Perfectly Imperfect Day

One of the perks of living in a world full of chaos and turmoil is that it causes one to evaluate what is really important in life.  Or maybe it's the sudden clarity, how I can look at things from a slightly different perspective - a sort of silver lining effect.

It's the reason I was okay with lazily slapping some thawed out Thanksgiving pumpkin roll from the depths of our freezer on the table and calling it breakfast.  "See, kids?  It's pumpkin cake.  What a treat!"

It's how, after completing a math lesson a piece with each of my girls (from last school year, mind you), we opted to just throw some of those stigmatic Lunchables and Lance crackers in a cooler and head for one last midday-weekday hurrah at the pool/splash pad before they move to weekend-only hours for the rest of the season.

As the day wore on, after swimming in the pool, splashing around, dining on "fancy" picnic tables in the hot, afternoon sunshine, we collected our things and traipsed back to the giant van where I realized that I'd only brought enough dry clothes for half of the family, but decided - It's cool.  We're only going to be strapped in carseats on the way to drop Ben at church for a quick youth event anyway.  No big deal!  This is not a real problem in the grand scheme of life.  We've got diapers for the little ones.  Dry clothes, be darned.  Two mostly-naked babies, one girl sitting on a towel in a wet bathing suit, two dried girls, and one completely-dressed near-teenager ought to get us to our ultimate destination.  We dropped the biggest kid at the very-short youth event during which I planned to make a happy hour Dunkin' coffee run.

Except, on the way to feeding my coffee addiction...the entire 24oz bottle of water consumed at the pool went straight through our chronic, habitual pee-er.  And with not-clothed babies and a mom wearing "dry clothes" (loosely interpreted as last night's pajamas now soaked through from the wet bathing suit underneath), stopping at a public restroom was not really an option.  As I weighed the possibilities ("Sit tight!  We can make it back to church.  They don't expect anything differently of us there.  They know we're a hot mess!"), the problem-solving child took matters into her own hands, procured the largest diaper in the diaper bag and relieved herself in the backseat of the van.

I almost died.

Of laughter.

This child has been potty trained for quite some time.  We're talking...years.

And yet, the problem was no longer a problem.  Well done?

That still left us with about 30 minutes to waste as we pulled back into the church parking lot.  It was about 2:30pm, and, I assure you, well beyond naptime.  We eyed the mostly-shaded playground and decided to go for it.  After combing my van for the third time hoping some spare clothes would magically appear, I came across a pair of shorts for Noah.

We filed out of the giant blue van with fully-dressed nine and seven year old girls, a four year old girl in a bathing suit and flip-flops, a two year old boy in just shorts, an infant in last night's pajamas, and me, also in last night's now-wet pajamas.  I put my sunglasses on to shield me from the glare of Noah's neon white belly.  I shrugged.  They played.  It was surprisingly lovely.  Even more surprising was how compliantly they filed back into the van at 2:57pm.  (Just kidding, I had to wrestle Noah into his seat.  There may have been karate chopping involved.)  We picked Ben up, got home, and I promptly put Hannah in her crib, and laid down next to a beyond-tired Noah for his way-late nap.

As is the custom at naptime, I read him a (very short) book.  Then I sang him the ABC's.  Immediately following the alphabet song, he screamed, quite belligerently, "JESUS!!!!"  That, of course, meant that he wanted me to sing Jesus Loves Me, and given his current state, using polite manners was not a battle I was picking at that particular moment.  It was also not lost on me the irony of how angrily he asked me to sing him such a sweet song about our Lord and Savior, but I obliged the request and he sweetly pretended to try to go to sleep while I sang it.

I tiptoed out of his room to take a much-needed shower.  When I emerged from the bathroom thirty minutes later, I discovered Noah.  Not sleeping at all.  Watching Leah play a Kindle underneath one of four very-elaborate blanket forts that sprang up in my living room yesterday.  And what's that sound?  Oh, it's Hannah.  Also not sleeping.  On the bright side, no naps means earlier bedtime.  See?  Silver lining.

Was it well-planned?  Perfectly executed?  Without flaw?  Manicured and coiffed?  Not even a little.  But it was enjoyable.  Hilarious.  Well-lived.  And most of all, not taken for granted.

Don't be sad. Be kind.

This world, man.

Things seem to be unraveling pretty quickly, am I right?  Of course my parents have been thinking that for years.  And their parents before them too.  As it turns out things have been pretty bad for a long time.  Well, actually, since practically the very beginning.  Of man.

So, while I'm here wringing my hands and staying awake at night solving all of the world's problems instead of drifting off to sleep, I have to remind myself that I cannot solve all of the world's problems.  I cannot.

Abortion, racial injustice, presidential candidates, poverty, parent-less children, terrorism, natural disasters, gun violence.

It's daunting.  It's depressing.

I can't fix it.

But you know what I can do?

I can hold the door for the person behind me.
I can write an encouraging note to a friend who's down in the dumps.
I can smile at the person holding up the line at the checkout instead of frowning.
I can call my server by name.
I can get to know a stranger.
I can send a text just to check in.
I can stop being afraid.
I can pray.  All day long.
I can learn as much as I can about as much as I can.
I can try to understand a different perspective.
I can high-five.
I can tell my representatives how I feel about it.
I can stop hoarding and share.
I can laugh with those who need to hear a joke.
I can listen to those who need an ear.
I can cry with those who have nothing left but tears.
I can withhold judgment and refrain from jumping to conclusions.
I can respond with grace instead of anger.
(And then...) I can apologize when I don't.
I can deliver a meal.  Or at the very least, chocolate chip cookies.
I can stop to help.  Or chat.  Or dance to the Smokey Joe's Cafe soundtrack in my living room.
I can stop looking at "the big picture" and bring it down to a personal level so that it's not just "an issue" anymore.  Instead it becomes the story of an individual, just like me, who is in the midst of very real, very serious, very unpleasant circumstances with some super hard choices.

I have a tendency to view situations as all or nothing.  If I can't be all in and I can't do it to completion with an A+ result, I'm out.  Forget it.  But real life isn't like that.  Sometimes you just have to dip your toes in.  Do the first thing before the next thing.  Intentions are great, but actually doing it is better.  I get so distracted by the big picture that I forget that details matter.  Small things can make a profound difference.  It's probably best to start there.
How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.
~William Shakespeare, Merchant at Venice
Here's to being a candle.  However small.

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