Monday, November 22, 2010

I'm Thankful for Arm Floaties

Metaphorically speaking, I often feel as though my life is a vast sea of monotony and I am drowning in it.  Okay, okay!  Maybe not "drowning."  That does sound a bit dramatic.  More like, "treading water."  I often feel as though I am treading water, attempting to keep my head above the surface of my mundane responsibilities.  "Waves" of laundry constantly crash down on my head, "undertows" of trips to the grocery store try to pull me down to my watery grave.  (Sounding dramatic again?  Have you been to Wal-Mart?  Have you tried to shop with two fussy and hungry children in your cart?)  Then, there is the steady frothing and churning of toys to be picked up, diapers to be changed, and peanut butter sandwiches to be made.  The sound of my vacuum cleaner might as well resemble the sound of the tide coming in!

I do the same things over and over and over again.  I get up, fix breakfast, clean the kitchen afterward, bathe Lilly and dress both kids, play with Barbies with Lilly (and why is my doll always naked?  even that never changes), fix lunch, clean the kitchen afterward, put Cam down for a nap, frantically mop or vacuum or clean toilets or put folded laundry away, fix dinner, clean the kitchen afterward (notice how I can't seem to get out of my kitchen), bathe Cam and dress both kids in pajamas.  We end the day with our night time routine--brushing teeth, reading storybooks, cuddling, and saying prayers.  The next day:  Repeat.  The day after that:  Repeat.  Repeat, repeat, repeat!

I make an effort to be grateful for the things that break up the monotony in life--the proverbial "life rafts" that drift by me.  Sometimes, they are big things--a zoo play date, a trip to Grandma's house for the weekend, a library Halloween party.  In my "sea of monotony" metaphor, these activities are like the Coast Guard.  Or David Hasselhoff in his red, lifeguard swim trunks.  They save me.  BUT... Most of the time, the things that break up the monotony are small.  Very, very small.  They are mere arm floaties--like the bright pink pair I had when I was a child. 

So, a couple of weeks ago I set out to improve myself.  I know I need to try harder to notice, and then be grateful for, the arm floaties I get handed.  In my new-found goal to appreciate the small things, and in my heightened sense of awareness, I discovered:
 
      *Lilly informing me she no longer wants to call me "Mom."  She would prefer to call me, "Mother."  (I stifled a giggle when she said, "From now on, you shall be my mother and I will call you, 'Mother.'")  
      *Cam and Lilly playing together in Lilly's room, giggling hysterically as if a private joke had passed between them.
      *Cam crawling down the hall, "speedily" following me into his room while exclaiming, "Mumm-mumm-mumm!" 
      *Lilly telling me she's thankful for Jesus because, "He's the one who gave me my heart and put it in my body." 
     
I discovered I've been the recipient of wonderful arm floaties!  My kids have been the givers.  When I take a step back I see there's a lot of love in my swirling, monotony sea.  There's joy in there too.  The small things--when looked at through thankful eyes--prove to be bigger than what was once thought.  And maybe the big things--the outings and events, the vacations and adventures--aren't the "Coast Guard" after all. 

My kids are.
   

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thankful He Showed Up

James and I were married on the 16th of August, in the Logan LDS temple.  (Seven years ago!)  It was a beautiful, summer morning--blue skies dotted by the occasional cotton-like cloud, and a warm breeze in the air, soft enough to resemble a whisper.  The sun was shining as brightly as the delicate bead-work on my white wedding dress.  I knew it would be a lovely day.

James and I had been told to arrive at the temple one hour before our ten o'clock ceremony.  I remember my heart raced in my chest as my dad pulled the family van into the temple parking lot, a couple of minutes before nine.  Butterflies flitted around in my stomach as I walked to the front doors with my parents.  I was nervous and excited, anticipating the events of the day and the start of my new life as Mrs. James McDaniel.       

James had not yet arrived, so I was asked if I'd like to wait for him in the foyer.  I sat down in a chair, nervously rubbed my sweaty palms across my skirt, and waited.

Ten minutes went by.  An elderly woman, a temple worker with perfectly coiffed hair as white as her dress, approached me.  "Is the groom here yet?", she asked.

"No," I replied, and managed a smile.  She patted my shoulder and left.

Ten more minutes went by.  I heard my mother whisper, "Do you think we should call him?"  My dad stood up and took his cell phone out of his suit pocket.  The white-haired temple worker who had inquired about James, returned to my side.

"Still waiting for your beau?", she asked, gently.  I nodded.  It felt as though my throat had turned to sandpaper.  I could fill tears welling up behind my eyes, threatening to gush down my cheeks.  I held them back, like a dam stopping the flow of a river.  I was desperate to keep the dam from breaking.  I was the bride.  I was not going to cry.  I was not going to ruin my "wedding day makeup."

The temple worker asked, "What does he look like?"  I was barely able to choke out the word, "Tall."  Before she left she said, "I am going to watch for him."

Suddenly...

Madness!  My dad was using his cell phone to call James!  A man behind the desk at the entrance to the temple, used a phone to call the McDaniel's home number.  The kind, elderly woman who had asked about James, enlisted the help of another temple worker to "stand watch" by the front doors.  (All they knew was to watch for a "young man" who was "tall.")  My mom was trying to offer me words of comfort.  More minutes ticked by!  My dad said he'd wait and watch for James outside.  A male temple worker offered to go with him.  Our guests were starting to show up; perplexed expressions on their faces when they saw me in the foyer AND with no groom!  A man I did not know, sitting across from me, gave me a dewy-eyed smile that seemed to say, "Oh you poor thing.  I feel so sorry for you."  I refused to hold his gaze for fear I would leap out of my chair, dive across the sitting area, and punch him in the head!  I was trying to keep it together--staring at my hands clasped in my lap, refusing to look at or talk to anyone, frantically trying to swallow the lump in my throat.

And then...

James walked inAnd the room lit up.  His clean-shaven cheeks were slightly flushed from his dash into the building.  He looked beautiful.  I watched as his dark brown eyes searched for me, for my face.  When our gazes finally met across the crowd, I saw an apology in his eyes.  I saw love there, too.

The details that would explain why James was late are not important.  It was unintentional, obviously, and he felt bad about it.  I could have let myself wallow in all the emotions an ordeal like that would provoke--anger, fear, pain, frustration.  I could have taken a simple misunderstanding and let it "rain on my parade."  I didn't.  Instead, I held James' hand, looked at his face, and thought, "I'm thankful he showed up."

There have been many unforgettable moments since then; moments as numerous as the blades of grass in a field, moments when I've thought the same thing I thought on our wedding day:  "I'm thankful he showed up."  Every time he takes my hand, or touches the small of my back, I'm thankful he showed up.  Every time he laughs at my stupid jokes or silly stories, I'm thankful he showed up.  Every holiday.  Every birthday.  Every kiss.  Every baby blessing, and every funeral.  Every time I hear his key unlock the front door.  Every time he smiles at me, I'm thankful he showed up.  Every time he offers me his handkerchief and a shoulder to cry on, I'm thankful he showed up.  The birth of our children, college graduations, good days and bad days.  Every movie date, every thoughtful gift, every card containing his sweet sentiments for me--I'm thankful he showed up.  The times we've moved, the times we've been sick, the times we've been scared.  The stressful times.  The joyful times.  Every argument, and every lesson in forgiveness.

Every moment.  Every day.  I'm thankful he showed up.