Happy Homemaker, Ph.D.

A novice homemaker's attempts to use her engineering Ph.D. to serve her family

LEANing My House – The Revelation – Part 1

No, that’s not a typo.  I can’t really talk about cleaning my house.  At best, I’m a work-in-progress with that goal.  But, as an industrial engineer focusing on life at home with little ones, I can take the opportunity to search out ways to use my background to make things run more efficiently, and that’s what Lean Systems are all about.  I haven’t done a very good job of this in the past, but recently a new opportunity has presented itself.

A move.  A chance to start over and try again.

In the last few months, our family decided to move, packed up most of our things, left for vacation for a few weeks, packed some more, and moved to a new house in a new state.  It’s been nearly six years since our last move, and we’ve welcomed three children in that time, so I was not only out-of-practice with moving, but also, there were a lot more considerations this time.

The last time I faced a major down-sizing move was when I left my 2-bedroom loft apartment for an out-of-state move to share an apartment with a friend while we went to graduate school.  I was able to store a lot of the “stuff” that was dear to me but not particularly needed for school at my grandma’s house until I would return.  I was in the apartment for a year, then moved to a house with my new husband.  We moved again after a year and a half, back to my home state, where I could be reunited with those things I’d nearly forgotten about, at least to some extent.  We had a 2-bedroom house for a year, so most of the non-essential items remained boxed up in the basement.

Then, finally, we bought a house.  A five-bedroom house.  A house with enough room for all of my “stuff.”  We inherited furniture.  We bought furniture.  We were given some of my grandmothers’ dishes. (Which I cherish!)  We acquired all the “baby stuff” new parents need.  My parents gave me the things they’d kept for me from when I was young.

And, I, by nature, seem inclined to keep everything.

Over the summer, as we prepared for this move, I tried to pack the non-essential things when I had time.  (Have you packed with young children around?  The long-forgotten toy is suddenly whisked out of the box and cannot be parted with.  Or, I hear, “What’s that?” as little hands reach for a breakable gift from a dear friend.)  As time went on, I found I liked the extra space in the cabinets.  Sure, I missed my muffin tins a few times, but I didn’t have time to be baking much anyway.

When we arrived at our new home, we got the house fully operational fairly quickly – kitchen, bathrooms, beds, dressers were put together within a day or two.  The garage was still packed full of boxes, but I could prepare meals, the girls had some toys to entertain them, and we could sleep comfortably.

…To Be Continued…

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The Laundry Project – Define Phase – The Voice of the Customer

One of the first things to do in a Six Sigma-type project is try to understand what the problem really is.  Customers speak in the language of emotions.  Process improvement leaders need to be able to take those emotional comments and discern what needs to be fixed.

For example, “I just want a good cup of coffee,” is not very clear.  What temperature should the coffee be?  What should the taste be like (strong, mild, sweetened)?  Does the type or size of cup matter (It does to me.)?  How can a coffee shop owner make sure the customer is satisfied from these types of comments?

And, what does this look like if your “organization” is your home?  You still have customers.  In my family, the customers are my husband, myself, and to a lesser extent right now, my little girls.  (I say lesser extent not because they don’t matter, but my 2-year-old would be happy enough running around without clothes at times, and my 10-month-old can’t tell me if she’s upset that her favorite outfit isn’t washed yet.)

What are the comments, said or unsaid, that come up in our house regarding laundry?

Running out (or almost running out) of clean underwear for me or my daughter makes me feel a little uneasy.  Seeing the hamper start to overflow makes me feel somewhat overwhelmed.  Having the clothes partially folded or fully folded but not put away causes some friction.  A messy, cluttered laundry room can be a problem (though not one I really saw.  I have “slob vision” as Nony at A Slob Comes Clean talks about.), potentially a safety issue even.  And, I don’t know if it’s the engineer in me or what, but I feel I have to wash clothes as directed on the tags, and I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to trying to remove stains.  (That stain-fighting perfectionist part of me is getting more relaxed, thank goodness!)

And, that might be it.  Remember, I told you in the last post, I don’t see the laundry process as my biggest problem right now.

Your annoyances or problems with laundry may be entirely different from mine.  What might be some other laundry-related customer comments?

I’m drowning in laundry!

I’m always finding stains – after the clothes go through the dryer.

There is always a mountain of clean clothes to fold at my house.

I can never find a clean shirt for my son.

I don’t have time for laundry!

If the laundry process is something you feel can be improved at your home, take some time and write down the comments you hear or the thoughts you have regarding any complaints about the process (or lack of a process) you currently employ.  In the next post, I’ll talk about how you can look more closely at those comments to find out what the real problems may be so you can tackle them.

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Baby Steps

No, my ten-month-old isn’t walking yet.  I’m talking about the changes I’m making myself as I continue this continuous improvement journey at home.

First, let me clarify something.  My husband thought that as I wrote about rolling up my sleeves and putting on my hard hat in the last post that I’d be digging into work with noticeable change just around the corner.  Unfortunately (?), I don’t work like that.  I’ve been trained in the Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control (DMAIC) methodology that helps me resist any urges like that, urges that may lead to treating symptoms for a time, but never finding the root cause of the problem.

Poor project selection is one way Six Sigma initiatives can fail quickly.  (If you’ve never heard of DMAIC and Six Sigma, stick with me.  I think this will all still make sense.)  The criteria I learned suggested that the solution should not be known (If it is, then just do it.), the project should be something that can be completed in four to six months, and the focus should be on improving quality in some way.  Early projects as Six Sigma (or probably any process improvement initiative in an organization) need to be successful to build momentum for the new approach.  A project failure or a project that drags on and on doesn’t do much for morale.

So, what did I decide my first project would be?  What have I been working on for the last month?

Laundry.

I don’t think I have a real problem with laundry, but there are some issues.  The volume of laundry at our house will likely increase before it decreases, so working on this project makes sense.  The solution was not known.  It is something that should be able to be solved in less than three months.  If successful, it will help me feel encouraged to try to battle solving some of my larger and more persistent problems in the house.

Rather than tell you what I’ve done and think it may give you ideas and work for you, too, I will try to focus on sharing my process for approaching the problem, clarifying what my situation is (from the layout of my house to my personal pet peeves), sharing the solutions I came up with, and describing how the implementation of the solution worked.

With the next post, I’ll explain the Define phase for this laundry project and how we can use it to really identify the true problem before we start trying to implement new ideas.

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New Year – New Hat

As this new year begins, I think it’s time for me to wear a new hat.

I devoted last year, though not entirely intentionally, to learning about this new “industry” of full-time homemaking and mothering.  There was plenty to learn.  Just as I felt I was getting a feel for the job, we welcomed a newborn to our family in March.  Then, sleep deprivation became a bit of an excuse for me.  Perhaps it was valid.  Perhaps it was a way to hide my laziness in some areas.  Time passed – quickly – and the end of the year came with me just trying to get by, falling short in all kinds of areas of my new job, and feeling rather hopeless about getting things turned around.  I was still learning how to manage my duties with two little ones, and the youngest keeps changing the game as she grows and develops.  🙂

I’m not looking back at 2012 with a lot of guilt, but rather, a motivation to make things better.  I’m a process-improvement gal, anyway, right?  You know, a gal with a Ph.D. in industrial engineering focusing on quality.  Surely I can make things better – especially since I’m really the Chief Operations Officer around here.

When I  began work in industry, my manager told me to read books and go out “on the floor.”   The advice was good, though a little flawed since reading heavy books about rubber compounding could put me to sleep after a few hours, and I wasn’t sure where to start with my observations on the manufacturing floor.   Mix?  Calender?  Build?  Cure?  All of them?  I think the message I was supposed to get was how important it was to understand our processes, to see the challenges the operators faced, to grasp how our development changes in the materials may affect manufacturing.

When I worked in the semiconductor industry, I was in the clean room for a while every day.  I got to see how some of the test data were used in decision-making.  That helped me understand the purpose and need for the project I’d been assigned – and also gave me a better vision for the importance and application of my dissertation work.

So this year spent in observation hasn’t been a failure or a waste, but it’s time for something new.  It’s time for Dana to get out her Lean Six Sigma hat, roll up her sleeves, and start solving the problems that plague our home.

That’d be really simple if it wasn’t so deeply personal.  See, I’m the main source of the problems.  Bad habits.  Lack of planning.  Poor organization.  Lots of issues that have been hidden by a busy lifestyle for many years.  (I think the new hat should be a hard hat – so I don’t get hurt when I open the coat closet to try to declutter.)  🙂

So here’s to a new year.  A challenging year, no doubt.  But, hey, that’s one reason I went into engineering.  I like a challenge.

I hope you’ll join me on my journey!

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OM at Home – Letting Go of the Clutter – Part II

I’ll try to keep this post more brief than the last.  🙂 If you missed yesterday’s post, you can find it here.

I’m on a purging mission at home, trying to figure out what things are most worth keeping and getting rid of the rest.  This task is not easy for me, perhaps because I haven’t been disciplined or motivated enough to do this much before, and I’m a pretty sentimental person.  But, it is getting easier.

In addition to the influences I mentioned in my last post, spending a week in January going through some of my mother-in-law’s possessions as my husband’s family tried to clean out part of her house showed me some reality, too.  Not everyone values the same things, and clutter can be a tremendous burden when left behind.

Some of the questions I’m asking myself are helping me to be more realistic and to actually smile as I send some things to the trash and some to better homes:

  • Could someone else use this more than I am (or than I have in the last year or more)?  (I don’t need those books for singles as much right now.)  I can get pretty excited imagining a friend or stranger benefiting from my things!
  • Would I rather keep this or that, since I only have room for one (applied to books, notebooks, t-shirts, etc. so far)?
  • Would this be a mess for Chad and Clara to go through should something happen to me?
  • Would it be worth it to them to keep or would it be too difficult to decipher in this form (i.e. my boxes of papers to be made into scrapbooks – when time allows…)?
And, the most effective so far (besides the first question listed):
  • Would I notice if this was gone?  (This is a bit difficult when I’m finding old “treasures” for the first time in years and reminiscing, but if I didn’t remember the item was stored in that box, would I really miss it?)

I’m not as good with what may be standard questions like, “Have you used (or worn) it in the last year?”  I’m having more success thinking about “If the Chapman tornado would have taken this away, would I be upset?”

On the OM/business side of this, my “stuff” is inventory.  Inventory is costly to keep.  Businesses quantify these costs as “holding costs,” and these can be as much as 40% of the item’s value annually!  Why do you see end-of-season sales and after-Christmas specials?  A store can only hold so many goods, and what is displayed needs to have the most potential for making higher profits.   In developing inventory models (to figure out how much inventory is appropriate to meet customer needs and keep costs lowest), total costs consider ordering costs (How much does it cost us to acquire the good?), purchasing costs, and holding costs.

So before you take home that “free” item or jump on that “great deal” at the store, consider if it’d be worth paying 20-40% of the item’s value each year to keep it in your house.  Also, consider that excess inventory hides problems within systems (See my post regarding A Sea of Inventory.), and clutter can decrease efficiency and productivity.  I also agree with Amy’s e-book (free for those who “Like” her Raising Arrows Facebook page) that holding on to our “stuff” is a heart issue that needs  some serious consideration as we seek to become more like Christ.

I’m definitely a work in progress, but I’m off to a great start!  During today’s nap time, I’m going to try to go through the marching band music and drill charts I’ve saved for about 15 years…

~Dana

Note:  My husband’s encouragement, support, and great patience in this personal process is also a huge key to the success I feel!  Thanks, Chad! 

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Operations Management at Home – Letting Go of the Clutter – Part 1

I could not believe what happened this weekend!  I feel like my house – and even my life – have been transformed!  The actual changes are small, but significant.  For me, getting started on a project that seems overwhelming is the most difficult part.

We’re still working to move my office downstairs to make a room for Baby.  That in itself wouldn’t be bad — if I hadn’t neglected the upkeep of that room for the three years we’ve been in this house.  Add to that the numerous boxes of books and notes I brought home from my school office, and we’ve had a big mess in our basement for weeks.  I’ve worked, little by little, to move and organize books, but so much was still to be done.

My friend Amy at Raising Arrows  is offering a free e-book to “Only Likers” on the Raising Arrows Facebook page entitled Letting Go of What You Own, A Biblical Approach to Decluttering.   I downloaded the e-book a couple of weeks ago.  The book is short, only about 7-8 pages, but I didn’t have time to read it all before I needed to leave town for a few days to be with my family.  I left the file open on the computer, though, and for the few days after my return, Chad asked if I had read it.  He had.  (Not that he really needed to.  Relative to me, at least, he’s much better at discerning “clutter” and avoiding it.)

I read the book last week, and I began to reevaluate many things.  (I think God was already working on my heart in this area, so combined with that, the book, and some potential nesting instinct kicking in, I’m making some progress.)

One was the shelf in our biggest closet that was filled (nearly to the ceiling in places) with primarily books on Christian living that have, unfortunately, been nearly untouched since… probably my days in Nebraska (about 6-7 years).   I felt like I was hording a resource for myself for no good reason.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to donate the books to our church’s library where others could benefit – and I wouldn’t need to store them?

Saturday, I went through the closet.  I picked out books to share with family, friends, and the library.  Chad and I picked out some books to sell at the local used book store.  While Chad went through our video library, I pulled out my books, creating shelf space for the notebooks from classes that I feel are more necessary to keep as references for the time.

The space-making donations gave me a sense of accomplishment, but so did actually throwing away some of my long-kept notes.  On one of my first trips up the stairs, I handed Chad a few folders of organic chemistry notes and asked him to put them in the recycling before I changed my mind.  Organic chemistry?  My roommates at the time could tell you I hated those classes!  Why had I clung to those notes?  In my first job out of college as a rubber compounder, the college classes I took that would have been the most helpful were in organic chemistry, but I hadn’t learned enough to really help – AND I DIDN’T REFER TO THOSE NOTES EVEN THEN!  That was 12 years ago.  Why had I clung to them – and moved them 6 times across 3 states?

I came to my Computational Techniques notes, two semesters of required programming for chemical engineering majors.  I seriously think my FORTRAN programming days are over.  I thought that after graduation, but we did use FORTRAN in my simulation class in graduate school.  But, I never pulled out my notes from those undergrad classes to help with my grad class.  I was able to relearn what I needed to without that reference.  I threw the notes away with a feeling of success!  I learned how to program better through those courses, and the logical approach I learned I carry with me – without those notes.  (One sheet in my folder had an index of the programs I had written.  They are all on 3.5″ floppy disks (remember those?) – somewhere in the house still.  UGH!)

There are some things I’m not yet ready to part with.  I kept my notes from some other undergrad classes that I likely won’t need – unless I plan to take the PE exam someday to get my engineering license, but next time, I think the Statics and Electrical Circuits and Controls notes can go.  I’ll likely hang on to my Engineering Physics resources a bit longer.  Some classes hold memories for me that I think I fear will be lost if I let go of my physical reminders.

But, there’s a practical side to consider right now.  Baby is coming.  Soon.  And Baby is much more important than my silly college notes or trinkets or texts!  I have to make choices.  I have to be realistic.  (Am I really going to go back and study statics on my own for fun with a newborn and a toddler to care for and supper to prepare?)

I’m excited to have finally jumped over this hurdle of getting started with “purging” and letting go of my “stuff!”  I still have a long way to go to get to where we have only what we need, but with each paper I threw away, I felt a new freedom!    The feeling is somewhat addictive, and I’m already thinking of how I may be able to schedule going through one room a month to try to keep things better under control once we have this starting point.

In my next post, I’ll plan to share with you some of the questions I asked myself that helped me decide to throw away or donate the things I was going through.  Perhaps they will be helpful for you, too!   I’ll also share an operations management (OM) concept regarding “inventory” that also makes practical sense in our homes.

~Dana

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The Need for Strategy

I caught myself doing it again this morning – thinking about what I can do to use my technical skills on the side to earn some extra income.  I tend to have a flood of ideas from tutoring to consulting to teaching part time to baking…  The list goes on, and my thoughts fly from one to another.  And all of this before I’ve even finished my current job.  And, honestly, I was thinking on these things this morning after praying last night for forgiveness for this compulsion I seem to feel to have some plan in place to earn money.  I think this compulsion is coming from a few various sinful areas in my life – stubborn independence, pride (partially in that independence), and probably some insecurity, feeling I need to prove my value or contribution to our family in some way through a pay check.

This morning, my reading in Ezra and Haggai brought me back to reality a bit.

This is what the Lord Almighty says:  “Give careful thought to your ways.  Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord.  “You expected much, but it turned out to be little.  What you brought home, I blew away.  Why?” declared the Lord Almighty, “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.”  (Haggai 1:7-9)

Haggai is only 2 chapters, so it’s quick to read the whole book.  The message of the entire book spoke to me significantly today as we approach this new season of our lives, and I encourage you to read it, too.  The phrase in bold (above) is what stopped me for a moment, though.

Even if I don’t work outside the home in some capacity (or work at home for a profit), I will be busy in my own house trying to make improvements to our systems at home, trying to optimize efficiencies, build memories, coordinate schedules, teach the children, work on handcrafts, and likely many other things.  No, I’m not physically building my paneled home before the temple construction is finished, but am I losing sight of what my priorities really should be?  I’m not at all saying that being busy at home is a bad thing!  These verses are about priorities.  Who is coming first in my life?  Dana?  God?  Someone/something else?

In Six Sigma training, I remember being trained to help hold back a team from jumping to solutions when a problem appeared.   Six Sigma practitioners, known as Black Belts and Green Belts, are called such because of the discipline required to methodically go through the problem-solving steps of Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control (DMAIC).  I have emphasized again and again to my students the importance of that Define step.  If the team doesn’t really know what needs to be worked on and how it will help the organization meet its strategic goals, how can improvements be made?  I thought I was pretty good at this…

That is, until they were my problems I was addressing.  I find myself jumping to solutions to without first evaluating what is best and why.  Even worse, I’m working to solve problems that aren’t even problems yet.

Our main motivation for me leaving my job to be at home is to invest myself in our children out of obedience to what we feel God is leading us to do.

So then, why I am I spending so much time brainstorming these ideas that really center around ME, when our desire is to center our lives and our family around CHRIST?  (Sigh)  I told you I’m a work in progress…

It’s time for me to take a step back and seek direction through prayer, not my own ideas.  God has been so faithful to me over the years!  The greatest steps of faith He’s guided me toward have not made logical sense to me from a worldly or financial perspective (e.g. The time I resigned from my job as an engineer to go back to school full time.).  His ways are not my ways, and His are so much better!

In the days to come, may I be still and seek Him first to find what the Lord would have as our mission and strategy and only then may I set to work.

~Dana

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Domestic Engineering – Part III – A Sea of Inventory

Have you ever heard someone say something like, “Give the task to a busy person, and you can be sure it will be done?”  Have you found yourself in the midst of too much clutter (either physical or schedule-related)?  Do you have a tendency to procrastinate? 

First, let me admit that I’m naturally a clutter bug, a procrastinator, a bit lazy at times, and, well, I have a host of other issues to work on.  So, this is not a tried-and-true approach to how to improve your life.  It’s simply what I’m learning as I look at homemaking through the lens of operations management and engineering.  And, I think this illustration of a “Sea of Inventory” helps show why we often see the tendencies described in the questions above. 

These pictures are from my slides I created for my class to help illustrate this concept of inventory causing problems.  I tell my students that I can’t draw, and I’m even worse with a mouse for electronic pictures, so try to imagine these are people in the boat, not some kind of mutant sea turtles.  🙂

The water (extra inventory) hides the dangerous rocks (problems) below the surface.

The water (inventory) is deep.  The passengers have no idea that there are rocks below the surface that could wreck their happy voyage.  They are naive to the problems.   But, inventory is expensive, and the production problems cannot be solved if they are not first discovered.  If we lower the inventory levels, we may see this:

 

As the inventory level is lowered, the problems (rocks) are exposed and can be solved and managed.

As the inventory level falls, those problems are exposed!  While this may initially concern us, this is really the opportunity we need to reexamine how we do things so we can make improvements.
 

Once the problems are solved (large rocks are removed), we can lower the inventory levels (water level) even more and still have smooth sailing!

 
 So, in case I’ve lost you, let me explain how this is applicable in my home.   When I had some company over last month, I found myself much more attentive to kitchen chores (mainly dishes), primarily because I had to.  We have a set of 12 plates and bowls.  More than enough for a single gal or a couple, or even a couple with a small child.  We have excess inventory such that we can go a couple of days at least without having to run the dishwasher.  With four extra people in the house for a weekend, that wasn’t so much the case.  Inventory didn’t increase (I didn’t buy more dishes.), but demand did, lowering the inventory cushion (also called safety stock, if you’re interested).  I didn’t procrastinate like I usually do, and it revealed some of the problems with my current process (such as putting off washing the dishes). 
 
Another instance is surfacing with laundry demand increasing a bit at our house.  Again, less “cushion” of inventory, and I’m seeing the problems with the, in my case, lack of a system.  (So, the answer is not necessarily to buy more socks when the drawer is empty as I did in college…)
 
I see that this also applies to time.   One example relates to giving the task to the busy person.  If you don’t have a lot of “slack” time (meaning much of your time is scheduled), you likely develop better time management skills by solving the problems that arise (those big rocks) when your free time is diminished.  Also, if we have a “sea” of extra time, we can lose our focus on intentional living that keeps us focused on working on what’s most important to us.   
 
We can, however, also look at that busy schedule as “excess inventory,” being more activity than we need and hiding the problems of not prioritizing, of possibly avoiding problems and inefficiencies, and of trekking through life too quickly to really even think about where we’re going.
 
We need to be strategic.  Intentional.  And, then we need to live in a way that helps us work toward meeting those strategic goals.  This is something I’ll be working on in the coming months! 
 
I need to decrease our inventories of “stuff,” both to make room as our family grows and to find the problems that have developed without notice in my years of being single and developing this excess.  Problems such as my optimism in getting those scrapbooks compiled (I’m only about 13 years behind.) with no plan of attack, my attachment to gifts for the sake of them being gifts, my attachment to my high school chemistry notes and other probably unnecessary items that I think I will someday need and use…  The list is long.
 
My friend Amy at Raising Arrows recently posted on this being often a season of overindulgence and how learning to instead be hungry is a greater blessing.  I pray this season of advent and celebration of Christmas would be a time that we reevaluate our schedules, our lives, our “needs,” and most of all, our hearts that we might discover the sin that is easy to leave covered by the excesses in our lives and make changes, for His glory. 
 
~Dana
 
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Domestic Engineering – Part 2 – Benchmarking

Benchmarking.  I remember my amazement at this concept when first introduced to it at the company I worked for after college.  It was actually someone’s job to find out what the competition was doing, in some detail.  One of my current colleagues used to work as an industrial spy in another country.   There’s something exciting about that to me, something daring, something risky.  

But, as I was cooking breakfast this morning, that wasn’t the aspect of benchmarking that came to mind.  Nor did the ideas surface that I teach in class about benchmarking being a process of identifying best-in-class companies and trying to emulate their practices to achieve similar performance levels. 

I thought of my friend Sherry telling me how she cooked her delicious scrambled eggs as I ate them with her family in her country kitchen.  (I had never heard of anyone adding water instead of milk.)  I thought of my friend Barbara who let me help her prepare a spaghetti dinner one evening and exposed me to how fresh garlic was used.  I had never seen this before or even considered this, though I did have a garlic press in my drawer.  This has transformed my ability to “embellish” recipes to suit our tastes.  I remember my friend and roommate Saylisse who exposed me to delicious plantains and Puerto Rican cooking methods. 

Benchmarking.  Don’t we all do it?  Find someone we admire and try to work to be like them?  Whether it be developing the skills to make your grandma’s chocolate chip cookies or fried chicken, aspiring to keep your home like someone who does a great job in that area, or following your favorite blogger who offers encouragement and ideas from her life.   There can be many benefits in learning from others.

There can also be dangers in this, too, at least for me.  I can be intimidated by great women.  I avoided pie-baking attempts because that was my mom’s specialty in the extended family, and I didn’t want my meager tries to be compared to her perfect pastries.  (This spell was broken last year, though, when my desire to have holiday pies exceeded my fear of failure.)  I can beat myself up for not being as organized as Miss Such-and-Such or as as good at sewing as Mrs. So-and-So or as creative, articulate, hardworking… the list goes forever on. 

But, the the ladies I mentioned weren’t intimidating.  The times together in the kitchen were sweet times of fellowship and friendship.  There was no scoffing at my inexperience or even much real instruction.  We were just being together, and I was learning and growing through it. 

As I think of leaving the workforce and focusing on my home and family more, I question whom I should benchmark.  The answer shouts from my heart today:

JESUS!

He is the only one that is truly perfect.  He is the only one that truly knows what this balance I’m searching for should look like.  I do not doubt His love for me, even in all my insufficiencies and sin.  Yes, I will try to learn as much as I can from those of you who are experts in your fields and those of you who are sharing the lessons you have learned, but may my foremost desire always be to make my life look more like Christ’s. 

~Dana

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Domestic Engineering – Part I – R&D in the Kitchen

Perhaps you’ve had someone tell you that she’s a domestic engineer as she cares for her home and family.  I imagine few know how appropriate that term really is.  I plan for this series to share my thoughts as I reflect on the role I am about to take on full-time at home.  Yes, I’ll be a domestic engineer, but (and I hope I don’t lose readers over this!) I’m much more the engineer than the domestic artist, so my perspective is perhaps more technical and much less experienced.  Those of you with more common sense than I have (I’m guessing that’s all of you!) will understand what I’m talking about though, I think, and I hope will laugh with me at the time it takes me to learn homemaking basics.

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Perhaps it was my mom’s insistence that I didn’t have to do a lot of cooking for their visit.  Perhaps it was realizing that my planned meal wouldn’t be ready in time for my sister to eat before she had to leave to pick up a student.  Whatever it was, the last few weeks helped me learn something about myself.

I like Research and Development (R&D) – perhaps to a fault.  When company comes or when I have the time, I am more interested in trying new recipes than in fixing a simple meal.  I spend time searching my recipe books for the perfect combination of foods, make an extensive shopping list, litter the kitchen with dishes, and end up rather worn out from my efforts.  My motivation is in trying to bless my guests or family and in revelling the excitement of trying something new.   (Oh, I like to eat good food, too!)

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  My first job out of college was in research and development.  I’ve studied designed experiments in depth at graduate school.  I have always liked starting new projects much more than applying the discipline to finish them.  I like being creative and learning something new, and I do get a little bored without a challenge. 

With my experimental cooking efforts, the time and trouble are worth it, but I will not have the luxury of avoiding the “production” aspect of my homemaking in the months to come with Baby #2 arriving this spring.   My “system” of evaluation to this point has been to make brief notes in the recipe books, which are then too often closed and forgotten about until the next time I begin searching for something delicious and new to try.

Can you see the inefficiencies?  To complicate matters, instead of working to design a system that will work better for us, I’ve been pondering the design and use of mixture experiments to develop a new chocolate chip cookie or pecan pie recipe.  (Sigh.)  I’m definitely a work in progress!  Praise God that

“…He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6, RSV).

I look forward to seeing what He has planned in this new challenge and to the refinement that will undoubtably come through the process as Christ continues to work on my heart!

~Dana

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