Bicycling in Kilkenny

Bicycling in Kilkenny

Flying for Free: Part VII

One of the philosophies of the space-a traveler is to make the most of every time and place they are in. There is no need to waste the mone...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Spaghetti all over the desk.

We have this huge desk in the main room of our house. We got it when we lived in California via Freecycle. Freecycle is this great website, kind of like Craigslist, only the items are all free.   Thanks to that website, we got this giant solid oak desk with numerous drawers and shelves for free.

Now, ten years and two moves later, I am sitting at this desk staring at the spaghetti mangled across it. By ‘spaghetti,’ I don’t mean the kind you eat. I am talking about the cables, wires, and USB cords that have become staples in our consistently plugged-in society. I notice how this spaghetti has grown and also become more tangled just since I last looked at it 48 hours ago. 

This mess was a mess, but a smaller and less tangled mess just 48 hours ago when we, and by ‘we,’ I mean ‘I’ decided to disconnect from all things electronic. “We will unplug,” I said to our family Thursday afternoon, “tomorrow at midnight, and we will remain unplugged until Sunday night at midnight.”

The teenagers weren’t crazy about the idea, but I just knew they would warm up to it given the chance. 

I had images of late evening storms and their inevitable power outages I sometimes secretly hoped for. With power outages came togetherness and communication: something that was too often forgotten in my own generation of 24-hour television and music videos and even more so now in our time of social media and personal music players. 

Families seem to be at their best when the lights go out. Where each individual was a moment before staring at their own individual screen or having their own private avatar conversation, they at once form a team in search of flashlights, candles, and matches. After they jointly create light, they sit down together and perhaps play games or even just talk.

This is what I hoped for when I suggested we put our DVDs, Facebooks, email, and Skype on hold for a weekend. 

Friday evening came with nearly all of us getting the most out of whatever gadget we chose. Like eating a huge dessert the night before beginning a diet, we were all getting our fill of electronic pleasure before our upcoming fast. 

I didn’t want to admit it to the children, but the fast would be difficult for me. I am very much tied to my laptop, but I wanted to force myself away from the stuff just as much as I wanted the kids to get away from it. I wanted our family to spend real time together.

The next morning I woke to cloudy skies and a tiny bit of a nip in the air. I hobbled down the stairs to the coffeepot where the microwave said 11:30. ‘The kids must have been messing with the clock,’ I thought, ‘I never sleep that late.’ I walked into the dining room where the clock on the wall confirmed the time on the microwave. I still didn’t believe it until I checked my cell phone. ‘Yep, we really did sleep that late.’

That is not how I wanted to start our family weekend together. I had plans of making pancakes and sausage, but by the time I had my first cup of coffee, three kids were sitting down with English muffins and jam. 

I didn’t give up, though. I knew things would work out somehow. Eventually, I went outside with a book. Before I could even open it, Darren came over to me. “We should build a tent outside,” he said excitedly. 

I pondered his words for a moment. I didn’t really want to go to Outdoor Rec and rent one. I thought of all our camping supplies we left back in the States that are just sitting in our shed doing nothing. 

“You know what, Darren,” I said all of a sudden knowing just what to do, “That is a great idea! Let’s build a tent.”

That was all it took. One simple idea from a six-year-old set the tone for the entire weekend.   And thus began the teamwork I was looking for. We all worked together with blankets and clothesline cord to make a pretty amazing tent. And then, we set up all the lawn chairs and made a nice table with a big slab of wood resting on two coolers. We brought the grill over by the chairs and voila: we created a backyard campsite!

We had fun playing games and just sitting around talking. We ate ribs and coleslaw followed by roasted marshmallows and s’mores.  We spent real time together as a family without interference from the spaghetti of our modern lives. 

And now, after having had such a wonderful weekend without the interference, I find myself staring at the spaghetti on the desk. I wonder why someone has plugged a triple holed socket into a power strip. ‘That can’t be safe,’ I think, ‘where did all these extra wires come from?’ I unplug the whole thing for a moment, a temporary solution to a permanent problem. I imagine a life in simpler times, before all this TV and internet business came into play when people actually communicated and connected with each other. 

I begin to assess all the cords, determining their level of necessity. I want to get rid of some of them, but they all seem so important.  I pull them apart and re-route them. I move the triple holed socket to one of the wall sockets behind the desk trying to hide it, creating the appearance of peaceful organization.  

I do the same thing with my life. I have so many cords and cables and peripherals running, I often find myself in a state of mental spaghetti. When it gets too much, I think of removing something, but it all seems so necessary. I can’t give any of it up.

I imagine my life in simpler times, when being a stay-at-home mom was enough for me, but I also know that all the cords and peripherals in my life are necessary now. Just as our society can’t go back and undo the internet, I cannot undo where my life has taken me. 

So I hide the triple-holed socket and as many wires as I can from view and just keep trudging along. I create an illusion of peaceful organization for myself. I tell myself that I can do it all because I have to.

But it isn't really me alone who does it all. Just like the wires on my desk get their power from a seemingly infinite source, my power comes from THE infinite source. 

When I try to do it all myself, it is spaghetti. My life goes this way and that, and I feel as though I can never make it through. 

But when I unplug all the wires for a few moments and am able to step back and reorganize and reprioritize, I realize that I must plug them back into the only source that can give me the power to maintain it all. When I rely on God's power, peaceful organization is no longer an illusion, it is a reality.

“I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me” (Phillipians 4:13 NAB).

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day 34 "We'll be here when you get back."

The military induced separation has several stages, much like the five stages of grief. I am not really sure what the psychologists say about it, but I do know what our house experiences. 

The first day we just chill and do only what we have to. We watch movies. We eat whatever we can find in the fridge. I check the internet often to make sure he gets to where he is going safely. I hear cars park nearby or the neighbors’ gates open and shut and think it might be him for a split second before remembering he is not home.

And then there is the second stage which apparently started today. We were all at each other’s throats. The kids were on edge toward each other which in turn put me on edge toward them which in turn put me on edge toward my husband when he called today. 

We were all on edge.  

Then there is the added stress of my little one acting out.  He’s too young to be on edge so he just does crazy stuff. Like when he took all the wrappers off 8 bars of soap yesterday while getting poop all over himself and the bathroom, and today when he made a mini-pool out of the bathroom sink complete with toys and a even a spectacular waterfall flowing all the way down to the floor. 

I am pretty sure my five-year-old is the only sane one in our family right now. He just says it: “I miss Daddy. I wish Daddy were here. I want to call Daddy.” I think the psychologists were on to something when they realized it is good to talk about our feelings. 

I hesitate to voice my feelings when it comes to my husband being gone for several reasons:
1.  I signed up for it. I knew what I was getting into when I married a military man and again when we both made the decision for his return into it. How can I complain when I knew separations would be a way of life for us?
2. There is always another military spouse who has it worse than me. I have never had to deal with a deployment longer than 6 months. There are many whose spouses are gone for a year or more. How can I whine when mine will be home quicker than it took them to get through stage 1? 
3.  I am a strong military wife. Nothing should phase me. I should be able to send my hubby off to war or wherever else without batting an eye, especially after doing it so many times before. I should be used to it.
4. The worst but biggest reason that I try not to complain is that some military spouses treat separations like soldiers treat their war wounds. They always have to one up. I am guilty of it too. The conversation normally goes something like this: Spouse #1 says, “My husband just left. I miss him so much.”  Spouse #2 says, “How long is he gone for?” Spouse #1, “Four months.” Spouse #2, “Oh that’s nothing. My husband was gone for 8 months out of all of last year and he missed all our kids' birthdays plus Christmas.”

Most spouses don’t feel comfortable expressing their feelings because they are told to be thankful that the deployment is not longer or in a more dangerous place. That’s almost like telling someone they should be happy they have skin cancer because it is not a brain tumor. It doesn’t matter. When my husband is gone, he is gone.

I know he will be back, but until then I am going to miss him.