Friday, October 11, 2013

Five-Minute Friday: Ordinary

The things I look at all the time are the ones I don't even see any more- the normal, usual, typical things- the dishes in my dishwasher, the books on the living room shelves, the toothbrushes in their holders on the bathroom counters. There are toys I pick up every single day, shoes I put away, jackets I hang up, pillows I straighten. My hands touch them so often that I don't even feel them as I move them casually from floor to proper ordinary.

Time moves forward measuredly, stretching out in two directions from today's little square on the calendar. Rows of little boxes, orderly and similar, each with its unremarkable black number in the corner, march along backward to Lent and forward to Advent.

Meanwhile, we make our way through Ordinary, cooking dinner and doing the laundry and washing little faces and arms and legs in the middle of what is, according to the calendar, no special time at all.

Standing in the middle of it, though, looking around at the average everyday that makes up my life, what I sense is Grace everywhere, all around...marking the walls in crayon and reflected in George's smile across the dinner table and ringing off the ceiling in the laughter of my children when they're supposed to be getting ready for bed but are chasing each other around naked instead.

It's everywhere, this Grace. It covers us in even the most ordinary moments. Sometimes, in an unexpected second-turned-extraordinary, I can feel it- a warm glow, a sweet scent, a small sigh...


Five Minute Friday

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Theme Thursday Redux: Double


This is from our hike yesterday. I took it with my phone as I was getting the snacks out for everyone.

Conversation with Lucy regarding this picture:

Lucy: Why is Lucy sadding?
Me: Hmm. Do you remember why you were sad?
Lucy: Yes. I am sadding because I want to have my snack right now. I sadded and sadded until Mama gived me apples, and then I stopped.

Sometimes, the toddler's own explanation is simply the best one.

For more Theme Thursday takes on Double, go visit Clan Donaldson.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

TwinsDay Wednesday (and Theme Thursday, a day early): Double

It's TwinsDay Wednesday, and the Theme Thursday prompt for this week's photo linkup at Clan Donaldson is Double. Double was obviously made for TwinsDay, so I'm putting my post up a day early. Look at me, breaking the rules, so cavalier! Who'd have thought I would ever

(Oh, please, who am I kidding? Cari, please don't kick me out for posting early! I promise I never break rules! I'll never do it again!)

Ahem. Moving on, then.

Double. Sweeping the driveway with those brushes made for cleaning snow off the cars. Why not.

Although I won't ever use the tired, often-heard "double trouble" to describe my twins (even on the days it is true), there is double a lot of other stuff around here: double diapers, double potties, double tiny socks, double running stroller, double rain boots (at least one of which is always missing when it's time to go), double baby dolls (we have duplicates of all of ours), double supply of those teeny tiny hair elastics that get stuck in the carpet but won't get sucked up by the vacuum cleaner no matter how hard I try.

More importantly, we have double hugs, double giggles, and double little voices to sing with when it's time to say grace.

They're two years old now, and I've really come to love double. It's a lot of work, but it's not impossible, and I'm truly grateful for my double blessing.

That said, this sister rivalry thing is killing me!

This looks sweet, but right after this, Nora grabbed the apple and hit Lucy with it.

Sibling rivalry is new territory for us. The Sisters have officially gotten old enough to irritate each other (and their brother, too) on purpose. When Lucy is singing the ABC Song, Nora starts to sing it, too, just so Lucy will scream and yell, "Nora is singing it, too!" When Nora tries to grab Lucy's hand at dinner, Lucy wrinkles her face at Nora and says, "No, Nora!" and Nora bursts into tears. When this happened one night recently, Lucy looked up innocently at George and said, "Nora is sadding. But Lucy is eating my dinner nicely."

I could have sworn she batted her eyes at him.

Surely the double rivalry will be replaced with double sisterly love very soon. Right? Or are we destined to have a masking tape line down the center of every room where we expect the girls to coexist? Will they be beating each other in the head with hairdryers at age 14 and lying to get each other in trouble? Is there any hope?

For more Theme Thursday interpretations of "double," check out Clan Donaldson. (You know...on Thursday.)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tiny steps for Tuesday: tackling the next mess

It's Tuesday again. A week ago, I told you that I was overwhelmed by a bunch of Big, Overwhelming Things. I told you I was going to stop procrastinating and start dealing with the stuff a tiny bit at a time.

Well, I did something. I weeded my front flowerbed. I didn't take a "before" picture, but now it looks like this:

Satisfying! You can see that there are actual plants in there. Amazing.

Of course, there are still the back flowerbeds and the garden and the two side flowerbeds to worry about...but I did something toward getting things under control. Making just a little bit of progress made everything else seem more manageable.

Last week when I talked about the Big, Overwhelming Things and how paralyzed I felt, some of you knew just what I meant. Some of you know how it feels to be tired of treading water and ready to start swimming forward. Some of you shared your own Big, Overwhelming Things and how you were going to work on them this week.

(I'm dying to know how it went!)

I felt encouraged by the little support group gathering in the comment box and on facebook. Ellie even suggested we call our little movement "Wading to Exhale." You know, not drowning, not diving in headfirst, definitely not treading water...just moving forward a little at a time so we can breathe easier.

(Don't you love that?)

Using last week's momentum, I'm going to keep wading. Here's my Tiny Step for this week:

Small spaces can get really, really cluttered at our house. Take this one, for example. It's the top of my dresser, and it's seriously stressing me out.

George and I each have our own dresser for clothes, but his is in the closet. It fits perfectly under a shelf in there, so it's out of the way (but still convenient when it's time to get dressed). 

The downside of this arrangement is that he has no dresser top on which to put the stuff that one puts on top of one's dresser.
My dresser is tall enough that none of our children can reach things that are on top of it. It is one of the few surfaces in the house that fits this description. And so, it is piled high with all kinds of stuff: Sam's drawings, old batteries, a moon nightlight that needs a bulb, some not-quite-empty cups of water and Diet Coke, a Christmas ornament we bought on vacation this summer, three children's shoes, game pieces from McDonald's Monopoly, a broken pencil, rubber bands, three bottles of nail polish, tiny girl hair accessories, George's chaplet rosary and pocket watch, my running iPod and my Garmin watch, a pink toy spatula, an elastic waistband that Sam pulled out of his shorts three weeks ago, and a (now broken) strand of Mardi Gras beads the children were fighting over this morning.

You get the idea. It's a multi-layered mess. 

Today, I took everything off the dresser, sorted it into piles, put the piles away, dusted the dresser, the pictures and the jewelry box that sits on top of it, and put just a few things back. It took twenty-six minutes.

My bedroom still needs vacuuming, and the top dresser drawer is still broken, and there is a huge mess of confiscated toys in our closet (which makes it nearly impossible to walk in there)...but this is one tiny step toward getting our little sanctuary back.

Did you take any Tiny Steps this week toward dealing with the Big, Enormous Things you've been putting off? Got any projects for this week? Please share! We want to know how it went.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday morning motivation {a playlist}

Ah, Monday. Here you are again.

There is no reason why we should struggle to get along. You're just a day. You don't intimidate me. And just to make sure you know who's boss, I'm kicking off the week with a brand-new Monday morning playlist. I think these songs are light enough to ease us all in to the new week but upbeat and happy enough to pull us in the direction of having a great day.

You can play the playlist on your computer or mobile device using Spotify. (If you don't have Spotify installed, it's free and easy to do.)

Just add coffee, and I bet your morning will be off to a good start.

What songs get you up and going when you need a little mood boost? Feel free to add to the list that's already started on facebook or leave suggestions here in the comments.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Five-Minute Friday: Write

Oh, wow, it's been a long time since I did a Five-Minute Friday. Today, I'm jumping back in again in my effort to take small steps to conquer Big, Overwhelming Things. It's easy to join in the writing fun- set a timer for five minutes, write on today's prompt without over-editing or heavy self-criticism, then share what you've got and encourage the writers around you. If you're feeling brave (or even if you aren't!), you can link up your post here at Lisa-Jo's.

Here we go...five minutes on the clock.


The pressure starts at the back of my neck. It stretches around the sides of my head, ending up someplace behind my eyes...and that's where the pain starts. A tension headache like this one can keep me awake all night, my head so full of whirling, churning thoughts that it might explode at any second.

How I wish for a tiny valve on the side of my head, something I could release to let the thoughts run out my ear canal so they wouldn't be cluttering up the inside of my brain this way. They fly back and forth, crashing into each other, making me see white lights when they collide.

There is no such valve, but there is paper and pen. The next best thing. The only way to get those thoughts out of my head and safely tucked away someplace so I can get some rest.

I haven't been writing enough lately. I've been busy with other things. But writing, like sleeping, only seems like a luxury. When I don't take time to scribble the thoughts down, they fester and corrode and turn dark and dangerous. Letting them out into the light is the only way to stay healthy, to be strong, to be really alive.

For more Five-Minute Friday, click the link below.

Five Minute Friday

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Five Minutes CatholicMom

I was so excited to hear from Sarah Reinhard yesterday that I am being featured as part of the Small Steps blog tour hosted by CatholicMom. The tour celebrates the release of Small Steps for Catholic Moms by Elizabeth Foss and Danielle Bean, the latest in the CatholicMom line of publications.
Take a look at the post here.

In addition to the blog tour, there's a contest to win a whole set of the books! All you have to do to enter is to fill out an entry form with how you grab five minutes alone.

Come check out the blog tour and fill out the form...someone has to win. I'd love it to be one of my readers.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

No more treading water (getting over Perfect and making Good Enough happen)

File:Tooting Bec Lido 20080724.JPG
Image credit: Nick Cooper at en.wikipedia via CC


I remember clearly the summer I learned to tread water. 

It was supposed to be easy, a way to rest and conserve energy. To my nine-year-old arms and legs, it was a special kind of torture. To pass the test, I was required to keep my head above water for ten minutes by the clock while staying still in the middle of the ten-foot-deep end of the pool. It seemed like the hardest thing I would ever have to do.

I wasn't good at it. I hated it. But it turned out I was worse at the dead man's float (because for that one, my face had to be in the water, and that just felt like drowning).

Image:Swim Under Water Without Holding Your Nose Step 4.jpg
Image credit: Wikiphoto on wikiHow via CC

Treading water is definitely better than drowning.

I've been treading water lately. I've been doing enough laundry that we have clean clothes in baskets but not in our drawers. I've been making sure my family has adequate meals but haven't always included vegetables. I've been loading and unloading the dishwasher but also leaving dishes on the dish drainer and in the sink. I've been keeping the porch clear of toys but not pulling the weeds out front, and our whole flowerbed has been overgrown for weeks now. (Yeah, I know, it was a rainy summer and everyone's yard is overgrown...but ours is special. It's gotten to the point that when my friend's son jumped into middle of the front flowerbed and she said "Please don't jump in the flowerbed," he said, "What, you mean these weed piles?")

Sigh. Yes. These weed piles. The piles that are not at all symbolic of how I feel about absolutely everything else around me...right? Am I convincing you?

It might be the cooler weather or the changing leaves, but something's made me decide it is time to start taking care of some of this stuff. Not all at once. A little at a time. I'm sensing a season ahead in which I might be able to do more, where I might be able to move forward just a little bit.

Maybe it's time to stop treading water and try actually swimming for a little while.

Some of the jobs are Big Things. Some of them keep me up at night with their Overwhelmingness and their Complicatedness and their I-Just-Can't-Possibly-ness. The thing is, they aren't going away. They aren't going to get smaller or less challenging to tackle. At some point, I have to just decide to start doing them.

I'm tired of their Bigness and Impossibleness looming over me all hours of the day and night. It is time to take action.

I have decided to do Just One Little Thing. One tiny thing each day, for ten or fifteen minutes. I'm making a list of the Big Things that are bugging me, and I'm going to work on one of them for a few minutes at a time until it is better. Not perfect. Just better.

Perfect is often the root of my problem. I like Perfect. I want as many things as possible to be as perfect as possible. Sometimes I think God gave me all of my little people so they could swarm around me in a frenzy and remind me that Perfect just Ain't Gonna Happen around here and I might as well get over it and learn to live with Pretty Much Good Enough.

Sometimes I think I want Perfect so badly that I can't even see how to get started on Pretty Much Good Enough. So I tread water for a while and say I'm thinking about how to get started but never really get started and end up just wearing myself out with the effort it takes to make no progress.

Enough of that for now. It's time to start moving forward.

Want to know some of the things?

  • The giant tangle of weeds in the front flowerbed is so high, you can't see the actual plants any more. (I can't fix that all at once, but I can weed for 15 minutes.)

  • I have an overdue library book that I'm not finished with and I'm out of renewals and the fine is getting bigger every day and I feel paralyzed about it. (If I read for 15 minutes, I might just about finish the book.)

  • The girls need new sweaters for the fall. I have the yarn and the pattern but not the right size needles to do the project. I could definitely order the needles online in 15 minutes (and when they get here, I can knit for 15 minutes at a time).

  • I haven't written here nearly enough lately. I have all these ideas in my head and no time to put them down and make them coherent and share them with you.
(This might be my biggest problem, actually. When my head gets full of backed-up words, my life seems full of chaos. I'm not sure that 15 minutes of writing is going to fix anything, but it's a place to start.)

What are some other places I can start?

  • Setting up the sewing machine with the right thread and bobbin and laying out the pieces of fabric for those kitchen curtains
  • Cleaning out just the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator
  • Bringing in the bins of fall clothes from the shed (so I can eventually change out the summer stuff)
  • Throwing away the trash that has collected under the back seat in the van
  • Picking up the shoes and confiscated toys out of the floor of our closet so we can walk inside it again
  • Setting the timer for ten minutes and filing papers from the Giant Pile until the timer goes off

A tiny bit at a time. Reach out an arm into the water, take a stroke and move forward a little, then reach out again for another stroke.

It is time to make some things happen. Just not all at once.

Do you have something you need or want to tackle that has been overwhelming you? Want to do a little project with me? I'm thinking I'll pick one thing and work on it for a week, then report back on how it's going. Do you have a Big Thing, something like cleaning out your pantry or unpacking some boxes that have been sitting around or tackling a pile of mending or organizing your garage?  

Would you share it with me? We can support each other.

If you want to join in, leave a comment with what project you're going to tackle. Work on it at least once for 15 minutes between now and next Tuesday. Then, check back in next Tuesday to see how we have all done. (I'd like to call it a cutesy name, but I don't have one in mind just yet.)

I bet at least a few of us will make more progress than we would have otherwise.

Every little bit counts. The best way to get nothing done at all is to keep treading water. Even if we take just one stroke, we'll be further along than we are right now.

So what do you say? Ready to swim a little bit?