Come, Labor On

I’m chronically busy and oversubscribed. Like so many in this day and age, I have to fight the tendency to wear my busy-ness like a badge of pride, or a competition. The last week or so I’ve been particularly hard-working. I think a bit of that is a burst of energy from the renewal I got from camping. I now have the capacity to work just a little harder, so I’ve been tackling the small things and the backlogs that drain energy from the every day. Much of my weekend was given to the domestic labors and to do lists that eat at my conscience like a black stone dropped on a field of ice.

Then today was a particularly rigorous day at work. Instead of writing blog posts, I should definitely be catching up on my backlog of unread emails. I had one of those days where you end the day with more unread messages than you start it – not a good feeling. And tomorrow will be more of the same, except capped by a (likely) three hour church board meeting (session, for the Presbyterians among you) in which I will remember that as chair of personnel I should probably, you know, do something.

And Mondays are a hard-working night for me. Adam has aikido, so the kids and I are on our own. There’s dinner to be arranged, recycling to be put out, the house must be prepared for the cleaners (so much less work than doing it yourself, but not no work. I go through the homework with Grey. I also needed to tackle the bills – a chore that has become less frequent with the advent of bill pay, but hardly absent.

As I loaded the dishwasher, I was thinking about one of my undone tasks. Adam and I need to revisit our will. I also need to fill out my care choices and end of life choices. I have strong opinions on my own funeral, which if I want them heeded I should probably write down in a place where my family can find them. The short version is that I’d like to be cremated and buried at the base of a fir in Wellspring’s dreampt of funereal forest – you can only learn more by talking to Sunny during a massage. For my funeral, I’d certainly want the hymn “Abide With Me”. I was contemplating what other hymns I can’t make it through without tearing up and “Come, Labor On” came to mind. (Not sure I’d want it for my funeral, though.)

It’s “a hymn of a certain age” – that age being one of my soft spots. There’s something about those mid-1800s hymns that hits me right in the heart. When I sing them, I feel like the rearguard of a dying era. I wonder if I’m the youngest person to know all the words to these old chestnuts, and love them dearly. At my funeral, will the congregation hearken back to a lovely old hymn none of them had ever heard before, as I did at my grandmother’s? The carillon in our town sing sweetly on the hour (or rather, five minutes before the hour) between 9 am and 9 pm. That bell and I have a lot of hymns in common, and it’s a moment of worship for me in those quiet hours when it makes it to my ears. I checked to see if Google Music had a version of this hymn. They do, but it’s a big choir-and-organ version, lugubrious and hard to hear the words to. I’m not a choir-and-organ Christian. I’m a piano and if we’re lucky one or two voices of harmony Christian. Most hymns I love, I cannot hear “properly” without just singing them myself.

I absolutely, positively cannot make it through this hymn without choking up. The whole hymn is about working. “Who dares stand idle on the harvest plain, while all around us waves the golden grain” and “No arm so weak but may do service here”. So totally Protestant Work Ethic FTW. But then, ah, the last verse. As with so many hymns of this era, the last verse hints to what happens after our labors cease. Here it is in full:

Come, labor on.
No time for rest*, till glows the western sky,
Till the long shadows o’er our pathway lie,
And a glad sound comes with the setting sun,
“Well done, well done!”

I totally teared up just typing that. I’d blame it on fatigue, but it happens every single time I sing this song.

When is the last time someone said to you, “Well done!” When is the last time you believed it when they said it? What would it mean to you if it was the person who’s approval you most sought – the hardest judge of you – who said those words at the end of your labors, and you really believed it? What would it take for you, yourself, looking back at your life at the end of all things, to judge for yourself that your work was “well done”?

I have no answers here, only feelings. There is honor in our hard work. There is much to be done. “Redeem the time; it’s hours too swiftly fly. The night draws nigh.” But make sure that the work you are doing is the work that will earn you at least your own “well done” when the long shadows over your pathway lie.

*We Presbyterians get a lot of sermons about keeping the Sabbath and the value of rest, including this last Sunday’s, all of which we sincerely agree with and completely ignore.

Thanksgiving and my parenting schedule

Yesterday, as you might have noticed, was Thanksgiving.

In the morning we sat around in our pajamas and watched the Macy’s parade. This was an ideal way to spend some family time.

I don’t usually cook on Thanksgiving now. I am often still recovering from Mocksgiving. I don’t have any family in the area except my brother (who is usually at Mocksgiving), so I neither have an obvious place to be invited nor obvious people to invite should I choose to cook. And it’s one thing to invite two grownups. It’s an entirely different thing to invite two grownups, a three year old and an infant. (The three year old is the complicated part.) So I was extremely grateful that my friend H’s family invited us to their Thanksgiving celebration. We tried to pay them back by knowing all the words and the tune to “We Gather Together” and singing confidently before the repast. His mom is a fantastic cook. No, really fantastic. This year’s theme was healthy. Mostly, I noticed tasty. His nephews (recently 5 and 2.5) were both there, and the boys actually played extremely well together, so I don’t think Grey was much of a bother. Also, his mom had prepared noodles and meatballs for the youngsters, which meant that Grey actually ate and I didn’t have to fight with him over food.

My only real regret was I didn’t get sufficient opportunity to talk to my friend!

I had been justifiably worried that Thane slept all day yesterday (except for right at the moment I sat down to have dinner). Come about 8 pm his beautiful blue eyes sprang open. (Imagine a springy sound.) I finally coaxed him to bed at about 10:45.

Somewhere in the night I realized we had hit another milestone: baby’s first cold. Actually, 4 weeks old is an entirely reasonable age at which to contract one’s first cold, and it seems relatively mild. But here’s my schedule for last night:

10:45 – Thane asleep
11 – me asleep
2 am – 2:30 am – Thane dirty diaper and nurses
4 am – 5:15 am – Thane eats and fusses
6:15 am – 6:30 am – A. gets Thane from his room, changes his diaper and brings him in to me. Thane fusses, but fails to nurse and gets put in the bouncy seat next to the bed where he wheezes loudly.
6:45 – 7:15 am – Grey wakes up and comes to snuggle me (read: squirm in proximity to me). A. starts snoring. Thane is still wheezing.
7:45 am – I declare that by gum I need at least two hours straight sleep without anyone snoring at me and direct poor husband to obtain the same or suffer the consequences (he is working from home)
10:45 am — I finally get up and nurse Thane and begin my day

No wonder my days seem short. I spend 12 hours in night time mode, but with only a normal (or slightly less than normal) amount of sleep, and that extremely interrupted. I have to admit that the scenario would be much improved if Grey would sleep in until, like, 8.

Anyway, Thane is doing pretty well, but he’s very wheezy and a bit mucousy. (That’s mostly showing up in the “spitting up” arena.) I think he’s also sleeping more, but less soundly and in smaller chunks because he’s having a bit of trouble nursing and breathing simultaneously. We will survive this.

It’s just hard to remember:
1) That I shouldn’t feel guilty for “sleeping in” when I can.
2) That when you are home with your infant and preschooler, you should not expect to do much more than take care of your infant and preschooler
3) That it is not actually child abuse to let your kid watch that much television.