The organizing struggle continues

I’ve written three posts detailing my mission to help my mother organize (Helping a collector organize, A collector chooses organization, Organizing payoff). While she’s more willing to let go of things than when we started 16 months ago, she’s still extremely sentimental and somewhat unrealistic about craft projects she plans to start and/or finish. She also continues to shop and add to her collections. (BIG SIGH!)

We continued working in her garage going through boxes. Some of those boxes were packed two moves ago! It’s reasonable to think that if she hasn’t needed anything in those boxes since 2003 she doesn’t need any of it now. I really don’t mind her sifting through the paper to see if there might be a photo or money, but I get a little cranky when she wants to read cards or articles from long ago. However, I’ve learned this is what she needs to do to let go of things, so I summon all the *finesse I can muster and remain silent.

I’ve also learned that she doesn’t keep or buy things because she was raised in the depression-era. She keeps and buys things to give away to others. She’s not content to give these things to a Goodwill or Salvation Army unless it’s really something no one would want. If there’s the slightest possibility she can personally find a new owner for her stuff, she will hold onto it with clenched fist.

Progress is slow, but we did manage to fill three boxes which are sitting in the back of my Acura MDX awaiting drop off at the local thrift store, fill her recycle can half way, and fill her garbage can to the top. We also brought in a shelving unit to get some of the containers off the floor. I have to focus on what we accomplished rather than what is left to do. I’ll go crazy otherwise.

I need to schedule one day a month to help her through this process. She tries to go through things on her own, but is easily distracted by the memories brought to mind. I could just let things be, but mom turns 81 this month and at some point we will have to deal with the clutter. I’d rather spend time doing it with her, than without her.


My organizing finesse level:
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert

What’s your organizing finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Julia Child? Not even close

Like most children, I played chef. I’d press my Play-Doh ® into cookie-shapes and make “cakes” in my sandbox. My mother and I regularly watched a cooking show on one of the local television stations. I watched my mother prepare meals and I even took a 4-H cooking class. However, none of that really taught me how to cook or bake.

chickenDid you notice how I described what my mother did in the kitchen? I wrote that she prepared meals, which is far different from cooking or baking. My mom would rather be outside weeding or pruning than inside cooking or baking (truth be told, she would’ve rather spent her days water-skiing!). She took full advantage of all the time saving ways to prepare meals. Fry a chicken? Why go to all that trouble when you can buy pre-fried frozen chicken, pop it in the oven and dinner’s ready in about 45 minutes. Almost anything frozen or in a box was her favorite way to tackle dinner.

Mom made most of our birthday cakes (she’s famous for her pineapple upside down cakes), but they all came from a box mix. She usually made her own frosting, but other than that, it was all from a box.

yeast_rollsMy grandma, her mother, was a great cook and baked wonderful breads and rolls. I loved the warmth and heavenly aroma of her house when she baked. She could grab the most interesting ingredients and make something incredible! Mom’s younger siblings are good cooks, especially her brother. I’m sure my mom must have observed her mother cooking and baking, but for some reason, she never emulated her mother’s domestic talent.

So, I suppose it’s not surprising that I am not a good cook. I remember making pancakes for me and the husband one Saturday morning shortly after we were married. They weren’t good. I tried a few more times without any luck and turned to mom’s solution – Eggo® waffles.eggo

Oh, I can make a few things, well. The husband likes his mother’s chicken and rice recipe and her chicken enchiladas. Those turn out well, but I’ve never mastered her meatloaf. If he wants her meatloaf, he asks her to make it.

I’ve come to terms with my lack of culinary skills and usually just stick to my strengths. However, I recently came across a recipe that looked really good and really easy. I correctly followed the directions, used all the correct ingredients, and popped it in then oven at the correct temperature for the correct amount of time. It should’ve looked like the picture, right? Wrong!

Maybe I should have just picked up some pre-fried frozen chicken.

My cooking *finesse level:  Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert

What’s your cooking finesse level? *finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Mom’s 80th

I’m not a professional event planner, but I know some very talented event planners and have worked on some pretty large scale events. So it’s not surprising that when it came time to plan my mom’s 80th birthday party, I was thinking large scale. Nothing elaborate, but something more than our usual family barbeque.

My sister was perfectly happy to stick with the usual and add in a few of mom’s closest friends, but our mother isn’t the type of person to only have a few close friends. Logically, she’s going to have a lot of friends just because she’s been accumulating them for 80 years, but her ability to make and keep friends goes well beyond the logical. She has friends from childhood, high school, work and church. She has family – LOTS of family! She genuinely loves all her friends and family, and does her best to stay in contact with them all.

It became apparent in the early planning process that the guest list could get out of control, and quickly.

“Mom, only invite those who legitimately call you Grandma Dee, not those who only do so out of respect.”

“Really, Mom? When was the last time you spoke to that person?”

Several invitees had to decline due to weddings, family reunions, etc., but we still had close to 100 people present to celebrate mom’s milestone birthday. All three of us kids were there with our spouses, five of her six grandchildren, nine of her 13 great-grandchildren, her two siblings and many of their children and grandchildren.

Her relationship with God is the most important thing in her life, but following a close second is family and coming in third is music. She was thrilled to have all three rolled into one, as my siblings and I sang “Until Then.” We also got her on video playing her signature songs, “Meeting in the Air” and “Goodbye, World, Goodbye.” Boy, those 80-year-old fingers can still run up and down the ivories fast and flawlessly! We also got an impromptu group of family to sing a somewhat less than perfect rendition of “I wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.”

Her party is not what I want for my 80th birthday, however, it’s exactly what she wanted (okay, she would have liked every single family member present, but that just wasn’t possible). She’s still overwhelmed with the notes and cards, and just that people took time out of their busy lives to be part of her special celebration.

To still hear her talk warmly about the day nearly three weeks later makes us happy. She’s done so much for all of us through the years, it’s the least we could do for her.


Organizing payoff

My dad at 10 years old. Probably a class photo from Binnsmead Elementary, Portland, OR.

Several months ago I wrote about the effort to help my mother organize her nearly 80 years of collecting ( We had made some progress in her kitchen, living room and family room before taking a much needed break from the enormous task.

Last week she had a leak around her water heater, so the husband stopped by to take a look. The sight of her garage filled with boxes made my heart sink. Now I fully understood why she was under the impression her garage was not really a two car garage. It was clearly time to take a stab at organizing again.

It was a little difficult to decide how to tackle the gargantuan amount of stuff. Because she had help when she moved from her late husband’s home, I don’t think she really knew what was in each box. We decided to start in one corner and work our way around. My sister joined us for a few hours and we worked together with great *finesse, keeping each other on task, which can be difficult when you come across “treasures.” My goal was to get a space cleared in front of the electrical panel so mom could check a breaker without breaking her neck and hopefully get as far as the cabinets, which I’m guessing is about 8 feet from the corner.

My dad, Richard and his older brothers, Russell and Del

We didn’t quite meet that goal, but we did get an unexpected payoff. Mom found some old photos of my dad from his childhood. There was a great photo of him at maybe six to nine months old with his two older brothers. What a treasure! We also came across letters from his sisters and other documents that will be a great addition to my genealogy research on still have a LOT to do, but with every load we haul to recycling and thrift shops, we are making progress!

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)

Advice for moms from my mom!

Mom with her roses - 1973

Anyone who has been a mom knows it’s a tough job! Some days you want to hug your children tight, and other days you want to take the first flight out of town to get away from them. Since I reserve Friday posts for interviews with friends, I thought I’d ask a few questions of a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother – my mom.

Q: What’s the most important thing a mom can do for her children?

A: Love and support them. Teach them Godly values and to believe in themselves and to love others.

Q: What’s the biggest mistake mom’s make with their children?

A: Trying to be their friend instead of their parent. Not setting boundaries to keep them safe.

Mom with her pride and joy - her kids!

Q: What are your top three tips for moms?

1) Listen to your children and believe in them
2) Sing and read to them and play with them
3) Educate them by example. Be a role model.

My mom was a room mother, accompanying us on field trips and planning class parties. She (and my dad) came to every concert, ball game and track meet. Our yard was always open to neighborhood kids. We have tons of fun memories of camping, water-skiing, and music (lots of music!). All three of her children and six grandchildren are well-adjusted, productive adults. Even though she’ll celebrate her 80th birthday this August, she’ll still drive anywhere to take care of any one of us. My mom wasn’t, and isn’t perfect, but she’s a mom with *finesse and I’m glad she’s mine!

My parenting finesse level: 
Novice     Advanced beginner     Competent        Proficient        Expert              

What’s your parenting finesse level?

*finesse (skill, flair, grace elegance, poise, assurance)