Wednesday, March 16, 2016

To Do, or Not to Do. That is the Question.


The other day I figured out this extra nifty life-simplification technique. It works so well I resent it. But I love it too! My future self does, anyway. My current self, not-so much sometimes. But I will be spending almost all of my time with my future self, so that is a minor detail. Or should be.

It regards decision making, and how to make the best ones. Life is chock-full of decisions. Many of them subconscious, to be sure. Much of the time they are not choices between right or wrong, but choices where each option has its pros and cons. And the options so often get saddled with unbelievable baggage. I am guessing, (speaking of subconscious) we make it complicated in order to make the decision we feel like making without having to deal with a negative opinion of our choice, which none of us wants to deal with, frankly.

I mean, really.

But sometimes, it is quite nebulous...as in...

Do I make this remarkably astute observation about this person, or keep quiet?

My audience would do well to be alerted to the type of person we are discussing here, after all. I'm just speaking with the Chief, and I am not telling him anything he doesn't already suspect, or know.
Or, this person's behavior could be an excellent learning tool for my natives. But on the other hand, it does not put this person in a very positive light. Not that they deserve positive light or anything, exactly.
But then, neither do I....

Do I eat this last piece of cake?

I haven't eaten any dessert for 4 days. But then, I still want to lose those 10 lbs.  I want to go ahead and wash the cake plate. If I don't eat it the natives will argue about who gets it when they get home from school. It's little; it can't be more than 115 calories. I want this cake. I crave this cake.

Do I wash up these dishes, or go to bed?

I am exhausted. But I hate waking up to a dirty kitchen. If I don't do them though, the Chief might. The Chief is tired too. But he's more robust than I. I need sleep. I do.

Do I write this letter or take a nap?

Because, I am after all, exhausted. And Sunday afternoons only come once a week, which is not anywhere close to often enough, and God made them for resting for a reason. I haven't touched base with her for a long time. But our friendship isn't going anywhere. I can call her next week.

Do I sew my daughter's dress, or iron the Chief's shirts?

My daughter needs dresses badly. The Chief LOVES to find his shirts ironed nicely.
I kind of like to iron. But my daughter...she needs dresses.

Do I read my Sunday School lesson, or step into the argument that is developing in the kitchen and give motherly guidance?

Do I buy these shoes? Or give this money to the fundraiser?

Do I read this book? Or not?

Now in any one of those scenarios, there are pros and cons flitting about like butterflies. And mostly, they are not cut and dried. There are pros. There are cons. Because of that, it's super easy to cuddle up to the pros of the decision I want to make right this minute, and dismiss the cons of said decision.

And then one day, not so long ago, a question popped into my head. God might have put it there, but I am not one to claim Divine inspiration lightly, so He might not have. Regardless, it has clarified my daily decisions in remarkable fashion.

I just ask myself, "What will I wish I had done?"

Tonight. Next week. At the end of my life...."What will I wish I had done?"
Just asking myself how I will feel about it tonight is generally sufficient. My future self knows.

The flitting butterflies disperse. There stands the answer. There is almost never any question.
I might resent knowing the answer. But I know it. And if I regard it as I ought, it makes for easy sleeping.

Which is a beautiful thing when you're exhausted.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

One of Those Days.

I am tired. It has been a long week.

In reality, it has been a short week because there was no school Monday, but I have made enough mistakes and felt rough enough to stretch it into a very long week.

I thought, though it made no sense to think so, that today was Friday.

That would not have been such a grievous transgression, had we not been supposed to put a food order in on Thursday. But it is not Friday, and we WERE suppose to put in a food order. And I didn't. I told Scott we didn't need to when he inquired, with clear eyes and a clear conscious.

And that, perhaps, would have been forgivable, had it not been the SECOND time this week I have been screwed up about which day it was and did not order food when I should have.

And in addition to that, two of the days I  hurt bad enough that I came home and went right to bed, and so the wigwam deteriorated to a state of mild dishevelment that I particularly resented because I took great pains, last weekend, to put a high shine on it, and had determined to maintain it.

The poor Chief has had to bear the brunt of my transgressions, and he has been maxed out already, and had physical pains of his own to bear, worse than mine, that he bears quietly, like a man.

This latest bit of brilliance on my part would fall to him to fix as well.

When it occurred to me this afternoon that I had goofed up the ordering A-GAIN, I  called him as quickly as I possibly could before my courage had a chance to fail me. I would just get it out of the way. Tell him fast and be done.

So I did, interrupting his busy day. I could hear him steadily shooting nails in the background while I talked, and sensed the urgency he was feeling to finish his job, and the tiredness in his voice, while I summarily added to his to-do list.

And so, this evening, during our daily debriefing, I was feeling a bit weepy, because when you're a lady, and you're tired and your wigwam is messy, and your ducks refuse to line up the way good ducks should, and you add to the burden of the person you love most with your unruly duck-line, you just do feel weepy.

My ducks weren't even in the same pond.

"I have just messed up and messed up," I said tearily, collapsing unceremoniously on the ironing board that no one had put away.

"Well, there's no point in crying about it," the Chief said reasonably, from his chair in the corner of our room. The chair he had inherited from his grandfather, who perhaps rocked in it in the evenings as well, though his wife was no doubt never so pathetic, and never left her ironing board up, let alone flopped on it. "We'll just do what we have to do."

"But I FEEL like crying." I wailed.

"Well then, come over here and cry on me." he said.

"I can't. I'll burn the hotdogs again." I said, gathering myself up and going to the kitchen to turn them before I did. Only I didn't. They burned a little. But only a little. And only on two sides. The other two were fine.

I like them that way. I wouldn't admit it tonight, because I am in no mood to be cheered up. But I do, sort of.

But tomorrow is another day, and  most of the world's problems can be fixed by a good night's sleep, Patience, kindness, and forbearance make the world go around, and thanks to my good Chief, my world still spins.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Polar Opposites.


The Chief is a hotblooded Native American.
That sounds nice. Chiefly.

But it is not.

He is hot when it is not hot. He is hot the minute the heat pump kicks on in the morning and takes the merest edge off the nighttime freeze. Just when I notice a bit of thaw to the air about me he begins the Martyr's Mutter, "I was looking forward to a cup of coffee, but I'll be sweating in no time at this rate."

I nobly stand over the register and attempt to capture as much warmth as possible with my skirt to spare his fevered person from undo exposure. It is useless. He goes past the thermostat and surreptitiously knocks it down a notch.

Why do opposites have to attract?

I am not fond of extra clothes; I wear them for survival. My fleece jacket. My hot pink socks. I wrap my furry throw (The Chief calls it a blanket) around my legs and huddle bravely in the cold, feeling virtuous in my efforts to keep from succumbing to the harsh elements. I hold my own in this martyrs' match.

The Chief comes in from the wintry wet weather, and exclaims, "It's stuffy in here! Someone bumped that thermometer up. How can y'all stand it?" in incredulous disbelief.

"It's not hot! I'm freezing!" I protest, cradling my cup of hot chocolate, trying to warm my icy fingers.

"I declare! There is no oxygen in here."

And so it goes. Every winter.

 I go to bed at night, and tuck myself in very comfortably. And he comes later and says, "Are you sure we're going to need this cover?" Every time I assure him I am sure. So he gets in and sticks a leg out the side for ventilation.

If I had $10 for every time he said, "Are you sure we're going to need this cover?" I could cruise the Caribbean on blue seas under smiling skies. I would take him with me, of course. We would cruise together.  And we would both be comfortable, because it is only inside heat that makes him hot. Not outside heat. And frankly, I am happy for that, because if that were not the case he'd be trying to haul me off the Maine or some such, without doubt.

As it is I get to stay here in the South, where winter really only lasts for 7 or 8 weeks, maybe, and seldom or never includes ice or snow or sleet, or chains on tires or salt on roads, or frozen pipes, or frostbitten extremities.

Still, they dutifully post signs before the bridges that say, "Bridge ices before road" The natives look at me blankly when I  try to explain what it's talking about, which, speaking of signs, is a very good sign.

Now please excuse me while I go warm my coffee.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Treading an Untrodden Path.

The littlest native has been humming "Come! Come! Ye Saints!" at high speed under her breath while she reads "Bambi's Children" for probably an hour, and I am two inches from going coo-coo, so I think I will write a blog. Not because I have anything in particular to say, but I just want to connect with my blog people again, and stave off insanity, by means of distraction.

Hi, y'all!

I have very little time for writing anymore because I have taken on a new venture. Maybe I will tell you about it. It will give me subject matter, at least. Subject matter is a beautiful thing when you need to write. Especially if your sanity rests upon it.

Last December we sat across from friends of ours at a Christmas banquet and they told us the mayor of our little town had said that they were looking for someone to cook in the cafeteria of a new charter school they were building. He had asked if anyone in our church would be interested in the job.

On the way home we discussed it a little bit. "It could be fun!" I said. "I love to cook! We love children! It would be fun to work together!" The natives threw in a few positive comments. The Chief did not poo-poo it. That was something.The school itself was being constructed a half-mile from the wigwam. It could not be handier.

The more I thought about it the more I wished we would do it.The Chief would help, of course. He would take care of the business aspects. I would cook. And we had all this potential native labor. It would be a tribal effort, and it would be a great fit for us!

So the Chief and I talked about it. He called the mayor and we met with him. He was all for giving us the job if we wanted it, but there would be no kitchen at the school, he said. All the food would have to be prepared off-site and delivered. Whew. We asked him how long we had to consider it, and he said we had till the end of April anyway.

The no-kitchen aspect introduced a factor we had not anticipated. It was daunting, really, but we had some ideas and we explored our options. It took awhile. Also, there were so many other things that needed to be researched and planned. People to hire. Menus to plan. Food prep and transportation. I have never in my entire life done commercial-type cooking. I had never gone to public school. I couldn't even picture what a school cafeteria looked like in operation. There were classes to take and  regulations to investigate. The more we looked into it the longer the list grew.

We came up against the reality that the time was too short, and we were way too inadequate for the task. We could not funnel everything that needed funneling into those few summer months before school started. In April we called the mayor and told him we were sorry, but we just could not do it.

We were sorry, too. But we both felt at peace. Neither the Chief nor I wanted to force ourselves into something and regret it later. The natives were disappointed. The mayor was understanding, and seemed unconcerned about finding someone else to do it. In many regards, it was a relief.  We went back to wigwam life and the summer passed without incident.

The 4rth weekend in July we were preparing for a trip to Pennsylvania for a family reunion. We hadn't gone anywhere in awhile and spirits were high. We were leaving Friday morning, early. So Thursday we were doing up laundry and packing, when the Chief called. "Guess who just called?" he asked.

I couldn't guess.

"The mayor." he said. "He said they are going to have a meeting up at the school at 4PM about this cafeteria job. There's another lady interested, and they are meeting with the US Foods rep. They put in a kitchen after all, but it is fairly small. He said if we wanted a place at the table they would save us one."

"It's the end of July!"

"I know."

"So what should we do?"

"I think we'll at least go and see what they have to say."

"But it's the end of July!!"

"I know."

And so we went.

We toured the kitchen. It consisted of  walls, a ceiling, and a floor. An oven stood over near one corner. We picked our way over and around tools and ladders and building materials. I tried to imagine working there. I tried to imagine it being all in place by the beginning of school.

We went and had our meeting, but much of it was beyond me. I grasped for bits and phrases that might be useful, and filed them frantically. The other lady seemed very interested in the job. She was dressed in high heels. She had run a school cafeteria before. She knew how much she could produce a school lunch for and she had her bid ready to submit.

I knew nothing.

The US Foods rep said they had the menus for various local school districts and we could start by borrowing their menus at the outset if that would be of use. Everyone seemed very kind and anxious to be as helpful as possible. They needed cooks fast.

We left the meeting with our minds spinning. I went home to finish packing, and the next morning we left bright and early for Pennsylvania. We had a wonderful time connecting with the broader tribe.

And then we came home, and we had to decide. We had a part of a week to submit a bid if we were going to do it. "What shall we do?" I asked the Chief.

"I think we'll submit a bid" he said.

We will??

I was startled, frankly. Submitting a bid meant we were... um...submitting a bid!

"But if we submit a bid, we might get the job!"

"Right."

Up to this point, it had always been a hypothetical. The ball had been in our court, but we could walk around with it under our arm. Or prop one foot on it and survey the landscape. If we submitted a bid we had just lost control of the ball. We might get the job. I was nervous.

"Are you going to stop your job and help me? I can't do this by myself."

He was a bit non-committal on that point. Non-commitment makes my insides knot up. But I try very hard not to be one of "those wives". The ones, you know, who hound their chief when their chief is being non-committal.

Eventually he leveled with me. He did not think it was wise to stop his current job not knowing how much this job would bring in.

He was right, of course. I knew he was right. But I did NOT see how I could do it without him. He is my rock. My decision-maker when my mind shatt...I mean scatters. I just like working with him. I wanted him to be there with all my heart.I had envisioned him being there beside me.

"I'll do everything I can to help you get started." he said. I felt overwhelmed.
He agreed to take off work the first week and help me. I relaxed a bit.

He submitted a bid. It would be about a week until we found out one way or the other. The clock was ticking. School would soon be starting. The kitchen still had no appliances installed.

I thought about the other lady who submitted a bid. She knew what she was doing. She would probably get the job. I didn't know whether I hoped she did or hoped she didn't. But it was a comfort somehow to tell myself that she would probably get it.

I started hunting for employees, just in case. The two oldest natives were working for the Chief. They would come and work for me instead. They were excited. And I was delighted at the prospect of working with them. But I needed another woman. Somebody who knew how to cook. Somebody I didn't have to babysit through every cooking step.

I wracked my brain. When we had considered the job the previous winter I had tentatively lined up someone I thought would be perfect, but her plans had changed. There are not many women worth their salt who are sitting around waiting to be asked if they would like a job. All the women I knew already had their plates full.

So I just tried to think of somebody I thought would be good at it. She was my friend, but she already had a job and I knew she loved her job. I called her anyway.

It was a long shot.

I pleaded with her as unobnoxiously as I knew how. She said, "Let me think about it and I'll let you know.".
I could tell by how she said it that she wasn't going to.

But she called me back later and said she would! I could not believe it!! I started feeling less terrified.

And then, the mayor called and said "Y'all are in the food-making business!"

And at that point, there was no turning back.

So we did as much as we knew to do, which felt really limited. My friend and I went and shadowed a kitchen crew at another charter school for a day. That was the most helpful and educating experience we had the whole time. The manager there was entirely hospitable and sympathetic, and was as helpful as she could possibly be. She printed off recipes that served 100 people, recipes they used. She told me to call her anytime I needed help. I called her several times. She asked various questions about our facilities and whether or not I had ordered food yet. I said "No. There are no freezers or refrigerators."

She seemed worried for me. School was starting very soon. There were no appliances installed yet either. But some of them sat in the kitchen there, waiting. A sink was hooked up. The appliances were going to nearly all be second-hand because the kitchen had not been in the budget at the outset. The kitchen had essentially been added as an after-thought. I hoped they would work. What if they did not work?

A few other friends offered to help us get started and so I hired a couple other ladies to help at the outset. They proved to be invaluable troopers, all.

The weekend before school started the kitchen was cleared out and the appliances were installed.
But they were used. Very used. Years of  greasy crud coated them. The ovens had not been cleaned in years I am sure. Paint was chipped. Long dried grasses stuck to the bottoms of the work tables. I guess they were stored in someone's back forty.

I had tried to figure out what I was going to serve the first week. It was all so new. What would they eat? What could we actually fix in a few hours time? They had told us earlier maybe 350 or 400 people, but that they would give us an actual number closer to the time. I didn't know. It was all a shot in the dark. I finally made up a menu, figured out recipes, broke it down to ingredients. We met with the US Foods rep to place our first order on Friday. School started Tues. At the time of the meeting we still had not been given a meal number. I went up to the front desk and asked if they had a number for us yet. The lady at the front desk said the number of people that had signed up to eat lunch was 70.

70.

That was so far below what we had been told we should plan on, it was stunning. But okay, 70. I could cook for 70. That looked doable. We started down through our endless-looking list. Every single spice and condiment and bowl and ingredient. We were starting from scratch. And for every individual item he gave us all these options...this brand or this brand, or this other brand? Fat free? Whole wheat or white? This was clearly going to take a long, long time. Partway through, one of the powers-that-be came in and said we had better plan for at least 200something, that it is possible not everyone signed up that was planning to eat.

Okay....

We revised our quantities...

And then later we were interrupted again. "You need to plan for at least 400. In no case do we want a child to show up expecting a meal, and there be no food available." Well, that was understandable. We re-revised.
It was as new for them as it was for us, I guess.
We placed our order.

That night we began to scrub appliances. We scrubbed work tables and sinks and ovens and stoves. On Saturday we went again. We scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed and SCRUBBED. They looked so much better. We surveyed our work Saturday evening with a measure of pleasure.

"I think they would look so nice painted up!" I said. "Maybe a nice cranberry? Something to add some color in here." The Chief was agreeable and off he went for paint. He came back and we started painting. The paint sample looked fine but when we painted it on the table legs it looked like Barney the Dinosaur.... or poke berry juice. Oh my. It was just so bad. We tried to decide if another coat would somehow fix it. The Chief thought it probably would. But it was getting later and later. We HAD to call it a day. The next day was Sunday.

I could not wait for Monday. All I could think of was somebody walking in there and seeing those bright purple appliance legs and thinking "What in the WORLD is going on in this kitchen??"

First thing Monday morning we went to Lowe's for more paint. It was a more subdued tone. More of a reddish brown, actually. The natives started slathering it on. It was so much better! The work tables and shelves started looking uniform and almost classy.

And our food order came. We arranged it on the shelves and in the freezers and refrigerator. It all fit.

We cleaned every thing up, and turned on the ovens to see if they worked. They did. We opened up packages of steamer pans, and baking sheets, mixing bowls and utensils, and tried to decide how to arrange it all. The things we didn't have I hauled from my own kitchen.

And the next morning the whole crew showed up. Way early. We tried to figure out the serving table and in what order to do things. But the serving table was not yet hooked up to electricity and there was no way to keep food cold or hot. Hmm.

We scurried around trying to cover all our bases, and have all the food ready. There was no warming oven as yet so we had to have it all hot just in time to serve, but not too early. And certainly not too late! And how many were we serving after all? 70? or 400??

It was all exhilarating, and rather exciting, in spite of all the unknowns. The electricians showed up partway through the morning and hooked up the serving table. Yay!!

And we got everything around! And the children, the darling little children, began to file through.

My crew took their places at the serving table in the dining room.

And we had enough food. Way too much, actually. We served, I think 175, or something. It's a little fuzzy to me, how many it was exactly.

And so began this journey. Our oldest native has come to work with us now. The Chief did as promised and held my hand the first week. And my trusty friends got us started splendidly.

It was not without its share of bumps, learning the pesky foibles of the food company, and our own pesky foibles.

But it gradually got better! And all along we had a LOT of fun! Every day was a gem in its own right. Some of them polished to a higher degree than others.

I love my work crew. We have good times. The natives love working in the kitchen, in spite of the fact that they rarely ever helped in the kitchen here at the wigwam. They have become expert slicers and dicers. And singers. Lots of singing goes on.

In December we served an average of 240 a day.

But it's a good thing the Chief did not stop his job to start this one or we would be destitute for certain. He always was the wise one.

And if any of y'all would like a couple buckets of purple-dinosaur-colored paint, I know where you could get some for cheap.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Death of a Brat

The way I  remember it, I was an obnoxious adolescent.

I was the youngest of the three girls with a five year gap between us. Virtue did not develop within me in a timely fashion. Mother didn't seem too disturbed about it, perhaps she had enough experience under her belt to know the ugly duckling stage truly was a stage, but I grated on my older sisters. The one, in particular. (If  I grated on the other one she was too meek to mention it much.)

Being lazy, I didn't want to pull my weight in the housework department.
Being stubborn, I didn't want her telling me what to do regardless how diplomatically she said it. And she was extraordinarily diplomatic.

I could spot from miles away her housework "bargains".... the ones where she would agree to do 2/3rds of the housework if I would do 1/3 of it. The only legit bargain I would officially appreciate was the one where I would slip unnoticed out of the house and do what I pleased. I never pleased to do housework.  Mother could make me, but my sister wasn't my boss.

Being a brat, I said things to her that were just mean.
I told her once, "I love you, but I don't like you."
 It hurt her, and she told me so, but I didn't care.
I remember feeling smug when I said it. She bugged me. Always and forever presenting me with "bargains", when all I wanted was to go walking along the pond, or a tree-lined creek, sit on a big rock in the middle maybe, watch the water go around it on both sides and try to predict on which side of it approaching leaves would float.

I'd think about things. And imagine myself in the middle of interesting stories.  I was the quintessential tom-boy and I thought boys had a lot more fun than girls did. They didn't, for instance have to do housework. Not in my family they didn't.

But I was right there at "that" point in life....
I was kind of excited about growing up. Being a young lady held a certain appeal. I imagined being pretty, even though I wasn't. And having nice clothes, even though the ones I wore were just plain practical and I made them dirty with activities like lounging on the backs of the steers while they grazed, and sitting on boulders in the middle of the creek.

It never occurred to me that maturity was part of the package. Or working.

I did lots and lots of thinking. I didn't really, at this stage of my life, have any close friends because of factors that were beyond my control. This did not bother me at all. I liked being by myself to think. I thought of lots of things. I considered a lot of issues. I loved nature and solitude and making up story  plots. I did not love housework. Especially not cleaning. Or washing dishes. I didn't want anyone bugging me about doing it. Except maybe Mother because she was my legitimate boss.

I could hold up the only bathroom and experiment with possible ladylike hair arrangements in there for 45 minutes, but please, do not expect me to sign my name to any house cleaning "bargains" especially ones that make you look good and me like a wretch for doing only 1/3 of the work!!

 I can still hear her saying brightly, "Rhon, would you agree to do so and so if I would do so and so and so and so and so and so and so and so?" She actually could hardly wait for Sundays to be over so she could start cleaning again. That's the truth.

Spare me.

In retrospect, I cannot stand the girl that was me. How my sister managed to keep her manipulation diplomatic is beyond me, but she did. I was self absorbed and selfish and lazy and meanish. And ugly. I have pictures of me sporting the results of some of those 45 minute bathroom sessions.

But somewhere along the way the tension between us started to fade. I didn't know when. I didn't notice it at all. But here one day, we were friends. And I liked her. A lot. And I loved her.  And she liked me too.

We had good times. We did things together.

I never did like to do housework and I still don't, really. But I did do it.

One day, years later, she told me this:

She was forever frustrated with my stubborn, selfish, brattiness. And nothing she ever tried could dissuade me from my irritating resistance of her reformation attempts.

So one day she changed tactics and decided to treat me as if I were a princess and she were my servant.

And so, if I expressed a wish, no matter how small, she would jump to fulfill it. If I asked if anybody had seen my jacket, she would hop up right away and help me hunt for it, instead of simply saying "no".
Her entire mentality was geared toward serving me in any way possible.

Of course I was too self-absorbed to notice. Or appreciate it.  Or resist.

And so, we became friends. And I think after I quit defending against her improvement programs, I  became  invested in actually improving myself.

And then, by the time she told me what she had done it was too late to defy her efforts.
The door of opportunity was shut. There was no turning back.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Come We That Love a Rant

The tribe just returned to the wig-wam from a road trip. This gave birth to a succinct, three point sermon. None of these points, no doubt, apply to my above-average readers, which means they will be wasted breath, except for the therapeutic effect on the preacher, but here goes:

#1. If you are driving, drive.
You would think this would be a no-brainer, but apparently not.

If you come up on somebody driving 7 degrees slower than anyone else, with a biggish gap between himself and the car in front of him, as likely as not when you pull around him he will be texting.
Just stop, people. It makes no sense to be doing that and navigating a two ton machine with your leftover brain. At the very least you impede the smooth flow of traffic. At most you endanger your life and the life of everyone else in proximity. Put your phone down and drive. You don't have to be communicating 24/7, world without perceivable end. You can sit there and drive. You can.

#2. Pay attention and be thoughtful.
There are other people on the road besides you.

If you are going down a two-lane interstate don't pull adjacent to someone in the right hand lane and just hover there. Go around him. If he's going too fast to pass, slow down and pull in behind him. Don't sit there while traffic piles up behind you mile after oblivious mile. If you are the innocent party in the right-hand lane and somebody pulls next to you and stays there, don't be contrary just because you're not doing anything wrong.  Be a sweetie. Hit the brake or the gas till the people behind you can pass. It won't kill you to reset your cruise.

#3 Stopping to merge is not smart.

If traffic is fast and heavy, the gaps are already precious. It takes a FAR LARGER gap to merge when you are creeping, and the chances of you finding one plummet if you are at a standstill.

Matching your speed to the traffic is the way to go. Unless traffic is truly bumper to bumper and there is no where to get in, period, put on your signal light, and merge. Just do it. The traveling public will thank you. Amen.

Would the song leader please lead us in a song?

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Mothering "Light-bulb"

Here is a bit of something I dashed off to a facebook  "Mommy" group two days ago.
I was asked if I would post it on my blog, so I modified it ever so slightly and am posting it here, NOT as an expert parent, but just as a mom, who, with the help of God, stumbles upon things that work now and then. (Hallelujah!)


There is one thing I have learned along the way that has majorly transformed my relationship with my children....
Let me take that back. I didn't feel like I had a bad relationship with them before, so "transform" might be a strong word, but I was just amazed how much richer and funner, lacking in tension and more congenial it became after I figured this out.

It came about when I became aware how much of my interaction with them, was initiated by my children:

They cry, I respond.
They whine, I react.
They ask a question, I answer.
They show me something, I look at it and say something appropriate.
They ask for a drink, I get them a drink.

The exception to that rule was when I was telling them to do something.
"It's time to pick up your toys. It's time to take a bath. Would you please bring me the scissors? Would you please call Daddy for supper?"...etc. and so on, ad nauseum, world without end, amen.

Occasionally I would ask them questions, but usually the "polite routine" types of questions, "Did you sleep well last night? How was the volley-ball game? How was school?..."...blah-de blah..

So after I noticed this, I decided to try to change it.

I began initiating conversations..asking their opinions on whatever. Initiating fun imagination-type things: 'What do you think would happen if..?"
Specific questions: "What was your favorite thing about today?"

Instead of trying to sneak a drink of tea without them seeing so I didn't have to pour four glasses of tea instead of one, I start out from an entirely different place: "Would anyone care for a glass of tea?" I'll say, and serve them first.

Or instead of waiting till they ask me to read to them, I'll suggest it, "I got this book I thought y'all would enjoy, if you'll get your baths quick, I'll read to you."
Or instead of waiting till they ask to play a game I'll say, "If you like, I'll play you two rounds of the matching game."

I will sometimes hop in and help them with their jobs...say it's setting or clearing the table, or picking up toys....especially when they are working well and don't expect or need help...."Here, let me get the blocks while you get the Legos.."

Even SMALL kindnesses/compliments if they are "extra" work wonders. "You have the best freckles EVER!" "How did I ever get so lucky to have you for my little boy?" Just whatever....

The atmosphere and dynamic of our home really changed to a much more positive tone! Our relationships just are far more open, generous, warm and giving, because they have just responded in kind. "Can I bring you a cookie too, Mom?" And to each other, "I'll carry your lunch box for you."

I have been so blessed and amazed, in all honesty. Borderline stunned.

There have been few things that will diffuse the grumpies as quick as me doing something for them that is clearly proactively caring, "Would you like me to pick out your songs for you tonight?" (...if your son is leading songs and he hates choosing them.)
It's so easy to switch to that dreaded parental tone and say something like "Well, picking songs is just part of the song-leader's job, so you might as well quietly do it without complaint."
(I have older children so some of these suggestions won't fit littles, but the idea holds true..)

Just to balance what I have said, I am not suggesting abdicating the parental role, neglecting necessary discipline, or ignoring disobedience, I am simply suggesting proactively putting goodness and blessing in your children's lives, and pursuing them with happy conversation rather than waiting for them to say "Mommy mommy..."