I had to run out after said dinner (thankfully feeling much better!) for a church meeting, the fact that Anna was apparently making a pre-nap soup snack (main ingredient: winter boots) on the steps, etc, etc.  Not to mention that I still haven't gotten out from under this first trimester exhaustion.

I try to cut myself some slack (and appreciate those of you who encourage me in that direction), but the truth is, I know I can do better, and I know I should do better.

In fact, this afternoon, I did do better.  I cleaned one important object out of the kitchen, and the rest of it got tidied in record time (actually, twice, because once it was cleaned up and we grocery shopped, I managed to make another mess making dinner - including Anna's contribution of finding, opening, and distributing a whole new box of freezer bags allllll over the kitchen).

Can you guess what I moved first?

It's not hard - look front and center.

I had grabbed the computer to look up a recipe while working on the meal plan, but (like pretty much every time anyone in the history of the Internet logged on) I found myself clicking on far more than the recipe.  (Each click taking at least the time and some of the energy I needed to pick up just one dish from the piles on every flat surface).  Incidentally, I recall reading Ellen's post during this time, about how part of her Lenten observance is going to be reading the Keeping House book she won in my giveaway this fall (hey Ellen - maybe set aside time to read it twice - a once through clearly wasn't effective enough over here!)

The Internet can be such a challenge - there are so many benefits, but I daresay that most of us haven't figured out how to keep it in check.

In years past, I've given up blogs/Facebook/some combination thereof for Lent.  The problem, though, is it's tough to delineate when I need to go on a site for a legitimate reason (contacting someone for a church project I'm working on, or looking up a favorite recipe I've saved on Pinterest) and when I'm just looking.   And, even so, a moderate amount of just looking can be a good thing, too - especially when it's in keeping or making connections with people.  The all-or-nothing approach also didn't really help after Easter - once I was "free" to check in on things again, I was, well, like the kid who eats every piece of chocolate out of the Easter basket.  I didn't exactly develop lasting habits.

So this year, I've realized that the importance is in moderation.  I've set myself limits for both where and when I can use the computer.  In a few test days (like this afternoon), I've already seen the amount of work I can get done, the amount of extra time I have, the calmness that pervades our home, how much better I feel as a mom and as a wife, etc.

I started this procrastination analysis with things in mind like "I wait on projects that require me to make a decision..." (which is absolutely true, and - don't worry - still coming in part 3), but it hit me squarely the other day that I can think of as many reasons as I want, and none of them will compare to the temptation of the little glowing screen.  There's always one more post to read, one more link to click, one more time to check the email....(and I'm willing to bet I'm preaching to the choir here!)

At our church's playgroup the other week, some of us were talking about raising our kids in our technology-filled world.  As we talked about setting examples for our kids, and about giving full attention to things (instead of one eye on screen, one eye on toddler), I realized I'm not living the life I want to be living, or accomplishing the things I want to accomplish, or - I daresay - being the person God wants me to be.

It's not just about accomplishing more - it's about being intentional about time, working and resting when it's time for each, being fully in each moment as they come, and allowing myself the quiet for the thinking and praying I should do more.  

I'll still be the pregnant mother of a 18-month-old tornado toddler, so you're "don't worry about the cheerios on the couch" comments will still be necessary - but let's all be honest about assigning the blame - it's not all her (or the little one zapping my energy!).  It's all about balance, and having reasonable expectations.  I'll still be tired and probably not accomplishing all that I would like - but that's not an excuse for not keeping up with basic tasks.  I should be resting, yes, but rest implies that it's a break from work - not blatant disregard for responsibility!

If you happen to be joining me in bringing Internet-time in check this Lent, check out this article "Email and the Holy Spirit," which includes this poignant quote:

"When the question “what should I be doing right now?” arises, it is much easier to turn to a simple reactionary activity where we can assume a passive role. Why think about what you should actually do, when you can easily check your email and taste a little bit of artificial efficiency and self-importance?"

I've never gotten to the end of the day and thought "gee, I wish I had spent more time with the computer today."  I'm looking forward to not having the constant nagging of wishing the opposite.

P.S. I finally remedied the shower/sewage situation, so visitors are welcome (hey - between an Internet fast and visitors coming, this place will be pristine! - which (YIKES!) it needs to be in a few short weeks for house showings!)