Resisting Routine

I am pondering and exploring my struggle with routine, namely, my resistance to it. I know that if I were teaching right now I would be reading to my students as they ate a snack. We would then pack up and spend fifteen minutes preparing for the school day to officially begin. From there the day would roll on in blocks of time, each with a specified task, until the end.

I am good with an others-imposed work routine. I know the benefits of following a plan to accomplish the things. It allows you to focus on what is being done in the present with the assurance that the next things will get done in their time. This saves physical and mental energy.

The struggle is with self-structure. I am a finite person with limited resources and must choose the best way to use them when there are so many good ways. And there are teachers. I am abundantly familiar with online and print teachers and coaches who encourage the use of personal routines.

The challenge is in the doing and the practice.

As I type the above sentence, I am struck with what I lack, and that is practice. Much of my life has been spent in overdrive, rushing from thing to thing with little intentionality. When others-imposed requirements are in place, I can follow those. If they are required to collect a paycheck, all the better.

When it comes to ordering my personal time or working on things to benefit myself, plans become muddled. This keeps me frozen and stuck and often at the mercy of others and their routines.

Once upon a time I stood in the kitchen of a new friend with my seven children scattered around. I felt like the biggest poser as she asked me questions about homeschooling (I didn’t) and home management (What’s that?).

At the time I was in a stay at home season. I had discovered Flylady somewhere online, and she rang familiar from my childhood with a mom who was a self-proclaimed SHE. I mentioned Flylady to my friend, most likely to have some sort of answer for her. As much as I tried to keep my home, there were more pressing matters like lots of children to keep.

Years passed.

Last fall we sat together in my living room, reconnecting intentionally to catch up. She had big changes on the horizon. During the course of our conversation she mentioned Flylady in a laughing way, something or another about not keeping up.

She reminded me that I was the one who had told her about Flylady. This reminded me about the whole others bearing witness to our lives thing (just now I typed withness and find that slip interesting.) I felt a mixture of shame and embarrassment at the woman I was who felt a need to share a system with someone rather than be okay with not knowing what I was doing or how I was doing it.

Maybe that is at the root of my resistance. Systems. For years in the midst of my overwhelm and wandering, the answer was always to find a system. The right chore charts, vitamin regimen, exercise plan, date night, home organization system was the answer. These treated symptoms but not root causes.

Having spent years addressing root causes and sorting through the beautiful disruption, it is time to rebuild. I am facing honestly my need for some sort of a routine, no matter how I may resist. I have come to the place where I know it is not the answer but a tool I am ready to learn to use.

So this new year finds me trying to imagine what a consistent daily and weekly routine might look like, with the understanding that even the best laid plans need room for flexibility. What about you, Dear Reader? Do you follow a set routine or plan? What inspires you to stay focused? What gets you off track? I am pondering these thoughts more as I continue moving forward in this new season of life. I would love to hear what works for you! Or not!

Black and White

December was my final month on Facebookand for weeks a “Black and White Challenge” floated around with specific rules for posting and tagging.

I am not one to appreciate or engage in social media posting and tagging games, but alas, I was finally tagged by a friend. Spending way too much mental energy deciding what to do (and hence confirming a decision I had already subconsciously made), I decided to play along with the picture part, but not the tagging.

Each day I took a random, real photo. No explanation, no people, according to the rules. The pictures explain themselves.

Here are the seven black and white photos taken from a life that is not so black and white.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

If you are on Facebook, did you take the challenge? How do you feel about posting and tagging games? Which of my pictures resonates the most with you? Do share! I am curious.

Friendship Friday ~ Facebook

Last fall found me wrestling the Facebook conundrum, once again. It remained on my mind throughout the season, as I made the adjustment from working full time to being back home.

On the one hand, I loved being able to connect quickly and instantly with so many past and present friends and acquaintances. I loved being able to pop into their worlds at will to see the latest news. I loved the number of hits and shares that my blog posts received when I cast them out into Facebook land.

On the other hand, I hated the quick and instant connection with so many past and present friends and acquaintances. I hated being able to pop into their worlds at will to see the latest news. I still loved the affirmation and hits and shares and likes, though.

I sat in ambivalence for several months, vacillating from focusing on the positives to considering deleting the account, often within minutes of each other, usually when in a place of high social media stress and emotion.

My grounding felt shallow and weak as I struggled with identity issues, while carrying on with daily tasks. Facebook became an escape from what was best, even though there was some good. My default was scrolling and peering through everyone’s cyber-windows and feeling all of the feelings for all of the people while absorbing all of the issues.

Something had to change.

I decided to be intentional about whatever choice I made, and in the end chose to disable my personal account and keep the blog page open. It offered a middle ground and opportunity to reset my personal self while still engaging my writing self.

At the end of two weeks I feel more space in my soul and less stress for all of the things beyond my control. I feel more real-life connection. I feel less awareness of the theoretical and more grounding in the practical.

There are things that I miss.

I miss the instant connection. I miss the reminders of where I was 3, 5, 7, 9 years ago. I miss the cute pictures. I miss the events and invitations (sometimes) and tagging. I miss knowing when a weather apocalypse could be coming (actually, no I don’t). I miss my groups. I miss being in the loop about the things that could actually matter.

To be honest, I have received a screen shot or two from an adult child who knows I would appreciate what pops up in her feed or might need a heads-up regarding an impending school delay or possible snow day. My husband sometimes shares things with me from his feed. I am not guaranteed to see things, though.

What about you, Dear Readers? How do you engage social media and all that goes with it? What am I missing while on my hiatus? I would love to hear your perspective! Thank you for stopping by my cyber-space today, however you managed to find me.

Postscript

So you must share with your loyal readers what the gift was that you gave Steve. . .

Loyal readers? I have loyal readers!

I love that I have curious loyal readers, so when the text came through I had to respond. While my turnaround time is not always this swift, in this case, well, here you go . . .

For all of the pictures he loves to take and share on Instagram as well as for future creative endeavors, I got him a mobile photography kit to use with his phone.

And this book to, well, hopefully do its thing. He even offered to share with me,

Thank you, Loyal Reader for reaching out. Oh how you are loved and missed!

So, what do you think? Were these good choices?

Celebrate

Today the love of my life celebrates another birthday. I have shared 30 of his special days with him. This feels momentous. He might say I feel that way about everything.

Thirty years ago my boyfriend turned 18. It was a year to the month that I first met him and six months after we began dating. My baby sister had been born two days before, and I was packing my things in preparation for a major move that would take place three weeks later.

Here we are together with the first newborn we shared. There is a lot going on behind the eyes of that sixteen-year-old girl.

There was excitement in celebrating that first birthday together, the last we would celebrate in person before marrying four years later. His birthday became a conundrum for me as I tried to choose the right gifts. I remember mailing packages those years before we married, feeling close to my boyfriend while shopping and selecting things I thought he would enjoy.

It was difficult not being together in person, because much is missed in the day to day sharing of life. Much was built up in my mind and the future was idealized. I thought it would be easier after we married. Please do not laugh. I am having a hard enough time being kind to that young woman inside. It was not easier.

Last night, Steve lovingly reminded me of the delicious coconut cream pie I tried to make for his 22nd birthday when we were newlyweds. It was more like coconut soup, but he ate it like a champ. I have not always had the stellar cooking and baking skills of today.

His contentment made it difficult for me to find “just the right” gift, because I could not tell what he would really enjoy, I don’t know if he knew, either, indicated by vague or practical responses when asked. I groped along, hoping to hit the mark.

I think I hit it this year. Number 30 just might be a charm. I don’t want to say more in the rare event that he has an opportunity to read this before tonight when he opens his gifts, but I am excited, and that is a good feeling.

This week began with a dream, one of those vivid ones that you remember upon waking and that stays with you all day. In it I was leading a story group. My husband was a participant. I thought it odd that the leaders would put us together but figured, Oh well, they know what they are doing.

One theme of the dream was distraction. As Steve began to share his story a rushing river roared noisily past, other group members were taking facetime calls, and a tiny elephant went walking by. I was trying hard to hear what he was saying, but even leaning in with great focus, I couldn’t.

I finally stopped everything and addressed the situation, naming the great distractions and the need to focus on Steve and his story.

Awww. Thank you for speaking up for me was his response when I shared my dream yesterday morning.

As I celebrate the amazing man I saw in those eighteen year old eyes, that is my desire for him this year, to focus on his story and on that tiny elephant walking by, inviting him to more laughter, creativity, and growth.

I hope to stop everything with him, and listen.

Happy Birthday, Love!

Changes

It’s after 10:00 on Saturday night, and I’m picking up American Girl dolls and accessories from an elaborate set up in the TV room. They have been there for over a week.

I remember the intricacy involved and time it takes to set up and orchestrate proper play, and I want my youngest to have that freedom for as long as possible. As a result, we have all been navigating over and around tiny dishes and clothing and furniture and dolls, so many dolls. It is time to clean them up.

There are bins to contain everything, but Little Mae is clearly avoiding the task.

I warn her that if she doesn’t pick up, then I will do it for her.

Ok, Fine! She calls over her shoulder as she runs upstairs to play in her room with a sister before bed.

This is how I find myself here, and I do not even take a picture, though the thought crossed my mind. What if this is the last time?

It really could be now, unlike times before when there was always another sister or sibling next in line.

I allow myself to hold the memory of the scene in my heart as I sit in the midst of the play circle, paralyzed. I am transported back to my young self who desired to keep her world ordered, a seemingly impossible task with six younger siblings coming behind and messing things up.

I understand now Little Mae’s avoidance. It is overwhelming. In my overwhelm, I release perfectionism and just place things where they fit. Like with like, mostly. There is fun in unpacking surprises when the bins are brought back out.

Whenever that may be.

My husband works on his own late-night project in the kitchen, just off of the room where I sit. I gain momentum and snap tops on full bins, stacking them, preparing to move them back out to the kitchen set.

Music plays from the speaker in the kitchen. . . Changes . . .and the tears well in my eyes. My heart already feels fragile, and now I am packing and stacking and storing away toys that are nearing their expiration date.

Doubt creeps in and over and around my heart as I question my choice to allow the girls to spend so much birthday and Christmas money over the years on dolls and tiny dresses and miniature shoes and furniture.

I remember and question my own rush of anticipation, stalking Cyber Monday deals and trolling secondhand shops for unique tiny things.

Changes.

I find a paper rolled and taped into a tiny cone shape with pompoms glued on it for cotton candy and ice cream sandwiches cut from craft foam and the tiny empty plastic bottles that held beads from a recent craft kit and smile.

It was worth it. IS worth it.

And I allow the tears to come.

Unprepared for Goodbye

There were only two visits I was able to make before the holidays. Mondays in Bridgewater afforded me time to stop by after a weekly meeting with friends. I planned to return this week. Back to our regularly scheduled program already in progress.

I was not prepared for the news.

It is easy to check mail on my phone, so when a ministry team message came through with only his name in the heading, I opened it instantly. Sometimes things can be too instant, leaving a person raw in the wake of the suddenness.

I thought I knew what it would say.

There would be a health update, maybe a way to serve the family. There might be specifics of how the disease was progressing or a general update to keep us informed as to how to pray for the man who continued to pray for us from the confines of his automated recliner.

My breath caught in my chest as I read that my dear friend’s breath had left him in the night as he slept.

Gone was the man who sat across from me for so many Stephen Ministry meetings, his faithfulness and genuine care and concern for people radiating from his face. He held many of my prayer requests close and would ask how God was working in my life, right up until our last visit together.

A fun fact is that he had attended the church my husband grew up in when they both lived in Northern Virginia. He remembered my husband as a boy and would laugh and tell stories of him. We had a connection.

He loved.

Above all he loved the Lord and wanted to serve him in all that he did. Our last visit together was full of stories of days gone by, such as being roped in invited to help with the Awana program at his church when he was a younger man and how he cared for the kids who were difficult, understanding that they were the ones who needed love the most.

He cared.

There were many times that he went out of his way to be present or show up for people. He sought out the hurting and humbly reached out with a kind word or thought.

He encouraged.

He encouraged me with his words and his steadfast faith in God. He encouraged me by attending worship whenever he could, right up until his final weeks when it became difficult. I remember the last Sunday that I saw him from stage, sitting in his chair in the back. My heart caught in my chest and my eyes welled up, much as they did when I read that he died.

Bob is in heaven now. I don’t know how it works, but I am confident that he is present with the Lord. This song comes to mind as I sit with my tears remembering my friend. I think it captures his heart.

Goodbye, Bob.