Do you ever have one of those days when you just don’t manage to cross a single thing off your to-do list?
Or is that just me?
I just finished reading Crystal Paine’s book “Say Goodbye to Survival Mode: 9 Simple Strategies to Stress Less, Sleep More, and Restore Your Passion for Life.” Crystal is a popular blogger at moneysavingmom.com, and though her book came out five years ago, it seems especially applicable to my life right now.
In the book Crystal, among a wide buffet of subject matter, addresses the monster to-do list and our inevitable inability to conquer it and the discouragement that can result. And she proposes an interesting elixir:
It’s so easy to make a list of what we don’t have done. But what if, instead, we made lists of good things that have been accomplished? For me it’s a brand new — more realistic, gentler and more forgiving — way of approaching time. I’m a list-maker by nature, so why not?
Case in point, a recent day during which I got around to absolutely none of the stuff that I truly needed to do — formal school lessons with the big kids, the dishes, folding laundry. At the end of the day, having accomplished none of the above, I knew I’d been busy all day… but yet I hadn’t crossed anything off my list. Teetering on the brink of hopelessness once again, I resolved to test out Crystal’s advice. What if I made a list of all the GOOD things that had happened unexpectedly that day? So I did it, and perhaps not surprisingly, the result is not a list of things I “did” that day but rather one of good stuff that happened despite me and my agenda… and in doing so, filled the hours.
Here’s that day’s list:
Asher, born an early riser, was up again at the crack of dawn. I was in the kitchen, nursing a cup of coffee, willing myself to tackle another day and clinging selfishly to my morning alone-time. I cringed inwardly when I heard the jingle of the belt Asher was buckling, the squeak of the wood floor under his feet as he shuffled from his bedroom to the bathroom. God bless our firstborn, his heart is golden, and he just keeps on loving me even though I’m not a perfect mama. As usual, he entered the kitchen with a cheery hello. And just then Beau poked his head in the door — he’d already been outside — and knowing how badly I need to be alone for a few minutes in the morning, he whisked Asher away to the shop (Asher gets his good heart from his daddy). The three little kids slept in and I was left in blissful quiet to collect my thoughts and prep the school day.
When the day was officially underway — four kids dressed and fed — I decided to forego traditional responsibility and declared an impromptu hike to kick off school. After all, it was a beautiful early spring day just begging to be explored… and it could be argued that more is learned on a hike than bent over a desk.
As we journeyed through the day, I took a ton of pictures with my new iPhone. It’s so good to have a camera again! In a recent assessment of my existence, I have identified photography as one of my true joys in life.
The kids and I held impromptu geography, geology, and soil science classes on our hike.
We looked back at ranch headquarters…
… and we looked up into the sky.
Marsi, at four, is at the age where she notices and points out things like jet streams in the sky. My kids have continually reminded me on this journey of motherhood that youthful eyes see the world from a different angle. They see jet streams. And horse toes. And the fake drawers under sinks. I remember I used to see those sorts of things, too, but I’m 36 now and the world has kinda lost its shine for me. I love rediscovering the wonder of life through my kids’ eyes.
Later that afternoon, home from our walk, Marsi took a nap. She is a 4-year-old now, with Mean Girl tendencies, and sleep can only help her disposition. Yet she fights it. A nap is a rare thing for her.
While she was sleeping, I was freed up to really focus on Asher and his reading. He is just about finished with his first grade curriculum and I will readily admit that I’ve learned more this year than he has. In my naivety I always assumed our firstborn — my first student, to whom we have read quality literature since he was a babe in arms — would learn to read effortlessly, likely through osmosis. When that didn’t happen for him, and as his early years moved by with no evident “ah-ha” reading moment for him, I really struggled with what I saw as failings. In short, Mama had a couple meltdowns. I did move him back to first grade as a 7-year-old in order to walk him through a top-notch reading program that covers every single rule and non-rule of the English language. Still I assumed it would all suddenly click for him one day, that he would just take off running eventually, independently consuming books by the dozens. It hasn’t happened… yet. He is a smart boy, and he has learned well the one-vowel rule and the two-vowel rule and the three-vowel rule, and he’s memorized sheets and sheets of special sounds like “ch says k! in chorus” and “ph says ffff in phone”… yet he is still a… slow… reader.
He’s not slow because he doesn’t know how to read.
He’s slow because he is thoughtful about it. He is careful about it.
The problem, it turns out, is mine and not his.
And amazingly, despite all the spectacular frustration I have (not proud of this) displayed in front of him on our road to reading, Asher has never gotten frustrated with reading. He just keeps going at his own pace, absorbing my advice but never doubting his place, almost like he can see over my head — beyond my pride and impatience — to some future goal that he’s steadily plodding toward. Like I said, the kid’s got a good heart.
So. While Marsi napped in the house, out in the yard I listened (patiently) as Asher read (slowly). And then I pitched the wiffleball to him and he knocked it out of the yard. He was grinning big.
Last but not least, I got a surprise package in the mail. Who doesn’t love getting a surprise package in the mail?
Inside the package was a book…
… and a note. The note read:
“Just a note to let you know that I enjoy reading your blog and truly appreciate that you share your talents educating and giving a real-life perspective to the agricultural industry. While I realize that it is time-consuming and not financially lucrative, please know that it is noticed and appreciated. Thank you!
“I found this book a while back and immediately ordered more copies, listing in my head everyone I thought would enjoy it — out of the blue your family came to mind (which I realize is a bit weird, since I don’t ‘know’ your family), but I have enjoyed your writings about praying for and with your kids and am so impressed with the values you and your husband model for them.
“So, I hope your family enjoys this book. My favorite line is ‘I pray you love well, that the light in you swells, that the story God writes is the one that you tell.’
“Thanks for telling and sharing your story! Keep it up!”
The card was signed by Liesl Holtz — who I did, once upon a time, know; she taught vo-ag in nearby Hysham when I was in elementary school.
The kids and I dove into the book. I love Liesl’s favorite line and many others too!
From the moment I saw you,
I started to pray.
Big prayers and small ones
I have sent God’s way.
I prayed as I held you
when you sat in my lap.
I prayed while we rocked,
as you peacefully napped.
As you took your first steps
and when you started to run.
As I pushed you on swing sets
or we skipped in the sun.
I prayed you felt safe,
full of joy and content.
That when I whispered “I love you,”
you knew what I meant.
Awww. Thank you, Liesel, for thinking of us! For reminding me that an unexpected act of kindness can truly be a day-changer. And… for being a part of my List of Good Things.
© Tami Blake