Monday, January 24, 2011

Resolve That

I'm not typically a resolution kind of girl. I used to be the type that made several resolutions each new year, until I realized that most years they were the same. Variations on a theme.

My journal, always more populated in January, would look something like this:

Work out more (never specific-- harder to fail)
Read Bible more (occasionally, "read through the whole thing in a year")
Write every day (loyal readers, you can guess how that went)

Once I realized this, I resolved not to make resolutions. They didn't work. Why wait until the beginning of the year, I thought. I've never been good at doing things just because I was "supposed to." So, I would periodically attempt self betterment, usually fail, repeat again later.

Last June when my dear co-worker passed away, I made a resolution that actually stuck. I admired Bob because he treated people with respect and found commonality with many diverse individuals. When I heard the way others described him after his death, I was deeply convicted; this was the kind of person I wanted to be. Not just a "witness" or a "light," or a "servant," not that there is anything wrong with any of these adjectives, but I wanted to be a friend. A lover of people-- all people, even the really hard to love. Especially the really hard to love. I started making concerted efforts not just to avoid showing frustration with others, but to avoid being frustrated with others (without avoiding the people themselves). I swore off talking behind people's backs, which I had fallen into because I hung around some wickedly funny people and enjoyed the verbal sparring-- even though it occurred at the expense of others. I selected a couple people I had historically found irritating or difficult to love and worked to get to know them. I invested in them.

And it worked! I was afraid it would be a show, that I'd be nice on the surface and seething on the inside, which is a type of dishonesty I find particularly offensive. But when I got to know the people and to understand the reasons behind the things they did, their quirks didn't bother me as much. I have since put in a preemptive, internal guard against resentment, whereupon meeting new people, (or repeatedly encountering difficult people) I try to find at least one aspect of their lives to identify with or remember-- one connection point. This probably sounds extremely elementary and is automatic to most people. But to me, it was a revelation. People around me, the ones I used to snicker with, didn't understand. One actually asked why I was befriending another, and I stammered while I explained the reasons behind the change. She could not understand.

Life, particularly at work, has gotten easier. Regardless of the project I'm working on, I feel a sense of accomplishment if I've made it through the day having invested in, listened to, and supported the people around me. If you knew me, you'd know this is not the Christina of yore who would actually say, out loud, "Yeah, I'm just not that compassionate. Sorry," like I was proud of it. Ugh. Thank goodness for progress.

With this happy transformation under my belt, I moved toward the new year. 2010 was major for me and my family. We had a second child, that second child had a near-death experience at my hands, and The Boy dove into an exciting new endeavor, leaving me with a more complicated career situation and, in theory, "more time." As a couple, we have struggled to adjust to all the changes. We finally let go of setting a timeline for when we might escape from under our house and our city and fully embraced our life here. Five years after moving here, we established roots, and we were rewarded with a new church family, friends just around the corner that act like family, a place in a vibrant and family-oriented community, and neighbors we love.

So, in 2011, with trepidation, I am going back to making resolutions. It's just one, but it's sweeping. It is not poetic: I resolve to get organized. But what does that mean? It means purging all the rooms of my house, definitely. I have already used my label maker more this month than in all of last year combined. But I am not good at compartmentalizing, and it's hard for me to treat this change as if it applies only to stuff. I am reading the book, Organized Simplicity, that defines living simply as "living holistically with your life's purpose." For me, that means setting systems in place to: a) make my home a haven for my family and others around us, and b) make our life count. If you roll your eyes, I won't judge you. These are principles that would have made me nauseated even just a year ago. It has taken me a long time to get to where I am; to where I want to embrace the life and gifts I've been given with my whole self and without fear. It means a lot of change that will take time and tears. It involves painful decisions I'm not yet ready to share. It means letting go of one dream in favor of another and choosing not to let a past failure dictate our family's future.

In my reading last week (I'm now on a three-year-plan), I came across this passage in Genesis 12: "Get out of your country, from your family and your father's house, to a land I will show you." I do not take this literally. I don't believe we are moving abroad, or anywhere, necessarily. Just that, in our case, right now, not knowing the final outcome or destination is not cause for postponing the change.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pre-School Mutiny

Everyone's favorite Irishman, our wonderful neighbor, knocked on the door at 8:30 last night. "I'm here to take your bins out," he said, referring to the recycling. The dog could not contain his excitement, and and my wet-haired kids were decidedly not in bed. We had just finished reading Eloise, quite possibly the least appropriate children's book ever. I thanked him profusely, since taking three large bins of recycling, damp and heavy from melted snow, over the fence and down our dark, narrow alley was more than I felt capable of handling.

"Don't be daft, Christina," he said, "This is a good time to be sexist; this is a man's job."

It was nearly two hours later before the giggling then crying coming from the girls' room finally ceased. After 11:00, while I lay in bed reading my beloved Nook for a precious few minutes, I heard crashing aluminum cans. I nosed through my blinds to see a sweatsuit clad 20-something man up to his waist in my recycle bin. His comrade shouted from the corner, trash bag in hand. And we don't even live in a deposit state.

This morning around 6, as I headed to take a shower, Mirabella screamed.

"MOM-MY!" I raced up the stairs to see if I could address her concern before she woke her sister. No such luck.

"My nose is yucky," she whined. I handed her a tissue and scooped up Emerie, her eyes only half open, already signing for milk.

Welcome to our house, halfway through The Boy's inaugural trip of the new year. He's in frigid Milwaukee and snowy Chicago. It's going to be 1 there tonight. I mean, really.

So after calming Mirabella down and feeding Emerie a bottle, I placed Emerie and some toys in the only safe place in the house for a new walker-- the crib-- so I could finally take my shower. After that I negotiated each step of the dressing process with Mirabella, shamed the dog for eating a Pull Up, finished getting ready for work, listened to a story Mirabella told about Dora and "the doll that has this hair" (said as she pulled up a lock of her own hair), shamed the dog for eating half my English muffin, made another English muffin and loaded everybody in the car. A good 20 minutes later than I should have. I laughed at the glowing gas light. Mirabella wanted to know what was so funny.

Feeling over dramatic and sorry for myself on the bumpy access road to get to the tunnel, I tried to snap out of it and find my perspective. To finish a sentence that started with "at least." As I merged into the EZ Pass lane, a compact car cut me off. The utility van in front of him, realizing he did not have an EZ Pass, abruptly threw his car into reverse, slamming into him. A bad fender bender, but not for us.

A few minutes after I got to work, our daycare provider called to tell me, when she went to unbuckle Emerie from her car seat, she realized she was never buckled in the first place. In my haste, I bundled, but didn't buckle. And she was fine.

Ah, there it is.
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