Monday, March 24, 2008

Sunrise

It's morning. The start of a new day. So far it is much like any other day. Get up, shower, try to drink my coffee while it's hot before the boys are up. Burn my mouth on the coffee because it's TOO hot. Then the boys get up. Make toast, pour cereal, fill milk cups. Now my coffee is lukewarm. If I go out into the kitchen to warm it up, will they let me come back in here, or will they think up new things for me to do?

A number of years ago I read a piece by someone (Max Lucado, I think) in which he sat by the window watching the gently falling snow, drinking his coffee and reflecting on his day. I'm not sure when the last time was that I got to reflect long enough to make it through an entire cup of coffee without interruptions. In his reflecting Max came up with a list of resolutions, a list of things that he would focus on just for that day. His is much more profound because the caffeine stream to his brain was uninterrupted; he's also simply a much better writer than I am.

But in the spirit of a new day, here is my list of resolutions for the day.

1. I will not view my children as inconveniences. Even when my three year old interrupts me in the midst of this point asking to be tucked again. He looks awfully cute running back to the couch with his little high-stepping run and his mismatched pajamas.

2. I will do my very best not to yell. If I need to count to ten, leave the room, make a cup of tea, whatever, I will not allow my anger to control me. And if I yell, I will ask forgiveness and move on, because each moment is new, and each moment we can choose to take the other path.

3. I will not laugh at my three year old when he comes running into my office because the sheep on Micky Mouse scare him. Even though he's only three, what scares him is real to him. (And the baaa-ing of those sheep IS a little freaky.)

4. I will get my taxes filed today. Really I will.

5. I will eliminate time wasters. I love my internet message boards, but sometimes I can get so caught up in them that caring for my home and family takes second place. OK, so I'm not going to TOTALLY eliminate them, how else would I find out fascinating things like how to tie a bow on a little girl's Easter dress so that it hangs perfectly? (Note...I only have boys. They won't wear anything with bows on them.) I will view them with restraint; maybe choosing to ignore posts about things like tying bows.

6. I will get my kids out of their pajamas and into real clothes sometime before my husband comes home at 5.

7. I will exercise restraint in how much leftover Easter candy I eat. This includes not trying to swipe candy from my children on the premise that "they will never notice". J is reaching the age where he does notice. Oh yes, he notices.

8. I will extend grace today. Grace to myself for the mistakes I'm sure I'll make, grace to my children for the noise and the messes that they will create today, grace to my husband for the moments when he just doesn't 'get' what I'm saying, grace to relatives who are acting like children, and grace to anyone else who crosses my path who needs it.

9. I will stop my list at nine, because snuggling my children is more important that stretching to try to come up with a perfect list of ten points.

 Happy new day, everyone. What are YOUR resolutions for today?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Potholes

As I was leaving Target the other day it happened. My car was swallowed by a pothole. OK, not literally swallowed, but the thud and shaking had me convinced that I must have inadvertantly driven over the curb. (Having driven over a few curbs in my time, it wasn't that hard to believe.) Later, driving back in the other direction I realized that where the street and parking lot met there was a pothole large enough to lose a small dog in. Ah well, 'tis the season.

There is another stretch of road in town that has become infamous for its potholes. Althought pot trenches would be the more accurate term for something stretching most of the width of a four lane road. Oh, the city posted signs "Rough Road Ahead - 20 MPH". They painted them orange to help people see them better. But the potholes were still there. Every time I drove that road I knew they were coming, not to be avoided. And every time they left me jarred, and hoping that my car was still intact.

We all have potholes. Areas of our lives that we know are a problem, things that we know in advance will shake us up and make us wonder how we'll keep it all together. Our jobs, the days our kids act like crazed monkeys that have had a pound of sugar and a gallon of Coke dumped down their throat, the visit from 'THAT' certain relative, the meeting with our child's teacher when we know things haven't been going well. Or maybe it is something more personal.

Sometimes my feelings of inadequacy are a pothole. New venture = feeling inadequate. It just is the way I'm wired. I could try to ignore that, and I could go flying over the potholes but I'm going to bottom out and then limp away thinking "Well, I'll never drive THAT road again." Or I could look at the signs and say "You know what? I know what's coming. I know its going to shake me up, but I really want to see what's at the end of the road." So I slow down. I'm not surprised when I hit the pothole, I knew it was there. But I know that once I'm over it there will be smooth stretches of road ahead.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Beautiful

I got a new haircut last week. I was tired of the old style;  I wanted something bold, something edgy, something that would fit who I'm trying to become. I thought about something short and spikey, something really red. Luckily I realized before it was too late that I'm not THAT edgy. I'm happy with the cut I got, it's close enough to my old style to still be in my comfort zone, but different enough to feel like I made a change.

Later that week I went to my women's Bible study. Lots of compliments on my new style were given. As we went around the circle listing our prayer requests for the week the leader asked us to describe what our feelings were at that point in time. (Here's a tip...'fine' and 'ok' are not feelings, just in case you were wondering.) It had been a rough day for me mentally, and I was doubting my ability to ever crawl out from under the clouds that sometimes hover like low-hanging fog on my mind. My word? Defeated.

"But at least you've got great hair!" someone piped up.

"Yeah, that's me," I responded, "defeated but with great hair."

How often do we as women do that, I wonder? How often do we try to rely on our outer image to bolster what's inside? I feel worthless...but at least I'm thin! I feel unloved...but at least I've got great clothes! We got on countless diets, get the latest celebrity hair style, frequent the cosmetic counter in the mall and the trendiest clothing stores, all the time hoping that somehow we will reach that magic combination that makes us feel beautiful and therefore makes us finally feel good about who we are.

Page through a women's magazine sometime and take a count of how often how you look or what you wear is equated with a desirable feeling. Sometimes the messages are subtle, sometimes they are in your face bold. "Visible gray hairs make me feel invisible." No magazine is immune, and we are constantly bombarded with ad after ad and article after article telling us to wear this, buy that, and our lives both inner and outer will be richer and fuller. It probably shouldn't surprise me that once I stopped looking at them on a regular basis the amount of money I spent on makeup and other facial products dropped significantly.

So, just for today, do something different. I'm not telling you to run around in your rattiest pair of sweats with your hair pulled up in a rubber band (but don't let me stop you if that's what you feel like doing). No, just for today, when you start to feel that inner gnawing, that little voice that says "If I just looked like...if I just wore... then I'd feel better," do something radical. Think about what you REALLY want. Take time to sit down and listen to your favorite music. Read a book. Plan the first step to pursuing your dream. Hey, maybe even start your own blog!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Grace and the brown marker

I have been lucky so far in my parenting, at least when it comes to one major area. In nearly six years of parenting, my children have never ruined any object that we own (at least nothing significant). I'm not even that fanatical about keeping food and markers away from all forbidden surfaces; I have friends who would probably cringe at how relaxed I am about what goes on in my house. No sticky food outside of the kitchen, wipe hands and face when leaving the table, that's about as stringent as my rules get. And after several years of monitoring marker and crayon use I now just dump them all out on the table along with coloring books and scrap paper because it gives me a blissful hour or so of working in my home office.

Somehow I thought that reaching the ages of three and almost-six without them ever desiring to color on anything other than paper meant that we were home free. And so yesterday I set K up at the table with his markers, some coloring books and some scrap paper and went into the other room to fold laundry. I was nearly done, all the socks matched, all the shirts folded, everything in its place when he wandered into the room with his head held low, peeking up at me through those impossibly long, dark eyelashes.

"I color on the table," he announced.

"Oh, that's ok sweetie, we'll clean it up!" I said, certain that he had probably just drawn a line slightly astray from one of his coloring books.

The good news? Our table isn't anything special. It isn't a family heirloom, it isn't fancy, it is just your standard, light wood table. Emphasis on light.

The bad news? Brown marker shows up really, really well on light wood. And K had taken half the table to draw what appeared to be some kind of road map, complete with blotches that probably represented route marker signs on the way to who knows where. The worse news? After washing the brown off, there was still a pronounced orange road map stain on the table. For a moment I considered refinishing the table in a Route 66 theme.

The good news? Clorox Bleach pens are miracles in a tube. No more stain.

The best news? Through it all, I kept my cool. This is huge for me. I'm still new to being a stay at home parent, and I struggle with the daily frustrations of parenting, the noise, the whining, the constant expectations that I will meet their every need and whim. I yell far more than I'd like to, and then wallow in guilt for the rest of the day. But I didn't yell today. I already knew he knew he'd done wrong. Yes, there were consequences; the markers got put away and he had to help me wash the initial brown marks off the table. But I think I succeeded in giving him grace.

I wish sometimes that I were that able to give myself grace. How many times do I make a mistake, intentionally or not and then spend the next several hours (or days, or years) mentally yelling at myself for doing it? Sometimes the mistakes are innocent; lack of knowledge, caught unaware, just ordinary life blunders. Sometimes I look around to see if anyone is watching and then gleefully color all over the forbidden surface just because it's there and just because I want to. And the stains stay, reminding me of mistakes made. I've been given grace by others; by God, by my husband, by my children. Why is it so hard, then, to give grace to myself?

Something to practice, I guess, as grace starts to flow in my life. Not only to extend grace to others, but to also extend it to myself.