Thursday, June 28, 2012

Order - Fighting the Good Fight

Deep cleaning today. I call it excavating. Hand me my pick ax. Toss me a hard hat with attached headlamp. I'll send the sacrificial canary into the boys' room ahead of me.

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work I go!

Among my finds:

1. Legos, Legos, Legos.

2. Money. Mostly pennies, a dime or two, one quarter.

3. Batteries and lots of them -- one C cell, a sprinkling of triples A's, double A's like you wouldn't believe. If magnetic North is slightly askew, you can confidently pin it on the Dolins.

4. My cell phone -- in three pieces, in the dryer. Better than the washer, as Dave so helpfully pointed out to me. It's warm and wrinkle free, but surprisingly still working.

And as I clean and straighten and purge and organize, I -- for the nine hundred and eighty second time -- reflect on the crushing amount of baggage we haul through this life. It is a first world phenomenon, this life of plenty and excess, this house of closets and spiffy storage containers.

How best to tame it?

1. Don't let it in the door. -- There's nothing like a day spent purging to dampen any shop 'til I drop mentality. Our bookshelves are full. Our closets are stuffed. If there's nowhere to put it, why buy it? Even the free stuff really isn't free. Corralling and storing, sorting and organizing -- make no mistake about it; all this costs us plenty.

2. Get rid of it. -- Danielle Bean once said, "Let it earn a place in your house." Wise words. I tolerate the Legos because we have gleaned hours innumerable of fun and creativity from these bricks I've stumbled over, swept up, and sucked up. They are worth the hassle. Then there's that Old MacDonald game that has sixty-seven pieces and absolutely no discernible point and an annoying song to boot.

(Don't tell the littles, but Old MacDonald just bought the farm.)

3. Hide it. -- My older boys are messy, no two ways about it. I finally moved an armoire into their room. This thing is large, and it has doors. We keep them closed.

4. Deal with it. -- There is no getting around the daily grind. My kids forever lament that there is always work to do. Such is life.

We all want a system, a plan, an inspiring book, something to make it all so very much easier. All these are great, and I've found help in all of them.

But there is no replacing hard work, hard, hard work.

It's not glamorous. It's not flashy. It's not fun. In fact, every one of these steps involves discipline -- saying no to something we want. Putting things away when we'd rather let them slide. Waking up every day and running the dishes, folding the laundry, vacuuming the rug.

And that's all child's play compared to the next step in family life: passing these jobs on to the kids. Directing the children to put away their toys, mow the front lawn, load the dishes. Listening to them kvetch and argue and distract. Redirecting them to put away their toys, mow the front lawn, load the dishes. Surveying their work and instructing them on how to better put away their toys, mow the front lawn, load the dishes.

And doing it all again tomorrow.

You want an SAT word I learned just recently? Acedia. Wikipedia defines this as "a state of restlessness and inability either to work or to pray" and as a "precursor to sloth."

In his Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas writes that sloth becomes a mortal sin "on account of the flesh utterly prevailing over the spirit." Wikipedia continues, "Acedia is essentially a flight from the world that leads to not caring even that one does not care."

In the physical realm and in the spiritual realm, in battling our appetites or in raising our children, when we try to quit smoking or yelling or speeding, in going to work morning after morning year after year, we prevent the flesh from utterly prevailing over the spirit.

In short, we fight the good fight.

A friend's message on Facebook the other day: Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes it's the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I'll try again tomorrow."

So true.

As I fight the good fight to wrest some order in this house of mine, I have high, high hopes that my children will stumble upon another truth: Hard work brings with it a sense of accomplishment. We capped off a day of chores with pizza and a l-o-n-g trip to the pool. Ainsley tried out her new float; Kolbe learned to dive; John swam like a fish. We arrived home to a clean kitchen, orderly rooms, a spiffy lawn.

I'm guessing they weren't quite as thrilled as I was, but maybe one day . . .

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