Five Minute Friday – One

Five Minute Friday = prompt word, five minutes, just write. No overthinking, no over complicating.

This weeks prompt word: ONE

Here’s the length and breadth and height and depth of my wisdom at present on how to live life when time seems short but things to do are relentlessly plentiful.

Do one thing at a time.

One thing at a time and I seem to get as much done as when I’m trying to spread myself between seven things all at once.

I remind myself of it, I write it in my diary, when my head is racing and my fingers and toes start twitching, “Just one thing” when I want to be doing all the projects and writing all the words and reading all the books and fixing up maybe fifty things in my garden and then theres washing to be done and phone calls to make.

But we’ll never do it all will we ?

And we can miss the best of it trying to. We can miss the simple beauty of a thing when we give ourselves to it, when it’s seen in a certain light, the soft corner, the subtle detail, faces, conversations, the kinds of thing you have to slow down for to soak in.

And it can be such a relief to let yourself do one thing at a time – fold the basket of clothes (always with a cup of tea at hand) or cook the dinner – stand and stir and taste and pour – or read the book (more tea) or pull the weeds (sheer therapy) or paint the chair or write the words or go to the meeting.

And let the other things be. Let them alone.

One thing at a time.

When you’ve a thousand possible things to do.

Wave the white flag and surrender.

Choose just one thing and then do that.

“Gripping, grabbing, grasping all feel like the only way forward when we’re terrified and vulnerable. We want to believe we have some kind of control. But our real strength is found in opening our hands. We say ‘Here God. Its all yours. Help me breath and begin again”. Leeana Tankersley

See what others have done with there five minutes here

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Ducks in a Row

Ducks in a row?

Well yes they are.

Literally.

Two of them in fact. We’ve added a pair of fluffy tailed ducklings to our backyard brood because its spring and we couldn’t help ourselves. They’re growing fast, there are plans for a pond and a bigger enclosure and they make our backyard farm yard feel complete.

Metaphorically?

It’s a different story

Ducks in a row. Not even nearly. Never have been really – even when I had all the time in the world I didn’t run a tight ship but now throw in:

  • working full time
  • a healthy dose of midlife forgetfulness
  • and a weird sort of inertia that hits me at odd times (that I can only put down to still feeling the loss of my mum)

– – – and right there you’ve got myself  a whole new level of crazy going on.

But that never did stop a good life from happening in the meantime.

Its struck me though whilst I seem to have little capacity to do anything more than go to work, cook dinner and keep the washing machine going that the things that bring us the most joy aren’t always the things we’ve wrestled to the ground with our super human powers and shaken the living daylights out of.

It seems to me the best of it comes on the breeze, like a gift, un bidden, as good as mercy,

The best of it comes in under the doorways and along the windowsills of our ordinary lives and surprises the heck out of us somedays.

Wearing ordinary clothes and maybe a stupid grin.

Easy to miss, easy to think of as nothing.

Theres been a few of late. Arriving without trumpet or fanfare – like a life line – some practical, some simple and sweet, some enough to make you weep.

I’ll give you the frontrunners 

The gift of good light – – – – 

I don’t ever remember a winter so sunny or filled with so much light as this last one and my room right at the front of the house seemed to catch it all. In January I took down the lined curtains that had been up at my windows for years and replaced them with filmy white ones and never guessed at the gift I was giving myself for the winter. It’s been my cozy warm bright spot over the cold winter months especially in the morning when the coffee and the quiet and the warmth and the light combined to save my sanity. That light has seemed to warm me from the inside out. And then theres the view that I don’t know I’d ever taken that much notice of before. Its nothing spectacular by any means, a few trees, a glimpse of the mountains, some rooftops and powerlines too but the window is so wide it feels like I have my very own front row seat to the sky and the trees and all that light and crazy yes but it’s felt like it’s been there just for me.

The gift of clean floors – – – – –

My brother in law loves his gadgets and high tech gizmos and the most recent one he was all in a ruffle about was one of those self operating robot vacuum cleaners. He was insistent it would do nothing less then change our lives. In the end we gave in, it was just easier. He ordered it online, it arrived on our doorstep a day or two later and true to his many words our floors have never looked so clean and shiny and gorgeous. Ken so impressed kept staring at them saying “I think it’s polishing them as well”. No Ken thats just what clean floors look like. I now come home to dust free floors that I haven’t had to clean myself – a Godsend. So no more of this.

And more of this.

I  never would have thought to buy one myself , would never have gone looking. So grateful for persistent tech head brother in laws who don’t mind telling you what he thinks you need.

The gift of my boy surprising me – – – – 

Oh you know how you worry over them, are they doing ok, are they happy, are they dreaming big dreams? will they find their place. So much worry. So many prayers. Quiet confidence somedays and then sheer panic others. But then occasionally something happens and it feels like mercy poured out. A few weeks ago I came home from work to find Ethan in the lounge room reading “The Book Thief” and if that wasn’t shock enough he had his iPad open and was writing away. He was saying words like “essay” and “narrative style” and “I talked to the teacher about it” and “it’s quite interesting”.  I thought I had a lodger.  I was so stunned I didn’t say too much less he stopped. I just helped as requested and didn’t make a big deal. But oh it did my heart good. Smart he is but an academic he isn’t and he’s fought being at school from the get go but every now when I’m wondering again what the answer is there’s a ray of light. A beacon of hope. He finds something that he enjoys, he shows that he’s trying, he reads a book !?! and I can feel my stomach unclench a little. He’s started doing woodworking as well – he’s made a new reptile cage and is working on a frog cage (don’t ask where they’ll go). Yes he’s made one hell of a mess in the back room and I’ve spent a lot of weekends driving him back and forward to Bunnings for supplies but it makes him happy, which makes me happy. Like me he likes to have a project to work on and that creative flow is something life giving. Maybe some of its coming with age but more than that it feels like all sorts of answered prayer and it’s helped this mama sleep better at night.

The gift of baby bunnies – – – – 

Yes thats right – four weeks ago now much to our extreme surprise one of our two rabbits Lavender produced a litter of bunnies. Surprised not because we didn’t know rabbits have babies but because we thought we had two females. Oh my goodness the excitement and squeals of delight and tears and oohing and ahhing on discovering those babies. Yes just nature doing it’s thing maybe but oh it’s been a treat, oh they’re so sweet. A little bit of story book magic in our back garden – who’d have thought.

Theres been oodles more  – they look like everyday life but I call them grace. I call them a kindness.

I call them a cool breeze on a hot day.

It’s all about pressure. When it comes at you from all sides equally, nothing moves. But if one side exerts more than the other, you just might find yourself in flight. Vanishing Acts, Jodi Picoult

So many seasons of our lives can be awkward and messy with rough edges and loose ends and nothing where we think it should be. Beginning and endings are especially so and it seems we are always at the beginning or end of something. Middle bits are messy too when we feel stuck or in a lull or a gap and not quite sure if we are moving anywhere but life is always moving, children are growing and changing, winter ends and summer comes, the garden grows, the duckings double in size and God has his eye on us, God is working His wonders in unseen places and we are seen and known by name just the same.

So we do what we can

and then we lean into the breeze.

Maybe nothing remakes everything like grace.

Maybe – wreckage always births resurrection

Maybe   

Trust that what is coming at you.

Is God coming for you.

Trust that what looks like a wave to carry you away, is the wave that will carry you to shore.

Trust and obey the one who walks on the waves

Will make a highway

Out of everything rising in your way.

Ann Voskamp

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Five Minute Friday – Crowd

Five Minute Friday= prompt word, five minutes, just write.

No overthinking, no over complicating.

This weeks prompt word: CROWD

Two’s company, threes a crowd

Except my front garden didn’t get the memo

Its wild and totally overgrown at the moment with fishbone fern that people still pay good money for in the shops, with agapanthus and seaside daisy and some other long reedy things that provide a bit of a screen from the road. They crowd in on one another – the more the merrier apparently and are only kept from going completely mad by the garden bed edging laid in a curvy romantic fashion by me years ago now.

There was nothing here when we came, sparse, tidy, a no nonsense perfectly respectable, make you want to weep it was so forlorn and boring front yard –  so this seems like an abundance, joyous almost and despite its waywardness it looks beautiful to me. Its hopeful, it makes me smile, relentless in its growing, gone a bit mad but better than nothing at all – better than all straight edges and lonely grass.

Clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground – you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things up, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it gets  Bird by Bird page 28-29

I like the story it holds – one of redemption and rediscovery and it’s still being told. See I know whats under all that overgrowth –  theres a little path and a pond with four gold fish in. A fountain and a whole lot of rugged looking bush rock arranged to look nice that I rolled from the back yard to the front. A down hill journey I’m pleased to say. Yes underneath is the garden I made out of nothing years ago when money was scarce but time was plentiful . Plants grown from cuttings and other peoples throw outs or rescued from the roadside. Discards and misfits your welcome here.  And look what you’ve become. Look how you’ve grown.

I feel a bit like my garden at the moment,  stretched to the limits, messy, overgrown.  Its crowded at the moment, man it feels crowded –  thoughts mainly, too many thoughts and too much pressing in – but running around the edge like a long ago planted border that hems me in and holds me fast is hope, hope in His goodness and favour, gratitude too for a life that by anyones standards is a good life –  two children, a family – theres no question its gold. Theres fresh mercy every morning, a chance to begin again, theres untold grace, theres a good story being told.

Stretched to my limits maybe but the borders will hold.

To read what the other FMF crowd have done with there five minutes click here.

On Inch by Inch Garden Progress and Small Steps that Take You Places

I started this post with the idea of showing you a few of the recycled items I’ve repurposed in my back garden – junk pile gardening I thought we could call it. That was about three months ago now and my idea went pear shaped when I realised the extent of the mess going on in my back yard. There was no editing it out, there was no disguising it and then the need to keep things real around here got the better of me.

So here’s what I might have shown you had I stuck to the plan

Here’s what I wouldn’t have shown you.

Spot the difference?

Now if you have a garden you’ll know one thing –  if you turn your back on it for five minutes it gets away on you and any longer than that it goes completely mad. Weeds take over, things fall apart, the rabbits dig holes, the dogs chew stuff up and in the blink of an eye the grass is suddenly up to your knees and the bush growing against the back fence has taken over a third of the yard.

Its not the first time its got away on me.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked out, looked around and asked myself

  1. How in heck did it get so bad so quickly?
  2. Who on earth lets there garden get in such a state? I do apparently. Me along with one husband, two kids, three chooks,  a couple of dogs, two rabbits, a guinea pig, a lizard and a pumpkin plant thats hell bent on growing under the fence from my neighbours yard and taking over mine.
  3. And thirdly how for the love will I ever ever pull it straight again. And do I have the energy? There’s no team of gardeners waiting in the wings, there’s no week off work to throw myself at it, there’s no  budget put aside.

So, after the initial shock and the “I should be ashamed of myself”  type statements theres nothing else for it but to do what I always do and that’s start where I am with what I have.

On that day it was about thirty minutes focused attention on one small corner of the yard, – yes start small on something easy I say –  and it happens every time that I’m always, always, ALWAYS !!!! amazed at what you can get done in a shortest space of time. And then you come back and do it again the next day or the next week or whatever you’ve got and you keep coming back to it and the shocking mess transforms itself into something not quite so shocking at all in the end.

I still go back to these words

 – – –  small steps will often keep us going when we run out of steam with the grand gestures.   Leeana Tankersley

Sometimes small steps are the only thing you can do when time and money, energy and ability and plain old priorities count the “grand gestures” out for the time being

– – – and sometimes taking one small step can seem like the grandest gesture of all.

Here’s what I did that first day in a small area between the far end of my back verandah and the side fence.  It was the least of my worries compared to the rest of the garden but it was a nice easy place to start.

Before

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During

We had some old fence palings that Ken had cut up for firewood  but I thought them better suited to garden edging.

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After

A bit more of a clean up, two bags of $3 wood chip, a good sweep and hose down and it’s looking not too bad. So nice to see my little paved area again too.

Doing one small area made me feel less overwhelmed and reminded me again of the value every single time of taking simple small steps. Small steps will get you on your way and nudge you closer to the transformation your looking for while grand plans and total makeovers are crying in the corner.

Heres what I love about small steps

  • there the ones I can do
  • they cost next to nothing
  • they don’t take long,
  • you can just use what you have
  • they keep the creativity flowing
  • they make me feel better, like I can do a thing or two
  • one step sheds light on the next step
  • they add up
  • they keep me moving forward
  • they get me further than I ever think they will

When you’ve lost the plot, feel stuck, in a funk, hemmed in, powerless to change, far from where you want to be. Take one small step (and the tiniest step will do), do something, start something, then take the next step and then the next one. Remember this gem.

Three months on where does that leave me with my runaway garden.

Making incremental progress and celebrating tiny victories thats where.

Twenty minutes here, an hour there, sometimes two hours on a Saturday afternoon but mostly less. It’s been slow but steady progress.

I’ve been putting off showing you though because I wanted to have some totally amazing AFTER photos to show you so we could all have a “tadah”  moment. Maybe a few of them. Well we may still have the odd one but this is me and we are a continual work in progress around here so what your far more likely to find are:

  • truly shocker before shots
  • in progress along the way shots
  • a whole lot better but not perfect shots
  • and a few “I’m happy with this for now till the grass starts to grow again” shots.

So the main area I worked on is along the back fence and dealing with the hugely overgrown bush in the corner. I planted it so I’ve no one else to blame.

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Now  I was sure I’d need some sort of brush cutter or front hoe or back hoe or whatever – something big and forceful that had a motor that could rip it out and chew it up. Well none of those were available on the Saturday afternoon I had a mind to tackle it.

But I did have these.

It took about an hour and a half and by the time I had cut away everything I could with these little snippers, which was very therapeutic and satisfying I might add, there wasn’t that much left of it at all.  I could see the corner of my yard that I hadn’t seen in years, I could see the state of our decrepit fence and I found a pumpkin ready to be picked.

At that point Ken arrived like the Cavalry with the chain saw and a ladder to do the final cuts that I couldn’t do with the snippers. That didn’t bode well.  A chainsaw, a ladder, a husband with a bung foot and a sense of balance not as good as it used to be – I could see it all unfolding, the nasty accident, the tourniquet, the ambulance.   Ladder was removed and big strapping son came out – yes covered shoes, gloves, protective eye wear – and saved the day. A few cuts with the chainsaw and it was done.

Remains of the  unwieldy shrub were now sitting on top of the trampoline and in other piles all over the yard and gradually over the following weeks as the greenery died off I had a series of lovely Saturday afternoon yard fires. All the dead and dying plants were removed from the fence line slowly along with the old pergola frame and all the old fence palings revealing the fence behind – sturdy and in one piece even if none too glamorous.

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We are talking two months later now cause it took a while to get through that mountains of offcuts but then a bit of a clean with the broom and two coats of charcoal paint later and she’s looking not too bad.

These from after I mowed what’s left of the lawns

And after a bit of rearranging of pots and benches and prettying up.

I  reused the old bricks I found laying along the fence line to cap the raised corner garden bed we hadn’t been able to get to for years.

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img_5584And the the old pergola posts were reused here to make a little garden bed

And here where I used the top beam to make a totally unnecessary but very grand entrance to our humble little chook yard. The two side posts were already there, we just had to even then up and add the top “trim”. I even moved my two sandstone urns to in front of the posts so my “arbour” looks even grander now.

A quick Before pic – doesn’t show the posts but they’re left and right of where I’m standing.

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And after

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So maybe it did turn out to be a post about junk pile gardening after all.

I share it with you – even the ugly bits – because this is my right now life and these are the small steps I can take right now to do something within the limits I have. The principle applies to any area of life not just crazy gardens and my hope as always is that it might encourage you in your “right now” life with your small steps.

I’ll be sharing a few more Before and Afters – the slow progress kind – from the other areas of the garden on Instagram over the next few weeks so take a peek there if you like. I’ve miles to go so there may be a few.

I’ll leave you with this. I recently ordered a book on writing. There was something about the title Bird by Bird that grabbed me – here’s where the author got that title

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’

Amen to that xxx

Small Change, Big Difference – Impromptu Feature Wall

I may have mentioned this before but I’ll say it again anyway – small changes that make a big difference are my favourite kind of changes.

I’ll also mention that at the very present moment with time short but the need to write and create relentlessly pressing  – shorter posts (which are hopefully just as sweet) that don’t take me a week or more to write and edit are also becoming my favourite.

So in keeping with that, I thought I’d share a quick change done recently that was easy, fun and mostly done by me sweet girl Olivia.

Last Saturday she announced that she really wanted to declutter her room properly. Now I had other things planned for the day but I wasn’t going to argue, girl on a mission and that sort of thing and her room really did need it.

Now keep in mind this was on top of hours of cleaning and organising I’d done a few weeks earlier (you can see that here) but when I’m doing anything in her room I’m always conscious that they are her things and her stuff and its her decision weather it stays or goes, so not near as much went out as s probably needed. I needn’t have worried.

This time it was her idea and oh she was ruthless. All sentimentalities were cast aside. It helped I think that I told her to just bag up whatever she didn’t want in your room anymore and we would work out later what to keep and what to donate – so no huge decisions had to be made at that time apart from do I want to look at this everyday or not. If not it went into a bag.

She had several bags full in a nano second and her little gallery wall which apparently had a lot of “very babyish things on it” pulled down in a jiffy. She opted to get rid of her desk and chair, the white desk top shelf and the plastic storage unit underneath. Chair and storage unit are now mine, desk and decorative shelves are being sold on Gumtree. The desk  being just inside the door which was the only place it could really go, wasn’t so much used for sitting and “working” at anymore but had become a place just to dump things on.

I don’t have a photo of the whole wall before Liv took to it but this photo proves my point about the desk. From before we had a “tidy up” and after said tidy up.

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With everything off the wall you could see it needed some TLC so I suggested we patch up the nail holes and give it a sand and with that done I realised we’d have to repaint the wall!!

Olivia’s was elated. Bring on the feature wall !!

With Ken being a painter and decorator in a past life we needed go no further than our garage for supplies. She found a darkish teal blue coloured paint, a little girl sized paint roller and she was away. I did the cutting in along the ceiling but the rest was all her. She kept saying “I love this !!!!, “I love doing this” and I kept saying “I know me too” – this decorating thing – I think it’s in our DNA.

Second coat

Two coats later and it was done and she is totally in love with the finished wall which she “designed” herself, very simple which is just how she wanted it and she can rearrange the fairy lights and change the word board whenever she likes.

She was also very happy to notice that her new wall colour matches the colour of the “parlour” in Anne with an E. We’re watching Season 2 now and desperately trying to only watch one episode a week.

These pics were taken during the day so the fairy lights aren’t showing so much but you get the idea and that’s not bad advise she’s giving us there.

Night pic. Light arrangement changes daily

Thank you to best friend Amelia and mum Helen for the fairy light inspiration. Fairy lights, word board, and tiny table from Kmart, our go to place when we’ve got a total of about $30 to spend on decor. We are planning to hit the op shops to find a nice comfy chair for next to the little table.

A very satisfying simple weekend project and lovely to see Livvy so happy about it too.

Any quick easy projects happening at your place. Would love to hear.

And if you’d like you can read my first Small Change Big Difference post here