Project 2: In process and exhausting…

I am so glad that I am taking on this project.  It feels so good to get rid of things, either by trashing, recycling or donating them.  I have visions in my head of a home like one you would see in a modernist design magazine.  You know the ones, most people call the rooms “cold” or “empty.”  But I love those.  There’s usually a couch, a coffee table, a mirror or some art piece, a silver or glass “object d’art” and a delicate looking orchid in an expensive vase.  Now, the reason I love it so much is because I remember being in the hospital, and having to direct my Mama to the things I needed in my home.  I made a long list of things, with directions of where they were, and I think, even a drawing or two.  I don’t want to live like that.  It made me anxious.  I want to be light and clean and ready to go at a moments notice.

I have a way to go on that goal.   But this project is getting me one step closer to it.  It is so much work, but I had a friend helping me today, so she was running things to the garage, or another room while I continued to sort and purge.  I just loved the efficiency.  That never worked with my ex.  He always wanted to throw out entire boxes of stuff, but I needed to touch each piece, just to make sure we weren’t throwing out important things.  Would it surprise you to hear that I found three rebate checks made out to him today?  All of them were written (and expired) over four years ago.  Ugh!  That made me so mad!  But then I remembered that the whole point of this year-long experiment in happiness was to let go of the things that used to make me feel so angry or alone, and begin to build a new life and home full of things and experiences that I love.  And oh, are we on the way!

Today I put away all the clothes in the “laundry annex.”  YAY!   I then removed all the Barbies from the closet, entered the name and serial number into a spreadsheet and sent that to a contact I have that sells things on eBay.  With any luck I’ll clear some clutter and make a little money to finance my next project at the same time.  If not, the Barbies will be piled in my bedroom until Christmas when the little girl patients at Egleston will be blessed with an embarassment of socially controversial toys.  Below are photos of the “boys room” after today’s work.

I changed the bedding, but I may have to try again.  Still a little too “35-year-old-woman” for a little boy.  Gotta go shopping again, I guess!

And below is the boys room closet.  Only the stuff from the shelf is left and that will all be gone tomorrow.

I’m so excited about what I have planned for this closet!  I hope it works out.  We’ll all see the results soon!

The office didn’t make a huge transformation yet, so I am not going to show any in process photos.  But that’s mainly because I forgot to take those photos, it’s almost 11pm, and a severe storm is barrelling toward me.  I also spent some time this afternoon cleaning out the storage closet under my stairs, and stocking it with pillows and blankets.  Raleigh even has a bed in there.  I am ready if we have to go there.

I was also very excited about the changes in the office closet so far.  Below is a shot of the closet as it was, once all the office supplies were removed, and then once I redesigned it a bit for clothes.

I put a shirt in there for a little perspective.  I think it’s awesome in person.  I can’t tell you how much I love a clear, clean space.  I actually went in there today and just breathed.  Aaaaahhhhhh….  I can’t wait until more of the house is like this.

So there it is.  Project 2 is well on the way, and my guests will be here soon.  It’s a lot of work, but it would be positively un-Southern to welcome guests into a home that wasn’t ready to make them feel comfortable and at home.  And that I feel more relaxed by cleaning out the clutter is a bonus that will make the whole adventure better.

I am now going to go get my baby and go sit in the closet under the stairs.  The wind is howling and Jack is starting tyo wimper from what I assume is the pain in his ears from the pressure changes.  I will post in the morning to let you know how we did through the night’s storms.  Somehow, I feel better able to handle tonight knowing that I have an empty closet, fully stocked for several hours of hunkering down.

Stormily yours,

Maggie

Project 2: House Guests

Next week, I will have some house guests moving in.  In the past, I would never have invited people to move in with me.  I am uptight and I like things in a certain place, and if I see a mess, I know that I made it, so there’s no one to be mad at.  But next week my friend, “M.A.” and her son are moving in.  M.A.’s husband left her the same week that mine left me, and we grieved together and supported each other.  And through a series of circumstances, she and her son find themselves in need of temporary housing.  And as luck would have it, I have a little bit of extra space.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m scared about this.  Will I be able to live with a friend?  and her son?!?!  But her son is so sweet, and he’s very sweet to Jack.  And M.A. is as clean and concientious as I am.  I think that we will be able to talk things out and establish boundaries and be pretty successful.  At least I hope so.  I anticipate that we will help each other out with child care and cooking, and still have fun hanging out and enjoying a movie, or a glass of wine once in a while.

So as for my project, I have to get the two bedrooms that they will be using in order.  Since I’ve been using the closets for storage, that means lots of clearing out and getting rid of clutter.  I used to hold on to everything, but the changes in my life have changed me.  I no longer want things, I want experiences, and relationships.  And I need to clear out these things in order to have the relationship with M.A. and her son that I want.

Below is the guest room that her son will use.  I currently use this as a “laundry annex” where I lay the dry clothes until I fold them and put them away.  I sometimes take a while…

And here is the closet he will use.  It is currently full of baby stuff, old arts and crafts projects, and over 100 Barbie dolls.  Yes, that is a problem.  I am seeing someone about that little addiction.  I did give away about 100 last Christmas.  That was a start, right?!?

And here is the office, which I have used as a dumping ground.  This will take the most work.  Where am I going to put all that stuff?!?!  First is the office as you walk in the door…

And this is the other side of the room, where the bed will go…

Here is the closet she will use.  It is outfitted as a supply closet from my home office salesrep days.  I need to make it more clothing closet appropriate. 

So there it is.  Another big project.  I don’t know that I’ll get it all done in one week, but my first priority is her sons room.  He’s had enough upheaval in his life lately, and I want him to feel safe and welcome when he gets here.  These people are not boarders in my home.  They are my friends, living with me, in my home.  And I want them to feel as welcome as I’d hope someone would make me feel if I needed a little help. 

I think this may help me as much as it helps them.  I want to be less strict about my environment.  I don’t want Jack to be saddled with the restrictions that I’ve put on myself regarding boundaries and quiet.  I’m comfortable being alone.  I read and do projects (obviously) but who likes being lonely?  I don’t, and this way, I’ll have some company.  And the house is big enough that when any of us wants privacy, we can have it.  I think it’ll be good…

Hoping for the best!
Maggie

Project 1: Done?

 

Well, as it turns out, I am either incapable of, or unwilling to create the outdoor oasis of my dreams.  It would seem that lush foliage is expensive, and I’m just not ready to spend hundreds on a project just yet.  But I did complete the project, and although my previous self would have declined to publish pictures, fearing that since it wasn’t “perfect,” it shouldn’t be seen, my current self (or the self I am striving to become) realizes that it’s a vast improvement over the former patio, and I should be proud of it.  It’s really nice not to be limited by the prison of perfectionism.  I hope this a trend, because I’m much happier in the land of “good enough,” at least when it comes to home improvement projects of the aesthetic kind. 

And that’s all this one was, right?  Or was it?  It’s certainly not a load bearing wall, or insulation, or water proofing.  But it was much more than just a pretty project.  I got sweaty, and dirty, and I moved and cleaned heavy things.  I really felt that I was accomplishing something.  So, in a way, it was a mental or emotional weather proofing.  If I can be confident that I can take care of things on my own, then I don’t “need” someone around, such as a man.  If I am whole on my own, then any man that I may choose to bring into the picture in the future is an accoutrement to my already complete ensemble.  As a side note, I broke the garage door this weekend, (the how is not important, as it is highly embarassing to me) and tonight, I repaired the door all on my own.  I am feeling very “Super Woman-like” and will be shopping for my bullet proof bracelets soon.  I’m already on the road to self-reliance.

So there.

And now, without further ado, is my new happy place……

The new view from my kitchen.  It’s so inviting, and waaaay better than the rotted out grill that used to be there.  And see the new hummingbird feeder?  I hope they find it soon!

And here is the view of the seating area as I exit the sliding door from the kitchen.  Can you see the margarita?  It’s already a happy place! AAAHHHHH……

Here is a view from the backyard area, except in closer.  I wasn’t able to decorate the entire patio, but from about halfway in, the effect is close to what I envisioned…

This is the view towards the backyard, and as you can see, there is about half the length of the patio that is a little bare. 

Another view of my seating area.  This one kind of captures what I was hoping for, a bunch of color and texture.  Can you see the frog art piece on the fence?  It’s “whimsical” and the previous me would never have gone for that, but now, I think it’s awesome.  A little iron, strong and long lasting, and a little colored glass, bright and happy.  All the things I want to be.

So, there you have it.  I have officially “completed” project 1, but I am not going to stop working on it.  I am going to get more plants over time, and transplant and propagate new ones from existing growth in my yard.  I am also going to replace the grill soon so that I can do some grilling.  That was always my exes job, and I loved the taste, so I am going to learn how to do it now.  I think by the summer, this patio is going to be the vision I have in my head and a frequent place to hang out.  But until that time comes, I’m pretty darned pleased!  I sat out there this evening and it was just wonderful.  I relaxed after an exhausting week and weekend, and just felt the stress melting away. 

And tomorrow morning, I will be out there bright and early with my coffee and the paper.  I look forward to having some guests in the near future!

Maggie

Project 1: Clean Slate

It’s so nice to be able to start again from a clean slate.  I wish life was like that.  Say there were a part of your life that you had ignored, or failed to tend, and it had become dull and dirty and full of life choking weeds.  If you could just clean it out and start over and none of the previous mess would haunt you or darken your days, well, that would be nice.  If that were possible, then perhaps marriages wouldn’t fail, and bridges wouldn’t be burned and relationships wouldn’t sour.  If people ignored their health and trashed their bodies, then they could just start over with tight buns and no saggy “wings” on their upper arms.

But it’s not possible to just clean out and start over with relationships or life, unless you’re willing to sell everything, move to another city and start fresh with no friends or baggage.  Which actually sounds nice, as long as the new town were a beach town, and instead of no friends, I still had all mine, and the baggage contained bikinis and sun tan oil.  But I digress….

So far this week, I have spent a lot of time cleaning out the patio area.  I pulled all the weeds from between the pavers, which was no easy task.  I have sprayed weed killer in hopes that the weeds wouldn’t return and I removed all the old leaves left over from last fall.  Ahhhh.  Manual labor is always so very satisfying to me.  It’s so easy to see the results as I move along, and then at the end, I really feel as though I’ve accomplished something.  Below is a photo of the patio now, in all it’s naked glory:

And here is the view from my kitchen.  I feel better already!

I also spent some time shopping for the things that would make my newly clean patio a true oasis.  Below is a sneak peek at the items that I found!  However will this pile of summery things be arranged to ensure a relaxing oasis for your intrepid blogger?  Just wait til you see!

I also took a picture of my yard to show you the many plants in bloom that may make an appearance on the patio.  I love the purple mini-lillies on the hill:

It’s really rolling along now, but rain is forecast for the next two days, so my progress may be impeded a bit.  No worry, I am repotting plants in the garage and sketching ideas for the final look, and once the weekend comes, with it’s predicted beautiful weather I will be able to quickly put together my outdoor oasis.  I am thinking that after a big weekend of Easter celebrations and visiting family, I may enjoy dinner out there Sunday evening.  I am feeling happier already….

Productively yours,

Maggie

Project 1: Outdoor Oasis

Today I begin my first project in the happiness journey!  As I posted yesterday, I am going to create an “outdoor room” in a previously neglected patio off of my kitchen.  Below are the “before” pictures that I took this morning.  I took them around 8:30 a.m., which is when I’d be using it in the mornings. 

Here is the patio from the back yard.

Looking out into the back yard, a gauntlet of empty pots lining the fence.

The sad, empty hummingbird feeder and the garden hose wrangler.  I also have an old plant stand that I forgot about.  It’s between the hose wrangler and the faded green plastic chair.

Another shot from the back yard…

The view from the kitchen.  I hope this will be a lot better in a weeks time.

So, there it is.  My first project begins today with a trip to Lowe’s and the Home Depot to look for a few things.  I am just window shopping today, since I may not need to buy plants.  My back yard is full of lillies and irises which all persist in blooming each year, despite my steadfast refusal to tend to them.  I will most likely spend my work time today cleaning and removing the weeds from between the pavers, creating my “blank canvas” from which to begin the design. 

I’ll post pictures as the transformation progresses!

Happy Monday!
Maggie

And So It Begins…

I was procrastinating in making my decision as to what my goal this week would be.  I know that I promised to do one project, or challenge one belief, or experience one new thing each week, all in my endeavour to find “happiness,” but it’s really difficult to get started.  What if I pick the wrong one to start with, and then the whole project goes to pot because it was boring, or took too long, or I just didn’t get the desired results?  But then I got a call from my sister and she asked, “So what project are you doing this week?”  She had read the blog, and actually sounded interested to hear what I would be doing!  I felt the excitement for the project flow back into my body and I was so excited to know that someone was on board with this little experiment.  So without further ado, my plans…….

I live in a little house on a tiny bit of land.  I am thankful that I don’t have more land, as keeping up with my tenth-acre is quite a chore.  Just off the kitchen, in the back quarter of the house, is an area that the previous owner started to make an outdoor sitting area.  He put down dark cement pavers, turned on a diagonal, and edged that with red brick.  When we first saw the house, I thought, “that is where I will drink my coffee in the morning.  I’ll put a couple of nice chairs right there, and create a container garden here, here and over there.  And I’ll read the paper and relax, and enjoy this space all the time.” 

Fast forward to today, and that space is a weedy, desolate space, ignored and barren.  It currently contains a grill that doesn’t work, a few plastic chairs, planters full of mosquito-infested rain water and weeds, a garden hose wrangler box, a sad hummingbird feeder that has been empty for three years, and leftover materials from when I replaced the trim around the door.  The space is around 6-feet by 20-feet and is surrounded by a privacy fence on two sides, the house and a sliding glass door leading to the kitchen on one side, and an opening to the rest of the backyard on the other.  It has so much potential, but I have just never gotten around to making it the dream relaxation spot that I have always envisioned.  Well, that ends this week. 

By this time next week, I will have created a sitting area suitable for morning coffee breaks, afternoons relaxing with a book, or evening wind-down sessions with a glass of wine.  I am not sure what this will cost, or how much time it will take me, but that’s part of the excitement!  Also part of the excitement will be how I can manage to get it done during Jack’s naps and after he goes down for the night.  I figure that on a few occasions, I’ve watched at least 20 hours of television during a week, and this project shouldn’t take that long. 

My goals for the space include:  Comfortable “loungy-type” seating, side table for time-of-day-appropriate beverage, attractive plants and flowers, maybe a grill if I can afford to replace or repair the one I have. 

That all sounds easy enough.  Tomorrow, I will post the “before” picture of the space.  I’ll also try to provide regular updates of what I accomplished each day, as well as photos of the space during its transformation.  If it is appropriate, I’ll let you in on any insights I’ve gained into happiness.  After all, that’s the point of this, right?!  I am so excited about beginning this project.  Could it be that I’ve already found a bit of the truth about happiness?  That if I have a goal, and a plan, that I am happier?  I think that is, at least, somewhat true.  I have a project and a vision of the enjoyment that will come at the end.  I think it’s going to be fun!

Here’s to dreams!

Maggie

My Baby is 1-Year Old Today

Today is Jack’s first birthday!  I can’t believe that I have a son, much less one who has survived birth 10-weeks-prematurely.   And open heart surgery.  And three heart-catheters.  And paternal abandonment.  And tachypnia, jaundice, apnea and his heart stopping.  Twice.  I have been blessed with a truly miraculous child who is stronger than I ever imagined he would be.  And he has shown me how strong I am, too.  He has brought me so much joy, and I consider my life much better for having him in it.

That is the portion of today’s post where I remember how much I have to be grateful for.  Now comes the crap storm portion of the first day of Jack’s life…

Jack was born very early and I had been in pre-mature labor two days before a c-section was ordered because he wasn’t tolerating the labor well anymore.  His heart rate was plummeting after each contraction, and since we knew that with each heartbeat, his heart was creeping towards heart failure, surgery was the best option to deliver my son safely to me, and the surgeons who could save him.  I was terrified, but all the appropriate personnel were in the delivery room and prepared to rip Jack from my body and immediately thrust him into medical interventions meant to prolong his life until we could get to the Children’s Hospital where they would try to figure out how to do open heart surgery on a heart the size of a small strawberry.  I heard him cry a blessed four times before they intubated him and set about placing iv’s and lines into each and every (it seemed) open vein in his tiny body.  Below, he is four pounds, two ounces, and 17 inches long. 

The delivery was fairly routine, according to the doctors and nurses, but they took my baby and put him in an incubator isolette and delivered him to the NICU, where he waited for emergency transport to Egleston at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.  I was taken to “recovery” where I merely “rested” until they took me to my room.  My own recovery wouldn’t come for a while.  I was told that I wouldn’t touch my son for weeks, if I was lucky and he did very well.  I felt like I had been robbed of the emotional climax of pregnancy, being allowed to hold my son just seconds after his birth.  But in those horrible and scary moments, we began life together.  Faced with major health issues and forced alienation, Jack and I were apart and I had to let go and trust that others could care for him in my absence.  This would be a struggle that continues to plague me.

While his first day was terrifying and disappointing and awful, it is still one of the most amazing and wonderful days of my life.  I remember the news of the c-section, the epidural, the delivery and those wonderful first cries as if they were yesterday.  And I remember exclaiming, upon hearing those tiny cries, “I’m a Mama!”  It was suddenly clear that I had a child, and that this was what I was supposed to be my whole life.  Jack’s Mama.  And I relaxed.  No time the previous ten years of work and life with his father had it ever been so clear to me what my purpose on Earth was.  I knew that we were in for an epic journey together, but I felt peaceful just having him in the world with me.  He was here, and now we could begin healing him.  And what a journey it has been, but that story will come in time…

For now, I have to decide on the first project or activity that will help deliver me to “happiness” in the coming year.  Check back to find out what I have decided to attempt in this first week of my journey.  I may start out gently, or I may dive right in.  I have a few ideas swirling around my noggin, just gotta figure out where to start… 

I will decide by the end of this week, and in the meantime, I am enjoying a delicious glass of wine, which is, in and of itself, a mini-step towards happiness.  Prior to my separation, I enjoyed wine regularly, but since I have lived alone (and was pregnant, then breastfeeding) I haven’t done so, in part because I couldn’t finish a bottle by myself before it went bad.  But this week, I bought a delicious bottle of red, and will enjoy it until it sours, and then I will throw out the remainder, without guilt.   The point of enjoying life is not limited by achieving the absolutely most efficient use of my funds.  I haven’t spent the equivalent of a car payment on the bottle, just about $10, so I will not fret, and I will not be concerned with the safety I no longer believe a big savings account can buy. 

I will merely enjoy my glass of wine.  In the back yard.  Yes, that’s it.  Because I live in Georgia, where the spring and summer evenings are among some of the most beautiful on Earth.  And I deserve to enjoy them.  I can feel the happiness creeping in already………..

Optimistically yours,

Maggie

Below, a photo of the love of my life, on this, the anniversary of his brave and valiant entry into this world…  Heart defect?  What heart defect!!

Well, I hope this works….

I have read a lot of self-help books lately.  I mean a lot.  So many that I could stock the entire self-help section at Barnes & Noble.  If they hadn’t been run out of business in my town by the economy and e-readers.  And why have I read so many books of this variety lately?  Well, I have had a run of bad luck in the past two years that the writers of Greek Tragedies would have literally vibrated with excitement to have conceived of and written about.

Two years ago, I quit my job as a successful sales rep to pursue my dreams of “finding my bliss.”  I was good at sales, but couldn’t find happiness with the day-to-day responsibilities, and so, with the support of my husband, decided to take some time to look at other options.  I was considering lots of jobs and trying them out with no real pressure to settle on one.  Several months later, he came to me and said that we should begin “trying.”  I had been talking about my ticking biological clock for a while, and he had been a little slower to come around.  But this news made me think he had truly reflected and changed his heart, and I felt that things were slowly falling into place.  I was happier, more relaxed, and things seemed good.

Unfortunately, four months after we began “trying,” my husband sat me down to tell me that he didn’t want children, didn’t love me anymore and wanted a divorce, among other, even more hurtful things.  I felt the immediate impact, as if I had been kicked, square in the teeth.  I asked why, pleaded for more discussion, cried and begged.  But in the end, his cold refusals to even discuss it shattered me, and I got in my car and left.  I didn’t know where to go, so I did the only thing I knew to do.  I called my sister, and as all family should do, she said “come here right now.”  And so I drove to family, and still didn’t believe that I was going to be a divorcee.

But I was going to be a divorcee.  And two days after my husband wrecked my whole world, I found out that I was pregnant.  Our efforts, dubious on his part though they were, had been successful, and I was now faced with the threat of being a single mother.  After all, he had made it clear that we wanted different things, and for him, that meant, painfully, that he didn’t want children.   When I told him of the joyful news, his reaction was not exactly the stuff of dreams.  He was stunned, but not so stunned that he couldn’t cuss and question and generally act the part of the douchebag that he was showing himself to be.  He left, leaving a note saying that he “needed a little time to think about this,” and that he’d be in touch in “a few weeks.”   Yep, a real prince charming.

From that point on, I had begun to recover a bit, or at least bury the pain of my failed marriage, so that I could focus on growing this miracle child within me.  But on the day that I was to visit the OBGYN for the gender scan, a spot was found on the baby’s heart.  The doctor assured me that it could be nothing, that her own children had shown the spots and been born healthy, that I shouldn’t worry until I saw a specialist.  So, I tried not to worry, but three weeks later, in the office of a perinatologist, my son was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect.  I was warned that the implications could include everything from a normal birth and a minor surgery, all the way to heart transplant or even death in-utero.  I was dizzy with the gravity of what I was hearing, and in the place where my husband should have been, was my mother.  Tiny and silent, with her hand steadfast and firm on my own, she was keeping me from crumbling.

The exact CHD wasn’t diagnosed for a few more weeks, but from that point on, I became convinced that God had forsaken me, and my son.  We had been abandoned by the man who had vowed to love me forever, and were now in danger of never even meeting. 

This blog will reflect on the happenings in our life, from his birth a year ago this week, ten weeks premature, to his second birthday, a year from now.  I will describe his struggle from the tiny, fragile start, and then I will discuss how I am making each week in the present a step toward regaining our footing and finding happiness.  Actually, I will chronicle how I find happiness.  My son is the happiest, most loving boy you will ever meet.  He bears no visible scars, and it would seem, no emotional scars from the pain and terror of his beginning-to-life. 

I am not so lucky.  I am still grieving the loss of my marriage, because I wasn’t able to do so in the moment.  I was always focused on growing, and then caring for my special baby.  This year, I will complete projects, experience joys and challenge beliefs that are holding me back, in an effort to find the bliss that I couldn’t find in a job.  And I hope that you’ll join me and, hopefully, find more happiness in your own life.  I look forward to the journey.

Timidly yours,

Maggie