“Have the Best Day that’s Available to You”

Most days, I feel like I was sent to this Earth to work myself to death in the pursuit of ideals.  I’ve been the queen of jamming as much stuff as possible into twenty-four hours and then berating myself for not getting more done. I’ve spent days cleaning and cooking and running errands and volunteering and folding laundry and getting a few moments of crafting and reading done, and then spending my falling-asleep time near tears because I’ve just not accomplished as much as I thought I should that day. I only mended three pairs of jeans instead of eight; we ate sandwiches for dinner instead of a pot roast and homemade rolls; I sat and watched my kids’ baseball games instead of walking around and getting in more steps. And then the Big Back Injury™ happened and that voice in my head telling me I wasn’t doing enough got even louder because yeah, hard to get stuff done when you’re loaded up on narcotics and can’t take a step without searing pain coursing through your body.

If you’ve ever needed to do some serious thinking about how your life is going, two years of bedrest and then three years of physical therapy that makes your body cry every day and THEN a pandemic will really give you that time.  #lifehack

Before the Big Back Injury™, I was busy. Busy with homeschooing, busy with doing as many homemaking tasks from scratch as possible, busy with driving four kids around to music lessons, theatre practices, sports practices and games, busy with church music, busy with my own interests and hobbies (if I could find time to squeeze them in). Running from place to place every single moment of the day. And I liked it; I liked being busy and watching my children develop their talents, and I liked feeling like I was a part of my community.

But I still went to bed every night thinking I should have done more than I did.

And then the injury, and…nothing. If you think you haven’t done enough in a day on your good days, that voice inside your head gets really hysterical when you’re bedridden.

So I started quilting because it was interesting enough to make me want to get out bed and deal with the discomfort of sitting upright. At first I could handle ten minutes a day. It was a huge milestone, about eighteen months after I started, when I could go all morning until lunch,. And still, every one of those nights I went to bed thinking I was such a loser because the laundry wasn’t done, I hadn’t cooked a dinner, I hadn’t gardened. I pushed harder and harder to measure up to the ideal in my head, and as a result, I developed overuse injuries non-stop.

Then the pandemic hit and I discovered e-loans from the library and started reading as much as my heart had desired for years. (I never have enough money to buy all the books I want to read! God bless libraries.) I read The Twelve Week Year, and it suggested to write out your ideal week in a planner, and to block out time to work on your goals, etc. So I did, and lo and behold, I could not fit everything I thought I should be doing into the hours I had available to me in a week. And not only could I not fit everything I thought I should be doing, I couldn’t even fit everything I needed to be doing into my week. It was a huge wake-up call.

About that time a friend mentioned the quote “I hope you have the best week that’s available to you” because I was dealing with yet another injury of sorts, and that quote really resonated with me. Normally it’s “Have a good week,” which seems like a command when you think about it, but “Have the best week that’s available to you” is an acknowledgment that life isn’t perfect, can’t be planned for perfectly, and that we each are allowed a measure of grace in regards to our productivity, especially in the face of unforeseen trials and circumstances that impede or directly oppose our aspirations. Which, realistically, happens all the freaking time.

I dutifully plan out my week each Sunday in my trusty Action Day planner, complete with my 12 Week Year Strategy, Buffer, Work, and Breakout sessions, and by the time the next Sunday rolls around, there’s a bunch of little slash marks and little appointments and explanations penciled into the margins as to why this and that didn’t happen and why that had to be cancelled. I don’t know the last time I had a day go as I planned it to go, because COVID guidelines change things; because I have four kids who, shocker, do the things that kids do; and because I have a physical body that, spoiler alert, isn’t fifteen years old anymore and has suffered a lot of physical trauma. But now, after a year of re-programming my internal thinking, I don’t look at all those interruptions and changes and get (as) annoyed with them.

I’m learning to accept them. Interruptions and changes are just a part of normal life. They are constant, despite your best efforts to guard against them, and freaking out and getting angry about them accomplishes nothing except you being upset. I’ve learned that it’s better, when faced with an unforeseen situation that derails your plans, to say, “That sucks! I wish that hadn’t happened that way. OK then, what am I going to do now that that’s happened?” It works much better than sulking and ragin against the interference. In short, it’s better to acknowledge the unfortunate aspects of the situation, and then keep trying to have the best day that’s available to you.

The best day that’s available to you may not even be a good day. It may be such a terrible day that you wish it had never occurred, but you can still decide to let it be the best day available to you under the circumstances. There’s a huge power in the realization about how much you’re still in control of things even when things are completely out of your control. You can cry and hide from the world on the worst of the worst day and know that that was the best day to be had because that particular day was so rotten and overwhelming that the healthiest thing to do was to take a break and cry.

Other times you know you don’t have that option and so you do what you can as gracefully as you can given your resources, and then you make the decision to not beat yourself up over how the end result wasn’t perfect.

Some days you wake up in pain and you have to cancel. You do the necessary relaxation work that day and then make a phone call to your doctor to re-start physical therapy so you can get stronger and minimize the pain in the future.

Sometimes it goes exactly as planned.  CELEBRATE THAT.  SO MUCH.

Sometimes it goes nearly as planned, but only because you gutted it out and sacrificed and got stuck with jobs you didn’t originally sign on for, and you realize that it’s simply not worth the stress.  So you make plans to resign from those commitments because they’re only making you miserable.

All of these experiences are valid.  All of these experiences help us learn important life coping lessons.  And you are the final say as to how you’re going to deal with them and later frame them in the context of a good or bad day.

We were never created to be perfect.  We were created to experience life, which is a mix of good and bad.  No one is guaranteed an easy existence, but we are given the choice to decide how we’re going to handle our existence, and how we handle our situations is as individual as each of us because we all have so many different backgrounds that we bring into those situations.  Listen to your gut, get help with the stuff that’s too overwhelming or maladaptive, and celebrate your victories out loud.  Make plans to do better at the things that matter to you and make plans to let go of the things that make you feel terrible and unloved.  Be patient with the process of change because it can be exceedingly slow, and accept that there will be setbacks, but remember that setbacks aren’t permanent failures, just temporary hiccups.  Keep making the decision to have the best day that’s available to you and soon enough, you’ll be living the best life that’s available to you, warts and all.  Which actually is what we were sent to this Earth to do.

What’s the best life that’s available to you look like?  Only you can tell us.

At the End of Week #2 of COVID-19 School Closures

We are now 1/3 of the way through the initial school closures here in Washington State, and are now enjoying the escalated “Stay Home” measures that were announced this week by the governor, dictating that we not leave our houses unless there’s an essential need (groceries, medical, etc.).

The kids are doing really great with their online learning, and I actually learned that their school district is one of TWO that made the immediate jump to online learning for the school closures.  Cue the “I’m so glad we moved into this particular house” gratitude.  We get to walk down to the bus stop each morning to pick up the school lunch deliveries (practicing safe social distancing of course), and I get to have a quick chat with some of my neighborhood mom friends, so we don’t feel completely socially isolated.  It’s not that bad, actually.

Crafting-wise, I basically just sewed up medical masks this week.  Not exciting at all, and a little anger-inducing because all I can think about while I’m sewing these up is how frustrating it is that we don’t have enough medical supplies on-hand for something of this nature, despite the fact that scientists have been warning us for years that we were historically due for a pandemic of some sort.  And then my thoughts wander down more angry roads, and I just end up steaming mad about lots of things.  So…no, I don’t like making medical masks AT ALL.  BUT, I have friends who work in the medical field and one of them texted yesterday asking if I had made any because her hospital really needs some, so I drove the twenty I’d made over to her house and left them on her doorstep.  I guess I’ll need to make more, but I need a break before I go back to them.

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I’m going to use my “break from the masks” to attach the binding to my March Blank Quilting project, which just arrived back from the quilter this week; and I’m starting to work with the “Best Friends Farm” fabric that Jaftex/Henry Glass Fabrics sent me as a bonus for April; and I did my part to support a small business by buying up some yardage of an absolutely gorgeous floral print from Style Maker Fabrics that I’m hoping to turn into a dress by Easter.

 

So, because goals are my self-love love language, I’ll end this with a “Goals for the Next Week” list:

  • Finish the Florabelle Hexie Stripes quilt.  Photograph it and share it online.
  • Finish piecing the individual blocks for the Best Friends Farm quilt.
  • Finish the muslin for my Blue Floral Easter dress.
  • Photograph and share the dress I finished for Renaissance a couple of weeks ago.
  • Move forward in some meaningful way with my sewing pattern database/spreadsheet.  The plan, pre-COVID-19, was to have it completed by the end of the next week or so, but things got way too crazy to keep up with it, so it’s a minor project that’s limping along at the moment.  I’ll worry about it more once things calm down in the future.
The week after next is Spring Break, which means there will be no online learning and schoolwork to keep the kids entertained throughout the day, AND we’ll still be mandated to stay home, so…I guess I should come up with some ideas for that as well.  Any suggestions?

Thursday, Week #1 of Covid-19 School Closures

I am not very uplifting today.

And I wrote a blog post detailing all the reasons as to why I’m in a terrible mood, but then I decided to delete it all.  You don’t need to read about my bad day or listen to my anxieties.  That’s not going to really help anyone here.

What I think is important about today is granting permission to the bad days to exist.

Which is not the same as granting bad days permission to ruin things later.  And it’s not  granting myself permission to feel like a failure because an unpleasant situation felt unpleasant.  It’s also not granting myself permission to use a bad day to justify being rude or mean to someone else.

Because bad days don’t take time off because a shiny new germ is tap-dancing its way across the globe.

If it’s not acceptable behavior when things are going well, then it’s not acceptable behavior when things are going bad, either.

The bad days are going to still happen, even amongst all this idyllic staying at home and having my family gathered around me all close.

And I still get to decide how I’m going to act and react, in spite of the anxiety I may have or the rudeness I may see other people using and justifying.  Turbulent times do not condone turbulent tempers.

The novelty of the situation is wearing off, as evidenced by the short words people have had with each other today.  As evidenced by the rumors that are going around.  It felt like conversations today, both online and in-person, have the slightest whiff of panic about them.  Which I guess is to be expected…but I’m not going to add to it.  I’m in charge of that decision.

I’m going to finish watching a movie, I’m going to say my prayers, and I’m going to get a good night’s sleep.

And then I’m going to wake up tomorrow and do the things that I know make for a good day.  And hopefully it is a good day.  We shall see…

…I wish you a good night’s sleep and very good day tomorrow. Because tomorrow has the potential to be a very, very good day.

There is a House in Washington

So, yes, our family made it safely to Washington almost two weeks ago.  We rolled into town just as the fireworks for the Fourth of July started going off, and it felt like the state was welcoming us with gusto.  (And added the much-appreciated side effect of lighting up the heavily-treed highway that was tough to navigate…but the cats weren’t big fans of the fireworks and may have peed…a lot…in their carriers.)

 

We signed the papers for our Washington home the next morning and officially had the keys by lunch.  My aunt made a beeline for us and helped us unload our truck and trailer, and our ward helped us finish the huge task later that evening.  We’ve been screeching, “Where is the [insert a million different items here]?!?!” ever since.

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20180713_131255Where we’re living is *lovely.*  It’s a little removed from Suburbia-proper, but only by a little bit, so running to the grocery store/Costco/Home Depot takes minutes, and the drive is lush and green and has a crazy spectacular view of Mt. Rainier the entire way.  Sometimes I have to sit and wait for the dairy’s cows to cross the road to get to their next milking, and there’s rivers, and hydrangea, and four different types of purple or pink flowers in bloom by the roadsides right now (Fireweed, Sweet Pea, Foxglove, and a plant that looks like Butterfly Bush) and I just…get so happy to see familiar plants again.  I figured out plants in Utah, but these are what I grew up with and can name without thinking because my dad taught them to me when I was in preschool.

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We’ve had family over TWICE in one week for dinner, which is crazy amazing and as fun as you’d expect, and we get to attend a family wedding this weekend because we don’t live fourteen hours away anymore.

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The house is bigger than our last house, which I’m loving a lot–six people in our old house got old about six years ago, so the extra space is much-appreciated by all of our family’s members.  Unfortunately, though, this house is painted in a very warm and earthy color palette, and I lean toward the cool and ocean-inspired color palette.  And the ceilings are painted the same color as the walls…the same, sand-brown light-absorbing color…even the twenty-feet-up ceilings in the front room.  Yep, I gotta paint ’em all…and that sand-brown color is just dark enough to warrant two coats of primer every. time.

So I’m busy for the rest of the month, and probably for most of August as well.

But it’s OK, because at the end of all the painting my kids will all have bedrooms with fully-finished walls painted the colors of their choosing, and everything will be just as lovely inside as it is outside.

We went and got our library cards today, which really does make you feel like you truly “belong” in your town.  And I forgot to turn on Google Maps for the drive home, but it didn’t matter because I got home just fine, with no special mental gymnastics.  I pulled up to this house in this new state without help, and my kids clambered out of the van like they always do, helped by dumping our purchases onto the kitchen table before running off to binge-read their library books like they always do, and in that moment it was clear: This house in Washington is now our home.

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Probably still a bit of time before Happy Crafting Times can recommence, but with each newly-unpacked box and newly-painted wall, I’m getting closer to reopening the fun conversations I get to have with my crafty friends!  I’ve missed you!

Bed Rest, Weeks 1-3

Sooooo…

…had some surgery in November, which wasn’t supposed to take that long to recover from, but then, at the one-week follow-up appointment, my doctor broke the news that I needed to stay in bed for another five weeks.  So I went from expecting one week of lying around to SIX WEEKS.  DURING THE HOLIDAYS.

The six-week follow-up appointment happens during the week before Christmas, so I’m pretty much stuck in bed, drooling over all the gorgeous Instagram posts of beautiful Christmas quilts and lamenting that I can’t finish all the stuff that I promised myself that I was going to finally finish up this year.  2016 has not been a banner year for me, people.

BUT…I do not want to be one of those people who mopes about and whines about their difficulties, so that has meant trying to stay “busy” despite the bed rest.

Week #1:

I spent the days leading up to my surgery frantically finishing up a quilt to the point where I’d only have the hand stitching of the binding left to do.  During my first week post-op, I finished hand stitching the binding.  Then I designed some alterations for a dress I own that’s too short on me, and, inspired by the idea of sewing clothing, I read Couture Sewing Techniques, which then had me researching Christian Dior-everything for a few days.

Week #2:

After receiving the very unexpected news of another five weeks of bed rest, I panicked and decided to start a Christmas EPP quilt, but after finishing two of the blocks I realized that I didn’t actually want to make it and abandoned it.  I’ll keep the blocks for something else in the future.

Then I decided that the quilt label for the quilt I’d just finished binding could use a little extra pizazz, so I opted to embroider parts of it, which took the rest of the week and little of the next.  (There is a lot of napping happening during my day.)

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I also read The Art of Manipulating Fabric, and Draping: The Complete Course.  I’m seeing some garment construction in my future, and I’m excited.  I have three daughters who are about to embark upon their teenage years, and I’ve always thought that one of the funnest parts of having girls would be making their party and dance dresses, and it’s always good to practice a skill before you actually *need* it, so maybe next year will see me venture into that arena a bit.

Week #3:

Thanksgiving, which had to be delegated to my kids and they did a pretty great job of it.  A friend from my quilt guild saw my SOS Instagram post and brought me over a ton of books to read, so I spent most of my third week reading:

  1. A Curse Dark as Gold (very good retelling of “Rumpelstiltskin!”)
  2. Dragonfly (enjoyed very much!)
  3. Once Upon a Marigold (not sure I’ll finish it), and
  4. The Blue Sword (enjoying)

So here we are, amidst Week #4, and I was really hoping that my doctor’s “six weeks” prescription was just overly cautious, but I tried to sew up the swap block for November this week and it about killed me with pain and exhaustion to just do a fabric pull, so I had to send out an email apologizing for the block’s tardiness because it will not be getting finished anytime soon.  And, as a precaution, I wrote to December’s swap recipient as well and gave her a heads-up that her block could end up being late as well.  Sigh.

BUT…I woke up from this surgery with NO BACK PAIN for the first time in three years, so the future is looking mighty bright!  I can rest three more weeks if it means no back pain.

And, for Week #4, I’m feeling the knitting a-calling to me…especially:

  • Color-Tipped Italian Cashmere Beanie by Churchmouse Yarns (because it’s beautiful in that wonderfully elegant way that “simple” is beautiful)
  • Honeymoon Cowl by FitzBirch Crafts (learning double knit could be fun)
  • Botanical Yoke Pullover by Purl Soho (oh, that cabled yoke…will have to wait, but it’s sure fun to stare at it when I can)
  • St. Brendan by Kelbourne Woolens (I’m making this some day, but not now because it takes some planning), or
  • Socks! (Because I can do that…)

My son does need a new winter hat…I think my second daughter might need one, too…OH! And I was supposed to mend my youngest daughter’s Hello Kitty hat…bed rest or not, a mama’s work is never done.  I cannot wait to get back to making pancakes, and vacuuming, and cooking dinners that don’t come from a box.  Resting is a nice change, but it’s sucky to be forced to rest from taking care of the people you love.

The Worth of a Century

Today is a big day.  Not for me, but a big day nonetheless: my great grandmother turns the big one-zero-zero today!  One hundred years old, can you even imagine?

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Christmas 2013. Sadly, we live too far away to be with her today.

Thinking about that–being alive for one hundred years–all the things she’s seen and experienced, gets you thinking about all the things that you’ve not only seen and experienced, but will see and experience over the course of the remainder of my life.

My great grandmother was thirteen when the stock market crashed in 1929, a student in middle school.  The attack on Pearl Harbor happened two days before her twenty-sixth birthday–while she was pregnant with my grandmother.  What was she doing when she heard that the war had ended?  What did she think of Martin Luther King’s speech when she first heard it?  Where was she when she saw footage of the first man on the moon?  What feelings surged through her when the Berlin Wall came down?

Are those even things that she thinks about anymore?

Or do her thoughts sift through other things?

I mean, if I was one hundred years old, living in a bed in a nursing home, what would I be thinking about?

The happy memories? The day my husband proposed to me?  Our first kiss as husband and wife? Christmas mornings when my children were young? Christmas mornings when I was young? The first time I heard my first baby laugh?  How happy my second daughter was when, after months of mauling the poor thing, the cat hopped into her lap as she sat on the couch?  My third daughter’s smile when she rode the Dumbo ride at Disneyland?  The moment when I found out our fourth child was a boy?

The painful memories?  The things I regret?  My moments of triumph?

I assume all, actually.

But I’m pretty sure I won’t be bragging about being alive when 9/11 happened. Or recounting my first experience with Facebook.  Or where I was when…well, whatever the next huge step is in regards to advancing as a civilization.

I’ll be thinking about my family and my choices.  That time I yelled at my child when I shouldn’t have. That time I made a huge sacrifice for someone else and it turned out to be completely worth it. That first decision that started the chain reaction that led to the worst mistake of my life. That moment of divine intervention that led me to the best joys of my life. That smile. Those tears. The words. The feelings.

Which has me thinking about what’s truly important today.  Of everything that’s going on this week, this month, next year…what will I be thinking about, expressing gratitude for, during the winding-up years of my life?

And is there anymore that I can do to make right now even better?

Because that’s what life is, even when you’ve had a hundred years on this planet–the total of your “right nows.”

That smile. Those tears. The words. The feelings.

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