Tag: chores

Charlie’s Room: Fall Doldrums

Marianne and Charlie were working in the garden. Isaac was inside, trying to convince himself to get something done. So far, he wasn’t very successful. After lunch they were going to a local harvest festival, so he needed to get his to-do list done soon.

It wasn’t that he didn’t want to do anything. He very much wanted to sit down with the mystery novel he was in the middle of reading. He wouldn’t say no to a nice cup of cocoa, either.

Unfortunately, he needed to do paperwork and dishes and vacuuming before lunchtime. Normally, each job wouldn’t take all that much time. He just couldn’t seem to get started.

Isaac didn’t mind dishes, and the sink wasn’t really all that full. Vacuuming was one of his favorite jobs. It was always such a zen moment to trace lines into the carpet and listen to the chant-like hum of the vacuum. As for the paperwork, well, normally he could at least sit down and power through it all.

Today he didn’t want to do any of it. He considered bribing himself with chapters of his book between chores. They didn’t seem any more appealing.

Maybe he needed a short nap before he started? Isaac changed into his pajamas and climbed into bed. He laid there and tried to shut his mind off. Nope. He wasn’t at all tired.

What was wrong?

He changed back into his clothes and made the bed. He wandered into the living room and looked out the front window. The street outside was lined with trees, and most of them were dressed in brightly colored leaves.

A gust of wind blew through the trees, and red and yellow leaves tumbled passed the window. He watched them twirl down the street. It was definitely fall.

Isaac snapped his fingers. Fall. That’s right. It was a time of year when nature slowed down, and Isaac had always been sensitive to that.

Unfortunately, at the same time as the world seemed to move more slowly, people sped up. There were so many holidays to prepare for. His schedule seemed to get so much busier this time of year. Maybe he was pushing himself too hard.

Could the tasks wait? Probably. But he really should make the attempt. Especially with the dishes, as they tended to pile up quickly.

With a sigh, he decided to at least start the chore. He called Cousin Reginald and worked while he listened to Reginald’s latest adventures. He finished the last dish as he listened to the story of Reginald’s annual protest at city hall for pumpkin rights.

He started vacuuming as Reginald sang the song he’d written that he was sure would be a critical success and ignored by the ignorant masses. He accompanied himself on his out of tune accordion. Isaac finished vacuuming at the same time Reginald’s very long song ended.

“Dissonance is so underappreciated. There really should be much, much more of it in modern music,” Reginald said.

“It certainly had a lot of dissonance,” Isaac agreed as he put the vacuum away.

“Were you humming in the background? It was a nice touch. I knew you would appreciate my work.”

Isaac decided not to mention the vacuum. “I’m always impressed by how much you manage to get done.”

“Well, it’s harder in the fall, of course. But I rebel against all of that. Changing seasons won’t keep me down! In fact, I think I’m going to go march through the local park to make sure all those fall leaves can see that they can’t stop me. Bye.”

Isaac put his phone away. There was just the paperwork left. He looked out the window. Brightly colored leaves flew passed the window. Were they watching him?

Maybe Cousin Reginald had the right idea. He grabbed the paperwork and brought it into the living room. He dumped it all on the coffee table and moved the table right in front of the window.

“Look at this,” he told the leaves. “I’m getting my chores done and you can’t stop me.”

It was kind of fun to be defiant, even if he was fairly certain the leaves didn’t care. Every time he finished filling something out, he held it up to the window. “Hah! I got this done, too!”

Sooner than he thought, he was done. He checked the clock. He had plenty of time before lunchtime, and nothing else he really needed to get done right now.

And so he curled up on the couch with cocoa and his mystery book. The leaves continued to pass by the window, but Isaac ignored them. Fall had no power over him today.

When It Isn’t Fun

Somebody recently made the comment that “if people aren’t having fun, they’ll stop showing up.” They were talking about Toastmasters, but I’ve been thinking about it in other contexts. What should I do when things aren’t fun?

Obviously, there’s a lot of life that isn’t going to be fun. Dishes, laundry, sweeping, mopping, and cleaning toilets aren’t fun jobs. No matter what Mary Poppins says, some days there just isn’t a game to make the job fun, and I still need to get it done anyway.

But what about the the things I do in the time when I’m not doing the have-to jobs? Learning a new skill can often be un-fun. Training my fingers to play scales on the piano was frustrating. Just five minutes of meditation seemed impossible at first (and still does on some days). It took me weeks to mix up a skin tone that looked like it belonged on a human and not a tree frog.

And now, after years of piano lessons and meditation and painting, I still am very much a beginner. I have a lot of bad days where things seem to be more mistakes than anything else. Mistakes aren’t really fun. So, why do I keep showing up?

I think that it’s a matter of expectations and intentions. If I was watching a television show for entertainment, and I was completely bored, I’d turn it off or watch something else. If I was watching a painting workshop to learn more about painting and the presenter was talking about mixing paints and it wasn’t really interesting to me, I’d continue to watch hoping to learn something new anyway.

I’m not painting or playing piano to entertain myself. I’m still learning, and I’m expecting mistakes as part of the learning process. I have hope that as I improve, there will be less mistakes and more times when things go well.

When things go well, or I get lost in the practice and lose track of time, that’s fun. Seeing improvement, that’s fun too. Finishing my practice for the day, knowing I didn’t skip a day, can be fun in its own way too, regardless of how well I did during practice.

In the past, when I had less time and more stress, I wasn’t consistent with what I did when I had time for not-have-to things. Not doing any art at all felt a lot worse than doing art poorly. Entertainment didn’t fill the need to create something.

There are sometimes days when I ask myself, “Why am I even doing this? I’ll never be as good as this or that professional artist. Why even try? I’m not having fun.”

And then I remember how it felt to not do any art. And I remember that I’m not doing art to have fun or to be famous or amazing or better than other artists. I’m doing art because I’m an artist and that’s what I do. I’m improving, I’m creating, and that is good enough.

Is art sometimes not fun for you? Why do you continue when something isn’t fun? Have you ever stopped showing up for your art? How did you feel?

Charlie’s Room: Halloween Season

Marianne and Charlie were out gathering materials for a book report diorama. Charlie was certain that he could make an amazing replica of Willie Wonka with twigs and clay if he could only find the right twigs. Isaac offered to come along, but Marianne said that he didn’t have the eye of an experienced crafter, so he stayed home.

It was for the best. He had bills to pay and paperwork to fill out, and he needed to stop putting it off. He’d get right to work, just as soon as he had a snack. He needed to sharpen some pencils too.

Actually, it turned out that there were a lot of things that he really should get done. There was that wobbly chair leg, and didn’t the bathroom faucet leak? Isaac was halfway to the garage for his toolbox before he stopped himself. Procrastination wasn’t the answer here.

And so he sat down at the kitchen table with all the paperwork spread out in front of him and got to work. It was never as bad as it seemed. In fact, in less time than he expected, he was addressing the last envelope and setting it on the pile of things to send.

Just then, the doorbell rang. Isaac stood up and stretched. He hadn’t heard Marianne and Charlie come home yet, so he was the only one home to answer the door.

When he opened the door, the man on the front step burst into song. He was dressed in black from head to toe and carrying a scythe, but he was smiling as he sang, so he seemed friendly.

“On the first day of Halloween, my true love gave to me a vulture in a dead tree…”

The man continued singing. Two hooting owls, three ravens, four squeaking bats, five spider rings…all the way to thirteen trick-or-treaters. Isaac applauded when he finished.

“So, you’re a Halloween caroler?”

The man turned away and put in some plastic vampire teeth. He turned back and grinned. “Yesh.”

“Isn’t it a little early? Halloween is more than a month away.”

The man shrugged and his black cloak rustled. “We’re already halfway through Halloween sheashon.” He turned and took the teeth out, shoved them in his pocket, and then began singing again.

“We wish you a happy Halloween… and a night full of fear. Now give me a candy apple…”

When the man began singing about how he wouldn’t leave without a candy apple, Isaac felt a little nervous. He really wasn’t prepared for carolers. Nevertheless, he applauded the caroler and hurried back to the kitchen. He returned with the fruit bowl.

“I have dairy-free, sugar-free, tree-friendly caramel apples.” Isaac held out the bowl of apples. “Take several.”

The man put in the plastic vampire teeth again and looked into the bowl. “I shuppose they are healthier that way,” he said at last. Then he took two apples and dropped them into a bag that had been sitting behind him, hidden by his black robes. It looked nearly full.

“Is that all caramel apples?” Isaac asked, impressed.

“No, moshtly candy.”

“People buy candy this early? It’s not even October.”

“It’s Halloween sheashon. Why do you think they have it in shtoresh thish early?”

“I guess that makes sense. Thank you for the carols.”

The man nodded and left. Isaac took the bowl back to the kitchen and filed away the paperwork. He left the stack of things to put in the mail on his desk.

At this point, he decided the wobbly chair leg and the leaky faucet could probably wait another week. He sat on the couch and read until Marianne and Charlie came home. He nearly finished a chapter.

“We had a Halloween caroler,” he announced.

“Did you give him candy from the bowl in the pantry?” Marianne asked.

“What candy? We have candy for carolers?” Isaac started going through the pantry. There was a bowl of mini candy bars on the top shelf.

Marianne looked over his shoulder. “Of course we do. Why do you think they have the candy in stores this early?”

“What did he sing?” Charlie asked.

“Well, it was a little strange. They were Christmas songs with Halloween words.”

Charlie rolled his eyes. “That’s what makes them Halloween carols. It’s too bad we missed it. I can’t believe you didn’t give him any candy.”

“I gave him apples. They’re healthy.”

Charlie frowned. “I’m glad mom buys the Halloween candy we give out.”

“Why have I never heard of Halloween carols? I didn’t even know there’s a Halloween season! When did this all happen?” Isaac wondered if they were playing some kind of trick on him. But Marianne and Charlie just looked at each other and shrugged.

“I don’t know, Dad. Maybe you were always reading or something and missed it.” Charlie held up a bag and shook it up. “We’re going to work on my diorama. Do you want to help?”

They were inviting him to help with a craft project? Carolers and Halloween season forgotten, Isaac happily followed them into the kitchen. He loved books, so he was certain to be a lot of help with book report dioramas. How hard could it be?

It turns out that it was harder than he thought.