Putting down and picking up

I’m finishing some major bodies of work in my life this week. Today is my first day at a new role within my company. It’s a big change – new team, new office building, new industry. I’ve been working towards it for quite a while, and I’m very excited. I spent quite a bit of time doing *both* jobs (which makes you feel like you’re doing neither job well) so the concept of doing just one job has me slightly giddy.

Also, it’s my first day on the new job and I’m currently on a plane heading to a meeting in California. So I think it’s gonna keep me busy.

This weekend also marks the completion of another great task I’ve undertaken. We will be installing our new pastor. (You’re invited by the way. Wear red.) As you have likely heard me complain, I’ve been running the “next step in hiring a new pastor” process for well over two years now. It’s going to be a wonderful thing to get to switch from thinking about what work God wants us to do, to doing the work God wants us to do. It’s going to be a fantastic celebration.

People have been asking me, “So what are you going to do with your free time?”

AHAHAHAHAHAH! You’re so funny, people!

You see, I’ve been pushing off all the things that could be pushed off for quite some time now. But not all things that are pushed off can be ignored indefinitely. At some point you have to actually do some of them. And a few of them are feeling quite urgent now, while others just finally got to the top of the pile.

Chief among the new things I’m starting is – finally – our long-delayed attic project. The money has been saved. The plans have been drawn. The toilet selected. The tile agonized over. The contractor picked. The dumpster arrives next week. Which means that the attic needs to be empty like the week after. Empty empty. And maybe the vast linen closet too, with its mysterious Narnia-like depths. I never thought I was a hoarder, but attempting to clean out my attic is making me think I might have slight hoarder-like tendencies. I’m counting on the strength of last-minute-panic to help me get through it all in the one the day before we have the installation service for our new pastor. Right after I land from my California trip. And rehearse the installation music.

I’m dead meat. I know I’ll make it because I always make it. I’m just not 100% sure how.

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Why I shouldn’t take vacations

Adam and I were in the car on the long ride up to Canada. (As an aside, Thane is begging to go to Canada for his birthday “just like you and dad did”.) As so often happens when I finally relax and momentarily get off the hamster wheel of my daily life, I started to think. This is a mistake. Because given a good night’s sleep and no immediately pressing pending tasks, I start inventing things we’ll do when I get back. I have some sort of amnesia about how little time I have (especially during the fall).

For your entertainment, here are a few things that I came up with for us to do in that languid week on the Bay of Fundy:

1) Redo the living room
We spent a lot of time talking about what we’ll do with our house. It was built in 1898, and the last major renovation was in the 1970s. That ’70s renovation was… not good. These were not choices I’m glad they made (although it probably kept the house affordable for us). Specifically, almost every room in the first two floors has a drop ceiling and cheap wood paneling. We ripped it out of Thane’s room – a project that Adam took two full weeks (between jobs). We have a Google doc full of all the projects we’d LIKE to do. (The stupid windows. I can’t figure out what we should do. We got three contractors in and they each recommended something different, with estimates between 7k and 20k. So I’m doing the mature thing and ignoring it for another year. Also, I think next year we will put the second full bathroom in the attic and turn it into a master suite.)

But somehow we landed on the brilliant idea that we would renovate the dining room. (I think that is mostly because one of our gamers has a commitment that will make gaming hard for several weeks, so it’s an opportune time.) It sounds simple – we’ll pull down the drop ceiling and the wood paneling (which, in a brilliant design decision doesn’t run all the way to the real ceiling because it was put up the same time as the drop ceiling. We’ll re-drywall the ceiling (or a tin ceiling?! maybe with crown molding?) and walls (there’s likely horsehair plaster back there, and its unlikely to be in good condition). We’ll put the trim back on, prime and paint, and voila! Beautiful dining room! Of course, this involves moving all the furniture in the room, which includes the heaviest stuff in the whole house. (To … somewhere else….) And likely weeks of double shifts for Adam. And we’re not sure how we’ll handle the curves in the archways. But it’ll be great!

2) Invite my brother to come live with us for a while
My brother is wrapping up his current church contract in Denver. While he’s working on discerning his next call, we’re looking forward to having him here for a while. He’s wisely planned his schedule so he should be here shortly after we finish getting the dining room redone. I can’t wait to see him again!

3) Decide once and for all if my children need a piano
We inherited a piano from Adam’s grandmother. I play piano, poorly. But given a choice, I’d rather plan trumpet mediocrely, or guitar poorly. Heck, I might even prefer to play cornetto abysmally. For a long time we hung on to it in that fond hope that one of our sons might be musically inclined. Those sons are now 9 and 6 and it’s put up or play wind instruments time. So I’m thinking of trying a 4 week piano lesson for each of them. At the conclusion of those 4 weeks, we’ll either have a kid who seems actually interested in practicing music, or we’ll get rid of the piano.

4) Chair a church committee
OK, this wasn’t actually a vacation decision, but it did kick off this week. My church is getting ready to do our mission study in preparation for discerning who we are, what God is calling us to do, and who the neighbor is that we should be loving. I’ll be part of that discernment process. I’ve taken a few years off church committees, and this marks my dive back in.


There are a few more things, but those are the high points. I am looking ahead to fall – the busiest time of my year – and trying to figure out what I can do RIGHT NOW in order to save myself having to do it in September/October!

What brilliant ideas did you come up with on your vacation?

Pack in that relaxation!

There are down sides and up sides to age and experience. I can now chop an onion with a finesse my 22 year old self would never have dreamed of. I seem to grow extra arms as needed. I know how long the wash cycle on my washing machine takes, and I can get myself to nearly any destination not requiring a visa without being nervous about it. I am, in short, a Woman of Experience.

I have this week off. I am between. I am liminal. I have left Old Job and not yet started New Job. I have been EXPLICITLY INSTRUCTED by my new employer to relax and come in rested and refreshed. But this is a once every few years opportunity! Home, alone, without children, not terribly fiscally constrained and without obligation. This, my friends, is the holy grail. And I KNOW that it will go super duper fast and I will only accomplish a small percentage of what I intend in that time.

So here’s the potential list: (bold means already done or in the works)

  • Crazy complicated dinner (prime rib!)
  • Video game (Fable II for XBox)
  • Clean attic thoroughly and get rid of archaic equipment (see also: desktop computer)
  • Buy new computer
  • Centralize entire digital life on new computer
  • Transfer finances to new digital checkbook
  • Do all the regular chores so my husband gets a bit of a break too
  • Read several novels
  • Install a DROID development environment
  • Write a DROID application
  • Blog like I always think I would blog if time wasn’t a problem
  • Sleep in as much as possible
  • Read the APIs my new company publishes for the app I’ll be supporting
  • Watch all the football
  • Do everything in my email inbox so I can close the email
  • Practice trumpet
  • Stamp cards
  • Learn how to use my new phone and totally customize it
  • Recycle the old computers, having ensured all valuable information has been removed.
  • Have tea with a friend
  • Go out to lunches with my former colleagues (this was my original plan, but now I’m feeling so forward-looking I have mixed feelings on it)
  • Finish up my knee physical therapy (partially there!)
  • Goof off in all the amazing free time.

    Anyone see a problem with this list? Yeah, that darned experience tells me what it tells you. There’s no way I’m going to get through that list. I get so sick and tired of prioritizing, optimizing and being efficient. I come to loathe the down to the minute scheduling and night after night of making good decisions because I know better. This week, at least, that is relaxed and reduced. I’ve actually made some excellent progress.

    The key this week, I think, is balance. I need to make sure I neither work the whole time or goof off the whole time. A mixture of accomplishment, long term investment and leisure is the order of the day. I think I’ve done well so far.

    Last week I read several novels, working my way through the canon of Sherwood Smith, so far with “Crown Duel”, “The Trouble With Kings”, “Coronets and Steel” and “Blood Spirits” — thank you Kindle for making it so easy! I have played several hours of Fable II. I have gotten my DROID environment working, read half of a DROID apps book, read the first few chapters in a JAVA 2 book and consolidated all our CDs. I also cleaned out the closet in the attic and have my crazy fancy dinner planned. I bought myself my new central laptop, and am currently in the process of downloading a lifetime of pictures to it, as I simultaneously upload ancient pictures from my old desktop. I have had my final knee dr. appointment and been dismissed. I have three PT appointments scheduled. I found a new chiropractor. The dishes have been done, I’ve been careful not to spend too much time cooking (which is what usually happens when I have free time), and I’m watching Dr. Who while I fold laundry.

    So far, not bad. Here’s hoping I finish equally strong, and that I’m completely energetic and ready to go back to work in my new place on Monday!

    One final note… I am so a teenager. So I’ve been really careful not to get into the “staying up until 2 am reading” trap that I so easily fall into. My natural schedule is bed at 2 am and waking up around 11. I figured if I was careful with the going to bed, the waking up would come easily. But instead, I’ve had several nights where I’ve gotten 11 to 12 hours sleep. I mean, my sleep debt can’t be THAT bad, and I just had a week off for Christmas where I also caught up. I’m left to conclude that I naturally am quite happy sleeping half the time. And it’s not depression – I’m quite cheerful. I just like bed. This explains a lot.

    Not so bad.

  • Fun preschooler Thanksgiving activity

    My son’s preschool sent home a book about making butter the other week. It gave very simple instructions on how butter is made (although I find the premise unrealistic: who has cream sitting around but not butter?)

    The day after Mocksgiving, I was glancing at the book when I remembered I had the remnants of a pint of heavy whipping cream in the ‘fridge, which would likely go unconsumed. So I got out a canning jar and lid, had Grey help me fill it half way with the cream, and we started shaking. We passed the jar around the table, shaking as we went. Finally, I was advised I should put some marbles in the jar, because the shaking didn’t seem to be agitating enough.

    When Grey and I went to open the jar to add the marbles, however, voila! Apparently, when you use whipping cream, the entirety turns to butter instead of separating to buttermilk & butter. It was a ton of fun and the butter tasted delicious. So, without further ado, here’s how I’d recommend making butter (either ahead of time or the day after) with your preschooler:

    1) Get a clean canning jar and lid. A tupperware container would also work. I used an 8 ounce jar.
    2) Add about a cup of heavy whipping cream to the jar/container. (You should fill it about halfway.)
    3) Add a small amount (half teaspoon?) of salt, assuming you like your butter salted. You can also get inventive and add other flavors, like honey, maple, cinnamon or nutmeg. This would be fun to play around with.
    4) Take turns shaking. Make sure your preschooler takes lots of turns, but likely the bulk of the agitation will come from grownup arms. If you trust the seal, you can roll it around on the floor.
    5) When you shake but nothing moves, the butter is done. You can then check it out. If you make it in the canning jar, you can serve it right next to your jam on Thanksgiving day!