Sunday, March 17, 2013

taking a trip

I'm going to Lebanon in June.

I am part of a team of 15 people from my church who are going to serve in the poor communities surrounding Beirut. About half of the team will be working with a children's ministry, running a summer-camp-like experience. Some of the team will work on a building project for the Near East Initiative. I will be serving in the refugee community.

There is an enormous refugee situation in Lebanon due to the civil war that rages in Syria. As of March 13, there are said to be near 750,000 refugees in Lebanon. Almost a million displaced people crammed into a country the size of Western New York. Lebanon isn't the only country receiving refugees, there are refugees in Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq, along with nearly 4 million homeless Syrians who are still in Syria. Nearly a quarter of the Syrian people are displaced.

I have been following the news about Syria for over a year. I read the news every day; I read about children freezing to death because they don't have even the simplest tent to sleep in at night, because they don't have clothing that's warm enough. I read about them starving and contracting typhoid because the only water that is accessible to them is poisoned with sewage. I read about the women; wives, daughters, mothers raped and murdered. I see their photographs, and their wide-eyed faces are the faces of my own babies; the women are my friends, the dead soldiers wear the faces of my husband and brothers.

These people are so very real, and my heart is broken for them.

They have been discarded, thrown away by their corrupt government, murdered by thugs, starved by a hunger for power.

Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Me.

So I will go, and I will do. Maybe I will serve food, give clothing, hand out clean water, scrub the toilets... I really don't know what my job will be. Yes, I would be thrilled to not scrub toilets for seventeen days, but if seeing this white American girl scrub poo is what I need to do to show the love of my God to people who have nothing, then so be it.

Part of going on a mission trip is raising money. This trip costs about $4000, not including renewing my passport, all of the immunizations, and other random expenses that will pop up along the way. One of the opportunities the team has is to sell Twice Cleansed organic olive oil soap. It has three ingredients: olive oil, water, and lye. Olive oil soap is wonderful for people who have dry, itchy skin. You can click here to read more about the soap, and to make a purchase. A single bar is $5, and a 4-pack is $20. It takes a whole lot of soap-selling to reach $4000, so I would love if you would share the link with your social media circles.

If you aren't interested in soap, but would rather just make a donation to support my fundraising efforts, please let me know, and I will provide you with my paypal address or send you one of the fancy donation envelopes that the church provides. (Fancy donation envelope = tax deduction, btw.)

And as much as I appreciate your financial support, I ask you to pray for my team. We are fully aware that we are travelling to a dangerous place, and that there will be enormous demands on our mental and physical abilities. If you are not a pray-er, we'll take your good thoughts and intentions.

Have questions for me? I'll do my best to answer them in the comment section, unless it's something a little too personal to share with all the interwebs, in which case I'll send you an email.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

organize now challenge: the medicine cabinet.

I'll be honest: I was kind of surprised when I saw that the medicine cabinet was going to be a destination for the Organize Now! Challenge.

But then I opened the medicine cabinet in the bathroom* adjacent to our kitchen and took a good, long look. What an enormous quantity of crap in a wretched tiny little space.

*This is not our main bathroom. That one is upstairs, and houses the tub and our laundry facilities. We don't actually have a medicine cabinet in that bathroom, just a linen closet and some shelves, and all of our stuff up there is pretty organized, so that'd be no fun for anyone.

did  you think i was going to remember
to take a messy photo? silly.

don't even ask how old that
contact solution is. really.

So. I emptied the lot of it into a super fancy box, and I sat myself down on the throne and proceeded to transfer a good 80% of it into the trash can. Jennifer says to start by pitching anything that's past the expiration date, unfinished antibiotics, old razors, and random nonprescription meds that you just don't use. 

why we don't have nice things, #593:
because kids can't operate antique
light fixtures

 Please note the bare light bulb to the left of the mirror. The light bulb used to be hidden by a lovely milk glass sphere, but it seems the short people did not appreciate the milk glass sphere. I found it shattered on the floor. Two days later, I found the sphere from the light on the right side of the shattered in the sink. No points were awarded that day


the finished product.

Et voila! On the top shelf, we have a few bottles of nail polish, some Angry Birds adhesive Bandages (they're technically not band-aids), and a bottle each of children's tylenol and children's advil.

Middle shelf, some essential oils and a bottle of naproxyn (that's generic talk for Aleve.) My neurologist has forbidden tylenol and ibuprofen for me, so we only have the naproxyn. Nobody's sad about this, because it works better and doesn't destroy your liver or give you rebound pain.

On the bottom shelf is The Mister's beard trimmer (yes, he does trim it once in a while), a little thingy of dental floss, an antique soap box, and some Winchester Gun Oil, which is likely there so The Mister can oil his beard trimmer. He wasn't home when I was cleaning, so I am waiting to dispose of it. There's also a mug holding a few tubes of ointments: arnica gel, neosporin-ish stuff, etc. Jennifer recommends putting loose items in zippy bags, but I know I will be fishing them out of the sink seventy-four times a week, and I'm just not into that.

Jennifer also suggests installing a magnetic strip on the inside of the medicine cabinet to store tweezers, scissors and nail clippers. GENIUS. Another excellent idea is to sort your medicine cabinet out once a year to control the clutter that will probably build up.

Want to see what the other participants are up to this week?
Jennifer Ford Berry

***Please forgive the whacked out photo placement. I messed with it until I had exhausted my supply of bad words, so it's just going to have to be what it is.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

organize now challege: memorabilia

Oh, the stuff that piles up when you have four children. My word, people, it can get ugly so fast. The papers, the artwork, the random sticks and stones and bottle caps and strings. Add to that moving into a house packed to the brim with a all of the things your husband's granddad and grandmother owned... Oy.

The Mister and I got married in 2001, months after his grandfather passed away, and we moved into his grandfather's house. Everything was there. Pots, pans, dishes, silverware, linens, furniture, all.of.the.things. On one hand, it was a huge blessing to have everything provided for us. On the other hand, it was just a lot of stuff. And on the other hand, it was very interesting to sort through all the things with my new mother-in-law. 

Most of my stuff from my childhood and college years was in boxes in the garage and basement, where it stayed for YEARS because a) I had no immediate use for it, and b) there was no place to put it. Last summer I went through most of the boxes and discovered that there was next to nothing in any of the boxes that was even sort of important to me. I filled our big green garbage bin; I filled contractor bags. It was SO.CRAZY.GOOD to have it gone.

One of the first things Jen says in her chapter about memorabilia is to save only what is STILL MEANINGFUL to you, not what was meaningful to you back in the day. I pitched random tchotchkes, all the letters from former boyfriends (I had one that really embraced the idea of the love letter), programs from concerts I performed in college that I didn't remember. It felt really good to shed all those extra pounds of things I had stopped caring about.

Another idea Jennifer proposes is to organize photos into archival-quality albums. My two oldest children have well-documented albums of their first few years. I don't have albums of the last two, but I do have thousands upon thousands of digital files of photographs that are organized by month on our computer. And yes, they are backed up. Because seriously people? BACK.UP.YOUR.FILES. It's so easy I can do it all by myself, and I will not have to perform The Ugly Cry if our hard drive bites the dust.

I do have two clothing items I am saving: my high school jacket (I'm really not sure why I'm keeping it, other than that I'm just not ready to pitch it yet), and my wedding dress and veil. Right after our wedding, I had my dress cleaned and preserved, and it lives in the back of my super-small closet in an enormous box. There are some tiny baby clothes saved from when my people were tiny, and those are wrapped in tissue and stored in our non-hypo-allergenic cedar chest, away from the nasty moths.

Now. If only I could part with yarn and fabric as easily. Hrmph.

Check in to see what the other super-organizers are doing!
House of Grace

Monday, February 18, 2013

organize now challenge: post four - the routine

I may have mentioned once or twice that I'm not really a morning person. Turns out that five out of six Daytons in my house is not a morning person. Those are HORRIBLE ODDS, people, horrible. We thrashed through preschool with the oldest two, and very nearly lost our minds with the third. We sent our oldest to public school, and no matter what we did to make it easier, happier, better, it just wasn't a good fit. We went to church Every! Sunday! Because! That's! What! We! Did! It was brutal, and I'm pretty sure that the answer to the cliche "What Would Jesus Do?" was nothing that was actually happening in our home.

So we stopped. We evaluated our options. We slowed down.

And oh, my word, people, the thrashing about and soldiering on fell away. We found our rhythm, one that is a little bit flexible and a little bit scheduled. Some of the short people like to cuddle in our bed in the morning and talk about The Things and The Stuff; another one grabs his school books and joins in the pile. Some days we school at the kitchen table, on others we grab a quilt and head to the back yard (not now, obvs, but in the autumn and spring), sometimes everyone fetches their own quilts and hunkers down on the sofa with assorted school books and novels.

It works for us. 

Even so, there are days when we need to get up and out in short order, namely homeschool group days. The short people each have three classes, and I usually teach one or two fiber arts classes. This semester it's crochet. 

The first tip in the Organize Your Morning Routine chapter is to have a list for each person's to-dos, including chores, grooming habits, breakfast, etc. Next, Jen suggests that you estimate how long it takes each person to do each item on the list, and plan a Rise-and-Shine time based on that. The third tip is to pare the list down, and eliminate all the things you can do the night before. Jen also recommends establishing a family "Launch Pad", a resting place for all the items that will be grabbed on the way out the door.

This is how it works out for us:

The Night Before:
  1. Pack all the supplies I need to teach my classes. This semester, it's extra crochet hooks, scissors, extra yarn, finished squares for the blanket we're making.
  2. Pack snacks for after class. Usually I stuff our picnic basket with apples, cheese sticks, yogurt and something salty. And water bottles. Lord help me if I forget the water bottles.
  3. Round up anything each of the short people needs to take to class. This is usually a pretty quick item, but one semester I forgot to double check that a certain girl-child had packed the novel the class was discussing and the notebook... EVERY CLASS. Six times in a row. I earned an F for FORGETTER.
  4. Pack five pairs of shoes, so that when the winter boots come off, shoes can go on. My people are notorious for forgetting shoes (see item 3 and know they come by this honestly).
  5. Take all of the packed things out to the car.
  6. Remove bagels and cream cheese from the fridge so breakfast is easy-peasy.
  7. Load slow cooker with next-day's dinner. Plug slow cooker into the outlet, otherwise the Ugly Cry is guaranteed at approximately 3:25 the next afternoon.
The Morning Of:
  1. Wake everyone by 7:45. Except Jack, because he's always already up.
  2. Wake everyone up again at 8:00.
  3. Forcibly remove girl-child from bed no later than 8:10. 
  4. Everybody gets dressed before going downstairs. Except Jack, because he's already dressed, and has been entertaining himself for an hour.
  5. I toast bagels and spread cream cheese and make coffee for me (and sometimes the girl-child will get a mocha if she's playing nicely with others; I'm not above a bribe).
  6. Short people put on coats and boots, and when their bagel is wrapped in a napkin, they get in the car.
  7. We need to be driving away from the house no later than 8:45 in good weather, and no later than 8:30 in wretched weather, because we have an hour drive.
Jen's tips for Organizing the Evening Routine are pretty similar, but also include setting consistent dinner and bed times.

We usually eat dinner between 6 and 6:30, depending on when The Mister gets home from work. The boys are in their pajamas by 7:30, and they snack while The Mister reads to them. They are in bed around 8:30, and then we spend time with Miss O and Elliott; they're the night owls of the bunch. 

I think the most important question to ask when you're creating a routine and a daily schedule is, "Is this good for my family?" Parents are so busy paying attention to so many things that it is really easy for us to forget that we are growing the next generation of adults. Doing all of the things all of the time is not always the best lesson to teach our babies. 

Here's what the other (much more prompt) ladies have to say about their routines:
Bonnie at House of Grace
Jennifer at Mother Thyme
Linda at Tapas Lifestyle

P.S. It sounds like I kicked church to the curb, but that's not the case. The Mister works at a church with a Saturday night service, so we attend there. And when it doesn't work out, we put our big kid pants on and pull it together for Sunday morning service.

organize now challenge: post OMG THE SICKNESS

I have totally dropped the ball with the Organizing Things Now.  And yes, this is where I blame everything on my children and the Cold Of Death I had for days and days and days.

I was on a roll, people. I had MOTIVATION! and AMBITION! and I was making SERIOUS PROGRESS.  And then I sat on the sofa with my snot-nosed, barfy kids for the better part of three weeks, which is totally what I really should have been doing, you know, the whole mothering thing

But dang. 

Yesterday I cleared my kitchen counters and scrubbed all the things. Today, I made some pretty awesome refried beans for burritos, watched my six year old make cupcakes, and then watched all four of them dump sprinkles all over my kitchen. 

The laundry has erupted. Again. The bedrooms are a mess. There are sprinkles in my socks.


Tomorrow we will be back at the routine. Wish me luck. Send cake. Both.

Friday, February 8, 2013

organize now challenge: post the fifth - papers

Here's a tip to reduce the number of trees you are killing: take your kid out of public school. 

I KID. Really. I'm joking. Pulling your kid out of school to manage your paper issues is a terrible decision, and if your paper issues are that bad, I'm really sad for you.

Not a joke: We do not have mail delivery on my street. There's a real live mail delivery lady who lives on our street, but the only time the mail Jeep drives by is when she's headed to work, or on her way home. We have to go to the Post Office to fetch our mail.  

You might think it's annoying, but let me tell you what the Post Office has besides mail: RECYCLING BINS. All my junk mail? Stays at the Post Office. Stuff never enters my home unless The Mister happens to be the one to get the mail because he just grabs the stuff and gets in the car. Not me. I open, read, and pitch what is useless. I LOVE HAVING TO GO TO THE POST OFFICE.

Another superty awesome thing I have discovered is that EVERYTHING CAN BE PAID ONLINE, thereby eliminating (almost) all of our outgoing mail. We get the occasional invoice in the mail, and if I'm really on top of things I pay it while I'm at the post office sorting the day's mail. This also means I don't keep stamps at my house (translation: I don't LOSE stamps at my house).

My favourite part of each chapter in Jen's book is the Stay Organized! list of suggestions. I can institute a new system like a boss, but sticking with it is not my strong suit. She suggests cleaning out your mail basket once a week, and once a month, making sure you've addressed all the invites/bills/random letters that are piling up. 

Want to see what the other participants are doing with their papers?
Jennifer Ford-Berry
Linda DeFalco 
Jennifer from Mother Thyme
Michelle McDermott

Saturday, January 26, 2013

organize now challenge: post the third


Well, not exactly a taking down of, more of a sorting out. But I'll get to that in a minute.

Background info about my house:
  1. half of my house was built in the 1860's. ish. 
  2. the other half-ish of my house was built in the early-mid 1900's.
  3. people back in those days did not believe in closets.
When I stand in the doorway of my bedroom closet, I can extend my arm and touch the back of the closet. Without leaning. When I stand just inside my bedroom closet, I can extend my right arm, lean ever-so-slightly, and touch the far wall of the closet. Also, standing just inside my closet, I can stick my left elbow out and touch the left wall of the closet. 

Summary: There is not enough room in my closet to do the Hokey-Pokey. 

Additionally: About a third of my closet is taken up by a rather large box containing my wedding dress. I'm not ready to part with it just yet, and there is literally nowhere else to store it in my house. 

So there's that.  

In the closet, there's one bar on which garments can be hung, and a shelf above the bar. I keep my jeans folded nicely in a pile on the shelf, and a stack of bulky sweaters that are not well-suited for hanging in another pile. That's as useful as I can make the space.

sweaters, jeans, and my corset and chemise.
what, you don't keep your corset in the closet?
Fortunately, Jen's first tip for organizing a bedroom closet is to begin by pitching things, starting with the mess. Anything you haven't worn in over a year, things that are out of style, wrecked by your offspring, and that God-awful sweater your grandma gave you for Christmas this year.  

I had a Truly Horrific Pile on the floor of my closet, comprised mostly of random things I didn't want to put away. So I picked up the pile, checked to make sure my superty nice woolen socks were not hiding in it, and I pitched the whole thing. I stuffed the lot of it into a contractor bag and took it out to the curb. I didn't recycle it, I didn't give it away, I didn't box it up for the Salvation Army Thrift Store. I am not so good with sorting through things, it takes me forever, I look at every last item and think about it, and I have done this since childhood. In the future, when I'm not swamped with an ugly mess, I will take the time and use the brain power to divide and conquer, but that was just

Let me tell you: giving myself permission to let go of the stuff, and just straight-up purge it out of my world was really freeing. Really, really, wonderfully freeing. 

inside the closet door: double hook holding the bathrobe
and a hangar with my many scarves

Most of the tips about organizing the clothing inside the closet after emptying it out don't really apply to us.  I can count on one hand the number of button-down shirts owned by The Mister, and I have a small, but versatile Grown-Up Clothes wardrobe. For the majority of the year, my uniform consists of a long-sleeved t-shirt, layered with various sweaters or knee-length dresses. 

three jackets, six cardigans, two shirts
I think it is very clever of Jen to suggest hanging similar items together by color. I have included a photo of this despite the fact that most of my clothes are black, brown and grey, and the lighting is wretched and everything looks black. Very not exciting. Another tip is to purchase a battery-powered light and stick it to the wall of the closet, and I am seriously considering that.  She also recommends using a shoe rack or over-the-door shoe organizer, and I do that, except mine is in the kitchen, near the front door. If I had to go up to my room to put my shoes away every time I came in the house, my shoes would never end up in my bedroom closet. 

At the end of every weekly assignment in Organize Now! is a short checklist of things to keep the area organized. There's a once a month list, a 3-6 month list, and a once a year list. Maybe "list" is not the best word to use, it's more like a couple of bullet points for each time frame. I appreciate this kind of instruction, because it's the staying organized once I've got my act together that I'm really worried about.  

It's just about February, which means I've stuck to my guns for a month already. Now how long do you have to do something before it becomes a habit? Am I close? Are we there yet? Bueller?

Visit the other bloggers taking the Organize Now! Challenge:
Tapas Lifestyle
Mother Thyme
House of Grace
Michelle Murphy