Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Didn’t I Just Clean This House?

We had a rite of passage in the library for new pages, the folks who put away all the returned books.  They truly became part of the family of staff when they made the observation, “Didn’t I just clear this cart?”  After we finished laughing we assured them that yes, they had just put all those books away. In the meantime, thirty more people had come in and returned books, filling the cart once more.

Library work is not for those who like closure.  New employees who thought they’d actually finish their work in a day, a week, a month were quickly disappointed.  Our job was to keep one step ahead of chaos.  Like Mickey, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, in Disney’s Fantasia, the circulation desk staff bravely tried to maintain order as our patrons passed through our doors carrying armloads of books like so many pail-toting brooms.

Now my pail-toting brooms are toy-toting boys who manage to create endless piles of dishes and cups to clean, laundry to do, and messes to straighten. Like our library’s patrons they ask interesting questions, have a boundless curiosity, and love to read.  There’s no closure, only the change of seasons and the growth and deepening of lives. 

So here I sit, having just cleaned the house. Again.  I’ll do it again and again, trying to keep one step ahead of chaos. I know better than to ask, “didn’t I just clean this?”

While I cleaned I plugged in the iTouch and listened to the album at the top of the list.  As I scrubbed, Charlie Peacock sang 

I have got to clean house

Gotta make my bed

Gotta clear my head

It's gettin' kinda stuffy in here

Smells sorta funky too

Like monkeys at the zoo;

Spirit come flush the lies out

One of the things I love about Sunday morning worship is the chance to sit quietly and clean house, especially on communion Sunday.  The weekly grind fills my mind and soul with gunk as surely as those brooms filled Mickey’s master’s workshop with water.  I treasure one entire hour (!) of reflection, confession, and praise as my Master puts things back in order. He never asks “didn’t I just clean this?”  He welcomes my confession and strengthens me as I confess my weaknesses to him. I know that one day there will be closure, for there won’t be any housework in heaven.  But for now I’m thankful for the one in whom there is no chaos, the one who washes me white as snow.  

A magic eraser, indeed.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Write Thing

Two hours.  I knew I'd have two whole hours to myself to work on Ruth.

Daddy took DW to his first baseball game.  Baby J and I would have dinner, playtime, then bath and bed. The balance of the evening (until the guys got home) belonged to me.  I'd even watched the Tour in the afternoon so that tonight would be distraction free.  I planned to spend two hours writing.

But unfinished tasks got in the way.  My eBay auction was doing well.  Very well. I needed to pull together clothing for the next auction. But what's this?  More summer clothes the baby's outgrown. I realized I had another mixed lot of toddler clothes. Hmm. I need the cash and summer's half over. Better get this lot online now.

Task #1 - get a box of items listed, photographed, weighed and ready to go on the auction block

Then there's Sunday dinner.  I could leave the preparation until Sunday afternoon, but DW has a birthday party to attend after church.  Our neighbor is turning three. The party will be a blast. And my spinach cheese manicotti tastes much better if it's prepped the night before it's cooked.

Task #2 - make ahead spinach manicotti so I can play (not cook) on Sunday

Task #3 - wrap presents so that I'm not a hurried, crabby Mommy on Sunday afternoon

There goes my two free hours.

But, as I stood in my kitchen stuffing manicotti, I realized that tonight's tasks were best done tonight. What took me two (well, 3) hours to do by myself would take much longer if I had to work around my family.  My auction ended well.  Hopefully the next batch of clothes will exceed expectations.  Dinner tomorrow will be delicious. Best of all, I can focus on worship and family on the Sabbath instead of unfinished tasks.

Tonight's jobs weren't the write thing to do. But they were the right thing to do.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Arsenic Hour

Ahhh, it’s that transitional time in the afternoon lovingly dubbed “The Arsenic Hour”.  This is not an original term, but one borrowed from The Mother’s Almanac and brought into our family vocabulary by my sister.

Between the nap and the twilight

When blood sugar is becoming lower,

Comes a pause in the day's occupations,

That is known as Arsenic Hour.

—Marguerite Kelly and Elia Parsons, The Mother's Almanac I, 1975

Kelly and Parsons appear to have taken a page from Longfellow’s poem “The Children’s Hour” (1863)

Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.

No amount of naps or high quality snacks can stave off this phenomenon in our house.  This is the time that tests Mom’s soul. I have yet to figure out how to prepare dinner with one wailing child on each leg. So I reach for the remote control.  Today’s child-calming feature is the movie Cars. Thank you, Lightning McQueen.

Interestingly enough, there’s another type of late afternoon meltdown experienced by Alzheimer’s and dementia patients--Sundowning.  Lengthening shadows and end-of-day fatigue trigger a type of confusion that leads to inappropriate behaviors and increasing agitation.

It appears that God created our bodies to need a time of rest, no matter what age. Just like we need a good night’s sleep and possibly even a daily nap, we also need to take a break from our busy lives and refuel. Otherwise, let the cranky times begin.

So a quick prayer for Mommy and a kiss for the kids.  Daddy’s coming home soon.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Let the Madness Begin

It's July again and time for the Tour de France. Three weeks of cycling, thrills, spills, but, hopefully, no doping disqualifications.  There's a wonderful (but painful) commercial featuring past champions being defrocked of their titles by running the tape backwards.  An official removes Landis's jersey, stripping him of the yellow. Rasmussen rides backwards into the starting gate.  Hopefully we're in a new era and we can just enjoy the race.  

Can't explain why we like the Tour so much. We're not cyclists. We don't even know who tuned in first to (then) OLN in 2002.  But there we were one evening, BW watching racing and me watching French countryside. We were hooked. Then we got into the Lance Armstrong drama the following year. We watched him win #5, #6, and #7.  

There's a Spaniard in the yellow jersey today.  Valverde won the 1st stage.  

Only 20 more to go.