Sunday, August 17, 2014

Childe Hassam, Elizabeth Goudge, and the Flylady

Lately I am developing healthy housekeeping habits so my family and I can have happier, more creative, less cluttered lives. I am carefully following the Flylady's kindly instructions. In the past I have used the Flylady website to get inspired and then jump into revamping my whole life in an intense, unsustainable and self-destructive way antithetical to the Flylady's wise principles of slow, steady, non-perfectionistic habit forming. Now I am simply doing what the Flylady says to do when she says to do it, and order is emerging without a lot of fuss and bother or discouragement and self-recrimination.  

I'm a stay-at-home mom with stay-at-home kids, but as I implement the Flylady's principles day after day I'm realizing that in some ways I've never been home-oriented. Two childhood fantasies were living in a library to explore books to my heart's uninterrupted content and not having a real bedroom but a fully supplied art studio instead. I didn't want a home, just a place to accommodate my head, my hands, and later, my spirit, when monastic life seemed appealing. I see this now as a deficiency in my ability to receive nurture and to take care of myself as a fully embodied person, a human. That is not what I want to pass on to my children.  

So I am humbly obeying the Flylady. My sink is empty and shined every night, even if dishes are stacked on the counter (which they are less and less). In the morning I take care of my own grooming before I jump into meeting everyone else's urgent needs (Before, I had felt, accurately, that their urgent needs were basically my fault because they resulted from my lack of organization and sensible preparation, but my response only perpetuated the cycle). I spend fifteen minutes a day getting rid of stuff that I don't want but for some reason have felt obligated to keep. So now when I go into the kitchen in the morning, all neatly dressed and washed and brushed and see the nice clean sink and more space on the counter and in the cupboards, I feel energized and ready for the next step. As I take time to treat myself right, I feel more lovable, more loved and more loving. The funny thing is, habitually taking the moments to shape my home and to care properly for my whole human self, actually makes head, hands and spirit time more available and more satisfying.

These cozy images of homes by American Impressionist Childe Hassam (1859-1935) fit my mood right now, as does this extended quote from Elizabeth Goudge's lovely book, Pilgrim's Inn:

"But they were talking about the deplorable state of the world, about that terrible bomb, about famine and inflation and chaos and death, and her mind shied away from their talk like a terrified horse. She couldn't do anything about now, at eighty-six, except pray, and in between her prayers, now that the war was over, she wished they would let her forget sometimes that things had not turned out as well as one had hoped, and enjoy the things that were left: the spring sunshine slanting into the quiet room and lighting up the flowers, the lovely ripe corn color of Pooh-Bah's coat, the hot tea, the log fire burning on the hearth, whispering and fragrant, the feel of dear old Bastard's chin resting on her shoe, the sound of the sea coming in the pauses of their talk.

" 'Don't,' she cried to them suddenly. "It's this that matters--this!'

" 'What, Mother,' asked Margaret, who never could follow the working of another's mind unless it was explained to her very carefully and at great length.

" 'Beauty is truth?' asked Hilary, coming a little nearer.

"But Nadine, without words, stretched out a hand and gently touched her mother-in-law's. They had both been married and borne children. Lucilla knew always, and Nadine knew in her more domesticated moments, that it was homemaking that mattered. Every home was a brick in the great wall of decent living that men erected over and over again as a bulwark against the perpetual flooding in of evil. But women made the bricks, and the durableness of each civilization depended upon their quality, and it was no good weakening oneself for the brickmaking by thinking too much about the flood."

This painting of a farmhouse lit without by moonlight and within by lamplight is my favorite.


  1. Melissa, your words were like breakfast for me this morning. Thank you for sharing your process. I receive with new gladness the vocation of brick-making. Blessings. Margie

  2. Is this Margie from Res? Anyway, I am so glad this was encouraging. After posting this I had second thoughts--discomfort from exposing weaknesses--so I'm extra glad to know it was helpful to you. Thanks for letting me know!

  3. Melissa, your vulnerability blesses me, too. I've been working on this for many years, with some progress lately as you have been too. Grooming first, kitchen sink first, it's a little like the oxygen mask for the parent SO THAT you can take care of your kids. To my shame, I've focused on my teaching and learning and neglected their physical needs. I'm cutting back on homeschool, putting some in part time school for the older ones, and focusing on the learning issues and the eye glasses and the cleaning and cooking. For me always it has been the cooking regular meals that has stymied me, probably lack of care for self at root, lack of hope for food being healthy. I'm giving more time to my kitchen and to providing food for my kids, loving my husband through cooking him meals sometimes. I'm also trying to make sure I focus on the little ones every day, a walk, pushing them on a swing, noticing their diapers and changing them, enjoying each little address of a need. To my shame, I've neglected their physical bodies seeing only the spiritual in everything, the intellectual, and prizing that above their life on the earth as it is lived in food, sleep, baths, play. Changing. In Jesus, MB