Saturday, January 12, 2013

My day described by the contents of my pocket

It's been pretty cold lately, "cold" meaning that yesterday and the day before there was a very thin layer of ice on the puddles early in the morning and people had to scrape ice off of their windshields. At an official elevation of two meters above the Mediterranean Sea, that's cold...and we don't have heating and the house is very badly (or probably not at all) insulated. It even snowed in quite a few parts of Cyprus yesterday, but with totally clear skies over Larnaka, there wasn't a chance here. I've lost the thermometer, but last year in January I did measure the temperature inside the house at 10 degrees Celcius, 50 degrees Fahrenheit. That's not at all too cold to be outside and active, but it's pretty cold to be sitting around in the house.

So...this means that we're wearing lots of layers. (Well, some of us are...some of the children are STILL usually barefoot...) And it means that I have my thick hooded sweatshirt on most of the time. (It really needs to be washed, but I can't bear to do without it for the several days it would need to dry...) And this sweatshirt has a pocket on the front. And I empty the pocket every night before putting Elisabeth to bed, because otherwise, everything will fall out when I lie down. And last night it was a rather large pile of stuff and it occurred to me that it pretty much showed my day.

My cell phone: this wasn't actually still with the pile of stuff this morning, because before I went to bed I put it on the piano in the living room, because this morning I planned to walk with Sue, and whichever of us gets up texts the other one to say we're up, and I don't want it to wake me up if I happen to be asleep. And it doesn't even normally live in my pocket, but was there because I took it with me when I picked up Marie and Jacob from their boat cleaning job a little after 6:00 yesterday evening, so that Marie wouldn't be any later than she already was for band practice and to bring Jacob home so he could finish putting together his magazine, The Onymous, before going to Youth Group at 7:00.

Two combs: I'd been combing the hair of some child or other with one of them when the doorbell rang, so put it in my pocket. At the door was a little girl, definitely not older than nine or ten, collecting sponserships for a walk she was doing with her school. I didn't understand everything, so I don't know what they're actually raising money for, but when a child is brave enough to go up to a stranger's door and try to sell something, I will virtually always contribute. The other comb Elisabeth had been using to comb my hair, and at some point, I couldn't take it anymore and confiscated the comb.

Five folded up drawings on various sizes of paper: all gifts from Elisabeth, some of which she gave me by saying, "Which hand?" while holding only one hand behind her back, and some of which she gave me after asking me to close my eyes and then putting them into my hands.

Eyeglass repair kit: Jörn needed me to change the batteries on a little machine he uses for accessing our German bank account (he holds it up to the computer screen--I have NO idea how this thing works and I actually find it kind of eery!), and the only screwdriver small enough was the one with my eyeglass repair kit.

Seven writing utensils: I was using the permanent marker while doing laundry (adding dots to articles of clothing that had moved from Katie to Helen and from Helen to Elisabeth), and also used it to put Xs on the chart we started this week to try to reduce the yelling in this house. That's a whole 'nother story...but it IS encouraging that ALL of us had fewer Xs the second day than the first. The pink whiteboard marker was for marking off Katie's and Lukas's schoolwork on the laminated lists that are hanging up. Two black ball point pens are mine, which I'd rather keep in the pocket on my Bible but people keep taking, so they've been living in my pocket lately. One Jacob gave me, and one I bought myself. I mostly use them to write down what books the children have read or to write the date on math pages, as I've been very bad at keeping my journal lately and do virtually all other writing on the computer, but when I do want to write something, black ball point is my preference. And I wrote January 14th on every math page yesterday, then when on the phone with Jörn later, asked him if he noticed the date, since we moved to Cyprus on January 14th four years ago. He thought that was interesting, then said, "Wait a minute--today isn't the 14th!" We took awhile discussing it, then finally agreed that it was the 12th, and would have been my grandma's 95th birthday and tried to remember if my brother-in-law's birthday is also the 12th, or just sometime close. I got off the phone and told Marie about the conversation and how silly I'd been, to which she responded that we (Jörn and I) were BOTH silly, as it was the 11th. Oh. Moving blue ball point pen was Jörn's and he took it back last night, and another blue ball point pen is probably Jacob's, but I haven't asked him. The broken pencil with Elisabeth's name on it got broken because it was on the trampoline while they were jumping, and she wants me to glue it.

A nail file: I really have no idea how that got into my pocket, but since it was there, I filed my nails while waiting for Marie and Jacob to finish at the boat.

A sewing tape meaure: Our small trampoline had been out of action for several months because one of the six legs was missing, but Lukas found the leg in the bushes (?!?!) a couple of days ago, so I put it back on the trampoline and returned the trampoline to the living room. Well, actually, I put it out on the front porch at some point yesterday because of all of the fighting over it. But before that happened, I measured it because I want to make a new cover for around the edge. I think I probably do have enough denim to make a rectangle 290 centimeters by 28 centimeters, but whether I actually get around to cutting up all of the old jeans and sewing them together is another question.

A bracelet: actually, this wasn't in my pocket anymore when I emptied the pocket, but it had been earlier in the day and was with the pile of stuff this morning when I decided to write this oh-so-fascinating post. I made it a couple of months ago, with beads to represent each of my children.

A ten-gram container of lanolin: I used to HATE it when my mother put lanolin on any complaint we might have, but I have since had to admit that it's pretty cool stuff. I've been trying to remember to put it on some sore spots on the back of Helen's head, so have been carrying it around to do that.

A red pencil sharpener with "Mommy" written on it in three places: pencil sharpeners disappear around here, and both of the last two Christmases, I gave one EACH to Jörn, Marie, Jacob, and myself.

An eraser: they disappear too, and also get replenished at Christmas. This one doesn't happen to have a name on it, so that automatically makes it mine.

Two bookmarkers: one of them was given to me by my parents many, many years ago, and was in my pocket because I finished reading the book it had been in, but I can't remember what book. The other is one that was in a package of stuff that we received a couple of days ago from an eight-year-old friend in Germany sent to us, and Elisabeth had been folding it so I took it away from her and put it in my pocket.

And sheep: I put away the Christmas stuff a few days ago, including all the parts I could find of all the nativity scenes. This particular sheep, plastic and about a centimeter long, is from the set that I let the children play with in the doll house. Elisabeth was looking for her shoes under the couch and shouted "A-reka--a sheep!" and pulled it out. She's been calling out "a-reka" (eureka, obviously) when finding things quite a lot in the last several days--I have no idea where she learned that, but have been enjoying it!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Why avoid energizing joy?!

Last year my friend Sue told me about something a friend of hers had posted on Facebook at the beginning of the year. I copied it into a "sticky note" on my computer desktop (sticky notes are really cool--they look like Post-it Notes all over my computer screen, which means that I see them first thing when I turn on the computer) and have read it over and over again all year. A few weeks ago I finally asked if I could use the quotation in a blogpost, and she said sure, and that she didn't originate it anyway, so I don't need to attribute it to her. If someone knows the origin of the quotation, feel free to tell me. Anyway, here it is:

Before rushing head-long into 2012, ask yourself these questions:
what energised me most in 2011?;
what brought me most joy?;
 what did I avoid doing despite knowing I needed to do it?"
When I read this the first time, I thought of it as three separate questions, none of them too difficult to answer. However, in conversation with Sue, we discussed the possibility of answers that would answer all three in one go. That sounded impossible to me at first. Why on earth would I AVOID doing something that not only did I know I needed to do, but which energized (sorry, although the quotation is British I remain American ;-P ) me and brought me joy?!? Interestingly, when thinking about this in the last couple of weeks, I could only remember having mentioned writing and playing the piano, both of are pretty weak. For one thing, I couldn't (still can't) claim that either one "needed" to be done, but considering that I'm energized and joyful after doing so, and therefore in a considerably better mood than before, they are definitely beneficial activities both for myself and my family.

However, I then looked back to find out what else I'd said...and discovered that at first, I couldn't think of anything that had brought me joy at all (2011 was NOT a good year, for many reasons), much less anything that answered all three questions. Finally I came up with was "walking," never a mention of writing or playing the piano! Walking/exercising is certainly a more obviously logical answer, I think, and even though it took me until the middle of May to really get started with that, I couldn't be more pleased with how it's been going. About ten kilometers today to start the new year, definitely energizing me and bringing me joy, but no longer being avoided! At the beginning of last year I did walk a few times with Sue on a Saturday, but I wasn't ever motivated to go by myself. Now I'm walking or jogging every day, Sue going with me three days a week.

I did come up with one more thing in that conversation: spending one-on-one quality time with my children. Almost every time it happens, with any one of the six, it's wonderful. Taking just one of them grocery shopping, or just one of them being home with me, or just one coming along in the car during a short errand, or one coming with me on my morning walk--it's just plain cool. But it doesn't happen automatically all that often, and I don't make anywhere near enough effort to MAKE it happen. I have plenty of reasons (like, to start with, five other children...), but really, if something is important enough, time can be found. My husband has been taking each one of the older five children out once every two weeks for one-on-one time, and they all look forward to that special Papa-time very much, plus he does often take one or two along during other errands and shopping. (Note: my husband does the VAST majority of the grocery shopping, so that isn't actually much of an opportunity for me to take one child...) So this is something that could be worked on, for sure.

So then after that I came up with "writing" and "playing the piano", and did do something about both of those during most of the year. Piano playing petered out in the summer because it just isn't fun to play the piano when sweat is dripping down my whole body and even my finger-tips are slippery, and I've only picked it up again a bit in the last month or so. I'd say I've almost gotten back to the level I had when I was around 11 or 12, and I'm kind of okay with that.

As for writing...that wasn't something I had said to anyone at all except my journal, so I was very surprised when Sue invited me to the writers' group that she was a part of (and now leads, incidentally). It seemed an impossible thought to be able to go, not on a convenient day for me with the children and my husband's work schedule, but I was certainly intrigued. And then yet another acquaintance, not someone I knew well at all, asked me totally out of the blue if I'd be interested in the writers' group. Sue and I have exchanged e-mails for years and I borrow books all the time and she reads this blog, so it maybe wasn't totally unreasonable for to have figured out some of my "secrets", but this other lady didn't know any of that and I still actually have no idea at all why she invited me. And then Sue's husband, Richard, offered to occupy (code for "babysit") Lukas, the one child I can't leave at home without an adult, so I could go the writers' group...and I started going to that in February and haven't missed a single gathering. I'm really not sure how much my enjoyment of it has to do with writing and how much just with the fact that it's an outing with only adults, something that still makes me giddy with excitement!

Summary of this ramble: before rushing head-long into 2013, I have carefully considered what in 2012 brought me the most joy AND energized me AND I avoided doing, at least before 2012. My conclusions are that I'm doing well with walking, not too badly with writing and playing the piano (both activities being entirely and selfishly for ME, so don't expect any books or concerts--I'm not very good, just love doing them), and definitely need to make more of an effort to spend one-on-one time with each of the children.