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THE WHOLENESS OF SICK DAYS

THE WHOLENESS OF SICK DAYS

This morning, I woke up with a headache. Even before my head left my pillow, my eyes were having a harder than usual time.

It was the opening they couldn’t do.

Now, as I sit wide-crosslegged on my carpet, typing away at the coffee table in my living room, I think my early morning experience is kind of funny. My eyes were having a harder than usual time.

Lately, it’s everything else that has been having a hard time. I have felt like I can’t do anything. I can’t process things correctly. I can’t think or organize (well, the non-organized part is pretty usual for me). I can’t respond. I can’t focus.

Why? Maybe because of this hectic world I’ve created. Too much on the plate. Not enough calm. Not enough space. Not enough rest.

Because my life is like yours. There are too many crumbs on the floor. Too many dirty clothes. Too many questions. Too many mouths and not enough spoons. Too many dishes and not enough hands. Well, sometimes there are too many hands too.

Like tonight.

But before we get into that story, I’m going to back up.

I woke feeling terrible. I was forced to step back. To put on The Magic School Bus Gets Lost in Space and lie down on the couch so I could close my sore eyes. To make whatever food was easiest. To back away from the kitchen as soon as possible so I could stop using my legs.

Right before lunch, my 4 year-old (who never stops jumping and has tantrums like The Hulk) said he wanted to go to bed. He said that both his stomach and the back of his neck hurt. These were my exact symptoms.

“Okay,” I said. “Would you like some pizza first?” Today’s lunch was homemade frozen pizza, and Super Healthy Kids jello. And cucumbers. All foods that this boy loves.

“No. I just want to lie down,” he sagged down the hall to his bed, hugging Red Monkey all the way.

After naptime, I was feeling better but this boy had a fever. So we snuggled and played cards.

What took my attention was the fact that he did everything right while he was sick. He didn’t get impulsive and flip over our game of war. When he went to the bathroom, he didn’t pee on the floor, and as soon as he came out of the bathroom he told me that he washed his hands and flushed the toilet. He didn’t once raise his voice. Not all afternoon or evening.

So, he does know what he needs to do. He just chooses not to do it.

Kind of like me. I know that I need to rest. I need to stop focusing on what my life should look like. I need to use more paper plates and I need to buy more packaged foods. I need to let go of the desire for homemade, at least in a few areas.

After dinner, we were all feeling somewhat better. Our bellies were full of eggs and bacon and sautéed kale and fruits. (Well, only mine was full of sauteed kale. Kale goes with everything. No? 🙂 )

I decided to step in the kitchen and empty the sink so we would have some clean dishes. My feverish boy brought a chair and helped as best he could. Ah! How does a 4 year-old help wash dishes? Some of you probably know the answer, but in that moment I was shaking with uncertainty.

But his chair was already there and his voice was so sweet.

“Can I help you, mom?”

I have been thinking lately that maybe it’s not the daily chores, but how I do them. I often rush through chores with speed, trying to get them done before one son slaps another. Before voices are raised. Before toys are thrown. I rush through tasks because I don’t have enough time to slow down.

But there is no lack of time. There is a myriad of time. And rest requires that revelation.

As a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, it would benefit my whole family if I slowed the chores down. These are teaching moments. Learning to make a dish clean is learning to love. Caring for a home means caring for the family, for the people. Though tasks are numerically abundant, they can hold another kind of abundance, too.

This is the kind of abundance that makes our hearts flow at night’s end, and uncovers joy within the chore of a.m. eye-opening.

A NUTRITION COURSE : ON SWIRLY MINDS AND SWIRLY LIFE

A NUTRITION COURSE : ON SWIRLY MINDS AND SWIRLY LIFE

Most recently, in our home school, we are doing a tiny course on nutrition. This has been in my mind for a long time, but then I found Usborne’s “Why do we Eat?” at a consignment shop for $0.75 and decided it was time. My kids and I read that book a few times, then I printed this nutrition book from The First Grade Sweet Life. We worked on filling it out, then today we went grocery shopping. I let my kids think of things we should buy, according to the variety of foods that we should eat to make our bodies function. We started our list yesterday, and went this morning.

There was nothing particularly terrible about this morning. It was just that… maybe we should have stayed home.

Do you ever have days like that? When you start to do something–whatever it is–you think it’s going to be easy and fun but it ends up giving you a small heart attack instead?

My kids were tired. We didn’t eat a big enough breakfast. And the always-always-always part of my life where I don’t know how to give directions was glaring at me.

Do my kids really understand what we’re doing? Did I explain it well enough to each of them? Of course, my two-year old wouldn’t really understand, but I may have neglected to tell my 4 year-old anything, relied on him hearing when I read that book with my 6 year-old. They might just think this is a regular shopping trip. 

Our list was made of only good things, a guide for real-life nutrition lessons:

Cucumbers
Carrots
Bananas
Oranges
Strawberries
Cantaloupe
Potatoes
Yogurts
Granola bars
Rice cakes

Whole foods. Not Whole Foods, but foods that are whole and untainted with chemistry. Strict biology, here!

But somewhere in the putting on of shoes and the checking for shopping supplies and the actual driving to the store, I just started freaking out. Things were so unclear.

Life things. Grocery shopping things. Self things. Kid things.

My mind just went around in swirls.

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Sometimes swirls are beautiful, but more often they look chaotic. This is the creative way. More, though, this is the way of life.

We are a series of connected, tumbling, intersecting, up and down lines that have no end and whose beginnings are often hard to locate.

Where does life go next?

There is no pattern to swirls. They dip and peak and then they dip lower and peak higher. To peak means to reach the highest point, but here I’m talking about the point that is highest at that moment, and moments change moment to moment.

That makes sense…

Guys, I admit that I’m just thinking here. This is a blog. Not a published book that has been checked and backed by others. I’m talking about my day, my emotions, my thoughts. I’m using my life with the admonition that my life is different from yours because we are all different people.

Yet we live in the same world.

Somewhere in the writing of all this, I’ve come back to the whole foods list. We made a list of foods that are untainted with chemistry. Strict biology.

We can learn how plants grow and how animals multiply, but life is so swirly. Chemistry happens. Even if no one pours vinegar into a bowl of baking soda, a bottle might spill. Then what?

A couple of weeks ago, I was challenged to diagram my faith race.

As in, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…” (from Hebrews 12).

I was challenged to diagram my obstacles, my hindrances, my sins.

I had a hard time with this. First, I drew two lines:

_______________________________________________

_______________________________________________

But I didn’t think these two lines accurately represented my path. They were just a starting point because I didn’t know what to draw.

What is my path? I thought.

I thought about my life. It’s pretty common, when you sit down and put words to my actions:

Kids
Dinner
Dishes
Laundry
Writing a novel
Writing other things
Marriage

Perhaps my path is straight like the above lines, but my mind goes in swirls. Perhaps it’s not my feet that wander but my eyes. Instead of looking straight at Jesus, I look up at the clouds and I pause to listen to the leaves of trees. Then I find myself out of breath because I’ve gotten distracted. One minute I am breathing oxygen and the next minute I’ve stuck my head into a pond because I want to see how far the bottom is (total metaphor, guys… that’s just creativity). Today as I drove my children to the grocery store, I just found myself saying, “Jesus help. There has to be a way.”

A way to life. A way to mother. A way to streamline the never ending groceries. A way to end the swirls. A way to breathe. A way to think clearly in the midst of tiny obstacles.

These obstacles that I face, they really are tiny.

The simple answer was right there. “I am the way” (from John 14).

While we might expect to live the natural way of other living organisms, chemistry just works its way in.

The composition of our matter changes because we are not the way. We are only the vessel.

Quest to Distinguish a Vacation

Quest to Distinguish a Vacation

This is the last day of vacation. A day of immensity, sentiment, expectation. I can’t recall the past week, but I know it has been here. Each day has run into all the others like the colors in Van Gogh’s skies. So today I am looking closer.

Vacation: An extended period of recreation
Vacation: The action of leaving something one previously occupied
This is where moments have come and gone. Now, I am sentimental for them. A vacation’s moments blow like the breeze. They are the very movement of this time. They are the only surroundings I see.

This is a week filled with recreation. We traveled. We left occupation.

This is a week where occupation followed us anyway. Motherhood, and fatherhood too, can never be abandoned. Though a vacation’s moments blow like the breeze, so do a mother’s moments. They are unpredictable and many.

This is a lake filled with fish and loons, edged in rocks and docks and boats, but mostly tall, dark trees.

This is a cool breeze on a porch. It is a family sitting in lawn chairs, filling bellies with root beer floats and gingerbread cookies, lobsters, sandwiches and snacks, while wind chimes sing the tune of relaxation. This is a yard of dirt for kids to touch and dig. This is sensory play at its finest.

This is where breeze is as welcomed as it is intrusive. It surrounds our skin, blows our hair, invades our lungs, moves the lake in ripples, and distorts reflections.

This is where our life has paused. It is a place rich with my husband’s memories, a place where I am forming my own. The place where my husband spent every summer growing up, the place we honeymooned and once before vacationed with our little family.

This is a place once foreign to me. Growing up in Florida, I knew beaches and year-round warmth. Now, I am in Maine, at the other end of US1. Here, warmth is found but not always felt in the air.

This is a kind of warmth that doesn’t make you sweat, but offers room to breathe. It almost forces breath while at the same time stealing it. Nature. Beauty. Only being here can truly describe.

This is the writer’s dilemma. To figure out a way to show a reader what is meant. How do I make you hear what I hear, feel what I feel, see what I see? How can I put this dirt on your toes when you will probably never sit on the slats of this porch, listen to these leaves blow, watch the changing reflections of this lake?

This is a place we leave tomorrow. Then we will go home to a place where sidewalks tell our path.

This is life, where warmth is offered, yet created.

This is vacation: when eyes open for every moment, where we realize that setting is important, that we always are somewhere, but more than that, we always are. No matter where we take our family, there our family is.

This is a pledge to open eyes, something that is necessitated by the change of location.

This is a location.

This is family.

This is where memories are made from moments.

This is always possible.

Why You Will Not Find Tutorials Here

Why You Will Not Find Tutorials Here

I know that how-to blogs are really popular. We love to be told what to do. We especially love instruction when we are moms and homemakers, when we are women who home school and cook every day. We want to know the best way to do laundry and how to clean our oven in 30 seconds. We want to know how to keep our children from screaming and how to pamper ourselves while also being the best mom ever.

We want to have everything: the pretty red washing machine and the energy-saving clothes line out back, where it never rains and bugs don’t crawl. We want to know how to make the best chocolate chip cookies, but also how to keep our bellies from rolling over our jeans.

So when my husband gave me a website for Mother’s Day this year, I was excited. Then I was really nervous. I thought, I can’t have a blog. I don’t know how to do anything, and as for the things I do know, there is no constant.

It’s true. I don’t separate my laundry. Instead, I mostly just shove pieces of dirty cloth into the machine until it’s full. Then I pour in a cap full of soap, and push the ON button. I only clean our oven when it starts smoking up the kitchen. My children aggravate each other and they aggravate me, and though we share a lot of amazing moments, they are almost always unplanned, a result of something I didn’t do and can’t recreate. I don’t wear makeup. I don’t blow dry my hair. My idea of getting pampered is doing anything alone, and that’s not a plea for martyrdom. It’s really the truth. All I need in order to feel refreshed is a good few minutes with myself, where everything is quiet and I can process the world that is spinning and leaping and shouting around me. Every cookie I bake is different from the ones before it because I love to try new things, even if they aren’t as good as the last ones, and though I try to exercise a few times a week, I often end up just doing some combination of push ups/squats/jumping jacks/high knees while my children try to crawl under my legs exclaiming, “Mom’s a tunnel!”

The bottom line is that I’m only sometimes a tunnel. Other times, I look more like a crazy person, my double jointed elbows flailing around in the air, seemingly free from my shoulders, and sometimes my children get kicked in the head. I don’t have the answers.

Instead of trying to figure out how I could maintain a blog, I sat around for days wondering about it. Well, I have three children, so actually I barely sat at all, but that sentence is metaphorical. You know I love metaphors, right? I have been waiting for an idea, for a spark of lightening, for a muse, for a vision, for a mission statement of some kind that speaks of my life, and explains what I can offer.

Here it is: This is not a how-to blog. You will not find tutorials, and you will not find advice.

You want to know why not, right? Of course you do. If I’m not going to tell you how to do things, you at least want me to tell you why I’m not going to write tutorials.

Well, it’s not them, it’s me. And that’s the actual truth. It’s because I am not a directional person. I mean this in all senses: I get lost all the time, even when I have been to a place before, and though I admit that it would be nice to always be on the right road (and thus avoid almost all the marital arguments that ensue around my home), creativity begs for a journey. Since I know that I am a creative person, I have to be okay with the journey, and more than that, I have to enjoy the journey. I have to love the journey. I have to find joy and contentment while I am lost among orange cones and detour signs. Though there are a lot of people out there who hate being the passenger in my minivan, I simply cannot allow myself to always be focused on the quickest way to get from my home to whichever grocery store I decide to shop at that day.

My hope is that my journey speaks to you, and encourages you. My hope is that you find joy and rest and mercy as I reveal pieces of my journey here. You have to know that my journey, though it may sound beautiful and humorous, is a mess just like yours. Any beauty or humor found here is only a result of time. And time, though not all-powerful, does often allow healing and provide perspective for circumstances which may have once been really difficult.

Now, I invite you to join me, here, in this place, where the laundry is clean but not best, and where the cookies surprise and the bread is fresh, where I look for rest but only find it when I stop and realize that I can’t create it. Rest, it seems, is always here, if we invite it.