True Disabilities

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…..

No, really. Let me tell you a tale of two people I know.

Sue (we’ll call her) is African-American. She was injured in a motor vehicular accident when she was five years old, necessitating multiple surgeries. She had to travel a couple of hours to get to the hospital and recovery center and spent two to three months there each summer for several years. Her parents were allowed to visit one day per week, and they were not allowed to bring any toys. They did not coddle her, insisting that she do her chores when she lived at home and that she attend middle school in the same place as everyone else, which required her to ascend a flight of stairs on crutches for 3 years. She grew up and became an English teacher and inspired many young folk before she retired. Her injuries worsened as she aged and she ended up in an electric scooter, taking care of her husband and is the delight of her neighbors, because of her upbeat attitude and her love of life.

Person #2. We will call him Sam. Sam grew up in an upper middle class caucasian family where he was expected to attend college. He did. He acquired a Bachelor degrees and two Masters degrees. He had a moderately successful business career. He struggled with the ethical aspects of his work. He retired from work while in his 50s. He shortly after that he retired from most of the other aspects of his life and has spent the last 15 years blaming other people for what is wrong in his life. He will tell you he is miserable and that life is not worth living.

I think the biggest disabilities are related to attitude.

Organizing: How To

I have several acquaintances who have said they “could never keep it all together like you do” or have expressed interest in what my organization systems are. So here goes, a short tutorial in how I juggle a demanding job, a household and three teenage schedules.


1) Keep it simple. One calendar, one book of lists.

2) Handle it once. Mail is sorted and dealt with daily. Junk to recycle bin, kid’s mail at their place at the table, bills are paid when they come in, birthday cards posted on the refrigerator. Field trip permission slip? Same thing. Date goes on the calendar, signed slip and money if needed goes in an envelope and back to the kid THAT day. I don’t get magazine subscriptions as I don’t have time to read them.

3) Days off paid employment are for setting up for the work week. i.e. I do my laundry on my days off, which do not always fall on a weekend. I have just 5-6 work outfits, this way there is always something clean to wear to work. Also, weekly I inventory the food in the house, make up a menu for the coming week. I do this with an eye on the calendar for which nights are going to be a tight time crunch between the end of my work day and the kid’s evening’s activities. Monday, there is usually nothing on the schedule, so I can plan more time to cook. Tuesdays and Thursdays often have short dinner windows, so I will fix ahead (on a day off) a casserole or dish like lasagna that one of the kids can put in the oven and warm as I am finishing my work day.

4) Do what works. I’m a visual learner, need visual cues. If I leave the library books where I see them, I will remember to take them back. If the calendar is on the refrigerator, where I see it every meal, I remember to check it for “what’s next.”


I tried to put all this on my phone, as I usually have it with me. But it didn’t work. (see rule # 4) So I went back to paper.

1) notebook of lists (to do: by week, grocery, menus)

The Book of Lists
Here is the “To Do” list for last week:
Here is the list for the coming week:

Note: Menu for the Week at the bottom

And the ongoing shopping list:

Tool #2 is the calendar. I use an online calendar called Cozi Calendar and I print off weekly and monthly versions. These go on the fridge. I also print a monthly version that goes to work.
The Weekly Calendar
The Monthly Calendar
Tool #3 is “The Book.” This is merely a three-ring binder, with different sections labeled:
~ House ideas (photos or paper related to home or yard projects)
~School (contact information for teachers, extracurricular activity info) ~Directions (Mapquest directions to places I take the kid’s infrequently: other friend’s homes, the band instrument repair shop, etc.)
~Coupons & Refunds (I don’t do the grocery coupon thing, but if a local retailer sends me a 15% off coupon for some future date, I will hang onto it, just in case one of the kids needs something.)
~Recipes (things I want to try soon. If the recipe lingers there for 6 months and I still haven’t tried it, I guess I didn’t want to try it that bad.)
That’s it.
I’m always keeping my eyes open for a better, simpler way to do things. Please let me know what works for you.

Last April Grocery Shop

April 23rd Groceries

While I still can’t do food totals for the month, as there is still a week left, this is likely my last grocery shop for the month. Apparently, I over bought last week, as there is still plenty in the fridge. I only spent $31.06, and $25.54 was for 2 pieces of organic meat. (Sausage for the lasagna and a buffalo (!!!) rump roast)

Grocery total so far for April: $275.80, eat out total so far: $123.57. Total so far $399.37, less than my $420/month goal.

Enough Clothes

You can see what I think looks like enough clothes for me by reading the posts in the “100 Things” tab.

But what does it look like for the kids?

This has evolved over time. When they were infants and outgrowing clothes every few months or so, I had boxes label by sex and size. When the babe got a little bigger, I’d put the old clothes in  a box and pull out the new size. After the last babe had outgrown stuff, I passed it on to another new mother. One box per size was the limiting factor.

By the time the kids were elementary school age, I would buy a week’s worth of clothes at the beginning of the school year and summer clothes at the end. I did laundry once a week. Most clothes would last the school year, but if not I would replace an item that did not last.

In middle school, I have had to buy an extra set of pants or shoes, when someone went through a growth spurt. Beloved daughter seems to have stopped growing, and she has accumulated about 2 weeks worth of clothes. Middle son has  a bit more than a week’s worth and youngest son is in that growth spurt now.

Kids are expected to take care of their own laundry after age 12 in this house and this system works pretty well for us. I have a washer and dryer in the house.

If you live in the city without a car or washer on the premises, or the country with no washer at home, you have to adjust to your situation.

It helps me to remember that in most places in the world, people have a couple changes of clothing, they wash things by hand in the stream or lake and hang them up to dry.

At the other end of the spectrum is the teenage son of an acquaintance, who has piles of dirty laundry on the floor of his room and in front of the washer and dryer and frustrates his parents by washing the one favorite pair of pants all by itself.


It’s kind of interesting to me how much we humans resist change, knowing it is inevitable, knowing that at least some of it is improvement. We still dig in our heels in and resist.

If we took the energy we put into resisting it, and applied it toward adapting to the change, we would be ahead of the game every time.

Another Work Whine

We are short-staffed at work right now. We have 8 nurses doing the work of 14. Some days if feels like I am standing in the ocean, water at face level, my face up-turned. In the trough of the wave I can take a breath, then the crest comes and covers my face. I hold my breath till the next trough.

It makes a person very mindful of the breathing.

April 18 Grocery Shop

Total food purchased today $78.56. Total groceries for the month $244.74. Total eat out costs so far $88.15.

April 18 Groceries

I didn’t purchase any meat this week except some non-organic pepperoni for the pizza. Organics included milk and cream.
Menus for Dinner: 
Monday: Sandwiches for me and one kid. Other two are off film-making
Tuesday: Shepard’s Pie made w/ lentils (vegan dish), Orange Sunshine (vegan dish)
Wednesday: Just me. Leftovers.
Thursday: Just me. Leftovers or eggs.
Friday: Just me. Canned soup.
Saturday: Homemade pepperoni pizza
Sunday: Easter dinner at mom’s. We are bringing Greek Salad and Lemon Jello Cake.
As noted before, breakfast is sugary breakfast cereals, yogurt, fruit, coffee, OJ, granola bars, leftovers. Lunches are PB & J packed from home for 1 kid, fruit, carrot sticks, cookies, granola bars, cheese crackers; leftovers for me; and 2 kids eat school lunches.

Walking the Boy

When beloved youngest son was a toddler, he had an emperor’s sized will and the desire to conform of a hermit. He was a safety risk like a smoker on oxygen. We had our moments. 

Once, the three youngest kids and I had gone to a local art fair downtown. We were watching the tourists and looking at the art and eating the fair food. Youngest son was about two years old. I was holding his hand while we sauntered around. I got distracted by a beautiful watercolor painting and he broke free. He ran about 15 feet from me while I and his sister called him to come back. I started walking toward him and he looked me right in the eye before he darted in the opposite direction–right into traffic. A car slammed on its brakes and stopped about three feet from his rounded toddler belly. He stared wide-eyed at the car and I swooped him up and to the sidewalk. I carried him to the car, and we went immediately to the store and bought one of those child leashes.

I used to think that parents that would resort to such a thing were mean or lazy. But what I thought when I bought the thing was: he might spend years in therapy getting over his mother putting him on a leash. But at least he would be alive, to be in therapy. 

Oddly, the boy loved the leash and would bring it to me to go for walks, like a dog. Go figure.

Protecting Our Joy

Recently, someone I respect, spoke about protecting her joy.

Phlox in the front yard

I had never thought of joy as something that needed protection. I thought of it more as natural occurence when we are on our right path.

But I can see how we might both be right.

How many times have I felt like someone was trying to pull me off my right path because they wanted me to do the work that was theirs to do to make their own life right?

And how many times have I wandered away from mine distracted by pretty sparkly things in the distance?

Knowing one’s own right path takes discernment and vigilance. Staying on it takes strength and clarity.

It is easier to figure out with a little quiet time, something single parents often lack. So maybe protecting our joy starts with finding a small time to ourselves and making it a habit.

Blooming Redbud Tree

Organizing the Day/Week/Month

I confess, I am a list-maker. I have a list of what to do this week, what to buy at the grocery store next time I go, what to do when I am home on staycation in June, what I need to have the electrician do before the cabinet guy comes to install the cabinets, what to blog about.

But my goal is to live so simply that I don’t need them. That the next thing I am to do presents itself in the moment before it is to be done. Until I get a couple of these kids out of the house, this is not likely to happen.

So it is a work in progress.

Lists I used to have that I have gotten rid of:

Bills to pay–now, I keep enough money in my checking account for the usual monthly bills and I pay them as they come in. Semi-annual bills like the car insurance or annual bills like house insurance and the tax bill are prepared for by auto deduction to a savings account from each paycheck. When the bill comes in, I transfer the money and write the check.

List of clothing that the kids need is gone too. If I notice someone has outgrown all their dress slacks, we go shopping and buy them. Routinely, I ask kiddos if they are needing socks or underwear, if so, I buy them.

The list of books that I want to read someday, I shredded. By the time the kids are grown, the books I want to read may have changed 4 or 5 times. When I get the time to read again, I’ll see what interests me.

What I am still pretty religious about is putting kid’s and my activities on the calendar. There are so many of us, and so many activities that if I don’t have it written down, I forget. Plus it makes it fair about who gets priority for rides if there is a conflict. Whoever put their thing down on the calendar first gets priority.

So: calendar, grocery list. These things still rule me.