All posts by annahoward

Beauty in the Daily: my big organization reveal

Office MakeoverI’ve lately discovered that beauty and order are necessary for my sanity. And like so many out there, it was so hard to keep my house in any kind of order, I’d clean up, and the junk would return seemingly out of no where! So I’ve been following the KonMari method as described in The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and I haven’t been doing it long enough yet to declare that it absolutely works but with all the areas I’ve hit so far, the clutter hasn’t come back!

And what’s more, I’ve been able to actually find systems that work to maintain things the way I want them, so nothing gets that far behind.

I’m not going to try to duplicate the book, because I’d rather tell you about what I did to make my office and mud room beautiful, but I do have some reflections on the sorts of systems we need that actually work and flow with our lives for another post coming soon, my children willing and the creek don’t rise and all that 😉

I built my first pipe shelf for my office project! I bought 1/2 inch flanges, 12 inch long “nipples,” and end caps, and screwed them into the wall. Then I added a 4-foot long shelf, in this case, I bought a 1×10 select pine board, because it looked like the 1×12 wasn’t going to sit flat on my pipes. Flanges got screwed into a stud on one side and with four heavy duty anchors on the other (dang stud wasn’t in the right spot and I had to have balance!).

The numbered files are just Ikea’s Flyt files, ordered from Amazon, because no Ikea near me, sniff sniff! I added the big black vinyl numbers for a bit of differentiation and because I thought it looked cool in a similar pin.

The white organizer behind my computer was a church rummage sale find.

I made the wire photo display and mason jar organizer this week as well. They are 2 foot long craft boards (pre cut in the lumber section), also select pine. 1×4 for the photo display and 1×6 for the mason jar organizer.

The display is just eye hooks screwed in and strung with picture hanging wire, the mason jar organizer, well, that deserves it’s own post because several tutorials I found left out key info.The two photo boards are hung with the large command strips for pictures. They say they hold 16 pounds, I put 2 on each picture board just to be sure. The mason jar organizer is hung with screws and anchors.

I stained all the boards and the shelf with a tea and vinegar method, I’ve got pics and will write about that as well (I’m racking up the list for future posts today, aren’t I?) but it’s way cool and totally non-toxic!

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This is the opposite side of the office with all my Jamberry work now beautifully stowed on the built in book shelves.

And since this post is long already, I’ll do a picture only laundry room tour and if there are questions, well, I can always write another post 😉

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I wanted a something happy to focus on when doing laundry :-)

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Resolutions

12511929_10154450996994307_1765693971_nStanding in my kitchen in the gray light of the morning, hands clasped around the warm stoneware of my mug, my mind races with possibility. So many things I want to accomplish, but I must pick and choose.

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the New Year’s resolutions and the daily-ness of life and realize that in so many ways they clash. We set these big shining goals and feel good about them, but in each day, what are we doing?

It sounds trite to say that each day is a gift and yet, it’s so true. We don’t know how many of them we have. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Literally our whole life is right now.

Like Romilly in Interstellar, a scientist who finds himself alone for many years longer than expected, when finally reunited with his team, he is asked, “why didn’t you sleep?” And he says, “I didn’t want to sleep my life away.”

So many times we find ourselves sleeping away our lives, not literally like Romilly had the option to do, but in waiting for the next thing, the next relationship, the right job, a big trip, or what have you.

But all we ever have is today, this moment. Everything else is a memory or a dream, and while both of those are important, both can shape who we are, they are the ghosts that accompany us, both sinister and friendly.

It’s easy to let the internet breed discontent with your life, or to be angry at yourself for giving up on yet another resolution.

Sometimes I wonder if we go about this all wrong, the resolutions, the goal setting. We write out these absolute facts and figures for our year and in that moment we feel good about ourselves, we picture ourselves as accomplishing those things, and it’s grand. But life intervenes and goals don’t get met. And in despair, we give up on the rest of them.

What if it’s not about the specific details by a specific date?

I mean, it’s fine to want to lose weight or get in shape or get your house organized or get out of debt. These are all fine and worthy goals. But all too often we go about trying to accomplish them all wrong.

12528174_10154450997069307_1373701358_nThere is no “new year, new me.” No one can change in an instant and overhaul their entire life. And why should you? For better or for worse, I like who I am now. I’ve invested a lot of time, sweat, and tears in becoming this person. I don’t want a new me, I’d rather just keep working on what I have.

What if instead of treating each year as a blank slate, we looked at the only blank slate we truly have? This day.

So I made some daily resolutions that I have more thoughts on, but those are other posts for other days.

 

The forest speaks to me…

  

The forest speaks to me
Trees standing, branches raised
Slender wooden fingers
Reaching always for the sun
A tangle of roots running rampant
Drinking food from the deep black bosom of the earth
Everything is born from darkness
From the soil and the womb
And I, rooted firmly in the deep
Stand, life coursing through me
Arms uplifted towards the sun

-Anna Howard, 11-29-2015

Someday

  Stumbling among the blocks and toys on the floor of my house, I slip on my flip-flops and head outside to be greeted by unruly garden beds spilling over into my overgrown sidewalk.

Today is the most perfect summer day that Tennessee ever even dreamed of and I  standing in it, teething baby on my back again, watching my four year old and his dog play in the yard. 

I’m briefly frustrated that I never have time to weed right now, that my efforts to clean only result in things looking less trashed than they could be. 

But I take a deep breath and remind myself that someday I will have a clean house, tidy garden beds, and time to watch a movie in one sitting.

Someday my kitchen counters will stay sparkly, the dishes won’t pile up, and I’ll have less laundry.

My house will be quieter and I’ll maybe drink a cup of coffee without having to hunt for it and reheat it three times before I finish it.

I also won’t have the laughter and shouts of small boys, the pounding of their feet as they embrace life at a run. 

They’ll be in school or away at college or moved out on their own. 

It can be frustrating but the choice seems clear. 

Embrace the life in front of you. Embrace the now. Embraces the lives in front of you, emerging into their true selves, changing every day. 

Someday there will be peace and order.

And I think that someday will make me a little wistful for the chaos that is now.

The Now and the Next

 I hate the tyranny of the to-do list, sitting there neatly inscribed with all the things I haven’t done and often have no hope of doing within the specified time frame. 

Things change and I do different things, but still feel inadequate because I can’t check off those things. Yes, I’ve done digital ones where I can rearrange and add to and check off, but things are always getting bumped off the list. 

It just doesn’t work for me. And I have a feeling I’m not alone.

If you’re one they work for, then fine, it’s not like a moral thing one way or the other 😉

What I’m trying to do now is simply find a rhythm between the now and the next. A dance between being present yet accomplishing things that need doing. Finishing what I’m doing now and asking, what is next? 

I’m writing a blog post now. Next I need to switch laundry from the washer to the dryer and add stuff to the crock pot for supper (that sentence makes me go, squeee! I’m being all domestic-y today). That’s next. 

One thing at a time, and things are getting done way more than ever before. 

And I’m free of the list. I’ll let you know how it goes.

What about you? Anyone else want to break up with their to-do list? 

Home

  Walking through my yard at sunset
Sky streaked with red

The weight of a sleepy baby on my back 

My four year old runs ahead, brighter than the fireflies that dot the fringes of the wood

Beer in a mason jar

Sleepy cackles from the chickens

Sky deepening every moment 

“Mom come on!” His joy and passion mingle with impatience as I choose my steps with care.

“Bye mom!” He flings himself down the hill, rolling with the abandon of youth

The weight of the baby increases as only a sleeping child can

Tree frogs and cicadas serenade us accented by the distant sound of cars on the road

A cool wind stirs the air, the promise of fall after a hot summer

“Mom!” An intense whimper this time

He runs to me pointing at the woods that have gone black.

“The dark?”

“Mmm hmm.”

He takes my hand, and we walk slowly towards the yellow light spilling from the house.

Home.

Bedtime

 There are some days where I feel like I’m counting hours until bedtime, waiting for that elusive bit of quiet I where I can snatch some time to read or write or watch a show that has nothing to do with tiny humans. I know I’m not alone in this, as pretty much everyone in the little years with their kids has days like this.

Tonight I had the baby asleep and was cuddling my four-year-old on the couch while we caught an excited episode of Dora the Explorer, when the baby woke up after right about 27 minutes of being asleep.

“Let me come with you!” my four-year-old begged, and I reluctantly agreed since I’ve got about a 50/50 shot he’ll rile the baby up and neither of them will be sleeping any time soon.

Tonight I got lucky. I lay the baby back down on his floor bed, and curled my body around his, and my four-year-old curled up at the foot of the bed, each snug under their own small blanket.

And I lay there curved like an “S” between two sleepy bundles of boy and realized this was one of the most sublime moments of my life.

The nine-month-old sleepily nursing his way back to sound slumber, the silky hair of the four-year-old pressed into my calf as he wiggled himself comfortable.

Within moments they were both asleep.

It was easy tonight, and here I am writing a blog post, but I hope that by writing it down this captured memory will serve to carry me through nights when no one sleeps and I wonder just how much my sanity can take.

Charleston

 A heinous act has occurred. Nine beautiful people are dead and one is injured. A community is in the spot light for racial violence. And black people all over this country are lifting up their voices and crying out.

And so are white people, but too many of us aren’t crying out with our wounded neighbors, our brothers, our sisters.

The question is, what are you crying out?

Was the first thing that popped into your head when the topic of racism and hatred and violence came center stage: “well, I’m not a racist.”

Did you feel defensive?

None of us like to be lumped in with the perpetrators of a crime.

But to push away the horror of this act, of so many similar acts, with the distancing statement, “well, I’m not a racist,” is to choose complicity with the systemic racism that still runs through the backbone of our nation like a cancer.

And don’t talk to me about a black president. Just because we’ve made some progress doesn’t mean it’s enough. Not when so much hatred is being taught in families and organizations every day all across the country.

This blog is supposed to be about the little daily graces in life, a celebration of the moments of joy and the beauty in what could otherwise be the mundane.

So let’s talk about moments of racial grace.

If you are white and you’ve ever interacted with a black person, you experienced racial grace. Grace for your unawareness, for the things you said and did that you may never remember. Every time your unthinkingness, yes your privilege, has gone un-called out by a black person, they extended you grace. Unmerited favor. Because so much wrong has been done to black people in America by white people in America that you are complicit in if you are not joining in the outcry against racism in this country.

I’ve been complicit far too often by just not wanting to speak up, or to speak loud enough. All of us have. We need to take a long hard look at ourselves in the mirror.

This isn’t about guilt. Just as a black person is born into one reality by virtue of skin, so we are born into another reality. If you are white, then by virtue of the color of your skin, which you had no say in, you were born into a dominate culture where you could take many things for granted.

And yet over and over you’ve been extended grace by black people who by virtue of added melanin have dealt with everything from rudeness and slights to verbal abuse and physical violence on some scale every day.

I think the least we as white people can do is stop being defensive and examine the systemic racism in our culture and in our hearts and start to root it out. If all of us did that, it would soon be gone, for all big changes start with me.

O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

For more reading see:

11 Ways White America Avoids Taking Responsibility for Its Racism

Why It Matters That the Charleston Shooter Went after a Black Church in the South

In pursuit of your dance

I was reading the book Home Grown by Ben Hewitt this morning in an attempt to get some more ideas about what learning with my four-year-old might look like since it’s become clear that school is not for him at the moment. We’re not making any broad claims about what we intend to do for the whole of his education, but at the moment, school is not for him and so we’re educating ourselves as to how to facilitate the work of learning that he is doing all the time.

But that’s not the point of this post.

The talented author was describing his family’s life on a farm in Vermont, and I could smell the dew on the grass under his feet as he walked to move the cows in the morning, hearing the shouts of his boys as they struck off for the woods on some mission, and I had the thought of, maybe this is what we need to do, we need to move to a farm, get off the grid completely.

Last week I thought maybe we should sell everything and buy a motorhome and travel full-time.

And yet Ben (may I call you Ben? I feel like we’re friends already), shot that whole idea down before it got half-way formed.

“My intent is not to show you how perfect our life is, nor how we’ve mastered the fine art of educating and parenting all in one place, all of which would be a lie anyway. Our life is imperfect in no small part because we are imperfect people inhabiting an imperfect world.” (p.7)

Later on the bottom of the same page he continues:

“What I gain from these moments–the quick bloom of warmth they bring, the quiet sense of knowing there is nothing else I need–cannot be readily measured, and because it cannot be measured, it cannot be traded. It is my own wealth. It is unique to me and therefore it is secure.”

And I realized something, something that I’ve been realizing and forgetting by cycles for probably fifteen years or so. It’s not some major shift I need to be happy, it’s finding the rhythm of my own dance right here.

It’s a complicated dance because every time I find some steps to go with the music, the music changes. There’s another diaper that needs changing, a dog that needs out, a client that needs an answer, a team member that needs coaching and somewhere in the midst of all of that I need to talk to my husband (about something other than parenting, thank you very much) and maybe exercise more than once a month (other than chasing my four-year-old, although that seems to be pretty effective for now). And there’s days where almost all of it happens and goes pretty smoothly and I think I’ve achieved that mythical state of balance.

But balance is a myth, it’s a lie that I’ve been chasing for a long time (and that’s probably another post). All there is, is the dance with it’s ever changing tempo and starts and stops and unexpected bursts of joy.

 

Charles

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This morning I had to call our internet provider about our service. It had gotten very sluggish and my three year old had asked to watch Daniel tiger. I was having a bit of a hectic morning and Daniel tiger sounded like just the thing.

But it wouldn’t stream, the roku couldn’t connect, and so I searched out the customer service number. After going three rounds with the overly polite automated system, I was connected to Charles.

I suspected from the start that was not his real name as the warm rolling tones of the Indian subcontinent greeted my ear. While he ran a few tests on my DSL service, I wondered what it was like to work all the time and be told not to use your real name.

While we waited for my computer to reboot, we chatted about the weather, the time difference, and when seasons change in our respective parts of the globe. He asked me if I’d ever visited India. No, I replied, but I really want to, it’s on my list. We talked about working nights as he sat in his call center at 10:30 at night and I in the snowy sunshine at 10:30 in the morning.

I asked him if it was hard to work under a name that wasn’t his. No, he replied, it’s okay. My name is too big, and I just want to help my customers solve their problems. I really enjoy working with people to solve problems.

He told me I had a great kid after hearing me explain to Eli that I needed to talk on the phone to fix the Internet and I needed him to be quiet. Told me before we got off that he could tell I was a good person, I guess because I had asked him about himself.

Oh, and he fixed my internet issue.

I just wish we could be friends instead of hanging up to never talk again.

Turned my day around.

Charles, wherever you are, with the name and soul too big for your job, thank you. You were totally the grace note on my Thursday.