Clean Start

How Big Is Your Elephant?

Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

When the going gets tough, the tough get real. Or something like that. I’m not all that tough, but I feel like I’m up to my elbows in alligators and I’m not ready to give up yet.  My previous post was an emotional purge, an apology for supposing I might have anything useful to say, and perhaps a sample of a low mark on a bipolar roller coaster. (My husband says that sometimes I’m hard to be around; I tell him sometimes I’m hard to be. For better or worse, Mister.) 

So, I’ve been “dealing with” this problem of how to get my life back on track for some time now. 

I have been listening to books and podcasts like The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and The Clutterbug Podcast (which I love!), and motivational books like Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis (also great), and anything else that might be helpful. 

I’ve been trying out different planners: apps, binders with cute stickers, printables. (Ugh, by the way.)

I’ve been researching alternative points of sale, running numbers to evaluate sales channels, researching suppliers, and looking for other ways to make the business work. 

In other words, I’ve throwing a lot of darts. In most cases, I’m working backwards, finding a shiny a solution and trying to make it fit one of my problems… 

Sometimes my brains just fizzes and I accomplish nothing, not because I’m not doing anything, but because I’m doing too many things. Well, starting too many things. I don’t finish much. (I told you, I’m hard to be.)

Then, I read a blog post today by Allie from HeyMom,NowWhat that I found really helpful. Of course I’d heard it before, but it was a good reminder. “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Allie was concerned about getting prepared for Christmas. I could only wish for such a palatable pachyderm, so tiny, tasty, and tender. Alas, that one is Allie’s (and I wish her well!) But the principle applies, and I decided to put it to use. The first bite was a big one, and it took me a full day of contemplation. You might say I had to chew it over a bit. Here is what I came up with.

PROBLEMS

  • Too much stuff
    • can’t find things,
    • can’t enjoy home
  • Too much debt
  • Business 
    • too much time managing inventory
    • too unfocused
    • too many competitors
    • not really enjoying it
  • Prefer to work from home

SOLUTIONS

  • Sell some stuff to:
    • pay some debt
    • have a less cluttered home.
  • Business
    • Immediately reduce number of sales channels by 2 or 3
    • Discount/auction non-core products for quick sale
    • Re-evaluate finances, environment, and happiness in June.

How big is your elephant? Do you need to write a term paper or plan a wedding? Start a business? Buy a house? Get the dishes done? Get dressed? (I get it. Some days are hard like that.) Remember, you can always ask for help. ❤

 

Clean Start

“Metaphormorphosis”

I’m dying. I am dying and I do not want to leave a house full of bric-a-brac and a bunch of paperwork for my family. I do not want to leave three rooms full of fabric and yarn and beads for them to try to make sense of.  Or a bunch of albums and tubs and boxes full of unmarked photographs and truckload of family-flavored guilt. I want them to say good-bye, bury me, and get on with life without dragging me and all my stuff along with them for the next 30 years.  

Since I know some of my readers know and care about me, let me assure you I have no specific information that I should expect to die soon. But I lost my biological father and my aunt when I was six, and my mom passed at 47. I have an unhealthy obsession with early death and have been expecting it any day for some time now.

I walked into my sewing room with my husband one day last week and he made a sound of… something. Shock, maybe. I couldn’t look at him I was so ashamed.

“I know.  This room is a metaphor for my life.”
“No kidding,” he said, backing out carefully. We haven’t spoken of it since.

 And this blog is the “metaphormorphosis” of my life. The symbol and means of navigating a life transformation. I made that up, of course, and it’s likely flawed but I’m going with it.

Back to the sewing room. The space is unusable. Things are piled all over the place, it would take me a full day to clear off the work spaces if I wanted to sew in there, and another day to organize any projects. Totes stacked upon totes in front of book cases and on a chair. You can’t see the top of the ironing board.

As I said, it looks a lot like my life. I don’t think I have enough time left on this earth to get it all sorted out, and sometimes I get a little panicky, afraid I’m going to leave a big old mess for someone else to clean up.


Photo by Ye Fung Tchen on Unsplash

Not that panicking is the answer. Anxiety and depression are probably about 40% of the reason my life is such a shambles right now, and the resulting indecision is the biggest obstacle to me doing anything about it. They rob me of energy and focus and resolve and memory and drive. And self respect. 

So, back to this mess of mine, my so-called life. It’s a disaster. I tagged this blog as a lifestyle blog, but really as kind of a joke. It should be a lifestyle-less blog. I am 49 years old and overweight and I hurt all over. I dress like a homeless person, eat like a college student, drive a car most teenagers would be ashamed of, and my credit is in the toilet. My business is failing and I will probably be bankrupt soon. I love my husband dearly, and I think he likes me well enough, but we understand each other about as well as two people on their third date rather than an old couple who’ve raised three kids and will celebrate 30 years of marriage soon.

I am the way am because personal and business choices I have made, and because of some things that were beyond my control. I accept that. 

As I looked at that room and at my life, something occurred to me. Now, when I am at my lowest and really have nothing to lose, I can reinvent myself.  Not thinner and sleeker and richer. But simpler, more helpful, more present, with less stuff. More time to read, a sewing room in which I can sew, projects that are finished, gifts that are delivered. A reasonable work week.

I’m going to spend the next several months transforming my retail business, if not totally winding it down. I will make that decision in the coming months. I’m definitely going to scale it back. It doesn’t make me happy, I’m not good at it, and it doesn’t fit in with my role a caregiver right now. 

Metaphormorphosis. Having reached a point of ultimate vulnerability and paradoxically ultimate potential, I am going to see what I can make of myself. I will share my journey as much as I am able, and invite you to read along and join in if you wish. 

Don’t mind the tears.

Family

Responsible Parenting: What To Do With Your Grown Children

There are so many blogs about raising children that Mommy Blogging is it’s own industry. I heard a podcast this week featuring a woman who writes a blog for people who want to start a mom blog.  Seriously. And that tells you a little something about how seriously some people take this whole child-rearing business and how much insecurity there is about it.

Long before the advent of the parenting blog, Paul and I were well on our way to ruining our own children with non-organic food, backpacks, candy, cartoons, video games, toy guns, Barbie Dolls, and all manner of unhealthy food and politically incorrect toys and activities. We even spanked them occasionally, mostly for form’s sake and without enthusiasm, usually as a last resort. I don’t think it did any harm, but I can’t say it did much good.

If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you have raised a child or two to adulthood, have a crop that is about ready for harvest, or are at least curious about the process. Raising people is a huge investment of time and money, and people rarely discuss what to do with the produce.

More and more parents these days are choosing to keep their adult offspring at home. My husband and I keep 2/3 of the yield (two individuals) in the basement, and and 1/3 of the yield (one individual) is located off-site at a safe but convenient distance as a designated survivor.

*Net Yield, 1989-2018. Estimated Value: Priceless

When planning your children’s education, it is important to consider their interests and aptitude, but also to take into account the family’s long term needs. Our children each hold at least one post-secondary degree, and two of them hold two or more degrees or certificates. Our off-site DS has been gaining skills in veterinary medicine and pet care, as well as floor installation, welding and assembly work. The youngest has been honing his virtual first-person urban combat skills for years, has experience as a tutor, furniture assembler, and bookkeeper. Our firstborn has worked in management, cooking, sales, and mechanics. When combined with the skills and experience my husband and I have accumulated over the years, we feel the family is well-positioned to survive an apocalyptic disaster. 

I’m kidding, of course. It’s completely true minus the calculation and paranoia. Our oldest and youngest live at home, and we love it that way. Some parents bemoan the kids who won’t leave; we installed high speed Internet service to lure them back. 

I’m not going to sugar coat it.  Parenting my adult children is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I have to stand by and watch while they make decisions, and sometimes mistakes, that affect some of my favorite people in the world. Sometimes I’m consulted, sometimes I’m not, but I no longer get to call the shots. All illusions of control have been removed.

When the kids first went to college and  later their first jobs, I worried and my husband practically stalked them by monitoring their checking accounts. In the first few years there was a bootleg tattoo, a boyfriend procured from the Internet and kept past the return date, a bruised heart or two…

There were more tattoos. I don’t have anything against tattoos, but sometimes it’s hard to see my beautiful child cover her body with artwork that she may not want to wear for as many years as I pray for her to live. But in this I am not consulted, much less a decider. And that’s all right, I have my own body to decorate or pollute, or not. 

Later there was one seriously broken heart, two college dropouts, an unplanned pregnancy, an adoption, a frightening car wreck. Another wrecked car; not our kid, but her car.

The thing about painful experiences is that they can be excellent teachers to willing learners. My children are good learners. They are more cautious and less manic than I am, and they have taken life’s lessons thus far to heart. I’m very proud of them. 

You don’t quit being a mom or dad when your kid turns 18 or gets married or graduates college. But at some point along the way you quit being responsible for them and start becoming a trusted resource, and a friend. And one day you realize that your kid knows something you don’t know, or has a skill you don’t have, and is fun to talk to. And they become a trusted resource in their turn.  We can love without controlling, have boundaries without building walls.

No, Mom! I don’t want you to call my boss and ask him to give me a raise.

And if you’re blessed with kids who are emotionally intelligent and generous, and if you’re wise enough to be vulnerable with them, perhaps the day will come when you will have the privilege of having your child tell you something real about yourself. Maybe it will be painful, but actionable. But maybe it will be encouraging or consoling. Or just true. After all, who knows you better?

Do you have parents or grown children? I’d love to hear your stories your questions! Comment below and please ‘follow’ if you found this fun or helpful.

Family

Monday Morning Mistakes: Confessions and Takeaways

I didn’t sleep well last night. It wasn’t my usual insomnia, but several hours of nightmares fueled by this week’s binge of Homecoming on Amazon. I got up well before sunrise feeling distinctly unrefreshed, had some coffee and went to my office to work until I heard the guys start moving around, at which time I went to scare up some breakfast.

I don’t know why, but I feel I should explain that I did not jump up and make breakfast because I am the only woman in the house and it’s my job. I currently live with my husband, two grown sons, an uncle, and my dad, and we mostly share cooking and cleaning duties; not evenly, but fairly and according to ability and interest. I will post more about that later. The thing is, I was awake, they were waking up, and I felt like cooking them breakfast.

Also, I had a “great” idea for an omelet. We had some pickled eggs left over from the Thanksgiving relish tray, and I thought it would be kind of cool to make a pickled egg-filled omelet. Doesn’t that sound great? It doesn’t to me because I hate eggs, but I thought it at least sounded interesting, and maybe a bit meta.

So I Googled it. There were some recipes for omelets served with pickles and omelets with pickled turnips, but no pickled egg omelets. So I decided to wing it.

I whipped up a couple of eggs with a tablespoon or so of milk and poured it in a pan of hot olive oil. I chopped up a pickled egg, a bit of pickled pepper, added a bit of pickle juice… So far, so good. Right? Right??

brown chicken egg
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I added the egg and pepper to the scramble, added some American cheese because I thought good cheese would be too salty, and let it cook. Topped with more cheese, served with buttered toast.

black spatula on black frying pan
Photo by Caio Resende on Pexels.com

My youngest and the most ardent fan of my cooking grabbed a fork and yelled, “Dad, are you gonna come try the vomit omelet?” He took a bite, and then another. And accepted my offer to make him a plate of scrambled eggs sans pickles.

My husband choked down the omelet. I don’t know whether it is because he hates to waste food or because he wants ammunition, but I’m certain it’s not because he fancied a pickle omelet.

My takeaways are twofold. 1) I should not try to invent new recipes when I am not well-rested,  and 2) If there is not a recipe for something on the Internet by now, there’s probably a good reason.

Uncategorized

Your New Year’s Resolution Is Not A Nose! Pick It Carefully and Don’t Blow It

close up photo of rodent and person
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

(Also, Don’t Worry About It, There’s Always Tomorrow)

My son Deej is pretty good at resolutions and has been since he was about 12 years old and decided he didn’t want to be dead last on every heat of the training exercises in basketball practice. He stayed late and did extra sprints, he quit drinking soda, and he put his plate in the sink after one helping of dinner. He was determined to make a difference and knew he had only a few months to accomplish his goals.

photo of four assorted color beverages
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

That is the only time I remember him making more than one adjustment at a time, though. He has at various times quit drinking soda, eating candy, using tobacco or alcohol, started exercising, quit taking a second helping at dinner, and any number of habits he wanted to start or stop. As someone who has struggled with overeating, gambling, drinking, prescription drugs, not to mention procrastination and general inability to finish anything, I marveled at his success.

ham burger with vegetables
Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

I mentioned this to him one day, about six weeks into his latest no-soda phase (now about a year old). And he said, “Mom, you always try to change everything at once. You quit drinking, go on a diet, start an exercise plan, and launch a new business all at once…”

The kid knows me. But that’s a topic for another post.

Let face it, a lot of us view that magical moment when December 31 becomes January 1 as some point where all things are made new and all things are possible.  If you’re like me, you’re a blank slate sort of person, and you want to 2019 be your fresh start. My message for you is two-fold.

First, as I learned from Deej, choose one area on which to focus. Whether you want to start something or quit something, make one change at a time and do it because you want to.

As someone who will not be celebrating her 49th birthday later this month, but will nevertheless have one, I have never regretted learning something new, and that is a resolution that is much easier to keep.  Instead of going on a diet, try taking up a new hobby or taking a class at the community education center or library.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, you can start over any time. Not just at midnight, not just January 1.

If you blow your diet at breakfast, eat better for the rest of the day. If you don’t get all of your steps in on Tuesday, do it Wednesday. You don’t have to wait until Monday.

If you quit drinking and then go out after two weeks and get hammered, keep trying, and ask for help if you need it.

If you swear off cursing and drop the ‘F’ bomb in some highly inappropriate place (aren’t they all, really?), apologize and set aside 15 minutes every morning to work on your vocabulary.

You can and should keep trying to be a better you. I can and should keep trying to be a better me.

 

 

For information about an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting near you, click here, or check your local yellow pages.

 

Mary Kunst lives in Forsyth, Montana with her husband, uncle, dad, two sons, her dog, and her dad’s dog. She is an expert on nothing, but has made a lot of mistakes and at almost 49, is starting to figure some stuff out.

 

 

Photo by Carl Attard on Pexels.com
Uncategorized

Bah! Humbug: Bringing Joy to the Season By Making It Your Own

candle celebration christmas christmas decoration
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It’s December, and the air is filled with the scent of mulberry candles, evergreen boughs, fresh baked gingerbread… and the pungent odor of stress-induced sweat oozing from the pores of everyone of us who has bought into the lie that if we aren’t skiing, skating, jingling, caroling, wassailing, dancing, shopping, baking, wrapping, trimming, or feasting our way from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day, we’re failing life.

There are the parties: office parties, classroom parties, house parties, group and club parties, community parties, school concerts, church concerts, community concerts.

There are the gifts for friends, coworkers or boss, teachers, family, and if television and Pinterest are to be believed, everybody you meet on the Twelve Days of Christmas.

photo of red boxes
Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush on Pexels.com

You must also clean and decorate your house to Martha Stewart perfection, pile thoughtful and beautifully wrapped gifts around your tree, and park his and hers Lincolns in the driveway.

On the big day, you must prepare a juicy, golden brown turkey ringed with cranberries and rosemary sprigs, a green bean casserole, and an 18″ pumpkin pie with a single dollop of whipped cream in the center.

Now, to be fair, some people absolutely love the shopping and decorating and socializing, and if you are one of those people, that’s totally cool. You don’t need me to validate your feelings; the whole world does it for you!

There are many reasons for holiday ambivalence: financial stress, introversion, too little down time, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and painful associations. Whatever reasons you may have for dreading the hustle and bustle of the season, the added stress of unrealistic expectations won’t make it more enjoyable.

Usually, our home is Holiday Central for extended family: my twin brothers and their families, my cousins and their families, and our grown children. We clean and decorate, plan, shop, and cook. All while doing our regular work, but admittedly not many parties or concerts.

A couple of years ago, my mother-in-law had a health scare in November so my husband wanted to visit over Christmas. I couldn’t go, so he took my uncle (who lives with us) and went to visit for the week. Our daughter had just started a new job and couldn’t come home, and neither could my cousins or my brothers. It was just me and our two boys. The three of us stocked up on snacks and pizzas and drinks, and spent two days in our pajamas. On Christmas morning, we read the Christmas story from the Book of Luke. They played video games, I read a book, and we watched movies. No tree. No gifts. No stress. No guilt. We all went back to work a couple of days later feeling rested and refreshed and happy.

That might be a little too simple for you, and it’s not how we usually do things. But that year, at that time in our lives, we needed rest more than we needed feasting or tradition. And that’s OK.

This year we have put up a tree and outside lights. We will host a small potlock party for my book club, and about half of my family will be here for Christmas dinner. We will each put a small gift the others’ stockings, and the children will have gifts to open, and I think we’re going to have pizza and snacks because we just had a big Thanksgiving feast. That way we’ll have more time for games and puzzles and pajamas.

What will you do? I encourage you to say ‘Yes’ to those things you want to do or that are important to you and your loved ones, graciously pass on the things that aren’t, or that overextend you. If you can’t afford to or don’t want to participate in gift exchanges, let people know. Respond to unexpected gifts with a prompt, handwritten thank you rather than the hasty, guilt-prompted reciprocal gift that will make you both feel awkward.

Be kind to yourself, true to your beliefs, and forever grateful.

affection appreciation decoration design
Photo by Carl Attard on Pexels.com

 

Mary Kunst lives in Forsyth, Montana with her husband, uncle, dad, two sons, her dog, and her dad’s dog. She is an expert on nothing, but has made a lot of mistakes and at almost 49, is starting to figure some stuff out.

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized

The Pros & Cons of Nosy Neighbors

As I mentioned in my first post, my brother’s recent retirement and subsequent settling in Montana got me to thinking about why, or why not, a person might choose to live in a small Montana community. My sister-in-law wasn’t sure she could live in a small town, 100 miles from everything.
And she’s not the only one. Small towns across Montana are drying up as our young people grow up and make tracks for greener pastures: better jobs, social and cultural opportunities, the chance to marry someone who is not a cousin…, and privacy.

It is a well-known fact of small-town life: You know your neighbors and they know you (or they soon will). And they know your business.

This is not for everyone.

I remember a few years ago I was working as a cashier at the local grocery store. A young man I didn’t recognize kept showing up, and after the third or fourth day I asked him if he was new in town, where he was from, and what had brought him to Forsyth. After the third question, I noticed that he was becoming very uncomfortable, so I welcomed him to town and wished him a good evening. After that, he avoided my lane for a long time…  I started making up stories in my head about him being in the Witness Protection Program or on the lam; Heaven only knows what he thought.

To me, it was just normal friendly banter, to him it was very awkward and intrusive. He is still around and has presumably realized by now that I am no crazier than the next small-town person, and I have heard him chat with customers in a very friendly and familiar way. I still don’t know what brought him to Forsyth, and that’s OK.My inquisitiveness only goes so far as someone is willing to share, and I think that’s true of most Montanans. Maybe his is on the lam, and if someone came to me looking for him, I would probably offer to give him a message rather than tell them where he works.

Nosy neighbors are inconvenient, but they help to keep us honest.

I think anyone who was ever a kid in a very small town at some time harbored an abiding wish to ‘get out of here’. When I was about 13, a convenience store owner called the cops on me for attempted shoplifting. I had tried to lift a bottle of wine and thought better of it (I chickened out), but he called the cops and I got my first ride in the back of a police cruiser. Since I hadn’t actually taken anything, no charges were pressed and they didn’t call my parents. I just got a scare and long lecture.

A couple of weeks later, some helpful neighbor told my mom about my ride of shame, but Mom didn’t believe it because a) she still thought I was a pretty good kid, and b) I was safely at home with her on the night in question. The neighbor had gotten the date wrong.

As a young teen, I could see only that our neighbor was being nosy and gossipy and trying to ‘get me into trouble’. It wasn’t until much later that I began to see this interference for what it was: the original social safety net. If I had gotten into a little more trouble then, I might never have had another ride in a cop car.

There is a reason that small town America doesn’t have huge gang problem. Our neighbors would tell on us and we’d get grounded.

What really makes this truth a Pro is that we know and care about our neighbors, even the ones we don’t really like. We bring meals to the sick and grieving, offer rides, drop by to chat. We will notice if something is wrong and will help if we can.
Furthermore, while grudges and feuds are not unknown, but they are very impractical in tiny communities. So we tend to apologize when we’re wrong, compromise when we must. If we want to be happy, we learn to accept the good with the bad.