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Ink Slingers Martina Mom So Hard Series

9 Ways Two ‘Isms’ can Coexist in Your Large Family: Catholicism and Minimalism

MOM SO HARD Finessing the Intricacies of Your Modern Catholic Family

Not Naturally Organized…Naturally

It wasn’t long into our marriage that one of us (uh hem, me) decided that living with clutter and mess wasn’t suitable. Of the two of us, it became like that episode of Everyone Loves Raymond where they leave the suitcase on the stairs at the end of a trip to see just who would take it upstairs. Determined to see who would “cave” first, Debra and Ray both refuse to take the suitcase upstairs, each for their own reasons.

Not that our reasons were anywhere nearly as exciting or sitcom worthy, neither of us were particularly neat people to begin with. Married life both highlighted and compounded this problem, and while I didn’t feel pressured into doing something about it, it definitely came down to my feeling like I’d had “enough” and it was just time to make a change. I couldn’t stand looking at the endless mess due to…if I’m being completely honest here…laziness. I couldn’t pin it on anything other than our collective laziness as the reason why we lived in piles of papers, unpacked boxes, sink filled to the BRIM with dishes, clean dishwasher fully opened and unloaded (it simply became another location in which to pull clean dishes, just like the cabinets and drawers).

The Family Grows – and so do the logistical challenges

As our family grew, so did the challenges of incorporating strategies and ideas that lessened those everyday stresses. It was a lot like shoveling sand against the tide – futile. Add to that, you’ve read over and over again that I’ve said I’m not naturally organized, and you can see how I had all the ingredients for the perfect storm. Over the years, the desire to declutter was always there. What I lacked was vision and focus. Oftentimes, I would sit down to work on a project only to be derailed by hitting a brick wall on what to do next. Frustration often won out and so I would throw my hands up, give up, and walk away. It would take me sometimes years to finish a project – sad, right? The garage became the bane of my existence. After each move, it was filled with all the unpacked boxes and furniture I couldn’t part with. When we downsized, our garage was stuffed so badly, you couldn’t even walk around in it. I had to open the garage and work on boxes from the outside in, that’s how bad it was. By the time I had the first two house garages completed, we moved. One house we lived in seven years, and the other five. I often joked that as soon as the garage was unpacked, it was time to move. 

The Stakes are Finally Raised

Then we decided to move, upsizing our house after downsizing – that’s a whole OTHER post, friends. We moved in the summer and I gave myself ONE YEAR to get that garage in order – the tightest deadline, ever, lol. With our kid count at seven at that time, I had to get to work thinking about needs and how to organize the garage and I got to work.

I know the current secular push is to evaluate what you have and keep what “sparks joy” but for our large family (and maybe yours) it never really touched on sparking joy so much as it came down to sentimentality (within reason) and practicality.

Large families, by our nature, have different needs than a single person, married couple with no kids, and even small families. Add to the mix that we are Catholic, there are things that we will need to have multiples of or hang onto from one kid to another.

I finally told myself there wasn’t a problem with having a lot of something, but it really came down to its use and could it be stored adequately between uses. And that became my foundational rationalization. 

Let’s get right down to it – how do we make this happen?

So, how can Catholicism and…minimalism coexist, especially within large families?

The good news is they aren’t mutually exclusive. The Tiny House infatuation that has taken over America the past few years has highlighted something good about having less that everyone can benefit from. And even large families can benefit from this practice, too!

  1. Implement good cleaning habits. If you aren’t naturally organized, you will probably have to work a bit harder to create inroads to more organization in your family. When I began turning over a new leaf, I looked to Fly Lady for help in not just establishing good cleaning habits, but working through ways to organize. I’ll admit at the time, I only had two children, one in school and a baby at home, but as our family grew, what I learned from Fly Lady became foundational to my success.
  2. Three boxes. When you’ve got a good cleaning schedule in hand, the next step is to assess what you have and decide how to pare down. This is when three boxes come in handy: trash, donate/sell, and keep.
  3. What time of day works best? This helped immensely when it came to starting a decluttering/paring down project. Night owls might find evenings are a good time to work on a room – I’m not a night owl, so I tend to pick a block of time or a weekend and hit it hard in the morning. I rarely work on something all day long, as that just leads to a lot of frustration and overwhelm for myself. I also tend to find a burst of energy the day before trash goes out in making those final decisions on things we don’t need. Sometimes it translates to getting tossed, and other times, it means things are bagged up and put in the van to take to the thrift store. 
  4. Take your bags of donate items to the store NOW. Don’t delay. Don’t be like I was for years, driving my donate bags around town for no good reason other than just…laziness, lol. I think the record for me was something ridiculous like four months of bagged donate items in the back of the car. Never again. We have three thrift stores within a handful of minutes around, two of which within spitting distance (there’s my East Texas popping through, y’all!) of the grocery store, so no real reason not to stop by and drop those bags OFF!
  5. Take inventory of the items you DO need to keep multiples of or store for a time. Because we are large families, there WILL BE certain things you accumulate and with good reason. This varies from family to family. I’m not going to tell you to ditch X – because if I do that, and it’s something you may actually truly need, that doesn’t work. What I am saying is think it through, decide if the need is sentimental or practical, and decide where and how you will store said items. If you have the space and proper storage bins, those are things that can help factor into keeping items your family will use again. In our home, we keep shoes and clothes stored, and a lot of them! They are all stored in bins in the attic. Because our birth order alternates, we tend to hang on to clothes for a while. This has always been a practical need for our family, but that might not work for other families. Additionally, keeping garments for sacraments from one child to another is a practical need. Minimalism for large families should leave room for items we know we’ll need down the road. Plus, sentimentalism has value I’ve found isn’t worth tossing. 
  6. Toys. We have large families. I get it. Keeping toys out or easily accessible doesn’t always jive with the feel of minimalism, but there are some clever ways to tackle that. Tuck toys behind the doors of small or large furniture. Some other ideas can include a cabinet, drawers, or even a coffee table with drawers for specific toys. Barring that, if you have the space and the ability to set this up, you can peruse Marketplace on Facebook for some fabulous steals for storage. We have two locked closets in our house, one for school supplies (our former homeschool closet) and a game closet. Inside each, I was able to find two 2×4 Expedits for a steal from a local person who was moving. I have one shelf unit in each closet, and in the game closet, it contains baskets filled with sorted toys. Keeping the toys locked helps us decide when we rotate toys through and keeps the kids excited when new toys come out to play!
  7. Clothes. To keep clothes from getting out of hand, we keep bins in the kids’ closets to toss clothes that don’t fit as they grow out of them. Once in a while, we empty it, and decide what will be stored for the next kiddo, donate it to friends or the thrift store or just trash it if it’s too far gone!
  8. Books. I am a HUGE fan of books and it’s one of the few things we do not part with unless they are beyond repair. That said, you can always pare down on religious books and bless others in your community if you have an overabundance like I might – uh hem. Consider joining a local Catholic group on Facebook or elsewhere that you can both request books as needs arise as well as find takers on your overflow book stash.
  9. Rosaries, sacramentals, and consecrated material. This is one area in particular that I won’t tell people to pare down unless you have good reason. Rosaries, sacramentals and consecrated materials tend to tell a story: given by a loved one or picked up on a special trip, they should have a loving place in the home. Sacramentals that are plastic or have no sentimentality to it can be gifted to someone in need. If they are blessed, broken, and beyond repair, please please please properly dispose of the sacramentals. This includes any books that have been blessed as well. To read more on how to properly dispose of these sacred items, visit this site for more information.

As you can see, having a large family doesn’t mean you have to own all. the. things. We don’t have to be drowning in things because we think our large family requires it. The emphasis here is on active and ongoing discernment of balance in the family. There will be seasons when you will need more of X and guess what? That is TOTALLY fine! As long as the active discernment is in play, you will be able to assess your family’s needs and adjust accordingly. 

What works today, may not work tomorrow for the family. And you know what, friend? That also is totally OK. 


Thank you for reading this installment in the series MOM SO HARD – FINESSING THE INTRICACIES OF YOUR MODERN CATHOLIC FAMILY. This series is focused on taking a look at the Faith through the lens of being a Catholic mom. Using a spiritual foundation as our starting point, we walk with you and share candid and practical elements that make up our days. We will look at primary spiritual elements, recognizing that without God, nothing is possible. How do we start our day? How do we end our day? If God does not bookend our days (at a minimum), we can start to see how feeling overwhelmed or worse can creep into our day. Even the most mundane of chores and activities can be done to glorify God. 

 

9 Ways Two Isms can Coexist in Your Large Family

 

 

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Ink Slingers Martina Mom So Hard Series

It Had to Start Somewhere


Welcome to this installment in the series Mom So Hard – Finessing the Intricacies of Your Modern Catholic Family, a series focused on taking a look at the Faith through the lens of being a Catholic mom. This series is going to–using a spiritual foundation as our starting point–walk with you and share candid and practical elements that make up our days. We will look at primary spiritual elements, recognizing that without God, nothing is possible. How do we start our day? How do we end our day? If God does not bookend our days (at a minimum), we can start to see how feeling overwhelmed or worse can creep into our day. Even the most mundane of chores and activities can be done to glorify God. So, grab some coffee, a notebook, and a pen, and let’s get started, shall we?


In thinking about any series for Catholic Sistas over the years, I tend to mull over an idea for weeks, months, and sometimes even years. But mostly it tends towards months, between six months and one year. I call it throwing an idea into the prayer hopper. It might seem like FOREVER before I start something the Holy Spirit needs me to do.

Having a tendency toward frustration at a lack of vision (my own), I started telling the Holy Spirit if He wanted me to do something, He’d have to 1) give me the tools to make something happen and 2) He’d have to literally get me off my bahookus to make something happen.

Welp. There you have it. Long before I sit down to write, often I spend a great deal of time marinating in what I want to say. What message is it that I want to convey to readers? If it were me reading, what did I need to hear or read when I was in my younger momma days?

So, that is my starting point.

And because I am nothing if not a stream of consciousness, I want to talk about two very different things that will end up merging at the end. Ready?

OBSERVATION ONE

Let’s talk about Sandra Lee.

Have you heard of her?

No?

She used to have a show called Semi-Homemade on the Food Network back in the day. I have to tell you, I was seriously intrigued by her style. She didn’t cook food from scratch, necessarily, and she didn’t pop open a pre-made meal from the store and throw it in the oven. She was somewhere in between. She found what worked for her, which was a beautiful mix of taking store-bought foods and adding homemade whatevers to put her own spin on a meal.

And you know what, friend? It WORKED. BLAM-O – instant-ish meal time.

I hadn’t really thought of her in a long while until the other day when I started to think about this post. See…I started to peel back layers of a really BIG onion (with a thousand layers) of bad habits that went back to my childhood when it came to being messy, disorganized, and general mental chaos. It started with Fly Lady in 2002. I was a stay-at-home-mom to two kiddos, one in kindergarten and one toddler who slept like a cat – still does to this day (#lame). We were living in our first home, a townhouse in Northern Virginia and the responsibilities of being the primary in keeping the home started to weigh down heavily upon me. I had bought the lie that the value of my work only resided outside of the home.

My mother-in-law mentioned FlyLady, so I went and visited the website, signed up for the email alerts and poked around the website. The concept that stood out to me: in general was my house didn’t get to be a disaster overnight, and it wouldn’t get clean overnight either. The journey was in the process. The first method that stood out to me specifically was 15 minutes a day in a specific room with a timer and a trash bag and have at it. When the 15 minutes was up, you were done. The second method that has always stuck with me, even 17 years later, is to keep the kitchen sink clean at all times.

Keeping the sink clean at all times seemed to be too daunting in the beginning, but I worked really hard to make that habit stick. I was more determined to break an old habit and create a new and better one for my own mental health. As the years passed, I began to look hard at the source of my stress. Even if I couldn’t exactly “fix it” or dial down the stress in the moment, I knew on some logical level that it was something I could eventually get past. Even more than keeping that sink clean, I worked harder at looking at messes differently. Some days, the same dang mess would stress me to level 10 and the next day, it was seriously ‘meh.’ But…WHY?

If you’re like me and you’ve stared down the barrel of years’ worth of bad habits, now is a good time to look back and see where those habits began. Then, if you’re able, jot down some areas in your home that bring you distress. Let’s start breaking it down, one piece at a time. Like Sandra Lee, let’s start the process of finding generic solutions and marrying it with specific solutions for your home. 

OBSERVATION TWO

St. Therese of Liseux has been a long-time favorite saint in our family. I found a particular affinity for this young and beautiful model of the Faith when I reflected upon her relationship with God – offering all she had, right down to the most mundane and boring activities, to our loving Father. While I would continue to struggle with the value of my work in the home, I knew deep down I would eventually have to discover the roots for those feelings. In the meantime, I would make myself a dutiful student of the Faith, living each day the best way I could, examining my own actions and words each evening, and resolving to do better the next day. Sounds good on paper, huh? 😉 

It wasn’t until a friend was commenting about her own journey that a lightbulb went on for me. She, too, had gone into her marriage somewhat (ok, outright) unhappy with her lot in life. Being at home, taking care of the home, caring for small children is some of the most thankless work around, especially if you are mired in the idea that it must be compared to worldly achievements and accolades. She went on to share her ‘aha’ moment, in which she had a stern talk with herself–asking if she were to be evaluated fairly on her work at home like she would at any paying job or career–how would she fair? Her realization would soon become my own.

I would say honestly it’s felt like being a half-hearted employee who, yes, gets the work done, but was I truly joyful about my state in life? That was the struggle. That was what society had engrained in my head – all my “true value” should be defined by pursuits outside of the home. And it was then that I realized the flawed logic of it all. 

I had taken the first step – I was able to pinpoint the source of my frustration. With God, prayer, patience (yes, I said it), a whole LOT of coffee, and some ingenuity, I knew I could improve my relationship with God, my husband, my own self, and my children. Like Sandra Lee’s approach of homemade this and store-bought that, I knew I’d have to implement some strategies that were given to me and start to cultivate and trust my own gut when it came time to modify those strategies and make them my own. 


REFLECT

Let’s dig deeper. Did this post resonate with you? If so, please continue on below and consider starting a journal to jot down your answers. PRINT several copies of these questions to start your own journal based on different posts. 

  1. What was my spiritual life like before getting married?
  2. What was my spiritual life like before children?
  3. What is my spiritual life like now?
  4. How would I like my spiritual life to be?

RESOURCES

CATHOLIC PLANNERDAYBOOK – “It’s the best first step you’ll take towards organizing a better tomorrow.” Martina Kreitzer, foundress of Catholic Sistas

BOOK – The Possibility Mom: How to be a Great Mom and Pursue Your Dreams at the Same Time right now! by Lisa Canning

It Hard to Start Somewhere

 

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Domestic Church Ink Slingers Lisa Canning Martina Mom So Hard Parenting Prayer Resources Vocations

Mom So Hard: Finessing the Intricacies of Your Modern Catholic Family

Welcome, friends. I am SO thrilled to have you join us for this new series. Through Mom So Hard: Finessing the Intricacies of Your Modern Catholic Family, we will be taking a detailed look at the everyday practicals of the domestic Church – YOUR domestic Church – and help you incorporate time for Jesus, tips, strategies, and even wine and chocolate time – YAS – into your everyday. While the pieces will be largely written from the point-of-view of your average stay-at-home-mom (me!), I will do my best to give advice and tips that Catholic women of all walks of life – working, single, married, moms of large families, moms of small families, etc. – can glean something from the practicals shared.

Um, why you, Martina?

So, who am I and why do I want to write about this kind of stuff? Well, I am Martina and I am the creator of Catholic Sistas, a blog that is centered upon sharing the Faith. You might be wondering why a series like this fits inside the mission of the blog. The short answer is, if you’re at all like me, and not naturally organized or struggle to find some kind of organization and balance in your life, you will appreciate ALL of the mistakes I’ve made over the years. Not that I don’t make mistakes anymore – HA! – but in certain areas of my life, I really let things slide that I should have tackled and made a priority before drowning in children. 😉

Another reason for the series is a small detail that has helped keep this apostolate afloat for the past 7.5 years. As the foundress, and as a team, part of the mission of the blog has been that whatever work we do for the blog does not compromise our primary vocation as wife, and for many of us, as mothers. We respect that life happens and writers need to step back and take care of the home front – and that spiritual work ethic has lent itself toward, I believe, writing that really strikes at the core of who we are as women and mothers. It’s hard to do the things you love well when your house is “on fire”, so to speak.

At the heart of the matter

A friend and I were chatting on Facebook a few months ago and we got to talking about garage space. I was SO excited to share my newest ideas that I did a quick video and uploaded it to our chat. She was like you HAVE to write more about how you do things. Moms like me need that, she said. Moms like her being that she is a young momma in her early 30s and apparently my old, battle-scarred self might just have something of use to offer other mommas like her – and maybe you, too? 🙂

So, what makes me even qualified to speak on the matter beyond being old and learning from mistakes? I don’t really know, but maybe because I resisted the idea of being organized for many many years, insisting that I could just hobble on by with my rag tag ideas. The truth is, my methods (which were, duh, disorganized) caused a greater stress than actually coming up with a system and sticking with it. But…it’s amazing what desperation, necessity, and a little ingenuity can lead to…and now I look at my children and see the fruits of being able to gradually implement some systems that work in our large family. I’ve come to realize that my greatest stress was a result of persisting in disorganization. And maybe that’s you, too.

It starts with a witness

In my first post, I will share my story – what prompted my way of thinking in 2002, and how I manage our family of nine these days.

You might just be thinking to yourself, yeah that’s nice, but right now while I’m trying to read this for like the fifth time, my toddler is busying himself dumping flour out all over the place and my other kids are crawling the countertops and smearing peanut butter all over each other. HOW is something like this series supposed to stop the madness in my house?

Look, I get it. I really do. We’re going to cover feasible solutions that you can apply to your life and it will be a gradual process for some of you and others, it will be like a light switch. The series will be geared toward shifting a mindset towards a greater sense of peace in your home which, in turn, will lead to reducing stressors and more time to really glorify God in those mundane chores that everyone seems to have, whether you work outside the home or not.

So, I’m going to turn things over to my lovely co-conspirator in this series, Lisa Canning of Blueprints for a Beautiful Life who specializes in time management strategies for the busy momma. And aren’t we all busy? She  and I will be taking turns tackling various topics that will take your home from cray to ahhhh, from chaotic to peaceful, from scattered to intentionally prayerful.


Hey!

I’m Lisa and for the last eleven years I have balanced running my interior design business and raising small children – we have now been blessed with seven kids!

Before I became a mom, I had many preconceived notions of what being open to a large family was going to be like, and what life with lots of kids was going to be like. I thought raising a family meant that I was giving up on my personal goals and dreams, or any form of a career, and that there was just no way the pursuit of both was possible.

And what God has shown me, is that when we trust Him, and we trust that He has the BEST plans for our life, that pretty incredible things can happen. We just have to be open to what He has to say, and walk forward in faith even when it seems impossible.

I bring to this series my experience of working both outside and inside of the home, the juggle and struggle that comes with pursuing career excellence and home excellence, and how I finally figured out that time management isn’t really dictated by a clock, but by a correct ordering of your true priorities.

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Ink Slingers

Learning to be a Pencil

I’ve done it for years. Decades, really. I’ve made lists. You know the kind— where you write down all the tasks you need to accomplish as a wife, mom, employee, homemaker, all of the above? I actually got pretty good at it over time. I use a business system to help me track and organize my various to-do’s. I create weekly and monthly goals that connect to my daily planner. And once, in a highly creative but mercifully short-lived phase, I color-coded my list according to priority. Yep, that’s me: A list-maker supreme.

So it only came naturally to me when I reverted to the Catholic faith five years ago to approach my spiritual growth in the same structured manner. Soon I found myself making a list of books I wanted to read, jotting down virtues I wanted to explore and develop, and later, noting elements of the faith I wanted to re-learn (better this time). And I made prayer intention lists— lots of prayer intention lists. But more recently I began penning things I thought the Holy Spirit was nudging me to explore— in particular, ways I could maybe help build the kingdom using the talents and gifts He’s given me.

Sometimes the spiritual list-making worked. I checked off several important milestones in my faith life and I felt like I had accomplished some significant goals. But then…

Lent 2018

Fast forward to this recent Lenten season. I specifically prayed for a spiritual breakthrough. I was feeling not quite stuck, really, but dulled. Quieted. Dutifully plodding along instead of on a spirited adventure with Christ. I had been looking for something “to-do,” but my lists offered no solutions. What do you want me to do next, Lord? This…or this…or this? I asked, oh-so-generously offering a few of my own ideas to the Creator of The Universe. Give me a sign, give me the word and I’ll put it on my list. I was clearly ready for a new assignment from God; all he had to do was answer, right?

He answered. And oh my, was it ever a breakthrough.

He told me to ditch my to-do list and just be a pencil.

This message evolved through the pages of my prayer journal one morning. I repeated my request for a breakthrough. And deep in my soul, I experienced a light-bulb moment, a Holy Spirit-fueled shift of perspective: Instead of asking for items to add to my list and check off, I need to throw out the paper altogether. I need to ask instead for greater softening of my heart and to let the Lord fully take over. To allow him to fill me to overflowing with his love and be my guiding force at all times and in all things. To cooperate, not control.

 I realized I had taken my ask-and-answer, to-do list mindset too far. I was more focused on results and not focused enough on my primary relationship with God and my role as his obedient follower. When I get so busy methodically planning in my head, I am not graciously receiving in my heart. It was time to give up my need to call the shots and instead become an instrument, like a pencil in His hand.

“I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world,” said Saint Teresa of Calcutta. It’s one of my favorite quotes; I have it posted above my desk. The deeper meaning of her words is just now starting to sink into my stubborn brain: If I let God love me fully and mold me and shape me as he desires, I too can be a fruitful pencil in his hand. Then I can stop worrying about what to write (figuratively and literally!). If I can learn to be a pencil, what I am to “write” will take care of itself. And through God’s hand, the result will be far more eloquent and beautiful than what I would have come up with on my own, that’s for sure.

Control vs Surrender

This whole idea of ditching control and just letting myself be his pencil amps up the need to trust him. This, not surprisingly, makes me nervous. It requires an unwavering commitment to total surrender, something I struggle with constantly (for proof of this glaring weakness, see the prior suggestion little old me made to the Creator of the Universe). But I know this is how you bear fruit and help build the kingdom. You have to yield to Him before you can yield for Him. He is the vine, we are the branches. Not the other way around! Apart from him, we can do nothing.

My Lenten season breakthrough comes down to this, dear Sistas: I need to work on being a better pencil.

Sounds like the perfect “to-do” for my Easter season, doesn’t it?

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Homeschool Ink Slingers Janalin

Bringing Simple to your 2017 Homeschool Year

I love the turn of a new year!  Just like the beginning of the academic year, it gives us a chance to reflect on what is going right as well as affording the opportunity for re-alignment if our steps towards our goals are off of trajectory.

2016 was a doozy of a year for me.  With the addition of our fourth child on top of all of my other commitments, it seemed like I would never escape survival mode.  I spoke a little about my struggles in my last homeschool blog post here at Catholic Sistas and have made some positive strides since then towards taking better care of myself as a first priority.  But yet the vicious cycle of the seemingly never ending everyday chores…. you are telling me that they need to eat again??!?!!!!

In my reflections of the past year it was very evident that I needed to simplify many areas of our life for 2017.  I began this process by listing the things that could be cut out or reduced.  I began to see the same patterns of busyness emerging that cutting out activities would not be enough to solve.  To overcome this survival mode crisis it became clear that I would also have to simplify my duties at home.  Official menu planning and chore charts (for the kids and myself) emerged.  And after all of this systematic organization it became crystal clear what would ultimately solve my crazy, over scheduled, hectic life… getting rid of the STUFF in our home. 

My mind immediately flashed to the Little House cabin that we frequently visit with it’s sparse decor.  I’m pretty sure Ma could have kept her home clean and tidy in nothing flat. 

And although this space is too primitive for most of our tastes I think we all can agree that it has a beautiful peacefulness to it. 

Simple = Restful. 

After reviewing many homeschool homes and spaces I found that the best SIMPLE ones had the following features:

  1. A reminder to keep our faith at the center of our lives. 
  2. Minimal books and supplies. 
  3. A featured book area where the titles are facing out.
  4. A writing desk.
  5. A reading chair.
  6. Lots of natural light.
  7. Organized supplies within reach.

This is my virtual friend Jennifer’s newly remodeled learning room that embodies all of the above qualities keeping the room restful and conducive to learning.  Inspirational! 

When we return to simplicity, organization and cleanliness we return to God.  Our priest once told us that cleanliness was next to holiness.  And I believe there is so much more wisdom in that phrase than I could recognize then.  Here is to a clean, SIMPLE, and holy 2017!