Tag Archives: Hard work

Bravo to Ballet

Having never taken dance myself, I honestly have a hard time appreciating ballet. Watching the ballerinas twirl and jump in unison is captivating, but I still thought to myself, “What’s the big deal?” Enter my daughters.

My oldest and youngest daughters both have taken ballet. My eldest determined she was “done” after about 3 years. To help you understand her decision, you should know a little more about her. She has always had such clarity about what she likes and doesn’t like–even as a baby in utero! I love to tell her the story of how she would only let me sleep on one side. Apparently, this side was more comfortable for her. If I tried to sleep on the other side, she would kick, kick, kick until I flipped. When she was 16 months old and before she had words, she would point and make clear to me which outfit she wanted to wear. I couldn’t believe it! Her older brother never cared about what I put on him. I now realize she simply liked the most comfortable clothing, and at 16 months of age, she began to let me know which clothing fit her the best. So when she told me she was done with ballet, I knew there was no way to convince her otherwise. Plus, as our family was growing, we began to limit activities to 1 per child from both a logistics and financial standpoint. She decided soccer was more to her liking.

My youngest daughter has kept with ballet and transitioned this year into the real ballet program. She is a kinesthetic learner, so dance fits with who she is at her core. However, this level of dance is when it gets hard. Watching her performances and exams has made my appreciation of ballet really vault upward. First of all, the precision and knowledge of how to hold every single little part of your body overwhelms me. Secondly, the dance terms are actually in French, and require the girls to learn a whole new vocabulary. Working back stage, I now see how focused dancers must be to perform. As they stretch and stay flexible and get ready to go on stage, they are thinking through their entire dance and mentally preparing for all the difficult moves required. When they come off the stage, they are sweating and out of breath. Yet, from the audience, they appear light and bouncy and beautiful. The truth is that they make it look so easy that people like me who are ignorant think it is easy! This couldn’t be further from the truth. It takes serious discipline, hard work, and a love of dance to perform so well.

One amazing thing about my youngest daughter is that she is terribly shy. She has such stage fright that she gets physically ill before a play. However, because ballet requires so much concentration and movement, she doesn’t seem to get those jittery feelings on stage. She has really listened well to her teacher and has had the humility to take correction to heart. She has worked very hard this year and it shows. I cannot wait to see her year-end performance in just 10 days!

Hard Work Brings Its Own Rewards

What happened to good ol’ hard work? I mean really? What happened? When physical work went away, we lost the lessons that came with that hard work and I don’t think we realized it. As an example, my children have no idea what “hanging laundry” means, but I can close my eyes and hear Grandma singing and smell the flowers she diligently planted and tended in her yard by the laundry lines. I can smell those crisp white sheets that she ironed and put on the guest bed for me. Yes, it was hard work, but both the results and process were amazing!

How about homegrown vegetables–remember those? Both sets of my grandparents had giant gardens that produced more than they could ever use. They canned what they might need in the winter, but then they shared with neighbors and whoever was in need. The closest my children can come to understand this is having a commercial canned food drive for the food pantry at church. I would like to say I learned to garden from my grandparents, but I grew up in the city where my parents had moved which was far from the family farm and small town where my grandparents lived.

My paternal grandparents were farmers, although both had college educations which was rare for those times. My maternal grandparents were a barber and housewife who took in washing and ironing. Both sets of grandparents knew what hard work meant. My parents were wise enough to send me and my siblings for long visits during the summer. It was during these trips that I learned to hand wash dishes, hang laundry, make beds, weed gardens, fish for dinner, herd cattle out of the corn, drive a vehicle, walk to daily Mass, and build wood bridges over creeks.

Telling you all about my grandparents makes me miss them terribly since they have all passed on. They loved me in a very special way. My own husband never really knew any of his grandparents because they had all died by the time he was five years old. He did get to know three of my four grandparents which was a blessing for him.

I’ve thought a lot about my grandparents and their hard work ethic. I think the real secret to their ability to work hard was their ability to rest. They had a mid-afternoon rest time where we would all gather in their living room and pick our nap spot. They had the most comfortable pillows in the world. I can still see them and feel them in my mind’s eye. And somehow that room was cool, even though they didn’t have air conditioning. We would rest for an hour and it was wonderful. We were ready to go with another round of work once we had rested.

Even better yet, as hard as they all worked, they loved God even more. So on Sundays, after Mass, we enjoyed time together over a large meal. We did nothing on Sundays except be with Christ and be together. It was slice of heaven on earth. All my grandparents had faith and lived it the best way they knew how. I may not have learned how to garden from them or how to run a farm, nor do I have the rewards of the type of hard physical work they knew, but I have something even better — their faith.

Taking Nest-Building to a Whole New Level

A robin has decided to build a nest in a terrible location–on our house. Somehow, we all overlooked this giant nest in our comings and goings. This bird’s choice of location is by our downspout under an overhang. My husband noticed the nest and swept it down. He took the twigs and grass and sprinkled them in the woods.

The next morning, the nest was back. Apparently, this robin is a quick worker or her mate is a really good helpmate. So my husband once more swept the nest down and took away the raw materials.

That afternoon, the nest was back. As we loaded up in the minivan to visit friends, we watched my husband once more knock down the nest. I said, “Poor bird. She just wants to make her babies a home.” My husband said, “She has 7 acres of woods to choose from, and she picks a metal downspout?” I’m thinking she may not be a very smart bird after all.

My brother and his family arrived the next day for a brief visit. He saw my husband knocking down another nest. His comment was that he had the same problem at his house. He said, “The way I figure it is that we have this whole outdoors to share. There’s plenty of room for their nest elsewhere.”

Yesterday, my children and I were enjoying an Easter Monday celebration with our dear family friends. When we arrived home, my husband informed me that he had knocked down 4 nests. These robins have kicked into high gear! The time for laying eggs must be imminent.

I remember those days when I was pregnant with each child. I would kick into high nest-building gear. My husband would come home from work and find our household rearranged. Large and heavy pieces of furniture would have moved from one room to another without a mark on the floor or walls. I remember him looking at our giant sofa and saying, “You and I together could barely budge this thing. How in the world did you move it into an entirely different room by yourself?” The facts didn’t count when it came to preparing for the new life in my belly. And once those babies arrived, my husband and I spent hours enjoying God’s little gift in our lives, and still do!

I hope that our robins choose one of the many thousands of trees for their next nest which would be a much better choice. I understand they want a safe nest for their soon-to-be baby birds. I think the robins are showing us how much life matters. I wish that every couple would take to heart the perseverance of our robins in creating a loving, safe home for their soon-to-be baby. And then every couple would be able to enjoy this amazing gift from our good God for the rest of their lives.

Take Turns Doing the Hard Jobs

Today, we decided to tackle the kitchen flooring. We are removing two layers of vinyl(?) flooring that apparently were stuck on with super, gorilla glue. This is back-breaking work and progress is very slow. Our friend is planning to drop by a tool that will help make this less miserable, but in the meantime, we have discovered what works and what doesn’t.

I discovered a “shovel” of sorts in the garage corner which I thought would be dandy to use. It is thin at the end and I visualized shoveling whole tiles at one shove. Ha, ha, ha. Meanwhile, my son took the crowbar and hammer approach. When I saw the progress he was making, I dug through the tools for a sledge-hammer. I handed it to him with a big smile. One whack and we knew we found a winning combination!

We started out with great spirits. My son, using the crowbar/sledge-hammer combo, and myself using the crowbar/hammer combo. After about 15 minutes, I was really done. My back hurt and my arms felt like noodles. I decided to do the final vacuum and tamping of the staple ends in our front room. My son stuck with the floor removal for another 30 minutes. Then he needed a break. So I took over the floor removal and sent him to the garage to work on preparing the cabinetry we will be selling.

All day long, we took turns doing the hardest job (floor removal) and finding other smaller, easier jobs that needed doing (removing baseboard, fixing cabinetry). If one of us found a better way to do something, we shared it. For example, I discovered a super easy way to remove staples from the front of our old cabinetry. I turned that job over to my son and headed back to the floor removal.

I share all of this to say that I think in every part of life, we should take turns doing the hard jobs. I am not sure that I have done this for most of my life, but it just makes sense. Working on a project is so much nicer when everyone involved is willing to do the hard stuff and not just push it onto the “new” guy or the lowest paid worker. I also think we should always share with others any information that is helpful or makes things easier. I know that not everyone does this in life, but we should.

Well, we still have about half the kitchen to go, but the great news is that my husband just got home. Oh, the fun he will have learning the crowbar/sledge-hammer combo!