Tuesday, November 3, 2015

People Over Things

Although Daylight Saving Time went into effect a couple days ago, it was still too early for the sun to be on the rise. My husband was just beginning to stir. Through the darkness of our bedroom,  I said, "Please help me remember to be a Mary today, not a Martha." He pulled me closer, kissed my forehead, and promised to do that for me. "I need to remember that people are more important than things." 
My mom and stepdad left Virginia yesterday, and will be stopping in Illinois today on their way to Utah. Operation Clean and Straighten went into overdrive yesterday. I don't know why I'm like this, but I am. I ask myself constantly, "Seriously? Why are you doing this?" when I catch myself getting worked up over making the house look a little more like those in a magazine than it does.

Basically, I am fairly organized, and pretty tidy. A deep cleaner I'm not. But right before company comes...

None of the trash cans have a speck of trash in them. Why? (So my mom doesn't think we throw stuff away?) My shower doors are practically gleaming. (As much as old shower doors can gleam, anyway.) I have vacuumed the downstairs. (I suppose I think fresh vacuum tracks will prove I made an effort to impress.) Today I will dust, and mop, and polish mirrors. There are many, many tasks that will go undone. And when it's all said and done, it will be okay.

My mother is not exactly a "white glove" kind of mom. She doesn't inspect her kids' homes and issue reports, or gossip about her findings with anyone else. (And if she HAS told you about my housekeeping, keep it to yourself, okay? Mum's the word.) 

So why do I do this?

When we were growing up, we lived in a big, old farmhouse, packed to the roof with kids. Ten of us lived there, and my mom did her best to manage the masses, but it was an uphill battle. I can remember, as a teenager, being critical of our messy house. Mom provided a place for each of us to hang up our jackets after school, but the family room and back hall were littered with shoes, coats, school books, and toys. I would beg Mom to throw away the leaning tower of Tupperware (and Cool Whip and margarine containers). I swore I'd only have the bare necessities in MY kitchen when I grew up. 

Now I'm the grownup. There are not eight children in my home. So why isn't it spotless? Why do I have an excess of containers for leftovers? 

I think I aspire to live up to the standards I wished we could have had when I was younger. And I fail miserably. And I don't want anyone to know that. 

On the other hand, I am a lot like my mom. Our houses may not be spotless, but we love being with family and friends, and we live life with optimism and enthusiasm. I hope people remember that about us, more than our housekeeping skills. 

If you want spontaneity, I'm your girl. If you want me to be ready at a moment's notice, I can do that. If you want me to drop what I'm doing to help someone, I have no qualms about that. 

Just ask Chuck. We go and go and go. I love taking off with him to do photo shoots, go for rides, and eat out at restaurants. All of this flying by the seat of my pants comes with a cost, though. 

My house suffers a little. My floors go a little long between moppings. Dust gathers on windowsills and mantels. And sometimes there are dishes still on the drying rack in the morning when I wake up that are still there when I go to bed. Most of the time, I'm okay with this. As long as things are put away, and somewhat organized, I usually don't worry about some crumbs and a little dust.

Knowing someone is coming to visit changes things. I have a lot in common with Martha in the Bible story about Mary and Martha, and the way they acted when they had Jesus as a guest. I fret about the details, and forget the big picture. I tend to work myself into a frazzle getting the house company-ready, instead of just welcoming the opportunity to visit. Rather than being relaxed before guests arrive, I stress about the things I should have done sooner. And on occasion, while everyone is visiting, I'm still taking care of last minute details in the kitchen.

My folks aren't coming to see the house, and I know that. They could care less which chores I've completed, and which were left undone. They are coming to see US, the people who live in the house, not the building in which we live. 

Chuck knows how I am, and so even though he was very tired after a long day at work, and a photo shoot last night, he quietly moved the furniture to the basement that we won't be using during the holiday season. (We put up our Christmas tree on Halloween, and there's just not room for the coffee table in the living room.) 

This morning before he left for work, he gathered our camera bags and backpacks, and took them upstairs to our storage room, so the office looks tidy and organized again. While I was cleaning up from our breakfast, I heard the vacuum, and I went to scold him, until I saw that he was vacuuming the stairs, and then I was just grateful for his help. That hurts my back, and he knows it. 

So right now, I've decided just to do only the most necessary of preparations for guests. I will mop the kitchen, put fresh linens on their bed, and finish vacuuming upstairs. Then I will relax, and prepare to enjoy our special guests. We're keeping things simple as far as dinner is concerned; we're treating my parents to Giordano's tonight so they can try Chicago-style pizza for themselves, and bonus: I won't have to cook!

Today, I will be a Mary, and enjoy the people inside the walls of my home, and let the house stand on its own. Chores can wait. Family and friends are so much more important than a house worthy of a magazine cover. People over things. That's the mantra for today.

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