Important Disclaimer

Since I currently have several employers/supervisors/churches/etc., please know that none of the words on my blog represent them or their beliefs. This blog is my own creation.

It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.
(Quick update: only my mother thinks I'm funny now.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Recycled Mantra

I got home late tonight with the children because we had spent the day scrubbing our old apartment from top to bottom. And by "we" I mean that I cleaned for 7 hours while the children wrestled and played and stole cash from my pocket to get sodas from the corner store.

We stopped by the Wawa for a late dinner, and all I could manage to eat was a coke icee and some pepperoni and cubed cheese in a plastic cup. Don't judge me--it's not like you came over and cooked.

When I got home I opened my email and found a message from my old landlord that said, "I noticed this morning that you vacated the apartment, thank you! What will you do next?" I believe this was a very polite way of saying, "Thank God you moved your crap. You *are* going to clean, right?" Or, in other words, "Please don't make more work for me."

This phrase, "Please don't make more work for me," arises during certain times in my life, and this is perhaps my mantra for the next month as I jump back into school, settle the children into their own schools, close out my time as pastor at tiny church, and create a home out of our new apartment.

"Please don't make more work for me," is what I said all day to the children as I cleaned. I didn't mind cleaning while they played. I had put out a pathetic, last minute plea on facebook for someone to take the children while I cleaned, but nobody was able to help. A few people responded with humorous suggestions to make the children clean as well, but we have been moving for two weeks now: packing, cleaning, lifting, going up and down stairs, making changes big and small. The children are tired. I am tired. Scrubbing an apartment thoroughly was not on their can-do list for today. So I was delighted to let them play while I worked.

But the thing that gets under my skin is when I'm buzzing along with my work and somebody makes more work for me. For instance, I announce I am going to mop the bathroom floor and ask if anyone needs to pee. Firm denials from the peanut gallery, but two minutes *after* I mop the floor, before the vinyl has dried, a nameless child skipped into the bathroom to take care of business...leaving muddy footprints along the way. This means mopping the floor again, of course.

Or earlier in the day, when another nameless child got it into his head to use the vacuum crevice tool as a sword to bludgeon his brother with. A) I was too tired to go get a new crevice tool if that one broke. B) I wasn't sure I could get another crevice tool for this vacuum. C) I don't have the money to buy a new vacuum with a crevice tool. D) I absolutely needed a crevice tool as the various crevices of our apartment were filled with that delightful amalgam of tiny legos, beads, food crumbs, kitty litter pebbles, and bits of acorns the children brought home to feed the squirrels on the porch. E) I didn't want to deal with the shrieks of rage from the other brother as he got bludgeoned with the crevice tool.

So I looked straight at that child with all the authority I could muster and said, "Please do not make more work for me." I'd like to say that he stopped in his tracks and put the crevice tool down, but it was actually a several minute long negotiation that resulted in this disgusted exclamation: "Sheesh! You're no fun, Mom."

But I'm in that place right now where all I can think and say is, "Please don't make more work for me." My to-do list is already several pages long, and that's just for tomorrow. When the earthquake rolled through today and the new apartment wobbled like one would expect an old New Jersey building would, I was grateful it wasn't a big earthquake because we would've been squashed as the building fell down on us. But I was also grateful that the earthquake didn't knock any of the books off their shelf, where I had *just* finished unpacking my library. I was indeed grateful for safety. But the fact that the earthquake didn't make more work for me? Golden. Perfect. Most excellent.

I'm finding this carries over to the rest of my life too. And it's not just physical work. I don't have time or internal resources for extra emotional or spiritual work either. I find myself avoiding people that drain me of emotional and spiritual resources--people that I love and care about too! I just don't have it. And I won't have it tomorrow or Thursday either (and especially since Thursday I take the children to the dentist, and *that's* always a kick in the pants).

It happens every now and then that I have too much to do and it all has to be done now. And in those times, I find myself saying over and over, "Please don't make more work for me." Because the work I do have is overflowing, and one extra thing will disrupt that flow. I say it to the cosmos and Jesus too: "Please don't make more work for me. No flat tires. No family emergencies. No complications with the children, the church, schoolwork, custody arrangements. Please no broken appliances or anything else that costs money. Everything is running along at break neck speed, and all my focus is on precision and detail, making sure we keep running.

It's like this: I've been carrying loads of cripcrap down stairs to my car for a week now. 32 steps to be exact: 2 sets of 8 steps, then a long flight of 16 steps. 2 more cement steps to the sidewalk, then down off the curb to get to the van. When you're carrying boxes and can't see your feet, you need to knows these things--you gotta count the steps as you go. Otherwise I will trip and fall, breaking everything in the box and my body too, and that will definitely make more work for me.  So when the children come out while I am carrying boxes and counting, and they ask me a question about how many popsicles come in a box, I say to them, "Please don't make more work for me." And then I feel out each of the rest of the steps with my feet carefully, because by now I have disastrously lost count of the steps.

But maybe the biggest culprit is myself, because assuredly the person who makes more unnecessary work for me than anyone else is my own silly self. I forget I am allowed to say no. I forget I am allowed to call in sick. I forget that I can't run forever in this frantically precise mode of existence. I forget I do not have to engage every twitter discussion that catches my attention. So perhaps the biggest lesson of these seasons in my life is a reminder to say to myself often, "Please don't make more work for me."

Thanks, mgmt.


  1. The time stamp speaks volumes.

    I am one person living alone, and yet always making more work for myself. This is a good reminder. I can't send any laboring hands, but I can send cupcakes. Lemon.


  2. Wow, Katie. I get it. I really do get it. I have a similar mantra - "I don't get paid enough to deal with this." After thinking about it, I realize that I really mean "Please don't make more work for me." I feel your pain more acutely lately - spouse has been relocated 2 hrs away, we can't sell our house, lots of life changes, and I'm playing single parent during the week. My usual mantra has been running through my head but I know it doesn't make sense because I don't get paid to live my life! But you get what I mean? Please, please, please...don't make more work for me. I guess, ultimately, what can we say no to that will give us the breathing room we crave? Prayers for you (and me) that we will find some peace soon.


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