Thoughts on Daily Rituals and Containing Chaos

I just finished reading Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey last night. It was a fun and easy read consisting of one to two page articles on different creatives (architects, writers, painters, composers, etc) and how they work.

Did they sleep in or get up early? Did they nap? How did they eat? Who was involved in their creative process? Where did they work?

The last artist featured was Bernard Malamud. I haven't read any of his works. From all accounts, he was disciplined and developed rituals that enabled his creative work. When asked by an interviewer about his rituals, he explained that discipline is key, but that you are who you are, even developing the best of habits won't turn you into someone else. What struck me was this:

"Eventually everyone learns his or her own best way. The real mystery is to crack you."

These words have been sitting with me. He was specifically referring to writers, and possibly other creatives. While I have always enjoyed creative pursuits, I am far from an artist. I dabble in hobby crafts. At best.

But when am I going to crack the mystery of me?

What I am trying to find my best way in is my home and my family. In being a better person. Since the beginning of the school year this year, I have felt off, run ragged, like I'm failing. I can't get up early enough or stay up late enough to do X or Y. My house is always a wreck, and my kitchen counter always covered by a mountain of paper and random items left, en route to another location. Eventually.

Projects left half finished, stuff piling up everywhere.

The mystery I'm trying to crack is me. What am I doing to make this better? Make it worse? What is making me tired? Is it me? Is the problem me? Is the solution me?

Is the self-centered nature of my inquiry the problem? ...

The few disciplined actions that I do engage in have helped with the feeling of chaos.

Using a planner helps. I have to write it down or I will forget about it, and I prefer paper. For a few weeks, I was forgetting to turn in library books on time. A minor thing, I know, but it was making me crazy to fail at something so small. Our library even sends out email reminders before the books are due. No reason to ever forget. And the library is conveniently located between our house and the kids' school. No reason to not return them. I just didn't. Now I write in my planner on the day books are due "X books due". Then I can look on the app or on my email and see which ones. Hooray for progress, albeit tiny.

Getting up earlier than everyone else helps. If I can start the day prepared, then I feel better. (See my post on managing mornings with kids for more tips on being prepared for the day ahead.) But with darker and colder mornings, I'm pretty much kissing that goodbye until spring.

Not procrastinating helps. I am the queen procrastinator. When I was a kid, I would clean out individual drawers before cleaning piles of clothes or toys covering my bedroom floor. Surprisingly, not much has changed there. So now I try to act the first time. Open mail and shred, recycle, pay the bill. Move an article of clothing not from one chair to the next, but from a chair to a hamper or a drawer or the closet. On a hanger. I'm not doing this 100% of the time, but when I do it even some, it helps so much. Touch it once.

I'm trying not to panic before the holiday whirlwind starts, but every day life feels like a lot right now.

Does everyone feel this way this time of year? Most of the time? How do you manage the chaos? What daily rituals do you have to help make your day and your work-- creative or otherwise-- better? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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DIY: Give Thanks Burlap Craft

Before I completely skip over Thanksgiving as a holiday for decorating, I thought I'd share a quick craft project I made for our entry. An important reminder to be thankful

I had this 6 in x 8 in burlap panel in my craft stash hoard that I'd picked up on clearance from Hobby Lobby a few months ago. 

And you know I love a good freezer paper stencil. I used Century Gothic Bold font in 130 pt. When you're printing for a freezer paper stencil, change the text outline to black (from none) and the text fill to none (from black) to save yourself some printer ink black gold.

Trace it onto the freezer paper and carefully cut out the letters, saving the insides on the "g", "e", and "a".

Set your iron to low and carefully press the freezer paper stencil onto the panel. I had no problem with adhesion except for the little inside of the "e". I just had to free hand that part. I expected bumpy letters because of the burlap but it actually turned out surprisingly crisp. I used regular black craft paint.

And the little flower embellishment was part of a two pack I found on clearance at Meijer for $0.95. I plan on using the other one to make a headband or hair tie for my little lady.

A simple Thanksgiving craft that you could keep on display year round! I've seen so many cute Thanksgiving / Give Thanks DIY projects lately. What are you making? 


Practicing Gratitude

Every day should be a day of thanksgiving. Count your many blessings. Be thankful for what you have.

I hear all of these sayings and agree with them. Then I feel guilty.

I don't practice gratitude every day. Some days it's hard to see how much there is to be thankful for. There's always something that sucks about my house or my bank account or my clothes or my body or the behavior of my children. Other kids don't act this way, other moms do this or that, other people have more money and nicer homes. Neater homes. (You know, good ol' fashioned beating up on yourself. Always productive.)

So it's no surprise that I am starting to see this behavior in my children. Of course, they're children. They get a toy and are already asking when they'll get the next one. When your kid asks when we're getting a new house because ours isn't good. Wow, how incredibly frustrating that is as a parent, but we do it ourselves. Why are we surprised when children can't control their desires when we as adults have problems with it too?

I noticed the problem creeping into our home at the beginning of 2014 and we started a "thankful jar". A mason jar and a small pad of paper sit on the dining room table, and we go around each night and say what we are thankful for. I write the date at the top of the page and record everyone's response.

The idea is to review them with my Mr. some night at the end of the year, when the kids are asleep and we have time to just be. To reflect and be thankful. It's just as important an exercise for the children as it is for the adults. Even when it's been a tough day, I can find lots to be thankful for. We haven't done it every day, and even missed a few weeks here and there, but it's been consistent enough that the kids know and ask about the "thank you" jar.

Like many of my Facebook friends, I've been posting daily what I'm thankful for during the month of November. It's a good exercise and one that I think should be year-round. Maybe I need a gratitude journal.

Today I am thankful for all that I have and all that I am. We're all works in progress.

How do you practice gratitude? How do you teach it to your children?


DIY: Halloween Fun

Getting ready for Halloween? Some good Trick-or-Treat fun? My kids cannot wait this year. The little man just keeps talking about his "pumpkin bucket" and getting candy from our neighbors. I'll post about our little pirate and pink cat (her idea) next week. 

Today I'm serving up some Halloween DIY projects.

Who doesn't have one of these clear glass pumpkins? My grandmother gave me this one years ago. And I found this Looking Glass paint from Krylon on clearance at Meijer a few weeks ago. 

Following the directions on the can, I sprayed the inside of the pumpkin. It won't be safe for treats anymore, but that's okay. 


And after:

I'm not in love. Actually, I don't like it at all. It looks as I thought it would and I'm just not thrilled with it. DIY FAIL. I think I'll try painting the outside white or cream, to make it look like a ceramic pumpkin. 

And here are our simple treats for school. I found these Annie's Bunny Grahams at Kroger the other day and snagged them as a non-candy option. I found the tape at Target and used my tag punch and baker's twine to make the tags (like I did for the favors at the Finding Nemo party). My daughter decided to decorate each one with spiders or pumpkins or ghosts. She loves to draw! Why make it complicated? 

Happy Halloween!