Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Surprise Sabbaths

The Walmart employees were already stressing out Monday evening when I was there.  There was some sort of inspection by the big people the next day and everybody had to get a whole lot done before they could go home.  One lady I talked to said she expected it to take until midnight. I hope we can all remember with gentleness the heroes of the season: people who work retail.  God be with them.

We’re about to enter that dangerous time of the year when all the TV commercials tell you that you’re doing it all wrong but you might have a chance to have the perfect family; however you will need to buy whatever they are selling first.  Perfect families rarely come cheap.  And my own family sometimes acts like we came from the bargain basement sale at a thrift store.

Easter wasn’t pretty at my house last spring.  Most of it was my fault.  I get so excited about having all my kids and grands under one roof I started cooking and couldn’t stop.  And most of it involved massive amounts of sugar.  We had the equivalent of “a pie apiece.” If I were to design a family crest for us I would need to find the Latin word for “everybody gets a whole pie” in Latin, a graphic of a whisk and a chef’s knife crossed with some sugar cubes forming a circle around it. Our family loves to eat.  I love to cook.  Sadly, most of what I’m good at is desserts.

Last Easter, after consuming what I calculated to be an entire pie per person in addition to a chocolate cake, a pan of banana cream pudding and two gallons of ice cream, we had a gigantic Easter Egg hunt.  By the time everybody drove off leaving a trail of candy wrappers in their wake, I walked into the combat zone of a kitchen and had a tiny little meltdown. Fortunately, only one person was there to witness it and he loves me regardless of my random vacations from sanity; he has the patience of a saint and had been there to witness the entire weekend. He did his own version of patting me on the back while murmuring, “There, there.”

 I let a cloud of green gloom hover over me until I got tired of myself.  Then I took action. I hit the “reset” button.

We would start over. For the next 12 months I decreed that each major holiday would be subject to a review and plans adjusted as needed.  Holidays would not automatically be celebrated as a family and wouldn’t automatically be my house.  We would be intentional about our holidays.  We would put thought into it.  And we set out some rules.  Here’s a snapshot of what I wrote as we discussed it.  The new holiday rules:

We take a poll: Do we want to celebrate this holiday as a family?  Where do we want to do this? I’m always willing to host but we’ll be happy to drive out to your house.  Once we get those two questions answered we can go to the next step with the following rules:

Everybody works together.
Everybody knows what is expected.
Everybody is respectful to each other
The host can calmly* ask for help
Helpers are entitled to advanced notice of when and how they will help.
The people with real jobs are allowed some down time
We will be relaxed**

*The girls wanted me to put emphasis on this word
**I’ve condensed here a bit.  The words “relaxed” and “respectful” were duplicated a lot. I am forever reminded by my daughters of the day I shrieked that we were all going to go outside and sit by the fire and have “Quality Family Time, Dammit!”

To be fair my kids and grand kids are very respectful 95% of the time.  The only exception was the shock the Sarah expressed at being asked to touch a dirty dish that someone else had eaten off of and turn it into a clean plate.  I usually use Chinet paper plates for weekends like July 4th and such.  But I draw the line at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  These times we have real plates and real cutlery.  Sometimes it seems like the fine art of setting a table correctly and tastefully seems to have died with my mother, leaving me alone to represent the last civilized generation. 
……………………….

We had a surprise blast of cold weather over the last week. It was the kind where you spend a lot of time watching TV to tell you if it’s safe to drive. And of course this is much more fun when you don’t actually have to do it. When I worked for a bank I really did need to go to work.  The bank always told us that there is some government law that a bank can’t close.  It was a LAW.  Then I changed jobs and realized I didn’t really have to go to work an hour across town when it snowed.  The debits and credits could roam around loose for one day and I would still be able to corral them into the correct column when I went back to work.  Then I retired and life just got so much more fun.  I don’t have to leave my house for a damned thing unless I want to.

Bad weather days are a Sabbath of sorts.  The original intent for the Sabbath was to rest but we don't fulfill that commandment the way God intended us. It's no secret that for some of us Sunday is a busy day and when we try to designate another day for a Sabbath it doesn't quite cut it. So when you get a surprise reprieve from your usual schedule it's a totally bonus day. You don’t have to change out of your pajamas. You get to stay inside and let your mind rest.  Make a big pot of chili.  Start a fire in the fireplace and read. Let the cat sleep on your lap as long as he wants to. Get into a real conversation with your family. Watch a holiday movie. Or maybe turn the TV off and listen to the sounds outside your house. Make hot chocolate. Slow down.

Here’s something very interesting.  I’ve been tapping on the keyboard writing this blog for about two days, adding a bit here and there, taking stuff out, putting it back in and it was becoming a chore.  But when I got to that last paragraph that listed what I can do on a Weather Sabbath I could feel myself relaxing.  I was startled to find that just making the list was relaxing.  I think we’re on to something here, folks.  Everybody go make a list!  See if it does anything for you.  Let me know how you feel afterwards. You can add it to the list you're going to make of things you are thankful for.


If my family survives Thanksgiving without sugar I will let you know.  If you don’t hear from me next week you’ll know it turned out badly. And since we live on the boundary of two counties you'll have to check with both Hopkins county and Wood county. I'm not really sure where they will take me.

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