It's past midnight, and I really should head for bed. But the crickets are singing, the house is cool and quiet, and I don't feel quite settled yet after day 3, hours 7-9 of helping with Vacation Bible School at church. For an introvert who didn't grow up around kids' church activities, being Happy 3rd Grade Leader every evening, all evening is more than a little exhausting. I love much of it, but it also wears me out.
May I list a few things I enjoy about myself, please? A day or two ago, I could not think of a single thing that made me a useful part of my family. (That sounds awful. It felt awful, in that moment. I'm sure you've had them yourself. Let's leave it there for now.)
Tonight, though, I can think of a few... and I'd like to take the luxury of pondering them for a moment while the crickets sing and the dog snores at my feet.
1. I make a mean chicken soup. And the leftovers, after a day or two to deepen in the fridge, are even better. (Everybody in my house likes my chicken soup. I think it is just about the only food that we will all eat. Food is an issue these days, a source of stress and judgment and rejection and cajoling and bribing and insistence and frustration and, some days, maternal surrender. It is nice to remember, tonight, that if I set a bowl of chicken soup in front of everybody in my house, everybody will be happy.)
2. Things grow for me, most of the time. I have a garden that's fed us with broccoli and collard greens all spring, and is about to burst forth in tomatoes and basil and hopefully cucumbers and cantaloupe and squash and corn and okra and potatoes and onions. I help make our little town's first community garden happen, where anyone with the will to get a little dirty can have their own full-sun garden plot, for free. Old folks and young families and grieving fathers and locavores gather all together, dig and water, harvest and visit, and the diversity and harmony make my heart sing. I am not quite sure why I love it so much, but I do.
3. My kids always want me to tuck them into bed. I turn them down regularly to let my husband have the honor (and me have a break), but they would prefer me, even though I tend to make them tidy up as they get ready for bed and often tell them there's no time for stories if we've stayed up late. I think that means I am doing things mostly right.
4. I think I'm pretty good at bargain hunting and finding cool ways to furnish the house and clothe the folks on the cheap. (Yawn, I don't feel like bragging/elaborating on that.)
5. Adventures happen in this family because of me. I make sure that we get up and go do something occasionally... I think without me around there'd be very little of the new or different experienced. This weekend, we are going to experience... a timeshare presentation! (wheee.) Also, two nights for free at a hotel, a day at our favorite theme park, the kids' first experience with an indoor/outdoor swim-through pool, and $75 worth of gift certificates. I think we'll have a blast.
6. I love my dog... my aging, arthritic, blinding, deaf-ing, seizure-ridden, peeing-in-the-house dog. I watched videos of young minpins on YouTube the other night and laughed and cried. Was she ever that nutso, that blinding fast? Yes, this fat little sleepy thing was once lightning and hell on paws, humping her giant grasshopper pillow in front of visitors and dragging my underwear through the house. Because she's licked my tears off my face and warmed my feet a thousand nights under our covers and caught frisbees from my hand over and over and overandoverandover, today I clean up her (occasional) messes and endure her erratic barking and her demands to go out, come in, go out, come in with some patience. She's given us so much... I can offer her grace during her most graceless time.
7. Despite my fears that I had lost the ability, I am in fact still capable of cleaning out a closet or desk or drawer and putting it into orderly condition. I am actually excited about my summer because there are some hours available for this. I am thankful to find that I still am able, still enjoy it; the constant press of meeting homeschooling deadlines had made me doubt I could ever be that type of person again. I can.
8. My daddy likes my fudge better than anyone else's. Also, I make the most amazing Thanksgiving turkey. (I am not out to best my mother in the culinary arts, but I am tremendously proud of the areas where I've managed to do so. That is an accomplishment.)
9. I write. Actually, at the moment, I don't, much. But I am able to write, and working out something on paper feels sure and certain, like it's something I'm supposed to be doing. I suspect that there's a purpose for that out there somewhere in my future. Don't know how, don't know when.
10. My kids are my primary accomplishment during this phase of my life. And you know what? I am supremely pleased with them. Don't misunderstand me; they are not flawless angels. But my gal is sharp and passionate and kindhearted, and my fella is gentle and sweet and jolly and fun. I'm proud that they're mine, and proud of the way that they're learning to get about in the world. We raise them a little oddly compared to most... no cable tv in the house, no Barbies, no Little Mermaid, no Pee Wee Sluggers baseball teams or Little Diva Dance classes or the like. And Gracie's homeschooled, of course, which protects her from all the drudgery of today's schools (and the drama and despair of today's vicious little girl cliques). I worry sometimes that I'm oversheltering them... but for pete's sake, they're tiny, and I'd rather none of that imprint deeply on their sense of normality this early in their life. ...I'm digressing. My point is, I like who they are, who they appear to be becoming. I think perhaps we're pretty good parents, giving our kids a pretty special childhood.
11. I keep going. I may not do all things well (or even most things well), but I do not throw in the towel. Marriage and family means that you get up every morning and you keep going whether it pushes your happy buttons or not at that particular moment. Life is exhausting sometimes, and periods of life feel more like a desert than Fantasy Island. Still, I am called to this family, this house, this set of things-to-be-done. And I keep trying. Kudos for that, at least, because some folks don't.
It's a satisfying list, and a weapon to wield if the Uncertainty comes knocking again. Get back, you. I am too worth something.