No apology needed, yet we give them anyway.

The sink in our upstairs bathroom broke.  To clarify, the pipe underneath the sink in our upstairs bathroom broke, which caused a steady stream of water to puddle at the base of our vanity along with the Lysol wipes, hand soaps, and bottle of toilet bowl cleanser.  Eventually, the puddle must have reached critical mass and spilled onto our bathroom floor, creating a puddle there, too -- one that I stepped in, which is how I discovered the leak.

My husband called his friend, a handyman for a local apartment complex, to look at the pipe.  The next morning while I was at work, his friend came, diagnosed the problem, repaired the pipe, and went on his way.  Simple.

I came home, pleased with the quick fix and how I wouldn't need to brush my teeth at my bathtub spigot that evening.

Then I looked around our bedroom for a moment, knowing that our handyman friend must have walked through it to reach the bathroom.  The bed was made, but the rest of the room was a mess.  Because I had been painting my oldest daughter's room, all of her belongings had been transferred to our room.  Unwieldy mounds of her bed linens, stuffed animals, and books were stacked on top of our own furniture.  Her mirror, bulletin board, and pictures leaned against our bedroom walls.

Clutter everywhere.

As I looked around, I wondered if my husband had thought to explain the mess to his friend as he directed him to our bathroom.  I didn't ask, though, because I know the answer would have been no.

He wouldn't have said, "You see, Robin was painting Reese's room, so we had to move all of her stuff into here.  Please don't mind the mess."

He wouldn't have said, "Sorry, I know this place is a disaster."

He wouldn't have offered an apology or explanation, because there was no apology or explanation needed.  He knows that it's our house and we live there.  He knows that sometimes rooms get painted, and possessions temporarily get relocated into piles in other rooms, and pipes break, and messes naturally occur, and other people witness them.

In other words, he wouldn't have offered an apology because he understands that people live in houses, and living can be a messy prospect.  And because he's a man.

In contrast, I've noticed how quickly apologies are issued when a woman lets another woman into her home -- sometimes even before the guest steps through the front doorway.  Sorry that there's still a half-eaten waffle and syrup dripped on the kitchen table, even though it's almost dinner.  Sorry my kids have dropped their socks everywhere.  I'm just warning you... this place is a mess.

Our apologies and explanations suggest that it's a moral failing if throw blankets aren't neatly draped across the back of couches, or mail is unsorted on the counter, or shoes are left at the front door, or unrinsed dinner plates still sit in the kitchen sink. 

We apologize to each other for living in our own spaces, as if this is wrong, as if real life shouldn't take place within the walls of our homes.  At the same time, we all know that real life does take place in our homes -- and, sometimes, real life involves a broken pipe, a painting project, and a bedroom in a state of upheaval.

Best yet, real life also involves friends who are willing to come at a moment's notice and help when you're in a pinch, without caring whether your bedroom is messy.

That's real life.  When no apology or explanation is needed, let's stop giving them.

Let's give other people the gift of knowing that our houses look just like their houses: lived in.


Another Parenting Milestone

A lot of parenting involves slogging through the daily routine, but every so often, you encounter a moment that stops you in your tracks.  There are traditional firsts, like the time your child first rolls or takes uncertain steps.  There are highly-photographed firsts, like first days of school.  There are firsts that make parents sigh in relief, like when a baby first blessedly sleeps through the night, or when kids first learn to buckle their own seat belts and you no longer have to wheedle yourself into back seats to click them into safety.

In my parenting journey, I experienced those types of early firsts years ago.  Even so, life keeps evolving, and yesterday I experienced another first.

I drove my daughter and her friend to the public pool, dropped them off at the curb, waved as they walked to the counter and showed their passes, and then drove away.

Let me recap: I left my child in a public place -- one that is not school -- and then I left the premises.  Because she's twelve.  Because she and her friend are very responsible and capable of surviving without adult supervision for two hours.  Because I have reached the point in parenting where I'm not needed every single moment of every single day.

Parenting from the sidelines.  It's a first, I tell you.

Image compliments of USAG Livorno PAO


The Unfinished State of Many Things

I like doing projects because I like when projects are done.  I enjoy cutting the grass because I enjoy how a freshly-cut lawn looks.  I enjoy cleaning a closet because I appreciate the newly uncluttered results.  I stick with the doing because I want to get to the done.

Right now, though, I'm in the midst of doing stuff.  I'm smack dab in the middle of multiple unfinished projects.  I've applied one coat of fresh paint in my daughter's bedroom, but I missed the window to immediately apply the final coat during the weekend.  I've begun the process of packing my campus office because furniture (and faculty) are being rearranged, so I'm surrounded by boxes while at work.  I've reached the final week of teaching during the intensely compact summer schedule, a week when it gets messier with assignments, speeches, and an exam before all the loose threads are tied.

Nothing around me feels settled or complete.  I like settled and complete.

But this is okay.  I'm reminded that it's possible to be at ease in the midst of unfinished business.  It's possible to be settled even when your environment is in flux.  I can expect change, messes, and loose threads.  The in-between phases are just as normal as the it-is-finished phases.

So, this week as I finish the painting, packing, and teaching, I'll look forward to the finished results.  But I accept the process, too.  I'll get there.


Mission Completed

Title: Mission Completed

Subtitle: Backpacks, you've served us well this year.  You've lugged papers and notebooks and pencils and lunch boxes for 180 days straight, but today your job is done. Let summer begin!


The Unproductive Day

Before work this morning, I made a to-do list that was much too long for the amount of hours a day contains.  After teaching my class, I had planned to grade speeches, make a return at a store, pick up a gallon of paint for my next weekend project, mail a package, and buy groceries before driving home.  Once home, I had planned on doing at least three loads of laundry, including all the jackets that we had worn through the chilly parts of spring -- jackets that now seem obscenely warm given the mid-80 temperatures.

In my mind, I would complete all of these tasks within the two-hour window after my class ended and before my girls got home from school.  Because I have a time turner, obviously.

Nothing worked like I had planned.  I picked the slowest line in the store to make my return -- the line where the cashier couldn't find the price on an obscure item and the customer decided to pay with a check.  I finally cut my losses, moved to another line, waited until I reached the front, and then was told that returns couldn't be processed from that register.

Every stop on my itinerary was slow and irritating.  Barely anything was crossed off the list by the time my girls stepped off the bus.  To up the ante, my middle daughter said that her foot, the one she had tweaked the evening before while jumping on a neighbor's trampoline, still hurt.  I mustered all of my medical knowledge, which means that I asked her to stick out both legs, looking and feeling to see if there was any difference between the injured and normal foot, and found a sizable lump.

That's how I added an unexpected and lengthy visit to my local Med Express into an already overwhelmingly unproductive day.

As I sat in the exam room, playing mind-numbing rounds of "I Spy" and "I Went on a Picnic and I Took (fill in the blank alphabetically)," I thought back to a similar day during my own childhood.  It had been a Sunday.  I recall this detail vividly because my father had wanted to read the Sunday paper all day, and time had escaped him, and the day was nearly done, and when he finally sat down to read the paper as my brother and I prepared for bed, I accidentally stepped on my brother's backpack and impaled my foot on a pencil.

That night, my dad had driven me to a Pittsburgh ER so the doctor could remove the pencil tip lodged in my foot.  (My dad forgot to bring the newspaper with him.  The waiting room had no newspapers.  Of course.)

We all live days like this.

As I drove my daughter home after getting X-rays and planning a follow-up consultation with the orthopedist to determine if a boot was necessary (thankfully, it wasn't), my thoughts flashed back to my morning commute.  I had prayed quite specifically about the day while I drove.  Perhaps I intuitively knew that my lengthy to-do list was a pipe dream.  Perhaps the Holy Spirit was prompting me to prepare for interruptions.

But I had prayed, "Lord, let me do only what You'd have me do today.  Not more, not less.  Help me to fill this day the right way."

Maybe the right way to fill certain days simply means that you endure long lines with grace.  Maybe it means that you play a dozen rounds of I Spy in a blandly monochromatic waiting room.  Maybe it means that you drop the prescribed ought to's, like three loads of laundry, so you can instead focus on what you must do.

And when you add it all up, perhaps it's still a day well spent.  Even if you don't get to read the newspaper.

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