Saturday, December 19, 2009

Building a Cathedral

Today was definitely a "cathedral builder" type of day...up and at 'em, getting C ready for school...don't forget to pack the brownies I was up baking very late the night before...and don't forget the crock pot and meat balls for the class party. Running late and need to get out the door, with meat balls, crock pot, brownies, homework, backpack, and school binder...unload all at school and carry to the classroom. C leaves and barely says goodbye.

Home again- last day of work for the year and so much to do, plus writing the dreaded year end self time for a shower or brushing breakfast. Phone starts to ring and the work meetings are going to be heavy this morning. Chatting via headset and trying finish making all of the teacher cards- 14 teachers worked with C this year, plus the music teacher, gym teacher, front office staff and school director- homemade goodies for all. Finish cards, realize I never made bath salts; make and bottle bath salts. Tie ribbons and cards around 30+ containers of cookie mix, cocoa mix, and bath salts...must finish because most teachers leave after today. More meetings, still no shower, now late for leaving to pick up C. Took three trips to pack the car- put on deodorant and popped a Trident in my mouth...arrive at school pick-up 15 minutes late...missed most of the teachers. Did I mention the fudge I whipped up too?

Forgot to pack C's snack- he's almost in tears because I am both late and forgot snack/drink, totally throwing off the routine, plus my mom usually picks him up, so now we are at triple whammy levels. Get to the bank, then need to buy hubby's office gift for party tonight...ABC into neighbor who suggests a nice Hypnotic gift set- fine, get that. Home, still have to finish YE reports, little man is feeling neglected/bored, and I end up with a very short fuse and yelling at him- ugh, hate myself right about now...need a break. Run a bath, stepping over dirty clothes and towels to get to the tub...get in to soak and son ends up in tub too...skinny said goodbye to me long ago and we do not have a garden tub. Hubby comes home, does nothing to extract son from tub, grumbles about work, and when I mention my crazy morning the response is not "thank you" BUT "what do we need to send gifts for all the teachers for?" REALLY?

Husband is in a mood and his feet stink, son is out of tub and running wild, naked. I go to get ready for the Christmas party for his work tonight and can only find clean granny panties...jeans...cannot find shirt or shoes I had planned to wear...settle on shirt laying on floor- appears clean and does not smell, so it will have to do...never find black shoes. Hungry- oh yeah, never had lunch either. Son is still going full throttle when brother arrives to babysit- ends up getting sent straight to bed. Hubby's office party was less than pokes fun at my gift- "who brought the girly vodka?" I end up as DD as snow, all rain...envious of all of my inland friends enjoying a winter wonderland.

Return home- tree has stopped sucking water and is wilting. Parents called and need to use our shower since their water heater died...12:50am and I am going to wash towels and clean a bathroom...not to mention apologize to my son when he awakes in a few hours, for squashing his joy today. Did I mention the Sam's Club ordeal? No, well, rest assured, it's the cherry on top of a crap for all of you cathedral builders out there (email I received, believe it is a book excerpt):

I'm Invisible. It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, "Can't you see I'm on the phone?" Obviously not; no one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I'm invisible. The invisible Mom.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, "What time is it?" I'm a satellite guide to answer, "What number is the Disney Channel?" I'm a car to order, "Right around 5:30, please."I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going, she's going, she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a hair clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, "I brought you this." It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: "To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees."In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

1. No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names.

2. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.

3. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.

4. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, "Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it." And the workman replied, "Because God sees."

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, "I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become."

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving,"My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table." That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, "You're gonna love it there."

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

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