It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I wonder if I could start every blog post from here through Christmas with a lyric or title from a holiday song. Think I could do it?

Thanksgiving was good - I spent a pretty long time with my family, and except for a few tense moments at the beginning, I had a lot of fun. I spent lots of time with my family, and had a really good time hanging out with Jacob. I just love that kid.

Now that I'm back home, I've started decorating for Christmas, which means that my house looks like a complete mess! I'm leaving Thursday for a work meeting in DC, then a visit with a friend in Delaware for the weekend, and I had grand hopes of finishing decorating before I left. I'm trying to remind myself that I don't have to do it all, right this minute.

Luckily, I've been in a really productive mood lately. I'm getting ideas and making plans, then actually following through with them. I've done more to decorate my house in the last few weeks than the last few months, I think. And given how many things I need and want to get done before Christmas, I'm glad I'm nearly finished buying gifts.

Once I finish the decorating, I'll take you on a tour. I have a lot of stuff - I go a little crazy at this time of year. But for now, I'm really enjoying having the tree up and decorated and visible through the window when I pull into my driveway.

Christmas Cards

I decided to create a postcard newsletter to go inside my Christmas cards this year. This is the front - what do you think?

Doing the happy dance

Remember last year, when I said that this is my very favorite Christmas CD?

Andrew Peterson's Behold The Lamb Of God

Well, I thought I lost it. And this isn't even the first time I've lost this CD! I couldn't find it anywhere, until today, when I dug out some of my Christmas CDs and realized, opened one CD case, and found it in there!

This is just amazing - I'm singing every word while I'm cooking. I love it!

And Nick, if you're reading this, I think we should do some of these songs in December. :-)

I also got very excited when I realized that the VA would be doing pick-up donations next week, so I don't have to lug everything out to my car and Goodwill. I'm not sure what it says about me that these are the highlights of my day.

Christmas and Why I Like Living Alone

I added a Christmas playlist to my blog. I'm working on a regular one, but figured it was good to start with Christmas. My friend Becky, who lives in China, says that playing Christmas music and putting up decorations early is just a way of prolonging the holiday spirit, and I love that.

Next week will be a short one at home - I'll get home from Frederick Sunday night, and leave Thursday afternoon for a meeting in DC on Friday and a weekend in Delaware with my friend Kate. But, I'm planning to start decorating just as soon as I get home, so I'll post pictures when I'm done. I'd consider starting now, but I have too many things to do and plan before I drive to Frederick on Wednesday.

The last week or so has been so busy, and today, after lunch after church, I found myself just so glad to be home and by myself. I don't usually need a ton of alone time, but the past week or so has just been so busy and full, that I really found myself wanting to stay home and just be - to veg out and catch up on some of my TV shows, to plan out some of the things that are going on over the next month, and to just hear myself think a little. This is especially important, as quiet alone time will be really hard to come by while I'm staying at my parents' house.


My 4-year-old nephew Jacob spent the last several days with me - part of me wishes I had taken time to blog about it throughout the weekend, because he just says some of the most adorable things, but the more realistic part of me knows that just spending time with him was far more important. Not that there was much down time anyway, in between the children's museum, hanging out with Heather and Nathan, going to church, seeing the Bee Movie at the Cinema Cafe - yes, I'm definitely the cool aunt.

He loves the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and can sing almost the entire theme song on his own. And now, so can I.

He thinks that when you play "I Spy," that you don't really need to see the thing you're describing. I figured this out when, about 2 hours into the car trip to meet Katie yesterday with a broken portable DVD player, he got very frustrated when I couldn't guess that something that was white and yellow and straight was a snake.

He dropped a tray on his foot Saturday night, which meant that I needed to carry him everywhere (or he would hop or crawl). Until we got to Nick and Heather's and he and Nathan chased each other around their house the minute I set him down.

He sleeps horizontally on the bed and moves around all night long. This meant that the two dogs also sleeping in my bed also moved around all night long. Last night was the best night's sleep I've had in forever.

He can tell you all about space bags and their water-tight seal.

He doesn't know why Pap calls everybody "mobile" (because when Pap calls someone on his voice-activated phone, he says "call Jon mobile").

He tells me he loves me all the time. He says that he wants to tell the people in his family that he loves them every day. Smart kid, huh?

He gives the best hugs in the world.

Challenge update

(Warning - another long post ahead.)

I've been working steadily in my office, hoping to get it (mostly) finished before my family arrives for a weekend visit. That's today that they're arriving, and I'm pretty satisfied with what's been accomplished so far. Looking at these before and afters, I'm not sure how much progress is visible, but it feels completely different to me.

Before - The bed was cluttered with papers and bags to be sorted, and a few items to be donated.

After - There are a handful of things on the bed now, but I'll be taking care of them today. The basket and magazine holders are returns that will go in my car, and the other items are paper supplies that need to be moved to the kitchen. You can see the trundle bed in the corner of the picture, made up and ready for my family's arrival, and the items on the floor between the two beds are items to be donated.

Before - The desk was a dumping ground, full of active projects or things that needed to be dealt with "someday."

After - The desk is mostly cleared, and most of the items left belong there. The few that don't, should be easily sorted. I'm thinking of rearranging the furniture in the room a little, and pulling the desk into the middle of the room. Besides that, the next step is here is to manage the cords (this will be easier once I replace the no-longer-working wireless router). I also still need to go through the two blue file boxes in the corner - I think I can eliminate the need for them.

Before - The bookcase was somewhat organized, but there were still some things that didn't have a home, and the top was cluttered.

After - The folding chairs are still in here for my family's visit - I'll move them to the back room once they leave. I took some time to make a list of everything that needed to be stored in this office and best way to do that. I moved a lot of things around, bought a few more photo storage boxes, and labeled everything. The green tote is for Active Projects (anything on my to-do list that can't easily fit in the file folder I keep on my desk). Still to do here - I'd like to buy magazine holders (sturdier than the cardboard ones I had before) to take some of the weight out of the magazine holder on the wall (I'll need to find another home for the large frames and decorative items currently on the bookcase). I'd also like to paint the nine-drawer cabinet and label the drawers, find a better way to store ribbon, organize the photos in the photo boxes, and finally do something with the large frames leaning against the side of the bookcase.

So, overall, there's not that much more to do in here. My next stop is the garage.

One more my quest to enjoy the little moments, this is what I did after worship team practice last night.

What I Love

I love that my dogs have their own distinct personalities, just like people. I love that my family actually comes to visit me (even when they come right on top of each other). I love that I have so many wonderful people in my life to buy Christmas presents for.

And I love that even when we're dealing with the hard stuff of life, the messy stuff, the stuff that makes you say, why? - that somehow, God redeems the ugly stuff for the beautiful. Maybe we understand each other better, or we walk more closely beside each other, and sometimes we just finally, really get it, and eternity is changed all because God is all about transforming our crap into an amazing work of art.

I really love that.


I really did want to finish dealing with paper before the weekend was over, but after helping Trish and Billy with their move on Sunday, too, I was just too tired. I came home, sat on the couch and started to watch Cold Case, picked up the first piece of paper to deal with it, and immediately realized that I was too exhausted to do anything other than go directly to bed.

But - I did finish dealing with all the paper Monday night. I also started a list of what exactly I need to store in here, with ideas on how it should be stored, keeping in mind the containers I already have. So, that means I need to go shopping.

Also, today, I read a few entries from Kristin's blog, which is so fun because she's just a really good writer and its so great to read about the stuff she's doing while she's in London for the semester. I love that she's writing about real life stuff, too, like what she's thinking and feeling. And I love that she seems to be really enjoying these moments, and it made me think that I need to be careful to really enjoy moments in my life, too.

Last night, I wore Christmas socks with bells on them. I have a lot of Christmas socks, because I went through this period where I had a kind of sock thing and I bought a lot of them and a lot of people bought them for me, too. I don't wear these outside the house, because I think it would be really annoying for people to hear a little bell every time I took a step and because, let's face it, I'm not that much of a dork. But I like them. So did Harvey - she kept trying to figure out where the sound was coming from.

The best laid plans

I had grand plans to spend a good chunk of time today making major progress on my office - it turns out, not so much. I have plans the next four weekends in a row - family coming from out of town this weekend and next, Thanksgiving at home after that, then a visit to Delaware to hang out with my friend Kate. But, I spent most of the day helping friends who found out just a couple days ago that the house they are renting will be foreclosed on, on two days. Which left them with this weekend, mostly, to pack up everything in their house and move it into a new (but much better - yea!) house. I'm glad to have helped them, and I know they're very overwhelmed right now.

All in all, this is actually a very good thing, because my grand plans to spend weekend days finishing some big project never really work out the way I intend. I work much better in short spurts, finishing one small thing at a time completely until I can move on to the next.

That said, I did make some progress in my office over the last few days. Whenever I needed a quick stretch break from work, I would grab a few things that could easily be put away and take care of them. And at night, I would grab a handful of papers, take them out to the living room in front of the TV, and sort through them. During the commercial breaks, I would toss the trash, quickly file what needed to be filed, and take care of the action things that could be completed really quickly (send a quick email, enter receipts into Quicken). For action items that will take longer, I file them into an Action folder in a file holder on my desk and enter a note into my Outlook task list (which syncs to my PDA). It may not be the most efficient system, but it works really well for me - I can spend several hours working this way, where I might only be able to convince myself to spend 15 minutes straight working through it without some distraction. I'm finding that I really rarely watch TV without doing something else at the same time anyway (though this was more true before my wireless router died and my laptop was chained to my desk).

All in all, I did manage to sort through the newly purchased Christmas gifts in front of the gift closet and make note of what size boxes I needed to buy (and use some that I already had). Later this week, I'll have to go through the visible things and hide them somewhere, so visiting family members don't see them. I've also made it through most of the papers on my desk (I'd take a picture, but the progress isn't quite visible yet).

I'll probably be helping Trish and Billy with their move most of tomorrow, but am going to try and make it through the rest of the papers on desk before I go to bed

Worth quoting

I bought this great magnet for my sister for Christmas, with a really great quote:

"barn's burnt I can see the moon." (masahide)

I love this, and it reminds me of another poem I read for a literature class. (I also thought about this, because I just read an email from Heather saying our next women's study will be on contentment). I like reading, but mostly easy, fluff stuff, and usually not things written long ago. It sounds superficial, I know, but when it comes to my personal reading, I just don't want to work for it. But, I really love this poem, and I even saved it on my computer, I think because it's a great reminder of where my heart should be. The last two stanzas are my favorite.

“Upon the Burning of Our House” by Anne Bradstreet

In silent night when rest I took
For sorrow near I did not look
I wakened was with thund’ring noise
And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice.
That fearful sound of “Fire!” and “Fire!”
Let no man know is my desire.
I, starting up, the light did spy
And to my God my heart did cry
To strengthen me in my distress
And not to leave me succorless.
Then, coming out, beheld a space
The flame consume my dwelling place.

And when I could no longer look,
I blest His name that gave and took,
That laid my goods now in the dust.
Yea, so it was, and so ‘twas just.
It was His own, it was not mine,
Far be it that I should repine;

He might of all justly bereft
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the ruins oft I past
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast,
And here and there the places spy
Where oft I sat and long did lie:

Here stood that trunk, and there that chest,
There lay that store I counted best.
My pleasant things in ashes lie,
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sit,
Nor at thy table eat a bit.

No pleasant tale shall e’er be told,
Nor things recounted done of old.
No candle e’er shall shine in thee,
Nor bridegroom’s voice e’er heard shall be.
In silence ever shall thou lie,
Adieu, Adieu, all’s vanity.

Then straight I ‘gin my heart to chide,
And did thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope of mold’ring dust?
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the sky
That dunghill mists away may fly.

Thou hast an house on high erect,
Framed by thy mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent though this be fled.
It’s purchased and paid for too
By Him who hath enough to do.

A price so vast as is unknown
Yet by His gift is made thine own;
There’s wealth enough, I need no more,
Farewell, my pelf, farewell my store.
The world no longer let me love,
My hope and treasure lies above.

30 Day Organizational Challenge, Day 1

As a rule, I think I'm a fairly organized person. I'm really detail-oriented - give me something to plan, and I will think of almost everything. Still, there are some areas of my house that are either a real mess, or just not as put together as I would like. I get frustrated if things are not just so, so I ignore them and let them go.

All that said, I decided to participate in a 30 Day Organizational Challenge, as a way to keep myself accountable to get these areas decluttered and organized once and for all. I'll start the month by identifying the areas I want to work on and displaying before pictures (warning: this is really, really long), and then post before and after pictures at the end of 30 days. I'll try to update throughout the month, too.

First, my office:

I got a jump start on this room by organizing the gift closet (I'll post more about that later). The biggest problems here, at least visually, are the desk and bookshelves. I tend to use the desk surface as a dumping around, especially - putting things here when I can't or don't want to deal with them right away. I've cleared it off before, but I think I just don't have the systems in place to handle incoming paper (either that, or I'm not using the systems I do have). Now that I'm working from home, I really need to be able to use this surface on a daily basis. For the bookshelves, I need to purge and containerize what's already there. I'm also thinking about trying to figure out how to rearrange the furniture in the room so that it just looks better. Its tricky, with the dogs, so I need to do some more thinking about that.

This room is also my guest room, and as I'll have guests both the second and third weekends in November, I need to have the room in a fairly stable state by the time they arrive. I don't need everything to be perfect, but I do need to have at least some order in place.

My file cabinet and desk surface - I don't think I should need the file boxes to the right of the cabinet, the surface just needs to be cleared, and the cables need to be better organized (even just for aesthetic value).

More of the desk and the hidden cabinet in the corner.

The bookcase - parts of are pretty organized, but the top isn't at all. I'd like to get some more desk supplies that are just pretty, too - I think that will help me to use them.

The organized gift closet - I could probably use some more containers here, and I definitely need to clean up and organize the stuff in front of the closet.

Second, the garage:

I'm not making any claims to completely clean and organize the garage this month (I think doing that, with everything else, is more than I can reasonably accomplish). But there's lots of stuff in there I just need to purge, and what's left needs to be stored better.

The storage closet in the garage - except for just a couple things, everything else here is Christmas stuff. There's a nice layer of dust. Most of this really is contained well, but it needs to be labeled and purged (I'll do this when I decorate later this month).

There's a great storage cabinet in here, but its hardly being used at all. I need to clean it out and start storing things there (and labeling them).

Most of this is stuff to donate - I'm just lazy about actually taking it to the thrift store or putting it outside for pick-up. Some of it is water-damaged now, too, thanks to the broken washing machine.

That's it - check back for updates!