Chasing Contentment

Saturday, April 28

Mike and I each spent the majority of our day at our workplaces, while the kids hung out with their new favorite sitter. Then, we came home and worked on the garage a bit more. (It's been a long day.)

I signed up to do the 30 Day Organizational Challenge at Org Junkie, and the garage was my room of choice. In looking at the before pictures and these pictures from today, I'm reminded that so very often, things have to get worse before they can get better.

Now, I'm hoping Eliza will get out of the tub, so I can slip into a hot bubble bath with a new book before heading to bed.

[  posted by Chel on Saturday, April 28, 2007  ]

Friday, April 27

Well, I made it. It was a really long, hard week at work feeling bad, but I made it to Friday. Oh, how I love Fridays.

We ran to the Home Depot for a bit and then came home to a yummy dinner. Brownies are in the oven now, and I'm planning to be full of chocolatey goodness and asleep in not too long. Yum.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, April 27, 2007  ]

Tuesday, April 24

I stayed home again today. I was a little startled myself when I made that decision. Seeing as I slept most of the day, I'm sure it was a good decision, but it was a hard one to make. My job doesn't exactly encourage self-health or whatnot much less time off, so I'm sure it'll be especially difficult there for the rest of the week. But I'm proud of myself for doing what I needed to do for my health.

Once I finally woke up this afternoon, I read in my new Bible some (read the Lectionary readings from last Sunday from the church we sometimes visit), and I prayed for a while. It was good to spend some quiet time with God, admitting that while I feel content here in this new place, I am not at peace at work. There is little about my new job that is peaceful.

It is stressful and harried and competitive and overwhelming (I have more than 150 cases myself, which seems insane). And I do not feel comfortable or at peace there yet, and I'm struggling between setting my own goals and attaining them gradually and accepting the goals set for us, knowing I'm not that competent yet. And I admitted to my Lord that I need His peace to go back tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after.

And it felt good to admit that need to the One who can meet it.

Later, I took a quiz to determine my Real Age, which is based upon lots of different factors, including lifestyle and community. Turns out, my real age these days is 40, a good 2.9 years ahead of my actual age. I lost huge amounts of points for the stress factors in our lives in the last year and for the lack of community involvement. All the points I earned for having close friends were negated due to the fact that I never see any of these women in person.

I've been working so hard at work, feeling so overwhelmed by it all the time, and I haven't been making enough time for the things in life that I'm really good at... being a part of a group, involving my family in something greater than ourselves.

Though I'll pay for it while my workload the rest of the week, I think taking these days off was good for me. I know that I need to allow myself that time to progress in my job at my own pace. (A young, single mother was in my initial training class and transition group, and I saw her one day last week. When I asked how it was going, she said, "As long as they keep letting me in the door, I'll keep showing up." She's grateful because this company and job allows her to provide for her son in a way that her previous job didn't. I need to focus on the fact that I am grateful to have a job at all.)

So for now, for my near future, my goal is simply going to be to go into work and do the best I can, without worrying about whether I'm excelling or not. (We used to love the Playhouse Disney show "PB&J Otter" and one of the kids sayings... Do the best you can do & that's the best you can do. We used to tell that to Griff all the time. I think now I'll start telling it to myself.)

I'm praying for peace in my workplace, if only in a little bubble surrounding me. And I'm praying for opportunities for us to become more active in our community. And I'm begging God to show us the church He has for us so we can become involved there.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, April 24, 2007  ]

Monday, April 23

So I stayed home today (which is good for my health but which I will regret as soon as I get to work tomorrow), and I've spent my day alternately sleeping and bidding on things on Ebay (I can't do Ebay very often because I get completely obsessed). I've thought about reading some weight loss tips or blogs, but it's lots more fun picking up high end cosmetics at budget prices on Ebay. I'd better go check my auctions.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, April 23, 2007  ]

Sunday, April 22

I work in a call center environment, and we sit in little cubie things with several of us really close together. My desk mate was sick all week last week, and by Friday, I felt not so swell myself. By this morning, I felt horrible and was at the walk-in clinic by 9...before anyone else was even out of the bed.

During the limited amount of time today that I haven't been in a drug-induced sleep, I've been worried about whether or not to go to work tomorrow. I'd rather do most anything but talk today, and I have no idea how I'd talk my way through the day tomorrow. But I also know that when I left Friday, I was behind, and if I miss tomorrow, I'll be even more behind. This job doesn't really allow for any missed time, and so I'm torn as to what to do.

My throat was so swollen and raw that the doctor put me on a liquid/soft food diet for a few days to help it out. Can I tell you how excited I was to hear the ice-cream truck song this afternoon? The kids and I stood at the end of the drive-way and waited. It was a fabulous ice cream sandwich.

I have to admit, the ice cream truck that comes around regularly is a nice part about living here. The walk-in clinic doctor who's all business and is there all the time and is quick to give out a steroid is another nice thing.

Now, if I could just figure out what to do about work tomorrow. And how to convince the rest of my family that what we need for dinner is mashed potatoes.

[  posted by Chel on Sunday, April 22, 2007  ]

Thursday, April 19

Happy Birthday today to my friend, Aleece, one of the greatest artists I know. She is creative and tender and loving and intuitive. And I am fortunate to count her as a friend.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, April 19, 2007  ]

Forgive me, please, as I must indulge in a moment of mama pride.

We knew Griff was doing well on the standardized tests they were taking throughout the year (they do way more of that here in Florida than they did in La.), but we didn't know the particulars until today. While we're still waiting to get his FCAT scores, we're so very proud of him for his scores on the other tests.

His teacher sent home his scores today, and he scored 20 points higher than the goal on the Kaplan test, missing a perfect score by a handful of points. His Harcourt score was 90 plus percent, and his Dibels score was also above goal.

Now, Mike and Griff are thrilled that his math/science/reading scores are so high, but what I'm most pleased about is his STAR assessment. According to the information his teacher sent home, the STAR test measure's a child's independent reading level. And Griff's reading on nearly a fifth grade level.

You bet he is! Woohoo, Griff-man!

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, April 19, 2007  ]

Wednesday, April 18

Last weekend, as Mike and I drove to pick up the kids, we discussed our current spiritual situation... of sorts. I hadn't expected to have been here this long and to still not be active in a church.

My expectations were badly ... well, they were just wrong. I've realized that instead of us being all set here in a year, it's probably going to take us a year to get comfortable enough to begin settling down. That may not make any sense to anyone who hasn't made a big, full-family move.

But for those first few months, we were simply focusing our energy on putting one foot in front of the other each day... just getting from morning to night. Once that wasn't so hard, we began to find places in town that we liked and to navigate the waters of a new community... just making my way to the grocery store and finding parks the kids liked.

Then, we were all in the midst of adjusting to new work and school environments and that took our focus for quite some time (truth be told, Griff and I are still adjusting, and he'll go to another new school in August, so that pattern of adjustment will continue).

So now I'm realizing that this first year here is just easing us into this new life. The second year will be for embracing it.

As I can see the adjustment more clearly now, it's not as appalling that we aren't in a church yet. But as we become more comfortable, that yearning to be a part of a spiritual community is strengthening, too. And that's such a good sign for me.

I've told Mike that God and I are taking a break (to borrow a "Friends" term), but the truth of the matter is that I took a break. God's still God... still there loving me and waiting for me to be ready for the growth that He has for me.

If I think of God as a father, which I often do, then I think of this past year of so as those evenings when the storm outside rattles the windows and the lightening strikes across the sky and Eliza curls up in Mike's lap afraid of what's outside. There's such comfort in a Father's love.

And in those moments, there is growth and learning. She's learning that there is always love for her, around her, even in a storm. And she's learning that there is protection, even when things are frightening and uncertain. Those aren't moments when Mike tries to teach her other things, when he tries to make points with her. The point is that she is safe with her daddy.

This last year has been full of me curling up in God's lap. I haven't been studying my Bible as I have in the past, and I haven't been praying as much as I have in the past (I've always prayed, even when I didn't read or study my Bible). But when Eliza's scared, she and Mike don't talk. There is a comfortable silence. I've felt secure in the silence with God lately.

Maybe I didn't so much take a break as just take a rest.

But now that I'm feeling better, I'm feeling that yearning for more growth and more communication with God. The kids bought me a new Bible for my birthday (yeah, sure, I picked it out and Mike paid for it and they have no idea, but still), and I'm looking forward to getting into it, to studying more.

And I'm looking forward to finding a church where we can all grow and find ways to be used. So maybe the storm clouds of our lives are clearing, and we'll begin to feel the warmth of the sun soon.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, April 18, 2007  ]

Saturday, April 14

As a birthday present to me, Chuck and Stacy are keeping both of our kids all weekend this weekend. I'm positive I've never heard this house this quiet!

Last night, Mike and I went to the local My Girlfriend's Kitchen for their monthly Date Night and had a ball. The meals look yummy, and I don't have to do anything but bake them to turn them into dinners, which is a working mom's dream. And we wandered a bookstore and just had a lovely time together.

Then, we stayed up late watching tv and slept until 10 this morning. I'm pretty sure I haven't slept that late since before Griff was born. Mike's busy reading the paper - his journalistic little heart all aflutter because Eliza's not stomping on his paper demanding his attention - and I'm planning what we should do with our day.

What a fabulous gift!

[  posted by Chel on Saturday, April 14, 2007  ]

Wednesday, April 11

It's hard to stay tired and cranky when I'm getting such sweet emails and cards and blog comments wishing me a happy birthday (tired, sure, but not cranky!). And I'm feeling much better today. Mike's at class tonight, and Griff and I very much enjoyed dinner (Chel's Chicken ChaCha - my own creation), though Eliza refused to eat it. So now I'm full and happy and contemplative.

I've been thinking a lot lately about my job and about its role in my life. I've been pretty open about how difficult it's been. I think I'm getting better at it, and I think that, in time, I could be capable at it, maybe even good. But it isn't the kind of job I had envisioned spending my life doing.

Now, there is no way I could have foreseen the twists and turns my life has taken thus far, but there have been constants. In college, I had a friend who had a major in nearly every college in the university. I used to tell people I didn't have that many options. I was good at writing, so that's what I majored in... a journalism major with an English minor.

When I interviewed for my first job, I listed writing as my greatest talent. If you had asked me a year ago what I did, I would have said that my job was in PR but that, essentially, I was a writer.

Now, in this job, I'm told that I'm slow partially because I insist on using complete words rather than leaving out all of the vowels in my file documentation. And I have this thing about using punctuation.

I told Aleece for years that writing news releases wasn't very creative and that it wasn't really 'writing.' Turns out, as with so many things I'm realizing about my skills and talents in my former job, I was wrong.

I miss the writing. Any writing. I miss taking a concept and seeing the words flow onto the page, making the concept understandable for mass audiences. I miss working the words around in my head... on the screen. I miss playing with words... tucking something clever into a rather bland news story. I love words... love the way they work and play together. I miss words.

We travel back and forth to Orlando a fair bit to see Mike's brother and his family, and I keep a book in the van to read while the kids watch movies and Mike listens to the Astros. The book I'm reading is by Julia Alvarez ("Something to Declare"), and in it, she writes about writing. I love reading about her passion for words, but I can only read it a little at a time or it makes me sad, reminds me of how I miss writing.

Ever since I was little, I have had various stories floating around in my head. These little daydreams that I would sometimes turn into stories (I spent my semester in World Civ in college writing a short story for my friend, Mika, longhand. I don't recall the grade I got in the class, but I loved the story. I wish I still had a copy now.).

For a while now, there have been no stories in my head. No new characters or plotlines. No new lives to explore. I had initially thought that it was the stress. The stress of working in a place where we knew Mike or I (or both of us) could lose our jobs at any moment could scare the daydreams away. And despite the stress we're under now, it's nothing compared to that.

And there for a while, I was taking some meds that I thought might be reducing my creativity. But I'm not taking them as often now.

But still... no stories in my head.

So have I lost that creativity? Are the stories in my head all played out? Was there a story well, and I drained it early on in life? Did God take away my stories so I'd quit missing the writing since I couldn't think of anything to write?

I can't believe God works that way. I believe without a doubt that He put me in this job, and so I'm going to keep hacking away at it so that I can continue to be where He wants me.

Now, maybe I've overestimated my skills as a writer, but overestimating my own skills isn't really something I'm known for doing. I tend to fall pretty hard the other direction.

I'm pretty sure I could find the time to write, even if it was only for myself (much like writing this blog), if only I had a story to tell.

Anyone have a story that needs telling?

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, April 11, 2007  ]

Tuesday, April 10

It's dreary and rainy odd thing here in Florida, from what I can tell from our short time here. But the grey skies match my bleak mood.

I keep thinking that I should blog something, but I'm just tired and cranky and not really finding anything worthwhile to mention. Or anything that doesn't sound too whiney to mention.

Work's hard. I'm getting better at this job all the time, but it's still difficult. And the amount of work this job requires is something I'm not accustomed to... I'm just not quite to the point where I'm comfortable with having to work a night or more a week just to not be farther behind. I'm not sure it's possible in this job to get ahead. And that wears on me.

I've now turned 37, and I can say quite honestly that I haven't had a birthday quite like that since my 30th. Mike's brother and his family met us for dinner, and that was the high point of the day. Mandy sent me a new cow... Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, to remind me that there's no place like home.

And so... here I am, tired and cranky. We're going to have a big fruit salad and some Catch A Man dip for dinner. We'll watch "American Idol" and try to ease into a happier frame of mind by tomorrow.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, April 10, 2007  ]

Saturday, April 7

Happy Birthday, Mandy!

You are strong beyond my wildest imagination... principled ... devoted... loving... funny... the best journalist I know now that Mike's out of the business... and one of the very most important people in my life.

Much love to you on your special day.

[  posted by Chel on Saturday, April 07, 2007  ]

Friday, April 6

Oooh... I do love a good birthday (even a mediocre birthday way too far away from birthday-sharing friends).

Aleece sent me this great popcorn sampler from Dale & Thomas Popcorn. We haven't had dinner yet, but we've had some yummy popcorn. I had to put the rest up really high so the kids wouldn't eat it before Mike and I can!

And Mike got me a lime green iPod shuffle, just like I wanted. He had even alread downloaded a "Happy Birthday Mom" song for me. And my brother has already sent me a iTunes gift card for lots of fun downloads. Mike will have to teach me have to do that tonight.

AND our new furniture arrived today, so I'm going to go sit on the new sofa now. Yippee... birthday weekend.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, April 06, 2007  ]

Wednesday, April 4

I'm all excited about organizing the garage (I love a good organizational project!), and I keep thinking about what I'd like to see happen in that space and about what I can afford to have happen in that space and about how to make those two meet in the middle. I'm working on a plan.

But I must admit that as I think about it all, I keep having this nagging thought that I need to organize my life. In so many ways, even after we've been here all these months, I feel like I'm flying by the seat of my pants (and given that I'm currently wearing my VERY oldest and comfy-est jammie pants with the big holes in the leg, that's probably not a good way to operate).

More than feeling like I need a good plan to get all of the laundry done or the house picked up, though, I keep hearing over and over in my head that what really needs a good reorganizing, a good cleaning out is my spiritual life.

I'm a predictable girl (I'm not proud of it, but it's true). Just like when things are stressful, I fall into bad self-image patterns, when I stray from my patterns of spiritual renewal, I tend to just let things fall completely apart.

I'm an all-or-nothing girl. I either have a quiet time every day or never. I need to start new devotionals or studies on a Sunday or the first day of the month (it's no wonder Eliza seems to be a little OCD).

But in my heart, I know that if my relationship with God is like that of a parent and child or like that of a friend and a friend, He isn't going to demand perfection or constancy. He'd probably just like it if I showed up every now and again to spend some time at His feet.

I miss that time that I've spent with Him in His word. I miss being a part of a church family (no, even after all these months, we haven't found a church). And I know that adding both of those things to my life would make me feel calmer, more grounded, and more engaged in this community.

So I'm pledging here - to keep me accountable - that as I'm organizing the garage in the next 30 days, I'll also be organizing my spiritual life. I'll try to document my progress with both here.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, April 04, 2007  ]

Tuesday, April 3

Oh! I almost forgot. Today's the first day of the 30 Day Organizational Challenge over at Organizing Junkie. From what I gather, the goal is to take one room or space and reorganize it in 30 days... yep, gathered that myself. :)

So I'm going to do the garage. We've never had a garage - obvious by the way Mike still refers to it as 'the shed.' And this garage isn't big enough for either of our vehicles to fit inside. (My grandfather did measure when they were here, and technically there is enough room for my van with about 6 inches extra space. Mike, having seen me drive, rightly assumes that's not enough extra.)

So it's sort of a holding place for stuff. But's messy stuff. And I have these great ideas of what I'd like it to be like. Now, I don't have enough money to do it according to my ideal vision, but I'm prepared to modify the ideal to fit my ability.

This is what it looks like now, facing into the garage. We'll see what these same angles look like in a month.

This side has the lawn equipment and the water slide, with boxes and boxes of holiday stuff at the back.

A close-up of the lawn equipment (though I'm not sure of my reasoning for needing this shot).

And this one is of the other side, the one with all of Mike's tools and the recycling bins.

So, good luck to me. (Well, and to Mike who will have to do lots of helping.)

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, April 03, 2007  ]

It was a long day at work, and I'm tired. I am, however, beginning to feel like I'm not completely horrible at this. And I figure that's a step in the right direction.

But since it was a long day, we're having an easy night. We're watching "Flushed Away" care of Netflix, and we're having Moe's, our new favorite take-out place. We'll settle in tonight and watch "American Idol" and the Astros game, and Mike's going to find a place for all of us to go when his dad and his wife come to visit next month. We're all - and I mean all of us! four kids, six adults - going to the beach, and I do love the beach. Well, the Gulf side, at least. The Atlantic side is just too cold for me. I like a nice, warm sultry beach.

I've been talking about my birthday (Easter Sunday, since you asked, Val), and I remembered today one reason I love my April birthday. There are so many friends birthday-ing along with me. Linda and I surprised Aleece with an early birthday present yesterday, and she seemed delighted. And I LOVE to do that! There's nothing quite as much fun as giving a wonderful and unexpected gift.

(When things aren't quite right with my soul, I try to remember that Christ gave us the most wonderful and unexpected gift. And then I try to remember that what I do with that gift is up to me.)

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, April 03, 2007  ]

Monday, April 2

Go 'Stros!
It's Opening Day for the Astros, and I expect Mike will be letting his night class go early tonight, so he can be home for the first pitch. And we'll be well into baseball season by my birthday.

Last year, we went to Houston with Mandy and Josh for our birthdays. Mike and Griff got to see an Opening Weekend game in Minute Maid. Lucky for Mike, he got me really groovy gifts, so the weekend wasn't all about him. I like my birthday to be all about me, you know (I admit it... I'm shallow).

[  posted by Chel on Monday, April 02, 2007  ]

Sunday, April 1

April Fool's Day. A kid's dream day. Griff informed me earlier this week that he was going to get me. Fine. Two can play that game.

He's keeping score today, of course. And he's counting silly little pranks. But I'm going big.

For breakfast, the rest of us had chocolate chip pancakes. Griff had bell pepper pancakes.

Score one for the mama.

[  posted by Chel on Sunday, April 01, 2007  ]