Simplicity Meets the Garden

simplicity meets the gardenWith the arrival of summer, I’m looking at my garden. And I’m groaning. I love the idea of gardening. It sounds so great–beautiful flowers, healthy veggies, cool and shady spots to sit with a cup of tea. I think the theory of gardening is amazing.

However, the reality of my gardening attempts seems to be fungus, rot, bugs, heat, slugs, weeds, and  failure.

In my quest to simplify this year, I’m tackling my yard. And I have given myself permission to tear out most of the gardens. Last year I let most of them go, because the budget included exactly nothing to take care of them and I wasn’t in the best place and didn’t want to bother. This year, they’re wild. I’m not using a trowel and pruning shears to deal with them. I need a full-fledged shovel and branch loppers. A chainsaw wouldn’t hurt. But I will conquer them.

Destruction is kind of fun. I have found there are parts of simplifying that I enjoy. I love throwing things away. I love tearing things down. I should have gone into demolition. Give me a crow bar, a hammer, loppers, a shovel, and I have a blast.

Then, though, things have to be put back together. And in a garden, that means things have to be planted, and things are supposed to grow.

I am limiting my gardens to the foundation planting  and a path along one side of my house, a spot I see from my kitchen. My youngest son and I have decided to use Asian gardens as our inspiration, because they are simple and feature things like stone lanterns and rocks. It’s not easy to kill a rock. Or I hope it isn’t. I’ll keep you posted on that.

My hope, of course, is to come up with something beautiful. Beauty out front that the world can see as it drives by. And beauty out back where I gaze while I wash dishes. I love beauty. I long for it. And when I fail–when beauty dies or leaves or isn’t within my grasp–it hurts.

Gardens can hurt. Homes can hurt. My dreams and visions are so much more than my abilities. I think many of those dreams and visions are anticipatory. The perfect garden is coming. The ultimate beauty of a world lit by a loving son–coming. Sometimes, when I’m in a garden fighting Japanese beetles or fungus or weeds, I have to stop and smile. The first garden didn’t have these problems. The next life will have gardens without these problems.

For now, I’m trying to make beauty with as few plants as possible, because we’re not to that next garden yet. This is the garden with the curse. And man, God makes the best curses, don’t you think?  But imagine how awesome the next garden will be since I had to fight so hard for this one. Makes all of this worth it.

Note–it’s summer now. I’m going to spend more time trying to live a simple life and less time writing about it. So, my Simple Living Friday posts may come less often. I may  wait until fall to talk about how I did this summer. I may not. But I’m cutting myself a little slack and trying to get a handle on things in my physical life before the school year rolls around again. Enjoy summer, everyone. Celebrate. Find beauty. Rest. Read a good book. And let God speak into the quiet.

Yesterday was the Last Day

the last dayFor the past twenty-one years, I’ve been a home school mom. I have graduated three, and my last student is just about to finish sophomore year.

A lot of moms won’t home school because they don’t feel they are organized. They worry about lesson plans and keeping up with housework and a myriad of other things related to organization. I am here to say that, as much as I am trying to organize my life, if I stopped living it until I was organized I’d be 47 and not even out of the starting gate yet. I certainly wouldn’t have home schooled, and that has probably been the biggest blessing my family has had.

Here are a few ways I handled being disorganized as a home school mom. The point of this post is to show that, while organization isn’t a bad idea, a perfectly acceptable life can happen in the mean time. A really great life, even.

First, I get bored easily, so even though I taught four kids, I seldom used the same curriculum twice. This meant I didn’t need to keep my books pristine. We could write in them, cut them up, do whatever we wanted, and next year I’d get something new. Sure, if one ends up in good condition I can sell it, but I don’t pressure myself to keep my books in new condition. Wayward spaghetti sauce or cat pee aren’t life disasters. They’re just life.

Second, I’m a failure at lesson plans. In the writing world, there are two kinds of people. There are plotters, who outline their books down to the minutiae before they ever write a word. And then there are pantsers, who have a general idea what they want to write and let the story unfold while their fingers are on the keys. (Fly by the seats of their pants. Thus, pantsers.)

I am a pantser in my whole life. I tend to glance over new books from cover to cover when I receive them. Then I plan what to teach the day before. Or, now that I’m down to one student, often the day of. I open the book and decide on the spot how to tackle it. So far, my kids can read and sound coherent in conversations, and all of them can hold jobs, so I’d say the method worked for me.

I don’t schedule holidays along the way. Some are obvious, like Christmas. But sometimes we’ll take a day here or there because we need a break. Sometimes we have snow days, because every kid should experience the elation of waking up and finding school has been canceled during the night. Sometimes we have spring break, but some years we push on through and finish early. Then we can laugh because everyone else is still in school. (There’s a chance that after 21 extra years in school I’ve regressed back to childhood myself.)

Then there’s the last day of school. For the first decade I put it on the calendar. But never once did I follow that. For some reason, there is always this magical day in May where I wake up, and the sun is shining, and the flowers are out, and I look at the school books and say “Hey, everyone, yesterday was the last day of school. We’re done.”

Then we put away the books, and I print up grades and all the paperwork for the year, and it’s over. Now, lest you think I’m completely crazy, this day usually happens when we are finished with most of the books. For instance, right now my sophomore son has exactly two subjects he hasn’t finished. I’d say our yesterday is on the horizon.

Normally I don’t celebrate the final day of school, but this year I will. I want to include more celebration in my life. We’re half dead around here when it comes to celebrating life. I saw that on Mother’s Day, and I realized that they aren’t going to celebrate me until I start to celebrate them again. So, when I wake up, probably in the next week or so, and realize yesterday was the last day of school, we’re going to have a party. My son and I will probably go out to eat. Maybe we’ll think of something else to do. But we’re going to celebrate what we accomplished and the fact that it’s behind us and summer is ahead.

I’m not giving up my dream of being a little more organized. Some things, like taxes and book promotions, need a little bit of preparation. Things get lost. Life can get messy if it’s all left to chance. But, disorganization within limits can be fun. And it’s life, whether it’s organized or not.

I hope this post finds you with fun celebrations to look forward to and interesting stories to tell about the disorganized parts of your life. There’s a good chance that by next Simple Living Friday, we will have had a party around here celebrating the fact that Yesterday was the Last Day of School, and I can tell you if I followed through. I hope I do. Life is too short to worry too much about getting it right. Too short to skip the celebrations.  And one day, yesterday won’t be the last day of school. It will be the last day, and I want to enjoy the days we have.



One Step Forward, and Duck!

one step forwardLast week I wrote down a list of my goals and then why I wasn’t accomplishing them. I called it my goal thwarter list. I wrote a post about it. And I have to say I’m surprised that list has helped me. After more than four decades of being less than organized, it seems I can get my act together. A little bit. Sometimes.

This week I put my Bible, journal, and other stuff I use in quiet time in a basket. Little portable basket. I want a place for quiet time, a comfy chair or a spot in the sun on warm days. I’m still working on that. But even having everything in a basket where I can carry it to today’s spot–that’s a big help. So, score one for me.

Last week I also finished teaching. Since January I’ve been teaching classes at a homeschool co-op. High school kids. And it simply wasn’t a good fit from the first second. It’s weighed on me heavily all semester, taking time, bandwidth, and bringing more stress than it was worth.

With that over, I have more time and brain space to do other things. For instance, this week my parents might come visit, and I have time to clean up a little bit. Score another one for me.

Which brings me to another goal thwarter. I’m not great at cleaning house. Not deep cleaning. There might be mold on my shower curtain. The bathroom used by all my guys might smell like a bathroom used by a bunch of guys.  I decided part of the problem there was not having the right tools. This week I bought a few special cleaners, replaced the shower curtain, and put a simple routine in place so I can stay ahead of it. (And why, you might ask, can my adult/nearly adult sons not do this themselves? Because there are a few areas where I am a parenting failure. And this would be one of them. That’s a whole different post, I’m afraid.)

So. A few victories. And that’s great incentive to keep going.

However, sometimes a goal simply has to be set aside, because it’s not a true goal. It’s a dream. And regardless of what all the pretty memes on the internet say, not every dream is possible. And I can waste a lot of time chasing certain dreams that should be let go.

I ran into that this week. Several fellow bloggers linked me to a bundle of ebooks all about organizing, self care, cleaning, spiritual life, all the things important to me right now. Pages and pages of ideas. Pages and pages of ideals. Pages and pages of dreams that would crush me if I let them, because there is no way I could possibly implement all those ideas and end up with my perfect life.

And that’s the problem with some of my goals and dreams. I want perfection. I want a week where nobody interrupts, where nothing clutters my schedule, where the dogs never jump on me while I exercise and my blood sugar never slows down my gardening and there is never mold in the bathroom. It’s all good. And usually in that dream, it’s all about me. My time, my goals, my dreams, my perfect house…

Once again I’m experiencing forward motion in my goal to simplify and organize my life, and once again I’m facing that worst of enemies, me. Once again I have to put all this at Jesus’ feet and let him decide what’s really best.

This week I have unexpected company coming. I’m excited, but it wasn’t in the plan. A friend needs help one evening. I’m delighted to help, but it wasn’t expected. And the list goes on. God doesn’t really consult my list of goals, dreams, plans, and expectations when he puts my weeks together. My perfect life makes him chuckle, because it’s often selfish, rarely a challenge, and always fails. Then he listens to me rant about it, and he shows me a better way.

I’m allowed to keep mold off the shower curtain. Clean dishes, lack of clutter, a wise budget, and a comfy place to meet with him–those are fine. But when I find myself so focused on this idyllic life that doesn’t exist… Well, that doesn’t help anyone.

My schedule is open. I’m seeing victories. And yet spiritual battle comes with every new step. I have to dodge lies I tell myself and those I get from the world around me, and I tend to forget that even in the simple life, battle never ends. I have to duck a lot of arrows, because there’s an enemy who strikes out because he doesn’t want to see me gain ground in any part of my life, especially when I’ve given that life to the Spirit for safekeeping.

I’m excited about progress. I think I can see some old, long-desired goals come to fruition in my life. If I can watch the battle part and not let myself get swept into obsessive perfectionism or pure selfishness, I think I’ll be just fine.


The Goal Thwarters

goal thwartersI know I need to do a little housekeeping in my life so I get things done that need done, waste less time, and find more peace. I’ve been talking about that for a while. This week I listened to a podcast or two and read some ebooks, and I sat down and made a list. I love lists. Anyway, I wrote one list, then two, and then I made a whole big mess of them. But these aren’t lists of things I need to do. Those are easy to write and impossible to follow.

This time, I made lists of why I don’t do what I want/need to do. The goal thwarters. And I found this to be an amazing, eye opening exercise that I hope will help me actually achieve something.

If you don’t remember or never read my blogs before, know that I’m not an organized person. And for the most part, that works for me. However, I’ve been letting my spiritual walk with God slide because of that lack. Also, I want to sell more fiction, which means a marketing and writing plan. So, now that summer is here and I have fewer timed events, I’m going to tackle a few routines and schedules. Not enough to make me feel trapped and weighed down, but enough that I accomplish things I need to do.

Back to my goal thwarting list. First, I wrote down things I really want to do in my days. Not every day, but what should be included in my life. Things like exercise, time with my husband, cleaning house, walking the dogs, writing, marketing. Then the biggies–Bible reading, prayer/spiritual disciplines, Bible studies. I also included service, friendships, and time for me: reading, pottery.

When I wrote them all out, I noticed they fit into some categories. Physical life (exercise, house cleaning, etc.), relationships, vocation (all things writing), spirit care, just for me, and service, which seemed to have no category.

Now that I had them, I wrote down why I didn’t do these things. Here I was brutally honest. For instance, money is an issue in my garden. Lack of common ground and laziness plague time with my husband. Boredom and lack of routine hinder exercise and, honestly, Bible reading, at least sometimes. Anxiety plagues relationships, Bible study groups, marketing, and service. Energy and blood sugar issues plague all the physical things. And so on and so forth.

After this, I had a big mess on my hands, so I had to visualize this better. Here is where I dug into my technological bag of tricks. I have a software called Scapple which lets me make notes and connections. Some call it mind mapping. I use it all the time to brainstorm book ideas. I put everything on there and it looked something like this:

goal thwarters scapple

Now, the plan is simple. (HA!) Okay, the idea is simple. I have some categories to tackle. Some are easier than others. Since I’m decluttering, maybe I can tackle everything that needs a space. Or I can look at my days and set some routines.

Some aren’t so easy. I haven’t figured out the anxiety in groups issue, even though I know I need groups of people for Bible study and friendship. I can’t figure out where money might appear for marketing. But it helps to know what’s slowing me down.

I’ve discovered nobody’s methods of organization, simplification, and time management work for everyone. And they never seem to work for me. So, now I have some ideas that might work because I made them. This week I’m going to tackle some of the goal thwarters and get one or two areas under control. Or I’ll start to get them under control. Maybe I’ll choose a new spiritual discipline. Or find space for my spirit care. Maybe I’ll get an exercise routine. And we’ll see what happens after that.

If you’re worlds ahead of me and have great routines in place and an organized life, I’d love to know how you did it. Go ahead and comment and share with the class. Those of us here in Remedial Organizational Skills need all the help we can get!


I don’t get paid by the Scapple people to recommend their software, but I wanted to add the link because I like it and it isn’t expensive. And I don’t lose my laptop like I lose brainstormed lists written on the backs of envelopes: Scapple

Organizing the Scattered Soul

scattered soulBecause I’m a homeschooling mom of four, people think I must be organized.  I’ve had people ask me questions that assume a person who successfully educates her children must have lists and routines and tips and tricks to make things run smoothly. To which I always laugh, because really, there’s not a whole lot of organization going on here.

Not that I haven’t tried. I adore lists. When I’m writing lists, I don’t actually have to do any real things.  Lists are easy.

I organize my computer all the time. In fact, just this week I organized all the images in my computer–those that go with books, with blogs, different folders and files, and it’s a work of art. And I did it because all that takes is a few clicks.  Clicking is easy.

Yes, I’m really a very lazy person. I like life slow, slow enough that I don’t really have to be organized. If I’m so busy I need a day planner, I’m too busy. I tend to plan the day’s school lessons on the fly, while my kid does his math problems. I have no idea what we’re having for dinner tomorrow, and there’s a good chance that will still be the case five minutes before dinnertime tomorrow.

Being organized is great. I spent years wishing I was organized.  But, I’m not wired that way.  The thing is, I’m organized enough, in a way that works for me and my family, for our schedule, for our level of busyness. Or that’s what I tell myself. But maybe there are instances where a little organized, mindful living is in order.

First, I know I have to develop some routines. I am the worst at routine. Fortunately, my Chihuahua Sparrow has been teaching me in this area. This little guy thrives on routine. At night he moves through the house and brings each toy to my bed, until they are all safely settled around us. (My husband, second shift, climbs into bed in the middle of the night and ends up sleeping on dog toys, poor guy.)

In the morning, the dog and I get up first, and Sparrow heads outside and then eats breakfast. Usually Skye the cattledog pup is part of this. But then, once Skye is outside looking for cattle to herd, Sparrow stands at the door to my bedroom and whines. He wants me to get all his toys off the bed. We call it the Morning Toy Rescue, and it happens every morning. I sneak into the darkened bedroom and try to dig toys out of the comforter without rousing my husband, the dog prancing at my feet for me to hurry.

Yep, I was never good at set nap times with my kids, but my dog is whipping me into shape. Go figure.

I’m about to make some changes in my life with respect to my time. I’m about to finish teaching at co-ops and focus on writing a little more, work toward some marketing, see if I can make writing pay a little better. But I can keep limping along as I am and survive. However, there is one area where I have to stop limping and start thriving, one area where I need to organize, one area where I know I’m failing, and failure in this area means failure over all.

It’s why I’m clearing my house and rethinking my schedule and making lists I intend to read. It’s why I’m soaking up information about clearing my spirit and learning disciplines. Quite simply, I need to remember God. Not once a day. Not once a week. But all the time. I need routines that force me to read his Word, pray, reach out to those who need me, write words he wants me to write, etc. And I’m not doing it. In all my years of disorganization, I’ve gotten other things done, but not this one.

Because this one matters. Because there is an acute battle against this one. This one can change the world, and so all the forces of the world oppose it.

I’m reading and listening to podcasts about scheduling and time management. My schedule is open and ready. My home is clearing out of extras that weigh me down. Now I need to put a few routines in place, organize a few things, make physical places, time places, and soul places where regular communion with God happens.  Morning routines, evening routines, whatever it takes.

Having a perfectly clean bathroom and set dinner times are nice, but I can get along without them. But having a casual, whenever-I-get-around-to-it relationship with Jesus?  That’s not going to cut it. This year I’ve tasted the sweetness of being close to God, hearing his Spirit. I don’t want to taste it. I want to eat deeply, every day of my life. I want to choke on it until I’m breathing it and living it with my entire spirit.

And for that, I need to get serious, strategize, and give up my love of randomness, at least in a few areas.

I’ll let you know how it goes. Next week I finish teaching. I just downloaded some courses on time and schedules. My book on spiritual disciplines is out and waiting. I can do better than I have been. Lord willing, soon I will be.