April 4, 2014

Less Buts. More Ands.

But. It’s the lovechild of Truth and Denial, second cousin to Nevertheless.

A simple three letter word that takes up less than a half-inch of nine point Arial font. Easily read and pronounced unlike the billion dollar, multisyllabic words. And so we use it a lot. Maybe the sheer convenience of But is why we default to it so often. At the same time, And - another short, easily recognizable word - is used sparingly.

I can’t help but think the world would be a better place with less Buts and more Ands.

With But, everything is a mutually exclusive event, and everything is an either/or proposition.
This pot roast is good, BUT it needs a little seasoning.
Can’t you just see crotchety Aunt Sally (or whoever is notorious for critiquing your meals) grimacing as her words mask her intent to say your pot roast is barely palatable and far beyond the help of a little seasoning?

And, on the other hand, is a connector. In the land of And, things happen in tandem and mutually exclusive events don’t exist.
This pot roast is good AND it needs a little seasoning.
Just reading that, I can practically smell the rich, earthy comfort food aroma of gravy and beef, and see a cozily lit kitchen with windows fogged from the oven’s warmth. I hear my husband anointing his blessing on this comfort food, salt shaker in hand, and I feel good about the many hours that I…um, I mean, the slow cooker put in to make it.

Now that’s just dinner and a little salt.

Other times an And instead of a But could make the difference in self-esteem, the way parents and children relate and lessen heartbreak’s blow.

I think of the insecure teen.
You’re so smart, pretty and funny, BUT you need to lose about twenty pounds.
All she heard was that she’s fat. But erased the compliment that preceded it. All of it.
And might have helped her fully accept all the good and soak it in. And maybe that would help her believe in herself enough to work on losing twenty pounds. Or maybe to like herself just the way she is.

I think of the worn out parent.
I love you, BUT I’m really mad at you right now.
Hey mom, all Emma heard is that you’re mad at her. She didn’t hear the love part, and she thinks she needs to be the perfect kid so you won’t be mad anymore…and so you’ll love her.
And might’ve helped her understand that being upset doesn’t mean you stop loving.

I think of jilted lovers.
I’ll always love you and we’ll always be friends BUT right now I want to see other people.
Guess what? The whole part that came after the BUT, that’s all you really wanted to say...isn't it? Well, believe me, your soon-to-be ex heard it loud and clear because everything in your pre-BUT speech sounded like every adult in every Charlie Brown special: wahmp-wahm- wahm-wahm-wahm-wahmp.

But. A tiny word, so simple and unassuming, yet so potentially dangerous.
We use it without thinking of the power it holds as an eraser of the positive.
We add it into conversation as causally as we would a pinch of salt in boiling water, without considering its impact on feelings or relationships.
We use it as a lubricant to casually slide in our real message when we don’t have the guts to come out and speak our truth.

Just using And more often instead of But would force us to choose our words carefully, AND make us think about the real message we want to send AND be truthful enough to say it, even when the truth hurts AND if that happened, wouldn’t the world be a better place?

I think so.

March 31, 2014

Reminders from the Mallard Duck Couple

There is no perfect time. There isn't a certain time when things settle down or the pieces all fit together. Things are what they are when they are.

The Mallard Duck Couple already knows this, as did all the other Mallard Duck Couples before them, I suppose. I only know this because I watched them as we walked by a narrow stream.

Standing in the stream's current was a hip-wadered fly fisherman.

Oblivious to water bubbling over rocks, gurgling past driftwood and moving through and around his hip waders, he gracefully cast and re-cast lines creating more ripples on which sunshine could dance.

That's when I noticed the Mallard Duck Couple. They weren't faring well in the current as fly-guy was. Beneath the water, their little orange feet were visible, and paddling fast and furiously against it, even as their bodies couldn't help but bob and dance along atop the water to the stream's rhythms.

But soon, their feet joined their bodies and gave in to the waltz, and they stopped paddling. Not with freak-out quacking. Not with a frantic "we're outta here" flight away. They chose to stop, to allow the stream to carry them until the current slowed down a bit. When it did, they calmly paddled out of the current and over to the place they wanted to be.

For good or bad, currents aren't just a part of life. Currents are life, including sickness, lippy eleven-year-old-girls (ahem), illness, working because you have to not because you want to, and any and everything else that keeps you up at night.

But there's also the good too: the smell of coffee brewing on a Saturday morning, listening to your child gab on the phone and remembering it was only a few years back that she learned her first word, laughing so hard your stomach aches, when your husband reaches for your hand just because..and of course, good hair days.

The Mallard Duck Couple has it right.

Life's currents can't be stopped; and sometimes paddling against them is necessary. Other times, you've just got to have sense enough to let them carry you until you're able to waddle off to the place you wanted to go in the first place.

March 16, 2014

Paper Plates and Cabbage

We needed paper plates. Not one thousand paper plates. Just enough to tide us through the days when we don't feel like washing dishes. That would be a quick trip to Walgreen's. From parking, to running in, to checking out, it'd be ten minutes. Tops.

Which is perfect, because despite my near constant presence at The Store, capital "T" capital "S," I hate shopping. From making the list, to scavenging for items matching the coupons painstakingly clipped, to throwing the stuff in the cart, to waiting in the checkout line, to lobbing the stuff from the cart onto the conveyor belt, to stuffing it all into the car, to hauling it into the house, only to pack it away where it magically disappears into the cupboards, fridge and freezer: I loathe shopping, and also, especially The Store, capital "T" capital "S."

Doesn't help that the place is one square block, and nine times out of ten, if I'm there for even four things, all four things are in opposite corners of the square block.

After hopping into the car for the ten minute Walgreen's trip, I remembered: We need cabbage for St. Patty's Day. Walgreen's has a lot of stuff, but cabbage definitely isn't one of them. No. That's a job for The Store, capital "T" capital "S.

What about the gas station? They have plates, right? And cabbage? No. No the gas station does not have cabbage, and if they did, I have a sneaking suspicion that I wouldn't want it anyway.

Once I was done banging my head on the steering wheel and a series of choice words, I headed to The Store, capital "T" capital "S" and began my one block amble for two items that were, expectedly, located in opposite ends of The Store.

Item 1: Cabbage. Done.

Photo: Joshua Minso, Cutcaster.com
Item 2: Oh, wait! Pineapple's on sale? I'll just grab one of those. Oh, and do we have carrots? Well, you can never have enough carrots. I'll take two bunches. 

Now onto...
Item 2: Paper plates. Done.

At just over thirty minutes, I was done. Almost. Because that's when I thought it would be a nice treat to make homemade mint green shakes since swinging by McDonald's for the annual Shamrock Shake was out of the question by this time.

Forty five minutes later, I finally reached the Promised Land: the checkout line, only there was no line. I did a happy dance and grinned in response like I had just pulled off the greatest heist in history.

One, by one, as each item plopped onto the conveyor belt, I reviewed them to myself: Pineapple. Carrots. Paper plates. Green shake stuff. Cauliflower.

Cauliflower? Why the? What the? Where's the cabbage?

I'll never know why I picked up cauliflower instead of cabbage. All I know is that it's most likely in the corner opposite of the cauliflower, and that I'll be back at The Store, capital "T," capital "S" sometime tomorrow.

February 23, 2014

What the Commode Said

It came to me in the space between our commode and bathtub, which is about six inches in older, smaller homes like ours. The area rug had been removed to expose the tile floor for its weekly scrubdown. (If you're thinking What type of slovenly person only does this weekly, stop reading here because you're way beyond my pay grade.)

After gathering a plethora of multi-colored, pungent toxins, with my right hand bracing the tub's edge and the left bracing the porcelain throne, I took the knee and began scrubbing, rinsing, re-scrubbing and rinsing again over the pop and crackle of patellas, rubellas, nutellas and other assorted bones.

Soon my forehead was in this tight spot, around three inches from the floor. Geez, it probably looks like I'm praying down here or something. I shook off the thought and craned my neck to inspect the underside of the bowl.

Wait a minute...really? Wasn't I just in a board meeting a couple of weeks ago, spouting off a super-important report in front of super-important people?

Maybe it was the fumes, but I swear that's when the bowl spoke. It said:
Yes, you were in a board meeting. You were all dressed up, and even wore make-up that day, if I remember correctly.
Well, yes that's exactly what I was getting at. I mean --
The commode interrupted: You say you believe in Jesus right?
Are you kidding me? You're bringing up Jesus at a time like this? I'm doing the crappiest job in this house, and you're bringing up...HIM? It's not enough that I feel like the maid  or a servant right now...
Exactly. You believe He was the ultimate servant...right?
I seriously am hating this toilet right now. Yes.
Well, what do servants do? The easy stuff, or the stuff the masters don't want to do?
Rolling my eyes. The stuff no one wants to do.
Now, you got it. Remember when He washed --
My turn to interrupt Yeah, I know: He washed His disciples' stinky feet.
And you want to be like Him?
Yeah. I get your point. Now shut up so I finish up.
Um...if I'm remembering correctly, He did it gladly.
Step at a time, Tidy Bowl, step at a time....
It wasn't the fumes, and it wasn't the toilet. Sometimes God just uses the mundane stuff of life and positions -- in my case a literal position -- to remind us of what He expects us to do for others and the messy-ness involved with those expectations, physical and otherwise...and the spirit in which we're supposed to do it.

Message heard.

But for the record, I'll be transferring bathroom cleaning duty to Jamie and/or Georgia...wouldn't want them to miss those rich reminders which sometimes can only be heard in the space of six inches.