Saturday, February 25, 2012

My Repository of Work

Recently I was considering a Renaissance artist with the family and we spoke about his repository of work.  We pondered which of his masterpieces he would consider worthy of our focus and which pieces he would consider "not his best work."  As we conversed, the realization slowly dawned on me that this fine artist, has no posthumous control over what we saw as his life's work.

This left me pondering my own "repository of work."  I've held a good many jobs, many of them "people oriented."  I produced some fine documents, set many appointments, and served up some platters full of good food back at the Country Kitchen in the 70s.  None of those things will survive me.  I also ministered to hundreds of children (sometimes less gracefully than at other times), enrolled a lot of people into WOW, and coached some fine souls. These days, of course, my repository of work consists of a few blogs about a busy but simple life in a graceful but typical subdivision, and many hours of dishes, laundry, homeschooling, and story reading.

My repository of work, both in the past and now, consists mainly in the hearts and minds of people whose lives I have been so honored to encounter.  It's a largely invisible and apparently abtruse body of work.  Therein lies the battlefield.

We live in an achievement-based culture.  In my rare forays into all-adult settings, I'm asked over and over, "Where do you work?"  After responding with an occasional lack of clarity that I work at home caring for my family, I am quite frequently asked, "Well, what did you do before that?"  Ironically, those answers are often equally disappointing for my poor inquirer who is seeking to appreciate me through what I have achieved.

I know there are mothers who feel undervalued.  That is not the case with me.  I see the value of what I do, so I do not (typically) get "up in arms" when others don't get it.  It's just so very hard to explain in the few words most are seeking.
I have been trying out a few things lately to describe my body of work.  "I challenge people to live life brightly and support them on their journey."  It sounds too airy and high-falutin' doesn't it?  (I think I've been reading too many marketing books!) So I've switched to my original answer and after I give it rather than wait for the next question, I pat them on the shoulder or give them a kiss on the cheek -- a situational decision, obviously -- and beat a hasty retreat.

"I'm a house-wife.  I stay home and love my family."

That is my repository of work.  It sits just right.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Dishevled and Expectant, Oh My!

I've been in a slump lately.  Literally.  I notice that I am not holding myself upright.  My house is messy although I seem to spend all day cleaning it.  I am not getting myself to the gym although I'm now well enough to go.   My coupons aren't sorted and my email inbox is filling up.  I'm not keeping my eating disciplines. I'm avoiding studying; I'm watching TV when I'd normally be productive.  My life is just a little disheveled. 

You know where I'm going with this, right? It's not because we've all been sick.  It's not because of the (blessing) rain and we've all been cooped up.  It's because at some point, several days ago, I had what More To Life terms a "lifeshock."  It's when something - even something seemingly innocuous -- happens and my brain starts making up it's own version of the truth.  In my case lifeshocks often occur when I have a lot of expectations about how poeple or things "should be."   I did a little "research" (aka digging around in my brain) and found the lifeshock. 

On Valentine's Day (which we had been gearing up toward for weeks), just as I was making my first batch of heart shaped pancakes, Maggie threw up.  And she kept throwing up through four rooms, 2 sets of sheets, and 3 outfits.  She ran a fever.  She moaned.  She wept.  And I felt awful.  I was so upset that she could not have her Valentine's Day, that she couldn't wear her new outfit, that she and I would be at home while the rest did our annual Valentine's bowling.  I felt worse as, over the course of the day, I had to tell her 56 times that she absolutely could not have any of her Valentine candy.  She spent the day lying on the living room floor looking morose. 

Until she felt better.  Then she was awful.  She did anything she could think of to retaliate.  She tested me in every way and I failed.  Miserably.  I talked mean.  I withheld attention.  At one point I gave her the silent treatment.  I failed to notice that I was as disappointed as she was.  Bummer.

The real problem wasn't the lifeshock, though.  The difficulty was the 4 days I let it fester and compound.  That's when I started slouching; small surprise with that giant weight I was carrying!  Then I woke up this morning and slouched out to the living room and I could hear my dear friend Sue Oldham saying, "Got a cat on your back?" 

And that's when I woke up.  I woke up to my own disappointment about Valentine's Day, my own unmet expectations (oops!); woke up to Maggie's attachment disorder and her real need to test me; I woke up to that fact that though I sometimes fail, I am in fact doing the best I can and I too, am worthy of my forgiveness and a "do-over." Parenting isn't always this hard but sometimes it is.  I am not always so "in the dark" but this time I was. 

Since I am utterly incapable of going back in time, I did the only thing I could.  I sat up straight and I opened my eyes. I noticed my lifeshock, I did my work, and I made my choices. 

Waking up is freeing; it's as the saying goes, "And then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free."  Next time, I'll choose differently.  Or I won't and then I will undoubtedly get another opportunity to practice.  And that's what I call grace.   

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cross-Purposes and True Intention

 I'm on day 5 of a journey called a 10-day Family Recharge.  Whatever your job is, try to imagine that a kind, creative soul came in and said, basically, "Just for today, what if you tried this?  Here is some inspiration.  Here is some encouragement.  Here is some support."  Now imagine that tomorrow, they come back in with something else, presented again as an offering, open handed, open heartedly.  And you can simply not resist because the leadership is so inviting and non-demanding.  This is my experience of the re-charge so far.  It has been a warm place to walk into.  
Yet, today, I awakened quite tired and full of stress.  Just like an advanced course, somewhere mid-way, I am starting to take stock.  I am being hard on myself for not being 100% the person 0r wife or parent I want to be. I am having trouble seeing the work I am doing and that my intention is what shines through even when I am not meeting all my goals.  I am having trouble seeing past the not so successful potty training, the Mount Laundry, the messy rooms; I can't see the forest for the trees.

So I lulled myself (almost) to sleep.  I was literally about to take a nap when I thought, "Well, I'll just check my email first."  When I did, I saw this amazing video and I had an epiphany. 

My house is not always messy.  It's not as if people throw something on the floor and I never pick it up.  It's an evolution.  The kitchen is clean every day -- sometimes two or three times!  But we live there.  We cook all our meals at home - our kitchen is the heart of our family; 6 people are in this house 24 hours a day, and 7 live here for 14.  It's not a realistic "want."

I am getting what I wanted from the re-charge.  I am reconnecting with my family in new and profound ways.  I am seeing myself and each member of the family with new eyes.  I feel more relaxed and less worried.  I wanted to re-create our life together and that is happening, completely.

To be completely honest, the intention I had "on paper" for the re-charge was not my true intention.  My true intention was to become something like super-mom.  I can see that now.  I knew what I needed was an "easing into" my true motherhood -- my genuine love of children and to let that joy and love out -- but I still subconsciously thought I should want something more.  Talk about cross-purposes!

Whew.  I feel it easing in me already.  And I am already laughing at myself.  If my old buddy Will Pyke were reading this, it would crack him up too.  It's Seven Days all over again.  Oh my gosh.  I can only stand about 3 days of trusting myself and then I have to have a little breakdown.  
My true purpose is to love my family with my whole heart and to love myself in the process.  I can move toward a more conscious living space with them.  It's not for me to do; it's for us to do to the best of our abilities and without forsaking what truly matters:  That each and every one of us has the chance grow into the person we are created to be.  One day all the children will be grown and my house will be clean.  And then it will be time for a new purpose.    
A wise man named Richard Perry once said, "God has not given me a single moment of control, but every moment of choice!"  I'm over it now.  I really am.  In the snap of a fingers, I can change my perspective. 
Thanks be to God.  And me.  and Annie.  and Erin.  And you, too, Will Pyke, wherever you are!  Blessings on you all.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Taking a Deep Breath

Day 3 of our 10 day Family Re-Charge is already passing; the youngest are in bed so I will take the opportunity to reflect.  Some time ago I made a commitment not to have my laptop between my children and me; but the challenge for me is not getting driven about all there is to do around me. There is -- quite literally -- always one more load of clothes, things on the counters, another load of dishes, floors to maintain, another meal to prepare, one more thing.   I am good about doing stuff with the kids in the mornings but after naptime, I ramp up! 

I don't know if I have mentioned it but on Friday, I withdrew my oldest daughter (10th grade) from school and have brought her home to school again.  Today we have re-instituted our afternoon tea time; it fell by the wayside a few months back and we are picking it back up.  I sit with any of the kids who want to sit at the table and we have tea (o la leche o el agua).  Usually we have some nuts and a sweet of some kind or bits of cheese and crackers; the main thing is, it's a great time to reconnect. [We older girls drink from antique tea cups passed down on my hubby's side.] I just sip my tea and chat with the children and it eases something in me.  It's a deep breath.  I am able to fix supper and enjoy the time in the kitchen;  the kids have had my full attention so they are able to do something else whilst I cook.

When Paul gets home, everyone is in a calmer state.  We enjoy our evening meal so much more -- it's as if you can taste the peacefulness in it.  And because the cooking and eating goes more smoothly, it seems as if I am able to whistle through bedtime and then truly enjoy the evening and reconnecting with Paul.  I don't feel so stretched.   I don't think he knows why this is, but I am quite certain he knows when we've not had our tea time because something is just not sitting right.

My other "answer" - if you will -to the re-charge questions is that I have carved out a half hour between getting my middle child on the bus and waking the others in which I can have a devotional period.  It has taken some work to achieve this time;  I frequently get to say "no, thank you" to requests for waking someone or other during this period.  This is when I do my reflecting on my spiritual state and set my compass for the day ahead.  At the very end of this time, I check my calendar for the day. 

So I have the beginning "regulator" set and the late afternoon re-set; I lack something before bed  to book-end the day.  I have recently begun a practice of oil cleaning my face; I have decided  to give myself a five minute facial massage each evening and go to bed with a soft, clean face to welcome the night's dreams.  I hold so much stress in my face; now I shall be sending it down the drain!

So appreciating the work for each day, Erin Barrette Goodman.  Muchas gracias!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Recharging our Batteries

Life in a household of seven is gratifying, exciting, fun, challenging, fulfilling, evoking, inspiring  . . . and busy.  In many ways, I have "found my feet" since the huge change in our family almost 2 years ago.  In other ways, I am still floundering.

I remember the "magic" when Pepper and Sunshine were the little ones;  I don't think that we have really recaptured that magic with The Littles.  I want it for them and I want it for the "bigs" and I want it for Dear Hubby and I really, really want it for me.  So often it seems like . . . well . . . work. 

I want to recapture the essence of who we are in the midst of all the logistics of life in a big family.  Just as I have been making incremental adjustments to my days in order to accommodate this big "want," I stumbled on The 10-Day Family Re-Charge.  I am joining with an eclectic group of 200 parents to hit the "reset" button on our family life.

I am looking forward to spending time with my six nearest and dearest to take a collective deep breath!  Stay tuned!