Month: March 2018

Made to Create

Creativity inspiration making things

We were made to create. It’s in our blood, our brains, our intangible soul. We’re wired to craft something new, to use our sense of beauty, pragmatism, and curiosity.

What happens if you mix these colors? These angles? How can I solve a problem using the things I can feasibly reach? How can I make a task simpler? How can I turn something ordinary into something that makes me smile?

Ecclesiastes says there’s nothing new under the sun. Except… you are new. No one else can craft the ideas, notes, bundles of words, or tapestries that you can.

We take it for granted that children need to create. We give them crayons, popsicle sticks, clay, glitter, and glue—and the power to do more or less whatever they want with those tools. We watch them problem-solve and beam with pride as they create. We see the value it adds to their worlds. Creation blossoms out of them, whether they’re building with Legos or finger-painting with ketchup.

And then at some point we relegate craft to a childish activity—in the most derogatory possible way. You’re going to art school? How cute. You want to write stories? That’s nice. How sweet that your grandma taught you to quilt.

Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. Make. –Joss Whedon

There’s this impression that creation (which encompasses practically any hobby, if you think about it) is a second-rate way to spend your time. Unless you hit the popularity/talent/cultural jackpot and become the next Picasso or Bach or Lady Gaga, society is likely to tell you that you’re wasting your time.

Why quilt a blanket by hand when you can buy one for twenty bucks at Sears and do something productive with your time?

Maybe creating is the most powerful thing we can do. Or at least in the top five.

I want to know why our world thinks that craft loses its value sometime around third grade.

I want to know why creation is a dorky thing to do.

We complain at how entitled “kids” are when society teaches them that creating things isn’t valuable, that it’s a task to be farmed out to developing countries, or that it’s just for those who can earn a full-time living with it.

We all need to create. We’re wired for it. Whether you believe that you’re made in the image of this world’s creator or not, you’ve experienced the drive to make *something* that was just yours. Something you authored, dreamed, sculpted, stacked, painted, carved, or stitched.

So if you haven’t done any of those dorky, hobbyish, crafty, third-world things lately, I’m going to suggest that you dig deep, look beyond the inclination to just go buy a thing, and find a way to craft what you need or want.

Whether it’s wall art, a pretty rug, a tiny house, a poem, a potholder, or a pair of hand knitted socks, even if you follow a pattern, it’s going to be original. Because you are. You are wired to create. So let it happen.

Why I Ditched My To-Do List

 

Why I Ditched my To-Do ListAt some point during the third trimester of my last pregnancy, I literally burned my to-do list. Like tossed it into the fireplace and watched it go up in smoke. I was done. The twins had just turned two, and they wouldn’t sleep. They had ALL the energy and I had the energy of a slug someone salted.

Changing their diapers on the floor (and getting back up) left me gasping for breath. Tossing cereal on the table in front of them was the best I could do for breakfast, and even that felt like a major accomplishment.

To-Do Lists Don’t Work

I thought a to-do list would help keep me on track, so when I felt motivated I’d often write a few things on the whiteboard on my fridge or on a scrap of paper, thinking that I’d just put a few attainable things on there so I could feel good about checking them off. As you can probably imagine, not much got checked, but the list haunted me all day. Everything on it looked like a chore. It was depressing.

And then it hit me.

Tossing cereal on the table in front of the twins WAS a major accomplishment, darn it. I was 36 weeks pregnant and keeping two-year-old twins alive. Successfully feeding them breakfast deserved to be celebrated.

So I tossed that day’s to-do list in the fireplace and started a new list on my fridge. I wrote “Fed the tiny humans.” And I felt proud.

For a moment I hesitated because I don’t like psychologically manipulating myself. It feels like a cheap trick at first. But I was too happy with the idea that I had actually accomplished something to let that bother me much.

Acknowledging Your Little (and not-so-little) Accomplishments Makes Sense

So I went about my day, looking for things to add to my list of accomplishments.

  1. Ate an actual lunch (with veggies!)
  2. Took a nap.
  3. Took my vitamins and probiotic.
  4. Knitted.
  5. Listened to a podcast.
  6. Swept dining room floor.
  7. Put toys away.
  8. Built a Duplo tower with the twins.

Knowing that I’d be able to add something to my list made it less like I was just scraping by. On the toughest days, I wrote anything and everything down and felt proud of it. Fed the dog. Fed the twins. Propped up my feet for an hour. On better days, I was able to write that I took out the trash or cleaned something.

  • I got to start the day with a blank slate, rather than a list of obligations.
  • I became more aware of all I was actually getting done during the day.
  • I started looking for simple, quick things I could do to add to my list, and I finally completed tasks (dust the cobwebs from the corner of the bathroom! change that one light bulb!) that had needed to be done for weeks.

By the end of the day, I was able to see all I had accomplished, rather than looking around my still-half-destroyed house, seeing a disaster, feeling a little guilty for not getting more done, and wondering where the hours had gone.

My Ta-Da! list got me through the end of pregnancy with my mental health more or less intact. Since Asher was born, the list is helping me survive #3under3 without having a mental break, too. Things that absolutely cannot be forgotten I set as a reminder in my phone, and I deal with them when I have to. The rest? Meh. It’ll get done when it seems important enough. Or when I need another list item to write in.

Strategies that Make Washing Dishes Bearable

 

Stop Hating Your Dishes

I hate washing dishes. Would rather scrub toilets, pick dog crap out of the back yard, memorize the periodic table, or put up fiberglass insulation while wearing short sleeves. I can’t wait for the day I can outsource dishes to the twins (they enjoy helping now, so that shows promise).

For a while (okay, for most of my life), my method was simple. I avoided dishes as much as possible. I washed dishes only when absolutely necessary, made the husband take care of them whenever possible, and contemplated making a total full-time switch to paper plates and plastic flatware. But when the twins got older, I needed plates to be available at a moment’s notice. The clutter in the kitchen started getting under my skin. Something had to change.

Here’s what I decided to do instead. If these strategies help anyone who hates dishes as much as I do, it was more than worth sharing.

1. Pimp out my dishwashing accouterments

It’s always smart to cater to the tasks you hate. So I don’t buy the cheapest dish soap. I buy the stuff that I wouldn’t mind smelling all the time, and it’s like a little guilty pleasure when I reach for the bottle. I bought a brilliantly-designed dish scrub brush that I don’t hate using and that looks nice on the counter. I minimized non-dishwasher-safe utensils and cookware as much as I’m willing to.

2. Get it over with ASAP

The longer a dish sits, the more crusty it gets and the more psychologically repulsive it becomes. I hate washing dishes so much that I’ll spend any in-between time half thinking about how much I’m dreading having to wash them. So I try to wash the non-dishwasher-safe things as soon as possible, usually while I’m still cooking or while the twins are still strapped into booster seats at the table. Sometimes I put it off to pawn onto the husband. While he’s typically very helpful around the house, pawning the worst dishes off on him usually backfires in some way. Your miles may vary.

3. Don’t return to post-meal activities until all dishes from that meal are dealt with

I load the dishwasher constantly: as I prepare food, drink coffee, and in any way dirty a dish throughout the day. We run it once or twice a day, depending on how culinary I decide to be.

4. Listen to something

Music works well, as long as it’s upbeat and peppy. Love songs, depressing ballads, and cozy acoustic tracks are not dishwashing music. If the children aren’t actively demanding my attention or conversation, I’ll listen to a podcast while I wash–and I often find myself looking for other things in the kitchen to clean up at the same time, because it starts feeling pretty effortless I’m really enjoying what I’m listening to.

Dishes still suck, but not as much as they did before I started doing this.

I don’t have this strategy perfected. It tends to break down toward the end of the day, and sometimes I end up with things that need to be hand washed sitting out overnight (the horror!). It’s something I’ll work on when I feel like working on it.

#progressnotperfection

In Progress

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I’m thinking that my little corner of the internet needs a revamp. A place for brief thoughts about things that are and aren’t working in running my house and raising my tribe of small children. Answers to the “how do you do it?” questions I get on a regular basis. Strategies to make life work better. Strategies that would work if I could manage to actually do them. ;) Info I believe others (especially other parents) need to know.

The real, the fun, the struggle, and the mess. There may be many blogs like this one, but this one is mine.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m bringing this blog back to life, attempting to turn it into the kind of blog I’ve been wanting to read. It feels like a monumental task–and to be honest, I’ve been resisting the tendency to turn “mommy blogger” pretty hard-core. But I’m cutting myself a ton of slack and just… keeping it simple. Because I don’t have the time or energy for anything more than that.

There might be a name change in the near future. I’ll keep you posted.