On Bearing Burdens

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I woke up this morning with a whirling mind and bruised heart so that it felt like I hadn’t slept at all last night.

My mood further plummeted when it dawned on me that I wouldn’t be able to mull over what’s burdening me in order to mentally work it out.  I’m a writer and a teacher and I have to be emotionally present and alert to do my job(s) well.  And these weighty thoughts are like mental sludge in my brain pipes.

So what will I do in the next eighteen hours?

I’ll pray every time the heavy thoughts come up today.  Like a ninja.  My problems are beyond me, but not God.

I’ll make a list of the things I have to accomplish in the next several hours.

I’ll follow that list, checking things off as I get them done without trying to decide in the moment what  comes next.

I’ll listen to music when I’m not teaching or writing.  Few things focus my mind more than hearing songs and lyrics I love.

I’ll exercise at some point, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

I’ll remind myself that today will last for exactly 24 hours like its ancestors before it.  It’ll pass.  It has to.

Finally, I’ll get on with life because that’s what mothers do.

How do you cope with burdens you can’t seem to permanently offload? 

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When Things (Don’t) Fall Apart

After nearly three weeks away (first out of the country, then out of my state), I’m back home.  The first thing I did when I came through the door yesterday was to pet the dogs –I hesitate to admit how much I missed them–and to sniff the air.  Our house smelled stale, like mold, kind-of.  But the friend who cared for our two dogs and Russian tortoise while we were away had cleaned the place, bless her, and changed the sheets. She was even trying to prepare chicken for us before we stopped her.  It definitely wasn’t her causing the smell.

I’m always anxious right up to the time I catch a plane somewhere.  Not-so-deep-down, I believe that if I don’t prepare for every domestic eventuality, heading off each maybe with typed lists and Martha Stewart efficiency, things will go horribly wrong while I’m away, and I’ll pay for them in the end.  Every, single time I leave.

But, so far, things have been OK when I’ve returned.  Sometimes even better than OK.  I know that God is teaching me how to trust him, one tarmac at a time, though I’m in the slow group when it comes to these kinds of lessons.

Because, in the end, there is so much that is out of my hands.  I (purposely) forget that as queen of my little domain.  It’s only when I leave that I’m reminded how fragile, how miraculous, the everyday workings of life really are.  So then it’s pure, blinky-eyed luxury to walk back through the door and find that my home world kept turning without my managing it, even if the air is slightly funky.

I’m tucking these travel revelations away to chew on later, and, like some desert animal, I’ll call them up when I need them again.

But I plan to set off one of those mold bombs, too, just in case.

How To Homeschool When You’re Overwhelmed

It’s a strange time of year, isn’t it?  I mean, it’s almost summer but, just kidding, it’s not.  It’s a holiday season but it’s not cold enough to snow (where we live) or warm enough to bask in the sun.  There are things to wrap up, semesters to close out, Easter plans to solidify.  The kids sense the pool’s faint siren call from the backyard, never mind the fact that it’s covered in leaves and looks like a bog.

I am still reeling from jet lag and my responsibilities feel epic.  But we are not finished with our school year.  This is a dangerous time for Mom and the kids.  Though I have a lot to learn about how to deal with stress, and I still blow it, ahem, occasionally, I’d like to offer a few suggestions for how to homeschool when you’re overwhelmed and under-motivated.

  • Make a list.  Write down all the things that you need to accomplish and all things you’d like to see done.  No one can tell you what those things are.  Only you know.  But go ahead and put down all the to-do’s that jockey for space in your brain.  You can sort them out later.  Or sooner.
  • Sort that list.  Decide which things are life-and-death, or feel almost that serious.  Place less important items further down on the list.  Round out your list with things you’d like to accomplish but that are not make-or-break items.  Ex.  I would like to clean my bathroom today because it’s gross, but I can technically continue to live if I don’t get to it.
  • Focus on the top of the list.  This is hard for me.  I’m not going to lie.  I dearly love to see lots of little tick marks inside the neat list boxes I created.  But when I have too much to do, I have long since realized that I have to let less-important-but-still-important things go temporarily.  This means that we eat, have a devotional time together as a family, and do math.  We might drag ourselves to jujitsu because we’re paying for it.  The pets get fed and we try to tidy up our space.  The kids’ dirty clothes usually make it to the laundry basket.  But a lot of other things do not get accomplished.  In this mode, we don’t do science experiments, or lots of (any) play dates.  I don’t read aloud to the kids.  I don’t get as much exercise as I should.  The house looks dusty because…it is.  This is life, and after eight years of homeschooling, I know that these seasons come and go.  There are times where we get more done and I love those.  But in times when we don’t I try not to feel bad.  Guilt and stress do not make good teacher’s aides.

Of course, when things get really crazy, it’s appropriate to stop everything and hunker down.  Sometimes it’s good to just let your kids read books from the library and listen to quality music while you address the urgent in your life.  Multitask.  (You know you can do it.  A deep conversation with your son while unloading the dishwasher counts as philosophy class, I always say).  Or insist that your kids help you accomplish some of the things you have to do.  They like to be needed.  In the end, it’s important to remember that homeschooling is really just life, with kids, everyday.  There will be fruitful, high-impact seasons.  There will be boring, sloggy times.  But when things get nutty, decide in advance what you’ll focus on.  This way you’ll maintain more reasonable expectations and protect a sense of peace in your home.

And peace is at the top of my list.