Homemaking with office hours?

My “office”

I am learning! I feel grateful that I am finally learning to roll with it, to try new things, and to keep trying new things until I find something that works for me.

Last week I posted that my mid-morning routine wasn’t working for me. My daughter needs a lot of help with schooling and I’m perfectly happy to help her. We just need to find a routine that works for both of us. Her presence is only required online for two hours each morning, four days a week. We were attempting to cram in assignments during the short breaks between classes or between classes and lunch. However, this was leaving us both feeling rushed and frazzled.

My daughter is “in class” from nine to eleven each morning. My husband often has conference calls in the mornings. Both of them have been working upstairs at the kitchen table. I was feeling like my attempts at a routine were being thwarted by everyone else’s schedule. I finally realized that instead of trying to fight their schedule, I should embrace it. On Monday, I decided to try something new.

My very cluttered “office”

Starting at nine every morning, I am moving myself to my bedroom. I haul my coffee and my laptop downstairs and set up in the corner. It’s relatively quiet down here, especially compared to the conference calls and schooling going on upstairs. My lovely noise cancelling headphones remove all distractions if I need absolute quiet.

This has been working really, really well! I worked in my new office from 9-11 four different mornings this week. My introverted self craves the quiet time. My need for productivity is satisfied because I have uninterrupted time to get things done. I’ve been following the mid-morning routine I shared earlier.

Best Decade Ever journaling
Process personal email
Process any business email
Complete all Chinese flashcards
Complete all Japanese flashcards
Respond to language partners on HelloTalk

I have’t quite been able to fit in a formal language lesson but it might happen in time. I do believe that the flashcard review plus posting/chatting on HelloTalk is already helping.

My office view

I am excited to keep following this new routine. I see possibilities!

I’d love to hear from you. How do you keep your office hours?

Best Laid Plans

My apologies to anyone who has left a comment in the past week. My husband is still trying to fix my blog on the back end because it’s not notifying me of new comments. Hopefully it’ll be fixed soon. I do want to connect with anyone who is reading my blog so I apologize if I have not been able to respond to you yet.

Begonia growth!

Earlier this month I brainstormed routines that I felt were doable for this season of life. How does that quote go? Man plans and God laughs. I don’t believe God mocks us but I do suspect He chuckles occasionally and shakes His head at our naivete.

My daughter will graduate high school in four weeks. Last month, the school was still trying to figure out how online learning was going to move forward. At first, it seemed like they were taking the approach that as long as you make an effort, you’ll pass your classes and graduate. But over the past few weeks, teachers have been sending home more and more assignments. My daughter struggles with self-directed learning so I’ve pulled up a chair and started learning alongside her.

High school math

We have learned so much math in the past few weeks! We’ve also worked on a project researching Tesla and their efforts at globalization. We finished reading The Great Gatsby, answered questions, and wrote an essay. All of this takes two or three hours a day and uses most of my brain power. I feel that my brain is not very sharp because I haven’t been stretching it by learning new things. I study languages but it’s a small project, not something that takes up a significant amount of time. So I feel like my brain is a bit rusty!

My mid-morning routine was supposed to look like this:

Make a cup of tea
Best Decade Ever journaling
Process personal email
Process any business email
Complete all Chinese flashcards
Complete all Japanese flashcards
Respond to language partners on HelloTalk
Japanese grammar lesson

Morning journaling

Instead, it currently looks like this:

Process email
Math
English
History
Any other school related things (resume building, financial aid stuff)
Make lunch

Clematis flower

The rest of my time has been spent keeping my family alive and my house from falling apart. I’ve been spending a bit of time in my garden, trying to keep everything alive. I’ve made a few homemade meals but I’ve also made boxed macaroni and cheese because… well, life.

If there is any time left after all of this, I have a new computer game obsession. My husband was rather shocked that I have never played Civilization so he bought me the latest Civilization release with all of the extra content. I have lost several games and I’ve won several games. I had no idea a computer game could be so complex. If this game is anything like running a real government, no wonder politicians look so frazzled.

Civilization VI

I’m not sure why this game is so addicting right now but I have a theory. Some areas of life feel out of control due to the coronavirus. I love to travel but I’m not allowed. I love to spend time at my local library but the libraries are closed. I love meeting with my friend at a coffee shop so we can knit and chat but we can’t do that right now. My life has gotten much smaller over the past three months and there’s no end in sight.

But here’s a game that lets me travel! I can build cities, add amenities, develop cultural attractions, and run a government. Civilization requires a ton of decision making and you have control of your entire civilization. When the real world won’t let you control a large portion of your life, a computer game gives you a semblance of control. In a way, playing Civilization is a coping skill for dealing with a rampant virus, a shut down community, and everyone being at home 24/7.

I would love to hear from you. How have you been doing with routines? Have you found that your routines are still serving you well or have you had to make changes?

The Simple Woman’s Daybook – May 4th

The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Capturing a moment in time, reminding myself to be aware of the present.

My patio garden

Looking out my window, we are blessed with a warm sunny day. It’s so nice after having several wet days.

I am thinking about our Bible study this morning. We are studying Galatians. Why is it so hard to understand the difference between living under law and grace?

I am thankful that I don’t have to go to the grocery store today. Shopping is even more stressful now that the virus is rampant.

One of my favorite things – a hot cup of coffee.

Knitting project

I am creating an infinity scarf. I am so close to being done but it feels like the project that never ends!

I am wearing my chilly weather default – jeans, thick socks, and a hoodie.

I am listening to The Tim Ferris Show. In this particular podcast, Tyler Cowen is discussing scales. A musician practices scales every day so that he/she can become an expert. A basketball player practices free throws. What is the equivalent of scales for a homemaker?

I am hoping to find more time today to work on my language studies. I’ve already completed my flashcards but I’d like to learn something new.

I am learning (or relearning) high school math with my daughter!

Birthday cupcakes

In my kitchen – leftover cupcakes from my daughter’s 18th birthday.

Post Script – If you have a craving for chocolate, I highly recommend ordering vegan chocolate truffles from Creek House Patisserie‘s Etsy shop. The hazelnut flavor is my favorite, followed closely by the espresso truffle.

Shared Quote – “Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.” The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

Flowers

A moment from my day. I’m just sharing this giant box of plants sitting on my dining room table. All of these need transplanted!

Closing Notes – This was a fun exercise in embracing the present moment. As I’m writing this, my husband is on a phone conference, my daughter is playing video games, and a very chipper bird is singing right outside our condo. It’s a busy day but there are also moments of calm.

Thanks to The Simple Woman for hosting this!

Routines – Mid-morning

Since my post last week, I’ve been working to establish a mid-morning routine, covering the period between breakfast and the start of my lunch prep. This is still very much a work in progress but I think I’m on the right track.

Here is my tentative mid-morning routine. I am going to follow this routine until it becomes habit or until I decide it’s not meeting my needs.

Mid-morning Routine
Make a cup of tea
Best Decade Ever journaling
Process personal email
Process any business email
Complete all Chinese flashcards
Complete all Japanese flashcards
Respond to language partners on HelloTalk
Japanese grammar lesson

Practicing Hanzi

By the time all of these items are completed, it’s almost time for lunch.

I’m glad that I am finally putting a priority on my language studies. Since I really want to travel, I need to keep moving forward in languages. I believe that neither Chinese nor Japanese are languages that you can cram 30 days before traveling, especially if you want to be able to read either of them. This means that I need to study every day, every week, every month so that I can reach conversational fluency in both languages.

The next week will be devoted to turning this new routine into habit. So far I’ve really enjoyed journaling with a hot cup of tea. Hopefully this morning time will prove to be both relaxing and productive.

Routines – Morning & Evening

One of the best decisions I ever made for myself was to implement both a morning and an evening routine. I first read about these two routines on the FlyLady website.

My morning routine is quite simple, which meant that it was easy to adapt when my daughter’s school shifted to online learning for the remainder of the semester.

This cat makes me smile

Morning Routine
Wake up
Take a shower
Wipe down the shower
Get dressed
Enjoy a cup of coffee while playing a computer game
Make breakfast
Brush my teeth
Make the bed
Tidy my bedroom

My evening routine is also fairly simple, though I’m still trying to figure out the best time to run the dishwasher. For a long time, we’ve set the dishwasher on a four hour delay so that it runs in the middle of the night. However, I think this is interrupting our sleep. I am trying to remember to start the dishwasher immediately after dinner so that’s done before bed. This isn’t quite a habit yet, though!

Evening Routine
Set the oil diffuser
Brush my teeth
Change into pj’s
Set out my clothes for tomorrow
Wash my face
Brush my hair
Read until sleepy

My husband and I have recently started heading to our bedroom by 8:30 at the latest. This way, we have time to complete our evening routine and then read for a bit before falling asleep. This evening reading has allowed me to finish several Agatha Christie novels over the past two weeks! I find this bedtime reading to be so much more relaxing than a last minute Facebook scroll, especially these days with all of the coronavirus news.

I don’t have any firm routines for the daytime hours. I know that my best mental hours are between breakfast and lunch. This would be the ideal time to work on my business, write blog posts, and study languages. After lunch, my mental powers drop a bit and I find this is the best time for me to clean, take a walk, or do something else active.

My lack of routines during the day is because I have let my husband’s conference calls control my activities. He’s been working from home for years, so this stay-at-home order is nothing new for us. Some of his conference calls are regular, daily calls. Others are random and unpredictable. When he’s on the phone, I have to be quiet so his clients can’t hear me in the background. I have allowed this challenge of random periods of silence influence my ability to create a routine.

I need to set up my routines and then be willing to move my computer to my room if necessary. This way, I can continue writing or studying without worrying about being able to concentrate. I also need to be more flexible about my cleaning schedule, working around my husband’s conference calls instead of getting frustrated and refusing to clean at all.

Journaling

I think the best place to start is to concentrate on my mid-morning routine. After cleaning up from breakfast, I would like to establish the habit of journaling my Best Decade Ever dreams (more on these later). I’ll do some brainstorming over the next few days to figure out where I should concentrate my morning mental work/studies and then start developing a routine around those goals.

The beauty of routines is that I don’t have to worry about what comes next. I always know! This tends to lower my anxiety and help me feel more confident about my abilities to get things done. Even when I’m having my worst days, I’m still able to complete my morning and evening routines because they are so ingrained. Developing additional daily routines will also help.

What daily routines do you have?

Just Clean It – Day 2

Yesterday was day 2 of the Just Clean it Challenge. Kendra challenged us to work on the living room. She emailed a huge list of cleaning tasks and said to pick five. Here are my five:

• Dusted the entertainment center
• Cleaned behind entertainment enter
• Vacuumed cat hair from inside living room heater vents
• Vacuumed couch
• Vacuumed underside of the couch

Cleaning the heater vents took the longest because I had to figure out how to remove the covers and then how to put them back on. There was a massive amount of cat hair in there! So gross and probably not very safe.


Before


After

It’s not a huge change but I’m happy. Everything has been dusted and straightened. Someday I hope to declutter our DVDs and video games but that’s a bigger effort and will have to wait.

#JustCleanIt

This week, I’m joining a five day cleaning challenge hosted by Kendra from Mother Like a Boss. I’ve attended one of Kendra’s free webinars and thought that she has some great advice. So why not join a quick cleaning challenge?

Kendra emailed a list of cleaning tasks and challenged everyone to choose five and spend five minutes on each task. It’s amazing how much I got done in just those 25 minutes. These are the five tasks I chose:

• Clean out expired and bad food from the fridge
• Wipe down refrigerator shelves (warm water and soap works just fine)
• Clean out junk drawer
• Sweep the kitchen floor
• Make a natural deodorizer with a cup of baking soda and 5-10 drops of your favorite essential oils. Put the baking soda in a small glass dish, add the oils and mix gently. Leave out to deodorize the kitchen and keep it smelling lovely. 2 minutes of your time well spent.

I feel like I’ve accomplished something today and I’m so proud of myself!

Happy Un-Birthday to Me!

Happy Un-Birthday to me!

Sabbath was super busy with non-birthday events. Our entire church volunteered at a local nonprofit for two hours in the morning. Then we had lunch and a wonderful social time at a friend’s house. Power nap in the afternoon. And then my daughter had her first Homecoming dance in the evening. There was no time to celebrate my birthday!

Instead, I made plans ahead of time to celebrate on Sunday. It was a day full of my favorite things!

Coffee at my favorite coffee shop

Three different kinds of cheesecake!

A favorite movie

First fire of autumn

Thai food from a new-to-us restaurant. The green curry was amazing!

Even though I celebrated a day late, I made sure to do many of my favorite things. It was totally worth the wait!

Birthday musings

Today was my 36th birthday. I don’t mind, really. When I talked to my mom this afternoon, she mentioned that I’m almost 40 years old. I’m not sure how I feel about 40 but I’m ok with 36!

I feel as if birthdays are a sort of reset, a chance for a new start with new resolutions and goal planning. I love New Years for that very reason. I know that every day can be a chance to make good decisions and work toward goals but there’s something special about defined dates to do so. First of the year. First of every month. My birthday.

I really don’t know what specific goals to choose for my birthday. My days are still so variable, struggling with depression at times, anxiety other times, and a seeming inability to allow myself to feel happy. I cannot predict my ability to be productive or embrace self care or even feel a smidge above just daily survival. Each day is different and it can change so quickly. I am slowly learning to quickly jump on any motivation, any drive toward feeling productive or doing something positive.

So in general… I would like to work on these goals.

Health – making healthy choices as much as possible. I have gained a lot of weight the past three years from stress eating, wrenching my knee last summer, and low motivation. I need to make good choices as much as possible as I go through my day. More water. More mindful food portions. Healthier meal selections. More exercise. I could make 15 goals from this one general idea but I really just want to be more mindful and do my best moment by moment. Right now, that’s all I can ask of myself.

Spiritually – I am really floundering here. I attend church every week. I pray over every meal. But I still feel distant from God. I tried joining a Bible reading group last month and only made it through Genesis. I struggle to read the Bible. I would like to read some memoirs of people’s spiritual journeys and see if I can learn from them.

Home – Here I actually have a very specific goal! I want to jump start my FlyLady routines again. I have a long standing habit of my morning and evening routines (hurray for wins!). I need to add in the weekly and monthly cleaning schedule so that I feel my house is presentable. A clean, uncluttered home really lowers my stress levels.

Emotional health – I have a specific goal here as well. My therapist has me working through a PTSD workbook. Right now I’m supposed to be writing a narrative of my life story. Assignment – Write your narrative. My response – Where do I start? These extremely general instructions left me floundering and I have made zero progress in the past month. A dear friend sent me a book for my birthday that guides you through writing your narrative! Now I have a specific place to start.

I’m also toying with the idea of getting involved in a (very) part-time volunteer position or starting my own business so that I can set my own hours. My therapist wonders if I have so much down time that I get stuck in cycles of negative thinking and thus contributing to my depression and anxiety. It’s quite possible that if I get involved in something for a few hours a week, I’ll find some purpose outside of my life and thus feel better.

All of these things together feel like massive changes and are rather overwhelming. But I remind myself that I don’t have to tackle all of them at the same time. Small changes here and there, embracing those moments when I feel like I can come up to breathe… those moments may make a big difference and help with my healing.

Happy birthday to me! I hope that when I revisit this post on my 37th birthday, I’ll find that life has improved, that I’ve been able to make some positive changes that will enable me to better find my place in the world and maybe even make a difference for someone else.

Small victory – dining room table

I conquered it! It only took three days but I was able to completely clean off our dining room table. I didn’t just move the piles elsewhere. I sorted, put things away in their permanent homes, scanned paperwork, paid bills, and basically processed every single item that had accumulated over the summer. I am so proud of myself.

Next up… this small corner where paperwork tends to multiply.

One small step at a time and I will conquer the chaos.