Summer Lessons

Making our house feel like home in the summer feels more chaotic to me than the slower months.

November through March, when its dark early and bedtimes come swiftly, meals are slow cooked all day long, and warm light comes from houses in the evening hours, just naturally lends itself to an aesthetic of quiet and calm.

At lease for me.

Summer lends itself to late nights out, days where we are only home long enough to drop piles by the door, eat and leave a mess on the table, dirty more clothes than a small country in a matter of days, and the chaos of home just seems unsettled and rushed.

I am going in circles most days, feeling like I am not accomplishing anything and yet spinning and spinning and trying to not tip over. 

And yet...

And yet, a couple times a month someone asks me “How do you do it all?” 

I feel like I am that analogy of a duck on the pond, I look calm on the surface, but underneath my feet are kicking like crazy. And really that is just on a good day, most days I feel more like a duck with my head in the water, feet kicking like crazy, and my butt in the air, looking ridiculous. 

If you want to know how I manage summer chaos, the truth is, I take it day to day. Sometimes, minute by minute. Right now I unexpectedly ended up with no kids. I could have done a million things. I had to choose.

I chose to write this for you.

I picked from my triage list. My summer triage differs from my school year list, but I am learning to be flexible. I do far less office work in the summer, because I have all four kids home and I just can’t maintain my normal work from home schedule. That means I have to work way more efficiently with the time I do have.

I could be catching up on extra office work right now, but I am caught up on things with a deadline. So instead I am writing, because I am at the top of my triage list. I am bleeding out for everyone else, 24 hours a day. I am running here, and there, and making time for this and that, and spending quality time with the kids. All good things, but for me, I need quiet and time to write, because that is how I best manage my thoughts. And I have a lot of thoughts. They need to be managed. 

Writing is my outlet. Today it is the top of my list. It wasn’t when I woke up today. It wasn’t even on the list an hour ago, but here I am happily going along with the flow. 

This entire summer has been a lesson in being flexible and learning to embrace the chaos. 

I am a selfish person. I really am. I serve people all day long, but I very rarely do it selflessly. I am always secretly craving recognition or affirmation or gratitude. Being a mother rarely gets that kind of treatment. Not because I am raising snotty, selfish, narcissistic children, but just because so much work goes unoticed. 

No one notices when the dishes are properly put away or the laundry is in the dressers or the towels neatly stacked in the closet. Yet, everyone notices and comments when those things are not done. 

Due to the summer chaos, I stumbled into a 24 hour road trip alone with my husband to pick up a  truck for work. Six hours in the car with him and six hours alone on the ride back gave me plenty of time to chat his ear off about my hopes and dreams and ambitions, and then plenty of time to sift through it introspectively on the way home.

What realized is this...

I love to care for people. I love to create a homey environment. I love to bake and cook for people. I love to entertain. I love to be at home. 

I love all those things when I am doing them for other people, but I haven’t been lovingly doing them for the people in my own home. 

For hours I told my husband all about the perfect real estate opportunity for either a bed and breakfast or a coffee shop in our town. I went on and on about all the ways it could be done well, to make people feel cared for and to be profitable. I was passionate and excited. 

Then on that quiet ride home, I realized I had my priorities all wrong. 

I was willing to get up early to have breakfast available for strangers. I was excited to take time to chat with customers. I could envision the perfect seating arrangement to make people feel welcome. I wanted to wash sheets and fluff pillows and decorate till people felt loved and comforted. 

But. 

I am not doing any of those things at my own home, for my own family. 

That realization stung more than I can ever express.

The thing is, I knew I could do all of those things for a B&B or a coffee shop, because I knew people would affirm me. People would congratulate me and tell me what an incredible job I was doing. I live for positive affirmations and I knew that strangers would give me that and I was willing to trade in my own time with my family for it. 

It all suddenly felt upside down. 

So here I am, a week later. Wading into the new lifestyle of loving on my people better. I need to willingly serve them, not with a grumbling attitude, but with true joy. 

I know they will never thank me the way people in a consumer relationship would. I know that they will never write a nice review online about all the ways I cared for them. 

I am doing longer term work than that. I am not working for a good review. I am loving on them to prepare them for a big world. I am loving them to help them discover who they are. I am creating a home so that when the world gets ugly and mean, they know they can come to me and be safe. 

I still want accolades and I want some one to thank me for menial tasks, but that’s my flaw, not theirs. Don't get me wrong, I will still expect thank you's and my children are expected to help out around the house and on the farm. I will not be their slave or puppet, but I have to be an example of meeting my work from a heart of gratitude rather than a heart of resentment. 

It has been a week of perspective shifts and making an effort to turn negative thoughts around. “How would I feel if this was a neighbor or a friend or a stranger? How would I respond to them?”

If I am polite and patient with other people’s children, don’t mine deserve the same? If I am baking for a guest that comes to visit, shouldn’t I also be doing it for my family regularly?

If it’s not an inconvenience for me to bake something special, take the afternoon off, sit and talk while a task goes undone, for friends and strangers; then why should it be an inconvenience to do it for my family?

My family deserves better than anyone else. 

In theory it all sounds simple. It sounds beautiful really.

In application it gets murky.

Family sees you at your worst. They know your vulnerabilities and your heart. They forgive easier (thankfully) and they push limits that no one else can. 

I no longer want my family to get my leftovers or my second best. 

I want them to get the special treatment, the outpouring, the memories. 

I want them to get the best of me.

Unselfish, unspoiled, joyful, loving, contented, grateful me.

I am thankful for second chances and 302nd chances. I am grateful I get to start over. I am happy I still have a month and a half left of Summer so I can finish strong.

I know I won't get this perfect. I'll still get tired and exhausted, but I don't have to feel defeated.

I get to wake up each morning and choose how I want to approach the day. I want to lay my head down at night knowing that I poured out all my love and wake up each day ready to start again.

And when I get it wrong, I will try again…

That is the beauty of life.

With love,
Me

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