Here’s how I can tell I’ve run dry on ideas for posing mason jars: I just kept them piled here next to the coffeepot and took a picture. Water spots on jar lids and all. Most aren’t even labelled (yet).
Still, I wanted to share their existence. Why? Because so many days just honestly aren’t that satisfying.
Most days the smiles on my children’s faces and the fact that they are still breathing is accomplishment enough. Most days I’m still glowing from the funny conversations one can only have with a nearing-3-year-old. Most days I am floored at how quickly Greta went from a teensy newborn in my arms to a scooter-crawling, sign language-using eight month old trying to climb the stairs. Most days I feel secure in myself, my family, my status as a stay-at-home mother of two.
Many other days, I crawl into bed bone-tired and feeling like nothing — absolutely nothing– was accomplished. The story of Sisyphus is always on my mind. You know him, right? The guy who was doomed to roll a boulder uphill only to have it roll back down again? I suppose it’s better than Prometheus, who was chained to a mountain, doomed to have his magically regenerating liver eaten by a giant eagle every day. Although to be honest, sometimes even that one sounds familiar.
Although I do not regret for one second my choice to “stay home” with my children, there were sacrifices. Not the least of which are money and an outward, concrete, society-approved, “job”.
You know what I miss most about working? Getting performance reviews and customer feedback. That passive, hardly noticeable Thanks for your help! type feedback I once took for granted.
Some days I wonder if anyone sees anything I do. Mostly I feel like people see me as tired or stressed out. The first words my mom said to me when I showed up at their house yesterday were ” You look stressed! Or maybe just tired!” Not really glowing performance reviews. Worse, it’s pretty true.
Many things would be easier if I were the type of person content to keep my nose to the grindstone, quietly checking off doable things like feed and water children, lock the doors, brush teeth, go to bed. However, I’m just not that person. I’m just not.
If there’s one thing about me that has remained unchanged since childhood, it is this: I. Have. Ideas. There is no shortage of ideas on The Totally Awesome List of Cool Stuff I Want To Do. I have always had a surplus of ideas. It’s just who I am.
Naturally this leads to the other side of that list — Stuff I Started But Bailed On. That list is pretty long as well. I never feel like I quit on stuff though. For every idea or medium I try, another one is waiting in the wings. I don’t struggle with things that don’t work for me. If they are important to me, I’ll keep working on it. But if I quit liking it, I don’t have a lot of drama about quitting it. I could live to be FOUR HUNDRED YEARS OLD and I would still have a list in my withered fist reading No, Seriously. I Still Have Ideas.
There’s the rub.
Obviously I’m in a very intense season of life right now. This past weekend we went to a 50th anniversary party for my aunt and uncle. One of my dad’s older cousins was talking to me and Greta. I mentioned “my two and half year old son” and she smiled knowingly, stage-whispering to Greta, “Oh my – your mother is busy, isn’t she?” Some days I can’t even believe how busy I am — and can’t believe that I’m actually planning on having another child in another year or two. What then?
With so many ideas, and so little leftover energy, I focus on quick outward signs that I did something. Canning, embroidery, this blog. Things that last. This past spring, I read a book called Independence Days. It rocked my world for many reasons. One of the best parts, that I think of often, was a section called Old Ways and New. The author, Sharon Astyk, speaks wisdom from her grandmother. She writes
She said, “You have to have something that lasts. You cook food and it gets eaten. You wash the dishes and they get dirty again. You tend the babies and then they need the same again. You need something that lasts past the end of the day.” …
…I also live in a world where the dishes get finished, only to be started again, where the laundry piles up, is washed, put away, and the next day the pile is the same. I live, not because I am a woman, but because I have children, in a world of endless repetition (Unlike them though, I share the workload with my husband.)
And now, I take great pleasure in the things that last longer than a day. I put away my jars of food on the shelf, and each one takes on a new role when I can say, “And this is what I did today that will outlast this moment.”
I think it is important for me to recognize that drive in myself. That burning need to hold something other than chewed up food, recently ousted for being “too spicy” (Finnian), or inedible, soggy cardstock (Greta’s afternoon flashcard snack), in my hand. In these intensely busy years, I feel like I’m struggling to hold onto something that validates me, even if it’s a shelf full of canned goods.
However, it’s also important to realize that man o man, do I have it good. I have two healthy children, food in my cupboards, a roof over my head. I’m a stay a home mother, not a stay at home martyr. I can count my blessings instead of curse my lot. I often reflect on this post about ‘building cathedrals‘ my friend and former neighbor Michelle wrote. Regardless of our beliefs as individuals, I believe all mothers can relate.
I’m pretty dang lucky that I live in a world that gives me a choice, and a husband who helps completely with home keeping and child raising. I know that even today many men don’t wash all the family laundry (including the diapers!), scrub the kitchen floor, and beg to “wear” the baby. I’m lucky to have that true partnership.
It’s because of my fella that I got all those jars canned this weekend in the first place.
And it’s because of my fella that I got these two babes in the first place too.
So. If you are keeping track at home, that makes 2 pints & 4 half-pints cranberry sauce, 5 pints applesauce, 8 4oz jars cranberry mustard, 4 half-pints apple-rhubarb-cranberry chutney, one son, one daughter.