Monday, February 13, 2012

Strapping On Time

Lately I've been giving a lot of thought to time.  What do I spend my time doing?  What things would I like to carve out more time for so that my activities match my priorities?  What things take up my time but don't make my life or the lives of others richer?  Who do I know that seems to spend time well, and how can I emulate those practices to bring about more balance in my own life?

I'm always annoyed when I hear people say things like, "Everyone has 24 hours in a day" or "We all have the same amount of time available to us."  I partly hate that statement because it's not totally true.  Depending on what choices we have made and what roads we find ourselves on, we have varying demands on our time.  The single mom working two jobs to put food on the table doesn't have the same amount of time as the stay-at-home wife of a CEO.  [Of course, time isn't the only variable in this example, but you see what I'm getting at.]

And I partly hate that statement because it is a little bit true and I don't want it to be.  While I choose to use some of my expendable time plopped on the couch watching television with a big bowl of popcorn on my lap (this has become a nightly ritual lately, and I must admit that I am loving it!), somewhere someone is doing something more productive with her time.  Somewhere someone is writing a letter, reading a book, composing a song, serving at a soup kitchen, making a meal for someone in pain.  And I am not.  In those moments, I am not a producer - I am a consumer.  And for some of the time, I think that's okay.

I struggle with finding a healthy balance between self-care and self-sacrifice.  Maybe it's a uniquely American phenomenon, but I find myself caught up in the quest to do more, more, more - at the expense of peace of mind.  I guess, like so many things, a lot of it comes down to motives.  The things we do with our time, no matter how noble, must be done with love if they are to be a valuable use of our time.  They can't be done to "keep up with the Joneses" or to try to live up to some standard of perfection we have set forth in our minds.  Of course, I'm preaching to myself here.  I often find myself checking my motives to be sure I am doing things out of love and not out of guilt or a feeling of duty.  Usually I find great joy in doing things for others - the guilt comes in when I choose to spend time doing something for myself.

When it comes down to it, I think time is ultimately a gift, and how I choose to spend my time can be a way to pass that gift along to others.  We are so bound by time.  Each day as I'm getting ready, I invariably have that moment when I put on my watch.  Sometimes this is done as an afterthought as I'm running out the door, other times I put on my watch even before I dress.  More often than not, the phrase that runs through my mind as I put on my watch is "strapping on time."  I feel as though I am binding myself to a schedule, shackling myself to the confines of the 24 hour day with all of its demands, choices, and possibilities.  [I realize this sounds dramatic, but I have never claimed to be otherwise!]

At my grandmother's funeral, my brother got up to speak, and he said something that has really stuck with me.  He said, "Being with Cici was like taking your watch off."  He went on to explain how Cici lived so fully in the moment and so excelled at sucking the marrow out of life that you never felt like she had anywhere else to be or anything else to do than what she was doing.  Yes!  This is what I want for myself.  This is what I want to be said at my funeral someday.

As Sarah Groves says of friendship in one of her songs, "You have taught me to slow down and to prop up my feet.  It's the fine art of being who I am."  What a wonderful gift to give someone.

I want to give the gift of time so well that I make each person I'm with feel like the most special person in the world at that moment.  I want to cherish the moments, to spend them well and wisely.  Sometimes that might look like curling up on the couch with a bowl of popcorn.  Other times it will look like baking, cleaning, singing, running, hugging, crying, laughing, dancing.  It will look like service and sacrifice, love and friendship.  Whatever it looks like, I want it to feel authentic and true.  As cliched as it sounds, I really do want to suck the marrow out of life.  And, though I must "strap on time" each day, I hope that I will also practice taking my watch off and teaching others to do the same.

Friday, January 27, 2012

I Don't Want a Clean House

It looks like it's been about two years since my last blog post.  A lot has happened in those two years - most notably, I gave birth to another precious baby girl named Parker Lane.  Parker is sweet and social, spunky and fearless, and has the best sense of humor of any baby I've ever seen.  That girl enjoys a good laugh!  Marin has blossomed as a big sister, and nothing brings me greater joy than watching the two of them love on each other.

Clearly, life has changed in many ways since I last posted.  One of the changes seems to be that maintaining a clean house is no longer within my grasp.  I should birdwalk for a moment here to share something about myself - I LOVE to clean.  I don't just love the end result, but I love the process itself.  I'm not such a fan of picking up clutter, but once that's done and it's time to bust out the Comet, I'm a happy camper!  There's something great about restoring order to places of disorder, and something soothing about working hard and seeing an immediate result.  Often times in my life when too many things seem out of my control, I break out the cleaning supplies and exert control over my small sphere of influence.  As I scrub, I am reenergized by the act of bringing order out of chaos.  Come to think of it, maybe there's something holy about cleaning.  Maybe being made in God's image, I too find joy in the creativity involved in bringing order out of chaos.  While cleaning a bathroom sink isn't exactly akin to separating light from darkness or making the stars, I guess it's my own small way of participating in the pleasure God derives from bringing about order.  Well, I think I've made my point here - I love to clean! And, of course, I love to sit on the couch at the end of the day and marvel at my spotless abode.

Well, those days are gone.  Now everywhere I look, there is a job waiting to be done.  Crumbs scattered on the floor from the last meal, a hamper full of laundry taunting me from every bedroom, a diaper to be changed, and the toys - oh, the toys!  An endless trail of toys that reappears behind me as I make my way through the house trying to pick them up.  Chaos.

The other day, standing in the midst of a disastrous kitchen, I exclaimed, "All I want is a clean house!!!"

And the moment the words escaped my lips, I knew it wasn't true.

Yes, a clean house would be great, and I will undoubtedly continue to dedicate much of each day vainly striving toward that end so that my family doesn't live in the midst of chaos.  But that's not what I really want.  The crumbs on the floor remind me that I have recently shared a meal with my children and that we are blessed with enough food to eat three meals (and two snacks!) a day.  Although laundry is my nemesis, hampers full of clothes serve as a reminder that my girls are well cared for through surprise shopping sprees by grandparents and hand-me-downs from friends .  The diapers to be changed mean that I am just at the beginning of a life-long relationship with two beautiful little people who have so many new discoveries ahead of them.  The endless trail of toys means that I have two sweet little girls roaming my house, exploring their world and delighting in their developing imaginations.  The mess around me is evidence that I am in the midst of a grand adventure as I work alongside the love of my life to raise precious babies into loving, Christ-like adults.

At the end of each day when I sit on [read: collapse onto] my couch, I don't want to marvel at how clean my house is.  I want to know that my children went to bed feeling that they had been seen today, that I had truly listened to them, that they are fully known and loved exactly as they are.  I want to marvel at the small miraculous moments that dotted my day like wildflowers on a Fredericksburg hillside.

And if my kitchen happens to be spotless, that's just a bonus.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Life Lesson from the Ants

As I feel about all animals in the animal kingdom, I believe there is a lot we can learn from our friends the ants. Of course, we've all heard tale of their great teamwork - how they work together to carry large objects much heavier than any one could carry alone or how they build elaborate mazes in their ant hills. I suppose there are all sorts of things we could learn from these creatures, but they taught me something brand new last week.

For the past several weeks, we have had an ant problem in our kitchen. Our wonderful landlords responded promptly, as always, and had the pest control folks out to our house the day after this unfortunate discovery took place. The pest control people left this sticky substance in the corners of our cabinets which supposedly works like this: the ants are attracted to it, they gather it up in their little ant fashion and take it back to share with the colony thinking it's a real treat, only it's poison and it kills off the whole colony. [Sort of sad, isn't it?] That's how it's supposed to work. Instead, it actually must have been a real treat, because weeks later the ants were still enjoying it and flocking in greater numbers than ever to come try this new substance. Our kitchen has become something of a hot spot for the neighborhood ants. Although this has been a bit annoying, I'm so relieved that it's ants and not something else. I am neither scared of nor grossed out by ants, so if there's going to be some sort of problem, I'd prefer it to be an ant problem! If it were roaches, spiders, or anything of that disturbing nature, we'd have a REAL problem on our hands. But I digress...

So the other morning, feeling Christmasy and cozy, I made a cup of hot tea and went to fetch the honey to sweeten it up a bit. To my dismay, when I picked up the honey, I found a little ant attempting to crawl into the lid. He wasn't having much success. I turned the honey bottle around to inspect it from another angle and found that all of his friends had the same goal in mind as well. These guys had managed to crawl down inside the crack of the lid and were dangerously close to their goal. I wasn't sure whether it were actually possible for them to reach the honey because of the screw-cap lid, but of course I wasn't going to proceed with using it in this state. Not knowing what else to do, I unscrewed the lid with plans to wash these poor suckers down the drain. That was, apparently, my fatal flaw. The second the lid came loose, those sugar scavengers had a green light into their honey wonderland. At this point, I was a bit grossed out, I must admit. No one wants little creatures making themselves at home in your honey. I quickly screwed the lid back on and set the whole thing down in the sink. My tea would have to be sweetened with sugar that day. I looked down at the bottle of honey sitting in the sink and saw the tiny ants, shriveled and floating in the sticky amber liquid. It suddenly struck me: This is a life lesson for us all! Those ants finally got exactly what they wanted and it killed them!

It's something to think about, really. What do you think you really want? What do I think I really want? If I get what I want, will I be happier? Will I be a better person? Or will I end up like the ants, who must have thought in their last seconds [on whatever level ants think], "We worked our whole lives for THIS?"

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Does That Make Me Crazy?

A friend of mine listens to a radio show every morning that has a segment called, "Does That Make Me Crazy?" Apparently people call in and tell about quirky things that they do. I don't listen to that show and don't feel like calling in, but I do have some quirky habits I would like to tell you about.

1) I attribute human characteristics (mainly, feelings) to inanimate objects. For example, I will never leave a fork alone in the silverware drawer. If I take the second to last fork, I will just move the remaining fork to be with one of it's cousins - the salad forks, for instance - until there are more forks to join it once again in its part of the silverware tray. Same thing for bowls, plates, etc. No dish left alone, that's my motto. Well, not a motto, really, but I just hate the thought of something being lonely. When I used to roll my hair in high school, I would rotate the rollers that got used each time so that none of them got left out or felt unimportant. If I accidentally drop a grape down the drain when I'm washing them in the sink, I'll pluck another one off the vine and throw it in there, too, so the dropped one will have company down there. If I'm eating pizza at a restaurant and there is one piece remaining (that, for some reason, doesn't get to come home in a to-go box), I cut it in half so that there will be two pieces and they can keep each other company. When I'm eating cereal - Cheerios, let's say - I make sure I never swallow just one piece by itself... you guessed it - so it won't be lonely. I wonder what this obsession with not leaving things alone says about me? Am I terrified at the thought of being alone? Probably so. I sure do love people, so why would I want to spend extended periods of time alone? It's just not how I'm wired. So, I assume that nothing in the world (inanimate objects included) wants to be alone, either. Does that make me crazy?

2) I engage in some superstitious behaviors even though I'm not superstitious. Growing up, my dad old us that as a kid, he and his siblings would raise their feet whenever someone drove over a railroad track. If you don't raise your feet, you're supposed to lose your girlfriend or boyfriend. Once I heard that, I started doing it just for fun. I still can't seem to drive over a railroad track without raising my feet. It's just a habit now, I guess. I don't even think about it.

When I'm eating cereal - Cheerios, let's say! - I pretend that the number of Cheerios in my last spoonful will predict the number of children I will have. Of course I don't believe this, but I like to play this little game with myself. The game is sort of rigged, though, because I often just make sure that my last bite contains three Cheerios - the number of children I hope to have. Does that make me crazy?

3) Whenever I am walking across a parking lot to my car and it is 1) raining 2) extra chilly and windy or 3) I am carrying something heavy, I always count in my head (and sometimes under my breath) to make the walk seem shorter. I say one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight; two, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight; three, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, etc. The goal is to reach my car by eight counts of eight. If I need to, I extend my stride and take giant steps in order to make it. I'm not quite sure when I started doing this, but it does seem to help. In my estimation, it makes the walk seem only one-eighth as long as it actually is, because I pretend that each set of eight counts is one step and/or one second. Does that make me crazy?

4) I microwave in prime numbers whenever possible. If a prime number just won't get it, I at least make sure that it's an odd number. Does that make me crazy?

Well, does it? More importantly, I'm interested to know about the quirks of others. I know I'm not the only one out there who does strange things like this. Let's hear it, folks - bring on the crazy!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mother God

My whole world has changed since my last post. The last time I posted, my stomach stuck out like an oversized basketball, my time was still my own, I rarely cried, and I thought I knew how much I was going to love my little girl.

Three months ago today, I gave birth to Marin Blake. She weighed 6 pounds 2 ounces (thank the Lord for that - I did a natural birth and am not sure I could have made it through had she been one ounce larger!) and was 19 inches long. She is perfect. I can't get over how much I love her! I get excited each time she wakes me up in the middle of the night wanting to eat - I miss her after even a few hours and just love to see that sweet little face looking up at me! My heart breaks when she cries (I cried with her as she got her first shot at her two-week appointment) and I can't imagine life without her after these twelve short weeks.

Life as a mother has reminded me (or maybe truly taught me for the first time) of some of the qualities of God. As I interact with my daughter and realize time and again how utterly dependent she is on me at this stage of her little life, I can't help but think of my relationship with God.

Marin has a little timer in her tummy and can tell almost to the minute when three hours have passed and it's time for her next meal. She lets me know when it's time to eat and becomes upset quite quickly if I don't feed her immediately, even if I'm in the process of getting set up to feed her. She is not satisfied until she is eating (she's a lot like me in that way, actually!) If seeing her cry weren't so sad, it would be almost comical to see how worked up she gets when her meal is just seconds away. You would never know from her response to hunger that I have been feeding her every 3 hours her whole life. Her memory doesn't tell her to trust me - she just knows she is hungry. It is a perfect parallel to how I often respond when there are needs (and sometimes even wants) in my life. I get all panicky inside and worry that I won't be taken care of. It's as if I have forgotten ALL of the times God has come through for me in the past. I always imagine God responding to me in the same way I respond to Marin as I calmly tell her, "Don't worry, baby girl - I know just what you need. It's on the way..."

I Know Better Than You...
When Marin wakes up in the middle of the night to eat, I always check to see whether she has a dirty diaper before I feed her. If she does, I change it before she eats so that I won't reawaken her with this whole process after her meal. She often stops crying when I pick her up, as if to say, "What a relief! Someone is listening to me!" However, when she realizes I am changing her diaper rather than feeding her, she bursts into sobs, crying harder than she was before I picked her up. I picture her thinking, "But this isn't what I wanted, Mom! Aren't you listening? Can't you see that I'm starving?" As I reassure her that her meal is on the way, I think of how good it will feel to her to have a clean diaper and a full tummy when I lay her back down to sleep. Again, I can't help but see the parallel in my own life. God knows what I need, and he is consistently faithful in my life, but sometimes he is changing my diaper first when what I wanted was to eat. It's all very upsetting until I'm clean and fed and back in the crib...

How Deep the Mother's Love for Us...
There's an old hymn I love called "How Deep the Father's Love for Us." In our patriarchal society (and in the patriarchal society in which the Bible was written) we usually refer to God as Father. I have no problem with this and am not on some feminazi soapbox about the gender of God; however, as a mother myself (and having watched my mother take care of us growing up) it seems to me that the image of God as Mother is almost more fitting. I am extremely close to my own father and adore watching Krister dote over Marin, so I do not deny the deep connection fathers have with their children. But think of the mother's role with her children - of the deep physical connection present from birth, as her body changes in form and function to meet the needs of her baby, as mother and baby become codependent in the breast-feeding process, both needing the other for comfort and relief. Think of the endless selflessness that it takes to be a good mother. I am overwhelmed with love for Marin. I feel as though I have been given a small glimpse of God's love for me as this new relationship unfolds, as I gladly sacrifice to meet Marin's needs out of a deep and indescribable love. I understand for the first time in my life how greatly God rejoices in me, not because of anything I have done, but just because I am.

I am grateful for God the Father. I am grateful for God the Mother. I am so grateful to be a mother myself, and in this role to learn anew the love God has for me.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Baby Bump

I have every intention of staying committed to the original intent of this blog, which was to amuse myself (and possibly someone happening by the site) by relating random and ridiculous thoughts and stories from my life; however, given that I am (hopefully!) days away from having my first child, this event is clearly taking precedence in my mind and will likely continue to for, I don't know, the next 18 years? Admittedly, I haven't been blogging anyway, so I'm sure no one would notice or care if my blog changed from the purpose of amusing myself to being amused and amazed by my new little girl. That being said, I know I will need a creative outlet of some sort in between diaper changes and feedings, so I do hope to maintain a sense of my pre-baby self even after little Marin transforms life as we know it around here. That's what we're naming her, by the way - Marin Blake! I can hardly wait to meet her, and that little trickster had us fooled into thinking she was hours away in the earlier part of the week. She was only kidding, apparently, so I have a few more days (and hopefully not weeks!) left on my hands before she arrives.

I just finished cleaning the kitchen sink (again!) and remembered that a friend had asked me to post some pregnancy pics to my blog since it's been a while since we've seen one another. So, here they are! Hopefully the next time you see me she will be in my arms and not in my big belly! (And, of course, hopefully my belly will be a little less big!) :)

These were taken by my parents last Thursday at Turtle Creek, right by the gazebo where Krister proposed and I had my bridal portraits made. Fun memories! We were saying I should go ahead and deliver in the gazebo to keep up the trend of big events in my life happening there - I know the Turtle Creek residents would love that!

This was taken at the Dallas Arboretum a couple of Saturdays ago. I drug poor Krister out there in the scorching heat and humidity to take pictures of flowers for the nursery. He got some great ones and they are now framed above the changing table!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Super-Sized Surprise

I am currently 21 weeks pregnant, and today we had our big sonogram! We were actually supposed to find out yesterday, but due to a mix-up at our doctor's office, the big reveal had to be delayed for a painstaking 24 more hours! Poor little Baby Beluga was all hopped up on pre-sonogram Dr. Pepper for nothing yesterday!

Today we returned with great anticipation and the full expectation that we were in for the news, "It's a boy!" I must admit that, having had only brothers, I have always hoped to someday have a daughter. We both want at least one of each if we got to special-order our children, so of course we would have been thrilled with either gender. But, in the back of my mind I have always hoped to have a daughter first. Partly because I am the first-born in my family and I think big sisters are great! How else are you going to have someone convincing the other siblings that it would be wonderful to surprise Mom and Dad with a clean house when they get home? I just can't see a big brother organizing that, but I guess it depends on the brother! Also, as much as I want a son someday (and would have been thrilled to have a son first!) I had this nagging fear that if I didn't get a daughter right off the bat, I might never get one at all.

Growing up, I pictured myself as the mother of all boys. I simply adore boys and will let you in on the secret that I wished I were a boy myself through many of my growing up years. I used to write essays (I know, I'm a dork!) about how much easier it was to be a boy. The essays consisted of themes like: If you're a girl and you don't shave, it's considered to be gross... if you're a boy and you don't shave, you're thought of as manly because you grew a beard. If you're a boy you can run around with your shirt off and pee wherever you want (within reason, of course). If you're a girl you're expected to wear make-up and look great all of the time. And, of course, there was always the mention of the monthly "visitor" and all of the unfairness that entails. Plus, I always detested the drama of girls and the back-stabbing, gossiping nature of so many girl relationships. Boys do it the right way - they have a fist fight and then return to being buddies. Why can't girls be like that?

The general consensus among many of our friends and family was that I was going to have a boy. I believed it myself - I was having dreams about having a boy, I completely stopped searching for girls' names and instead pored over the boy names section of my baby names books. Even our midwife said that, based on the heartbeat, we were likely having a boy. So imagine our surprise when the stenographer announced, "Your baby isn't being cooperative, but I can get a peek and... you're having a little girl!" Krister was so shocked that he thought she was kidding at first. As she pointed out the evidence, tears streamed down my face in a steady flow that didn't stop until we left the office (only to resume in the form of happy sobs when I got to the car). I want a son someday. I love boys and all of the dirty, rambunctious fun that they bring with them. I want to have a little Krister running around the house and cheer for him at sporting events (or whatever events in which he chooses to participate! We can only hope he gets Krister's natural ability when it comes to sports!) I want a son. But today, my prayer for a daughter was answered. I am so grateful.