downsizing


I am easily inspired and influenced.
Once I watched an omni movie about climbing Mr. Kilamanjaro and suddenly I wanted to climb a giant mountain. (sidenote - I hate peeing outside). I read books on simplicity and I take half the things in my closet to goodwill. (sidenote - I have a small zulily addiction).  I watch an episode of the barefoot contessa and suddenly I want to throw a dinner party. (sidenote - I hate cleaning my house which can put a damper on having people over). I go to the gym and suddenly I want arms like Jillian Micheals. (I hate protein shakes and group fitness classes scare me). I read some Shane Claiborne and suddenly want to quit my job and serve homeless people. ( sidenote -I love Starbucks, my job and do not know how to sew on a button much less my own clothes). The workshops and speakers that 90% people I work with roll their eyes at and think are silly make me want to take notes and be the next Ron Clark (sidenote - It is summer but I'm pretty sure that I am behind on grading papers).

I want to do all these big things.
I want to run really far and climb mountains and serve selflessly. I want to be different and unafraid and make memories and change people and cook a perfect risotto and be teacher of the year.
I don't need recognition I tell myself.
But I should be doing more.
Because I never do big things.
My dishes pile high in the sink. I won't be winning any church attendance or volunteer awards. Everyone at work seems to be going back to school for more degrees while I wonder what I want to do when I grow up, rather than how to move up a ladder. I fed my kids microwave corndogs for lunch. I watch way too much TNT. I couldn't do a pullup to save my life. It has been a long time since I saw that omni movie, I'm not even sure what country Mt. Kilamanjaro is in.

When I make excuses, I tell myself that I am not very ambitious. That I am socially motivated not task oriented. I have small children. And a husband. I have limited funds. And time. And I get sick quickly when I don't get enough sleep. I choose sleep or coffee with friends over mountain climbing, crossfit classes or grading papers.

When it is worse than that, I start all the negative self talk.
The kind we don't want to admit but that we all do. The narrator in my head that I'd like to put a hit out on. The one that tells me I can't. I'll never. I shouldn't even try.
That I can't do big things. That I can't even find my keys. The one that tells me just to stay on the couch and watch another episode of Psych.

But lately, I've been thinking that maybe I could just do small things.
That small things don't make me small, despite what that lame narrator has to say.

And that the truth is. I've never done any of those grand things I listed in the first paragraph. But I have climbed mountains (that is plural). I have lost count of the half marathons I've run. I can cook better than many of my friends (who I hope aren't mad at me after reading that). I look homeless people in the eyes and I give what I can. I have good ideas at work and love kids more that I hate paperwork (and that is saying a lot).
And that is more than I realize.

I do a lot of small things.
Some well. Some poorly. Some I'm getting better at.

I struggle to be productive. I get through my days with lots of lists. My lists are embarrassing. I am the girl that writes things down that she has already done just so I can cross them off. I write down silly little tasks that take almost as long to do as they do to write down. And on it I put ridiculous things like - hang up 10 pieces of laundry.  Today that was on my list four times and sadly, there is still more in the basket.  But I if I keep putting it away 10 pieces at a time....the pile stays smaller than I am tall and more often than not we have clean underwear in the mornings. My husband does not do laundry like this. He brings in weeks worth of heaping clean clothes to the living ro
 
om and puts it in piles all over the place, then takes it to the appropriate closet until it is gone. It takes hours. And all of it, even just trying to find a place to sit on the couch while he does, this overwhelms me. But I can put away 10 pieces at a time.

I feel like I am living this mediocre life when I say that I should pursue small things in stead of big ones, but that isn't true. I still have big dreams. I may, or may not, ever make it up Mt. Kilamanjaro. Chances are good that I'll have new hopes and goals dream vacations by the time I bother googling what country it is in. But. If I keeping doing the small things....
like putting up laundry 10 peices at a time. or writing 20 minutes a day. or trying a new recipe. or running 5 miles in the rain...
Well I'm good at math.
Small things add up.

The laundry gets done.
And eventually the small things become the big things.


with room


Preface: I have been pretty absent in this place for a while. Writing has been a struggle. Something I want to do, yet I just don't. I think it is less about the writing and more about reisisting being seen. They are both getting harder.....which makes me feel like I better force myself to do both before I forget how. I'm writing again...but it is a struggle. What is coming out is a little forced. Some are writing exercises. (This was, it said to write for 10 minutes on coffee). But I've been learning something else in this season.... that many of the character traits we admire are not innate. They are practice. I've been re-reading The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown and she lists 10 traits of people who live wholeheartedly. These traits aren't things we are born with. They are things we chose to practice...over and over...daily to become. I used to think that patience and gratitude and authenticity were those kinds of things. Gifts we were given. Not things practiced like scales on a piano. I took piano when I was 6. My teacher, I thought was about a million years old and smelled a little bit like moth balls and the inside of a Merle Norman. She always asked if I had practice everyday. I said yes even when it wasn't true. But she could always tell when it wan't. I thought perhaps, it wasn't because I was not a very good liar....but most likely it was the way my hands fumbled on the keys.  If I put in the time everyday my fingers knew where to go. Some people are more apt to be musically talented than others. But no one is going to be a musician without lots of practice. Any athlete would tell you the same thing about their sport. And apparently I will not be patient or real or grateful without practice as well. As far as I know there are not workbooks or drills for those things....but the writing practice is easy. You just sit down and do it. Even if what comes out sounds like a bad étude. Even if it is left with room for improvement. I order my coffee like that these days too. With room.

(10 minutes on coffee)

Every Sunday we wait in the hall until they are done praying...then we stream in . Going straight to the back right hand corner. Hoping for a white and red box because if we are lucky, someone brought donuts. But even if they didn't we still fill our cups from the silver urn. Most of the other kids mixing in more creamer and sugar than coffee.
I added nothing.
And drank quick hot sips. The coffee burned my tongue and throat and the bitterness shocked my taste buds.
But I still took my coffee black.
I was 10 years old. And in a church dress with skinned knees and scuffed white sandals.

I never drank coffee at home. But on Sundays I would pour a cup and take hot courting sips while picking at the styrofoam edge.

Something about taking my coffee black made me feel tough.
Tough as I sipped it in my floral dress.
The bitterness I pushed down my throat felt somehow familiar. And it would be something I forced myself to swallow for years.

This was years before coffee shops or Starbucks and no one would dream of paying more than 50 cents for a cup.

My dad had spent some years in Italy, and later. When we would go to fancy resturaunts he'd take an espresso or a caffe corretto. And occasionally they'd bring him those tiny cups filled with strong black espresso and add a shot of cognac. He'd pass it to me. This time maybe I was 16. After he had stirred in two sugar cubes. The cognac burned as much as the heat.

He bought an espresso maker an a whim, upstairs in the home goods department of Foleys. Mostly I think because he wanted an excuse to buy those cute and tiny cups and saucers.
Expresso was hard to find. But their was a specialty shop in town that carried it and occasionally he'd buy a bag. Ask the to grind it fine for espresso. And I'd drink those
things while I stayed up late cramming for my calculus tests. My stomach had already started to bleed. From the coffee. From the alcohol. And all the other things I kept inside.

Coffee shops were now a thing. And me and my friends trying to act older and sophisticated would go to the college coffee shops and order snickers lattes and talk about music or boys or where we were going to college and what we might major in. Our drinks filled with whipped cream and chocolate syrup were about us immature and unsophisticated as we were.

Eventually I went off to college. And there were more coffee shops and late nights at ihop stirring those cups and sipping coffee well into the am.
I drank espresso shake. And machiatos. Until my stomach burned. Because I was not made for all the bitterness I had been swallowing hidden in syrups and whipped cream.
Eventually I had to switch to tea.

I drank tea for years. And took my bitterness in other forms.
But eventually Starbucks won out. There was one on every corner. And I'd order a machiato and sit and read ôr chat with friends until my coffee had grown cold.

Eventually those syrupy drinks got to sweet. And I switched to lattes. But the milk often made me sick. So for the last few years I've ordered Americanos.
Dark strong espresso, with hot water.
Unlike my 10 year old self. I had a little bit of cream and a little bit of sweet. Because I am done with bitter.


wishin and hopin

My kids are constantly asking me for quarters. They want to put them in anything that has a slot for it and a nob to turn. I swear you could put broccoli in those coin machines and my kids would beg for change and gobble it up.

I remember being the same way. Always wanting the crap in the little machines strategically placed by the exit of most restaurants and grocery stores. My dad usually had a pocket full of change and more often than not handed it over so I could buy stickers, jewelry that turned my fingers green and gum so hard and stale that I am lucky I didn't break any teeth.
 
Eventually I outgrew this and realized that these machines were full of crap and I started placing my change in denim purse zipper pocket to save for more important things like a banana fudge popsicle or a giant pickle at lunch.
Later when I turned 16 the change pooled in the cupholders of my car for half price drinks at Sonic or 59cent tacos. In college quarters were in even higher demand saved for the laundry machines....or pretty much anything I could collect enough coins for.
I've paid for all kinds of things in change...entire meals, a shirt on sale at the gap, cds, movie tickets, the xerox machine to copy someone's notes for a class that i missed (oh, iphone where were you then??) and even recently I'm afraid...I paid a baby sitter almost entirely in quarters.
The quarters still pool in my cup holder or in my desk drawer at work and I buy a diet dr pepper to help me get through the last few periods, or if there is enough a grande Americano or lately...snowcones for my kids because they are about the only place left that only takes cash.
 
I try to teach my kids the value of money, but let's be honest....I am not exactly the best role model here.  I have made them save up for some purchase.  I try not to say yes everytime they ask for something at the store. I teach them to put money into the offering plate. I give them ways to earn money with extra chores and I steal any cash that my son just leaves lying around.  He is starting to judge new toys by how many teeth he'd have to lose or how much laundry he'd have to put away. I am only slightly older and wiser and buy way less crap than I used to.  But, I do however spend way too much on coffee, itunes and zulily. Which all seems small and inconsequential until you start adding it up. Like change.  My kids however have different ideas about money. To Tess a penny is bigger than a dime so surely it is worth more. A putt putt token, a looney from canada or one of those annoying dollar coins that the post office gives you as change all have about the same value and possibility as cheetah bucks or monopoly money.  And they always want whatever crap is in the machines by the door. I am reluctant to hand over my change for a bouncy ball, a fuzzy fake mustache or 7 skittles...half of which will spill over the floor. The last thing we need in our house is more crap. (although, of course...I occasionally give in...I mean....I look pretty good in a fuzzy mustache).
 
My kids always ask me for change anytime they see a fountain. at the park, a resturaunt, a museum. They beg for any and all of my coins. Instead of getting to turn the knob and collect candy or junk, this time they only get a wish.
And unlike the candy machines I dig deep in my pockets or fish the bottom of my purse and hand over whatever coinage I can find. I know this is silly and that I am literally letting my kids throw away money. I watch as they toss their coins and close their eyes and make a wish. I am pretty sure  that my very literal and cynical 8 year old doesn't really believe them but he closes his eyes just the same....and that Tess probably always wishes for a pony. My coins hit the bottom and are gone without even a crummy friendship bracelet or one direction sticker in return. But I am ok with that.
Because for now, I love that my kids value wishes more than money.  Even if it is my dollars that they are wishing with.