Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Life, Standing Next to the Dishwasher

It’s the title of the book I’m writing in my head 24/7.  I’d probably have finished it by now, if, well, if I just wasn’t tethered to the dishwasher.  Seems not so much has changed since Erma’s day; with all our advances, we still spend plenty of time in the kitchen.  (Erma Bombeck that is.  She’s my hero… finding humor and camaraderie in her domestic servitude.)

I spend a lot of time here by my dishwasher, fielding long division questions, scanning recipes, wiping counters, and loading and unloading the blasted thing day and day out.  (Sorry, foremothers, because I know you would have killed for an electronic dishwasher to do the scrubbing for you. I apologize for complaining!)  The kitchen carnage left behind from 3 kids and a husband who loves to cook (again, I should be roasted for complaining) is relentless, I tell you.

For a very, very long time I’ve filed my relationship with the dishwasher under, “drudgery.”  I’d rather do about 10 million other things.  But every Princess who weds her dashing Prince discovers she’s still destined for Cinderella’s life after she reaches her brand new castle, full of responsibilities.  Like cleaning the royal “thrones.” 

I truly want to be grateful for my blessings… I mean, all this cleaning proves my life is an abundant one.  Still, dealing with the dishwasher is just plain mind numbing.   And even though I’m delegating dishwasher time to my kids these days, it will be years before they achieve real proficiency.  Years, I tell you.  And so even as their labor provides some emancipation, I’ve got work to do, teaching the fine art of ensuring oatmeal crust is scraped before loading.

I admire the Quakers for believing that every mundane task is worthy of offering thanks to God.  That in doing so, they recognize their relative insignificance to the broader picture.  Hmmm… how to feel grateful about my time standing next to the dishwasher?  I know there’s something I can learn from finding significance in the daily round…

Oh, I know! 

Years ago I placed a group picture of my closest girlfriends just above my sink.  I look at that picture every single day, and am reminded of just how blessed I am for the gift of unfailing friendship.  I know they, too, stand at their dishwashers day in and day out, serving their families, and serving God in the process.  Looking at that picture reminds me that I am just one in a long line of women who’ve underwritten the fabric of our society for centuries.  And I feel satisfied about this work.  And it is without a doubt, work.

How’s that?

It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.  I may as well learn to take pleasure in the contribution it makes to the Kingdom, and to my family.  Now if they’d just learn to scrape that oatmeal first…. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

No. There, I said it… and You Can too!

I can’t be the only one.  The words, “sure, I can do that!” tumble from my mouth; but inside, I might cringe.  Really?  Even though I’m barely keeping my head above water I’m agreeing to yet another commitment?   

Yes.  Because I can’t say no.

I’ve always had to cope with my penchant for saying yes even when I really, really should have said no.  I couldn’t say no to boys when I was 16; I couldn’t say no to my girlfriends when they wanted to skip school; I couldn’t say no to one more hour at the club even when I should’ve been studying for exams.  And today, I can’t bear to say no to the opportunities, invitations and requests that come my way, even when I'm clearly in the weeds.   When I say no to my kids I’m often consumed with guilt.  Why is that?

For me, I think my yes-woman tendencies are tied to my people-pleasing nature.  I want everyone to like me.  To find I am helpful, agreeable, generous or capable.  That I'm a fun mom, a loyal friend, a go-getter with a servant's heart.  If I say no, am I admitting I can’t handle one more thing?  If I turn down an opportunity, will I get another?  Will I make someone mad?  Will they hold it against me forever and curse the day I was born? 

My husband jokes that he’s the only person on earth who gets a no from me.  I really hate to admit he’s right, but he’s hit the nail on the head.  When I say yes to one person, it almost always means I have to turn down something, or someone.  And since I can’t let my kids down, very often, he gets the short end of the stick when it comes to my time and energy.  And what will I have gained if I’ve pleased someone else with a yes and disappointed my husband with a no?

He’s not the only one who suffers when I over-schedule myself with commitments.  I’ve said it before… I am a natural multi-tasker, whirling dervish, Type - A kind of gal.  I love it when my fingers are in all sorts of pies… it makes my life interesting and exciting.  But there have been times when I’ve taken on so much that I can’t sleep at night, or focus on conversations with my “babies” or brush my teeth without worrying I’ve wasted valuable time.  Sometimes, I have to say no so that I can keep the balls juggling seamlessly without dropping one.  Some of you are smiling.  I am the queen of dropped balls.  See where all the yeses can get you?

I’m not saying I’ve perfected the art of saying no.  It's likely I'll never become comfortable saying the n-word.  But occasionally when my hand’s been forced, I take a deep breath, prepare for the world to fall apart, and say it with as much grace as I can muster.  No.  And you know what?  The world hasn’t stopped spinning yet.  People still ask me to do favors, sit on committees, take on projects and go to parties.  And when my life is in balance, it’s just so very sweet to say yes, and mean it. 

Just ask my husband.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Happiest Place on Earth? A Tricked out RV… Really!

Like Robin Williams said in the movie, “if you really want to find out about yourself, put your family in a RV for a week and travel across the country.”  A girlfriend bristled at the idea and said, “I wouldn’t want to be stuck in an RV with Matthew McConaughey for a week, much less with people expected me to deliver clean underwear!” 

I really love girlfriends who speak the cold, hard truth about family life.   But the kids were sold on our plan, and we decided to make some memories in favor of airplanes and room service. 

So we rented a big old RV, put way too much stuff in it and fled the suburbs.  Off to Disneyland and some beach-time in Southern California.  At least I could make breakfast with a different view!

Honestly, I thought I’d return with a treasure trove of stories of misadventures.  Our family of 5 is pretty tight, but let’s just say we have some, um, high maintenance personalities.  I’m not naming names, but you know I’m not one of them! J

Sorry to disappoint.  No tales of roadside breakdowns, Disneyland meltdowns, wacky travel companions or sewage hook-ups gone awry.  Actually, we rocked.

Mind you, we’ve determined a “vacation” entails white sand, blue waters and not having one single person asking you to cut their chicken.  A “trip” is what you take with kids.  But we’ve had our share of trips where we returned exhausted from all of our “quality time” together, angry that the kids didn’t get along or drop to their knees and thank us profusely for springing them from the hum drum.  (I know.  They’ll do that when they’re about 30.  At least they better!)

But on this trip, the kids rallied.  Helped each other.  Played together.  Mapped out the rides at Disney, complained minimally during the astronomically long lines.  Yes; they did beg for treats; but we broke the rules and scooped up the giant lollipops, Mickey-ears hats and cotton candy.  We spoiled them, but they earned it.  So did we.  It’s really, really fun to say yes… to live with abandon for a few days.  I mean, we were visiting Happiest Place on Earth! 

And for me, our visit to Disney earned Happiest Place on Earth status because I really enjoyed watching my kids get along, work together and enjoy each other’s company.

That is of course, until we arrived home and the squabbles started. Suddenly, long lines and $5 sodas seemed like a vacation.

Your turn.  Tell me your vacation from heaven or he** story!