See Sue? See Sue Simplify?

Hello!  Welcome to my little (and I do mean little right now) corner of the web!  Pull up a chair.  Just move that pile of stuff in the chair to the table over here.  Make yourself comfortable.  Well, as comfortable as you can be as you sit in a less-than-clean, very lived-in space.  I read all the posts about how you shouldn’t apologize for your messy house, but I’m not sure if that covers this level of mess.  So, I will go ahead and apologize to you.  I have a vision of a cleaner, more beautiful space in which to house my family and host my friends.  But, that vision seems to be needing some glasses about now.

So, here I am!  I am Sue.  I am a nice (at least people tell me that), relatively capable (I did get a Masters Degree after all), and hard-working (I have one and a half jobs and I help out at my DD’s school, lead her Girl Scout troop and all kinds of other things), 49 year-old, mom of one.  I also struggle with remembering all the things I have to remember for work and home, with being motivated and having the energy to do all I need to do at work and home when I do remember it, with knowing how to best take care of myself, my family, my house and everything when there are so many messages bombarding me on a daily basis telling me how to best parent, best be a homemaker, best manage people at work, best be a wife, etc., etc.  Yeah.  That’s me.  I am Sue.

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See me there?  Now, check out my blog and my venture into simplifying!  See Sue Simplify.  That is what I plan to do here.  I plan to take all those many messages I’m bombarded with and get to what really needs to be DONE and only what NEEDS to be done.  I don’t need to label everything in my house.  I don’t need to spend 1000s of dollars on a closet organizer.  I don’t need to redecorate my entire house.  Well….maybe I do need to do that one.  I can’t afford to redecorate my entire house.  I know there are things I CAN do.  I know there are things I WON’T do.  I know there are things that I absolutely NEED to do.  This blog will be about those things.  Wading through all the craziness that is “simplifying” is not at all simple.  There is decluttering.  There is minimalism.  There is meal planning.  There is organizing.  There is planning and calendaring.  There is life balance.  There is cleaning.  There is “sprucing up”.  There is redecorating.  Sigh…So. Much. Stuff.

Wading through all the craziness that is “simplifying” is not at all simple.  There is decluttering.  There is minimalism.  There is meal planning.  There is organizing.  There is planning and calendaring.  There is life balance.  There is cleaning.  There is “sprucing up”.  There is redecorating.  Sigh…So. Much. Stuff.  So, join me here on my journey.  Perhaps something I do will spark something inside of you.  Perhaps you will just join me as a cheerleader (I will need those) or an expert advice giver (I will take that) or you will go along side me as a participant.  Any of those is great!  We need all sorts of people in our lives and I want all of those.  I’ll even take the naysayer (although if you tell me that I need to label everything in my house, we may have to agree to disagree).

Please consider following along.  Join my email list where I will catalog some of my favorite simplifying resources and review products and services that you may be considering yourself.  I may even tell you a sad or funny or sad and funny story here and there.  I promise to make it worth the look!  And you’ll only get it once every two weeks.

From here, I begin my journey to a simpler, calmer and more joyful life.  I’ll start with that pile of stuff you had to move to sit down.  Relax though.  Your job is just to see me simplify!

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Day 6/31 Five Minute Fridays: Stories not Secrets

I am writing Day 6 on the actual sixth day!  Achievement! In case you are joining me for the first time, I’m participating in 31 Days of Writing in October using the prompts provided by Five Minute Friday.  Today is Day 6.  If you’d like to see all of the 31 posts, see the introductory post.  Today’s prompt is “story”.

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Well…I definitely feel like I have a story to tell.  Really, a few stories to tell.  But, I don’t often know how to tell them.  They pour out of me at times.  Sometimes at times when they are needed and sometimes at times when they can’t be held back by the floodgates anymore.  I was raised in a house where we had secrets instead of stories.  We had things we knew, but could not let others know.  For some, I’m not really sure why that was the case.  For others, it was to maintain a semblance of what was expected.  But, stories are so much less painful than secrets.  Stories allow us to share common experiences.  Secrets keep us siloed in our circles of pain, thinking we are all alone.  Stories create bonds and inspire hugs.  Secrets create walls and inspire lonely solace.  I am often thankful for social media because it allows me to find those stories that let me know I’m not alone.  Even in the most unique of circumstances, we are not alone.  Someone else has a similar story and often they are looking for someone to share it with.

So, I try to create a home where stories are encouraged and secrets are discouraged.  I try to find spaces where stories are shared.  I try to allow myself to tell my stories, even when I can feel that tinge of anxiety about others “knowing something they should not.”  Lessons learned in youth are often hard to correct.  But, I’m trying.  These Five Minute Friday free writes are often a space that allows me to do that.  No censoring, just telling my story, whatever it may be for that prompt.  It isn’t yet totally comfortable, but it is always comforting.

I think society would be better if we told more of our own stories.  The entertainment industry seems to have the corner on storytelling nowadays.  Some still read books and those are better, but personal stories, shared with interested and caring others are even better.  So, go tell your stories.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  And know that someone out there shares something similar and you may bring them comfort without ever knowing it.

Tell stories instead of keeping secrets.

 

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Day 5/31 Five Minute Fridays: Trust

Okay – I’m catching up with my 31 Days of Writing with an extra post and hoping to stay on track for the remainder of the month.  Today’s prompt over at Five Minute Friday is “Trust”:

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Trust. Nothing springs to mind about this word, but I realize it is the ability to put our faith in others and feel secure that they will do or say what we need them to.  I am a relatively trusting person.  The place this gets tested most often is in my classroom.  I tend to trust students when they tell me they are sick or have family issues or other personal problems that impact their ability to get their assignments done.  In my mind, not believing them would do neither of us any good, whether they are telling the truth or not.  Trusting them to tell the truth and having them lie will not impact ME terribly.  I may have to grade a late assignment, but other than that, not much changes.  Others may say it negatively impacts the other students who sacrificed to do things on time.  But, really, they already did the assignment and they are now done, so it doesn’t actually impact them.  And NOT trusting them to tell the truth and having them actually tell the truth seems like a risk not worth taking.  I guess for me, trust is beneficial to both parties.

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Day 4/31 Five Minute Fridays: The Light of Hope

Well, I’m a day behind, so I’ll be posting twice today in the hopes of keeping up with the 31 Days of Writing I’ve committed to this month.  Today’s prompt over at Five Minute Friday is “Hope”:

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This is both an easy and a hard one for me.  I’ve always been a pretty optimistic person.  I’ve always held out hope.  My childhood was a bit of a mess – alcoholic father, alcoholic older brother with drug problems, a mother with undiagnosed depression and anxiety.  My older sister was a lifesaver, but she couldn’t be there all the time.  But, I never felt hopeless.  I always had hopes for the future and support enough to reach for it.  At times, I did things on impulse that didn’t really serve my future well (still doing that to this day at times), but I always felt like I was protected from the worst.  I felt God in my life often. I felt that even if my day-to-day life was rough at times, things were going to be okay somehow.  And they were.  There was always rough spots and low valleys to navigate, but I never felt like I couldn’t see the light at the other side.

Eight years ago almost to the day, I was bringing home my baby from the children’s hospital where she had spent most of her life to that date.  She had some other child’s heart beating in her chest and we were bringing her to “home” to a place we’d never lived (we had been living in the Ronald McDonald House for months and had packed up our home anticipating a much longer stay than that).  But, when I see the picture of my husband and I, standing over the crib we had to borrow from a friend because my DD had come almost two months early.  And I can see hope in those faces.

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And you know what…things are okay.  There are rough spots sure.  There have been low valleys to navigate and dark tunnels to get through, but the light is always there.  God is always shining the light of hope and that light sees me through.

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God is always shining the light of hope and that light sees me through.

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Day 3/31 Five Minute Fridays: Create a World Worth Living In

Back for day 3 of 31 days of five-minute free writes connected with both 31 Days of Writing and Five Minute Fridays.  Today’s prompt is “create”.

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Here goes:

Strangely enough, the first thing I thought of when I saw the prompt was an Ashton Kutcher speech I show my students in public speaking.  He is giving advice at the Teen Choice Awards a while back and although I’ve never been a huge Ashton Kutcher fan, I appreciated the choices he made in the content for that speech.  His last point focused on his experience playing Steve Jobs in the movie about Jobs and he said,

But life can be a lot broader than that when you realize one simple thing and that is that everything around us that we call life was made up by people that are no smarter than you. And you can build your own thing, you can build your own life that other people can live in. So build a life – don’t live one, build one…

Although he didn’t use the word “create,” I feel like he was talking about creating a life and creating one that others can live in and thrive in is a gift we can give the world.

I don’t think of myself as very creative in the traditional sense of the word.  I can’t draw or sing or paint or sew.  I write much better in non-fiction than fiction.  My house is not decorated with style and my clothes don’t show much creativity either.  I sometimes wish I had those skills.  But, God gives us all gifts of our own and although they may not be recognized as “creative” they can all serve to create a better world for ourselves and others.  Life is made up by people who are no smarter than us and no better than us, for we are all made in God’s image and with God’s blessing.  But, some of us don’t look hard enough to see that image or that blessing.  We are too busy seeing what we aren’t to see what we are.

So, I’m going to try to focus on seeing my gifts, my blessing, my true image when I look in the mirror and when I am with others.  My gifts are many.  I am comfortable speaking in front of others and even enjoy it.  I like to write and share information and teach.  I do that with students and Girl Scouts and other parents.  That is my way of creating.

I will close with what I think is the perfect example of creating a world that is better for others.  I recently discovered The Turquoise Table project and this is the perfect example to me of how something simple and seemingly not all that creative (painting a picnic table turquoise and putting it in your front yard) can build a world that is better.  I hope to find my own Turquoise Table sometime soon.  It may or may not be an actual Turquoise Table.

Create a world worth living in.

 

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Day 2/31 Five Minute Fridays: “Tells” and Truth

Second entry in the 31 Days of Writing, Five Minute Friday edition!  Today’s prompt is “Tell”.  Let’s do this!

I used to play poker with friends every week.  We thought ourselves better than we probably were (although some of the group was able to successfully play online or at the local tournaments).  It was fun, but also challenging.  Playing with friends is both good and bad because often friends know your “tell”s.  These are the little things was does that gives away when they’re lying about a hand – whether it be because it is better or worse than what you’re betting doesn’t matter.  The only thing that matters is people at the table know when you aren’t telling the truth.  That problem spills over to our “real” lives.  Every day in small ways, we are deceiving ourselves and others and we try not to give it away that we aren’t being totally honest.

When people ask how we are, we often say “fine” or “good” when we really aren’t.  When people ask how work is, we often tell them it’s going well even if it isn’t.  We say yes to helping out when we would much rather be sitting at home, taking a deep breath and trying to have a moment of zen.  We tell ourselves we are doing our best when really we are simply doing what we feel like doing.  We tell ourselves we don’t have time to rest or relax or eat or sleep when we know that we really don’t MAKE time for those things.  And most people aren’t invested enough to care that we are lying, even if we have a tell.  And we are so good at deceiving ourselves that we don’t know our own tells.

I’m not sure what the point of all this is.  Perhaps that we need to start being more honest with ourselves and each other.  Perhaps that we need to start being more perceptive about other’s and looking for those tells so we can be there when they need us.  Perhaps it is just an FYI that we are all pretty good at lying to ourselves and others, even those that are pretty honest for the most part.

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Day 1/31 Five Minute Fridays – Worship wrong! It is still right.

This first of 31 days of Five Minute Fridays is on the word “Worship”.  Ready, set, write!

Worship (noun): reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also : an act of expressing such reverence

I have lost my ability to worship well.  Or maybe I never had that ability.  I attended Sunday School from the time I was in preschool until high school, but never attended actual church services much.  My family was not a church-going family.  For some reason (perhaps to make us better people?), my mother sent us to Sunday School every week.  She dropped us off and picked us up, but never attended church herself.  In fact, religion was often something that was a negative in my family.  The religious conservatives were seen as destroying politics and infringing on others’ rights.  But, still, she took me to Sunday School each week.  I loved Sunday School.  I loved the stories and the activities and the songs and the friends.  I went to Jr. High nights and played hide and go seek in the big, somewhat scary church.  I went to parties at the youth pastor’s house in high school, feeling like one of the cool kids, hanging out with the worship band.  But, I was never in the worship band.  I didn’t sing well enough to sing loud and proud at Sunday School.  I always felt a little like I wasn’t sure what I was doing with all the people who knew God.  I mean, really knew God and worshipped him well.  I felt somewhat like a fraud.  I felt like God was out there, but just out of my reach.  I talked to Him a lot.  But, I never heard back.  So, I figured I was doing it wrong.

Now, I’m an adult.  And Sunday School isn’t really a thing anymore (although, my days of volunteering in my DD’s Sunday School class and at VBS in the summer have been some of my best days at church).  I struggle to get motivated to go to Church on a regular basis. I no longer have the youth group to hang out with and I don’t have close friends or even close acquaintances that go to my Church.  And so, when I go, I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.  I see people holding their hands up to God as they sing.  I hear beautiful, haunting voices that speak of God’s gifts with their beauty and tone.  There are still stories and singing, but I feel like I am missing some necessary tools.  And so I try to find my way to worship.

And so I try to find my way to worship.  I try taking notes in a notebook.  I try following along in my Bible.  I try just sitting and taking it all in.  I try getting involved.  I try volunteering.  I try it all and still I feel like I’m on the outside of God’s building, tapping on the window, but never getting anyone’s attention.  So, I figure I must be worshipping wrong.  And I keep seeking.  But, maybe…just maybe, God is speaking to me in all the ways that are unexpected and sometimes unwanted and very much unexplainable.  Perhaps worshipping isn’t about the gifts we HAVE, but the gifts we are open to receive.  And perhaps, what I’ve been doing wrong all along is not the way I’m worshipping but the way I’m NOT worshipping.  Perhaps, like most all things in my life, the worshipping is about the follow-through, not being the best or doing it right, but just, plain doing it.

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I will be honest.  That was a little more than five minutes.  But, it felt good to get that out.  It definitely wasn’t where I planned to go.  But, that is the beauty of the Five Minute Free Write!

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31 Days of Five Minute Fridays

Hello all!  This month of October I am participating in 31 Days of Writing with Five Minute Friday.  So, in essence, every day in October is Friday!  I’m excited to post on a regular basis, but also only commit to five minutes a day on a pre-chosen one-word topic provided by Five Minute Friday.  It still won’t be easy, but it is a doable challenge.

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So, join me here every day in October for a quick read, but one that I hope is worth reading.  Let’s do this!

Day One: Worship Wrong. It’s Still Right.

Day Two: Tells and Truth

Day Three: Create A World Worth Living In

 

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How to Fall Without Hurting Yourself

How to fall without hurting yourself

Fall is officially off and running.  And I do mean running…roughshod…all over my simplifying and organizing efforts.  I was doing pretty well and then I didn’t have this past weekend off, so I couldn’t spend that time playing catch up around the house and with grading and class prep.  So, I’m behind on what I need to have done for work, my house looks like a dirty bomb (a bomb full of dirty, not the nuclear type) blew up in it and I am sleep deprived.  The kicker is that I don’t have a weekend at home for the next two weekends.  I know I’m not the only one feeling this way right now.  If you are in school, teach school and/or have kids in school, this is the time that everything seems to kick into full gear at once.  We had a field trip last week, our school has a fundraiser this week, my niece has a birthday party this weekend, and people keep posting these “less than 100 days until Christmas” posts on Facebook.  It is all. too. much.

So, what am I going to do about it?  What can you do about it?  Well, I’m committing to three things in the month of October to keep the Fall from injuring me!

  1. I’m going to “taper” before the big events of the holidays.  I feel like October is the month that allows us to prepare for the madness of November and December and we should take advantage of it.  I used to be a swimmer and we used to “taper” right before big swim meets.  Workouts got easier.  We were able to take any extra “drag” items off of us to make us move through the water easier, without as much resistance.  I’m going to use October as my “taper” month for the holidays.  I am going to do what I can to make my life easier, I’m going to do it.  This may mean saying no to some things.  It also could mean saying yes to some things.  I’m so looking forward to taking those extra “drag” items off the list and really making my life streamline and less resistant.  I will be talking about this all through October, so please keep reading!
  2. I’m going to “take care” for myself.  I almost wrote self-care or take care of myself.  But, I hesitated because that idea of self-care or taking care of oneself seems so focused on the doing and not the being.  So, I’ve put the quotation marks around “take care” because I view it as me telling myself that I should actually live with care – I should consider myself.  I shouldn’t just give myself a bath and consider it all better or get a massage, but not actually do anything about what drove me to the muscle tension in the first place.  So, each day, I’m going to consider myself as I would others.  I’m going to ask what I need and get it for myself.  I’m going to be nice to myself.
  3. I’m going ask “What Would Jessica Fletcher Do” (WWJFD)?  I’m really considering making up some bracelets with WWJFD on them.  Who wouldn’t love that?  If I haven’t already shared this with you, I am a HUGE Murder, She Wrote fan.  THE HUGEST.  And Jessica Fletcher is everything I want to be and more.  So, when I’m up against the wall of work, I’m going to ask what Jessica Fletcher would do and figure out how I can at least channel that behavior if not do it exactly.  After all, the correct answer is always “find a dead body”…and I want to avoid that.  But, she had a great philosophy on life, an always stylish and appropriate wardrobe, a good sense of humor, an inquiring mind and was a great friend to others.  Not a bad set of traits to aspire to.  So, we’ll see how it works out when I think about what she would do in certain situations!

So, there you have it.  My plan to keep Fall from hurting me.  Care to join me?  I would love to hear what you do to make this season of all things work for you and your family!

 

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Five Minute Friday – Support

Well, I’m a little late for this week’s Five Minute Friday, but I still wanted to be sure to participate.  This week was a busy one and I kind of fell off of my “stay on task” train and ended up getting run over.  But, I have hopefully climbed back on (because this next weekend I work all weekend, so there will be no pulling myself up and climbing back on. If I get run over this week, I’m pretty much laying on the tracks for the remainder of the semester.  I need to remember that this week as I get distracted or exhausted and think about not doing what needs to get done.  Now that that is out of the way, on to this week’s FMF – Support.

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Support is something I feel like I DO very well, but I don’t accept as well.  I am someone who is always looking to help others in their endeavors.  This is especially true if I feel like I have some knowledge they do not.  I think this is a big reason I became a teacher.  I love advising students.  I love being able to support them in reaching their goals. Unfortunately, I often refuse or ignore or just plain miss out on support from others. Last semester, I got an email from my supervisor at work telling me she wished I would have reached out to let her know that I was unable to attend an event because of a conflict with my DD’s school events.  I had simply asked a TA to cover for me prepped the script for her and not thought much about it.  And when I received the email, I immediately got defensive.  But, as I read the message over for a third and fourth time, I began to realize that my supervisor didn’t want me to feel like I had to prep a TA to cover for me when she could have easily done it without me preparing her and writing a whole script out for her.  She was offering me support and telling me to ask for it in the future.  But, when it first was given, I could not even see the support through my defensiveness.

I don’t know why I am this way.  I don’t think my students are incompetent or slacking who ask me for help with a paper or a project.  I see them as resourceful and responsible.  Why can’t I see that in myself when I need support?  Why can’t I ask for it more often instead of trying to do everything I can to not ask for it, not accept it and definitely not NEED it.  That, my friends, is exhausting.  Hiding out in the shadows of need rather than letting light shine through support is just not how I want to live my life any longer.

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As a step towards realizing where and when I need support, I am taking the Start-Up Guide for Online Writers.  I feel like I have things to say that are worthy of writing, but I don’t have much of a direction at this point.  So, I’m going to take the support and run with it!  The class is available for only $19 through the 19th and then the price goes up.  So, jump in if you’re looking to improve your skills!

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The Girlfriend’s Guide to Old Age?

Affiliate links included.

If you’ve never gone through a pregnancy, the title of this blog post may not sound familiar.  But for those of us who have had children, I’m sure most of us at least heard of, if we didn’t actually read, The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy.  There are a few other Girlfriend Guides now.  An expected addition: The Girlfriends’ Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood. The books were supposed to deliver the “dirty truth” about pregnancy or as the subtitle says, “Things your doctor won’t tell you.”  When I saw this Washington Post story about a new book coming out, I immediately thought the description sounded like the subtitle could be “Girlfriend’s Guide to Old Age”.  And what a welcome read it is for me as I approach 50: Aging: An Apprenticeship.

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The book’s premise is genius and so very needed.  And the contributors are amazing.  Judy Blume taught me how to grow up and now she can give me some advice on aging!  I personally can’t wait to read it.  And right now, it is free if you Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial!

Aging seems to mainly be dealt with in commercials.  We have the menopause commercials, well covered by this NY Times article.  We have the phone commercials, where people over 55 or 60 can’t figure out how to work iPhones so they need special, simple phones.  We have media portrayals of frail and confused older people.  Or we have media portrayals of older women playing younger women because who wants to REALLY be 50 or 60 years old?  Or, we just don’t see older women much at all.  That’s one reason I love Hallmark Movies and Mysteries channel.  They have numerous older men and women on their channel.  None of them are frail or confused.

So, I look forward to reading this book and seeing what lessons I can learn as I enter my apprenticeship next year.  Anyone want to join me and have a conversation later?

 

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