Thursday, May 16, 2013

The New Normal

I think I'm starting to lose my mind.

I've got a nursing five-month-old (five months old today) who doesn't stop eating, a four-year-old so active he could market energy drinks, a proposal I'm trying (and failing) to firm up, dishes in the sink, laundry waiting to go in the dryer, crits overdue, a house we're closing on tomorrow. Thus: boxes everywhere. It's 12:28, Ethan's friends just went home, and I have no idea what to make for lunch. Since I'm a from-scratch girl, nothing is fast. I could kick myself for not keeping a box of processed Kraft mac-and-cheese in the cabinet so I could pull together lunch together in ten minutes.

How on earth can I ever make sense of this mess?

And speaking of messes, little Seth will probably need another diaper change in a few minutes, and quite possibly a clothing change. He's so big he's grown out of nearly everything - will I even find something he can wear? Ethan, in the meantime, has pried the top and bottom off a jelly-bean piggy-bank someone gave him (the kind filled with candy that dispenses a couple of jelly beans when you insert a coin). Which means there is now a pile of money and ancient jelly beans spread in a horrible pile.

How do we find sanity in the midst of chaos?

How do we, as writers and spokesmen for the Lord, keep from pulling out our hair when three different people are talking to us at the same time?

I know from Scripture that "He will be our peace" - and I think perhaps it's our definition of "peace" and "sanity" and "quiet" (especially) that need to change. If I wanted quiet, I wouldn't have prayed for children. If I wanted peace, I would never marry or publish books (all those hateful reviews!) or interact with people. If I wanted sanity, well... I'm not sure any of us have it all together. If I wanted the path of least resistance, I would be Thoreau, writing from my little cabin along serene Walden Pond - with my single cane-backed chair. Great writing, yes - but precious little human interaction. Which seems to be one of the things God loves the most - and often forces us to do against our will.

No children, no mess, no spilled jelly beans, no crying or shouting.

I promise you this: if my son Ethan had succumbed to his hydrocephalus a little over a year ago as the neurosurgeon was afraid he might, I would give anything on earth to have his spilled jelly beans and shouting and packing everything in the wrong box. I would beg God to see him dusty from South Dakota dirt just one more time, in his grass-stained jeans with the ripped knee, glasses crooked, chattering about shooting the bad guys and finding buried treasure. 

We are BLESSED. 

I know, I know - it's hard to see it when we're hungry, when Ethan's crying and saying he's tired of packing, when Seth has spit up monster white leakage for the third time in five minutes (which he did this morning). But we are. Blessed. So blessed.

Our writing may suffer temporarily while seasons change, but the stories we're writing will last for eternity.
Besides, when was the last time great writing came from a peaceful, sane, (boring) vacuum of someone's life who has it all together? It's just my opinion, but I think the best work is borne of the crucible - the mess - the spills - the disappointments - the sparks and flare-ups.

Let Thoreau have his pond ripples and empty chair. I'd rather cry, laugh, and shout from the midst of the windstorm of friends, sons, family, LIFE - any day.

(And yes, I'll still rejoice when the baby sleeps, the room is clean, and the packing is done). Whew. Now, what's for lunch?

Anybody with me here?

Jennifer Rogers Spinola lives in rural South Dakota with her Brazilian husband, two sons, and a mound of packing boxes. She's the author of Barbour Publishing's "Southern Fried Sushi" trilogy plus her most recent release, "Yellowstone Memories" - and writes about Japan, Brazil, and real life. If she's not changing or feeding Seth or picking up jelly beans or camping with her Boy Scout-employed husband, you'll find her staring at her cabinets and trying to figure out what to whip together for her hungry crew.


  1. So well written, Jennifer, in the midst of all the chaos around you! And I think you might be right that our best writing happens in that crucible when the pressure's on. I have a quiet study now but I did write five novels on the end of our kitchen table, with all sorts of things happening around me! And those books are still selling. God bless and give you those moments to write in the midst of it all.

  2. Thank you so much, Jo-Anne! Your comment is so encouraging. It is nice to have a bit of quiet - to be able to think and write - and even then, I think we draw heavily on what we learned when things were "noisy." God bless!

  3. Oh yes, Jo-Anne. With you all the time. But isn't it possible - just SOMETIMES - to have a balance??

  4. I think sometimes we have seasons where things are busier and noiser - and other seasons where they're quieter. But I don't think it's ideal to be quiet and secluded *all* the time. I know I wouldn't be happy that way (and wouldn't write well that way, either). For a while I would, but then... I think I would miss the noise of human interaction.

  5. Love the way you look at it Jennifer.