Free Will and my Life Lessons

by Liz Lara

home-heart-is

Every day is filled with life lessons and it is time to share one of my many not-so-perfect life lessons. It is no mystery, I have not posted to my blog in quite some time.  And as you might guess, there is good reason for that.  The latter half of last year, I and my family experienced quite a lot of changes.

As I mentioned before, our kids are older than most other family blogs you read about.  The oldest of the five is 24, and the youngest is 16. As of summer last year, the three eldest boys lived with us, my daughter who is 19, decided she wanted to live with her father in New England for a while, and my 16 year old step-son lives with his mother about 350 miles away in Amarillo, Texas.

Upon returning from our summer vacation, my oldest step-son, who was 20, decided that he too, was going to withdraw from community college here in Fort Worth, move out and return to his hometown of Amarillo.  I’d like to say we were perplexed at this, but we know that our 20 year old son was making some questionable life choices, and even though we tried to advise him of the road he was going down, ultimately he is an adult and we could not stop him.

By mid -August of last year, it was now just I, my husband and my two eldest boys living in our large house.  I personally was starting to feel lost and did not know what to do with myself on a daily basis.  I could have blogged about my life on a regular basis, but because of what I call our “sudden exodus into empty nest syndrome”, I actually felt like a failure and I certainly did not feel like bragging about that.

teacup

I have always had tumultuous feelings about being a homemaker, (I feel this word describes me best. When I think about stay-at-home-moms, I think of those moms in their 20’s, who wear their daily uniform of tight yoga pants and tacky graphic tee shirts with what I can only assume are supposed to be words of wisdom while lugging their kids around to the store, the library or to the park all while having very loud conversations on their smart phones). 

So now I found myself at a crossroads of sort. While I thoroughly enjoy being a homemaker, I felt like the outside world was telling me that I needed to re-enter the working world. After all, what right did I have to not work outside the home when my wonderful, patient, bread – winner, supportive husband has carried the load when I had left corporate and its lucrative paycheck a few years back? Since leaving the work place, my husband will be the first to tell you that I beat myself up with this very subject several times a year, to the point where it stresses both of us out and drives a wedge between us.  The conclusion has always been the same for the past few years; I am happiest at home, taking care of my home and family, no matter how large or small.

However, along came a job offer that seemed to good to pass up.  The money was good, really good, the benefits including two weeks of vacation plus eleven company holidays per year, and the commute was only a mere twenty minutes a day on a piece of highway that rarely saw traffic.  As I scheduled my first interview for the position, I did actually make a list of pros and cons of going back to work, even though my cons outweighed my pros, I decided to move forward and go through the interview process anyway. The job was going to be with a religious, non-profit organization and the thought of working for and with likeminded Christians appealed to me. 

During the first week in September was when I had the first interview and it went well.  After a few days, I got a call back for a second interview, but due to the manager’s vacation, it was not going to be until the following week. 

I spent the next week imagining myself being back to work in a corporate, albeit, nonprofit environment.  I finally had the second interview, and that went really well too, all that was lacking was the CEO’s blessing on filling the open position.  Then began what felt like a long waiting period. What it looked like on their side: was a corporate retreat (three days long), a professional conference (one week long), and a CEO for whom filling the position was not a priority (another two weeks of him pushing it to the back burner). What it looked like on my end:  me going over my pros and cons list almost every day, lying in bed every night debating with myself should I or shouldn’t I go back to work, pacing the house everyday waiting for my phone to ring like a needy single woman waiting for last night’s date to call her to see if he was just as enamored by her as she was with him. I was starting to feel dejected and that I was no longer “hirable.”

On a daily basis, several times a day, I would pray on the conflict that I was undergoing.  About three weeks into this waiting period and watching me go through what can only be described as my “manic-feeling of I need to work” phase, my loving husband had this to say: “You are waiting for God to give you a sign or an answer to your dilemma, however, you have applied to a job, that literally is an institution for God and you have not been offered the position….honey, don’t you think God himself is trying to tell you something?” Those words stuck with me and I had just about resolved the fact that it was not to be, but a few days later, I received an email with an offer letter attached and I thought: “Glory, alleluia, here is my sign!  I got the job.” It only took a month, but I got the job!

So I started my new job, I would be doing payroll for this non-profit, religious organization. I may have not mentioned it before, but I am really not thrilled about my profession as it pertains to working outside the home although I am quite good at it and have my professional certification in it, it really is not my passion.  My work colleagues all seemed very nice, as they do with any job that anyone starts for the first week and for the most part that aspect of the job continued, but you know how it goes, there is always a few bad apples, no matter where you work or what kind of job you are doing.

hurry

I was once again trying to get on a work routine of getting up at 5:30 a.m., out the door by 7:00 and in my work chair by 7:30.  Like most jobs, there was an hour for lunch and my workday ended at 4:30 p.m. I was back at home by 5:00 p.m. each evening at which time I would switch into my panicked “get as much done before I go to bed” mode.  This included a 30 minute power walk (before the sun completely set), get a home cooked dinner on the table, fold a batch or two of laundry while dinner was cooking, package any leftovers, pack my breakfast and lunch for the following work day, clean and scrub the dinner dishes and depending on what I was going to make the following day for dinner, possibly start doing some prep work such as chopping veggies or setting up my slow cooker.  I would finally get to sit and relax each night around 8:30 p.m. and usually start to nod off while watching T.V. with my husband around 9:00, and definitely in bed snoring away by 9:30 p.m. every night.

Like most working couples, weekends of course, were just as busy, trying to check off those items on our to-do-list that could not get done during the week, such as grocery shopping, the house cleaning, taking a dog or two to the groomers, home improvement projects, errands, finding time to be social with friends and family and the most important, trying to find time alone together.

About a month back in the working world, I was exhausted and otherwise quite miserable.  Now that I was starting to become “seasoned” in my new position at work, more responsibility was starting to come my way and even though I was working for a Christian based organization, this atmosphere was not void of corporate politics and the back stabbing loathing that exists everywhere, apparently; and all of this was really disconcerting to me.  I was starting to remember why I had left my previous job a few years back even though I was at the height of my career. I was becoming just as miserable now, as I was years ago and just like back then; I would bring all that misery and unhappiness home when I walked through the door every day.  I was becoming unapproachable at home, as well as starting to feel resentful and anxious all of which was starting to drive a wedge between myself and my husband, and I was barely having any conversations with the kids anymore.

anxiety

After discussing it with my husband, who in the most loving way, gave me the “I told you so” speech, I sat down with my boss and told her that even though I felt like I was the right fit for this job; the job was not the right fit for me I proceeded to tell her that I thought it would be unfair to waste of both of our time to try to stick it out for months to see if we couldn’t make it work and maybe I might have a change of heart.  You can imagine my surprise when she told me that she was waiting for me to bring this up because, apparently, I wore my stress and unhappiness almost every day. I agreed to stay at the position until they found a replacement, which I did not mind, since I felt like I was leaving my boss in the lurch.

A few weeks later, right before the Thanksgiving holiday, they had found a replacement for me and I, once again returned home.  Once again, I had some conflicting feelings.  Although, deep within me, I felt like this was the right decision, and at home is where I belong and where I felt the most useful and content, I still suffered some contemplation:  “Did I give myself enough time to adjust to this job and schedule?”  “Was I just a quitter?” “Why couldn’t I just suck it up and stick it out like so many other people do?” 

Then during the holiday season, our family underwent some issues.  My eldest step-son who had decided to quit college and move back to Amarillo only a few short months ago, decided he and his now live-in-girlfriend were moving back to our area of Texas for better job opportunities, even though he had only found a part time job and his girlfriend was not working at all and they were living paycheck to paycheck, against our advice about moving in together and that they should put this plan on the back burner until they were both financially stable, they insisted that they could handle whatever life threw their way (young love is so ignorant…isn’t it?). So during this journey they resided with us for about three weeks (needless to say this was stressful for everyone in the house).  In addition to this, my eldest son had proclaimed that in the upcoming new year, he wanted to move out (finally) but buy his first house as opposed to renting somewhere, he also expressed that he was going to be looking to change jobs in the new year as well and try to go from a retail store associate (that is paid tremendously well) to finding a job in an office environment all while still trying to break into his real passion…voice over acting. 

My second eldest, was just finishing his trade school education of graphic design and he too would be seeking out a new career in the New Year.  This may seem uneventful to most, but my middle child, although extremely creative and talented, is a sensitive introvert with a slight learning disability. So to help him move into a career that showcases his passion, he will need a little hand holding.

Last but not least, my wonderful husband.  In addition to his long time career as a security network operations engineer, he has decided to continue his education and study for his master’s degree in his field, thereby, leaving him less time to be able to help manage our household, which I am not complaining about.  My husband and I support each other completely on our goals, parenting, and education and for the most part any other things we each set our minds to.

Even with all of this that happened to me re-entering the work force and all the issues that continue to unfold under our roof, I still could not help but reflect in prayer with my inner conflict of “should I work…shouldn’t I work?”  Then something happened that changed my way of thinking.

I met up with a very good friend of mine for lunch one day.  I hadn’t seen her since right before I had started working again, and I proceeded to tell her all of what had happened during that time frame, both at work and at home.  I explained to her my reflection and prayer during this time and what my husband had pointed out that during my “waiting process” hearing about the job offer.  Then my very dear friend put it into perspective for me.  She pointed out that even though, I was waiting for signs from God to put me on the path that I thought HE wanted for me, she reminded me that HE has given us his greatest gift of all…”free will”.  So even though HE was showing me signs and reasons I should have not taken the job offer in the first place, I went ahead and utilized my free will and ignored what God was telling me.  Needless to say, even though I had chosen the wrong path initially, the one that God did not want me to go down…I wound up on the right path that HE wanted me on anyway, via a short detour.cross

So now, here we are in the New Year.  I am back to being a full time HOMEMAKER, which I am slowly learning should not have negative connotations, because even though I am approaching middle age and the majority of our kids are young adults and are, for the most part self-sufficient, I am still very much needed and appreciated at home taking care of my house, my husband and family…revolving door and all. This life lesson has taught me, that I am following my true passion and the path that God wants me to be on, at least for now.

The Fort Worth Homemaker’s Day

schedule-compressed

By Liz

You might be asking yourself, what does a day in the life of this homemaker look like?  I get emails wondering what it is I do all day and we now have such amazing technology that keeping house must be a breeze, so I think many of my readers think I have plenty of time that gets wasted on a daily basis.

Unlike many other homemakers, I don’t home school any of the 5 kids .Regardless of the fact that they are much older, honestly this was never in my wheel house, I know my weaknesses and frankly I was not equipped with the patience level to home school.

Also, like many other homemakers, I don’t do many DIY projects.  You will probably never see a post about how I turned an old sock into an adorable stuffed animal, although you will see mentions of me using old socks as dust rags.

I also don’t have a long reading list. While I agree that reading helps one broaden their minds, helps you relax and is some pretty cheap entertainment, I just never seem to have enough time.  Kudos to all those other homemakers and blogging moms that are able to read 40+ books in one year, because it usually takes me months to get through just one book.




So exactly what does a day in my life look like?  Here is a schedule of a typical day:

6:00 – 8:30 Read, answer emails, compose posts.

8:30 -9:30 Exercise, shower, dress, hair.

9:30 -10:00 Dust and sweep all of the downstairs of my house. (This gets done daily due to dog hair tumbleweeds that drive me crazy).

pot-of-dog-food

10:00 -10:30 Prep and put on a pot of homemade dog food in the slow cooker, then prep and marinade chicken for evening dinner.

10:30 -11:00 Fold and put away 2 batches of laundry.

11:00 12:00 Proof read, edit and photo shop for upcoming posts.

12:00 – 1:00 Make and enjoy my lunch hour, (eating does not take me an hour, but if there was anything that stuck with me from my days in corporate…it was enjoying the respite of the lunch hour before delving back into work).

breakfast-sandwiches

1:00 -1:40 Make a batch of egg sandwiches for the freezer.

1:40 – 2:00 Played with puppy and other dogs outside giving them some exercise.

blanched-tomatoes

2:00 – 3:00 Blanched, pureed and freezer bagged all garden ripened tomatoes (to be used in sauce at a future time).

CPP-books

3:00 – 4:00 Work on homework assignment from the Saturday class I am taking (I had mentioned this previously, I am working on keeping my CPP certification as a Payroll Professional).

4:00 -4:15 Empty dishwasher.

4:15 – 4:30 Bagged up dog food from slow cooker.

4:30 – 5:00 Judge Judy and coffee break (Guilty pleasure, hey!…I am only human).

5:00 5:30 Dinner prep (slicing veggies, shredding cheese, etc…)

dinner-cooked-on-the-grill

5:30 -6:30 Grilling dinner outside while periodically coming in to check on side dishes.

6:30 – 7:30 Eat with family, package leftovers, wash dishes.

dog-walk

7:30 – 8:30 Take dogs for a walk.

8:30 – 10:00 Downtime…finally!!! (Usually this time is spent either watching a movie or talking with my hubby and kids).

10:00 BED..it’s been a long day and I am tired!

For those of you who might be wondering, NO, I did not embellish this schedule.  This is a typical day for me, other days also include errands, grocery shopping, scheduled appointments at the doctor, dentist, vet, mechanic, etc…

I do try to make a habit of doing less on the weekend, but with the class I am taking on Saturday’s this summer, that has me out the door at 7:00a.m. and not returning until 2:00p.m. I still have homemaking items that I accomplish on the weekends, but these tasks get done on a less stringent schedule.

So there you have it, a day in the life of The Fort Worth Homemaker, I did not write this post to complain, I just wanted to let the public know that homemakers far and wide generally are not sitting around watching daytime T.V. talk shows; shopping and spending money all day; or taking naps for hours upon end.  And if you are a homemaker that does exactly those things…please let me know your secret, cause who couldn’t use some of that?

 


Airing my Dirty Laundry

ironing

By Liz

When I first meet people and tell them that I am a full time homemaker with a household of 7, I can almost see their faces turn into posters of pity, thinking that I must be buried under loads of dirty dishes and laundry; that my house must surely be perpetually messy and I spend my time chasing after young, disheveled, banshee like children about to climb all over the furniture or take crayons to my walls.

Thankfully, I have paid my dues in that area and those days are long behind me.  My brood is mostly made up of teens and young adults now, but that doesn’t mean that the chores for this full time homemaker cease to exist anymore.



As you can imagine we generate a lot of laundry in our house.  This may come as a shocker and I am probably going to come off as a discredit to my fellow homemakers, but I do enjoy doing laundry.  I know many others may despise this necessary chore, but I find a certain relaxation in it.

First of all let me say, that even though I do the majority of the laundry, the rest of the family does help out and does what is necessary. Secondly, we do not have a designated “laundry day”(with the exception of bedding, that gets done every Sunday) where all the laundry is completed in one day. We do laundry just about every day.  I guess you could say it is done in moderation, just like any successful, diet, exercise, or budgeting program.

I read and hear all the time how exasperated people get when they talk about doing laundry.  This always makes me laugh. What is it about laundry that gets people so beat down? You dump the load into the machine, close the lid and press a button. It’s not like the old days where you had to drag your clothes down to the closest river and beat your clothes on a rock, or even more modern, pull out a bucket, washboard and the most skin irritating soap known to man and scrub until your fingers bleed.

sorting

Our system is a pretty easy one.  Everyone has a clothes hamper in their rooms, when it starts to get full, they are to empty their items into our clothes sorting system, kept in our garage. Our sorting system is made up of 4 large plastic hampers that are designated, one for whites, one for jeans, one for towels and one for colored clothes. When those hampers are brim full, it is time to wash that load.

detergent

We do save some money on our cleaning products. For many years, we had used commercial products, but then I started reading about more cost efficient, homemade products. I was very reluctant and skeptical to try any of these, but one weekend, I decided to make a batch and experiment for a week, if we didn’t like it or it did not do a sufficient job, we could always switch back to the commercial brands. I am happy to say, that it worked out and we now use a homemade version of laundry detergent, thereby, slashing our cost on detergent, “thanks Mary Hunt of Everday Cheapskate”.

washing-machines

Our machine’s are high capacity, energy and water efficient brands and we wash everything in cold water (unless hot is really needed to get something sterilized). I would love to be able to tell you that with all that laundry for 7 people that we save a ton of money by line drying. I love line dried clothes, it was the method we used when I was a kid in the Northeastern part of the country there is nothing like the smell of sun bathed, crisp linen sheets or clothes.  However, here in Texas, it is just not feasible. While yes, we have plenty of sunshine, we also have plenty of dust and allergens being blown around most of the time.

I remember the first time, I insisted to my now husband that I wanted a clothes line in the backyard of our old house.  With some reluctance on his part, I finally got my way. When the day came that the line was up, I could not wait. I did a batch of towels in the morning, got them out and up on the clothes line before I headed off to the office (back in my working days).  Later that day, when I had come home and proceeded to take the clean, dry clothes off of my line, I noticed there was a sticky green/yellowish film on each and every towel.  Turns out, spring pollen had thwarted my efforts that day to try to save on energy, because now I had to re-wash the load and run it through the dryer.  That is how it is here in the Metroplex, there always seems to be something floating in the air.  If it’s not pollen, mold, ragweed or other allergens, then the dirt and dust from all the construction in the area certainly will hamper this kind of effort.

dryer-balls

So our dryer gets used on a daily basis as well and while we know that this appliance is a money sucker, we do what we can to minimize the monetary sting.  We have invested in a set of wool dryer balls to help with static and minimize wrinkles, instead of using fabric softener or dryer sheets; we dry back to back loads as to ensure maximization of residual heat; we clean the lint trap at the beginning of each load; and every 6 months, we pull the machine out away from the wall and clean out the venting system in the back of the machine.

After the machines are all done doing the hard work, I then get in some much needed down time.  I bring my baskets of dried laundry into the living room at a time when no one else is occupying it and start folding and making individual piles for each owner.  Depending on the time of the day, I may turn on the T.V. and catch up on the news while tending to this chore, but more often than not, I do it in silence and use this as my reflection time with my life and with God.

folded-clothes

 

When all the piles of clean, neatly folded laundry is completed, they sit for a short time in our living space.  Before dinner hits the table, each owner has come to get his or her piles and they are responsible for putting them away, just as on Sundays, each person is responsible for re-making their own beds once the bedding has been laundered. Believe it or not, and I am not making this up, when each kid comes to collect their piles, they do genuinely thank me or I get a kiss on the cheek.  And I don’t even pander for it, maybe that is part of the joy I get from doing this task.

Now many of you might not have these same kinds of luxuries, such as older kids that can take care of their own clean laundry and linens.  Maybe you have to fold,  hang up and put away every stitch of clothing, maybe do some ironing and maybe you have to make every bed in your home, and while I agree this might seem like a cumbersome chore, I believe it is all part of homemaking.

Don’t forget, this has become yours and my chosen profession, because we feel it is important to sustain a well balanced, happy home and family; and like with any profession, it may come with some big and tiresome job responsibilities,  but it also has a great benefit program.



Savoring Coffee and the Weekend

french-press

By Liz

Like most, our Mondays through Fridays are extremely hectic. That’s not to say that our weekends aren’t busy either, but we tend to tackle those two glorious days with more of a laid back vibe.

Even though we are family that tries to tighten our belts every chance we get, we do have some luxuries that we enjoy.  As I have mentioned in a previous article, my husband gave me a Keurig coffee machine many Christmases ago that gets a lot of use in our house as you can imagine with the 7 of us.  In fact, it seems as though our Keurig is always hard at work brewing a cup of coffee, tea or cocoa.  What I like most about it, is that it produces a hot, fresh cup of whatever our palates are craving at any particular time.  For example, I enjoy a regular medium roast cup of coffee, my husband enjoys hazelnut coffee, while the older boys enjoy some very strong, alternate flavored, gourmet coffees (that they buy with their own money) and while our teens turn their beverages into iced coffees now and then, they mostly stick to cocoa.




When my hubby and I got married, we received a French Press coffee pot as one of our gifts. It was the first time I had tried a cup of coffee from a French Press.  At the time, I was skeptical, because it reminded me so much of the same process used when making instant or peculated coffee, which is what I grew up on, needless to say, I was not a huge fan of either of those methods back in the day, but it was all we had. But from that very first sip of coffee that was brewed from the French Press coffee pot….I was hooked. The aroma, the intense, smooth flavor, the rich color….OMG!! I was in café heaven!

Mondays through Fridays, I start my days at 6:00 a.m. with a fresh cup of coffee every morning, brewed from my Keurig. While my Keurig is starting up, I will flip open my laptop, log on and start checking emails, start to work on an article for my blog, throw in a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, etc… before the rest of my brood even starts wiping the sleep crud from their eyes.  On an average day, I typically enjoy 2, sometimes 3 cups most mornings, another cup late in the afternoon and sometimes a cup at lunch, depending on what is on the menu.




Weekends however are another story when it comes to java. I sleep in on Saturday and Sundays (usually until about 6:45 a.m.) on these 2 days, my beloved French Press Coffee pot comes out.  I brew a fresh, hot pot of coffee and then spend some overdue, quality time, relaxing and enjoying my java.  Depending on what kind of weekend it is, I pair my cup of coffee with a good book and a blanket, curled up on the couch. Then there are times when I sip on my java and watch an old movie; but my favorite is when the weather cooperates, I will sit out on my back patio and just enjoy another beautiful day that God has created, just taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the fresh morning air while sipping on my cup of heaven.

After well over a decade in the corporate world, which also included those rushed,” squeeze in all those tasks on the weekends because you were working all week”, and even now, though I am our COO and Home Manager, of a hustling and bustling household,  I purposely find time to savor the flavor of my coffee and weekend mornings.