Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Most Realistic And Pinterest Worthy Cleaning Tip Ever

I do not enjoy cleaning. But do you know what I hate even more? Having a messy house. Or more accurately, having a messy house that always seems to be cluttered no matter how much time I spend cleaning it.

I'm convinced that many of you feel the same way. When warmer weather arrives, we are all so ecstatic to be free of the sick days and winter claustrophobia that we begin to see our Pinterest boards fill up with cleaning schedules and de-cluttering tactics promising to enhance our spring cleaning experience and make our home look like a spread in Southern Living.

However, I have yet to find such a schedule that actually seems realistic to me. Yes, ideally I'd like to do a load of laundry a day or choose one room to deep clean each day of the week, but I'm not going to kid myself – life gets in the way of schedules. Although many of these lists have some good tips, some of the suggestions are just downright ridiculous. One of them actually lists steam cleaning grout as a weekly task. Um, no. “Ain't nobody got time for that!”

This is probably a more accurate representation of what a mother – especially one with small children – does to keep the house clean:

1) Wake up determined. Clean like a mad woman all morning, only to arrive at bedtime wondering why the house looks exactly like it did when she first woke up.

2) Rewash yesterday's mildewed load of laundry that she forgot about while she was busy making sure the toddler did not eat caterpillars or hurl himself from the trampoline.

3) Decide that the piles of toys strewn across the living room actually add to the d├ęcor.

4) Spend entirely too much time in the kitchen fixing snack after blessed snack, scraping dried food off all the heavily trafficked kid zones, and wishing it was more environmentally friendly/socially acceptable to use disposable dinnerware at all meals.

And, you know, various other things that don't end up on these beautiful Pinterest lists...but don't get me wrong – I still enjoy reading them and dreaming about becoming a superhuman organizing machine. It could totally happen, I suppose. I'm just not holding my breath.

Most of the time, I have a pretty good attitude about the clutter. It frustrates me that I can't always keep up with everything, but then I just remind myself that it's all about priorities. I do what I can during the day, but just like everything else in life, I have to decide what's most important. I can't do it all – no matter how many times I read “20 Steps To Becoming The World's Most Awesome Human Being” or whatever the latest pin might be.

So that's my cleaning tip – do what you CAN. Don't be lazy, but don't be overwhelmed either.

Perhaps I'm just too much of a skeptic, but I just don't think there are any magical tips that are going to keep me from having to do the SAME BLASTED THINGS every single day. That's just a part of life. And occasionally I'm going to find better things to do with my life.
SAHM Find Time For Pleasures

Like dust the fan blades. Uh huh, about once a year...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Even The Greatest Puzzle Has A Solution

Ten years ago today I rode in the backseat of a college professor's car with some other students as we headed from the hospital back to campus. They were talking about what we'd just experienced while I sat silently, unable to speak at all. It was from the shock, mostly, but the grief wasn't too far behind.
A boy I didn't know sat in the front seat. He said he didn't believe in heaven or any sort of afterlife, but he did believe that our friend was still a part of the universe...something about his memory living on in us...I can't quite remember the words. I just remember that it made my heart ache with empty sadness and the pit in my chest grow larger.
Just minutes earlier I had stood in a circle in a hospital parking lot with dozens of other students as we held hands and prayed together. I had looked around at all these people that one person had gathered together, and though I was broken, there was still hope. It meant something. It had to.
Just a week earlier I'd spent a 26-hour bus ride to New York next to one of the greatest human beings I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. He'd let me stretch my feet across his lap as I repeatedly scrambled the Rubik's cube for him and timed his solutions. They were always under a minute.
He was like a brother, except the only time I'd ever been mad at him was once in the cafeteria when he'd thrown an egg roll at me and gotten soy sauce all over my favorite shirt. I couldn't stay mad at him for long – no one could.
And once, a long time before that, we had sat in his dorm room talking about life, and he confessed that he didn't believe he would live until old age. He'd just 'had a feeling'. I told him that was ridiculous and that one day we would call each other up and talk about our grandkids.
But that was not to be.
Charles was smart, witty, multi-talented – but most of all, loving. He understood what love was far better than most people twice his age. His life may have seemed short to so many who knew him, but he had gained far more knowledge and understanding than most people even bother to seek in this brief life we're all given. Charles looked at the universe as though it were something as simple as a mathematical equation and had a spiritual outlook full of meaning and purpose. He was unique in a way I have never known anyone else to be.
That's why it wasn't fair. I couldn't understand why, out of all the human beings on earth, it had to be him. Twenty-one years old, so much life left to live, so much more loving left to do...so much more to give.
It was a long and painful process for me to finally arrive at the realization that the answer was, why not? Life is not fair in the way that we assume it should be, as we all know by the way it slams us into a wall every now and then. In fact it would probably be for the best if the word “fair” didn't even exist in any human language. I don't know why we keep trying to mold it into what we think it should be.
Our natural tendency is to ask why, but perhaps we are simply not asking the right question.
Life Is A Puzzle

The answers to the universe are most likely quite simple. After all, a Rubik's cube has only one solution out of 43 quintillion possible combinations – a solution that is as simple as a series of sequences. Maybe if we just knew all the rules and took it one step at a time, all these complexities would seem so easy...the solutions would be clear.
I don't have all those answers, and it often frustrates me. But I do believe that Someone does. And I do believe that Charles lives on in a much bigger way than the boy in the front seat thought he did. I believe we'll someday have the answers, and I believe that Charles is thrilled to have them now.
I believe all that because it makes no sense to be handed a Rubik's cube that's impossible to solve. The enigmas this life presents have more to offer us than confusion and surrender. When we know there is a solution, the puzzle starts to take shape.
Charles' existence meant something and means something still. We are so much more than random. We fit together in the most complex-and-yet-simple puzzle that's ever been designed.
I've seen too many people give up on the answer because they're holding onto a piece they can't quite fit into the puzzle. They've got one side of the cube solved, but the rest of it is still so jumbled up that they decide it's not even worth it, that it must be impossible.
But it is possible. It is worthy of our time and attention.
Charles taught me many things, but mostly that the answers are worth seeking. Just because I can't see the completion doesn't mean there isn't one. It just means I need to figure out the steps, fitting in the pieces as I find them and letting Love guide me along the way.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Beauty Of Turning Thirty

I turned thirty last week. People act like it's some sort of scary milestone that everyone is supposed to dread, but I figure I've got a few more years before I need to bust out the Depends. Besides, I think I reached my peak at around 25, so it has all been going downhill anyway. No biggie.

A few years ago my youngest sister – in her teens – commented on the ugliness of my slip-on backless shoes.

I shrugged. “They're comfortable,” I said.

She eyed me for a moment.

“Thirty's comin',” she said.

I just laughed in hearty agreement. Thirty was nothing to fear. It was just another tickmark on the wall, another calendar day gone by, and now that it's arrived, I feel exactly the same way. Plus I'm totally okay with sometimes wearing ugly, comfortable shoes and not giving a flip what anyone else thinks.

But I suppose I sometimes feel like those shoes. The hardest part about getting older, I think, is that we start to believe our external beauty is fading – at least, we women do. (Why do men get better looking as they get older? Seriously, what is up with that? So not fair...)

We don't like to admit it, but beauty is so important to us girls. Especially us mamas, because we tend to push ourselves to the side while we care for others' needs. We may shift our focus and priorities as we get older, but that doesn't mean we don't still long for others to see beauty in us.

I have never felt 'beautiful' by the world's standards, so I can't really say I feel like I'm losing something in this new decade. Instead I'm finally beginning to grasp what beauty truly is. It has nothing to do with the lies that we tell ourselves for thirty years, and many times our whole lives. (You know, that list you keep of what you need to change about yourself in order to be attractive.)

If beauty was meant to be found in perfection, then there would be none.

No, beauty has never had a standard. It has never been about achieving some vague idea of 'perfect'. It's in what we create out of the imperfection.

It's in our silliness, in laughing at ourselves, in our loving each other despite our faults. It's in the worn hands that have labored sacrificially, and in the little eyes that reflect a love I don't deserve. It's in the hope that springs from our brokenness; it's in every precious moment we take a breath.

With age comes wisdom (I have the strands of gray to prove it), and perhaps that is why I see more beauty around me than ever before. I know the truth about it. 

I know that I am completely and utterly imperfect, and I know that I'm okay with that.

These thirty years have molded me each and every step of the way. They have not always been kind, but they have been full, they have been blessed, and I am a richer woman than I ever could have imagined I would be.

I know how much life can be lived in thirty years, how much beauty can be found. And to that I say, bring on the next thirty.