THE WINDOWS ARE OPEN!!

It is not only raining with thunder and wind but it is actually cool outside. COOL! It has not been cool since? April, maybe. This is huge, I am sitting in a pleasant breeze coming from outside. I am so happy I want to cry. I know it is fleeting, the sun and heat will be back tomorrow but right now, this moment, the weather is lovely, my heart is happy and a sense of relief washes over me.  I marvel at how I have survived another insanely hot summer in the desert!

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How to be a Stay at Home Mom

The title is actually a question, not a statement.  I used to wonder what Moms did once their kids were in school all day.  I am still wondering.

Last year was E’s first year of full day school.  I was thrilled to have enough time to get all my chores done and still have some time for myself.  All of kindergarten and the summer before first grade I dreamt of the many things I would do.

This school year started with no expectations and no plans.  No dreams.  Three weeks in and I am still at loose ends.  It is time to think of goals, projects and who I am going to be for this next phase of life.

I considered going back to work but I don’t really want to.  I want to be there for my son after school and holidays and sick days.  I like our non- stressful mornings and after school snack and homework time.  I like being able to take lots of camping trips.

My thoughts turn to writing.  Could I be a writer?  Sure, anyone can write (say all people who read a lot).  Of course not everyone can write well. What should I write?  Is this blog enough?  A novel seems very ambitious but I do have years of time.  And one novel already started.  Actually two.  With an idea for a third.  Should I try short stories, maybe enter a contest or two?  Do I want to make money writing?  Is it okay to have writing be a hobby?  Would writing make me happy?

Would writing make me happy?  Ah, there is the real question.  Now I need to figure out the real answer.

The Domino Effect

I wish!

I wish!

I have been doing a stellar job of avoiding writing. I wrote for three straight mornings last week. On the fourth day I had to run some errands and with the current heat I greatly prefer to go in the morning. I haven’t written since.

Today I am blaming the public library.  My turn came for the book “the life changing magic of tidying up”.   I had to read it right away as I only have it for three weeks and the waiting list is still quite long.  So I read it.  I didn’t agree with everything but many of the ideas were very intriguing. My favorite is focusing on what you are keeping, not what you are getting rid of.   As you know I have been having a purgefest this year so I am always looking for helpful hints.

When I finished reading the book I was motivated to do some tidying!  I started with my bedroom and rearranged and refolded some of my clothes.  Everything fits so well and the whole closet looks crazy tidy.  I thought I was done purging yet I still came up with another bag of clothes to donate.  (I know, I couldn’t believe it either.)  Now all of my clothes are in my bedroom and in a permanent home except for my winter pajamas.  They were in my half of the playroom closet but are now in a smaller tote in the bottom of my bedroom closet.  Still haven’t quite figured out where to put them when it comes time to wear them but I have a few months before that happens.

After admiring my tidy bedroom this morning I came downstairs and looked at the kitchen with new eyes.  The kitchen is the one room where we have enough storage.  We also have a lot of counter space.  It is not crazy cluttered but I do wish it were a bit clearer.  So I decided to take everything off the counter, give it a good scrub and then take some time putting things back.  Until I had to take everything off I had no idea how much stuff was on there.  I thought it would fit easily on the kitchen table, not quite.

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Everything from the counter on the kitchen table…

 

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… plus the dish drain and bread box.

 

After cleaning the counter I decided to wait a bit before putting anything back.  I wanted to see how the counters looked empty and cogitate a bit on how I wanted them to look.  I went and watched an episode of “Mad About You”.  Then I put back the items I felt sure about where they belonged. This included the dish drain, jar of cookie cutters, treat jar for the dog and our cookie jar.  I got stuck on my small spice rack.  I really wanted to put it in the cupboard with the rest of the spices but it didn’t fit.  I looked at the two large cupboards where I keep food and spices.  Hmmm.

Love the lavender scent, almost made it fun to clean.

Love the lavender scent, almost made me enjoy cleaning.

 

So I decided to take everything out of those two cupboards and see if I could utilize the space better.  I wiped down the shelves and adjusted the height of one shelf and squinted at the spaces.  I surveyed what I had and thought about what I used most frequently.  I tossed a couple of really old items and was happy to find some items. I had plenty of space, I just had to figure out the smartest way to use it.

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At the start of removing items

 

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Lots of empty space in this cupboard.

 

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The after shot.  Time will tell how well it works.

 

With the food cupboards freshly filled I went back to the counter top.  I really didn’t want to put the small apple bookshelf back.  Hmmm.  I looked at the wire shelf in the window area.  I really didn’t like my purse there.  I loved the big window but always wished it was a little higher.  Maybe I could put the wire shelf in front of it anyway and move the trashcan down to the end where it makes more sense?

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The wire shelf before

 

I didn’t like the bread maker on the wire shelf either.  (It’s kind of hard to see in the picture, it is under the basket.) I tried putting it in the same cupboard I tried when I first bought it.  Still too tall.  Duh. But I could lay it down. Success!  I sorted out the dog’s basket and neatened the sunscreen pile.

Then I looked at the books on the apple bookshelf.  Did these books bring me joy?  Not really.  Did I ever use any of the recipes in them?  Not that I recall.  Was I ever going to read them again?  No. They were mysteries with a few recipes in the back.  Honestly, there was one recipe in all of the ten books that I used.  So I copied it and tossed the books in my sell box that I am collecting for Bookman’s. Then I looked at my cookbook bookshelf.  Anything I could purge there?  Of course.

 

Yes, I have a shelf just for cookbooks.

Yes, I have a bookshelf just for cookbooks.

 

Four hours later and the kitchen counter is less cluttered.  I must have done a good job because my seven year old walked into the room after school and was all amazed.  “This looks so different”.  I didn’t think it looked very different, but it does feel cleaner.  I was going to say “you be the judge”  but since I didn’t take photos of the counters before that may be hard to do.  But here is the end result:

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Kitchen overview

 

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I removed the breadbox, spice rack and small bookshelf.  I moved the copper canisters down to where the bookshelf used to be.

 

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Next to the sink  I added the radio from the wire shelf.  I used to keep my day planner and phone on the end but since this is where the dirty dishes get piled up.  It was a disaster waiting to happen.

 

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Now I keep my day planner and phone near the fridge.

 

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The wire shelf in its’ new location.

I am sort of afraid to get up tomorrow, who knows what the next domino will be!

Failure to Adapt

Closing the dining room curtains in the late afternoon to keep the sun out and the room cooler, pure genius. Too bad it took me 5 years to think to do it. I didn’t even think about the curtains when I looked at blocking the sunlight coming in the top arch: summer sunshine in the southwest.  I also brought our tower fan downstairs and circulating the air makes it feel cooler on the first floor.  Now I am wondering what other insanely easy things I could be doing to make  life more pleasant.

I am tired of sweating.  It has been “summer” since April.  School has been in session for a few weeks now.  There is supposed to be a hint of fall in the air, a little coolness in the morning.  No relief yet and it could be another month before the weather changes.   Humidity is replacing a little of the heat which doesn’t entice me outdoors at all.  I walk the dog around the block and tell him he can only stop and sniff where there is shade.  August and September are tough months to get through in the southwest, rather like February and March in other parts of the country.

I admit I have not embraced the desert life.  I know there are people who love the heat and think cacti are beautiful and don’t mind avoiding a rattlesnake.  I am very happy for those people.  Right now I am not so happy for me.

I have lived in many places over the last 30 some years and always found things to like and fun stuff to do.  But I am struggling here in Tucson.  I pine for a front porch, a shady backyard and four true seasons.  I long for rain that actually makes the air feel cool.  The weather makes it tough to get outdoors for a good six months out of the year.  Six consecutive months.  Up north you have days when you don’t really want to leave the house but they are days, not months.  If it is thirty degrees and lightly snowing I would love going out for a walk.  Here the sun has been broiling with temps near or over a 100 degrees for months.  Months.

I think I am getting “cabin fever”.  We don’t take any trips this time of year because we want E to be able to adjust to his school routine and focus on regular bed and wake up times.

I have tried to  focus on some positives of living here:  Pima County has an excellent library system.  (But I have to leave the house to use it.)  We don’t have to winterize our trailer so we can escape Tucson go camping  year round.  My husband has a good job that he really likes and enables me to be a full-time stay at home mom.  When I am feeling particularly miserable that last one is what I focus on.  I could move back to Montana or New York but what havoc would that wreak on my son’s life?  I love my son way too much to do that to our family.

I remind myself that I am making a choice to put my son and our family ahead of my own location happiness.  It is not always an easy decision to live with.  Sometimes I have to let myself be a little sad.  But then I focus on how much I love my son and what a great childhood he is having.  I am happy and grateful that I can make choices.

And always I remember, this is my choice for right now.

P.S.  I have embraced the  coolness of the dining room in the afternoon, relieved to find it is not gloomy at all with the curtains closed.

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Still bright but with the heat of the sun blocked.

How do you survive six months of summer sun and blistering heat?

Wardrobe Reality (Part II)

While the focus on my wardrobe has been primarily on purging I have recognized some needs as well. And there is now room in my closet for a few items. One area in particular is capris. By late September/October I am sick of wearing my shorts, even if the temps are still in the 90’s.  I find myself homesick for autumn. As a compromise I have begun building an autumn wardrobe for warm temperatures.  Just a few shirts in fall colors and capris. In my purging I had gotten rid of all my casual capris except for one pair. I have three pair of dressier ones that I wear to church or when I want to look a little nicer but I wanted a few more pair for around the house  and that seemed more suited to fall than summer. I got lucky at Goodwill and found two pair. Khaki Dockers that fit perfect and a denim pair that I need to get taken in a bit.

And then I looked at the J. Peterman catalog.  J. Peterman Owner’s Manuals are a recently acquired guilty pleasure.  I didn’t even know J. Peterman was a real company when it was on “Seinfeld”!  I love reading all the vignettes and imagine myself in the breezy dresses walking towards a café in Italy or France or Cape Cod. But actually wearing something from there in my real world, not so much.

When I was purging all my sweaters I promised myself that I could buy a light weight red sweater. Something that would look good at Christmas. And there in the catalog was a red summer sweater, made for cool nights on the beach. The reviews were good, it was on sale and I decided to buy it. And then, dark blue capris, perfect, exactly the addition I needed. How about a pair of rust colored hanging out pants?  I hadn’t sorted out my sweatpants yet but I thought a pair of new, less frumpy ones would be a good asset. And then there was the hooded sweatshirt. It was actually for men but reviews said it was cut small. It was like nothing I owned, striped and color blocked and on sale. Into the cart it went.

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Christmas in August!

When the package came it was like Christmas. The sweater was heavier than I expected, more like a medium weight, but that could be because it was 100 degrees when I was trying it on. I loved the fit, color and style and into the closet it went. Everything else fit as well and felt really good. I confess I have no  need for another hooded sweatshirt but I love the uniqueness and there is nothing even remotely like it in my closet.

I have to admit it feels really good to only wear clothes I love and that fit well.  I no longer dread getting dressed in the morning and I feel like my days are more productive now that I am not slouching around in sloppy workout clothes or humongous tee shirts.  For me at least my clothes affect my attitude.  Better clothes choices = better outlook.

Random Bits

  • My doctor’s appointment went really well.  One, I am not crazy, and two she said my weight was “perfect”.  Perfect! Who doesn’t love that?  I wanted to run right out and eat a hot fudge sundae.  As for the not crazy part, wheat could very well be making feel cranky and causing my joint pain.  It is normal for changes to occur with age and the wheat intolerance could be a new thing and not even related to my thyroid issue.  Hmmm.   So this week I am back to avoiding wheat and  expecting to feel on top of the world again by Friday.  My thyroid antibody level is good, well in the normal range.  If I feel bad in the spring I will get tested again.  The doctor doesn’t think there is a known (proven) link between allergies and hypothyroidism but every person is unique and  I may have one.  Hmmm. 
  • What has been crazy is this heat. I really don’t want to leave the house or cook or do anything the least bit strenuous. There have been a few days where I wait until late afternoon when the sun is less intense before even getting in the pool.  I call this nauseating heat or crazy heat, as in I must be crazy to live here.

 

  • Summer lasagna. I have been doing pretty well using my CSA items each week. We had a couple of eggplant we had picked when we picked apples right before school started and I made ratatouille which was okay but not a fave. So when we got 2 eggplant in our CSA box I was a little stumped as to what to make. It was much too hot for a traditional eggplant parmesan but then I found a different recipe for a lighter version and modified that a bit more to keep things easy. I cut the eggplant into ~1/2 in slices, skin on and brushed both sides with garlic olive oil. I broiled each side for about 5 minutes then put it in a baking dish. I topped the broiled eggplant with leftover homemade spaghetti sauce that I had in the freezer. This sauce had ground turkey and diced summer squash in it . Then I threw a layer of mozzarella on top. That was it. I popped it in a 375 oven, set the timer for 30 minutes and went and jumped in the pool. When we came in the house it smelled just like lasagna and the taste? Wonderful and yet light enough for the heat wave. I could not believe how much we loved it.

 

  • My new downstairs office.  Not really loving it.  I miss the privacy and space upstairs, having a desk to spread things out on and a bulletin board to hang things on. My new space works okay during the day when I am home alone but I have given up trying to get anything done after 3:00p.  I still have no idea where to hide Christmas presents or the Santa wrapping paper.  I am still working on finding the best way to organize paperwork.  One positive side of the move is the view out the side window.  In the mornings I set up my workspace in the dining room.  (i.e. take my laptop out of the drawer and put it on the table.)  Then I open the dining room sheers and I have an unimpeded view of our grassy side yard and trees. I  can actually forget I am in the desert with this view. Since the window faces west it is nice and cool in the mornings but the sun in the late afternoon makes the room too warm to be comfortable  and too glary to see well.  So I close the sheers again.  Now I am wondering if I need to buy and install a second curtain rod so I can close the regular curtains in the afternoon.  I have put buy and install second curtain rod on the to do list. (Done!  I will get to test it out this afternoon.)

 

  • Right now I am drowning in good books to read.  This happens every once in awhile.  Sort of like your eyes are bigger than your stomach adage.  Yesterday I started reading “Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks”  by John Curran despite being in the middle of “Some Luck” by Jane Smiley and “Bertram’s Hotel” by Agatha Christie.   I need to pick up “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” from the library as after a very long wait it is finally my turn.  And I have four more library books on my shelf waiting patiently to be read.

I have words to write and words to read, Life is Good.

Wardrobe Reality (Part I)

The focus of my purging this summer has been my wardrobe. The purpose of going through all my clothes has been threefold:

The first and primary purpose was closet size. This is the smallest closet I have had in decades, coupled with the fact that I have no attic or basement to store totes of off season clothes in.

A second purpose emerged as I realized how much stuff I have and how old most of it is.  It is not that I am a huge clothes shopper but over the last 10 to 20 years items accumulated.

Thirdly, I have come to accept that my wardrobe is set up for the wrong season. Until I moved to the desert southwest five years ago I had always lived in the northern tier of the nation. I had nine months of winter clothes.  Even in the summer one needed fleeces and jeans for at night. Now I barely need 3 months of slightly cooler weather clothes.  Actual cold weather clothes?  Maybe two or three days.

I have for the most part accomplished goal one.  All of my clothes except for one tote box  are in my bedroom closet or dresser.  This tote box is full of winter pajamas and is in my half of the playroom closet.  Goal two is done for my summer wardrobe.  I admit I am loving my pared down choices and I have not missed anything I’ve gotten rid of.  I am still a pretty casual dresser but no longer crossing the line into slobville.  (I can’t see the casual changing, after all I am a stay at home mom of a seven year old where it is going to be over 100 degrees everyday for the foreseeable forecast.)

And now we come to goal three.  I was going to wait until winter to go through my cold weather items but since I was on a roll I decided to give it a go.  I have a lot of sweaters.  Some heavy, some lightweight.  Cardigans and pullovers.  I  read a blog post about a woman who had a huge walk in closet and actually counted her clothes.  I thought about doing that but, nah I was happy with my summer outfits.  They fit neatly in the closet, I loved and was wearing everything I had.  Good enough,  I didn’t care about a number.

But sweaters?  I stopped and thought.  How many really cold days a year did we have here?  Not just cold but gray and rainy because even in winter the sun here is warm.  How many days could I wear a heavy pullover sweater?  Realistically only two or three plus my December trip to Flagstaff which adds another two to four days.  I looked at my pile of sweaters.  Hmmm.  I finally paired it down to five and it wasn’t easy.  I hated getting rid of sweaters I would wear if we had the weather for them.  I went back to the “would I buy it today” mentality and that did the trick.

I also  kept five heavy cardigans because I use them as my winter coats for walking my son to school in the morning and then walking the dog.    I also have nine lighter weight pullover and cardigan sweaters.  These get more wear as we seldom turn the heat on so I frequently wear a layer over my shirt in the mornings around the house until the sun warms things up.

It still seems like a ridiculous amount of sweaters for this climate.  I will see what happens this winter.  What I wear and what I love.  I will try and keep in mind how happy I am with fewer summer clothes.  Of course the forecast is for an El Nino winter, cooler and wetter so maybe this year I will need my sweaters.  It is a very comforting thought.

How to get your house clean…

Decide to become a writer. Plan to write a book of any sort. And the next thing you know you will be scrubbing away!

We are now up to the sixth day of school and I still have no plan for my days and not surprising I am doing no writing. At some point during the summer I remember thinking I needed a plan and that it should start the first day of school. Should I have a set time to write or a daily or weekly word goal?  That was as far as I got in my thinking and then I moved back into summer vacation things and never decided any answers.

I came home to an empty house the first day of school and began cleaning.  The truth is the house needed cleaning.  The three weeks since we got back from camping in the mountains had been crazy busy preparing for the start of school and squeezing in last bits of summer fun.  So day one I tackled picking up, vacuuming, laundry.  I also had to do something with the overabundance of apples we picked and thus a spurt of several days of baking ensued.  Dutch apple pie, apple cake, maple apple crisp, with apple strudel still on-deck.

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I finally painted our short laundry room hallway ( I am relieved to finally get that done!) and now I am scrubbing the kitchen cabinets.  I have never before scrubbed kitchen cabinets in my life.  I have always moved before they got past just needing a wipe down stage.  Have you ever looked at the top edge of the upper cabinets?  Go look.  See what I mean?

When you find yourself deep cleaning the house it is time to make a serious writing plan.  I start writing  Monday.   In the meantime I have a few cabinets left to degrunge which will be the perfect time to contemplate what I really want to accomplish this school year writing wise and the details to make it happen.

Why was I feeling better?

Up until about a week ago I was feeling really good.  Happy, energetic, sleeping well.  Now I feel sluggish and blah again.  I get cranky very easily too.  I have my doctor’s appointment at the end of the week so I can get some input from my doctor.  I already had my lab work done and saw my results online.  Everything looked good, no flags, even my thyroid level is in the right range.

I have been doing some thinking and some research about what could be making me feel bad (in addition to my hypothyroidism).  The most likely culprit is diet.  For awhile I was eating very healthy, not too much sugar and I was avoiding wheat.  I wonder if I may have a wheat intolerance?  Wheat can not only cause gastro issues but also mood swings.  While I avoid bread or rolls while eating out that doesn’t mean I avoid wheat.  Even here at home I haven’t been fanatical about not eating wheat.  I am not actually allergic but now I want to avoid wheat more diligently and see how I feel.  I am also going to ask my doctor if there is a test to see if I am wheat intolerant and to what level.

And then there is sugar.  I was doing really well not snacking or eating candy and then PMS hit.  I had no control and when my PMS ended I didn’t stop mindlessly eating the candy.  So now I am back to square one and determined to regain control.   Odds are I will do well until I get hit with PMS again in a few weeks.  I need a plan.  A good plan.  It is not pretty when the sugar craving slams me and I have nothing in the house.  Fruit and nuts might work, maybe with a small piece of dark chocolate kept in a very inconvenient place.

Anyway, other than the snacking I have been eating fairly healthy meals.  The CSA box has been great for that. We have had salmon and corn on the cob, corned beef and green beans, ratatouille, squash and pork chops as recent meals. Last night  I am made spaghetti but I ate spaghetti squash instead of pasta. I used ground turkey and cut up a summer squash and put it in the sauce.  In this heat I like the lighter spaghetti squash even more than pasta.

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I have also been swimming most days, I walk my son to and from school and am walking the dog around the block in the morning.  So,  I am getting some exercise in despite the horrid (terribly hot, muggy, broiling sun) weather.

It is not easy to eat healthy every single day.  I am doing well with meals, it is the in between meals where I am failing epically at the moment.  Especially with sugar,  it seems one slip up ruins weeks worth of work.  But I really liked feeling better.  It was great not snapping at my son all the time, waking up looking forward to the day, getting lots of projects done and being able to stay awake past 9:00p.  All I can do is keep trying, taking things one day, one hour at a time.  I won’t beat myself up when I err but try my best to put it behind me and move on.  And maybe the doctor will be able to give me some direction and tips.

Off Kilter

It is the first day of school. How can this be? It is still summer, 105 degrees, barely August.  School is supposed to start in September. When school starts there is supposed to be that first hint of coolness in the air, the sunlight less harsh.  You start to think about apples and sweaters and football.

It was actually too hot to swim yesterday.  Sounds crazy but there was this scorching wind blowing and I just couldn’t bring myself to go outside in the afternoon.  Today is gray with the occasional sprinkle of rain, atypical weather not helping with my sense of feeling off balance.

Last year I had a plan.  I knew what I was going to do my first solo day.  I had spent many hours over the summer imagining what my days would look like, things I wanted to accomplish.  This year, no plan.  No dreaming.  I feel rather stunned, like this day was just sprung on me out of the blue instead of being marked on the calendar for the last 3 months.

I always joke with my son that what I really do all day while he is in school is watch tv and eat candy.  Maybe that should be my plan for today?