Month: October 2016

Practically Organized

When my husband and I moved into our house 18 years ago we had been married two years and had a son who was a few days old. Since that time we have added four more children to our household as well as many items that are intended to make life run smoothly. 

Over the years, empty drawers have filled to overflowing, and cabinets have accumulated this and that. Bottles have transitioned to sippy cups which transitioned to plastic cups which then transitioned to glasses. The drawer that once held a huge telephone book had become empty when the phone book became extinct, then filled with aprons and dishtowels because the dish towel drawer next to it was too jam-packed to shut. The cabinet that held the dog’s treats gathered this and that when our daughter’s allergies caused the dog to transition to a new home. 

This kitchen is very busy. We don’t eat out very often, and my kids, 4 of them teenagers,  all eat A LOT. When they’re hungry for something, which is often, they cook it. Last night my son wanted brownies, so he made a batch of homemade brownies. The kitchen was functioning because everyone knew where things were even if it wasn’t the most convenient of arrangements. But with seven of us using the kitchen, it was making things harder on us than they needed to be.

Well, the other day I got fed up. I think the trigger was the whiteboard on the fridge which we use to write items that need to be brought on the next grocery shopping trip. I recommend this little item for every kitchen to jot a product down when you use the last of it, need it and don’t have it, or just want it. But ours for some reason had a nickel-sized hole straight through it; it had been used and abused beyond reasonable expectations. (Such is life with 5 kids.) So I went online to order a new one. I quickly found a nice black marker board that you can use neon dry erase markers with that I thought would look very nice on my black fridge. This overworked fridge also held a printed-out weekly calendar which I often didn’t get printed until the middle of the week, and a handmade, scribbled-on, scratch paper menu of who is cooking what for each day of the week. While shopping for the new black erase board, I saw a black magnetic menu board and a black magnetic calendar board. Wow! I could totally render the fridge presentable and make life easier in the process. Here is what my fridge looks like now. 

The glowing piece of paper to the right is a list of leftovers currently in the fridge, another organizational piece I highly recommend. The glowing piece to the left is a list of what our recycling company allows and prohibits, because we can never remember what numbers on plastic are allowed and which aren’t. 

But this got me to thinking, “what else could I do to the kitchen to make life more convenient and neater?” I started seeing opportunities all over the place. Unfortunately, I didn’t take “before” pictures, so you’ll have to trust me that it was a mess. 

The first place I went was my spices. 18 years ago I bought a small Lazy Susan to put in a cupboard and this is where my spices lived. They were supposed to be alphabetical, but they were seldom constrained by that rule. And some bottles were too big to really fit on the Lazy Susan, so they wandered over to their next-door cabinet. When I needed a spice, the hunt was on. I knew where most of them at least were supposed to be, but the kids were clueless, so when they wanted oregano or parsley or garlic salt they had to engage my help. And if I wasn’t available they just pulled out spices until they found what they wanted, then put them all back on the Lazy Susan in a haphazard manner, contributing to the non-alphabetical disaster that was my spice area. 

So I bought a couple of these spice racks to stick on the inside of my cabinet doors to hold the spices. And I bought some spice jars to put the spices currently held by huge containers into smaller jars they could be held on the new racks. The big jars now live in a more out of  the way place. 

Here is the finished product. As you can see, I realized that these little racks can also hold prescription medicine bottles, vitamin bottles, and some inhalers. 

This, plus the now-empty Lazy Susan, led me to empty out a very busy cabinet that had been holding medicines. The ones that wouldn’t fit in the spice rack I put on the Lazy Susan and in its next door cabinet. It looks like this.

Now I have an empty shelf to think about filling…as soon as I find a new place for my stovetop cleaner. 

This then made me think of the worst problem area of the whole kitchen: the dreaded spatula drawer. This deep drawer held all my ladles, spoons, scoops, a garlic press, an apple slicer, and a 1 million and 5 other miscellaneous but necessary kitchen items. This drawer wasn’t this way for lack of thought, I just didn’t know what to do with it or how to organize it. It really frustrated all of us more than any other thing in the kitchen. I searched online for suggestions, and finally decided to fill it with dish towels aprons and potholders. Those items had been crammed into two smaller drawers, also a source of constant frustration. I also cleared out a drawer that held unused recipes and manuals that came with various kitchen items, small appliances, etc. That bottom out-of-the-way drawer now holds utensils that don’t get used very much: grilling items, canning lids, cookie-cutters, and such like. 

It still looks a mess, but I have a divider coming in to break it up a bit, and by design I won’t need to rummage through it very often.

The other two drawers that used to hold dish towels now look like this.

One holds long items, the other one, smaller things. I still have a bit of tweaking to do (I probably should get those can openers out of there since I’ve used them maybe twice). I used these dividers to break up the drawers. 

I also bought these magnetic hooks to hang the most-commonly-used items over the stove. 

And here is what used to be the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink drawer, now contentedly holding its dish towels, aprons, and pot holders. 

The deep drawer works perfectly for these items which are best stored stacked up anyway. 

I still have a few works-in progress. I’ll edit this as I figure out new ways to keep things humming most effectively. Until then, as you can see, it’s not perfect, it’s not beautiful, but hey, it’s practically organized! 

How I Deal With Chronic Pain

I hurt every day of my life. I have for the last 17 years (except the last 2 trimesters of each of my pregnancies). My particular dragon to fight goes by a variety of names: Chronic Intractable Headache, Transformed Migraine, Migraine With Aura, Menstrual Migraine, Migraine Without Aura, and a few others. The particular manifestation shifts at times, but it’s always a headache. The list of treatments I have tried is as long as my arm. Nothing takes it away. Every new practitioner is convinced that THEY have the answer and it’s really so simple. But it’s never quite so simple. 

I say this not to gain pity, but it’s my reality and someone might find my story helpful. 

So what do I do when I wake up hurting every day knowing that the pain will likely grow as the day progresses? Knowing that tomorrow will likely be just as bad if not worse? 

I suppose that sounds rather negative. I think it’s not; it’s facing the ugly truth of reality. As the Bible says in Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” I can hope and hope, but after several years of deferred hope I got rather “sick” of it and decided to go with reality instead. The truth sets free. Yes, a miracle could happen, but it hasn’t yet, and I have to go on and live life.

I am inspired by my Grandmother who suffered from migraines, debilitating rheumatoid arthritis, and finally ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease); I don’t remember ever hearing her complain. She went shopping on her knotty feet, created Christmases that were unforgettable, expressed her unbelievable love for her grandkids, and generally squeezed every positive moment she could out of her painful life. 

There are things I cannot do. Flashing lights are bad. Loud noise is bad. Exercise is painful. I taught 1 kid to ride a bike and all the running-behind-the-bike triggered a multi-day flare up and put me in bed. So I try not to do things that are going to increase the pain. The day I took the kids skating with a homeschool group and got an aura (the flashing lights only I can see that occasionally alert me that a bad one is coming) in the car on the way there, I had to call in backup because the loud music and flashing lights were just going to compound the pain. The day I woke up on vacation fully intending to go skiing with the family but instead lost my breakfast and lunch and everything else I tried because of a migraine, I had to accommodate. Me barfing on the ski slope would be a memorable family experience, but not one I wanted to create. 

But there are things I CAN do. If I’m going to hurt anyway, I might as well be adding something positive to the pain. Do I WANT to get out of bed? Usually not. Does it help to stay in bed? Only about twice a year. Do I end the day saying “I wish I had just stayed in bed?” Never. Do I feel great throughout the day? No. Do I want to crawl in a hole and pull it in after me? Absolutely. Do I feel good at the end of the day that I actually got some stuff done? Yes. Was the stuff I got done as much as I wanted? Often not. 

Sometimes I have to put the goals really low. Sometimes my goals have to be really short-term. “In the next 10 minutes I’m going to load the dishwasher instead of griping at everyone because I hurt” or “I am going to get through dinner without busting out in tears” or “I’m going to church today with a smile on my face and there I’ll spend time with my Father and worship Him along with my spiritual family.” I have made the decision that I want to get all I can out of life. I will add positive to the pain. Some days are better. Some are worse. I try not to borrow trouble or hope from tomorrow. Today is enough. 

Sometimes, though, I do choose to do big things. I chose to have 5 children. I choose to educate them at home with the best possible education. I direct the music and children & youth departments at church. I travel to Africa with my husband. I bite off more than I can safely chew and then I chew away. Often I surprise myself by what I can do when I have decided I will do it. 

The other decision I have to make is how to present myself to those around me. I have consciously decided that I don’t want to be thought of as “the headache woman.” I talk about it to my family so they know what’s going on, and sometimes, honestly, just to vent. I rarely talk to others about it unless I think it can help them or if I have to explain my behavior. When I am in a loud place and have to wear earplugs or if I am wearing sunglasses inside I might say something. But I have chosen to be a women who has a lot of things going on and oh yeah, I think she has headaches.

How is this working out for me? Quite well, actually. I have a life; I have a busy, fulfilling, contributing-positive-to-the-world life. I have friends. My family is cared for and loved. Is life perfect? No way. Is it better than it could be if I made different, less-positive choices every day? Oh yeah. 

So if you have chronic pain in your life, whether physical or emotional, add something positive to it. Add several things positive to it. Determine that you will get as much out of life as you can in spite of the hand you’ve been dealt. Because it sure is better than crawling in a hole and pulling it in after you.