Mumblety-Peg

I just listened to a CD by John Maxwell about ways to get more done in a day.  This month’s issue of Real Simple is all about saving time: shortcuts in cooking, housekeeping, daily chores.  My own to-do lists decorate my fridge, encouraging the notion that for most activities, the most important moment is when it’s finished so that I can move on to the next item on the agenda.

The novel Cheaper by the Dozen (and if you saw the Steve Martin movie you didn’t get the real story) is a tribute to a man named Frank Gilbreth.  Gilbreth, a father of twelve, made a career of being an “efficiency expert.”  In other words, he would go into businesses and watch the employees at work and then advise them on how to do their jobs more efficiently.  Even in his own home, he was forever experimenting with his personal habits (and family routines) to find ways to shave seconds off of mundane tasks.  The story ends with this dialogue:

“Someone once asked Dad, ‘But what do you want to save time for? What are you going to do with it?’

“‘For work, if you love that best,’ said Dad.  ‘For education, for beauty, for art, for pleasure.’  He looked over the top of his pince-nez.  ‘For mumblety-peg, if that’s where your heart lies.'”

I love this reminder that the purpose of all this minute-saving is not for busyness in and of itself, but so that we have time to slow down and linger over those activities that bring the most pleasure and satisfaction.  What are those things in your life?  Here are some of mine.  (These are luxuries that I do not have time for every single day.  I’ve included parentheses to note how I can enjoy these things in small ways on a more daily basis.)

1.  Rocking my sleeping baby.  The Ezzos and all the other sleeping experts can go lie down fully awake in their beds for this one.  One of my favorite things to do is to rock Abby to sleep and then to hold her until she wakes up.  It’s peaceful, quiet, and sweet time together.  Plus, it’s an excuse to close my own eyes for a minute, to read another chapter in my book, to ignore the phone ringing in the other room.  It’s like a little sabbath.  When I cradle Abby in my arms, she already hangs off the edge of my lap, and this fact reminds me that my chances for these little quiet times are fleeting. (Every day application: spend some time focusing on Abby.)

2.  Reading a book in one sitting.  Admittedly, I don’t have many opportunities to do this.  But there is something satisfying and luxurious about spending a whole afternoon engrossed in a story.  It’s an even bigger pleasure than crossing five things off of my to-do list.  (Every day: read something.)

3.  Making bread.  I just learned how to do this, and there is something very soothing about preparing the yeast, mixing and then kneading the dough, shaping loaves, and watching them rise in a warm corner of the kitchen (followed, of course, by eating the bread- also a pleasure!).  It’s like the housekeeping equivalent of reciting an ancient church creed…making bread for my family is a direct connection with Carolyn Ingalls and Abigail Adams and thousands of other wives who have gone before me.  (Every day: cook something for the family to enjoy, even if it came frozen in a package.)

4.  Deep Cleaning.  I realize this is a strange thing to enjoy slowing down for.  But because my normal housecleaning routine consists of “run a Clorox wipe over it,” it can be gratifying to break out a bowl of hot, soapy water and really give something a good scrub. (Every day: the Clorox routine works.)

5.  Conversation.  We’ve done lots of fun stuff and gone cool places with our friends and families.  But my favorite memories are of long, lingering conversations.  I remember an evening with our old small group, sitting in lawn chairs and roasting marshmallows on a chiminea in the driveway.  Or lingering around the dinner table with friends until the wee hours of the morning, none of us wanting to call it a night despite the fact that we all had to report to work the next day.  At family dinners, I love it when the dishes have been cleared away and we stay in our seats, finishing our conversations over bottomless cups of coffee.  (Every day: have a non-multitasking conversation with my husband.)

6.  Chewing/Tasting food before swallowing.  On the couple of nights when Stephen and I have gone out to dinner without the baby, I’ve been reminded of what a pleasure it can be to eat slowly with two hands. (Every day: eat.)

7.  Watching the rain.  When I can do this while staying warm and dry on my front porch, this is incredibly soothing.  I love the sound of the rain and the way that it makes the color of everything seem more bold and vivid. (Every day: open the blinds and at least notice what the weather is doing.)

8.  Writing down reasons to be thankful.  This is so Oprah-esque it almost makes me cringe, but it really is a nice exercise.  It is really shameful how little it takes to plunge me into a pity party, and listing out my abundant blessings restores some much-needed perspective.  (Every day: offer thankful prayers, even if I don’t take the time to write out my list.)

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2 responses to “Mumblety-Peg

  1. i love your everyday application for number six 🙂

  2. You left off the satisfaction of a good flossing session!

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