Up Until Now

The Laundromat life....

The Laundromat life….

I believe I have shared before that the “house” part of “housewife” gives me a fair amount of trouble.  So, when a child fails to meet my remarkably low standards for cleanliness, it suffices to say things have gone far past messy and landed squarely in the middle of just plain “ick”.

This is the predicament my oldest son landed in over the weekend.  He had already had a rough week having injured his back at practice, he was hobbling, a bit broken and I just didn’t have the heart to get grumpy.  When his father used the word “disgusting”, I figured it was time for an intervention.

“How did you do this to yourself?” I asked my 15 year-old.

“Well, I wish I had some exciting story to tell you, Mom, but my room just got away from me.  I’m kind of a disaster. ”

Argue for your limitations and sure enough, they’re yours.  –Richard Bach.

As we ate breakfast, I began noodling about how to handle this one.  Then, I told my sons that they needed to gather all their dirty laundry.   While I did the dishes and danced around the kitchen to my favorite Pandora channel, I heard the scurrying overhead.  A few moments later my incredibly bright middle kiddo, Drew, expressed fairly articulately the serious concern he had about the amount of laundry in his brother’s room.

That’s when it hit me.

“Boys, listen up!  I want you to put all your laundry into large trash bags and bring it downstairs. “

“Ok, Mom.”

As the trash bags filled my kitchen, I was warned that their numbers were going to be disturbing, and I admit, I didn’t realize Nick had that many clothes.  In all, more than 6 large trash bags were assembled.  Wondering if the Irish in my heritage might show itself, the boys searched my face looking for signs of an imminent temper tantrum.  They needn’t have worried this time.  I had devised a plan.  My spirit was calm.

Here’s what I know from plenty of first-hand experience.  We all have well-worn patterns of defeat in our lives.   It was time for a little lesson on how the past doesn’t have to dictate the future and that we must take responsibility for making good choices.  Language can be powerful and words have the power to transform us.  We needed to invoke the power of “UP UNTIL NOW.”

I instructed the boys to put the back row of seats down in the van and told the uninjured teenager who had warned me earlier about the volume of dirty clothes to load up the heavy laundry bags.  An act of Christian charity was about to be performed by all of us for the benefit primarily of my oldest son, but hopefully the lesson would resonate.

“Guys, I need you to bring me every quarter you can find.   And, Zach—grab a deck of cards.“

“What’s going on, Mom?”

“Boys, we are going to the laundromat.”

The Kwik Kleen Laundromat in Carmel, Indiana is what I would deem typical as these places go.  It was adequate.  However, the rows of washers and dryers were an unexpected delight to my three laundry novices.  They seemed a bit giddy in amazement of the place, which I estimate was last renovated perhaps in 1982.  Who knew it could be so much fun to load clothes and coins into washers—13 washers!!?

Zach and I played ourselves into a 5-6 euchre deficit against his older brothers while the washers did their job, and then the completely “awesome” complimentary wheeled baskets whizzed about the place at the hands of the Thieme boys as we dropped quarter after quarter into dryers all over the building.  We were operating so many of them at the same time that my 8 year old worked off his breakfast checking the timers on them all and providing play-by-play.

There are no mistakes. All events like this are blessings from which we can learn.  God clearly tells us that our challenges and problems are not unique.  No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to us all.  (1 Cor 10:13).

When we had finished washing, drying, and folding all these loads of clothes, I looked around and realized that my guys were all smiling from the experience.  We had giggled our way through the laundromat afternoon, mercilessly teasing Nick for the hole he had dug for himself, but with our good temperaments undamaged.  We had freed him to begin again.

Smiling and loading up the van was the perfect time, I thought, to underline today’s lesson.  Surrendering negative thoughts and changing poor patterns means looking to God for a new way.  It’s news I wish I had assimilated years ago, and so, as I learn it myself I want very much to share the lesson with my sons right away.  Waiting until age 42 is a touch pathetic, so I am trying to save my boys a long ride on the “struggle bus.”  How do I explain what we’ve just done?  I have about 2 sentences to impart some hard learned wisdom, since that’s the attention span of 8-15 year old boys.  Hmm.  Choose your words carefully, Shelly.

Come, Holy Spirit. That was my silent prayer.

Then, I said, “Nick.  Do you remember telling me this morning you’re a disaster?”


“Up until now.”


“UP UNTIL NOW, you have been a laundry disaster.”

“And now, I have a fresh start and I will do a better job. “

“That’s exactly right.  You can do this better.  I know you will.”

This is what God tells us.  You must replace negative thoughts with positive ones.  We can screw up in ways small and large, but His advice is filled with common sense.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.  Then the God of peace will be with you. (Phil 4:8-9)

In other words, think positive and positive change is possible.  When tempted to fall back into old patterns of unhealthy thinking or behavior, add the words “up until now” to your sentence.  I’ve been trying this of late and I think it’s brilliant.

“Up until now, I have been a laundry disaster.”

“Up until now, I have failed in exercise.”

What about you?  Up until now, what have you done??

Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies. – Mother Teresa

Shelly 2.0

What’s wrong with you people?  Why can’t you understand how special I am?MotherTeresa

I mean sure, I have a little bit of a patience issue this week, but the sun hasn’t been out in months here and I am a tax season widow–so there are special circumstances.  Plus, I’ll grant you that I’m well past the pleasantly plump label at this point, but you have to keep in mind the medical challenges and my personal history.  It’s been too cold to exercise EVERYDAY.   I mean, the time hasn’t been right.  It’s a special case.  The laundry might be a smidge backed up, and I forgot to take the trash cans in AGAIN.  The “house” part of “housewife” is constantly giving me fits.  But you see, I have 3 boys playing on five teams right now who need to be carpooled to 2 different schools everyday…. and I hosted Easter last week and this weekend was my youngest son’s first communion.  We were celebrating.  We’re really busy.  It’s spring break.  I’m sure you’ll agree that’s different.  It’s a special situation.  I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

ENOUGH.  My “special” attitude isn’t working.

It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels. — St. Augustine

Ever feel like you’re overdue for an attitude change, a behavior shift?  If failure drives change, then I guess I am in the middle of a new experience with freedom here.   There is a certain freedom, after all, in knowing I don’t have to worry about screwing up anymore.  It’s happened.  I’ve already done it.  BUT, I hear without failure, there is no growth.

Growth in my case seems to mean I need to come to grips with being a little smaller.  Pun intended.  I mean it literally and in a figurative way.  Now might be time to put down the goldfish crackers and come to grips with my nothingness.

A friend of mine who has survived a long ugly battle with leukemia told me once that she wakes up every day and no matter how crappy she feels, she wants to do something positive for someone else.

Karen is clearly on to something.  It’s time to start waking with a new attitude.  So, I decided a change is in order–less me, more God.  If God is love, then I am going to thank God for the day He has given me by doing something that makes someone smile.  Inspire someone.  Be someone’s light.  Love more.

I prayed about it and I thought about it and I committed to a turnaround.  Let’s go!

Cue reality.   The day before yesterday, my internet went out.  This isn’t a new problem.  We live in a not so bright house, if you catch my drift.   I unplugged it then turned the modem back on.  Nada.  Then, I waited for a miracle.  If a particular service has been dead more than 24 hours, I let my fingers do the walking.  The nice gal tried at the cable company to work her long distance techno magic, but the pinging was to no avail.  She decided I needed a new modem and scheduled a service call for today.

A few hours later, I noticed that my land line was dead.  Since we have the same provider for the phone, internet and cable, I decided I would dial them again from my cell phone and add this issue.  The words of Mother Teresa rolled around in my mind.  Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.  Okay real life, here we go.

That’s when I noticed that the dead modem was looking more alive and my email was operational.  So, I hooked up via cell phone with my good friends at Brighthouse and a customer service gal who identified herself as Vicki answered.  Here’s how our conversation progressed.

“M’am, I see we already have a service call scheduled for tomorrow.  Do you need to reschedule?”

“Vicki, no I don’t.  I just need to chat with you for a second.  You see, when I called earlier for service and talked to the other gal, it was my internet that was out.  Now it’s my phone.  But the internet is working again.  The modem has come out of its coma for now.”

“Oh, okay.  So you want to cancel the internet technician but have a phone tech visit instead?”

“Well, Vicki, not really.”

“Mrs. Thieme, I am so sorry you’re having trouble but you don’t need to get upset, I will do what I can to help.”

“Listen, Vicki.   You can relax and call me Shelly.  No one has cancer over here.  I’m not worked up at all and there won’t be any phone rage.  This isn’t an emergency of any kind.  It’s just that I am bummed I am paying for phone, internet and cable and I don’t think all three have ever been working at the same time for a solid week since we moved here.  I already know all your technicians.  Can we talk?”

“Thank you for being nice M’am.  What can I do?”

“Well, Vicki, I know you have thousands of customers.   There’s nothing special about me or my house.  I am just thinking maybe we can talk about what other options you have there.  Do you guys have a team of super smart geeks you send out to call on the houses of people who are yelling and talking about unfair treatment?  I kinda want a shot at those guys.  Only I am going to be nice and try to make them eat super yummy cinnamon bread that I am now not allowed to eat myself so they will stay long enough to untangle the technology cluster going on over here.”

Audible giggles.  “M’am.  Shelly, I mean.  Can you hold for a minute while I do something I say I am going to do but rarely actual do?”

“You’re going to talk to a supervisor, aren’t you?”

“Yes M’am, please hold”.

“Thank you for holding for so long and being so nice.  I’ve checked your account.  I think we can do a better job for you.  I’ve asked permission to give you a promotional discount we give to new customers.  Your bill will be $61 less per month from now on.  Oh, and this month you have been given a $50 credit.”

“Vicki.  That’s so kind.  Thank you for doing that!  I’m not sure what possessed you but gosh I am grateful.”

“M’am.  I’ll tell you.  It’s three things.   You didn’t complain about being on hold for 42 minutes. You are so funny,  and best of all, you haven’t tried telling me how important or special your problems are one time.”

Hmm.  I think she just said she was extra nice to me because I know I’m NOT SPECIAL.  Haha!!  Okay, God.  I hear you commenting on my change.  Shelly 2.0 it is.

“Our technicians will be at your house tomorrow between 8am and 10am.  Is that okay?”

“Vicki.  I feel like you used a plural word.  Did you say technicianzzzz?”

“Yes, M’am.  I did my best.  Thank you so much for being really nice.  Good luck.”

Pope Francis said, “The sin that repulses me most is pride and thinking oneself as a big shot” in an interview for a book written about him by Sergio Rubin in 2010.  He said when it happened to him, “I have felt great embarrassment and I ask God for forgiveness because nobody has the right to behave like this.”

Seems like our new pope might be working with more updated software than yours truly.

Version 2.0:  Less me, more others, more love, more God.