Housekeeping

We all like things that resolve. This is what Netflix binges are founded on—we feel the need to keep watching, keep watching, until the particular issue is satisfactorily resolved. The trouble is, they always bring in some new issue and turn in to a great overlapping of storylines and cliffhangers, unlike the Little House on the Prairie TV series, where every episode was a full story in itself and all the problems were solved in one short, 20 minute span.

I rarely binge-watch anything but I know the feeling of un-resolve. I feel it daily in the projects, the piles, the priorities that stack up on each other. Housework itself is a continual coming-to-terms with un-resolve: clean it, dirty it, repeat.

I used to bleach my floors (we had white linoleum and babies and I didn’t know any better) and obsess over nooks and crannies, but not so much anymore. On the one hand I’ve come a long way in my housekeeping skills; on the other, I simply don’t care as much about dirt I can’t see. And my eyesight isn’t what it used to be.

I have lowered my standards, I suppose, but I still like a tidy house. I just value my time and sanity more than I used to.

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I’m currently reading Hannah Anderson’s All That’s Good and dutifully going through the questions and reflections at the end of each chapter. Chapter 3, Worldly Wise, is about discerning “the difference between lasting goodness and temporary pleasure”. One of the reflections was to “Share something mundane that you do everyday that has eternal value,” and the first thing that came to mind was the daily, unending work of bringing chaos back into order in our home. I feel like there is a more spiritual answer that would be “right”, something like reading the Word or praying for others, but mundane is the key word in the question.

Daily ordering is a creative act and we are acting in His image when we create, looking forward to the resolving of all this disorder. One fine day God will deliver creation from the bondage of corruption (Ro. 8: 21), and until then, we’ll keep ordering creation, ordering our homes, best we can.

Speaking of mundane, here is how this practically works out in our home *right now:

Mondays everyone is gone all day so my only homemaking goal is to have a dinner plan and clean the kitchen before bed. Most of the time the sink will be empty at bedtime. Sometimes the dishwasher is full and no one cares to unload it, so the dirty dishes sleep in the sink. No one dies from this scenario.

Tuesdays I catch up on any laundry, plan our school schedules, and do the inevitable paperwork necessary for life. Lately, I’ve been washing several loads of laundry and piling them up so I can have a marathon fold-and-put-away session while I listen to podcasts.

Wednesdays I start early on housekeeping projects and do any school with my youngest that he will need me for (which is minimal), so that I can sequester myself in the guest room for a writing day by 10 a.m. By 3 or 4, I emerge, go for a walk, and come home ready to work like a whirlwind for the evening. This is the day for cleaning bathrooms, dusting, and watering plants.

Thursdays are for vacuuming and mopping. This doubles as a work-out, unless I have one of the kids do the vacuuming. It’s also dump day — the one day a week our local transfer station is open.

Fridays are heavy school days, so minimal housekeeping.

Saturdays and Sundays we might do a bigger house project or work outside if the weather allows, but I generally let the house go. Honestly, it never gets too bad because we have a daily routine that keeps a semblance of order. On Sundays I plan the week ahead: meals, appointments, and activities go in my bullet journal.

Daily, we are doing things like emptying the dishwasher, wiping down counters and stainless steel appliances, swiping dirty toilets, running a load of laundry to completion, and constantly putting stuff back in its proper place. The kids are a big help and also a big producer of stuff and dirt, so it balances out. They all do their own laundry hallelujah; I’m sure someone’s dresser or closet needs an overhaul but I don’t check often. I make our bed daily; the kids’ are all upstairs and, again, I don’t check often. These things aren’t worth battling over right now—when they were younger we lived in a house with downstairs children’s rooms and they made their beds everyday. At this point, some do, some don’t; mom doesn’t care as much. About once a month I inspect upstairs and “request” things be put back in order.

Housework will always be part of our quotidian routine on earth, and one more reason to look for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). The best scenario is to be thankful for a house to clean and set a timer, remind yourself how little time it actually takes to tidy up if you do it daily, and intersperse the daily with times of whirlwind house cleaning that doubles as exercise.

*As with all things in life that you try to make routine, this changes with the seasons. I used to really struggle with not being able to make a plan and stick to it, forever. But life is just not that way. I plan more specifically week by week, and I offer a lot of grace for changes.


How to Live in Space

I. Metaphors

We are covering Shakespeare and poetry in my Monday class of high school juniors and seniors, and you’d think we were asking these young adults to bare their very souls in that classroom. If you asked them to do that, they would resist with a fury. This is the response when you ask them to write a poem, or even to listen closely as I read. “Poem” is a four-letter word of the most vulgar variety.

Weeks ago I listened to Christine Perrin on a podcast discussing the teaching of poetry. She said that poetry gives us the ability to think in metaphor, to have analogies for our experiences and the way we see the world. Understanding metaphors and analogies and making connections is key to developing empathy and understanding — I can relate to your story, even if I’ve never experienced your life.

I try to convey this to my class but it’s like telling kids to eat their vegetables — the fact that you say it’s good for them, even if they know and believe it’s good for them, does not make the eating of the vegetables more appealing. I preach to them about challenges and growth and not wasting time, meaning: You are assigned to read this stuff; you are good kids who want to check the boxes and do what you’re supposed to; you might as well dig in to what you’re reading and see if you can benefit from it. This isn’t the greatest motivator and my words come out more exasperated than they should.

Life can make us dull and forgetful. It’s easy for me to check out when I’m overwhelmed, to drift through days without noticing or paying attention. Like a young adult refusing poetry or Shakespeare or anything else they fear they’ll never use in the “real world”, I create a vacuum, missing beauty and power and wonder. Some things seem close and important. Things far away seem less important. I become deceived by proximity and urgency and the light of my own importance, and the days empty of anything awe-inspiring.

II. Meteors

A few mornings ago I went to the hot tub at 6 a.m, in the dark. Everything changes so fast on the border of seasons — just a month ago at 6 a.m. the sun was lighting the yard and revealing the landscape, but now it was clear and cold and dark at 6 a.m. There were no barriers to the night sky. Looking up, I could almost feel the spin of earth.

We are blessed without street lights and the sky is an internet of activity when we let the world be dark like this. I watched the blinking lights and noted the position of the little dipper, handle down between the two spires of evergreen in the garden. I think it was the little dipper, anyway. I am not an expert at naming, and in this case, the name isn’t important — I noticed the stars. I saw lights that blinked and moved, and lights that flickered in place. Jets passed. I think the International Space Station passed, outpacing the jets and much brighter. Stars fell from the sky as I sat in my fixed place on a spinning satellite, orbiting the sun, orbited by space junk, flying through the cosmos, soaking in the chlorinated water of my hot tub. 

Three shooting stars shot across the sky and made me feel like a kid again, lying in a field somewhere in Montana and watching the big sky like a drive-in movie. The meteors were far away and the planes were close and the space station moved quickly, and none of these ways of describing are sufficient for a world like ours. None of them fill me with the awe such a world deserves. But to say the meteors fell toward earth and I wasn’t afraid of space coming too close might seem dramatic — true, but dramatic, and drama is a dis-creditor.

Van Gogh painted Starry Night from an asylum. When you’re an expert at something you can be as dramatic as you want, describe things the way they are to you. Likewise, when you’re a little paranoid and frenetic (Van Gogh did all of his paintings in a 9 year period, sometimes completing one a day for months straight), the sky can glow and swirl and drop right into your lap. But you may not be a genius or an expert until you’re dead, unfortunately. Society seems to need time and space to feel ok with crazy ways of noticing the world.

Distance equals safety. Had I been closer to the sky I’d have wanted a blanket over me, a covering or magic cloak to hide in. Proximity to the cosmos inspires an awe we miss as we look at the ground — the commonplace of stars and planets and space junk flying unchartered, un-piloted, unhinged far above us as we live our mundane lives. But a clear night brings it all close. Darkness and silence remind me of the whirling universe I’m sailing through, not centered in

I’ve heard the flight of a bird — the flap of friction over wings over hollow bones. I’ve heard the whip of a ball sailing past my head, the whoosh of a towel snapped tight, and the whistle of bottle rockets, but I have never heard the song of the morning stars or the fizzle of a meteor falling to earth’s atmosphere. Something so large and powerful, but so far away. Sound is mostly lost in the near-vacuum of space, not having the matter needed for sound waves to travel through. Maybe those songs are still traveling, the speed of sound trying to catch up with the speed of light as it bounces off space matter millions of miles apart; someday, might all the sounds of all the lights in all the heavens reach us, finally? 

How huge is a cosmos like that?

The great danger for all of us, youth and adults, is not that we will make mistakes…The great danger is that we will live unaware, unresponsive, unbelieving.
— Eugene Peterson, As Kingfishers Catch Fire

The security against this danger might be a dark morning, or a whirl through the cosmos, or poetry. I wish the kids would get that, but maybe the most I can do is bring them closer.