Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, and Back to the Daily Routine...

"Are you endeavoring to make your home a place of friendliness, refreshment, and peace, where God becomes more real to all who dwell there and those who visit it?"
~An old Quaker query

Our vacation with Laura A's family was a blast (more on that tomorrow or the next day), and I really hated for it to end, but at the same time, it's always nice to come back home and settle into a normal, orderly routine.

We arrived home Monday evening to actual summer heat (it's consistently in the 90's now); a quiet, peaceful house; practically-dead grass (no automatic sprinklers here, but that's okay, the grass will revive); dogs and a cat that were happy to see us; an empty fridge; weeds here and there in the gardens; plants that have grown and are now blooming. It felt nice to walk in the door.

And we came home with strawberries we'd gotten at a field in the Willamette Valley before crossing the mountains to the high desert. Oregon strawberries pretty much stay fresh for just one day, and these berries definitely needed something done to them before I went to bed last night. So, jumping right back into doing kitchen stuff, I cleaned and smashed them for freezer jam and put them in the fridge til I could pick up some low-sugar pectin and small canning jars today (I freeze my jam in glass jars).

When I went to bed last night, I began contemplating the creation of a simple, slow-paced, daily summer routine. Years ago, I deliberately chose to live a life with wide margins, and just like I mindfully declutter my home, I mindfully keep my schedule uncluttered. There is sort of busyness and much work to do for sure, but this is different than crazy-busy, out-of-control days with not much peace or order and no time to truly relax.

A simple, but disciplined, daily routine is a nice scaffolding for keeping all of the work and activity of my days relaxed, pleasant, and orderly-enough. And since I tend toward overstimulation, distraction, and maybe even a bit of laziness, this is important for me. When I stray too far from my routines (these are not strict schedules), I increasingly seem to flounder in the areas that matter most-- personal spirituality and life in community.

My summer routines are different than those of winter, spring, and fall, and with only Melissa and me at home for now (and she's only here part-time), my routine needed tweaking from past years when the whole family shared the work of home. So, I made a quick list of things I want to focus on and accomplish. Here's part of that quickly written list of aims and plans and things to remember for summer:

Spiritual. My morning quiet time routine has lately gotten off track. My Bible reading and prayer time has been here and there and everywhere, sometimes in spurts, sometimes much too quick and short, sometimes, sad to say, not at all. Of course, the entire day and all that we do can be a time for prayer and contemplation and listening, but the set-aside time in the morning always puts my focus right. So, back to the routine of sitting with coffee, journal, Bible, and devotional reading in the early morning. This is quite pleasant, actually, and it really does keep me more mentally, emotionally, and spiritually coherent. I need it.

Work. The weather is hot now, so early morning is for housecleaning. Laundry. Taking a walk. Deck and porch sweeping. Weeding the gardens. Watering the grass. Vacuuming and sweeping and mopping the house. Scrubbing bathrooms. All cleaning and tidying. I'll putter and read and cook and plan and make phone calls and run errands and write letters and do computer and people stuff during the hotter part of the day.

Keeping the house cool. Opening all doors and windows very early the morning. Turning on overhead fans. Taking pains to avoid using the little AC window unit in the family room. I do love the early morning air and light coming into the house. Later in the day, I'll have to close curtains wherever the sun shines into the house. Since high desert evenings and nights are cool, we can open everything back up sometime after dinner and bring in fresh, cool air again.

Food. Simpler. Less use of oven and stove top. Lots of fresh, wonderful summer produce. Salads. Smoothies. Simply cooked meats like fish (occasionally). Morning coffee on the deck. Dinners outside. More grilling. On vacation I, at first, missed and craved all of the greens and fresh produce I'm used to consuming. By the end of vacation, I didn't give it much thought, and I even found myself purchasing and happily consuming too many bready (white), sweet things (pastries). It all started at those bed and breakfasts! Boy, do they love to serve sweet, starchy things for breakfast. It was all quite tasty and something of a treat, but that was for vacation. Already, it feels so nice to be moving back on track. And today I'll resume my CSA and raw milk pickups.

Exercise. For me, this is always walking, and it will need to take place earlier in the day now, too, so I can avoid the heat.

Reading. It's been hard to find extended reading time lately, but I'm determined to make it happen. It shouldn't be difficult now that I'm looking at a long stretch of time at home without a lot of extra stuff happening. I just can't get into a book unless I have blocks of time for reading. I can pick up and put down non-fiction, but I can't do that with fiction, and I want to read more of that. I can't wait to whittle away at the big stacks of books waiting to be read!

Blogging. Once it was nice to putter at blogging very in the early morning, but I'm not sure it will work to do this in the morning for now. So I need to figure out when and how I can work blogging nicely into my summer life. I kind of liked putting something on the blog early in the day and then leaving it alone til the next morning. Maybe I'll keep posts simpler now (but somehow I doubt it!).