Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Posts tagged ‘contentment’

Joyfulness made practical

Living on a tight budget can be hard. Maintaining optimism while doing so may seem impossible. But it can be done!

The most important thing to realise about being joyful on a shoestring budget is not to focus too closely on the shoestring’s length, or lack thereof. It is entirely possible to be comfortable and content on a small budget, but you need to not dwell on just how small that budget really is.

In our home, we have a lot of FUN. We laugh and play, and enjoy each other’s company whenever we can. We spend a lot of time facing away from each other, working on our various computers, and that’s not good. I wouldn’t advocate that. But the time we spend together is wonderful. The biggest part of my joy comes from my family and my friends.

The next thing is to make every part of life an adventure. Where we live is pretty far from most things, It’s off the beaten track and kinda remote and inaccessible. It means that getting anywhere (school, work etc.) is a little longer than it could be. It also means that having clients visit here is less than practical.

But it’s beautiful here.

We’re right on the edge of a nature reserve, so we see raptors soaring every day. We’ve had at least one mongoose in our garden – maybe more. We have night time visits from porcupines and owls. There are sometimes duikers outside, and we’ve even seen a few dassies (rock hyraxes), known for being extremely shy. There are humming birds in the reserve, a rare treat to see in action. And of course, we have monkeys.

We can go for long ambles in the reserve, trailing the crest of the hill and overlooking most of the main city, all the way to the sea.

How many people are lucky enough to say that?

So perhaps we’re a little remote, but it’s affordable and incredible to live here.

We can reframe our view of anything.

Our car is old and temperamental. But it’s cute and full of character. We’re blessed in that Papa Bear can fix it easily. And it doesn’t cost much in terms of fuel or repairs to keep it going. It’s true that you never know what to expect when you drive it, but that adds to the adventure and FUN of it all. We’re also not alone in being a single car family, nor in owning a jalopy. So we’re building a kind of a community around that fact, and there’s camaraderie and solidarity to be had in that, as well.

Noticing the world around us – mindfulness, in other words – is another brilliant way to develop and maintain joy. For instance, right now, the sun is struggling to make its appearance through the looming cloud banks. The landscape is black against a sky of lightening grey fluff. But there’s little about these clouds that looks soft or inviting. The sky behind those ominous volumes is the sickly yellow green of an old bruise, and it’s clear that Autumn has arrived.

Words are beautiful, and harnessing them to capture the moment, like a mental snap shot, engages all my senses and anchors me in the moment. I feel connected to where I am. I am not looking ahead, at the insurmountable mountains of work I have ahead of me. I am not looking behind, at the delicious slumber I left (and ache for) too early this morning. I am here, now. I am in the moment, and everything about this particular particle of day is mine. It is beautiful. I am rich.


Space Invaders

Heb. 13:5 “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

At the moment, I am really battling with contentment – or at least, the lack thereof. I won’t pretend that I don’t want to be rich; I do. But that’s not the problem. If I could consistently pay my bills with my income, while at the same time occasionally having some down time (or even just a little sleep), that would suit me fine.

No, the problem is being content with such home as I have.

I’ve been trying to work out why it should be that living in this little cottage is driving me crazy. Because really, living here makes a lot of sense.

The Benefits of Down-Sizing

  • It’s very easy to clean up: there just isn’t that much space for mess to accumulate.
  • It’s cheaper than anywhere we’ve lived before.
  • It’s close to everything.
  • Our landlord lives right next door, and the family is very nice.
  • It’s a cute little cottage with potential to be made very cute indeed.

So what’s the problem? It’s a no-brainer, staying here.

Well, today I figured it out. I have no space that’s just mine! We’ve converted our bedroom into an office, and as many as four of us work in there on any given day. Most days, I work in the dining room, which is also the classroom. The kitchen is right across from me, and the garage (which is behind me) is also the laundry, craft room, workshop, and storage hole.

Every day, we unpack our lives onto the various surfaces, live our lives a little bit, pack up so that we can live the next bit (say, for instance, a meal), and then start again. Every night, everything needs to be packed out of the way, and every morning it’s unpacked again. There’s no sense of getting into the swing of a project and being able to pick up where you left off. And not a single surface in the house is exclusively my domain.

Now that I know what it is that’s driving me crazy, it’s easier to accept it and deal with it. But I do wish for a bigger house – maybe one with a room dedicated to school, a room dedicated to our business, and maybe (just maybe) DOORS! Who knew interior doors were so very vital?? Oh yes – and more than one bathroom.

The end of the University as we know it.

My DFiL recently posted a link to this article on Facebook. Being a busy girl, I’m only about halfway through reading it. However, so far, it’s fascinating. The thoughts echo a lot of what I’ve come to think and believe in recent years: that a university degree is a piece of paper that buys you a job, rather than a measurement of competence and skill. Virtually everything that I’ve learnt in the last almost-twenty years has been self-taught: looked up, understood, tested, acquired. It’s the way I teach my children today, too. They ask me questions (millions) and I show them how to find the answers. We test the valiity of the answers in various ways and, the next thing you know we’ve all learnt something new.

Forward thinking universities like MIT and Harvard are leading the way in an entirely new approach to learning: online and (wait for it): FREE! After a certain amount of self-study, the student has the option to register for a competency certificate (for a small fee, of course). These certificates are set to carry more and more weight in years to come.

There’s a lot more to the article, and I recommend reading it, and sharing your thoughts and insights here – especially if I’ve gotten anything wrong.

Today’s reading:
Gen. 10-11; Job 1-5; 2 Cor. 5 and Prov. 4
The Message:
We create our own unhappiness by focusing on the negative aspects of life, rather than the positive. Just imagine if the thing you were complaining about right now (your poky little house, your lazy spouse) was gone for some reason. You’d be devastated, most likely, and give anything to be back where you are today. So live today as if you’ve just won back the things you have, rather than looking for something “better” all the time.

Remember: God see the heart.


A little humour

Well, it’s only taken two days (and counting) to even begin to get organised. I have at least another two days of planning and prep to go – and only IF I cut some serious corners. I find it very overwhelming, sometimes, trying to fit my life and requirements into my available resources, but I guess that’s what good stewardship is all about. And let’s face it, if I don’t get organised ASAP, this year will be a disaster.

On a lighter note, young Goldilocks has embarked on that phase of life that includes creating jokes. They’re works in progress, and some are pretty dire, but she keeps refining them, and her sense of humour becomes more and more sophisticated with each one. Despite the cringeworthiness of some of her offerings, it’s a genuine pleasure to watch her grow.

Here are some:

“Why do authors not like stop streets?”
– They don’t have WRITE of way.

“Why was the Pirate excited to go to the store?”
– Everything was on SAIL.

“What frame of mind do you need to be in to travel on the river in Paris?”

Today’s reading:
Gen. 7-9; 1 Thess. 5 and Prov. 3
The Message:
We have what we need. Be content and happy.

Lesson #15: Expectations vs expectancy

When we live a life filled with expectations, we create a pressure cookie for disappointment.

I know that this statement is a broad generalisation and not always true. For instance, if we expect nothing from ourselves, we’ll achieve it. Not great. We need to set reasonable expectations for ourselves. Furthermore, if we expect nothing from those that matter to us, we can make them feel worthless and insignificant – the last thing we ever want!

My problem was (and still is, to some extent), expecting too much. I expect myself to achieve too much, and fail hopelessly every time. This disappoints me and leads me to feel that, since every effort is an inevitable failure, I shouldn’t try at all.

I expect myself to not have to do as much as I do have to do. I feel that I should only have to do half of everything that needs to be done, and that I should be able to have some “me” time. Since that’s not really practical or reasonable right now, I get frustrated and start to “steal” time from other place. I spend a few more minutes on Facebook than I can reasonably justify for work. I spend a few more minutes cloistered in the bathroom, reading my book. I take longer in the bath and put off doing the dishes. After a week of this, I have a heap of dishes, a laundry FULL of dirty clothes, and the screaming, wooshing sound of deadlines flying by. I also have a pair of grumpy, understimulated children and a bewildered husband.

I expect my husband to love me the way that I love him. I’ve spoken in the past about Love Languages, and while I know that the way he receives and shows love is not the same as mine, I expect it to be. I expect him to process stress the way that I do (find the problem and fix it at any cost), not the way he does (go to bed till the fit passes). I become disappointed in what I see as his lack of delivery, and frustrated by his lack of action.

I expect my children to magically achieve their potential now that I a) home educate and, b) have overhauled their diets. They should instantly be free of head aches, mood swings, concentration challenges and sore tummies. Somehow all of this should also address their low muscle tone and make them strong. When they aren’t instantly perfect, or when they have one of those days – you know the ones, where a single English worksheet takes four hours! – I become despondent and doubt my decision to home educate. In fact, I doubt all my life choices and dissolve into an unproductive puddle.

It is true that I’m an extremist, and that should be borne in mind.

However, the gift of expectancy breathes life into our family.

When I face the new day with expectancy, excited about the possibility of achieving my Three Important Tasks for the day, eagerly anticipating my morning run or pilates session, I can’t be disappointed. The anticipation adds to the joy of the action itself, and makes the day a landscape punctuated by eager expectation and fulfilled goals. In a nutshell: satisfaction.

When I enjoy Papa Bear’s differentness and realise that I can learn so much from his view of life and approach to challenges, each day becomes a classroom, or better yet, an adventure, a mystery waiting to be uncovered. What will I learn today? What will I become? How will my perspective change and grow, making me a better person? It becomes almost impossible to stay in bed when faced with a whole day where I can meet my beloved’s needs, help him to achieve his potential, and learn about him and from him along the way.

When I see each moment with my children as a moment for all of us to learn, when I realise that whatever I say is absorbed into their growing self awareness like water into a sponge, when I understand that English and Maths serve a limited purpose and are not the final point of lifelong learning, I can seize each opportunity, each window into my children’s souls, capitalise on it, and help them become the best that they can be. I can teach them balance, self-discipline, acceptance, generosity, hard work, sensitivity, strength and so much more. I can comfort them when the work is hard, and rejoice with them when they master it. It’s a journey, with maturity as the end product, not a university degree.

This lesson is far from over, but writing it down helps to remind me of these truths and fills me with awe at God’s grace and mercy that He would take the time to teach these truths to a hard heart like mine. I wondered how a Christian could truly know the joy of the Lord, and here I see it so clearly. Stop expecting things to be different and start anticipating the joy of what already is.

Hebrews 13:5 “Be content with such things as you have.”

Barometer Days

Thursdays are our family’s barometer. By Thursday, usually we’re either up to date with (or a little ahead of) where we should be in school and work, or we’ve caught up the ground we’ve lost in previous weeks. Unless, of course, we’re behind in everything and life is pure and unrelenting chaos.

It’s easy to tell, too. For one thing, there’s the chaos percolating everywhere, not relenting even a little bit. For another thing, there’s the vacant, staring eyes of shell-shocked, self-employed parents with no concept of how to win back the ground they’ve lost. But really, you could see those things on any day of the week in our house.

Nope, the true test of how the week has gone is the kids. Like little gas-sniffing canaries in the deep, dark mines where we hack out our living, they’re either bright yellow and singing contentedly, utterly oblivious to their cages; or they’re on their backs, one grey, papery little spindle-leg in the air, eyes comically slit into bleak little X’s, tongues lolling to one side … you get it.

Obviously the children aren’t actually dead every Thursday. In fact, they’re very much alive, screaming at each other and tearing their hair out as they run around the house in a frustrated circuit of pent-up meaninglessness.

Or, if it’s been a good week, Thursdays are days of blissful calm that seem to stretch endlessly into balmy sunsets on the porch, joy and smiles all round. All it takes is a steady diet all week long of just enough, structured work to keep them engaged and occupied, while not being so much that it overwhelms them. It’s like a magic charm: they’re so busy and happy right now, making stuff and being nice and oozing waves of contentment all over the place. It’s absolutely wonderful, and to my delight, this was one of those very weeks.

Now, all I need to do is figure out how to switch from “Mommy mode” to “Business babe” and we’ll have a smoothly run home AND an income. Wish me luck!

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