Thursday, November 18, 2010

No, it's not an oncoming train...

it's just Christmas! Is that how you begin to feel as you approach the third week in November? Each year tends to evoke different emotions in me regarding the holidays. I absolutely love Christmas, the sights, the smells, the colors, the REASON, but the busyness of it all can be so overwhelming! There are so many variables that play into the way each of us functions this time of year: the amount of family gatherings or the miles we travel, financial situations, ages of children in the house, traumatic life situations, etc. There is definitely not a "one-size-fits-all" solution to the frustrations that December can bring, but a little extra organization and lots of communication can sure help things along!
Be organized - My personality does not naturally lend itself to organization, so if it is to be done, it must be intentional and motivated. During the final weeks before Christmas, your mailbox will be hit with a gazillion ads and discounts, some of which can save lots of $, and there is nothing worse (for a bargain hunter) than to hop in the car for a quick shopping trip only to realize that you have misplaced a high value department store coupon. My solution is to keep a three-ring binder specifically for Christmas shopping and planning. Insert several pocket pages, and you have yourself a nice place for receipts, coupons, and lists, and a December calendar page marked with the dates, times, and places of all parties, plays, dinners, and gatherings. If you mix Christmas stuff in with the rest of your coupons, bills, receipts, and lists, this will not fulfill its purpose, and you’ll still be looking for that $10 off of $25 coupon that you just know you had in your hands 24 hours ago.
Communicate effectively - There is no better time than this week to take a date with your spouse and devise your priority list. The ‘most wonderful time of the year’ can quickly become the most dreaded, frustrating, stressful period in the 12 month cycle if we aren’t intentional in planning. Set aside time for the family to enjoy seasonal festivals, concerts, plays, or parties, but leave margins for down time to hang out in the living room around the Christmas tree. That is where the best memories are made.
Set reasonable limits - At a time when families are spread all over the Unites States and beyond, it is difficult to allocate time, or money, for visits to multiple locations. We are at a stage in life where it is important that we see our families, and extended families, but it won’t always be at the ’holidays’. Remember, no matter the time of year, being together is a celebration in itself. If you have to have “Christmas in July” because that’s when it works, then do it!
Make yourself relax - It is really easy to become ‘no fun at all’ when the pressure is on. We tend to think that everything has to be perfect because it only happens once a year, when in fact, no one is going to remember perfection…they will remember the smiles and the laughter, but will probably soon forget the perfect table, the perfect food, the perfectly wrapped gifts, or your perfect outfit. Pause frequently to mentally reflect on the purpose of the season, the beauty of relationships, and the brevity of life. This will put things into perspective.
I'd love to hear your ideas for reducing stress and increasing joy this season!

Monday, November 15, 2010

My First Day As A...

Last Friday, I did something that has never been done in my 12.5 years as a teacher...I took the day OFF for absolutely no reason at all. This may seem like such a minor thing, and may not even be blog worthy, but for lack of a more interesting post, here goes.
I will admit, especially in the last couple of years, to feeling a wee bit of jealousy toward the moms who, in a very calm, cool, and collected manner, drop off their children for school and drive off in peace and quiet into the great "unknown" (which is life beyond my four walls). This is not an "I wish I had your life" kind of feeling, but more of a "I would love to try that for a day and see what I could accomplish with six uninterrupted hours!" Any days off for me are days off with the kids or days off with sick kids, so you can imagine that "grass is greener" syndrome that I might at times experience.
Since my job doesn't really accrue vacation time or anything like that, there is always a huge measure of guilt (personal issue, I guess) if I even have to take a sick day. Knowing that someone else has to mess up their day to compensate for me, well, I feel like a loser.
So, here we are now well into the second quarter of the school year, and believe it or not, my kids have perfect attendance. No sickness worthy of a day off and I'm extremely thankful for their good health, but it has also meant that my house has been spiraling out of control for the last 12 weeks. For that sentence to have meaning, you have to understand that I'm not a person who freaks out over surface dust and a little clutter, so for me to say the house was out of control has serious implications. :)
So, I approached my father, aka boss, and told him that I had succumbed to the stresses, pressures, and general overall craziness of my life, and that I must have a day off simply to maintain my sanity. I assured him that this would not be a day of relaxation (took care of the guilt), but a day to reclaim the remains of a little brick ranch in Cridersville, and surprise my husband and kids with a clean house and a hot meal at our very own table. Let the fun begin.
Friday morning dawned sunny and beautiful. I felt energized just knowing that my house would certainly sparkle and shine within just a couple of hours. I awakened the kids, and was met with, "That is SO not fair! Why should you get the day off when we don't?" Ahhh...gotta love em! We rushed around, preparing lunches and piano books in our typical hurried fashion, and made it to school in a TIMELY manner...notice the emphasis. It helped that my bazillion inches of hair only had to make it into a semi ponytail, we wouldn't have to carry with us anything and everything we might need for the day, and my darling two-year-old could stay snuggly wrapped in her blanket sleeper for the 5-minute ride to school!
And for one brief moment, I slipped into the world of the SAHM, opening the doors of the minivan, feeling the escape of boundless energy as 3/4 of the gang exited to begin their school day, and I drove off into the "great unknown", which actually was unknown for a moment...until I heard a little voice from the back seat saying, "I'm hungry, mom." In my world, breakfast is largely unheard of, but seeing the need for an energy boost to be able to maximize this cherished day, we opted for orange juice and a breakfast sandwich. We were off to a great start!
Within moments things began to take shape. I could actually see the large counter area in the kitchen, which is a constant hub for clutter and debris of all kinds. The vegetable garden which had begun to grow on the kitchen floor found its way into the dustpan. The large front window that seemed to have become tinted, once again allowed the beaming rays of sunlight to flow onto the hardwood floors...floors that were beginning to peek out from under the thin layer of dust bunnies that had moved in and made babies.
It wasn't too long before I realized we didn't have a mop (yeah, I'm serious), and Alli and I made a trip to the dollar store for "supplies", which included a Dr. Pepper (for energy, of course). By the end of that little excursion, Alli was ready for a nap, so for the next two hours, right up until we had to pick the kids up from school, I moved furniture, captured those dust bunnies, wiped down cabinets, utilized my new mop, and made complete peace and quiet!
As I thought back over my day, I wondered what I would do if this were my life...what would I do the next day, and the next, and the next? Wow.
It was nice to hear the comments as the family came home: "What's for dinner? It sure smells good!" and "The house looks great!" Then my oldest son, who seems to have a way with words these days, iced the cake. He picked up his heavy, Longaberger pottery plate to fill it with food, and not paying attention (another gift of his) almost dropped it. He looked at me with his typical silly grin and said, "Oh, sorry mom, I was thinking it was styrofoam..." Poor kid. Scarred for life.
So that's the story of my day "off". Much needed, much appreciated, and much anticipated again sometime in the future.
I know the dust bunnies will be back in force, things will once again get chaotic and out of control, and we will occasionally eat off of styrofoam. But it felt good to do it different, even for a day, and I'm happy to be back where I belong: right in the middle of 7 little shining faces who eagerly await their next phonics lesson!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Whine...or Shine?

I will be the first to admit it. Some days I just want to whine. I want to talk about how I ache from head to toe. I want to cry on someone's shoulder because I feel too exhausted to hold up my own head. I want to jump all over the kids because of the way they add to my stress when they act irresponsibly. I want to trade places with my husband for one day just to enjoy a quiet ride to work (not to mention that I would change my mind when the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m., or the fact that he can't comb hair and I can't carry hundreds of pounds of rugs, linens, and uniforms). I want to whine to God because it doesn't seem right that women have to have the whole hormone issue.
Every. Single. Month.
I want to whine about crotchety 'ole hypocrites who think that God commissioned them to right all the "wrongs". I want to complain about a list of responsibilities that seem to never allow enough time for prayer, meditation, writing, and being quiet before God. I want to whine because my minivan never stays clean for more than 30 seconds. Oh, and I want to whine because when the weather gets cold, no amount of sticky tack will hold my classroom decorations to the walls, and I am either continuously putting them up or leaving it all to look terrible. I want to whine, whine, whine...
But Jesus says, "Let your light SHINE before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16 TNIV. Is God glorified when I complain about earthly situations or dwell on hurts and frustrations? Is He honored through my grumbling about injustices or inadequacies? Are others edified by my light when it is shadowed by griping about my kids or my husband? Do I draw unbelievers to my light when my face reflects unhappiness or discontent? Hmmm. Just something to think about on a cold, sunny Thursday in November.
Whining = wallowing in selfishness and self pity.
Shining = reflecting the beautiful rays of the Son.

I want to shine!!!