Taking Care of the Valuable Things

The other day I was on the phone with mom crying. Fun fact: I hate crying. It leaves me feeling vulnerable and frustrated, which is ironic because those are two feelings that often lead me to cry. Unfortunately for me, I am a crier and you’d think after 39 years I’d be used to it. I’m not. I cry when I’m happy, sad, frustrated, angry, worried, stressed, tired, caring for people, praying for people, reading, watching movies, laughing at myself, etc. I cry. A lot. Especially when I drop heavy objects on my toes. Just sayin’. Sometimes I think my feelings are directly connected to my tear ducts. When things get a little emotionally full, it comes out my eyes and leaks its way down my face.

So yes, I was crying on the phone to my mom the other day. She’s tough and can handle my tears. I was frustrated that I looked around my house and had so much to do but absolutely zero energy to do it. I’m too stubborn to ask for help. (And I’m honest enough to admit I’d probably be really short and snappy with anyone who ventured in.) I know this is just a short-term thing until my body is back on track and I’m trying to be patient and graceful. (I am neither patient nor graceful.) But I hate not having strength in myself to do it all. (None of us do.) I fall prey to the trap of comparison. (It’s a joy suck.) I feel all these negative things – yes, a bit of self-pity and woe – and I cried.

Yesterday, I went to work. I puttered a bit when I came home in the afternoon. I sat down to finish writing a review and while pondering my words, I fell asleep. Kevin worked a bit later than usual. It was dark when he got home. (It’s dark very early now but it’s nice to wake up to sunlight.) We had a time-sensitive errand to run. Dinner hadn’t been made. I looked at him in the car shortly before 7 and said “I’m done.” I was frustrated. We bought takeout for dinner and I left the dishes until this morning. I felt guilty and then realised how stupid it was to feel guilty. I didn’t cry though. Maybe I did. I was in such a fog that I honestly don’t remember. The family was cared for in a different way and did what needed to be done even if it was a shortcut. Everyone went to bed with full bellies. No one was hurt by the dishes in the sink.

Today I slept in. It was lovely. I embraced the day with a to do list. I sat down at 1:30 p.m. to write this because… guess what? I am done. Not done my to do list. Just done. My list has fallen to the wayside. (Technically it’s on my phone still waiting for me to check items off.) I started to feel frustrated at all that remains to be done. I was falling into the trap of comparison and self-pity again. But I stopped. Grabbed a cold Diet Pepsi out of the fridge. Sat down and realized what’s left on the to-do list doesn’t matter right now – the to-do list will never end. Ever. What does matter is finding pride in what I have accomplished even if that doesn’t look like what you accomplished or what she-who-shall-not-be-named-but-makes-me-look-like-a-slacker accomplished. Because we’re not the same person. We’re not in the same place.

Today I am satisfied with what I’ve already done before I ran out of steam (remember, my tank is pretty small right now – it doesn’t take a lot to hit empty.) This morning I cleaned two bathrooms, emptied and loaded the dishwasher, washed a overflowing sink full of things that aren’t dishwasher friendly by hand, I’ve washed, dried, and folded three loads of laundry, I started a new devotional, I wrote a note to a friend, I fed and watered the pets, I changed our bedsheets, I cleaned the washer and dryer (why do we have so much dusty lint?) and I have two pots of soup on the go. Soup one is a creamy tomato and white bean. (In case you think I’ve got it all together – you know, judging by my masterful command of life and emotions – I may have, most definitely, burnt the beans as I write this – we’ll hope it adds a depth of smoky flavour to the soup – my kitchen no longer smells delicious.) Soup two is a roasted butternut with maple and bacon marmalade. I’ll keep some for dinner, some for the freezer, some for a friend. And I’m done. Not fully done. I’ll still putter. But I’m going to sit down, find a snack, and realize that sitting, thinking, recharging, resting – they’re important too.

My point in all this? Don’t lose heart. Don’t get angry when you look at the unconquerable to-do list. Take stock of what you have accomplished even if it takes some reframing. Didn’t get to the laundry, but raked the leaves with your youngest? You spent time with the kids and got fresh air and exercise. Dishes are clean but your bed didn’t get made? You spent time in the kitchen. Stayed in bed with nothing more than a book? You took a day for yourself. Stripped all the wallpaper in your ugly bathroom but forgot to make dinner? Order a pizza and take a hot shower. Kept the kids alive but your hair and/or teeth haven’t been brushed? You. Kept. Kids. Alive. (Major accomplishment, right there, for some kids.)

Don’t judge your accomplishments OR YOUR WORTH by what you see on social media, your friends, your family, or how you think people are judging you. My morning? Super productive actually but if I look at what I have left to do, it’s but a tiny piece of the puzzle. My afternoon? Also productive – I’ll be taking care of some really valuable things (i.e. myself alongside my physical and mental health.) For you, those valuable things may be your health, your kids, your loved one. While I sit and pause I might just find the energy to take a shower and change out of these pajamas. There’s nothing wrong with being productive, just remember that there’s nothing wrong with ignoring the to-do list once in awhile either. You matter beyond any checkmark.

The Dream of Silence

This morning as the alarm went off, I had visions of a leisurely day ahead. I pictured myself resting in some comfy clothes, book in hand, between loads of laundry, cups of tea, and dishes. The dog would snuggle up to me, I’d turn the ringer off on my phone, I’d bask in the silence.

Then real life set in and my dreams were but a puff of smoke. One child yelling about how much he dislikes school and telling me I’m not his mother (a familiar 7 a.m. refrain.) The other boy slept in a little and woke up grumpy. The buses were late because of the cold and my hard won silence was more of a mad, rapid descent into pandemonium.

J. made it onto the bus, albeit late, bundled up head to toe. Once he made it out the door, I though we were in the clear. Kaleb made it out as well, without any posted delays. I erroneously prepared to indulge in my comforter again a short time before meeting the day.

But the text messages started. “Mom, the bus isn’t here. It’s cold. Is there a delay?” This followed by him coming into the house asking the same questions. While I try to track the bus, I hear it from the recesses of my bedroom, driving past my driveway – child still in the house. No big deal. Just a little hiccup. I will drive him in. He’ll still be on time and no, child, you’re not missing school. It’s an organized study day before your exams.

Except, I forgot to plug in my car last night and it wouldn’t start. Now what? We plug it in for a short time and I get him to school just minutes after the bell rings. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough. I’ve taken care of the immediate fires, but I’m frazzled and the bliss of silence needs to be fought for again. It’s fine – a great excuse for a chai latte and a muffin… and now that I’m out, I might as well do something with my day. Shopping, anyone?

My No-Resolution Resolution

We have been flung full-force into real life once again. I made no resolutions this year because I’m pretty darned perfect! (I kid, people. I kid.) I made no resolutions this year because I’m honest enough with myself to know that unless they involve books, I’m probably not going to keep them, and in all honestly, my bad book habits probably aren’t going to change either. (I’m talking about my piles of unread books from years ago, but can’t walk past a bookstore or book table habit.)

We started the new year sunkissed and refreshed. I had a few very brief day-dreamy moments where I considered the possibility that maybe life would slow down a little in 2020. (Hard no.) And yet, I’m already yearning for a slightly slower pace of life. I contemplate the far off reality of retirement with eager anticipation, but I’m in no rush to get there – just rushing in general.

Today on Facebook I read this beautiful post by The Life on Purpose Movement. It struck a chord. Then I commented “Goals.” right below it, and didn’t see the dichotomy of the image and my statement until later this afternoon to much amusement. Maybe it resonated so deeply because it’s such a deep seated need in so many of our lives.

This week we jumped back into life full swing. We’ve dealt with miscommunication, misspending, and mistakes. We’ve prepared to do lists, we’ve ticked off items, we’ve created (and veered from) meal plans. We’ve tried to balance family time, chauffeuring, volunteer commitments, friendships, household routine, and when we’re tired and frazzled and empty, our relationship and our alone time.

We’re no different than anyone else, but this frenetic, constant pace of life has left me empty. Not a soul-deep, heart shattering emptiness – but after giving (and biting my tongue and just listening) and living, even though our tanks started out so full, I’m running on fumes and it’s literally been a week. I need a moment to feel, to breathe, to find my feet again.

So, no, I haven’t made resolutions on a calendar – no weight goals, no lists, no accomplishments. Instead, I resolve to continue to strive to find a healthy balance. I continue to try to see more than a list of things to be done. I will continue to prioritize faith, family, and friendships. I will learn to speak up for myself (oh the value of “no” and “no, thank you!”) I will keep my ears open to listen to others and practice the pause before responding. (I’m sorry if I fail on this one and you get the sharp edge of my temper or my tongue.)

I will find grace to forgive myself in my mistakes. I will humbly apologize when I’ve messed up. I will grow. I will change. No doubt, I will generally stay the same, but hopefully improve each day by small interactions, little blessings, and finding quiet peace in cherished quiet moments.

So what’s my view for 2020? Here’s to a happier, healthier, still-the-same-at-heart me.

Strong Yet Tired

Have you seen the quote “She is strong, but she’s exhausted?” Lemme tell you…. sitting on my couch this Sunday evening, after being home for approximately .02 hours today, I can relate. I am strong. I am tired… bone deep, soul achingly tired. I have given 167% of myself to the caring of others and their projects over the last few days and I need to find some space before I can give again.

These crazy few days will be leading to a busy few weeks. My to-do list is getting longer instead of shorter. I’ve been juggling family concerns, trying to put out fires, and been juggling so many balls that I picked up someone else’s and didn’t even notice. (Apparently I was not scheduled to teach the children’s program at church this morning. I was convinced I had to squeeze it in. Oh sweet relief when my other team showed up!)

I know that I am not alone. Every mama trying to balance life will go through moments of utter exhaustion. So this week my floors may not get vacuumed as often, but the kids will have clean teeth. Our dinners may consist of more convenience food, but my family will be fed. The laundry may begin to pile up, but shorts will be washed for a March break trip with grandparents.

I may indulge in a takeout latte instead of making my own. I will carve out time for a book nap (you know, when you’re reading but your eyes get heavy so you sleep instead?) in the 15 minutes I’ll have before I have to pick up a kid from band practice. I will set a timer to leave the office when I am scheduled to because my health – physically and mentally – is more important than replying to 5 more emails. I will drink my water, get my steps in, and breathe deep when my eyes start to blur.

I am strong. I am tired. But I am also working to recharge because I want to be strong and lively. Strong and energetic. Strong and functional.

Strength is recognizing when our bodies are craving rest, our souls are craving silence, and our spirits are craving renewal. Strength means taking care of ouselves a moment, a day, a project at a time. Strength is replenishing ourselves before we run to nothing so we can once again give and live from our hearts. Strength comes from shoring up our foundations and leaning on those who support us when we’re too exhausted to stand on our own.

Where do you find strength when you are tired? Hold on tight, oh exhausted one… take each day at a time. Be strong.

Winter’s Tale

I am not the biggest fan of winter. For a Canadian girl living near the Great Lakes, I question how people survive the more extreme climates and entirely understand the snowbirds departure every fall. I truly must remember that every season has its perks and challenges.

The first glimpses of change with the pages turning on the calendar invoke awe and wonder – a sense of excitement with every new bud on a tree, the sun warm enough to lounge in, the leaves majestic in their autumn splendor. Unfortunately as the seasons progress we lose appreciation for the same things that once excited us.

The scent of a rainy spring day doesn’t evoke the urge to jump in puddles, but instead we complain about the mud. The warmth of the summer sun is no longer a blessing, but a curse as the sweat rolls off our brow. The golden foliage of fall becomes a reminder of dark and damp days. We crave a return to the season we left or impatiently wait for the next season’s arrival, hopelessly bound to that innate disastisfaction for where we are and we lose admiration for the season we’re in.

For me, winter is the hardest season. It’s cold, barren, bitter. The fresh crisp days and freshly fallen snow that made me exclaim in delight with the first arrival are no longer reflections of light and purity, but inconvenient, lonely and isolating. The pristine snow-covered fields are now windblown and stained, the days long in dreariness but short in warmth and sunlight.

But winter is necessary – as necessary as the sun in summer. In winter, nature is at rest. It’s completed its cycle of growth and productivity for another year and it replenishes as it prepares for the following spring. The trees are naked and ugly. The gardens are bare and useless. The ground is no longer lush and vibrant. While I enjoy short bursts outdoors to clear my mind and get fresh air, I tend to bury myself indoors and cocoon myself away bemoaning the forecast of ice and snow and frigid temperatures. However, all my useless complaints aside, the earth is healing and silently preparing for the changes to come in the near future.


As with every season, winter will not last forever – whether it’s the season on a calendar or a winter of your heart. The spring will return with signs of growth and beauty, blossoming into fullness and maturity and eventually preparing to rest once again.

Maybe you feel like you’re stuck in a season of winter. You feel isolated and barren. Your purpose seems lost. The days are long and dreary as you merely cycle through mindlessly waiting for some sign of life. You are weighted down by the mundane. But this season you’re in? It’s really a season of rest – a season vital to upcoming growth. Just accept that it’s a chance to recharge and replenish and find solace in solitude and strength in serenity before you face change once again.

Perhaps you don’t feel like your stranded in a season of cold and staleness. Perhaps you’re seeing the first inklings of a dream coming true and now impatiently want to see the full development. Or you’re thick in the midst of a project or stage that has you gasping for air and you crave a chance to cool down. Take note of the season you’re in and know that it too serves a purpose in a cycle of continuous maturing.

Appreciate the beauty of your season and wait with hope for each purposeful moment in the journey through spring showers, sun-drenched summer, autumn bounty, and even winter storms. Without winter, we have no spring, without spring, no summer… don’t lose delight in your season, but recognize it for the greater purpose it serves… as Ecclesiastes says, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven;”