Friday, December 26, 2014

Cloch na Smoochan

The story of Kent's gifts to me for our first Christmas as a married couple is one that we enjoy retelling for laughs.  Truly, I was not heartbroken to receive a Scumbuster that year.  If there were any lingering feelings of disappointment, though, this year's gift erased them all.

Kent was surprised that I liked this year's gift so much.  After all, it was a quick order online, a coat of paint brushed on by #2, and a few minutes of writing.  Maybe the simplicity of it makes it even better.  There is so much for me to like about this gift: it's practical, it matches the decor without being obtrusive, it strengthens our marriage, and it came with a story.

Kent used to write for me.  When we first started dating, we would sit in a park and read each other's creative writing efforts.  It was his letters during his two years of missionary service in Mexico that revealed his soul and cemented my love for him.  Occasionally, I'll still get a poem for Valentine's Day, but his written wooing was mostly concentrated on our courtship.  When he does take a few minutes to write, and the words flow with no eraser marks, it makes me feel special.

Here is my Christmas gift:

The Kissing Stool (Irish: Cloch na Smoochan) was set into the White household late in the year of our Lord, 2014.

The father of the White family would arrive from his toils at the end of the day and find himself set upon by his affectionate wife.  The goodwife Mary would place her lips upon his, humming gently whilest her eyes closed.  No sooner had she cast him under her charms, but the spell was broken as she had to retreat from his embrace.

Making up the seven inches of
height differential.

The goodwife complained that her neck was too delicate to reach up at such an unnatural angle for any lengthy duration.  Seeing his wife distressed by the difficult circumstances in which they barely touched, the householder took it upon himself to make the difficult trek to the Amazon.  There, he found a worthy tree which would support the weight of their tremendous love.  He made the Kissing Stool, and presented it to her on Christmas day.

According to Legend, kissing while on the stool endows the kisser with the gift of great flattery, sweetened by humor and flavored by wit.

I love this guy! xoxo

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Defining Purpose

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

As a child, that was an easy one to answer.  I wanted to be a writer.  Or an attorney.  Or an artist.  Or a game-show host.  In my experience, though, the closer one gets to adulthood, the more elusive that answer becomes.  There are so many wonderful and fascinating opportunities in this wide world and finite life that choosing just one feels intimidating.  What if I don't choose the most interesting career?  What if, after pouring time and money into becoming something, I change my mind?

As a teen looking forward to college, I knew that I wanted to learn business management.  Law was intriguing, too; but I also knew I wasn't interested in more than four years of college, so business won out.  In my first year of college, I knew that Kent and I would be married.  I then received direct instruction from God that, even though I wasn't much interested in babies and little children, Kent and I were not to wait to have several babes of our own.  Knowing that, I finished my degree quickly and settled into motherhood.

It was the most challenging thing I've done.  I poured myself into the work of diapers and feeding a family, organizing neighborhood preschools, and frequent trips to the park.  Sometimes it was rewarding, but mostly it was hard.  I pushed through it, knowing I was on purpose and believing the sentiments expressed in the following video were true.

As a young mother looking forward to the light at the end of the pre-school tunnel, the question changed to "What do you want to do when the kids are all in school?"

I wondered why I needed to change my direction.  Yet society indicated at every turn that while motherhood was fine and noble, I would again have every opportunity before me once the youngest child moved into first grade.  When that blessed day arrived, I did cherish the quiet hours during which I could finally catch up on laundry, balance some bank statements, and enjoy lunch with a friend.  Certainly, though, there was something more meaningful I should do with my time to contribute to humanity's cooperative; and maybe I could help out our household income too.  And so I took on lots of things that felt more important than cleaning my house and preparing after-school snacks.

Kent has faced similar decisions in the past two decades.  Like me, he is interested in everything and wants to try it all.  He's been a plumber's apprentice, a real-estate investor, a small-business investor, a door-to-door salesman, a phone salesman, an entrepreneur, a business consultant, an office-furniture guy, and now an executive for hire.  In the 14 years since college he's been involved in nine start-up companies.  It's been an adventure being married to a man with so many interests.

Our children are following in our footsteps.  We teach them that college is only an option, not a requirement.  They should feel free to instead start a business, travel the world, intern or apprentice, serve others, or find a job.  My teenagers know that they are intelligent and the world is full of opportunities and crossroads.  So how does a person narrow her choices and pursue just one?

I think that question needs to change.  We now ask our children, "What do you want to do for the next five to ten years?"  None of us need commit to a lifetime in one occupation or passion.  With so many options, and with decades before us, why not pursue several?  We need to give ourselves permission to change our minds down the road.  College and knowledge are always available.  We encourage our children to first choose a destination, and then define the path.  If college is part of that path--great.  If it's not--great.

I am 2 1/2 years into my youngest's full-day school career, and I think I may have chosen a path without a destination in my hurry to be doing something to contribute to income and satisfy the question of what to do with my quiet time.  As I ask myself what I want to do with the next five to ten years, another question begs, "What am I passionate about?"

I am finding that I am no longer passionate about what I have become good at.  I am also finding that my children's ages continue to define my purpose.  With #1 only a year-and-a-half away from adulthood, I've realized that I am not done being a mother first.  I truly love volunteering at the secondary schools to work with my children and their peers.  I like driving my children around to their various activities.  Field trips and dropping in for school lunch are fun.  I like being a thoughtful wife.  I want an organized and sparkling-clean home.  I could spend all day gardening, remodeling, or building furniture.

It seems pretty clear that my defining purpose for the next decade is as a homemaker.  I want to be the mom who chaperons choir tours and coaches my kids' academic teams.  I want to dabble in writing on the side.  I want to support my kids in their business ventures, and maybe even teach the child who wants to be home schooled.  I'd like to partner with Kent in a valediction project in a couple years.  Primarily though, I want to maintain and be a refuge for my family.

My current commitments continue to pull me away from that choice, and so I am in the process of defining my path away from those and back to my family.  I have to say, their pull is strong.  I know I could be an awesome manager for the charity I work for.  I could pour hours into my Church service and never come up for air.  But giving my time primarily to those occupations takes it away from my purpose.  I need to take my own advice: family is first--and--it's okay to change course.  This doesn't mean that I'll relinquish my Church service.  It just means I'll delegate more and be satisfied with less than I know I could accomplish there.  Additionally, I will work myself out of my paying job to let someone else takes those reins.

A moment with #5 earlier this week cemented my decision.  For nearly three weeks, he's begged me to give him a haircut.  This was unusual, given the other two haircuts that went bad, and considering how much he likes the hot-towel treatment at Sports Clips.  But I was confident that I could give him a trim without a bald spot.  Still, between work and travel and holiday prep, I had to put his twice-daily requests off.  Finally, I had 17 free minutes before school on Monday.  I pulled #5 onto a kitchen stool and got to work.  Midway through the cut, my 8-yr-old said, "Mom, you know why I wanted you to cut my hair this time?  It's because I like having conversations with you.  The stylist at the haircut place always talks to me.  Last time I heard her manager tell her she did a good job on conversation.  I like talking with you.  We have good conversations."  That was a slightly painful compliment to hear.  How many of these conversations have I missed by being too busy?

Here's another piece of my own advice that I need to take:  Out of all of eternity, I have each of my children under my roof for a minuscule 18 years.  My children should not have to wait for each month's hair growth to get my undivided attention for 17 minutes.  I am tired of shushing them so I can finish an email to someone who is paying for my time.  I have covenanted to the work of wife and mother, and I will now bring my purpose back to where I first promised it.  In another five to ten years, feel free to ask me what I want to be.  For now, I'm choosing motherhood.