When We Forget to Appreciate the Mundane

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If you are anything like me (and many of you have already stopped to say a short praise to God that you are NOTHING like me ūüėČ ), you sometimes reach many moments in your life when you forget to be thankful for the mundane.

My husband has been busy getting his knee all operated on…which has left me realizing that there is FAR MORE MUNDANE that he cares for than I sometimes see, realize, but, most of all, appreciate.

We do that, too often.  I say we, but perhaps you are unlike me.  But I do that too often.  I forget to appreciate the mundane.

I forget to appreciate it–which means that I forget to say Thank You. ¬†Thank you, Richard, for taking out the trash.

Thank you, Richard, for helping bathe the kids.

Thank you, Richard, for stoking the coal.

Thank you, Richard, for putting gas in the cars…and helping clean the dishes…and letting me go pee all alone…for changing diapers and helping make snacks.

Thank you, Richard, for helping pick the clothes up off of the floor.

You see—none of the above are exciting. ¬†They are daily tasks that require effort. ¬†Effort that I sometimes take for granted that I share—with my husband.

And I most often do not thank him for being a part of the mundane.

It’s funny—the mundane. ¬†It’s so mundane that we fail to appreciate it—yet it — THE MUNDANE — is what basically makes up our every day of life.

And, therefore, it should be something that we remember.

Perspective on the other foot

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Photo by Inga

My near 10-year-old daughter has only lived 18 months of her entire life in the United States, instead growing up in Europe.

Many may find that magical.  Like the lives of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and all of the Dwarves!

Birds chirping.

Bells ringing.

Mice cleaning our home (instead of making a mess of it).

It really is different.  Europe.

And, being an American, I sense it.  In my life, as an adult in Europe, I sense it.  Especially as a mom of a child that feels more European than American.

As an outsider to an insider.

And this is what I have come to conclude.

We always look at the lives of others through our eyes and wish…

Wish we had their lives, experiences, and adventures.

And while many look at mine and wish for my experiences, my daughter looks at theirs and wishes the same.

To some, seeing a big and fancy run-down castle in Europe and walking down cobblestone streets is Disneyland!

To my daughter, wild camping in the dessert, wading through rivers, listening to coyotes, making s’mores, and catching fish is Disneyland!

The point is…

Life is very different, no matter where in the world you live.

But the most important thing is this—live it!

And appreciate what it is that surrounds you—because, somewhere, others in the world wish your life was theirs.

Their Disneyland.

Your Christmas Tootsie

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I am entering the Christmas season with a new perspective.

And it is one that will never be Tootsie-less.

You see, my only living grandparent just graduated to heaven this past July.

But, technically, she wasn’t just my “only living grandparent” as I wrote. She is the woman that we named our first daughter after—-Marguerite. Known to all as Tootsie.

She passed at 91 years young. With a full heart. And family by her side.

Not me, however, I was a world away. On the last night that I saw her before flying across the continental US and then the Atlantic, I gave her a kiss on her lips, told her to behave, stay out of trouble, and I would see her in 3 years.

I left fully believing I would see her in 3 years—and fully knowing that perhaps I would not see her in 3 years. A conundrum of the worst sorts.

There is not a day that passes that my heart doesn’t skip a beat thinking about our Tootsie. ¬†Beloved, feisty, kind-hearted, slap-happy, Tootsie.

The woman that ate ice cream for breakfast and caramels for dinner. ¬†It’s a true miracle she even lived to see 91 years.

But as Christmas Day approaches, I want to make sure that my life and the lives of my children are never Tootsie-less.  How do I go about that?

In the following ways…

Devotion!

As a child-bride (1 day 15 and married to the same awesome Papa Charlie for 54 years), I want my children to learn devotion.  Ups.  Downs.  All arounds.  Devotion.  You are never too young to learn devotion, commitment, and how to stick to it.

You can be too young, however, to learn how to cook. ¬†Tootsie asked her mom, one time years after she married, “How come Dorothy is a good cook and I am not?” ¬†Dorothy being her sister. ¬†And her mom answered, “Well, you never stuck around long enough to learn.”¬†Tootsie said after that answer she stopped asking her mom probing questions.

How else do I want to ensure my children live Tootsie-full lives?

By dancing in the barn!  

When my grandma and I were in New Zealand together (yep, she took me to New Zealand with her), we were talking about her life.  She said one of her favorite things to do with Papa Charlie was go down by the border (she lived on the border of Mexico) and go barn dancing.  And then she picked up her pants a little and showed me her footwork.

You know, my Papa always whistled at those legs of hers—and I know why. ¬†Even as she aged, they were hot stuff.

Where am I going with this?  In life, take moments to run to the border and dance in the barn!  Take moments to have fun.  Take moments to embrace the one you love and let him whistle at your legs.  Take moments where you make moments and turn them into life-long love memories.

Yep.  I want my children to one day, with the ones that they love, to dance in the barn!

Eat Dessert First!

Now, do my kids actually get to eat dessert first every morning?  No!  But I have taken to getting them donuts for each Thursdays breakfast.  And they are thrilled.

You may say, “Sugar kills!”

But so do cars.  So do storms.  So do viruses.

There is a lot out there that can end your life.  Sugar being one of them.

But Tootsie lived 91 years strong (only weeks away from 92), and she had the sweetest 4 teeth known to man. ¬†Yep. ¬†4 remaining teeth. ¬†She did have dentures, but she didn’t find them comfortable. ¬†And so, with her 4 remaining teeth, we would always say, “Smile, Tootsie!” ¬†And then she would laugh and laugh and laugh!

You know, in our household, we are all for eating well. ¬†But, and I’ll paraphrase Cheaper by the Dozen II, when the mom of the dozen runs into the mom of her husband’s rival family, “You need a little sugar in your shopping cart!”

I agree and believe it’s true.

Life should include the sweet.  Even if it means eating dessert first.  Tootsie-style!

And, finally, Live in love with life.  Live in love with the Lord!

When I was in the 3rd grade, and we were in the mountains for Christmas as a family, Santa showed up at our door. ¬†He was short and rosy-cheeked and stuffed with all sorts of goodness. ¬†Unfortunately, Tootsie wasn’t there to see him, but we did, and we told her all about him when she got back from her errand. ¬†And she relished the moments of our excitement and stories, with rosy cheeks of her own.

And even though she loved living with us in our hearts and minds of excitement, she never failed to praise God for his goodness—even in the silliest of moments—like winning in dominoes! ¬†Although, in our home, that’s quite a serious moment, too. ¬†Any domino game (smile and wink for all competitive families out there).

You see, she was a top-grandma…Teaching us to fish in the rain barrel, watching Papa chop the head off of a rattlesnake, allowing us to raid her closet-putting on her shoes, bras, and makeup, or teaching us how to make porcelain dolls.

But she lived her life devoted to her husband, her children, and her God.

Her God that got her through the death of two of her infant baby boys.  The death of her husband.  And then the death of her adult son.

Tootsie lived life encouraging our childhood imaginations and joys—but Tootsie lived life more by encouraging our devotion to God, teaching us, “God remains your constant. ¬†So, go out and continue living!”

And with a mighty slap on the shoulder, coming from a petite figure, you would know that Tootsie meant it.

Live life with God as your constant, and go out and continue living!  And let your children invade your closet.  But NEVER lose in dominoes!  And I mean Never.  Oh, and cheer for the Arizona Diamondbacks!  Always.

You know, Christmas will bring with it many beautiful gifts, all glowing warmly beneath the evergreen tree.  But I hope this Christmas to give my kids the greatest gift.  A Tootsie Christmas. One where I teach them:  Devotion; Dancing in the barn; Eating dessert first; Living in love with life and living life for God.

For those are truly gifts that will last.

Just like my memories of Tootsie.

Now, tell me.  What about you?  What lasting gifts can you give your children this Christmas?

Mom…

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mom…i didn’t understand you, until i became you.

and now i don’t just appreciate you, i admire you more.¬† love you more.¬† and can never seem to learn enough from you.

you taught me to love.

to forgive.

to say i’m sorry.

to accept others.

to give.

you helped us live through laughter.

through creativity.

through giving.

you put others first.

you never complain.

and you are always there when we need you.

mom, words will never be enough, and so i’ll leave you with a simple wish…

i wish you continued beauty and grace.

love and laughter.

cuddles and kisses.

i wish you every bright and shining memory of a gloriously-gifted life.

a healthy countenance.

and joy in your children and our children…

and one day their children.

mom, i wish you a day to be celebrated for being the greatest woman in history.  or, at least, my history!

i love you, mom.

happy birthday!

 

Knockdown, drag-out fight in Costco…Today, I appreciate my family!

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We had just walked into Costco, flashing our membership cards and happy about our adventure together…

Yep.  My sister and I had no children and a large factory store in front of us.  Giddiness was bubbling up inside our carefree souls!

Costco to adults is like a toy store to children.  Except better.  Because it also gives out free samples of food!

Of course we saw Tina when we walked in, “Hello, Tina!”¬† Small chatter, chatter, chatter.¬† Tina’s one of the leaders of our Bible study that we attend.¬† Boy, we were off to a great start.

Sisters.¬† Together.¬† Costco.¬† Seeing Tina.¬† No kids.¬† Free samples of food awaiting a breastfeeding momma (in case you didn’t know, breastfeeding mommas are always hungry!).

We had our carts and our spirits of adventure.¬† Off we went…

Clothes.¬† First stop.¬† Look at all of those clothes!¬† And the prices, “Oh my!”¬† I felt like Dorothy on the yellow brick road.

Piling the carts with unneeded clothes was easy…and then maneuvering part two began.

Fresh fruits and veggies.  Yep.  Freezing cold.  Run in, grab produce, run out!

Oh, can we stop by the diaper aisle?¬† Cart’s getting full now—I have my Costco-sized box of diapers that will basically barely last a day (I can’t imagine how my mom raised 3 under 3 with cloth diapers…she must of spent her days dumping diapers and washing them to only dump and wash again).¬† Oh, and don’t forget the Costco-sized box of baby wipes.¬† All at bargain prices.

Wee…This really was fun!

Then it happened.  We entered the water aisle.

I bet you never thought the water aisle was so dark, eh?!

And then she happened.¬† That’s right.¬† My sister.¬† My OLDER sister.

She told me what to do.

Whoa there.¬† Hold back.¬† Stop the horses, missy!¬† Did you just tell me¬†what to do?¬† You do realize that I am a 36-year-old mother of two with a husband.¬† And I have been living in a foreign country for 12 years.¬† Yes…you do realize that is me, right?!¬† The person that you feel you need to direct and “boss” around!

Uh-oh…Because then it REALLY happened.¬† She started to cry.¬† Not just a small tear.¬† Nose blowing, loud, sobbing, tears.¬† And she is a tall redhead, which means, you can’t miss her!

Shoppers were running out of our aisle, trying to get out of the way!

I took one look at my sister and realized that I had really done it.  Flew off the handle.

Sisters!¬† One older…One younger…Both in the water aisle of Costco.¬† Fighting.¬† And neither of us are quiet…

One offended and huffy.  The other offended and crying.

And then it hit me.

My sister is my sister, and forever my sister she will be.¬† Just because we are now grown doesn’t mean that she stopped being my older sister.

When we were younger, I would walk in the house after school and she would say, “Unload the dishwasher!”

And I stubbornly would retort, “You are not my mom!”

But, you see, that’s the precious thing about siblings.¬† There is a pecking order.¬† And there is an order of responsibility and care.¬† I see it every day in my home with my own children, Adelyne and Maxwell…

Adelyne is the oldest.¬† And a lot of responsibility is heaped onto her shoulders. But the precious thing is, she doesn’t seem to mind.¬† She gladly watches over and takes care of her brother.¬†¬† And she always seems to do it with such joy.¬† Why?¬† Probably because Maxwell is her brother.¬† Her little brother.¬† She is proudly his big sister.¬† Just like Darby is mine…My big sister!

That day, in the water aisle of Costco, watching my sister cry, I realized one thing.

My sister didn’t boss me around to be bossy.¬† She bossed me around because she had my best intentions at heart.

Thinking about it now, in hindsight, telling me to “unload the dishwasher” wasn’t such a bad command either.¬† Part 1:¬† It helped my mom not have to do it when she got home (we were all assigned chores, dishwasher must have been mine).¬† Part 2:¬† If I got my chores done and out of the way, I actually had the rest of the afternoon to play.

And no matter how old we grow, how many children we have, how many years of marriage we have under our belt, how many countries we live in.  No matter what, she will always be Darby, my older sister.  She will always be looking out for me, caring for me, making suggestions that she thinks will benefit me.

Not only will she forever be my friend…but forever my older sister she will be.

And I can either learn to huff when she makes a suggestion.¬† Or I can learn to pause and think…

After all, she has been taking care of me my entire life.  Why should she stop now?

Yep…A snotty, loud fight in Costco brought me to reality.¬† And that reality is this:¬† family is forever.¬† And that’s a blessing.

Even the pecking order.  Just ask my younger brother, Casey!

Our washer and dryer sit on our porch, and I am thankful. Thrilled even!

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I love this 30 days of thanks.¬† I’ve seen many Facebook funnies that have said that it’s the time where everyone else that has been complaining all year takes a break and gives 30 days of thanks.¬† Well, even if that is the case, I am still enjoying reading why people around the world are grateful.¬† Why they are thankful.¬† Why they are blessed.

It’s a whole bunch of warm fuzzies going around, and I am appreciating each post read.

And so, today, I would like to share two things I am especially grateful for:  our washer and dryer.

Where are they located?

On our outside porch!

Now, you see, when I was teaching in the States before we ever moved to Poland, I remember the counselor talking about the “poor” kids that came from other countries that lived in small apartments and had their washers and dryers (gasp!) on their porches outside.

I had just come from a honeymoon in Mexico, and while we were there we traveled to some pretty remote areas.¬† We talked with many locals.¬† And we saw many things.¬† Things such as kids walking a mile to go to school two days a week.¬† Things such as children going down to the local creek to scrub their clothes with a bucket.¬† Things such as kids having to use outside toilets with no water—therefore they had to go and scoop water into a bucket to pour into the toilet so it would flush.

These were just a few of the things we saw or experienced, and I thought, “Man!¬† I am pretty sure these people that we had just visited would really appreciate a washer and dryer—even if it had to be located on their porch!”

And then we moved to Poland.¬† Half of the time in our first flat, we wouldn’t have electricity.¬† Our washer wouldn’t work, and we would be scrubbing our clothes by hand.¬† And, let me tell you, jeans and sweaters being washed by hand and then DRIED in a cold environment was no piece of cake.

So, when we moved back to Arizona for this year and we were forewarned, “Oh, by the way, your washer and dryer are outside,” I didn’t think twice about it.¬† I was so thankful that we would have them (on loan, of course, from some GREAT peeps!).

And, truthfully, the Arizona weather is so gloriously beautiful, that doing your laundry on the porch is actually pleasant.

But then it made me think, “What would my former coworker think of my situation?¬† Small home, washer and dryer on porch, coming from a foreign country?”

And I giggle.  Truly.  Sometimes people lack perspective.

Roof over the head?  Check.

Health?  Check.

Clothes?  Check.

Education for my daughter?  Check.

Food in our bellies?  Check!

Love?  Abundantly!  Check.  Check.  Check!

So, this November, I am grateful for many things—including our awesome washer and dryer on our porch in beautiful Arizona!

And sunshine, and our chickens that cluck, and my baby boy that is always sick and smiles readily anyway, and my daughter that came to a foreign land (America) and yet has made great friends, for family close by, a husband that serves, and a baby in my belly that has made it past the most dangerous stages of pregnancy.

Yep.  I think as long as we keep it all in perspective, a washer and dryer on the porch are luxuries.  And, for these, we are truly thankful!