Only one thing is needed

On the first of November I logged onto Facebook and, in the midst of everyone’s sweet posts beginning their “days of thankfulness,” I unloaded.

“I HATE THURSDAYS……sorry, needed to vent.”

I don’t actually hate Thursdays.  Three-quarters of the day I love; that’s the day my mom comes over and we play.  We get coffee and run errands if we need to; we have most of the day together to just enjoy each other’s company…..and then she goes home, and I have to face the fact that I played all day and that nothing got done.  Any other day of the week, that would be an easy recovery, but Thursdays are my daughter’s gymnastics night; which means she and I eat dinner together early, and then head out the door for a good chunk of our evening.

This particular Thursday was especially bad.  Mom and I had played that morning, but then spent the afternoon at home with the still-new-to-us dog, since I don’t yet know if I can trust her for much longer than three or four hours.  Mom and I sat together in my living room; she worked on cross-stitched Christmas presents while I tried to coax a GoogleDoc to work for our Sunday School’s class Christmas party.  I would like to say it was a cozy and comfortable afternoon at home; unfortunately I was stressed out from the uncooperative document and an even more uncooperative laptop.

After she left it was a collision of things:  get the kids from school, drop them off at home, run the dog to her first vet appointment, run back home, scarf down dinner, throw my daughter in the car and run her to gymnastics, where I texted some more info about the Christmas party to others on the planning committee.  While I sat with my phone in my lap, responding to texts, it suddenly began ringing, and I recognized the name at the top of the screen as another friend who, I knew, was calling about a meeting we had the following morning.  And I admit it:  I saw her name and I groaned.  (Yeah, I’ve already ‘fessed up to her, so it’s okay to write about it.)  I answered the phone with the statement, “That’s tomorrow, isn’t it?”

That night was so bad my daughter didn’t get bathed.  That night was so bad I actually asked my husband for help.  (He’s great to pitch in….you’d think I’d ask him more often.)  That night it was all I could do to get the kids into bed without a meltdown (me, not them), and crash on the sofa, and unload my seven little words on Facebook.

As I thought about it that night and the following morning, some thoughts began to gel for me.  As I watch people run from one thing to the next, as I see our lives crowded with “stuff” of the time-kind, not just the material-kind, I started to realize something.  My mind went from rambling thoughts to more specific thoughts and finally, I realized, I could reduce these thoughts to two words:

Who says?

Some examples, from conversations I’ve had with people over the past few months:

Who says we have to sell popcorn to the school kids the first Friday of every month?

Who says the high schoolers need a coffee bar, staffed by parent volunteers?

Who says we should have gymnastics practice two nights a week, with competitive meets every weekend?

Who says our class party needs to be a catered affair at a venue instead of a potluck in someone’s home?

Who says we need our kids in every activity our church home offers?  (If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard a chipper, “If the doors were unlocked, we were there!”)

Please understand….none of these things are bad.  But every time someone has another “good idea,” that idea has to be carried out and run by other people.  Which leads to well-meaning people being overwhelmed by the amount of stuff they’re doing.

It’s ironic that I’m even writing about this….I’m not a “joiner.”  My kids are in the bare minimun on extra-curricular activities, because I think being home, as a family, together, is more important than most stuff they could sign up for.  (My son is currently involved in–gasp!–nothing.)  I’m not that bad at saying “no;” I had a great amount of practice last month when our trip was closing in and making me feel overwhelmed.  It’s really struck me, though, how easy it is to get sucked in; especially when the ideas are so “good.”  How quickly we become “the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.”  (Matthew 13:22)

Or we turn into those invited to the banquet:

“At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’  But they all alike began to make excuses.  The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it.  Please excuse me.’  Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out.  Please excuse me.’  Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ ” (Luke 14:  17-20)

I can hear Jesus saying to us, ” ‘Martha, Martha….you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’ ”  (Luke 10:41-42)

As I read through the Old Testament, I’m struck by the continued, repeated instruction given to the kings:  Seek Him.  Follow Him wholeheartedly.  And listen:

“They sought God eagerly, and he was found by them.  So the Lord gave them rest on every side.”  (2 Chronicles 15:15)

I realize the verse refers to peace instead of war, but truly….doesn’t rest sound good?

Happy Halloween?

I have to admit I’ve never really understood the obsession with Halloween.  I love autumn; it’s my absolute favorite time of year, and fall “stuff” sucks me in each and every time it rolls around.  (One of the biggest reasons I’ll never make it as a true minimalist:  fall decor.)  I’m relieved when the temp starts to cool; I love the bite in the air each morning and bundling up in jackets as we head out the door to school.  I love the changing leaves; though for all the huge trees in our yard we really only have two pretty ones.  I love crunching through the fallen leaves as we walk out to get the paper, or the mail…in spite of the fact that our neighbors on either side keep fastidious lawns that manage to make ours look more than a little unkempt.  (I believe the word is “trashy.” lol)

What I don’t get is the gore.  The desire to “decorate” with corpses and zombies and skeletons…..and I’m always struck, each year, at how we as Americans wail about the cost of everything, and yet people will shell out their hard-earned dollars for things like inflatable spiders to sit in their front yard.

I don’t get it.

October is the time where I’m finally willing to start walking to and from school….and it’s also the month where I had to change the route we took when my kids were younger, because there’s a house on one street with zombies overtaking the front yard.  I don’t mean a few scary items; I mean the entire front yard is covered with creatures….it truly looks like a graveyard come to life.  They have to have over thirty creepies on their lawn, including a large Satan-like creature suspended above their front door.  Each year as it goes up I realize how grateful I am that our neighbors at our last house got into Christmas instead of Halloween.  (To their credit, the whole mob scene is taken down promptly on November 1st.  No lingering zombies hanging out for Thanksgiving dinner or anything.)

That’s the stuff I don’t get.

Time magazine states that this year, “Americans are expected to spend a record $8 billion on Halloween-related products and activities this year, up 17% from 2011.” (From “More Trick Than Treat,” October 29th issue).

$8 billion….

I don’t get it.

We got costumes for the kids; my daughter’s was actually her birthday present.  I bought not even $20 worth of candy, which might not sound like much, but it’s a ton; trust me.  I think we’re covered.  I’m calling it good.

Because there’s loads of other things I’d rather spend my money on.

 

 

2600 miles, 7 states, 5 parks, 11 days

Or, “Pursuing Enough” pursues more than enough….

 

It’s been awhile.  It’s been so long and I’m still so off-kilter that I’m not even sure I’m quite ready to start writing again…but I felt the need to check in after such a long absence.  Our family got back Monday night from an eleven-day (road) trip to Disneyworld and Legoland, sponsored very generously by my parents.  Six people in a twelve-passenger van; three days down, two days home (you know it’s a long trip when driving through five states is a good day).  Monday through Saturday we spent at all the different parks.

Overwhelming?  Yes.  Wonderful?  Absolutely.

The drive didn’t go nearly as badly as I anticipated; portable DVD players are beautiful things…and bringing along all the kids schoolwork they were missing out on helped, too.  (Full disclosure:  due to our school district’s quirky calendar, we were able to take an eleven day trip with the kids only missing three days of school.  We were NOT the only people to jump on that opportunity.)  My dad and husband sat up front and took turns driving, continually arguing with the GPS system and making her angry (“Recalculating!”).  The rest of us spread out in back, switching places when needed, since siblings can only sit together for so long.

Our time in the parks was great…my daughter met everyone she wanted to meet, including Tinkerbell, and my son rode all the coasters he wanted to ride.  My husband quickly learned how to work the Fast-Pass system (and I mean really work it), which meant that we didn’t have to wait in line more than twenty minutes for any ride we did.  (It also meant blisters for my poor husband as he ran the parks to collect the things…)

And then….Monday night at 7:30 home, Tuesday morning at 8:00 back to school.  There’s a nice jolt of reality for you.

I think, three days later, I’m just now starting to feel like things are getting a little back to normal; although with my son’s birthday plans this weekend (9 years old today!  Happy birthday, sweet boy!) and the relentless talk of getting a new dog now that we’re home, I’m still not quite feeling settled.  October is one of my favorite months of the year.  I think it’s time I slowed down a minute and tried to enjoy it.

One last thought on vacations and returning home:  I know that technically, what we come “home” to is just a bunch of wood and siding and insulation and metal, etc.  I know that really, it’s just a bunch of “stuff” that shouldn’t really matter all that much.  But after you’ve been gone for eleven days, it becomes much more than that.  It’s what it represents:  home base, safety, the comfort of the familiar, the “normal,” Home.  Night after night of sleeping in hotel beds gives you a new appreciation for your own bed; night after night of sleeping in hotel rooms gives you a new appreciation for your own room, which my children disappeared into the moment they got home, introducing their new stuffed animals to their old ones.  Right now I’m so grateful for this house, this home, and for the comfort of (slowly) getting back into a routine.

It’s good to be back.

“A little folding of the hands to rest…”

Any flat surface...

Any flat surface…

Technically, the verse doesn’t exactly fit.

The entire proverb actually reads, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest–and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.”  (Proverbs 6:10, NIV)

Every Monday morning, though, as I begin to pick up and try to help our home recover from the weekend, I think of this verse.  A couple of days off, I think.  Just a couple of days where I didn’t do (fill-in-the-blank) and now look at this mess.  Each time a Saturday rolls around, I feel like slacking a bit (it’s the weekend, after all), and then Sunday comes, with the get-ready-and-get-out-the-door morning crunch, when things get left undone or half-done… And then it’s another Monday morning, where I look around and shake my head and wonder, how did this happen?

Oh, yeah… a little folding of the hands to rest.

Our problem isn’t scarcity or poverty…it’s just “stuff,” stuff that gets piled on any available flat surface “for now,” somehow leaving me to deal with it each Monday morning.  Our lack of routine come Friday night is screamingly apparent by Monday morning; any other day of the week I’d be on top of all this, but apparently the weekends are “playtime” and not “worktime” around here.

I’m not a huge photo-blog person; the only other photo I’ve included so far was for a guest post I wrote, whose site always used photos.  But I had to include a picture with this.  On the raised hearth of our fireplace sits a basket for library books.  Most of the time, that is the only thing sitting on the hearth (although an assortment of things might end up in the basket).  Every Monday morning, though, I come downstairs and realize that “stuff” has been sneakily accumulating over the weekend.

Every Monday morning.

Maybe it’s time to rest a bit less on the weekends…..

I was wrong

I’ve had a line for ages–a joke, really, but I sort of believed it–that “you can never have too many Legos.”  Art supplies and Legos were two categories I truly didn’t mind drowning in.  I’m quite organized and have stayed on top of both for years now, in spite of the constant influx of more.

But I was wrong.

The art supplies are still manageable, although as my kids have gotten older the things are migrating up to bedrooms.  (As old as my kids are now, I don’t feel the need to constantly supervise crayons and markers…I can trust them not to draw on walls.)  The Legos, however….I think we’ve crossed a line.

My son has a tall bookcase in his room that I put in there specifically to display his Lego “stuff.”  It was arranged beautifully for a long time, but Legos (of course) are meant to be played with, and piece by piece would be taken off the shelf to be used.  Good!  I’m all for things being used.  Since the dining room table is our normal “Lego play area,” the pieces appeared on it to play with.  Then my daughter’s Legos arrived, apparently hungry for company, and the kids spent many afternoons during the summer playing Legos in the dining room together.  (Full disclosure:  the dining room table is Lego-covered 90% of the time, until the birthday/holiday season arrives and we need the dining room quite often.  My kitchen table, however, is always empty.  Thank you very much.)

Unfortunately….while the Legos were spreading out all over the dining room table, and buckets were appearing in the corner of that room, they were also still upstairs, spreading out all over my son’s bookcase.  (Is there a law of physics somewhere, about objects expanding to fill the allotted space?)  They were also spreading out into one corner of his bedroom; which unfortunately is the corner behind the laundry basket, which is making life difficult on a fairly regular basis.

So this morning, when I started putting Legos back in his room (there was so much stuff I split the job with him), I had nowhere to put them.  Nowhere.  The shelves of the bookcase appeared full, although lots of scooting things around freed up some space.  The buckets in the corner of his room are being stacked upon, which I guarantee is going to end badly.  I have absolutely no idea where he’s going to put the things I left for him to put away.

When we’d started tackling the table last night, I mentioned that he might have, maybe, too many Legos.  And he agreed with me.  (You know it’s bad when the kid agrees with you.)  I broached the subject of giving some away, especially since we are headed into birthday season and there will most likely be even more Legos in his future.  And he agreed with me.  (Pick jaw up off floor.)  His comment?  “We could give them to the library.  They’re looking for Legos for their Lego club.”  (Sit down before I start hyperventilating.)

If he is on board, I am happy to help.  Hopefully sometime during the next week, we’ll go through all this stuff–a shelf at a time, a bin at a time, or ten minutes at a time.  I don’t know how long his willingness to pass things on will last, but I hope to make the most of it.

FYI…my dining room table is beautiful.  It’s so nice to see it again.   🙂

What a bargain!

I was scrolling through houses on the internet recently, as I am wont to do, and found an astounding price on a home a few miles north of us.  “Astounding” as in $100K cheaper than the other homes for sale in the neighborhood.  I assume it was a foreclosure, and as I scrolled through the photos, I was amazed at how genuinely beautiful the house still was–even with carpeting pulled up, and flooring missing in some rooms, you could see it was going to be a gorgeous home for someone; probably very soon.  Someone, somewhere, is about to get an amazing bargain.

I do wonder about the consequences of that choice, though.  If it’s a family who will slide right into the neighborhood effortlessly, or if it’s a family trying to reach up, just a bit, and finally score a house “in that neighborhood;” a house that would normally be out of reach but which suddenly is surprisingly achievable.  That house purchase could start the dominoes falling…

Now that they have a bigger house, in a nicer neighborhood, they have to furnish it, and fill those extra rooms they didn’t have before.  Then they’re sending their kids to school with other kids who are better off than they are, who have x and y and z, and suddenly they feel the need to get the same for their children.  Every day they’re surrounded by people who have “stuff” they don’t have, “stuff” they aren’t able to afford….but somehow that doesn’t stop them from buying it.

Maybe not.  Maybe the house will be filled with the “just-right” family; a perfect fit.  Or maybe it will be filled with a family who truly doesn’t care to keep up with the Joneses.  I just hope whoever moves in thinks through their decision.  It could be a really expensive bargain.

My new favorite question

A friend posted a link on Facebook, and the title sucked me in:  Why We Love to Hoard.  It seemed like something right up my alley, so I read it (I encourage you to; it’s a really interesting read).

But towards the end the author wrote a sentence that completely changed how I’m clearing stuff out of our home:

“…for each item I ask myself a simple question: If I didn’t have this, how much effort would I put in to obtain it?”

Wow.  That is the question, isn’t it?  All those things I’m keeping “just in case,” or “for later,” or “for someday”….if I didn’t already have it, would I ever go looking for it?  I’m seeing everything in my home with new eyes.  And it works both ways:  there are some things that are suddenly totally justifiable to me, because yes, I’d go out and buy them again in a heartbeat.  I would buy this again.  Or, the irreplaceable mementos of grandparents; the things you can’t just go out and “buy again” because they don’t exist anymore:  the “keep the quilts that great-grandma made” kind of items.  

Others, though…yeesh.  It feels like I need to go back through the house yet again, from top to bottom, and just weed.  Because heaven knows that there are dozens of things lurking in this home that I would never in a million years actively seek out to “obtain” again.