Saturday, December 22, 2012

Jack of No Trades....

When I was young I loved taking things apart. It was not out of curiosity, to see how they worked. It was not in order to see if I could fix something that was broken. I did not like putting things back together, I just liked taking things apart. I think I had a "need to destroy" streak in there, and taking things apart filled that need.

As I got older I discovered something about myself. I was not good at fixing things. The talent wasn't there. My brother was good at fixing things. If fact, I still claim that he is the most patient person I know. Perhaps patience is my problem.... My older sister was good at it, she had that artists eye that could see pieces of a whole and just understand clearly how it all should go together. But me? I cannot do puzzles. I get frustrated at crafts. I have no instinct for organization and I can barely read a map. (It is related, trust me.) Now, there is a chance that because I realized this early I stopped truly trying. But it drove me crazy that something as simple as knowing my left from my right seemed to take all of my focus and it came without effort to seemingly everyone else. But the stopping trying?  That was my own fault, and led to the demise of any residual "putting things together" talent that may have been still lurking.

Into my teenage years I all but gave up fixing things. I had a brother just two years younger that took on that job for me. Sad I know. But it was so easy for him, and he enjoyed doing it. And I...did not. I remember thinking that if I someday got married, it needed to be to someone who could follow behind me fixing all the things that seemed to fall apart around me. 

I met my husband in college. One of my earliest memories of him is going to see a movie in his dorm room with him and his (then) girlfriend. I remember asking to use his restroom and being told to just "pull that cord sticking out to flush it." The toilet had broken soon after he had moved in, and instead of calling to having it fixed (as any normal college student would have done) he had jury-rigged it MacGyver-style with things he had had lying around. At the time I don't remember thinking twice about it. And yet, I now laugh when I think back on that being one of the first things I remember about him. He could fix things!

Anyhow - all this to say: I decided the other day that I was going to put aside my insecurities and break out the power tools! Er....I mean, I am not allowed to use our drill. So a screwdriver would have to suffice. But I was going to do it all by myself! I had gotten a shelf to put by my desk several days before. And since the weekend was over, and therefore any hope of my highly skilled husband whipping this thing together was gone for at least another 5-6 days and I wanted my shelf now so that useful items could be out of the reach of the Monkey, yet still accessible to me.

So I decided the time was now. Imaginary theme music blaring through my brain I put the baby down for a nap, fetched my tools and sat cross legged on the floor and opened the box...

As any good craftsman would, my first order of business was to read the instructions. The first thing I noticed was that it listed "power drill" in the list of tools you would need. figuring I would deal with that when I got there (he never has to know I used it...right?) I also noticed it did NOT list glue in the items I would need...however the first instruction said to "add drops of glue to holes before inserting wooden dowels."  Determined to be the victor of this project I went in search of wood glue. I knew we had some. The question was where. First I looked all through the office to no avail...then off into the depths of the garage I plunged. 

Now, just to be clear. The garage is very clean and organized. It is just not organized to any system that makes logical sense to my brain. So really, the wood glue could be anywhere. I imagined myself an explorer in the Amazon - flat, hacking sword in hand (can't think of the name of the sword at the moment). Hacking my way through the think vegetation until Ah Ha! Wood glue!

I also stole an extra screwdriver I found. You can never have to many of those. And I think this one was actually mine.

I settled triumphantly back into my comfy spot on the floor to continue my project - only to discover that the kit came with a little TINY bottle of glue. Well why didn't they tell me that!?!  But not to be discouraged, I forged ahead. I laid out all the pieces, just like the instructions said to. And being careful that all the edges were facing the right way, I took a deep breath...and started screwing! Err...the shelf, with screws. The screws that came with it? To make a shelf. That is what I was screwing. Just so we are perfecting clear...

Now, logically in my head (don't laugh - there is a certain logic to my head sometimes!) I would think to start from the bottom and work up. So I did. And I was wrong. So I had to then take it apart again. Turns out you have to start in the middle and work outward. Something about being able to reach all the places and such. Oh, and I used too much glue. But we don't have to tell anyone about that...

Finally I got it partway together. Ta Da!

See, it matches the picture:

Ta Da!

Ok, so I built it upside down. But who is really keeping track of all the upside/downside ups anyway!?!

However, as I was attempting to wrench in the last of the middle screws - I noticed it was taking a little more  effort then it should, and I heard a terrible cracking sound...oh no! It was breaking through the side of the wood, but I had used the right screws....right? I had read all the instructions! I used the ones it said...or I had used the ones that looked like the ones in the picture... Ok, maybe I had not read ALL the instructions.

Ok - so maybe I had guessed. I saw X2 next to the screws and thought that there were 2 of I chose the ones that there were only 2 of and had not paid attention to the whole AA vs. GG thing.

Oh come on, anyone could have made that mistake!

See? The screws are almost identical! Ok, so maybe not. As I was fetching my screwdriver yet again, to take it apart yet AGAIN I discovered something. I had a ratcheting screwdriver set. Who knew!

My husband was right, you learn all sorts of things when you fix things! And new tools DO appear out of no where! At least that is what I am assuming happens, since whenever my husband fixes things he magically acquires new tools. He can't truly be buying all of them, right? That would be ridiculously expensive!

So I set the wrong right again. And added a little extra glue to the newly formed cracks (Since I needed to feel justified in my glue hunting) and soon had it all together!

Well, almost. You see, after all that work, the set was missing something! Notice any inconsistencies?

For the less observant type, that would be 3 screws on the top, and four on the bottom. Which meant one was left out. And no, I did not lose it or overlook it like I did the glue. It was missing out of the little plastic bag that all the screws came in.

I considered for a moment scrapping the whole shelf (preferable dropping it from a very high ledge). Or perhaps carrying on in a very soggy fashion, weeping my loss of a complete project - drowning my sorrows in chocolate and fine cigars. Or I could angrily call the company that made the shelf and demand a complete refund and the immediate sacking of any and all employees that may or may not have been personally responsible for the carelessness of leaving a piece out... But instead I decided to make do, and attach only 3 screws to one side.

DONE! Is it not a thing of beauty?   

Now as I scoured the instructions for the final wall-mounting procedure the inevitable doom met my eye: "Use a power drill to attach unit to wall." 

I wont tell you exactly how I managed. But I will tell you that no person (or thing) was harmed in the making of this shelf. At least nothing was harmed permanently. All of the proper procedures were followed (mostly), the shelf is securly in place and never underestimate what you can do with a large bottle of glue and determination! 

Approximately 2 hours after I had begun the project, I looked on victorious at a job! 

And as you can see, that tea is not going to drink itself, so I must now be off. 

But if ever you have need of someone to build you a shelf or some other odd household maintenance job...please, feel free to call on anyone but me to complete it!

Roses in December

“I will have nothing to do with a God who cares only occasionally. I need a God who is with us always, everywhere, in the deepest depths as well as the highest heights. It is when things go wrong, when good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present. We do not need the sheltering wings when things go smoothly. We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly.”      ― Madeleine L'Engle

Things need to change. I feel this about once every 3 months I find. But at least once a year I feel as if life needs a complete re-hall. I start to stumble, I start to lose focus, the world gets fuzzy and motivation is lost. It is at these cross-roads that I find I have several choices.

I can settle into the indifference - not really caring if the house gets clean or if my clothes match. It starts to feel like a lot of work just to get the kids a cup of milk when they ask, I get annoyed at noise, even happy noise. I stop calling friends to hang out because the prospect of keeping up a conversation exhausts me and I have very little positive things to say anyhow. I stop exercising because I have no energy to spare, I start over-eating because I get bored. Oh so bored. But with no motivation I find I can't fill the boredom and so I just sit.

Sometimes my response is anger. Frustration at myself for somehow not being able to live up to my own expectations. Guilt over feeling like I cannot keep my house together like so many other moms seem to do so effortlessly. My temper flares when the big kids leave the doors open again and the baby starts piling miscellaneous items into the toilet. I seek solitude at every opportunity, yearning for a reprieve from the constant badgering of life. Counting the minutes until my husband comes home just so I can go to the bathroom alone, even once!

Sometimes I find myself running away. This could mean leaving the house at every opportunity, walking around target, the mall, the park, the grocery store. Staying as far away from my prison of a house as I can. Because that is where reality lives. If I am home I am on the computer, getting away virtually, reading or watching TV. Ignoring real life as best I can by simply not looking at it.

You see, when I wander into these stages I am full aware of it. I am ashamed to admit that it is a grown-up temper tantrum of sorts. But it is also useful in a way. You see, God and I have always had something of an interesting relationship. I usually have an on-going conversation in my head with Him about life, choices, relationships and human reactions that goes on all day long. I am not always nice to him in my questions or statements and often times the conversation is more of an argument then anything else. He is not always gentle with me either. In fact He often is not. He pushes, prods, makes life frustrating, uncomfortable and sometimes downright scary as we argue. But in the end, He always wins, and I rest again in knowing he was right in the first place. And I am reminded again that if I had simply gone with that in the first place I could have avoided so much personal heartache. But then, there is joy in the journey. There is value in pain, anger and frustration.  Truly what I think it boils down to, is that all of the above mentioned situations are my own immature reactions to change.

Now don't get me wrong. I actually love change. It does not scare me. I relish it in fact. However, change takes lots of work. And I am very tired. All of the time.

But you see, I get stuck in the above mentioned categories. Sometimes jumping from one to the other, but never seeming to be able to get out of them. No matter how much I yell, plead or passionately ask of God to get me through...  I find that at the end of it all I usually make a cup of tea, sit and make a list. Lists are good things. Did you know lists are blessed by God? So are hot baths and the rearranging of furniture. Even if it is just one thing.

So I have been in an angry, confused and indifferent slump lately. And I am ready to do the work to get out of it. Things in life have gotten so routine, I have been filling my world with useless busywork and I will admit, I have absolutely nothing to show for it but exhaustion and a feeling of restlessness that results in boredom and snarkyness. The world is going faster then I can follow at the moment. We are already mere days until Christmas.

My Taylor has been saying, almost every night as I tuck her into bed: "I am so excited for Christmas Mama! Not just for presents, but for the 'real' meaning of Christmas." I nod, mumble a quick "me too baby" and hastily kiss heads goodnight so I can get to "my free time" faster.

But perhaps that is my whole problem lately. I have been stressed about presents. I feel like I have spent way to much money. My husband has had a lot of extra work lately and kids are out of school so I have been surrounded by only children pretty much most of the time. Children that talk. A LOT. At the same time. Without noticing if the other one stopped first. Asking questions. Getting mad at one another with a: "I was talking to Mama first!" And then I am attempting to keep their peace and the littlest one is taking advantage of a distracted mother and pulling all the groceries out of the refrigerator again and tossing them into the trashcan or leaving them in various places around the living room (do you find mustard under your couch cushions?). And I have to go somewhere or do something and no one has shoes on, and they don't want to wear jackets (is it bad to just let my kids deal with being cold when they refuse jackets? It is not REALLY below freezing outside, we have like 2-3 more degrees until it is ACTUALLY freezing, and the summer dress they chose to put on this morning will keep them warm enough...right?) and then the monkey has a poopy diaper and she is FAST and keeps hiding behind the couch when I try to change her and I can't. quite. fit. And I know it is normal to be overwhelmed as a mom of three. I know it is normal to get frustrated, to have no time, to be tired. But goodness I am tired!

And then at the end of the day, Taylor - my beloved child, reminds me that all that doesn't matter. Not really anyway. That she is excited for the REAL reason behind Christmas.

And I take a moment, and I realize...I did something right!

Oh it feels like a long time since I have done something right! I do things wrong A LOT. I am a clumsy person, bad at spelling, I can't seem to keep my house clean and  I lose my temper sometimes. But look! My baby girl is excited to celebrate a child born in a manger. A child that takes away all those bad things. That makes our hearts as pure as snow. A savior that thinks the homemade ornament is as pretty as I do. That comforts my baby girls when they are lonely or afraid. He calms my nerves when the world threatens to squeeze the joy out. He provides things like coffee and hot baths. He laughs when my babies play pretend, He sighs with me when they tell one another "I like you!" and is always there at the end of the day when I need a moment to close my eyes. I like that.

Things need to change. I have started to stumble, I am losing focus, the world is fuzzy and motivation is lost. It is at this cross-roads that I find I have several choices. I can continue taking things day by day. Looking with dread into what feels like an abyss of endless stressful days in front of me.

Or I can stop. I can finish my cup of coffee. I can make a list and I can say Thank you. No more. No less.

Sure, I have been going through some hard times lately. But that doesn't really matter. Just, Thank You.

Yes my house is a mess. Thank You.

Yes, I am not happy with the state of my body currently. Thank You.

Sure my kids are frustrating at times, or a lot of the time. Thank You.

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.

I am at peace. Whether my blood pressure shows it or not. I am at peace.

Because you see, there was a baby. A baby was born! He came for me, for my babies. He came to take away the stress, not cause it. He came so I can rest. He is the reason my Taylor is excited for Christmas. So...Thank you.

I feel in very many ways, my dear friend J.M. Barrie said it best:

“God gave us memory, so that we might always have roses in December.” 
So let us remember...