Family

Did you clean the sink?

When I was growing up, I hated washing dishes.

I especially hated it when there were pans to scrub and pots to soak.

But washing dishes after dinner was one of my assigned chores.

I wish I could say I happily washed away thinking my hands were getting softer like Madge’s clients in the old Palmolive soap commercials.

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Instead, I grumbled, gagged, and hurried my way through the chore just to please my mom.

The problem was, I never pleased her.

“Mom, I finished the dishes!” I always proudly proclaimed.

Her immediate response was always the same.

“Did you clean the sink?”

Couldn’t she just ever acknowledge I did the dishes?

Did she always have to indicate I didn’t do it right?

I always groaned and went back to scour the sink with Comet.

I don’t know why I didn’t make the Comet cleaning part of the job because I knew she’d ask!

But, that’s not what teenagers do.  They try to get away with doing the least amount of work.

At least I did.

A few years later, a church commercial came on TV that showed a proud daughter telling her mom she cleaned the sink.

The mom replied, “Did you clean the sink?”

I glared at my mom.

She glared back at me.

Then she said, “I hate this commercial!”

At the end of the ad, the announcer said, “When you ignore accomplishments, you rob your children and yourself of some very satisfying moments.”

Then my mom said, “They sure know how to make you feel like a horse’s ass.”  (Sorry about the language but that’s my mother for you!)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6h_XHSj2hA

Now that my daughters are home for the summer, I’m trying not to be that mother from that old commercial — the one that ignores the accomplishments.

So when they happily do the dishes (insert sarcasm here), I go into the kitchen and rinse out the sink.

The “staff” t-shirt is optional…

(No more Comet cleanser though, thank goodness.)

Then, I wipe off the table, and get the kitchen back to my standard of clean.

I appreciate their efforts.

I really do.

I appreciate it when they help with the grocery shopping, the cooking, the cleaning up.

Having grown up daughters is great that way!

But, I still have to resist the urge to say, “Did you clean the sink?”

Family

Match.com — Finding What You Weren’t Even Looking For

Today, one of my friends told me she decided to try match.com

After a recent divorce, she wanted companionship.

More than that though, after growing up with an unkind dad and then marrying an emotionally distant man, she wanted to find out if there are nice guys in the world.

She was worried that I have the only one.

My sister, niece, and several other friends wonder the same thing.

My sister always asks, “Where’s my Doug?”

I wish I knew where to find more Dougs so that I could share them with all these wonderful women.

When Sara was a little girl, she said she felt sorry for a lady at church who didn’t have a husband.

“Can we share Dad with her?” she asked.

“No.  We don’t share husbands,” I told her.

But there have been times I’ve wished I could manufacture a few men that are compatible with my single female friends and family.

When my friend tried out match.com, she approached it like a business with goals, carefully outlining what she wanted and needed and then detailing how each date fared in all of her important categories.

He had to be tall, thin, and have dark eyes.  She wanted someone interested in writing, journalism, families, going out to dinner, and just having fun.

I admire her courage and willingness to put herself out there in a line-up, online world where so many scary men seem to dwell.

As she told me about her approach to this dating endeavor, I thought, “If anyone can do this, she can.  She’s strong, outspoken, and knows what she wants.”  I couldn’t imagine her being anyone’s victim.

After she posted her profile and did whatever you do to start getting dates on that site, she got flooded with eager men trying to impress her.

I think she called them “the creepy men.”

They sent pictures of themselves posing in front of their macho cars and manly motorcycles half-naked with puffed up chests and flexed muscles.

She almost gave up on the man search after that.

But once she turned away all the narcissists, more interesting and seemingly decent men started to appear, and one of them unexpectedly captured her attention.

The only problem was that he didn’t fit her ideal man profile.

He was short and blue-eyed.

She was sure he wouldn’t be her type, but she gave him a chance, and she liked him.

Now, they’ve been dating for a few months and she’s having a great time.  She’s even noticed that he isn’t that short, and his eyes are actually dark blue. Luckily, he likes journalism, families, and having fun.

I don’t know whether she’s found her Doug, but she’s found a man that interests her even though he’s not the man she thought she wanted.

Sometimes what we get is better than what we wanted.

I know Doug is better in every way than what I thought I deserved or wanted.

But if I’d created a list as specific and narrow as the color of his eyes, for example, I would have missed all the amazing and wonderful things I didn’t even know I wanted!

My friend’s experience with match.com reminds me that we have to be open to discovering the good in people.

Sometimes that requires us to loosen the grip on what we think we must have so that we can find out what’s out there waiting for us.

What’s waiting for us might actually astound us with its unexpected goodness and beauty.

The key is to let the unexpected have a chance to happen.

Home

Laundry Satisfaction

While folding laundry, I thought of all the time I’ve spent over the years washing, drying, folding and putting away clothes.

Such routine and endless drudgery.

The whites, the darks, the colors, the hand washables, the line-dry — it’s enough to make a sane girl crazy.

And then there’s all that laundry on the floor of my kids’ rooms.

Who knows what is clean and what is dirty?

They assure me they know.

(I should add here that my nest is temporarily full and I couldn’t be happier about that, even with their laundry on their bedroom floors.)

I love empty clothes hampers and all the drawers in the house filled with freshly laundered clothing.

When that coincides with a clean house, I feel blissful and serene.

My brain relaxes because my “to-do” list is free of so much of what clogs it up sometimes.

My body enjoys the same benefits as a deep cleansing breath like pockets of stale air awakened then exhaled.

There is nothing as heavenly or as fleeting as having my domestic life in perfect order.

No dishes in the sink, the dishwasher empty, shoes put away in closets.

Those brief moments bring such satisfaction.

Doug experiences this fleeting enjoyment after he mows the lawn.

But just like a cereal bowl gets placed in the clean sink, each grass blade starts pushing itself higher and higher the minute he puts the mower away.

I want to stretch out the perfect moments in life because they bring on such a lovely smugness that makes me feel like there is restful order in all my chaos.

Our spring-like weather over the last few days has been so heavenly that I wish it would be permanent.

I want more days on the deck with the warm sun on my face as I water my flowers and see them lift up their vibrant heads.

But I know the heat and humidity are coming, and that watering my flowers will be a chore instead of a pleasure, and that the flowers will need to be nurtured carefully along with more regularity or they will wither away and die.

These life cycles remind me that the pauses in all my activity are earned, and that is why I enjoy them so completely.

None of them come without work and effort.

It’s like the perfect moments of family life — the laughing and sacred times of togetherness that fill the air with such strong love and appreciation for each other.

They are like much-anticipated birthday gifts that we can’t wait to open.  There is wild excitement at the new, coveted items, but once unwrapped and used, they quickly become part of our accumulated “stuff” and lose their specialness.

I guess the lesson is to savor the moments.

I think of Doug’s dad and one of his nightly rituals.

He goes to bed with a delectable piece of chocolate in his mouth and lets it slowly melt and coat his throat before he falls asleep.

And as he savors the flavor of a good piece of milk chocolate, he looks forward to the next night, when at the end of another day, he gets to savor it all over again.

If I could stretch out all the perfect moments, they probably wouldn’t be so sublime.

They would be ordinary and wouldn’t mean nearly as much.

The folded laundry, the empty kitchen sink, the mowed lawn, and the melting chocolate are the little moments that make life big.

Next time I finish the laundry and feel that passing self-satisfaction, I’m going to remember that.

Family

A Quiet Ride

When Doug and I were newlyweds, we used to go to dinner and notice how many couples around us were eating together in silence.

We always commented on how sad it seemed that they didn’t have anything to say to each other.

One of the things Doug and I loved about each other when we met was that we could communicate easily about everything.

On our first date, we talked until we noticed we were the only two left in the restaurant.

I’ve noticed lately, however, that there is a lot more silence between us.

On our six-hour trip to the beach over Memorial Day, I fell into my beach trip routine of listening and singing along to my road trip playlist.

We shared some Pop Chips, and Doug sipped on his Diet Coke while I downed my big old water bottle.

We commented on the distance to the next Sonic, where we always stop for drinks with lots of crushed ice.

As we got to the Outer Banks, we chatted about changes since last summer’s hurricane.

We commented on the fishermen, the boats, and the sun sparkling on the water, but mostly, we rode silently, contentedly along.

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I remembered those quiet couples from years ago and wondered whether we misjudged them.

Maybe they didn’t need to talk to each other because the silence between them created a comfortable, relaxed intimacy that didn’t need the constant exchange of words.

I analyzed my quiet moments with Doug and whether we’d run out of things to say to each other, but that wasn’t it at all. Doug and I always have plenty to discuss.

We share the details of our daily events, chat about our daughters and families, and almost always talk about politics, religion, crossword puzzles, and plans for the future.

We also always talk about being grateful.

When we acknowledge something we are particularly grateful for, one of us inevitably says, “You know what I want to say…”

Then we recite in unison, “We are so blessed!”

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We never have awkward silent moments that feel empty or hollow.

Instead, we enjoy a kind of closeness that comes from simply being together.

In fact, sometimes, words can get in the way of those moments.

I love it that we don’t have to talk just to fill the hushed air. We don’t feel the need to banter.

So as we drove to the beach, I relished the pleasant, comfortable, peaceful quietude of just being with him.

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sarajanestudios

Maybe we should have admired those couples we saw all those years ago instead of pitying them.

Maybe they had something beautiful going on between them that we just didn’t understand yet.

From the News, Religion

Does Truth Exist?

Last week we went to the beach in North Carolina.  Annie invited a group of her high school friends to join us.

Every night after dinner we asked each other probing questions and talked about the big concepts of life.

Is there a God?

If so, what is He like?

Does God have a plan for us or are we in complete charge of our lives?

What beliefs and values shape your life?

Where do you want to be in 10 years?

What is faith?

Why do some people have faith and others don’t?

How can someone really live by faith?

Why is it so central to some people and irrelevant to others?

How do you know whether something is true and is there such a thing as truth?

This group of 19-year old college students astound me with their passion for answers to these questions.

They are achievement-oriented and live their lives “on purpose.”

They believe that being their best matters.

They believe in being good people and they know right from wrong.  Even though there are many questions on their minds, they are clear about their own ethics and morals. They are true to what they believe even though they are still sorting out what it is they really believe.

They all come from different religion backgrounds and some grew up without any religious influence in their lives at all.

Yet, they yearn to define themselves.  They want to stand for something.

thank you Griffin Harrington for the photo!

Part of me wanted to tell them all the answers to these life questions because after living so many years, I’ve figured a lot of things out.

But part of me relished the conversation, the struggle, the growth that comes from figuring out life on your own.

I enjoyed listening to what they wonder about, what scares and worries them.

Annie Turner photo

I learned their fears and questions aren’t much different from my own, and that while I have a strong set of beliefs and values, I have much to learn from them.

I wanted to tell them what it’s like to grow up and finally have all the answers.

I discovered two problems with that.

First, we only learn by experience and by figuring things out ourselves.

Second, and most important, I still don’t have all the answers.

Even after all these years of forming my own beliefs and relying on a certain set of religious guideposts, I still have a lot to learn.

And I love learning it from optimistic, bright, questioning 19-year olds whose minds are on fire with curiosity.

There is power in their intellectual form of gymnastics as they ask hard questions, and seek inspired answers.

Our conversations reminded me of Mormon Church President Gordon B. Hinckley’s words:  “The time has come for us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of who we are and what we stand for…This is a time to move forward without hesitation, knowing well the meaning, breadth and importance of our own mission…It is a time to do what is right regardless of the consequences…It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain…It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all our relationships…It is a time to nurture yourself spiritually, intellectually and to have no fears, no doubts about your future.”

This stellar group of friends are living up to these words, giving me no doubts about my future because I feel assured that as I age and they take my place as the responsible adults in life, I am in capable hands.