October 27, 2016

What About Me?

This morning I went to my kitchen and was horrified at what I saw. Two baking pans, covered with the crusty, dried remains of last night's dinner. And in the sink, several forks and spoons, with bits and pieces of food particles slowing drying on them. A knife coated in peanut butter, the horror! The dishwasher, only inches away, was partially filled with dirty dishes, but had plenty of room to hold these items...should someone have felt the need to load them in. 

My husband, who had only been in the kitchen moments before, failed to tidy up anything. In fact, it probably didn't register with him that it needed tidying. We're different that way, in the things we notice. 

So I naturally did what any normal person would do. I started cleaning up, banging the dishes around loudly in the sink, hoping he'd at least hear me and feel guilty because I was having to do it. 

Are we a mess or what? When I say "we" I'm not even referring to my husband and me, although our house sometimes teeters between a state of slightly messy and "what just exploded in here." 

When I say we're a mess, I mean we as humans. As I was washing the peanut butter off a knife I had not used, feeling deeply wounded at the unfairness of it all, I had to laugh at myself. So ridiculous. 

What's the big deal about doing something kind or helpful for somebody else? In this case, how did tidying up my husband's dishes become such a monumental issue that I would actually be offended to get stuck with the task? 

It all comes down to this: What about me? 

I'm so quick to see only myself, my own wants and needs, my own sense of what should be. I would think nothing of having my husband clean up after me. Or perform some other task that might make my life easier, less hectic, more fun. Because it's all about me, right? Not! But sometimes it feels like that. 

Like there isn't going to be enough for me. Enough what exactly? Enough time, enough energy, enough recognition, enough acceptance, the list goes on. 

We're so wrapped up in our own little worlds, players in our own dramas and comedies. We build our sets, painstakingly curating our homes and other surroundings with all manner of things we think bring us joy. We toil and trouble ourselves to get everything just perfect. And we carefully cast each show with supporting characters who will bring just the right dramatic overtones and comedic timing. But be not mistaken about one important thing: we are the star. And it all must revolve around us, a perfect backdrop against which we can shine. 

It kind of sounds pathetic when you think about it like that. 

This idea of dying to ourselves is a big part of Christianity. One of my very favorite Bible verses is from Galatians...for I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. 

Even if you don't profess a Christian faith, or any faith at all, the idea of selfishness is pretty much universally seen as rotten and not any way we should be. 

I don't think we ever set out to be selfish. But somewhere along the way, our experiences and the messages we receive make us feel like we aren't getting our fair shake. Like everybody else is having it better than us. And this is infuriating because aren't we're entitled to our piece of the pie? So we focus on ourselves and don't even realize we're doing it. Until we're banging dishes around trying to shame our spouse for the fact that the kitchen needed tidying up. 

And the most ironic part of all is that I wouldn't have had this moment of clarity had I not been standing in front of the sink, quietly contemplating things, giving my soul a moment to breathe and reflect, all the while washing dishes in the first place. 

Nobody is perfect. I have done bad things in my life. I've hurt people. And I've been selfish. And I've missed out on things that could have really blessed my heart because I was too busy worrying about getting my fair shake. I don't believe this is something we ever get free from as long as we are living on earth. It's a daily struggle to remember what's important, and to let go of the rest. 

It's something I'm working on. That doesn't mean I don't have my moments of "What about me?" But I have found the cure for this to be doing something for somebody else. Not an act of obligation, but giving purely and freely out of the abundance of the heart. In that place, there's no room for selfish anything. 

October 19, 2016

Fun & Simple Last Minute Halloween Ideas!

Halloween is such a fun holiday, no matter how old you are. We've already made our annual visit to the local pumpkin patch, and our pumpkins have been sitting on the front porch waiting for some spooky designs. 

October means fall, and all the things we love most about the season, from cooler temperatures to leaves crunching under your feet, football watching on Saturday afternoons and pumpkin spice everything! Want to add some spooky style to your home for Halloween? 

Here are a few easy ideas that the whole family is sure to enjoy! 

1) Ping Pong Ball Halloween Lights

When I first saw this idea of creating a string of ghosts using cheesecloth, ping pong balls and a strand of white lights (via Unoriginal Mom), I knew I wanted to try it. 

Then I stumbled upon a bag of ping pong balls already painted to look like eyeballs and thought this variation might be even easier, and still lots of fun! 

All you have to do to make this is slit an X into the back of each ping pong ball. Push the end of a pencil through the opening to loosen it and insert each light from the strand into each eye ball. 

Light it up for some spooky fun! 

2) Easy Pumpkin Decorations without Carving

Carving pumpkins is fun, but so messy. And I don't know about you, but I want my fall decorations to last as long as possible. I usually transition them into Thanksgiving, and sometimes even revamp them with a Christmas theme. So carving is not my first choice for decorating Halloween pumpkins. 

Thankfully, there are so many fun things you can do to pumpkins without carving them! 

I found a package of cute Halloween cut-outs made of felt with adhesive on the back. These could be easily applied to a bigger pumpkin for a fun spooky scene. You could also make your own designs by cutting shapes from sheets of felt and holding it in place with glue-dots. Then there's also the option of using sheets of sticky-backed foam...which come in different colors of glitter for a sparkly effect. 

Not only are these options easy to apply, but they are also easy to remove, so this project is a great way to decorate your pumpkins for the Halloween season and then make them easy to re-use as part of a Thanksgiving display. 

Or, sticking with my eyeball theme, grab a package of googly eyes from a craft store. Create a one-eyed monster pumpkin, or a seven-eyed monster pumpkin. Let your creativity run wild. 

[image & inspiration via Find it. Make it. Love it.

3) Halloween Treat Cookie Monsters 

Who can resist a loveable, colorful monster? From Cookie Monster of Sesame Street to those adorable characters in the film Monsters, Inc., there's just something about that fur, those googly eyes that tugs at my heartstrings. 

I tried to capture a little bit of that monster madness with these simple Halloween monster cookies. All you need to create these is a dozen chocolate chip cookies (store-bought or homemade, you decide!). Next, top them with vanilla frosting, tinted in various monsterriffic colors. Here's a tried-and-true recipe from my blogger pal Heather at Sprinkle Bakes. Finally, add candy eyes, the more the merrier. 

Easy. Silly. Delicious! 

I hope you are inspired by some of these ideas to add a little Halloween haunted fun to your home this month. Happy Halloween y'all! 

October 7, 2016

Funerals in My South

This week I attended a funeral. Like the wanna-be cultural anthropologist that I have always been, I couldn’t help but wonder what future generations would think of us if they were able to witness our most intimate and personal moments of grief. You can learn so much about a people by their traditions, especially the ones they practice at the end of a life.

The south is a wide and varied place. My experiences of it may be completely different from yours, yet we are both correct when we consider the region our own. Funerals are a big deal in the south. Not just by the way you celebrate the life of the person who has passed, but also in how you circle up to surround the living who are left behind.

In my south, funerals are visitations at the funeral home, complete with bowls of mints and boxes of Kroger brand facial tissues on every surface. Hunter green wall-to-wall carpet, and brass fixtures. It’s people who stop by the funeral home after they get off work, for visitation. Some go home and change clothes, but others still come just as they are, in their work shirts, with their name on the chest. They arrive and sign the guest book, while waiting to pay their respects to the grieving sons and daughters, spouses (if any), grandchildren and whoever else is left.
It’s little old ladies, nosy and wanting a peek at the body “to see if he looked ‘real good’” or not, disappointed when it’s a closed casket. It’s neighbors who are not at all neighborly, who come out of the woodwork to see if they can get first dibs on the old home place, when it inevitably goes up for sale.
It’s photo slideshows, looking back to happier times, images of childhood, glory days in the service, milestones, celebrations, and snapshots taken for no reason at all. It’s people who knew you when you were just a little thing, who haven’t seen you in a coon’s age, who wouldn’t have known you from Adam, except wasn’t your grandpa that Whittaker man who used to preach over at Scott Street? And you’re Glen’s girl? Oh right, his granddaughter.
It’s I sure am glad I ran into you, but I hate that it was under these circumstances. It’s people you never see except at weddings and funerals.
And funerals themselves are held at little country churches, that don’t come up on Google when you’re trying to get directions. Churches with double glass front doors that open right into the sanctuary, where there’s light brown paneling half-way up the walls, and pinkish-purple carpet. And an old fashioned water fountain, a rectangle of smudged chrome, with a shiny faucet and a hard metal button that hurts your finger to press. The stream of water barely comes up an inch, and you have to smoosh your mouth down onto it because you’re thirsty and you don’t want to have a dry throat when it comes time to read your poem to the congregation.
Funerals in my south are Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine. And song leaders who tell you to turn to number 181 in the little red Heavenly Highway book, and all stand while we sing It is Well with My Soul.
And while you sit up in the sanctuary, crying not just for the one whose life is being memorialized, but also for the others you loved who are no longer with you, you take comfort knowing that the ladies of the church are downstairs in the basement, setting out assorted Corningware and Pyrex dishes, including three different kinds of macaroni and cheese, and four kinds of potatoes. Lunch, which will be waiting for you when the burial service at the adjacent graveyard has concluded. Complete with Taps and a 21 gun salute.
It’s hugging people’s necks that you don’t know, just because they are there and it seems like the right thing to do. It’s listening to stories you’ve heard before, and feeling comforted by the familiar.
For some, it’s just too much to stay and be comforted. And the very best they can do is get through the funeral service, and slip out quietly.
And sometimes it’s let’s all go back to Granny’s house, for old time sakes. And you go, and visit with cousins you never see, and reminisce about better times. Not knowing that in just a few short weeks they will move mountains to change the will, gripped in the grasp of greed and “it’s what Pa would have wanted.”
Funerals aren’t really for the dead. They’re for the living. The ones left behind. The ones left asking all the questions, often with none of the answers they want or need.
If a cultural anthropologist from the future came back and witnessed our funeral traditions, I wonder what they’d think. I wonder how much these traditions will change and evolve over time.
I hope they always have the macaroni and cheese.