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.

Monday, October 31, 2011


I have two couches and four decorative pillows. All of these items are hideous, but let's focus on the pillows for now- I hate them. They make me gag. I keep thinking maybe I'll re-cover them. Or that I'll buy new ones and then get rid of these junkers. I've looked online, in stores, even perused my personal fabric selection & patterns. (though I haven't sewn a stitch since kids) I've found multitudes of gorgeous pillows and come up with scores of lovely project ideas. But something has kept me from pulling the trigger- probably the ugly couches I don't want to attract attention to.

And now, I am so thankful for those eyesore couches. Because they helped me bide my time 'til today. When I'd finally wake up and ask myself... Why?

Why do I need two pillows for each couch? Or any number? We never use them. In fact, we have to move them if we want to actually SIT on the couch. Oftentimes they end up on the floor where they pick up cat hair and boy dirt before they're placed back on the couches by helpful little children. Then the couches AND the pillows need to be vacuumed and lint rolled. Have you seen what lint rollers cost? They're one of the world's most clever of ripoffs. 12 cents worth of masking tape on a stick. It is sooo eight dollar airport water outrageous and yet - we buy them! Personally, I buy the crap out of them. They are just so easy to use and do such an unmatchable job, and...

Sorry, back to pillows. Hubby and I always toss the pillows off the loveseat, and the boys tend to sit together on one side of the bigger couch, so 90% of the time they look like this:


Of course I do "arrange" them when people are coming over. Friends & family who will have to move them in order to sit down. Is it possible that people have come here and suffered needlessly with a big, hot pillow on their lap because they were too polite to set it on the floor? Sadly, I think it has happened.

Four pillows to the giveaway pile. Feels good.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I'm not afraid of pumpkins any more.

When I became a Christian I immediately felt uncomfortable with Halloween. Not because I was a former spell-casting devil-worshiper, but because I had so many super awesome Halloween memories and it just seemed like Christianity shouldn't be that, I don't know... FUN. You know that thrill when someone pops out from behind a bush and yells, "Graaaawwrrrrrrr!" The adrenaline-pumped fear surge, the giggly, relieved release when you realize it's your best friend. It's just so... exciting! So how could I, now grateful for the gruesome death of my Savior on a cross, still enjoy jack-o-lanterns, black & orange, and other traditional manifestations of a holiday that is associated with suffering and death?

Over the years, we ran the gamut. For a few years we hid, turned off all lights, tried to be real quiet. "Shhhhhh. THEY'LL know we're hoome!" (Those unsaved people we Christians were supposed to be talking to about Jesus.) Then one year we turned on the lights and handed out Gospel tracts. We started the night with 100 and ended, by God's grace, with 99. (Sorry, little Darth Vader!) The next year we moved on to the gospel tract equivalent of candy- sunflower seeds & fruit leathers. It's funny, looking back, that I have always been mystified by the lack of knocks at our front door on the 31st. Now I am SO glad that God directed those poor kids to our far less holy neighbors and their evil tootsie rolls.

As I've mentioned before I am cleaning house. I started with my closet. I now own 3 jeans, 2 pants, and a few skirts. That's it for bottoms, and I don't want more. We had a cold snap this week. I wore all my jeans but the skinny ones. My only pants that weren't dirty this morning- white. Basically, I had one skirt in my closet that was appropriate for church today. Burnt orange, corduroy. And I was down to two long-sleeve shirts. Bright turquoise which would clearly clash, or... more orange. Oh my. Halloween is tomorrow- what will they think if I show up to church in all ORANGE? Yes, I am ashamed to say I worried about this.

It's simple. The holiday's associations and it's debatable origins do not represent my heart. And really, not very many hearts. I know hundreds of people who trick-or-treated as kids and/or let their kids do so now. With no thought of Satan, the powers of darkness or whatever. It's more of a block party with costumes and candy. I want our kids to know our neighbors. Because relationships are the real "in" to sharing Christ with others. And in this day and age meeting people on the other side of the fence just isn't as easy as it used to be. So I look forward to tomorrow evening, when our littles will run through their neighbors' yards, welcome in a way they aren't on most days, gathering treats and blessing others with their sweetness & gratefulness for candy (a rarity for them), simply because they're dressed as a ghost and a farmer and are willing to repeat three silly words they don't even understand.

"Trick or treat!"

God created October 31st. It belongs to Him. Use it for His glory. Lose the fear. Enjoy the silly excitement of Boo! Because no matter how badly you might screw it up He already lived that day, and every other, perfectly. For you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Parting is Such Sweet... Joy!

Our kids were given a HUGE tub of Legos about a year ago. By huge I mean 37 pounds. Gargantuan, ridiculous. It seemed like a blessing initially, as abundance often does. But was really a curse, as abundance often is. They just couldn't handle THAT MANY Legos. No boundaries, restrictions, pictures, instructions... It was a tub of the chaos. At four and five, they were far too young to organize it. And I sure didn't have time to do it. They dug all the little Lego men out of the box and fought over them continually. They pulled out stray wheels and threw them around the room. "Wheeeeeeee!" they exclaimed, watching them bounce. Occasionally, if heavily influenced by an adult, they'd make a house, a car, something more than an uninspired mess.

One child received a small Lego set for his birthday, which I immediately hid in a closet, knowing that the lovely castle would soon be lost, forgotten and impossible to even try and retrieve from the Lego dump. After moving our living room furniture around many times I found a home for the bin under an end table. The scratched blue plastic was an ugly eyesore against the shiny wood, but whatever, it was 60% hidden!

I hate cleaning floors, because I'm a normal, lazy human. But I REALLY hated cleaning around that heavy, hideous cat hair & dirt magnet. Then one day, a couple of weeks ago, I had this epiphany. I didn't have to clean around this monster tub that causes nothing but fights and dummyism! I could donate it, trash it, maybe even SELL it. One Craiglist post and two hours later I had $100 in my PayPal account. The next day I breathed a big old sigh of YAY when I could see under my table again. A quick swipe with the broom and voila! Breathing room. The boys surprised me by commenting on how great it felt to have 'em gone. Even my husband noticed, and, well- you know, men don't always notice stuff! I was thrilled. I began digging through my closet, drawers, and (ugh!) the dreaded garage. A friend was having a garage sale. I sold some homeschool materials I didn't particularly like on eBay. These combined with the Legos: $421.41 in two weeks. But the money was just a bonus. The lighter load- less to clean, to care for, to feel burdened by... THAT was what made my heart sing. And so my freedom from stuff began.

What's your story? Do you have a box of life-sucking box of stuff in your living room?

19 Glasses

In my cupboard. In counting them I did not include kid cups, travel cups, coffee cups, wine glasses, margarita glasses, and whatever the heck other kinds are in there (and there are plenty more!) because I had to shut the cabinet door and walk away. I didn't check for dirties around the house or in the dishwasher either. Are we desperately thirsty or what?

We are a family of four. Our children use plastic cups because of their seemingly perma-greased with WD-40 little kid fingers. So really we have two people living here who actually USE glasses. We do entertain a few times per year. (when out come the Solo cups which I didn't count either)

How many do we actually need? This is my new question. In regard to all things, but I'm starting with glasses because I've got to start somewhere.

Today is day one of my home simplification experiment. For a year I'm going to try putting reasonable numbers on our stuff. From art supplies to zippers (Yes, I actually have a collection of zippers.) I'm going to give away or sell everything we don't need, and I'll attempt to maintain a running tally of the gains. The I really think we might need this later stuff will be packed away in dated boxes- to be opened & reconsidered in a year.

Before I go on I should tell you that I am the one-flower-in-a-bud-vase type. We're not all wired that way, and that is a good thing. My extremely talented sister, decorchick, and I are clearly from different planets- but we love each other. This is not a guilt blog. You are not a materialistic loser if you like, use, value, collect, decorate, create, etc... things.

But- if you enjoy simplicity, if stuff burdens you, if clutter overwhelms your soul and leaves you feeling depressed- you might find some relief here. Join me in my slow purge, and please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. How many glasses will you keep? I'm going with six.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Breaking Out

An hour ago my son brought his piggy bank to the couch. Now the pig is on his back, feet to the sky, with a hole in his belly. The plastic plug that belongs in the hole is next to him, filled with lotion. Yes, lotion. Lotion, of course. Piggy has other new, fun neighbors- a used lint roller sheet, a birth announcement, and a pack of oil blotter papers. The neighborhood has gone to hell. In one hour.

I do not understand this strange law, but it is undeniable. Stuff attracts stuff, multiplies. Whether it's the stuff of material things or words. If I set an envelope on my kitchen table and blink I'll have a paper mountain. If I make a simple rule I'll find myself on Amazon searching for a five inch thick binder to contain the supporting articles.  If I whip up one little lie an army of them will march from my lips- reinforcements.

This law applies to good stuff, too. A sparkling table is likely to stay clean longer, but let's face it. Bad stuff is much more efficient. And it's the bad stuff that robs us. Of joy. Of time. Of peace. From papers & kitchen gadgets to the lies we believe about God & what He expects of us. For many, many years I've moved all this junk around with me, from city to city, state to state. Cleaning around the external messes, letting dust settle on the internal ones.

Recently I was bitten. Some strange hey-you-don't-have-to-live-this-way bug. I began tossing out long-held erroneous beliefs. And ill-fitting underwear. Almost immediately I started singing a little louder, a little more often. I love to sing. I'm not very good at it. But I loooove it. I am busting out of my stuff cell, bit by bit, and the freedom is (oh, honey!) sweet.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Along with the Christian stuff I could see, hear and touch came some more sinister stuff.

A kind that didn't pile up in my house, but in my head- a heavy, darkening cloud growing ever more menacing but never dumping any dang rain. I became a prisoner to it. I kept trying to break out, but couldn't. I had to behave rightly in order to earn a reduced sentence. And I just. could. not. do it. I forgot joy, grew depressed.

Oh, the stuff of Christian rules. The kind that aren't in the Bible. The kind that are weirdly magnetic to new Christians who are truly grateful to be free in Him yet don't quite understand exactly what that means. I felt this overwhelming need to express my thankfulness by doing stuff for Christ, by trying my very hardest to be like Him. As I walked along the "holy" road I saw these little, gleaming shells. They appeared to be pure and beautiful, to embody goodness and wisdom, so I picked up many. Soon I had a collection. One I admired, took great pride in and polished regularly.

Thou shalt rise and gleefully serve the Lord at 5:00am. 
Thou shalt have at least one uninterrupted, solemn hour per day of quiet time.
Thou shalt write thank you notes to everyone who so much as smiles at you.
Thou shalt never see a rated R movie.

These were some of the (stupid!) first shells I found. Of course I failed miserably to heed any of the wise little anecdotes. I guess I thought if I collected enough of them righteousness would eventually be mine. So I picked up more. And billions more still. Enough for a full suit of armor. Which is exactly how heavy they felt.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Consuming for Christ

When I was 15 I saved every hard-earned babysitting penny I made to buy tapes, posters, buttons and t-shirts from concerts I never saw. It was the only way to prove that I was the ultimate number one most sincere and devoted Cure fan of all time, and that I'd loved them way before I ever heard Just Like Heaven on the radio. I pored over the 4 point font sized lyrics in the fold-outs. Studied, memorized, bathed in Robert Smith's words- I repeated them often, loudly, obnoxiously. Because I was the original Cure fan and everyone else was a poser. My Cure collection was my identity. My very soul turned reel to reel on shiny brown ribbons. Sometimes it slowed, shrieked and spat out the side of the tape player. Which hurt. A LOT.

Shortly after my conversion to Christ I realized my need to look and act all Christiany to prove that I was really in the club. Like many American Christians I began acquiring Jesus stuff. Because you see, just as ballet shoes are required for a proper, pliƩ, one must wear Jesus shoes to be His daughter. And if you can't find Jesus shoes you need to go to Hobby Lobby and buy all the craft items needed to make your own. Really, you should start there, because ready-made Jesus shoes aren't as pleasing to God. Christian books, study Bibles, concordances, ornamental crosses, cds & dvds, scripture-printed frames, nativity Christmas ornaments to replace your pagan Santas, angel figurines- You need all these. These holy things will remind you that you are holy- and you'd better act holy, too.

Friday, October 7, 2011

10 years ago

I hated Jesus. "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord," my father's screen saver yelled in BIG block letters. Smug, butthole computer. Jerk of a dad. I viewed those words and felt icy, gray, hard, irritated, and hateful.

I woke up a few days later- a marshmallow. Like I'd tumbled around with Jesus in a dryer- He, a big, warm love-sheet enveloping a mad little know-it-all rock. But, I hadn't. I didn't decide to stop hating Him. It was clearly decided for me. My heart was just- different. I suddenly loved what I'd hated. Hated yesterday. For no reason. No ethereal experience. No teary altar call. I just stopped thinking Jesus was a turd. That He might even be good. That maybe I was His girl. That maybe I'd been duped.

Beer in one hand (of probably six that night), cigarette in the other, I decided that Christ was cool(ish). Not U2 cool, but worth maybe cutting back to five beers a night and smoking, I don't know, two less cigarettes per day?

This was my glamorous conversion to Christianity. My "testimony" as Christians like to call it. I call it, "He loves me in spite of ME."