craft verb \'kraft\ to create with care, skill and intention

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Stuck in a rut? It's time to break out!

I think everyone goes through times when they just operate in "survival mode." You know those times when everything is just kind of crazy? Maybe you move to a new house, maybe you experience a change in employment or your job becomes especially stressful, maybe you have a baby or your family undergoes big changes, maybe you have to deal with an illness in yourself or your family...the possibilities are endless. But anyway, for whatever reason, you find yourself in a state of flux. Your coping skills are functioning at maximum capacity, which leaves you functioning well enough to get by, but at a less-than-optimal level. When you look back later at that period you will feel like it was all a blur. Sometimes those periods are short, lasting for a matter of weeks. Other times they can be longer, like years. That's where we've been for the last, oh, well, it's been a while now. Two years? It's probably been longer than that, really. The important thing is that I'm tired of it! I'm tired of life just happening to me! I'm tired of being reactive! I'm ready to be proactive and start living again instead of just existing. Okay! Woo hoo! now what?

Unfortunately, I don't really have a fix-all answer for that question. But we have been making some (small) changes around here and I thought I would share with you what's been working for us.
  • Family dinners - In survival mode, just getting dinner on the table was a major chore. I slipped into the nasty habit of just having the TV on during dinner. Trying to get the kids to engage in a real conversation can be a lot of work! Most of the time, I just wasn't up for it. But for the last few weeks, I have insisted that the TV is off during dinner and we play a little game we call "best and worst." It's simple - each person shares the best moment and worst moment of his/her day. Even my three-year old gets into it! Now, the first few days there was quite a bit of grumbling, especially from the older kids. But it wasn't long before the kids started calling dibs on who would go first. My teenager isn't quite that enthusiastic about it, but he has stopped grumbling about it and he actually participates during his turn and doesn't talk over the other kids during their turns. Hey, it's progress!
  • Cooking nights - Like I said before, dinner has been a major chore for me. I have long lamented the fact that, although my mom spent countless hours in the kitchen with me during my childhood, I have not been able to master the art of including the kids in cooking activities. Well, I still have not mastered it, that's for sure. But I have started having the kids take turns helping me make dinner every night. So, each evening one child helps me in the kitchen. I try to plan each child's level of involvement around their interests and abilities. This one caused some MAJOR grumbling the first week. So much grumbling that I almost scrapped the whole deal. Dinner for seven is hard enough without having to struggle with an uncooperative kiddo. Fortunately, The Hubs convinced me to give it another week. I'm so glad he did! Week two was much easier. We are now in the middle of week three and I'm pleased to announce that even my teen not only tolerates his kitchen tasks but actually enjoys them! It has been a fun way to get everyone involved in something that benefits the whole family. It's also been a great way for me to get some one-on-one time with each kiddo (that's hard to come by with 5 kids!).
  • Giving together - We pulled our first money saving switcheroo a couple of Fridays ago. Instead of ordering delivery pizza, I bought frozen pizzas (at a savings of $18!) for dinner. I put $18 in cash in our giving bank. The kids helped me count it out and they were amazed (honestly, so were us grown-ups) at how much money we could save with such a small and easy change. The kids loved it! One of the kids had a friend over that evening and she exclaimed, "I wish I could eat dinner with you guys all the time! This is so cool! At my house we just watch TV while we eat." Well, we've had plenty of nights like that, too. But this is definitely more fun. Now we have to figure out where to give that money, but we'll have more on that at a later date.

I guess when I was just getting by I got so used to just getting by that I stopped trying to do anything better. I think I assumed that at some point the fog would lift and we would get things back on track. I finally just got so sick and tired of feeling sick and tired that I decided to take charge and start working on clearing the fog myself. It's not happening overnight, but it is happening. When you get right down to it, it's pretty simple. If you keep doing what you've been doing, you're going to keep getting what you've been getting. Garbage in, garbage out, right? It's time to change things up! Do something different, even if it's just one small thing. I'm finding that one small thing leads to another small thing, and so on and so on.

When you find yourself stuck in a rut, what do you do to break out of it?


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Charitable Stash-busting

There was a time when I thought that I was the only one with a problem. It was my dirty little secret. But as I spent more time on crafting blogs and began to make some crafty friends, I realized that I was not alone. Hello, my name is Brooke and I have a yarn and fabric problem. You know the deal, right? It starts out small. Maybe you find a great sale and you just can't pass up 2-for-1 skeins. Or maybe you find this fabric that would be just perfect if your sister's neighbor's best-friend ever has a baby, and you'd better buy it now because it may not be in stock by then. Over time, these little treasures begin to pile up. You (I) have the best of intentions, of course, but eventually the whole thing just gets out of control.

Maybe you don't have a love of yarn or fabric, but if you're crafty I bet you have a stash of something tucked away. Remember that awesome scrapbook paper that was just perfect for preserving your memories of your child's first birthday...ten years ago? You are not alone!

I have been paralyzed by the enormity of the task of de-stashing for some time. My excuse? I just couldn't bear to throw it all away. So wasteful! Gasp! But I have come up with a solution that left me with no excuses: charitable stash-busting. Here are some ideas:

  • Project Linus provides blankets to children (infants through teens) in need. Blankets can be sewn (or no-sew fleece blankets), knit, or crochet. They will also accept donations of supplies, so if you don't have time to craft from your stash just send in the goods!

  • Caps for Good provides caps to newborns in high-risk areas around the world. A joint effort of Save the Children and Warm Up America. They accept knit or crochet hats and have some very basic, even child-friendly, patterns on their site. They will accept caps through February 28, 2011. If this appeals to you, don't fret about the deadline. This is their second cap campaign and I suspect there will be more to come.

  • Make a Child Smile maintains a list on their website of seriously ill children who would love to get a card from you. Put your paper crafting skills - and stash - to good use by making a few special cards for some special kids. BTW - you can send store-bought cards as well, so if this idea appeals to you and you are not a card-maker you can still contribute.

  • Ask your child's school if they can use any of your supplies.

  • Sell it on e-bay! You could use your earnings to make a charitable donation here, here, or here.

For now, I am putting my stash-busting energy towards Caps for Good. I have some yarn in my stash that was originally intended to be a baby blanket for a "baby" who is now four years old. So, I'll probably turn to Project Linus next. I was going to take a picture of the yarns I cleaned out of my stash, but then once I actually cleaned it out, the amount was a teensy bit embarrassing. And by "teensy bit embarrassing" I mean shameful bordering on obscene. So, once I have a few baby hats to show for it, I will take a pic with the hats and the reduced stash because then maybe I won't feel so ashamed. Forty lashes with a wet noodle for me.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of crafty charities. If none of these trips your trigger, just google craftivism, crafting for charity, or something similar. You will be amazed with what you come up with. Do you already have a crafty charity? Do share!


Thursday, January 6, 2011

It's All or Nothing, Baby!

Actually, it's not. And that's a big problem for me. I have this all-or-nothing thinking that is really faulty and it prevents me from being everything I could be. It permeates every area of my life. It goes like this:

"Since I don't have time to clean the whole house, I might as well not sweep the entry because it's not going to make that much of a difference anyway."

"I might as well get the large fries because the burger is blowing my diet anyway."

"I can't focus on giving right now because I don't have enough to give to make a difference anyway."

This thinking is faulty for many reasons. There is no balance in all-or-nothing thinking. Every choice is all-good or all-bad, and that is just incorrect. This thinking ignores the fact that small changes can add up to make a big difference. It's paralyzing because, since I can never be all-good no matter how hard I try, every effort seems pointless and unnecessary.

A more rational way of thinking is:

"I don't have time to clean the whole house, but I'll do what I can and then I won't have as much to do tomorrow."

"If I'm going to get the burger, I should only get the small fries. If I really want the large fries, maybe I could get chicken instead of a burger."

"I may not be able to give much, but I will give what I can because every little bit helps!"

I'm reminded of one of my favorite poems from my childhood. There is so much wisdom in being able to step back from overwhelming tasks and break them into manageable pieces. If this was my natural tendency, I would be trim and fit and my house would be spotlessly clean. I would be a generous giver, a mindful saver, a more attentive wife and mom, and a more thoughtful friend. Unfortunately for me, this is not my natural thinking. So what's a girl to do?

Well, I've never been able to wish a ball of yarn into a pair of socks and I'm not likely to be able to wish myself out of my all-or-nothing thinking either. But if I committ to being disciplined enough to follow a pattern and I'm willing to put in a little work, I can transform yarn into something that is useful and wonderful. I believe I can apply the same principles to myself and craft some better, more effective ways of thinking. It's just about being intentional. I tell my kids all the time to think before they speak or act, and it's about time I take my own advice. It's time for me to be more deliberate about my choices, to really think about the consequences of my actions, and to give up behaviors that simply aren't working for me.

Life doesn't have to be a string of reactions to the world around us. By being intentional about my actions, I can craft a better me, a better life, a better world.

Do you struggle with ineffective ways of thinking or bad habits? Have you found ways to overcome them?

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV

"Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'" Matthew 19:26 NIV