Perfect -- or good enough?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A long time ago I read Hidden Art by Edith Schaeffer, and I've never forgotten a line from that book. Paraphrasing, it went something like . . . 

If you expect perfection or nothing, you will get nothing every time.

I've thought of this quote so often over the years. I definitely have perfectionist tendencies. And, by the way, sometimes perfectionism is a good thing. If I need brain surgery, I sure hope my surgeon is a perfectionist! And being a perfectionist certainly was an asset in my career as a technical writer and editor. I had to be in order to spot punctuation and spellings errors. Being a perfectionist enabled me to do my job well.

But perfectionism, when applied to the daily habits of life, can be exhausting. And unnecessary.

I discovered that I wasn't doing certain chores because I didn't have time to do them perfectly. For example, the bathroom needs to be cleaned. But I don't clean it because I know I'll need X amount of time to make it perfectly spotless and shiny. I don't make my bed because I don't have time to smooth everything out, square up the corners, and bounce a coin off the top!

I think having children and homeschooling them finally put the kibosh on my ultra-perfectionism. There just wasn't time. And I do not have unlimited energy. And, being susceptible to depression, I learned the hard way that I had to go easy on myself.

And Edith Schaeffer's quote ran through my head so many times during those years that I finally started living it. 

After all, it's better to spend 15 minutes in the bathroom doing some cleaning than neglecting it altogether. If I don't have two hours to scour it from top to bottom I can at least spend 15 minutes and get it 80% done.

Perfection or nothing? 80% is better than nothing, and still pretty close to pretty good.

I'm not totally over it. I love beauty and beautiful things. I like making things look pretty.  It's a balancing act.

And while Pinterest and Instagram can be inspiring and provide lots of wonderful ideas, they can also put extra pressure on us to have our lives look picture perfect.

I ran into this disconnect between perfect images and reality this past week.

I've been re-learning to knit, and am making socks and fingerless gloves, and a few things beyond my small repertoire of dishcloths and simple afghans. While finishing up a glove, I tried to listen to an audio book, and missed a whole row. I finished the glove before noticing. So one glove is one row shorter than the other. It also has a slightly different pattern at the top than the other.

Now, no one would notice. Even when I put both my hands together I have to look closely to see the difference. But it was hard not to feel that I had "failed." My gloves aren't perfect. 

Why had I bothered? I could have bought a pair of machine-made gloves that were perfect, and saved myself the trouble.

I made a cheesecake this past weekend. I've only made cheesecake a few times in my life. But I know that cracks are anathema to the cheesecake "police." And sure enough, my cheesecake had a major crack right across the top.

I made a homemade caramel sauce to go over it, and also some strawberry topping. It was delicious.

But I couldn't help that disappointed feeling that it wasn't "perfect." Again, why did I bother? I could have just bought a "perfect" cheesecake and had a lot less trouble.

But I had to remind myself that perfection in many things is highly overrated. My life isn't supposed to be Pinterest-perfect. 

When I'm tempted to think it doesn't count because it isn't perfect or that my efforts have been wasted, I have to remind myself . . . 

It's supposed to be about love and kindness and offering up the work of my hands, cheesecake cracks and knitting mistakes and imperfectly cleaned home and all.

So when it comes to perfection or nothing, I'll aim for the best I can do, and be content with that.


And . . . this will horrify you. Remember my stink bug infestation this past fall? Well, I did get rid of all the ones that I could find. But I knew that they can hide out in attic and crawl spaces during the winter, and sometimes come out on sunny days. I have dreaded that. But since Christmas I have only seen about 4 or 5 of them, and I quickly disposed of them. Okay, no big deal. I was coping.

Then last week I was going to unplug my toaster and put it back in a cupboard after my morning toast. And there, in front of my unbelieving eyes, I saw a stink bug crawl right out of my toaster!!!

I can't even . . . 

Saying yes, saying no

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

To everything there is a season . . . a time to say "yes" and a time to say "no."

Okay, I'm taking some liberties with Ecclesiastes here.

But learning when to say yes and when to say no has not always been easy for me. I'm still learning. 

Valentine roses from Mr. Beautiful. Even though he's been sick, he still stopped to get me some.
I used to say yes automatically to requests for my time or talent, wanting to be the "nice" girl, the "good" girl. I didn't think about such things as boundaries, or even whether I had the right to have boundaries. The "sure, I can do that" just came out of my mouth without any thought. So I would find myself doing things I didn't want to do, didn't need to do, or wasn't equipped to do, and, of course, ending up with a lot of stuffed-down resentment.

I needed to remember that "not every need is a call."

And then there have been other times, when out of selfishness or laziness or fear, that I've said no to things that looked hard or inconvenient but that would have been real blessings to me or to someone else had I just said yes.

Just this week I had to say no to my book club. We were meeting at my house, and my husband wasn't feeling well. I knew it would be inconvenient for everyone to try and reschedule, and the "nice" girl in me didn't want to put others out. But I had to stop and think of my husband. Sure, he could have gone upstairs as he usually does when they come over, but how much nicer for him to be able to have a meal and relax in front of the fire with a hot drink? My being "nice" to others wouldn't have helped him. Besides that, I felt I was coming down with something, and there were lots of germs in the house!

Then this morning I had to cancel a special one-on-one crochet tutoring class because now I'm sick. I didn't want to cancel last minute because the instructor scheduled the session just for me. I thought it wouldn't be "nice" to cancel. Of course, duh, it wouldn't be "nice" to spread germs and get her sick either. So I rescheduled, with apologies.

Because I wasn't able to collect books that needed to be returned to the library from my friends Monday night at book club I was also going to drive around to their homes and collect them today. What? I'm sick and it's cold and snowy out. I had to tell myself no. A $6 dollar fine isn't going to break me. I can say no, and stay warm inside.

These are just small examples of relatively easy choices to say no. There are much bigger choices that confront us. Do we take that volunteer position? Do we agree to serve on that committee? Do we continue a friendship with a toxic person just because we can't say no? Do we allow stronger personalities to steamroll us, convincing us to do things we don't agree with?

I've gotten a lot better at boundaries. Now, almost every time someone asks me for something, I allow myself some time to consider it. I've trained myself to say "I'll get back to you." And I do. I just know my propensity to say yes and then regret it, so I give myself a little time.

I've learned to be careful in my friendships and to go slow (that's a topic for a whole other post). It's a lot easier to avoid entanglements than to get out of them.

And saying yes?

How many times do I know I really need to do something and I shrink from it?

Just recently a request came in for some help that was going to involve a two-day commitment on my part. Doing something I really didn't want to do. And yet, I knew it was the right thing. Praying that the Lord would give me a cheerful heart about it, I said yes.

And wouldn't you know? I was so glad I did. I was blessed, and hopefully I blessed others.

The discernment part is the hardest. When is it right to say yes? When is it right to say no?

Because every situation and every person is different, I think we never have the answer to this question. Each and every time a request or opportunity or job comes our way we will be faced with this question. 

Sometimes it's easy. There is a time for a spontaneous yes or no! 

But if we haven't always responded to requests or situations with wisdom, and know our propensity to get it wrong at times,  we need to carefully pray and listen, and not assume that our automatic reactions (yes or no) are right.

How about you? Easy or hard?

What?! Did I just say yes to making an afghan?! I may wish before this is over that I took my own advice.

Another mascara review

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I like to try department store mascaras, and have found several that I've liked over the years, including Lancome Definicils and Chanel Inimitable. But no matter how many different mascaras I try, I always seem to come back to my favorite drugstore brand, L'Oreal Voluminous.

 I've used the L'Oreal Voluminous mascara on and off for years. 
Not having bought a tube for some time, I didn't realize how many other L'Oreal mascaras are now available. Thought I'd try one of them.

This is the L'Oreal Voluminous Super Star. It's $10.99 at CVS. It has two wands, one on each end. One deposits a white mascara primer; the other wand is to apply the actual mascara. Looked impressive, and I expected some thick(er) lashes.

I was underwhelmed by this mascara. Nothing special. I could have returned it. CVS has a great return policy and allows you to return opened (and used) cosmetics. But it was all I had, and I didn't feel like running out to exchange it.

But a few weeks later, I decided to try another one.

This is the L'Oreal Voluminous Butterfly Intenza. It was $8.99 at CVS.

I really liked this one. It has an interesting wand that seems to really deposit the mascara, and I got thicker, fuller, longer lashes with it.

This is my new favorite. Until I get bored, and decide to try something else!

So, flushed with success, I thought I'd try one of the L'Oreal eyeliners. This is the L'Oreal Infallible Silkissime Eyeliner. It's $10.49. 

This was terrible, really.

I couldn't make a line with it. It was just sharp, and didn't deposit any liner at all. I don't know what the fancy line on the package is, because I didn't get anything like that.

This is one item I did return.
So I went back to my favorite drugstore brand eyeliner. The Rimmel Exaggerate Auto Waterproof Eye Definer. I already have it in black, so I got it in Ripe Plum. It's $6.49 at CVS.
If you want a very thin precise line, this isn't it. But it is creamy and soft and I love how easily it goes on.


So . . . in food news . . . 

I finally tried my new stick blender.

Wow! This was amazing. So, so much easier for blending up this broccoli soup than trying to ladle it hot into my food processor, blending it, and then pouring it back into another pot. I should have got one of these years ago.

I also made some yummy hot chocolate from scratch one day. Just a cup, just for me.

You know, for the antioxidants.
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