Makes Me Happy Monday : Kindness

This last week was …. uhm ……. full of uncertainty.
The south-east was drenched with rain on Tuesday
then we had a flash-freeze on Wednesday
that brought life to a standstill.
Over a hundred thousand people in our immediate area lost power.
We were without for four days.
It was returned to us sometime after midnight Sunday morn.
Flames in the fireplace

During those four days,
I had one friend bring us a gracious amount of  firewood,
one friend to text me to check on me every day
and another one call from out of town to ask if he could help us in any way.
And as I walked into a store last night,
I had a gentleman hold the door open for me.
I told him “Thank you so much”
and as I walked past his graciousness, I felt the tears coming.

Kindness is so rare.
It feels as though people don’t pay attention to people around them.
We can’t save every lost puppy, heal every wound or comfort every soul.
I want to do so much more than I am physically, emotionally or financially able.
Sometimes, we’re doing what we can just to keep ourselves in motion
and life often feels isolated.
And honestly, even small acts of kindness can be monumental.
The man who held that door open for me …. saw me.
He saw that I was near him.
He saw I was walking in the same direction.
And he offered the kindness of simply opening a door.
Even a small kindness is anything but small.

Yes, simply, earthy kindness makes me happy …
the sort of kindness that “sees” people and extends a hand.
What makes you happy this mild Monday morning?

Grace for Single Mothers

Glennon at Momastery posted this on her Facebook wall the other night:

“You guys, it was one of those nights. Too many kids crying and whining and flailing and fighting and just ALL MY SENSES on overload and I finally had to tap out. I just said – Craig, you gotta take one for the team tonight- and I came to hide in my closet/office. My cloffice.

And now I’m sitting here listening to the lingering carnage and thinking about you single parents who can’t tap out. Who never tap out. Who keep showing up when you’re weary or angry or lonely or all of the above. Single parenting is simply one of the most tremendous acts of sheer will and love I can imagine.

Anyway- whether you’re single parenting tonight due to deployment or divorce or death or illness or non-involvement or some other circumstance – ALL MY AWE AND LOVE AND RESPECT AND ADMIRATION . . . ALL OF IT – goes out to you tonight. #carryonwarrior

I zoned out when I got to her words,
“I just said – ‘Craig, you gotta take one for the team tonight’… “
That’s the point where I wither and slink away in any blog post or status update.
It’s the point that I remember, “Oh. She’s on a team.” *looks away*
So, I usually stop reading.
Most of the time, the woman is just being honest and vulnerable
about a struggle in their life …
And what I know is … I can’t help them
and I don’t even walk in the same style shoes. anymore.
And their mentioning a helper and a safe place to hide,
reminds me of my lack of both.

It reminds me of an example I heard  years ago
of the woman in a grocery store who teasingly offers to give her badly behaving child away.
She is overheard by the barren woman who pines for a child, but doesn’t have one.
So, the mom who is sharing her struggles in a comical way … laughing to keep from crying …
is heard by someone who would LOVE to have those struggles
because the source of her frustration  … is a child.
We interpret every situation according to our own perspective.

When you are talking to a single mom and  you’re sharing that
your grass is tall because your husband is working late and he can’t cut the grass until the weekend,
or you can’t wait until your husband gets home so he can take your kids off your hands
or you’re mad because it takes your husband too long to pack the car for a trip
or you don’t like the way that he folds the towels,
she may very well be thinking, “Well, at least you have a partner. You have a team.”

Just because I don't do it your way doesn't mean I am doing it wrong.

Because …
Who makes the appointments and takes the kids to the doctor?
Who cuts the grass, weeds the flower beds and edges the sidewalk?
Who blows off the roof so it won’t rot? Or repairs the hole when a limb falls?
Who keeps track of money, pays the bills and saves for the future?
Who plans out meals, does the grocery shopping and puts away groceries?
Who prepares meals and lunches for school and then cleans up afterwards?
Who washes, dries, sorts and disperses laundry?
Who is responsible when the toilet leaks, the heater quits or ants invade, dryer quits?
Who makes sure the trash and yard waste make it to the street?
Who replaces broken windows? Repairs fallen gutters or deck? Re-glazes old windows?
Who protects you when hear someone walking on your back porch?
Who makes sure that there is firewood? Moves it from the yard to a covered spot, as needed?
Who makes sure homework is finished? And meets with teachers? And signs report cards?
Who finances this? Who is responsible for the income into your home?
Who plans your trips/vacations? Who plans the stops, figures out the cost and packs everything?
Who buys the presents at gift time? Who remembers birthdays? Who mails cards and thank yous?
Who stops the fighting/bickering? Who helps settle sibling disagreements? Is the mediator?
Who is the bad guy and makes the decisions of “No” that crush your child, but are needful?
Who vacuums floors, wipes down baseboards, dusts tables and changes sheets?
Who makes the 30-60 minute phone calls to the cable/insurance/phone when bill is incorrect?
Who changes the oil, rotates/buys the tires, makes sure there is anti-freeze in the car?
Who puts out decorations for holidays and celebrations so your home is festive?
Who keeps the records and files the taxes in your family? Who pays the monthly bill, if you owe?

She does all of these. She does all the jobs you do and all of the jobs your partner does.
Some may be  delegated to children, but she must still oversee that they get accomplished.
And the more children she has and the younger they are, the more difficult her job.

I have a tax guy do my taxes, but I have to keep all the records and make the payments
(Because, yes, I owe. I had never done my taxes or chosen my withholdings before my divorce
and didn’t pay enough in and I’m still trying to catch up.)
But, every other job above has been mine since my divorce.

And this is true for most single moms. I am surrounded by them.  They are exhausted.
They don’t want to ask for help because they’ve done it so many times. They save “asking”
for the “really big stuff”  … when they are completely out of ideas, time, resources and money.
But, a movie night, a note of encouragement, a phone call to say, “You okay?,” a Starbucks card,
advice on a house repair or the offer of some help with a home repair job would mean SO MUCH.

Your husband may do some things that you don’t like.
He may even do some things that are immoral in your eyes.
Maybe your weakness (gossip? gluttony? impatience? selfishness?)
is as unseemly in his eyes
as his weakness (pornography? bitterness? anger? dishonesty?)
is in your eyes.
Maybe …. a lot more grace needs to happen.
Trust me. I’ve offered it and I’ve been extended MUCH more than I could ever deserve.
But … he’s there. He hasn’t quit. He hasn’t walked out.  He hasn’t said,
“I don’t want to be on your team any more.”
There is still hope.

I beg you, offer support to your team member. Don’t fuss about him.
And know that there are others around you
who would prefer your style shoes for walking.
But, for whatever reason, they were removed.
Encourage those around you in whatever way you can.
For we could all use a bit more grace.

(Let me add here:
For all you sweet married mamas
that answered “Me” to most of the “Who?” questions above,
I commend you.
I know it’s tough to have the appearance of being on a team
when you are isolated, alone, battling and weary …
for your marriage, your family, your self-worth
and possibly your physical, emotional and spiritual health.
I think this is prevalent in our society …
and when it happens to women in a church, you are expected to
publicly and privately
support, respect and encourage your husband … even if he pours himself into
work or some outside investment
when in fact, his first priority (after God) should be family.
I commend you and pray for your strength, stamina and joy in this season. {{hug}}
I know the anger, frustration and weariness that you wear. I weep for you, dear one.
I have no “#7 Steps …. ” list to fix your situation, but I understand and you are “seen.” )

- Knots & Hard Places

So, I’m working on this project and I am reminded
once again
that knots are gnarly and tough. wood knot

I learned this lesson when working with pallet wood.
I am reminded of the lesson as I work with these Grade #2 wood 4x4s.
Both wood types are messy and slightly imperfect … like people … and life.

When working with these, you must choose your cuts carefully
and be intentional about the choosing the places to drill holes.
If wood is thick enough, down deep inside the piece of lumber
may be a tough, dangerous knot …. one that can’t even be visually located.
And when cutting with a saw, a knot will definitely slow you down
with its dense, dark blemish.
In fact, you may be moving through the wood easily when
*BAM* you’ll hit the knot and it will
GRAB the tip of the bit or the blade
in a way that will make you lose control of your tool
if you don’t have a good grip and aren’t anticipating
that  sudden change in fluidity in of smooth movement.

Though, some people particularly like the way that knots look in wood.
They give wood more personality and character.
But, personality, beauty and character … are not without danger.

As a tree grows, branches sprout out from the trunk.
Sometimes a branch will break off. Bark will then scab over the open wound
and create a knot. wood knot

As I drilled three inches into the four-inch wood,
my drill bit began to spin without moving any deeper.
I could force the bit with some pressure,
but this would more likely damage my bit
more than it would move the bit deeper into the stiff, amber and wood lesion.

Looking for parallels in the spiritual physical world .... As I watched the bit spin round and round,
I thought about how much
we are like this piece of wood.
We are knotted with scars, scabbed over and stiff.
The more someone tries
to push through that tough spot with some instrument
that is intended to create something new and better,
the more likely that person is to be injured …. their blade dulled.
And, oh the friction. In dry, parched wood …
enough sawdust and friction
could cause a fire that will burn everything right down to the ground.
1" drill bitI pull out my bit. It’s brand new … right out of the package. I have drilled fewer than six inches into wood with this new blade. The tips are sharp. The edges still keen. I will have to be careful and patient as I drill, waiting for the bit to do its work inside that dark hole.

How often do I push away God’s drill? Ask Him to put it down? Tell Him I don’t want to be something “new” and different? My knots give me personality and character, but the presence of those tight, dense knots surely gets in the way of  changes that need to be made. One at a time, He bores them out … and I am better because of it.

Makes Me Happy Monday : Snow Memories

Parts of the south froze over last week without the joy of snow to make it feel worthwhile.
But, Augusta enjoyed a few inches.Our "Snowmageddan" of 2014Our city and county, much smaller, of course, than the metropolis of Atlanta, planned ahead and told us Monday that schools would close on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday was an extra gift.
So, for three days, our city sat still …
Children laughed and ran about in yards, on sidewalks and at our park where there is a slight little hill that at least offers a toddler an enjoyable quick slide on a make-shift sled.

Yes, my kids were the ones that were loud and outside at 10:30pm throwing snowballs on Tuesday night. Accumulation My two introverts (oldest and youngest) played outside a bit on Tuesday,
but huddled inside for most of the rest of their break. Snowball, anyone? But, this girl ^ would have none of that.
My more extroverted, middle child decided to play outside off and on all day Wednesday.
She made snowballs and threw them at anyone who dared venture out of the house.

Snow happy

She made pretty little snowgirl. Glory and her SnowmanIn fact, she crafted several snowmen around the yard.
Making a second snowmanIt brought me such joy to see her really play …. with her 22-year-old self.

Glory's snowmanRight after ^ this photo, her sweet little snowgirl came apart. The snow was so light and fluffy that it didn’t pack well.
Alas, we enjoyed her in pieces for the next few days.

Oops. Snowball partsAll that is left of her now is a memory.Snowman remnantsBut, memories are sweet and to be treasured.
We enjoyed almost a full week of homemade chocolate with real whipped cream,
damp hats, gloves and shoes drying by the fireplace
and warm homemade soups and chowders.

Chicken and dumplings

Everybody in the family was in the same home
and there was laughter and joy.
Our week was Snow Much Fun!
Yes, snow memories from last week make me happy!
What makes you happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Makes Me Happy Monday : Broken Juice Glass

Have you ever noticed how
you DON’T notice when something irritating or frustrating
STOPS happening?

The other day, a soapy coffee cup slipped from my hands
and landed on top of a juice cup that was already waiting for a rinse in the sink.
*clink* Broken juice glass in my sink
I was surprised by the breaking of the glass
because I think this was the first glass to break since I put in my new sink
way back in October.
 . . . four months . . .
With our old cast-iron sink, AT LEAST one glass item would break every week,
but more often than not, several would be broken.

It was quite a hazard because it is so easy to be cut by those unexpected breaks.

When I look at a photo like this, it appears sensationalized  …. or melodramatic ….
but a heap of dangerous glass shards like this was a common dishwashing occurrence.shards of glass intertwined with silverware

As I stood and washed and rinsed, I thought about
how I had forgotten about the fear of being cut.

It is a gift, isn’t it? … to forget pain?
Some of us save it … hoard it. Some of us stuff it and shove it away and never deal with it.
And some of us spend our lives re-living it wondering when it will happen again.
There is a healthy place in between.
There is a good place to live
where we live through it, look at it, deal with it
and move on.

I hated to lose that pretty amber beauty.
I have become a collector of amber. I love the 70′s feel. I have tiny juice glasses, several mid-sized glasses and just a few huge glasses that are perfect for tea-guzzling big kids. Amber Glassware

Some days, it feels as though I get nothing accomplished … as if I run in circles. Being a single mom takes a LOT of work. But, there are those days when I am reminded that much has been done here. And the really scary things – like replacing a kitchen sink – are big jobs that I am grateful are behind me.

I am thankful for the reminder.
I am thankful for friends provided by God who come along to help do tough stuff and spur me on.
I am thankful for the removal of dangerous things – like big, metal sinks.
And I am thankful for a broken amber juice glass.

Sink love

That broken juice glass made me happy
because it reminded me of protection, provision and moving forward.
What makes YOU happy this marvelous Monday morning?

Weekend Wishes

Craft Store Wisdom

This storage box made me laugh out loud as I stood in the aisle at a local craft store.
I posted this photo on Facebook and had a friend comment,
“I just need that on a sign I can hang on the front door.” Hahahhahahahaaaa.

Just admit it. There will always be socks without a match, papers that aren’t filed,
and home repair projects that need to be started or long to be finished.
What a gift to admit, “There will always be things that are left unorganized or unfinished.”
So, do what you can and let the rest go … at least for now.
This weekend, if you’re able, set aside some time to leave the fretting behind
and just enjoy … relax … rest.

If you can’t take the whole weekend off, find a few hours to get away.Kayak Rent a kayak and get on the water.  People watch at the mall. Ride a bike.
Read a book. Go see a movie. Take a hike. Take a nap on the couch.
Put together a jigsaw puzzle. Call an old friend. Have coffee with a new one.
Sit outside facing the sun for 20 minutes – no matter the temperature.
Buy a new CD and listen to it over and over. Sew or crochet something for yourself.
Bake some cookies. Begin a new journal. Get a massage, a haircut, or a manicure.
Think of something you would love to do … but don’t MAKE the time to do for yourself,
. . . . and do it. Bike ride on The Greenway trail in North Augusta, SC

Put aside the worries of bills to pay, things to do, places to go and things that need to be fixed.
We must care for ourselves  - rest, eat well, exercise, sleep, rejuvenate – to function well.
What good are we if all we have to offer
to our God, our spouse, our children, our friends or our co-workers
is a worn-out, exhausted, down-trodden self?
Find something to do that is rejuvenating for you … and do it.

Have a fabulous, energizing weekend, friend.

Lessons Learned from Carrie’s Pantry

Do you remember when you were little and adults did things that you didn’t understand? I never understood why my grandmother kept sugar, flour and meal in large, plastic containers in her pantry. I remember asking her about this  … probably more than once. And I remember that her answer was that she wanted to keep bugs out of them.

Until I had a pantry of my own and had a box of some-floury-sort-of-cooking-staple fill with little weevils and make babies and contaminate other boxes and bags way back in the back of my storage ….. I had no idea why plastic containers were a good idea. But, once I had to deep clean, cull and purge
and toss away good food,
the plastic containers became much more wise and useful.

My pantry Today, I use glass rather than plastic, in my own pantry.

Not so long ago, Joy, one of my raisin haters saw my jar of raisins and said,
“Really, Mom? Why would you even WANT to put raisins in a jar?”

I laughed. She would rather be hungry than eat raisins.
THIS is why I want to keep my raisins fresh.
I love oatmeal with raisins, brown sugar and butter. Oatmeal with raisins, butter & brown sugar

She won’t get the whole keeping-food-in-sealed-containers thing until
she is grown and has a few little mothy-bugs fly from her cabinet and she realizes that
she has to deep clean, cull and purge bugs from her pantry. But, her turn will come.

And, you know how hard it is to handle that last sliver of soap when your bar is almost gone?
Well, another thing that Carrie did that puzzled me
was she smashed that little soap flake
into a new bar when she opened one. Soap
I remember once washing my hands with a melding-bar
when the new fragment of soap wriggled loose.
I  …. g.u.e.s.s I tried to throw it away? I don’t remember.
I just remember that I was firmly instructed on how to make the old soap fragment
adhere to the new soap bar. I probably rolled my preteen eyes.
It seemed like …. a superfluous act to me. Soap

But, today, I am thankful. I mentioned HERE  that my skin is super-duper dry. The soap that I adored from Yardley is no longer carried at the grocery stores or pharmacies that I frequent so I have had to resort to a new product … which is also more expensive. More than ever, I am careful with ever last tidbit of soap.

My grandmother grew up in a time when there wasn’t excess. You cared for what you had and didn’t mindlessly toss things that cost money to purchase. She taught me many lessons on frugality.

In today’s world of consumerism, we cast aside things simply because we don’t like them or need them any more RATHER than donating them to an organization that can pass them along to someone who WOULD use them and want them. I am thankful that I was offered an example of frugal and careful.

On any given morning, you might find me eating oatmeal with delicious, fresh raisins
and then forcing the last sliver of soap from an old bar
into the clean, crisp form of a new bar
and giving thanks for lessons learned from Carrie.

Soap

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