A Beautiful Mess

There was a time, I seem to remember, when I was a fairly "together" kind of person.  I maintained tidy work spaces, had legitimate organizational methods, and obsessed about minor details.  (Okay, I still do that last part.)  I had the luxury, way back when, of maintaining order at a more professional level.

I'm sure you can guess what happened.

(That's just one more on the way.  In case you're confused.  We just like to be surprised on the birth day and prepared with a tiny onesie in either case.)

As we've added children, our lives have gotten fuller, both in the emotional sense of having more love and all that jazz, but also in the very real, physical sense because we have more stuff, schedules, and personalities to navigate.  As the years have progressed I've had to teach myself to delegate.  (Actually, my much-wiser-than-me husband not-so-subtly suggested that it was imperative to include our children in the household duties for lots and lots of very good reasons, not the least of which was that I was running myself ragged and not accomplishing much despite doing so.)

For example, I delegated towel folding to my eldest who picked up the folding torch and keeps the stacks nice and uniform, facing the right direction.  He, in turn, delegated the task of carrying the nice, neat stacks to the bathroom cabinets to his younger siblings who actually seem to enjoy running around like tiny delivery people.  The part that makes me itchy is when these younger helpers insist on doing some folding on their own.  The stacks are less uniform, almost never facing the right direction.  But they are folded.  And no longer on my fireplace.  Or favorite green chair.  Or on my laundry room floor.  Lord knows I need all of those places for the next load of unfolded, but clean laundry.  And so, I concede to the imperfection.

Another chore of utmost importance is doing the dishes.  I have not clung to many formalities in our large family life, but eating off of legitimate plates with actual silverware is one that, save for an occasional backyard picnic or pizza and movie night in the living room, I just cannot let go.  As you can probably infer, this means we load and unload the dishwasher on pretty much a constant basis.  True to my own personality type (or flaws, whatever), I had a difficult time delegating because I had particular ways of doing things (like loading the plates in a certain direction) and I wanted to be able to actually find the dishes, etc. that were unloaded.  We started with unloading only.  I would stand (or hover, depending who you talk to) over and watch as the younger ones attempted to comb their hair with clean forks before putting them in the drawer or touch their mouths to the clean cups before placing them in the cabinet.  Gentle correction remedied these minor transgressions.  For the most part, they do a fantastic job.  They've broken no more dishes than their spaz mother manages to break and things are generally where they belong (even if I can almost never find a colander), despite the fact they might not be put away exactly how I'd like them to be.

Tonight, as I was about to prepare my nightly cup of water (so I can chug it at bedtime and then proceed to get up every hour all night with an urgent need to pee - why? why do I do that?), I opened the cabinet and chuckled.

The stories this cabinet could tell.  Who looks in a cup cabinet and gets nostalgic?  Me.  That's who.  The days of perfectly-cut shelf paper and matching, organized glassware are a distant memory, but the remnants of 15+ years of my life carry on this cabinet.  A cup I used as a pencil holder when I was a senior in high school after selecting Mercer as my college destination.  Free cups from Mercer events, including a customized one from my freshman RA.  Preakness glasses that, ironically, Sam got on a business trip to Baltimore but that remind me of "home."  A few, yet unbroken, glasses from a set that we picked out at Ross when our college glasses dwindled.  A set of stemware that our girls use to drink ginger ale out of when they're feeling particularly fancy.  A lovely set of platinum rimmed tea glasses that were gifted to me from family.  A cup from Publix when we went trick-or-treating there with our brood.  Small juice cups that mostly serve as dippers on our watercolor painting days.  A giant plastic football cup from the last event ever held at the Georgia Dome.

Mostly, though, I see the crazy, upside-down, right-side-up randomness, and it makes me smile.  That's not something I ever imagined I'd say.  This insane cup cabinet tells the story of my crazy, upside-down, right-side-up, random family.  It's messy.  It's imperfect.  Some days, it's seriously upside-down.  Some might call it chaotic.  The thing is, it's us.  It's teamwork.  There's beauty in that mess.  There usually is.  Given the choice or the chance, I wouldn't trade it for perfectly-cut shelf paper and matchy-matchy.  This is the beautiful mess God has given me.
Family life is a bit like a runny peach pie — not perfect but who’s complaining? ~Robert Brault


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