November 2012


Thank you, Mr. Mouse. If you hadn’t shown up, my kitchen cupboards would still be a disheveled mess of dishes and canned goods and pasta boxes. But thanks to your arrival (and subsequent untimely death) my kitchen now boasts the cleanest and most organized cupboards and drawers in the world. Yep, they might be old and chipped and in need of a bit of paint, but they’re clean.

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The cleaning flurry has put me in a let’s-get-er-done kind of mood.

I’ve learned to take advantage of these little bits of organizational desire that come over me from time to time. So today has been named Get-Er-Done Day. And we are.

These are the things we are getting done today (because when you homeschool, it’s all about participation!):

1. Cleaning cupboards. I’ve done some of this already, but there are a few more cupboards that could use some attention. Especially that catch-all drawer that I can hardly force open because it is so packed full of essential bits and pieces of who-knows-what.

Today we’re clearing cupboards.

2. Organizing laundry. A while ago I bought each boy a laundry basket. One for each boy to keep in his room, because, well, why not? I’m not the only one who can do laundry, am I? And I’m tired of forever trying to figure out who’s socks or jeans or t-shirts belong to whom.

Today my boys are learning the secret art of how to do your own laundry. I’m very excited.

3. Taking down the dining room table. I’ve talked about this for a while. We never use it, except to store all that stuff that no one wants to deal with. It takes up a lot of space in a small room. I have three boys, and they would rather fill that space with exercise equipment than eat off my good china once every couple of years.

Today, we’re turning the dining room into the exercise room.

And you know what? That will pretty much take care of the main floor of my house, and I will enter the weekend happy and with a tidy home. Well, one floor of it, anyway.

Thanks again, mouse friend.

The Positive Me would tell myself to rephrase that statement. Not have to read, but get to read.

Today I get to read a book.

As if that will somehow trick my brain into forgetting that besides the reading of the book (the title of which I can’t even remember at the moment, nor do I know for sure under which pile the book is hiding!) in time for my book club meeting tonight, I also have children and meals and baking and chickens and… all waiting for my attention. And we were away all day yesterday and the house is a mess.

My brain will not be tricked today.

This morning I read Mr. Seth Godin’s good advice. Today he suggested approaching (in his case, business – in my case, you know, MY LIFE) with anticipation rather than anxiety.

When you work with anticipation, you will highlight the highs. You’ll double down on the things that will delight and push yourself even harder to be bold and to create your version of art. If this is going to work, might as well build something that’s going to be truly worth building.

If you work with anxiety, on the other hand, you’ll be covering the possible lost bets, you’ll be insuring against disaster and most of all, building deniability into everything you do. When you work under the cloud of anxiety, the best strategy is to play it safe, because if (when!) it fails, you’ll be blameless.

Sounds good, doesn’t it.

Here’s the thing, though. Seth, God love him, is a man. And I don’t think he completely understands the neurotic pressure we women place on ourselves. I mean, I’m a flake at the best of times, trying to manage life with the organizational talents of a four-year-old. I’ve missed appointments, forgotten meetings, and lately made macaroni tuna casserole for supper more times than I care to remember. And the last time I made it, I forgot the tuna.

Here’s the other thing. As much as I know I am a mess, I don’t want anyone else to know it. Not really.

So I’ll joke about it here for a few minutes, and then I’ll be off on a frantic mission to try to get those things done that need to be done today. And I’ll probably skim the last few chapters of the book I’m supposed to have read for tonight so I can fake my way through the discussion. Yep. That’s the truth.

What’s that phrase that I keep seeing on t-shirts and coffee mugs? Keep Calm and Carry On?

Ya, right.

Sorry, Seth. I’ll face tomorrow with anticipation. Today, I’m afraid, anxiety wins.

Last week Dad, on the eve of his departure for the Dominican Republic, wrote a lovely post about creating new memories. In it, he offered this wonderfully challenging paragraph:

I want the memories I am creating now to be about laughter, new things, compassion, happiness for others in their successes, and enjoying being with the ones I love. I want to be done with past grievances, insignificant arguments and trivial differences.

As the Christmas season approaches, I echo Dad’s wish.

This Christmas I want to: create memories that ring with laughter, enjoy new things, be compassionate, rejoice in other’s victories, and enjoy those with whom I will be spending my time. And the past, with its pettiness… I just want to be done with it. Crumple up all those little negative, nagging feelings and throw them into the trash. Done.

New day, new season, new memories, all fresh and waiting to be shared.

But wanting and doing are two very different things. So, how to move from want to reality?

Here’s my advice. Make a plan and then be flexible.

Nothing kills joy more quickly than distress over things not going according to plan. Stuff happens. Things come up.

This Christmas season I will plan some good food, games, skating, visiting, resting, shopping, wrapping, music, sharing of our blessings, pranks, and a little alone time. Some of the planned things will happen. Some won’t.

So in addition to planning the fun, I will plan for those inevitable hiccups. Knowing and accepting that they will happen makes them less stressful when they do.

My prayer, then, this Christmas season is that the important things will remain the important things.

Might this be your prayer, too?

Sleepy still, and its cold in my kitchen, and my bare feet on the frigid tile floor begin to ache, and all I can think is, I need a cup of tea. I really want a cup of coffee but we are out of beans. Oops. But tea will be a welcome substitution in a pinch.

I open the dishwasher door and am greeted by a musical sound. I think it might be Lyndon’s phone? Did he change his ringtone to Dashing Thru the Snow? I doubt it, I think. He’s not usually that festive.

I take out a knife and close the door, puzzled.

I peek back in the dishwasher, curious, and the music begins again, and it makes me smile. The dishwasher is fairly new and a little bit fancy and I think, Wow. They programmed this thing to play Christmas music for the holidays. And I wonder if it will be a new tune every day, or what?

I make the tea and start the breakfast and when Lyndon comes downstairs I say, Go and open the dishwasher door.

He does and it plays its music, and we both look at each other, smiling. Cool, he says.

I take my new Christmas mug out of the dishwasher, the mug I got for free with my recent purchases at our local second-hand store, and we sit down to eat.

I pour our teas and when I raise my new cup for a sip, if it doesn’t begin playing Dashing Through the Snow.

We look at each other.

It was the mug, I say, a little sheepishly.

And to tell you the truth, I am a little bit disappointed. Because a dishwasher playing Christmas music is cute and magical.

But a mug sounding off each time it’s raised for a sip is, well, just annoying.

Giving thanks. Receiving thanks. Being thankful. Gratitude. Counting blessings.

All things about which people are blogging, sharing, discussing today as my neighbours to the south celebrate this Thanksgiving Day.

Good things, yes. Things that get me thinking about… things. And I’m thinking about the interesting tension between being and doing (the whole faith without works is dead thing), and I’m thinking about how that tension applies to thankfulness.

Is thankfulness without works dead, too?

And what are the works of the thankful?

Maybe, this…

Let every detail in your lives – words, actions, whatever – be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.

Colossians 3:17 (the Message)

Halloween is long past. Canadian that I am, I celebrated Thanksgiving weeks ago. Remembrance Day has been remembered.

Christmas is around the corner.

To be honest, we haven’t had many rock solid Christmas traditions in our family. We do the tree and a little bit of decorating. The kids have their stockings and we open presents on Christmas morning. Pretty tame and ordinary, really. No special, must-have foods. (One Christmas day we had pancakes for supper.) No Christmas elves leaving surprises.

 

It’s been more of a let’s see what we can come up with this year kind of thing.

Earlier in the marriage, we travelled to be with relatives. Lately, though, we’ve chosen to stay home. Because it’s Canada, people, and driving in December is always a bit of a crap shoot. You just never know.

Very occasionally, relatives have travelled to be with us. Let’s just say we don’t live in a tourism hot spot, and there are a bazillion other places people would like to go to for their holiday than here.

Most often, we’ve celebrated Christmas here at home, by ourselves or with friends. Maybe skating on the dugout. Maybe just cuddled inside with the new dvds or games or puzzles. Hot chocolate. Snacks.

I asked my children the other day how they would like to do Christmas this year.

The answer, no surprise, was with friends.

Have friends come.

Call s0-and-so and see if they can come over.

Invite the youth group for a movie night.

And although they love presents, not a single gift request was part of their answer.

Just… friends.

Nice.

(I must say, though, the elf thing looks kind of fun. Can I do Christmas elves with teenage boys?)

In my last blog I talked about the old and the new. Memories emerge from the old – the new brings anticipation. But the experiences that triggered memories were just as new and exciting when they took place as what we are enjoying right now.

We are getting ready to create some new memories as we leave for the Dominican Republic in a few hours. The bags are packed and at the front door. And for the next 10 days we are going to enjoy sun, beaches, relaxation, new people and new experiences.  We are looking forward to ten new days and many new memories.

I want the memories I am creating now to be about laughter, new things, compassion, happiness for others in their successes, and enjoying being with the ones I love. I want to be done with past grievances, insignificant arguments and trivial differences.

I think the psalmist had some of these things in mind when he said,  “This is the day the Lord hath made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

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