Category Archives: goals

Five Years and Counting

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Dear Friendly Readers,

Five years ago, I began something new—a blog. I had created the blog’s title and web address several years before, but nothing happened. For a long time, my blog was nothing more than an empty resolution. Warm As Pie was like so many other unfulfilled promises of other good things that I wanted to do but never really did—like exercising, or flossing twice a day, or baking my own bread every week, or finally truly learning to speak French. It’s painful to say, but I’m actually quite used to not following through on my big ideas. I wasn’t too surprised to fail at blogging before I even tried.

On September 22, 2009, I decided to give the whole blog thing one honest effort. I had two primary reasons for wanting to bring Warm As Pie to life. First, I was an adjunct faculty member in the English department at a big, fancy university, and I was feeling like a fraud. I was teaching writing, but I wasn’t doing any writing. In 2004, I had completed an MFA (master of fine arts degree) in creative writing, but once my thesis was approved, I rarely wrote pieces that weren’t related to the teaching of composition or the study of education. I simply wasn’t writing creatively anymore, yet I was teaching others to write and trying to convince them that writing could be a part of life. I wanted to “walk the walk” again—to live the writer’s life again.

Secondly, I wanted a pretty place to record and reflect upon the beautiful things that were happening in my life. I read Blogging for Bliss by Tara Frey*, and I was won over by all the “bliss” flowing out of that book. I had two little boys at the time—a 4 year old and a 1 year old—and I already knew the frantic, other-worldly pace at which they were growing and changing. I didn’t want to forget. I wanted to live slowly and purposefully. The commitment to writing about my life felt like a promise to live the life I wanted (and still want). Blogging makes me grateful.

I didn’t fail! I posted once. That was fun. I did it again and again and again. I became acquainted with a few other bloggers, and I loved the sense of community. A small band of readers—mostly real-life friends and family—welcomed my posts. People seemed to like what I was doing. They thanked me. They cheered me. They told me that my blog meant something to them. My readership is tiny, but those friends sure are loyal. Yes, Warm As Pie has slowed considerably after a couple of big moves and two more children and the beginning of our life as home-schoolers, but the pleasant comments and encouragement from readers keep me from putting this blog to its final rest. My two reasons for blogging remain true. I’m still teaching writing, and I want to continue in the practice of writing. I still want to record this abundant, beautiful life that God has given to me.

And so…I embark on my sixth year of Warm As Pie. I’ve decided to zoom in and focus on the kind of blogging that I love most: sharing how we grow together through words and images. I’m simplifying. I’m streamlining. All of the amazing possibilities of blogging has led me astray more than once, but I’m back to the basics. I will be making some fun changes in the next few weeks. I CANNOT wait to share a special little project that has been brewing for months. Eeeee! I’m excited!

If this is your first time here, welcome. You’ve come at a good time. If you’ve been with me awhile, thank you. Thank you for caring enough about me and my family to stop in from time to time.

Warmly,
Erica G.


*Blogging for Bliss now has many outdated references and resources.  A lot of the blogs featured in the book have moved or closed.  However, it is a gorgeous book with plenty of helpful information.  I picked up an excellent used copy on Amazon for ONE PENNY!  With shipping, I acquired a book that I love for $4.00.  Nice!

January to February: Resolution or Revolution?

Several years ago, I heard a psychologist on the radio suggest that instead of trying to jump-start a New Year’s resolution or major life change on January 1st–right in the midst of the hustle of the holiday season–why not use January as a month for reflection and planning so that FEBRUARY can be the month for a new start?  I liked that suggestion.

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I came into the month of January with a lot of ideas about the goals I would set for 2013.  I already knew that I would work on focus.  I knew that I needed deliberate practice in being mentally present in my day-to-day life.  Maybe you are like me.  I do a lot of daydreaming, a lot of planning for the future.  I can get stuck in a week’s worth of daydreams just because I found a hypothetical something that tickled my imagination.  I am easily distracted from NOW because I’m thinking about later.  Partly, I think I’m like this because I’ve been a student from the time I was four until I left my PhD program about a month before my thirty-first birthday (more about that here).  As a student, especially a graduate student, you are kind of living for the future.  There is always a goal to reach, a step to take, an accomplishment to check off the list.  All of these things hold the promise of something better later.  Graduate school is a great exercise in delayed gratification.  You live like a pauper hoping that someday you won’t have to!

I digress.  (Ironic!)

So in the midst of planning to focus, I started planning a lot of other goals.  I was going to commit to keeping a journal, and then I decided that I needed two journals–one for practical matters and one for fun, artistic stuff.  Then I decided that I also would need a prayer journal.  So much for being focused, huh?  I set some goals about organizing my home.  I set a goal about money management and keeping my e-mail inbox clean.  I set exercising goals and made a plan to read more, take more pictures, and be in more pictures.  Sigh.  I’m really bad at being focused.

Then, right at the end of the month, everything became clear in a three part mini act of God.  First, one of my favorite blogs featured a post that looked a little like mine.  A sweet, godly mom was reflecting on how she had been in survival mode rather than growing in her faith journey.  I quickly wrote to defend her, but I realized that I am doing the same thing, and in writing to support her, I was sort of telling myself that “I’m okay” when maybe I am not.  Secondly, my husband realized that we had drifted pretty far in our financial giving to others and to our church.  In the past, we have seen how much we are blessed by giving, and we want to be generous even in our own struggles.  Very hard, and we totally fail…often.  It was not some sort of legalistic You-Must-Give-Everything-You-Own-Or Else moment; rather it was just a self-assessment of where we once were compared to where we are now.  I, too, had felt that we’ve been living for us instead of truly living for others as we’ve been called to do.  I began to reconsider my New Year’s resolutions at that point.

At the start of the final week of January, I volunteered to teach our Sunday School class on February 3rd.  The people in the class take turns leading it, and I was just in the mood to take a Sunday.  During the service, I decided to sneak a look at the passage that I would be teaching:  Hebrews 5.  Ugh.  That’s a tough one.  And here is where my attention was truly grabbed:

12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 5:12-14

While I’m busy caring for kids, tending to a home, messing around on Facebook, folding laundry and neglecting to put it away, driving to and fro, glancing longingly at other people’s lives on cute blogs, reading this and that, sweeping up endless amounts of dry cereal, and doing more laundry, I’m not always growing in the ways that are important–to me or to God.  I am not complaining about my current season of life at all.  I actually love this time in my life with all its messes and demands.  I wouldn’t trade all the cereal for even the biggest paycheck.  Nonetheless, I’ve been in a funk, and I knew I wanted to stop moving through this comfortable but very safe life and instead feel what it is like to have nothing holding me up but God’s will.  Does that make sense?

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I used to be on a major spiritual growth spurt.  During college, I was on fire!  I was reading my Bible and building a healthy prayer life.  It was a great time.  But it was also a time of personal struggle for a lot of reasons, and those dark moments fueled my hunger for God.  I wanted to feel Him and know Him better.  I guess I got too comfy in recent years because the hunger has changed.  I still long for God’s presence and His care, but I seem to want to meet that need in ways that don’t require my work or my time.  Hmmm…not good.  I’ve had “the milk” many times over, but I have to wonder: am I ready for the solid food?  Am I going to just remain satisfied to sip at the sweet but simple parts of the gospel or chomp on the hard stuff?  The real question though: am I going to live it or just think about it.  Some more.  Again.

If you made it to the end of this very long post, here is the conclusion that I’ve reached:

I can set a New Year’s resolution.  It would fine if I worked on the goal to keep my laundry washed and my bedroom floor clear of clutter.  Those are good things.  It would be okay to commit to exercising five days per week or eating more veggies.  But I decided that I don’t need another resolution.  I need a revolution.  I apologize for the corny play on words, but maybe it will stick in your head the way it has in mine.  I need to turn back to the things that matter beyond my day-to-day.  It does begin with focus as I said in the beginning, and the follow-through is a big dose of study and prayer, two things that have moved to the periphery as I unconsciously decided that my house and homeschooling and money (or lack of it) and many other things were more important.

I have no idea if this blog matters in big ways or even small ones, but since it is an extension of me, Warm as Pie is going to change, too.  If you’ve been here before, I’m sure you noticed the new look.  The menu across the top has an addition that I hope you will explore, and the “About” section has been updated as well.  I’ve added a few things to the “Places I Love” page, too.  Each month, I’ll be highlighting different blogs, websites, and even family interviews.  I cannot wait to introduce you to my first family!  But if you’re not really a fan of change, don’t worry.  Most of my blog content will be pretty much the same.  Just me thinking about stuff, taking pictures, and sweeping cereal.

Let’s Get Organized {Week #1}

Oh yes!  Oh yes!  It’s time to report on my organizing project.  Week #1 went really well.  I’m so pleased that I actually followed through.  Now, I’m not saying that I absolutely reached my goal in its entirety.  Sadly, no, but I did make great progress.

I gave myself the assignment of organizing our four downstairs closets–entryway closet, pantry, livingroom closet, and laundry closet.  The entryway closet was a mish-mash of many odds and ends.  If we didn’t know where an item should go, it went in the entryway.  I wanted this closet to be a sort of “landing zone” for things that go in and out of the house often.  I wanted to know where backpacks were located before the morning rush.  The boys know to put their shoes by the front door, but the shoes were usually in a crazy pile somewhere near the closet.  Here is what the closet looked like before:

And here is my AFTER…drum roll…

I bought hooks for the backpacks and my purse.  They cost $1.20 per hook.  I spent $5.00 on corkboard.  The money bought me four 12 x 12 pieces, and I only used one in this space.  The hanging shoe organizer was in the boys’ room, and it wasn’t being used.  One little plastic wrestler was hangin’ out in there, so I snitched the organizer for the closet.  The tan bin on the shelf has outdoor toys in it.  I found the bin in our garage–not being used.  I would like to buy something to hold the dog food, but it can wait.  I turned the box lids on the shelf into paper sorts for the boys’ school papers and art work.

Here’s our pantry:

Our pantry was sparce but sloppy.  Painting supplies were tossed in there, along with plastic shopping bags and loose papers.  Now, it looks like this:

(I have several more pantry pictures, but they won’t post.  Grr…)

I made little labels for the shelves.  I cleared out the rest of the closet to the right.  That’s the home of our sweeper and steam mop now.  I also made a family emergency kit with candles and matches.  I plan to add bottled water, a flashlight, a first aid kit, and a few other things.

The laundry closet was a really easy fix.  I want to show you what happened there, but my camera battery died before I took my “After” shot.  I’ll save that reveal for next week.  The livingroom closet is not complete.  We need to buy some shelving, and it just isn’t in the budget right now.  J and I organized the toys though, so that’s definitely progress!

I planned to organize the boys’ room this week, but I’ve decided to bump up the master bedroom to the top of the list.  We’ve barely even moved into our master bedroom.  It is basically a bed, a dresser, and mess of boxes, bins, and baskets.  Time to fix that!  {I’m editing last week’s post to reflect the change.}

Are you organizing along with me?  If you are new to the blog, you might want to check out my pre-organizing post here.

Let’s Get Organized!

As I typed the title of this post, I started singing Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical,” and I have a feeling that it is going to be running through my head all day.

I could write a book (well, a really, really long blog post) about my organizational history.  Here’s the quickie version:

I have always been really good at organizing my professional space but not my personal space.  As a kid, my pattern meant a tidy desk and backpack but a semi-messy room.  As a teenager, I had obsessively neat school notes.  I loved color-coding with cool pens (Jessi?  Are you reading this?).  I loved binders and folders and paper clips.  Staples was my retail heaven!  But as my life got busier and my pace got faster, my room got messier.  And messier.  I seemed to be always cleaning it, but it didn’t get better.  I would spend an entire Saturday “cleaning,” but I spent most of my time gazing at old photographs, art work from junior high, and other memorabilia.  The state of my bedroom was always a battleground between me and my mom (in an otherwise wonderful mother-daughter relationship).  College and grad school were about the same.  Organized work and schedule.  Semi-messy room/apartment/house.

Then in 2005, while still studying in grad school and working in various capacities at a university, we added a baby boy to our family.  Suddenly, I could not tolerate our messiness.  I wanted a cozy, clean place to raise our little family.  I tried hard.  I felt like I was cleaning all the time, but the house didn’t get better.  The baby’s room was the single spotless place.  The nursery was super organized and always tidy.  I was frustrated.  Then, in April 2006 when F was 9 months old, my mom and I attended a La Leche League conference.  One of the speakers taught us about home organizing, and for the first time, I learned about the FlyLady.  Now, the FlyLady might not be for everyone, and her methods might seem silly or extreme, but she changed my life!  At least for a little while.

By June, I had my home organized and clean, and I was maintaining the routines that are essential to the FlyLady program.  I felt AWESOME!  On the evening before my baby’s first birthday in August, I was ready for the party.  The house looked good.  The cake was ready.  The food was ready.  That never happens.  On the morning of the party, I was able to attend church, do some final party prep, and just enjoy my birthday boy without the usual frantic race before guests arrived.

My home organization lasted until baby #2 arrived (about two years), and I’ve never returned to that delightful state again.  We live in a state of semi-organization. Thankfully, our summer move left us without much of our old clutter.  I’m great at crisis cleaning.  I can pull together a clean, pretty house without much trouble, but it’s not truly organized.  My closets make no sense at all.  I’m often losing things or frantically hunting for things as we head out the door.  Our second floor has tons of storage near the bathroom and bedrooms, but the drawers and closets are almost empty while our belongs are still in boxes or stacked in corners. Our car is always full of stuff, leaving it unsightly but also unsafe.

On Thursday, I attended a MOPS meeting on the subject of organization, and I’m feeling very motivated.  I also have a sense of community support, and that accountability means a lot to me!

Project: Food Budget has been so helpful, so I decided to do a similar thing with organization.  I will report once per week on my progress in getting organized.  Here is the plan of attack:

Week #1:  (April 16-April 22)  Downstairs closets and begin family paperwork

Week #2: (April 23-April 29)  Master bedroom and upstairs closets

Week #3: (April 30-May 6)  Boys’ room and paperwork

Week #4: (May 7-May 13)  Leftover unpacked boxes, back porch, and paperwork

Week #5: (May 14-May 20)  Home library

Week #6: (May 21-May 27)  Kids’ papers and crafts

Week #7: (May 28-June 3)  Car, kitchen, and finish family paperwork

Notes:  The kitchen is thrown in at the end because it is fairly well organized.  I want to tackle only two spots:  the very junkie junk drawer and the top of the fridge.  Otherwise, I’m happy with the order of my kitchen.  Paperwork is spread out through the seven week project because as I organize each space, I will have more paper to manage.  There are other areas that I could add such as the garage and bathrooms, but those areas are functioning pretty well.  Our bathrooms are basically empty, so no trouble there.  My laundry area is really just a big closet, so I’m including it in Week #1.

Anyone want to join me?

The Brutal Truth

I’ve been thinking a lot about my blog, why I blog, and what others might think as they read Warm as Pie. I recently heard a radio program about the role of social media in a Christian life.  The guy speaking was compelling, and his message really got me thinking.  His main point was that every post we make–whether on Facebook, Twitter, a blog, whatever–is essentially an act of self-promotion.  Whether consciously or unconsciously, we are creating a “brand” for ourselves–an image that we want others to hold of us.  This is not a ground-breaking idea.  We used to talk about the same concept in terms of designer purses, name-brand jeans, and sports cars.  I remember when all the girls in seventh grade were wearing K-Swiss shoes, and I wanted desperately to show that I was a K-Swiss kinda gal, too.  Now, self-promotion happens in terms of the words we choose, the links we share, and the photographs that show us as happy, fun-loving, carefree, creative, and confident with shiny white teeth and toned upper arms.  Okay…maybe that’s just me.  Even this post is screaming “here is my obligatory I-am-so-humble-Aren’t-I-amazing post?”.  So with the self-promotion concept swirling around in my brain, every Facebook status I consider writing and every blog post I begin to imagine comes with a great, big pause.  Talk about squelching one’s creativity.  I can’t help wondering if I’m just trying to praise myself and gain praise from others.  Am I bringing God glory or putting a spotlight on myself?  How can ever know that?  For now, I’ll just say that it’s on my mind, and I’m not sure what to do about it.

Blogging allows me to show you our family’s best moments.  Blogging allows me to look back over our best moments and to be reminded that we are filling our children’s lives with good things, good memories, good messages, and often good food–even when the kids are arguing, the garbage is overflowing, and the clean laundry is stacked so high on top of the dryer that it is toppling on to the floor where dog hair has collected on the ceramic tile and is now all over the once-clean laundry.

Blogging allows me to tell myself, “Yes, the house is a mess and there are no clean socks, but you are still a good mom.”  Folks, my house is–indeed–often a mess.  Too often, one child is pouting in his room because I said no to more television time, no to a chance to log on to pbskids.org, or no to cookies before dinnertime.  Perhaps even worse, I sometimes say yes to TV when we’ve had enough, yes to PBS because I’m tired and the baby needs to nurse, and yes to cookies because I just can’t say no one more time!

Blogging is like a family photo album.  I don’t know about you, but I throw away the picture that shows that my shorts were too tight, something was smeared on my shirt, and it looks like I might be getting a double chin.  On the blog, I’m not trying to look perfect.  I’m not perfect, and I’m certainly not trying to pull one over on you.  But I do enjoy reflecting on the positives.  I like recording the moments that reveal to me God’s love, the beauty of the world, and the magic of both marriage and childhood.  I like to share my successes here.  I like to post pictures of my children when thay are smiling or otherwise looking sweet.  I don’t take picture of then scowling, pouting, or swatting a sibling.  Would you?

But let me tell you, the normal, messy craziness of family life happens here.  Daily.

At my sister’s baby shower, a relative commented that she couldn’t believe that Kristy planned to use cloth diapers.  She made the comment with a sense of both disbelief and praise.  Sort of how you might congratulate someone who is training for a marathon while at the same time questioning her sanity.  My sweet sister answered that I (as in me, the big sister) use cloth, and I am her role model.  Well, hello there!  I was really touched and really proud that this dear, wonderful sister of mine would point to me as a role model.  Sure, I am the older sister, and I do have three kids who are turing out okay.  But I was still a little bit (okay, a lot) moved at the thought.  I am the big sister, but I always kind of wished I was more like Kristy.

As I good as I felt about the cloth diaper conversation, I am uncomfortable about it, and I keep thinking that if the kind relative and many others who were surprised by our diapering choices knew what my diaper routine looked like.  They wouldn’t be so impressed.  Cloth diapering doesn’t make me SuperMom.  It’s not that hard.  In fact, it’s easy.  Easy.  I am not being modest.  Diapering takes very little of my time, energy, or brain power.  And get this — When I grab a disposable diaper because I’m behind on laundry or just because, the cloth diaper police do not screech to a hault in our driveway and interrogate me about the state of our nation’s landfills or the chemical content of disposable nappies.  Cloth diapering has not been an unattainable standard for an ordinary family like us.  Cloth diapers are cute.  They are better for my baby’s bottom, the environment, and our budget.  But they don’t make me some sort of mothering superstar.  (I’ll save my thoughts on diapering for another post.)

I’m leaving you with these concluding thoughts:  Most of us admire the qualities of others that we don’t think we have.  We admire some of the choices that other families make, and we tell ourselves, “I could never do that.”  Sometimes we see these “super families” on blogs, or we notice the wonderful things that they share on Facebook.  I’m telling you, if [insert admirable thing] were your priority, you could do it, too.  I admire people who exercise daily, compost their food waste, clip coupons, grow their own vegetables, make their own laundry detergent, totally avoid processed foods, drink tons of water, keep beautiful journals, always print their digital photographs, read dozens of novels, always recycle their magazines, knit sweaters for their families, make double batches of lasagna for the freezer, iron their shirts, and always have a clean kitchen sink.  I am not those people.  I do some of those things some of the time.  I have different priorities, and I’m just starting to feel okay about that. I hope you will, too.

Springtime Shift

The first day of spring was a major cause of celebration in our old northern life.  Spring meant a few warm days might slip in even if a snowfall could still happen.  Spring meant that the little heads of daffodils pushed up through the earth.  Those tiny pops of green and yellow were so welcome, and everyone hoped that a heavy frost or flurry wouldn’t leave them blighted.  Spring meant putting away snow boots, cleaning out gutters, and sweeping away the old leaves from the fall that accumulated along the sidewalks and the front steps.  These little changes were made with great hope, but we all knew that cold weather could still reign in those early spring days.  I can recall many April mornings that began with a beautiful blanket of the white stuff, so the vernal equinox brought no promises!  Even so, I loved to make a big deal of the start of the new season.

Now that we are living in a very different climate, I wasn’t sure what to do about the start of spring.  It’s been rather “springy” in these parts for…well…since it wasn’t blazing hot.  Since November perhaps?  None of the usual activities celebrating the newly blooming flowers seemed appropriate, but I didn’t want to pass by the important shift into springtime.  For the last few years, I have been organizing our children’s books seasonally.  Of course, we have many books that are year-round favorites; however, I love to pack up our books about autumn, Christmas, and winter and pull out the spring, Easter, and summer choices.  The stories feel new again.

Even though we aren’t going to experience spring in the same way, I want this season to be about new life.  I need a fresh start in several areas of my life.  I’m longing for some new recipes, some new additions to my wardrobe, new commitment to prayer and study, and most of all–a new sense of organization.  What are you hoping for this spring?

Ah…Clean Slate

Do you feel that clean, fresh breeze blowing by, clearing off the dust of old ways?  For some of you, that “breeze” might feel like an icy gale, but for my family, the movement is crisp and pleasant.  It promises a fresh start, a new beginning.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  I love beginnings!  In my first Warm as Pie post ever, I wrote briefly about how much I love a new start, no matter what time of year.  The beginning of 2012 is exciting.  We started the year on the road as we made the long drive from North to South.  (Having watched Gone With the Wind over the holiday, I was particularly aware of the Mason Dixon line and Charleston, SC.)  Oh, I was so sad to leave Home to go home, but as we made our way southward, I felt the excitement growing.  We left our new house in a bit of a scramble, and now I get to truly be a “homemaker” as I empty boxes, hang pictures, and set up new routines.  How I’ve missed our routines!  I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could do parenthood without them.

I have several goals for the new year.  I prefer the word “goals” to “resolutions” because, to me, a resolution is a promise and a goal is a process.  I cannot promise that will have my new ways set in stone on January 1.  No way.  Instead, I will be working all year to make positive changes for me and my family.

My very most important goal is to make our house open to guests at all times.  I want to practice hospitality in its truest form, ready to share the joy of friendship at any moment.

Secondly, I want to treat our bedroom as a sanctuary for me and my husband.  Our bedroom is always the place where I mindlessly toss things.  I usually avoid going there for any reason other than sleep, but with a brand new bedroom to design, decorate, and enjoy, I figure this is the time to commit to making a little refuge for us.

I hope you are refreshed and ready to write something beautiful on that clean slate before you.