Sunday, March 8, 2015

always and everywhere to give thanks

"Can you find your happy heart?"

"Can you ask me that again using your strong voice?"

"How can I help you be more cheerful?"

These are the oft-repeated phrases in our household as I try to minimize the toddler whining and complaining.  Truth be told, she's a pretty happy kid, but like all toddlers, she has her moments where she needs some help finding a cheerful attitude.

At the end of a long day of modeling cheerfulness {and sometimes failing at it myself}, I've realized that it is easy to lose my own "happy heart" and "strong voice" as soon as I get my kids to bed.  It's all too easy to let my husband be the one who then hears all the stresses of the day as I change as quickly as possible from my skirt and top into sweat pants and begin to vent the frustrations of my day.

The baby's naps were too short and she was cranky.

The toddler threw tantrums.

I didn't get a moment to myself.

My back hurts from carrying these children.

The house is a wreck and I don't know how that's even possible since I feel like I was cleaning all day.

My work teaching or gigging today didn't feel gratifying.

I didn't get any time to practice the music I needed to practice or do the work I needed to do.

It's a reality -- some days really are tough.  This morning, for example, the kids woke up bright and early following a night where the baby had woken seven times over the course of the night, including a lengthy period of crying between 1:00 and 5:00 am and a poopy diaper needing to be changed.  Just a couple of hours after all that, I was stumbling out of bed, wiping hands and noses and bottoms with bleary eyes as the day got underway.  I made Nell just the breakfast she requested (blueberries and oatmeal), only to have her wail about it not being what she wanted.  Marie refused to take a morning nap, and was subsequently inconsolable and needed to be held constantly as I went about our morning tasks.  Leaning over the bathroom sink to rinse a child's hands, that spot on the lower left of my back that had been threatening me with telltale twinges for the past couple of days suddenly snapped, sending me into a spasm of pain.  And finally, unbelievably enough, when I went to blow dry my bangs, my hair dryer caught fire.  Visible flames erupting inside the plastic housing, the horrible stench of burning plastic filling the house, panic in my heart as I ran and threw the burning device out the front door into the cold snowy outdoors.

And that was all before 8:30 am.

During long hours at home with young children, it can seem as though my husband's job in the city must be nothing but glamorous.  I mean, he commutes on a train, during which time no one touches him or yells at him and he can read without being disturbed!  Sometimes he even has lunch meetings with colleagues and gets to eat out!  He dresses nicely for work, and rarely finds boogers smeared on his shoulder or spit-up down his back.  The whole scenario can seem tantalizing.  I'll trade you, babe.  You stay home and try to keep the small humans alive and well-rested and well-behaved.  I'll go to work!  No problem!

But his work is hard, too, and his days are long, and he deals with stresses as real -- or probably more so -- as the ones I face at home and in my own work.

At the end of the day, we're both guilty of greeting each other with, "I'm SO tired," "What a LONG day," "I didn't get anything done," "I feel like I've been hit by a truck," or "What's the point of it all?"

Where are our happy hearts?

So recently, I've been trying to focus on tempering the complaints and the tales of difficulty and woe, and instead, texting a cute and happy picture of the kids or a positive greeting.  Meeting the news that he'll be home late an extra night this week with a cheery, "No problem!  We're doing great!"  Answering, "How was your day?" with specific stories of good times before I tell of any of the frustrating ones.

Because we do have many good times and happy moments.

The difficult moments are real, and sometimes you need to tell someone who will listen supportively and offer encouragement or advice.  But I'm trying to be cognizant of what kind of overall picture I'm painting to those closest to me if they are the ones I go to first to vent or complain.

In church this morning, I was reminded by the familiar words of the liturgy we hear every week that "It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks...", and today it gave me pause as I somehow heard it with fresh ears.

I have much to be thankful for, and ought to be giving thanks with a happy heart, always and everywhere.  Even on days when my hair dryer catches fire.

Today my entire house smelled of burnt plastic, but it was also a day when my toddler sat at the piano and sang, "Jesus Loves Me," accompanying herself with carefully chosen notes played with small dimpled fingers, the late afternoon sunlight filtering across the piano and lighting her small face.  And today, I can choose to dwell on the beautiful moments of life, both in my thoughts and in my conversations with others.

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