Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ashes to Ashes, Stuff to Stuff

She died a few weeks ago- the lady across the street. She gave the boys ridiculous amounts of Halloween candy. Her daughter-in-law once asked for a cup of milk for her oatmeal. And that is everything I know about her.

Name, face, loves, hates? Where is she now????? No idea. I wouldn't know her if she rose from the dead and made me a pie. But I'd eat the pie. Probably even if I knew it was ghost pie. Because pie's pie.

I watched through lace curtains. Dozens of police cars littered the "crime scene." She was, after all, over 90 and in terrible health. Family members were questioned as the dead was loaded in to a silent ambulance. I hurt for them, gawked at the wastefulness and intrusiveness of the state.

Once foul play was ruled out the neighborhood yawned, went back to watching kitties on YouTube. Because that's what we do now when violation occurs. As long as it's not happening to us. Then we throw a fit. A safe one that can't get us in any real trouble. We moan on facebook, text mean words with hot, angry fingertips. Thinking we're changing something by raising awareness.

Awareness is inactive. I am aware that the sky is blue, and so I... know that. I am aware that children are starving to death. Right now. But without a soft heart and courage knowledge doesn't equal action.

I did not have a soft heart for my neighbor. I should know her dadgum NAME. I could make excuses all day long. She kept to herself. They didn't return our waves. I've had medical problems. I am so busy with homeschooling and the children and work and blah freaking blah. The truth is- I was too comfortable to care. I was sitting on the couch, typing on my Macbook (the slow one that I keep bitching about) with a fully stocked fridge, the a/c set at 74. Or I was cleaning my stuff, rearranging my stuff, out shopping for more stuff.

The estate sale lasted for three days, the proceeds of which likely helped pay for her casket. How much time and energy did she spend on her stuff, most of which nobody wanted and has already been donated to Purple Heart? Less than me, I hope. You can't take it with you- It's a threadbare cliche. But you really, really can't. I stop praying for a stupid book shelf. Who can I love today?

Power saws sing, an ugly tuneless screech. The realtor in her smart little suit snaps exterior photos, heels sinking in the damp soil. Who will buy the house? I will know them.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Didn't Satisfy, Because it Can't

 We had five Christmases this year. (and still didn't see everyone and probably ticked someone off) They were good, all with people we loved. But there is such a thing as too many good things. Working, planning, cooking, cleaning, travel, wrapping, delivering, mailing, driving, driving, driving on bald tires in the rain for hours- for so long I actually had tell myself, (though Greg was driving- thank God), "RED means stop." We made it home, by His grace, the orange gas light screaming, "Eeee!" I'm so tired my eyelashes hurt. We've no real food in the house- which means more driving tomorrow. Nooooooo! I long to sit as His feet, to read, to pray. Or, no- you know what? Even better, to just do nothing at all. To just be His on the couch. No computer, no book, just daughter- watching the dust settle, seemingly random yet not, through filtered white curtain light. The trash can is full, the recycle bin is full. We have new things. Nice things. Things I like a lot that aren't Him. I dragged my tree to the curb this morning. I had to get. it. out. It was dead. Dead like me, or at least like I feel. And I realize that I can't just simplify my life and open myself up to freedom & joy by getting rid of extra socks and bowls. I need to dig deeper. To hurt people's feelings. Which will be hard. And worth it. So my son's Christmas memories won't be of Mom & Pop's gray Honda headrests. So we can have time for the things (people) that Jesus Himself was about. Give me a soup kitchen, a ditch to dig for someone. Not because I'm good or selfless. I'm not. I'm so lazy. I want French toast and Bing Crosby and an X-Box and a flat-screen and some eggnog to take me away to happy Christmas wonderland! But they didn't last year or this year and they never will because only Jesus' love can hug me tightly enough to make Christmas truly merry. And only He can save my babies who are stealing cookies in the kitchen. I'm not sure how next year will be different. Just praying it will be.
"Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of hope — not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of self-righteousness … nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of 'Everything is gonna be all right,' but a very different, sometimes very lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it might be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle — and we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see." The Gates of Hope," Victoria Safford

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I never got rid of any of those glasses, just the one Greg broke.

I love decluttering. And my Amazon wishlist is 50 miles long.

I thank God for the smell of the tree in my living room. Just before I scream at the kids for breaking a stupid ornament.

I see pictures of dying children and I feel sick. Then I scour Zappos for yellow flats.

I have a painful longing to adopt again. Yet I pull the covers up over my head most mornings, dreading another day of orphanage behaviors with the children we already have. 

I get mad at people who accumulate tons of stuff. I am jealous of them, too.

I feel weird trying to sell fair trade goods that really do help women in AWFUL situations around the world. Because I'm afraid people won't like ME as much if I ask them to buy something.

I worked super, super hard to prepare for my Trades of Hope open house yesterday so I could help impoverished artisans and maybe make a few dollars. While my own family received the sweet gift of, "Put that down, Stop it, Shut up, Go away, I'll do it myself! "

I decorated for that party yesterday with stuff from the dollar store.

I like Christmas music, for the most part. But I'd rather wrap gifts to Thin Lizzy.

I say, "Thank you, God, for our paid off vehicles... We are soooo blessed. Most people in the world don't have cars or even shoes... Yaddah, yaddah, blaaaah." But really- I want a BMW. A fat one.

I did not go to church today. I forewent the happy Cara church act to stay home and pray. Which I did actually do after spending a while on facebook and eBay. And I'm not sorry.

Jesus loves me in spite of my duplicity. Which is just unthinkable, and which makes me want to go to church next week.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I saw it, therefore I need it.

Today I opened a catalog instead of putting it straight in the trash. I saw some pajamas. They were very pretty, so obviously comfy cozy & cloud soft that I could feel warmth rising from the glossy paper on which they were printed. But yikes! Big dollarsigns. I felt challenged. I could beat that deal! A few minutes later I was online looking for a sweet sale on pajamas. I checked eBay, Amazon, JC Penney & probably five other places. But I just could not find my dream pajamas for less, darnit! I got up to move laundry around. Came back and checked facebook which led me to read this. Closed that tab, which brought me back to my search window. Oh yes- I was looking for pajamas. Those ultra-important articles of clothing in which I SLEEP.  I was so embarrassed that I fumbled my first attempt to X the tab away to Neverland. I went back to the laundry, and no joke, folded 3 sets of pajamas. All mine.

A funny thing happens when you put the catalogs straight in the trash straight away. You don't want. You don't rationalize those wants in to needs. Your kids don't either. And you don't waste 40 minutes of your life staring at a screen- searching for a newer, prettier version of what you already own on one of the most gorgeous days of the year.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Why I Hate Dollar Stores

You walk in for a birthday card and leave with straws, some smiley stickers, a cat toy that you hope isn’t made of real mouse or Chinese cat, a two-pack of dish gloves guaranteed to tear while washing spoons, some purple-colored yet evergreen-scented tea lights, and a roll of tape that will stick to everything in the whole entire world except for paper. What’s more- you’ll leave feeling proud of yourself for finding the wheat among the tares and saving so much money.

I once thought I’d found gold when I bought 5 toothbrushes for a buck, ‘til I brushed my teeth and wound up with a mouth full of bristles. And there was that gel candle I burned for a few hours and quite enjoyed until the red goo & glass jar suddenly burst in to flames on my kitchen counter.

Kids, even if you have only ONE dollar you can still buy SOMETHING! Spend, spend, spend! Don’t save your money for something lovely that you’ll treasure when you could have a can of half-dry off-brand Play-Doh right now! The only way to extinguish that 4 quarter burn is to buy something made of plastic that will break in 43 seconds or less.

Dollar stores encourage cheap, thoughtless giving. (Don’t get all uppity on me. I know this to be true because I’ve given some really lame dollar store gifts.) I especially feel sorry for teachers at Christmas time.

They also discourage creativity. Remember when you were little and you wrapped birthday gifts in inside-out Christmas paper that you’d colored with markers? Or Sunday comics? You really don’t have to have wrapping paper that matches the party theme. Remember when parties didn’t have themes? The dollar store can make all your Sponge Bob table spread dreams come true.

Oh, and Christmas- you can now put tiny red bows on even your toilet seat hinges! Before you call me judgmental please know that I’m as guilty as anyone here. Celebrating the birth of Christ (poor, in a manger, came to save the world) with a consumption-fest sickens me. How much to spend, who to spend it on, should we just back out altogether? I’m pretty sure I’ll never figure it out!

The dollar store also makes it affordable to put two (or three, or nine!) fake plastic spiders on EVERY brick of your house in October. And you can decorate for St. Patrick’s Day even if you don’t own a tavern.

“Well, if it breaks easily, doesn’t work, makes me break out in a rash, doesn’t match, etc. I’ve only lost a dollar...” Yes, the FED has reduced dollar notes to something laughable, and yet... Many people, billions in fact, live on less than two dollars per day.

I’m not saying that dollar stores are good for nothing and how dare you frequent those hell-holes. Sharpies with misprinted packaging, expired pregnancy tests that are still accurate. (If you look carefully you’ll often discover WHY an item is at the dollar store.) There are reasons to go. But I bought two plastic dollar store table cloths yesterday, and guess where they are today? :(

I hate dollar stores because they're not the problem- I am.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

1984: YES to the album, NO to the mousse

Confession: I have 3 curling irons. Because I curl my hair about once every three years. How did I end up with three? Beats me- I have no acquisition memories. Obviously, they are very important to me, and it's a good thing I've been hauling them around from house to house for decades. Battling the cords every day when they get all tangled up with the cord from the blower dryer that I actually do use. Smart. So very.

I also have 4 hair brushes. Some more than 12 years old, missing bristles. The hair in them's not nearly as gray as the hair that is currently on my head. Sad. Telling. Kinda gross.

Your turn- Go look under YOUR bathroom sink or wherever you keep your hair stylin' stuff. Yes, right now. Whatcha got? A 3/4 empty can of Aqua Net with a pre-scanner days real price tag from K-Mart? I really want to know. Tell me I'm not alone in pointlessly hanging on to hair fixin' stuff I don't need, want, or give a flying flip about. And go put that krizzap in the trash. Nobody wants your Debbie-Gibson's-hayday-era hot rollers.

Unaccomplished Mama Guilt Be Gone!

This blog is about cleaning up, getting free, simplifying- so we can glorify God, so we can give of the time and resources we save by having less junk in our heads and on our desks, so we can enjoy our families and the multitude of other gifts right in front of us that are easy to miss when we're overwhelmed. I guess it's a weeding project. Pulling the flower chokers and fruit inhibitors. Just a little weeding each day equals fresh air, an opportunity to notice new buds & growth, to catch predators & diseases before they get out of hand, to reconsider the extraordinary little creatures of God that are squirming around in the dirt that we ceased being amazed by a sad, long time ago.

If I'm going to do this right this blog must be clean, simple, and especially- NOT a time-vacuum. I've been known to overblog in the past, so I took a week to refocus. I have a couple of hours of kid-free nap time each day in which to exercise, read, learn French, do projects around the house, declutter, write, etc. And if you fail to plan you plan to fail. (I don't know who first said that, but way to use words, stranger!) A homeschooling mom with little kids and no cook or housekeeper doesn't have time for marathon training, serious college courses, monster cleaning binges, or career blogging. Well, some might, but I'm no such hero.

So today I'm decluttering this: feeling guilty about it. Accepting the reality that for most of us little children = little time increments. I confess my inadequacy. I give up. There. I can move on, make a plan. Decluttering & blogging gets 15 minutes per day starting tomorrow. Short posts, but frequent. No editing. Bye, bye sweet thesaurus that made me look smart! Ouch.