Thursday, May 6, 2010

Dead flowers and things like that ...

No comments on the post about onions, huh? I guess none of you found it nearly as interesting as I did. Future reference: No more writing about onions. Noted.

So I was reading through a few blogs today and I found a link to the following article:

What you don't see
By Tiffany Gee Lewis

What you don't see, when we all march into church on Sunday morning, is the chaos of the morning that happened just 10 minutes earlier. What you don't see, when you look at my four little boys in their suits, is that the 7-year-old is wearing Dad's socks because we couldn't find his. And they go all the way up to his knees.

What you don't see, when I pull out the lovely quiet book I made a few years back, is that below it, in my church bag, are five baggies of smashed raisins because I haven't cleaned out the bag for months.

When you enter my house, with its shining entryway, you don't see the three loads of laundry dumped on my bed. Or the dirty pots I stashed in the oven. And you will never see the interior of my minivan, not until I find the time to vacuum it out.

When you admire the hand-sewn pajamas I made for all the kids, we don't talk about the three nights I got no sleep to make those.

If you look on my blog, you will see pictures of homemade chicken noodle soup with homemade noodles. You won't see my confession to popping in a frozen pizza THREE times last week for dinner.
Or the night we ate Cheerios for dinner, dry, because we were out of milk. There is a zoom on my camera for a reason. There is a delete button for a reason.

I don't think we're all playing a part. We naturally want to put our best selves forward, so that is what other people see. They don't see what's going on behind the scenes. I like to think that good parenting is like a duck on the water. What you see is the gentle, almost effortless gliding, not the furious paddling that happens underneath.

I keep a mental list of about ten people I want to stalk by camera, from morning to night, to see how they
do it all. Are they up at 4 a.m.? Can they survive on three hours of sleep? Do they have a housekeeper? Because I drop balls just as fast as I can grab them. My intentions are of pure gold, but they come out as tinkling brass, at best.

I started a blog last fall. I dragged my feet into it for many reasons. One of the main reasons I hesitated was I didn't want to be another contributor to the cyberspace guiltosphere out there. Especially where mothers are concerned, do we need one more reason to feel guilty?
Because from the looks of things, other families are happier, their houses are cleaner, their marriages are better, their clothes are more stylish and their craftiness is even more crafty. Their lives are perfectly lovely, while my kids are running around screaming in their diapers.

My worst fears were confirmed last week when I got an e-mail from a friend who asked, "How do you do it all? Your column, your blog, all the things you do with your children? You're amazing!"
I looked around at my house, at the six bins of winter clothes waiting to be transported to the garage, at the sewing projects stacked against the wall, at the state of the toothpaste crusted to the sink ... I let things go, a lot of things.

A spanking-clean house is not a high priority for me. I'm a big believer in mud and its importance in a child's life. The time I take to write is time away from scrubbing that bathroom sink. I would rather read with my kids than shop at the mall, so I am certainly not up-to-date on the latest styles. I've been listening to the same music for 20 years because I can't seem to keep up with the latest music scene. And I require a lot of sleep.

We all have priorities. For some, it is keeping a spotless house, and they are good at it. For others, it is writing, or exercising, or serving others. And yes, there are some who seem to do it all, the Benjamin Franklins of the world. I tell myself I don't have to be them. And also, Benjamin Franklin was not much of a family man. Even he let things go.

What we don't see, when we look at each other on Sunday, or on blogs, or in our shiny kitchens, is that we all have different talents and unique situations. I tell my kids all the time: Life is not a race. The only person you are competing against is yourself. What we forget to see, when admiring others, is our own personal finish line.

Can I first just say that I love how she spoke of Benjamin Franklin? People always quote his autobiography like he's a saint and I always want to ask them, "Have you actually read that book?" Because if they have read it, then they know that yes, he was a very disciplined man, in addition to being obnoxious, egotistical, and completely self-centered. Probably the Donald Trump of his day.

But Benny-boy aside, I like the point Tiffany is making. Sometimes I wish we could go back to the days of film cameras. You know, pictures with eyes shut and bad lighting. Those would make for some awesome blog posts.

I remember the first night I moved in with my now BFF (besides Nate), Brooke. She was on the phone with her then boyfriend, telling him how a book he had given her as a present had gotten water damage in the move. This was probably something that most teenage girls would've cried over, but Brooke simply said, "I think it gives it character." I remember thinking to myself that we were going to be really good friends.

Currently all of the flowers that I have in my front yard are dead. Lame snow. I'm sure neighbors walk by and think I'm a delinquent gardener. In fact, I know they do. You want to know why? Because they have actually knocked on my door to tell me what I need to do better. (Which may have resulted in a few bad words muttered under my breath. I'm sharing this detail simply in an attempt for candor.) The truth is, I have a few other things right now that are more important than my flower beds. And plus, it gives our house character. Maybe the neighborhood kids refer to us as "the house with the dead flowers." Except probably not seeing as how kids don't usually notice those things.

I'm not saying I don't struggle with the idea of trying to keep up appearances. I think it's a human tendency. But I always try to ask myself, "So if I actually succeed at appearing practically perfect in every way, then what?" I mean do you just sit in your home and not move? Life isn't a blog that can be perfected and then posted for all the world to see. Between the family photographs and the straight A's and the dinner parties, there are dishes to wash and laundry to fold and flowers to revive. {And I don't know about you, but I don't usually look very pretty doing those things.}

Speaking of dinner parties, I had some friends from college over for dinner last week. We started talking about life post-college, marriage, jobs, and all of the experiences we have had since we lived together two short years ago. We were commenting on how things are different than we thought. Then my friend, Stephanie, said something that made me laugh, "But look at M.C.! She has this house and everything!" Oh man! If everyone could just see me on a daily basis. When I'm at the grocery store at 6:00 p.m. in my sweats sans makeup and trying to decide the best deal on chicken. That is a picture I might actually be willing to post to this blog.

I'm not a fan of self-deprecation because I think we should try to focus on the positive. But I am a fan of honesty. And the honest truth is that sometimes it's hard to see the moments (or years) of insecurity that occur before that "Big News" blog post. But those moments are there. They are just hidden beneath each edited photo and well-chosen word.


Danny & Desirae Sommers said...

I am so relieved to know their is someone out there who is similar to me. I LOVE honesty. I have had to learn to love just simple me. If you do ever need help with the flowers, or throwing eggs at the houses of the people who had the gall to knock on your door, call me.

Love ya

Rachel said...

I love it MC. A lot. We should be friends again.

Brenda said...

I remember when my kids were little, there was NEVER a time that both us (the people) and the house looked good at the same time. If we were all ready and at church, the house was a disaster and vice-versa. Don't worry about the flowers, I always think the inside of the house needs to get done first, unless it is so beautiful outside that you are looking for an excuse to be out there with the flowers!

ynny said...

First off, I actually thought about your last blog as I cut up red onions to put in my salad yesterday ("Oh yea, M.C. said there's something healthy in this! All this time I've been adding them just for a bit of flavor, but turns out, I'm getting nutrients!") Second, we're on the same wavelength, girl- going to the store frumpy is a very commonly shared part of modern life, one to be proud of (since we're never, ever, going to stop). Great post.

Ps. Ben Franklin WAS a cad! :)

Amanda S. said...

I like this post AND the onion post! Please post more about your nutrition escapades! :)

Also, I know the sister of the girl who wrote that article, random. And I like it, too, and I like what you wrote, too. Too often we don't consider these things.

Meg said...

I like that girl's post. I've thought some of the same things but she said it so much better:) Thanks for sharing... I'm excited for a pic of you and your chicken deal. Love you.

Meg said...

PS I don't care about the nutritional value... I hate onions...and I kept thinking that ogres are like onions.

Heather Lee said...

So, I did tell my brother in law how healthy onions are for you.

Heather Lee said...

So, I did tell my brother in law how healthy onions are for you.