Category Archives: asking

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!

Staying Connected

As 2017 winds down and I ponder changes on the horizon, one of the biggest is finding and working out a balance between virtual and real life connection. On the one hand, the blog’s link to social media offers a broad base of connection with readers. It gives opportunity for liking and sharing. On the other, it provides too many windows for me to look through, inviting much distraction.

Many times I have considered deactivating my personal Facebook account but then hesitated due to the prospect of losing that connection with readers. There is some tidying I plan to do in the new year, but I am not sure exactly how it will look. I am fairly confident it will involve rearranging social media.

That said, if you wish to stay in the blog loop and have not done so already, please consider signing up to receive email notifications of new posts. Should I do some deleting and shifting and moving, I would love to have you along for the ride. I at least want to have given you fair warning.

This April will mark five years since the beginning. My blog, like other parts of my story, is evolving and finding its place in the world. I am looking at where it has been and where it is to see where it might be going.

I feel grateful for those of you who already faithfully read and encourage me to keep writing. I am grateful to those of you who like and follow the Facebook Page. From the beginning, I have wanted this to be a place where people choose to come and read and be met right where they are.

I am thankful for all of you who have done just that.

So as you read and engage and ponder your own changes coming into the new year, consider how you may want to stay connected, and know that I value each of you and what you bring to my cyber, and real, life.

Blessings, Friends!

Pie Dough

I would like to think that I had a hand in this, but I did not. It was my mother and grandmother who invited child six over to learn to make pie crust, and she picked up the skill like a champ.

I can make pie dough, but it always feels like a complicated and precarious process. My daughter whips up batches like a pro to the tune of random pies appearing on the counter. One day I find cherry, the next pumpkin, for no reason other than the joy of baking.

The day I packed the crockpot full of chicken thighs before embarking with my friend, Angela, to UVA’s Medical Center, I came home late at night to a container of leftover chicken in the refrigerator. The meal had not been a favorite, but it had been food, and now there was cooked chicken to be used. I stashed it in the freezer and added Chicken Pot Pie to the following week’s menu.

Since it is my son’s favorite, I planned it for an evening when he would be home for dinner. It happened to be a night when my daughter would be out. Since she is not a fan of Chicken Pot Pie, the timing was perfect.

I am learning to ask for what I need, and since daughter would be around after school, I asked if she would make a pie crust for me. She obliged, and in no time it was in a bowl on the Hoosier ready to be rolled flat.

I rolled the dough and lined the pie plate after preparing the filling on the stove top. Soon the house was filled with a delicious smell, and my heart was filled with a delicious warmth. I think it is called gratefulness.

I am grateful for the help of a daughter who is willing to do what she loves to help me do what I need even when the end result is not her favorite. I am grateful for the gift of grace, because that is all that anything is. 

Next

Mrs McClay! What are you doing next year? Who is taking your place?

All I wanted to do was get through the Sharp Shopper checkout line with my groceries and my youngest and get home. I did not want to think about the question that plagues me daily ~ What’s next? I answered the grocery attendant with what I knew, the name of the teacher replacing me, hoping that my face did not look as blank as I felt.

I’m ——–‘s grandma!

Context is everything. Of course! There is something about crossing paths with someone as they occasionally drop off their little grandperson before school. The connection is obvious and belonging then. It is completely different to be in the grocery outlet line in the middle of summer and have the same person conversing like an old friend.

We made small talk as I gave my semi-rehearsed answer that still feels stiff and awkward, I’m not sure. That is what I am trying to figure out. What is next? I think I will take a gap year.

The thing is, before I get to next, there is a lot to tend to now.

Now looks like all of the things that have been put off due to the busy-ness of working and finishing my certificate. It looks like parenting four people still at home while hearing from four who have been grown but still need time and attention to process their parenting.

I am being reminded that when space clears, things move in to fill it. The space that has been cleared by me being home now instead of at work, even though it is summer and my normal in this season, has been filled with projects and conversations that have been on hold these past four years.

I have been holding a lot.

Next is waiting in the wings while I do now. Now is summer. It is time with family and friends. It is planning for vacation and ridding the house (and my heart) of excess clutter. It is taking time to read and to walk and to prioritize what is most important. It is catching up on appointments and looking ahead to fall a little bit and having space for conversations.

Now is a timer going off reminding me to head to the kitchen to fix some food and to take a deep breath and let go of next.

In the Box

This past week was a dear friend’s birthday. We share the same birth month, and several weeks ago went for coffee together. She gave me a card with a gift card to the coffee shop that we often frequent. She also gave me a box.

The box was significant and special, because it was handmade by her. What was inside the box was even more significant, especially at this time in my life.

While reading and preparing for my certificate work this coming school year, much is made about memory and story and processing and trauma. This month was all about the reading. Next month comes the first writing assignment.

Stirring around inside are memories to be curious about and stories to process. Launching another big while continuing to parent four littles middles stirs different feelings now that there are no more babies. I see more of myself in the life stages of my five girls ~ wherever they are.

And also my three boys.

With that background, I was curious about the box. I opened it to reveal this. . .

inside the box

Can you guess the significance? Anyone? Need another clue?

Sunshine Family

It’s the Sunshine Family!

She passed her childhood set along to me for safe-keeping, knowing my love for the dolls and their place in my story.

Playing with Sunshine Family dolls is a HUGE childhood memory. This was my alternative to playing with Barbies ~ modestly proportioned, flat-footed mom, solid, hard-working dad, baby, and even a big sister in one of the sets, this family provided me hours of creative fun.

I only remember having the dolls and some of the baby accessories. Mine were yellow ~ cradle, bathtub, high chair. There was even a tiny bottle. I don’t think I had any of the store-bought big accessories, but that certainly didn’t stop me from creating multi-level houses out of cardboard boxes, filled with hand-crafted furniture.

My dolls had yellow shoes. It’s funny the memories that stick.

Among my Sunshine Family memories are the pantry shelves that my mom created out of a Velveeta box, cardboard squares, and tape. The dining room table was cut from the bottom of a plastic gallon milk jug with chairs made from paper cups. One was turned upside-down, the other cut in half. The bottoms were glued or taped together, forming a chair with a back. Fancy.

Plates were the flat tops of milk jugs, cups were toothpaste caps, and baskets were egg carton sections cut and woven with yarn. The humble shoebox was a treasure trove of possibilities, most obviously, a bed, but also a closet or stove or counter.

To this day, my sister and I have an inside joke where we say, “It can be a bed, or a dresser, or a table, etc. . .” whenever we see something with multifunctional potential.

In my mind, I spent hours armed with fabric and scissors and wallpaper samples, creating and designing beautifully furnished housing for my dolls. I remember learning a pattern for a tiny bonnet for baby and diapers, as well.

This Pinterest board stirred lots of memories and maybe a feeling or two.

I know that my sister played Sunshine Family with me, and I think some friends did, as well. Did any of you play with or remember these dolls from the 70’s? Did any of your children play with them? I am curious and curiouser!

What about you, Dear Readers? What are some of YOUR significant memories of play? Do share in the comments!

 

 

Choosing Texas

Would you rather go to Hell or Texas?

Little Mae asks me this very question during our ride to school one morning in May. She sneaks it in after we finish dropping her older brother off at middle school but before arriving at ours. We are rounding the traffic circle, if memory serves.

I am shocked, stunned, slightly panicked.

Where in the world did THIS question come from and WHERE is it going?

Masking my ability to jump to the worst possible conclusion to anything in a single bound, I respond with a question of my own.

Why do you want to know?

I am learning, slowly, but surely, to put into practice all of those good parent techniques that other parents seem to have a handle on. Like asking clarifying questions.

Well, in Sunday School we are learning about the Apostle’s Creed, and there was the question, “Would you rather go to Hell or Texas?”

Aha! Now I have a context and framework. Of Course! He was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into Hell. The third day, he arose again from the dead. He ascended into Heaven. . .The words that I learned as a child flood back to my mind.

While some would say there is no difference, I definitely have my answer. . .

I would never want me or anyone to go to Hell, and I have been to Texas, so I definitely choose Texas.

In fact, I would love to be in Texas, where I was almost five years ago when I met the woman who would prove to be instrumental in guiding me to the place that I am today!

As is the case any time Mae and I engage in conversation, there is more. Big things and deep thoughts happen in the space of ten minutes, and this time is no exception.

At least I have someone I already know there waiting for me. You know. Porter?

My heart catches in my throat as we enter this new conversation about her cousin born too soon. I never know when to expect them or what to expect from them. Some times are predictable, like kindergarten graduation when they would have graduated together. Others are not, like when we are driving to school.

Yes. Porter is already in Heaven waiting for you. It will be exciting to meet him one day. It’s nice to have someone you know already there before you. . .

We talk about him for awhile and remember together. Well, I remember, and share with her. Each year, she understands a little more. She always understands that he is the cousin her age that is not here.

Just like Kirk has Deacon, and Chloe and Kanah have Jude. She loves Hadassah, but Porter is the one who would have been her age. In her class.

Porter is the one who is missing. Waiting for us on the other side.

So this year on the day that we should be celebrating him turning eight, I honor him by remembering him and reminding us that his life mattered. It still matters. He matters.

We miss you, Porter Silas. We wonder what you would look like and what you would act like. I wonder what it would have been like to teach three second graders this year, with you as a role model to those first grade boys, balancing out that first and second grade table of five at lunch. I wonder what it would have been like to teach you. Thank you for all that you taught us during your short, meaningful life. Thank you for living out each day written for you with purpose and dignity, even when we didn’t, and still don’t, understand why you had to leave us so soon. We are honored to call you nephew and cousin. We remember and will choose Texas every time. We can’t wait to meet you one day in Heaven.

Restless Exhaustion

Sometimes sleep comes hard. The transition from awake to asleep isn’t easily bridged, and I have to trust that if I breathe deeply and close my eyes, I will cross over.

Sometimes nightmares come immediately. Fear engulfs me. Terror swoops down to grab me.

Sometimes I drift off to happy places. The best kind, really, that I don’t want to leave. Then I wake. I am still here.

Usually it’s the crossing over into sleep that is hard. Once there, I stay put, and even a bad dream or fear doesn’t keep me awake. I push through to the blissful other side. If I do wake, I can roll over and drift back.

It’s been a long time since I have spent the night in restless exhaustion, but last night happened. It reminded me that the insomnia struggle is real for many and has been for me in the past.

Lying awake listening to my husband’s gentle snoring reminded me of the many times I labored great with child during the night, not wanting to wake him. Knowing that when things got real, he would need his energy, I didn’t want to rouse him too soon. When all was said and done, he would need to carry on with work and life while I got to rest.

He is in a season of intensity at work, and I am in a place where I can be home during the day. We both don’t need to lie awake. The sound of his sleeping was music to my ears and background to my tears.

This time is so big. So much is happening. June brings with it heavy ambivalence, and my body feels it intensely this season. Add to that my past history, my current status, and the events coming up this month, and it’s a recipe for a perfect insomnia storm.

There was a similar season over 17 years ago when I struggled with sleep. I know this, because I vividly remember lying in my bed in the little house on Green Street and envisioning filling large black trash bags with my worries, concerns, and fears and hauling them to Jesus to cast at the foot of the cross.

I know he is always there and always faithful. Here I am 17 years later as proof of that! I hate having to continually learn and practice trusting that presence and faithfulness. There is a lot of underlying fear. Does God really know best?

I woke this morning later than I had hoped. Groggy from lack of refreshing sleep, I shared my restless exhaustion with Steve. I mean, I know I slept, but it just doesn’t FEEL like it.

Checking email for the morning’s Bible reading, I saw that an anonymous donation had been made to the GoFundMe account. I also saw the newest Red Tent post was up, and it grabbed my heart. Dissolving into tears, I collapsed to the floor and into Steve’s arms where he was sitting and reading. He held me while I cried.

To all who have contributed on or offline to my endeavors, both financially AND with words of affirmation or prayers, THANK YOU. The timing of Anonymous was truly a God-send and reminder that I am seen, as was the theme of Becky’s post on Red Tent Living today.

Friends, I covet your prayers during this very difficult season of transition and journeying into the unknown while carrying the known with me. If you are in my circle and have needs that I am aware of, you were being lifted up in prayer in the wee hours of the morning. I can’t say exactly when, because I refused to look at a clock, but you were there with me in spirit.

Hugs and Love to All!