Sunday, October 24

Organization - the Key to Managing a Household

Recently I heard an entertainer (singer) discussing his daily routine. Because his work was all-consuming, he said that he just didn't have time for certain things, including everyday chores. Laundry, bills, scheduling... the mundane but necessary parts of life were tedious to him. In fact, he went so far as to say that he didn't even think about those things. Trying to cope with the tasks overwhelmed him to the extent that if left to him, they'd more than likely never get done at all.

He sounded just like my husband. 

My husband is not lazy and he certainly isn't a chauvinist. In fact, he's a good cook, knows how to do laundry, wash dishes, and has never once complained about doing chores or running errands. That being said, I am the household manager. I am primarily responsible for keeping the house clean, keeping our pantry stocked, cooking meals, paying bills, organizing our schedules, and other things that keep a household running smoothly. Over time, I've learned just how much this helps my husband function well. When he can focus on getting through the day without worrying about looking for clean socks or trying to find keys, he has a lot less anxiety. 

So do I.

Although I love being organized, I'm no Martha Stewart. Instead, I have my good weeks and my not-so-great weeks. There are definitely a few tools that make my job a little easier and actually make being house manager fun, though. Most of the time. My suggestions:
    1. A good calendar - more than one in our home. Use a large one. The more room to write, the better!
    2. A color key - write everyone's appointments in an assigned color to make it easier to find a specific item.
    3. A dry erase board - perfect for messages that may be important but temporary.
    4. Sticky notes - little reminders, daily reminders, on the bathroom mirror, in the car, on the fridge...
    5. Lots of designated spots for important things: keys, wallet, meds...
    6. Paper and pen or another dry erase board on the porch - if someone comes by when you're not home, this can be useful too.
    7. A medicine or pill organizer - again, more than one.
    8. A weekly or monthly menu - we just use a basic one.
    9. A grocery list based on your menu.
    10. Lots and lots of notebooks - these are invaluable for keeping track of stuff. It's even more helpful if you label them.
    11. Labels!
    12. Plastic storage containers in about a million different sizes.
    13. An organized laundry room - keep it simple, though.
    14. A laundry schedule
    15. An alarm clock... or two... or three!
    Different things work for different families. I've learned not to force my family to use anything that frustrates us, no matter how popular or clever it is. Instead, we focus on what will make life easier... for us.

    The singer I mentioned had a staff of professionals to help him organize his life. At times, it seemed almost like he took them for granted. Fortunately for me, my husband appreciates what I do. I know this because he tells me so all the time and he also shows me. Whether flowers or a card or even just a little note, I really feel like my husband values my help.

    That makes it all worth it, really.

    Sunday, October 10

    Caring for Your Narcoleptic Spouse - When YOU Get Sick

    So last week, I got sick for the first time in a long time. It started with our 3-year-old feeling crummy one day, coughing and congested, and then just 24 hours later, she was back to normal. Unfortunately, that was just the beginning of our household dealing with a bug that's been going around. 

    It was just a few days ago, when it took me two hours to make a cup of hot tea, that I thought - hey, I'm really sick. I hate to admit it to you dear readers, but I slipped up. I fell back into my old thinking patterns and I got angry. 

    Here's what happened:

    I was already tired. Taking care of a sick toddler is not much fun, lemme tell ya. Even if the toddler is an awesomely easy patient like our daughter. When I started feeling ill, I told my body, "Hey! We do not have time for this! Don't you dare get sick right now!" Maybe I shouldn't have tried the tough love approach because the next morning, I was in bad shape. Taking the day off was not an option. Yes, I work from home, but that doesn't excuse me from meeting my obligations. It does have great perks though - like working in your robe when you're sick.

    Because I work from home just a few hours a week, our routine is that my husband cares for our daughter during part of that time. This particular day, his sleep attacks kept him from doing that as well as he usually does. The attacks weren't his fault, of course, but taking care of our daughter, working, and trying not to pass out at my desk really put a damper on my day. By that afternoon, I'd had enough. 

    I was angry. Although I sigh now, and roll my eyes in embarrassment, here were my exact words that day:

    "You know, our lives revolve around your illness. The one day out of 500 I get sick, and I get no help at all. This isn't fair."

    I didn't yell, but I didn't have to. The look on my husband's face told me how much my words hurt. At that moment though, it didn't register. I was mad, steamed, hot, - literally - I had a fever of 103. I attribute my sudden callousness to a fever-addled brain. The next day, when my temperature was normal, I was able to apologize and mean it.

    But I think the damage had already been done.

    That's the thing about changing your mindset. You can't just change the way you view things on one topic. It has to be all-encompassing. I can't agree to forgive my husband's forgetfulness because of his narcolepsy, changing my mindset from him just being careless, but not change my mindset when it comes to his ability to help me when I'm sick. It's going to take real effort to remember that narcolepsy is always behind the scenes somewhere. I was disappointed in myself for treating my husband the way I used to, before his diagnosis. Then I realized something. I'm imperfect. I'm going to make mistakes every now and then, but I can use those mistakes for our benefit. The next time I get sick, I know not to push myself to do my regular chores, and to call someone for help if I need it.

    Then no matter how badly I'm feeling, I'll remember that my husband is not to blame.

    Friday, October 1

    Narcolepsy and Fiscal Responsibility - Taking the Reins

    In our household, I'm responsible for managing the budget. This includes paying bills in a timely fashion, distributing our modest resources wisely, and making sure we live within our means. Now I'm no math whiz, and balancing our budget on a regular basis is definitely a challenge. Despite my best efforts, sometimes I make mistakes. It would be nice if I could share the responsibility with my husband. Actually, I wouldn't mind if I could let go of the whole thing and let him handle it. With my husband's Narcolepsy, however, that would be impossible.

    My husband is terrible with money. It's not that he's unintelligent or intentionally careless, but the tedium of pinching pennies is hard for him to keep up with. Before his diagnosis, I thought he was just irresponsible. When I wanted to discuss anything money-related, he made excuses as to why he couldn't talk about it. When I could get him to sit down with me, he always fell asleep before our conversation ended. This frustrated me immensely, and it got to the point that I stopped discussing family finances with him altogether.

    Post-diagnosis,  I learned that stress detrimentally affects my husband's narcolepsy. Any sort of intensity, be it laughter, anger, or tears, worsens his symptoms and makes him instantly tired. So discussions about money are extremely difficult for him. In a way, I was relieved to know the reason why my husband couldn't help me with our finances. It was better than thinking that he just didn't care.

    On the other hand, now I had to accept the idea of permanently handling the budget. Over time, I've learned a bit and now find it much easier than I used to. Although it's still a stressful part of life, I can handle the stress a lot better than my husband can. I also no longer feel the need to exclude him. Instead, I update him when I feel that he can handle it. 

    And when he can't, it's not the end of the world.