Wednesday Throwback: In which I try desperately to edify myself

(This post originally appeared in my old blog a few years ago.  I know it’s Wednesday, which is not a good day for a Thursday Throwback, but at the last minute [specifically, 2 a.m., when I was up getting my son some codeine for his throat], I decided that the post I had scheduled for today was too personal, to weird, too easily misconstrued, and above all too full of lady talk.   So,  you’re welcome!  And yes, it is Wednesday.)

I’ve read a few religious mommy blogs in my time, so I know the routine. You’re doing some unpleasant task, and you hates it, you just hates it. It’s hard, it’s boring, if only you had some money you could hire someone, and why did you go to college if you were just going to end up thisaway, and you bet Julia Roberts doesn’t have to do it, and she’s not even very talented! And so on.

You go on, you go on, you’re pouting and grousing as you work, when suddenly, right in the middle of your lousy attitude, the sun comes out and suffuses the workaday haze with a glow straight out of Zeffirelli; or else your chubby little toddler toddles up and says, “You wook pwetty wiff that smudge on your cheek, Mommy”; or a triple amputee you happen to know calls to thank you kindly for the used tea bag you sent him as a Christmas gift.

Everything comes into focus. Right there on the bathroom floor (or whatever), you get on your knees and thank God, or repent, or just generally get a new outlook on it all. The rest of the day is sanctified, and as you drift off to sleep that evening, you murmur a sleepy prayer of thanksgiving for the lesson in grace.

Well, me too! Why just today, I

oh ha ha, no, just kidding. Not me.

Here’s what I do.

I start off really great. Today, the crummy job was shoveling. I’m shoveling away, and in the first four minutes alone, I thank God for, in no particular order: the fact that I have a driveway to shovel in the first place; the fact that I’m strong and healthy; the fact that it’s not icy snow; the fact that it’s so beautiful out here; the fact that my husband cheerfully got up early to do as much shoveling as he could before heading off to work; the fact that the older kids can watch the baby and keep her safe while I work; the fact that my husband gave me a lovely warm scarf just yesterday; and the fact that we found the shovel.

(And if you want to know whether 1.25 acres is a lot of land to own, picture yourself shuffling around in that 1.25 acre yard hoping to stumble over your only shovel, which the kids were playing with but abandoned somewhere before it snowed 18 inches.)

That goes on for a good half hour! I am a thanking fool. I’m Corrie Ten Boom, thanking God for the fleas. I’m Padre Pio and St. Francis. I’m the Pilgrims. (At a certain point, I tell myself to relax — it’s just clearing out the driveway, after all, and the canonization process can be extremely slow even in these lax times.)

After another 20 minutes, the industrious glow cools a bit, and my mind is more or less a blank. I advance to myself certain theories for making the job go by more quickly, such as:

–Probably this will get easier if I switch hands and start tossing the loads of snow forwards like a discus thrower, rather than slinging it backwards over my shoulder. (Ow; no.)

–Probably I will be more encouraged at the magnitude of the job still undone if I go ahead and delineate the area I hope to clear with little chops. There! (Crap; no.)

–Probably the driveway would get cleared faster if you wouldn’t dump the loads of snow in the spot you’re going to shovel next, yuh idiot.

–Ditto for flinging a giant boulder of snow on top of a peaked heap of snow, from which it will tumble down and land on your feet.

–“Hey, Eddie, Can you Catch Us A Ride,” while probably underrated in the Springsteen canon, loses some of its frisson of urban despair after about minute 46 of the mental loop that it’s playing on.

I spend a certain amount of time “neatening up” what I’ve already cleared (because everyone knows you can’t park your car on un-neatened driveways). I get a drink of water. I check on the kids. Seeing that they’re all happily trying to claw each other’s eyes out, I go back outside.

I make another stab at being of good cheer. “Thank you, Lord,” I begin, “forrrr . . . um, well, I certainly thank You that I’m not in a concentration camp in Siberia. Because I know that some people were, and that was worse than this.”

Then I think, If I don’t get mail tomorrow after expending 4,600 calories digging out the mailbox alone, I am going to assassinate that delicate genius of a mailman, who doesn’t even have to get out of his car seat, but only to stick his precious little paddy paw out the window and put the Netflix in the little box, see?

At this point, a song from Annie starts playing in my head. Figuring it for divine retribution for the provisional curse I put on the mailman’s head, I submit to the will of God and just dig, dig, dig. Don’t really care, as long as they’re miiiiiiiiiine . . . how long, o Lord?

Well, it’s done now. And thank God for that.


  1. I was ready for the song from Annie was going to be “It’s a Hard-Knock Life”, but your little snippet instantly brought back memories of the hours I spent listening and singing to Annie with my sisters years ago. I always get “we’d like to thank you Herbert Hoover” stuck in my head, which is unfortunate, because I can’t remember all the words to that one, so the same lines keep repeating themselves over and over.

  2. I’m definitely doing it wrong: most of my days start out like your first example and end like your second example, lol!

    Really, your writing is a gift. Thanks for sharing it, even when it’s full of lady-talk. 🙂

  3. Aww, I was intrigued by the hint of lady talk in the comments on the last post. The weirdness and all that might have been interesting too…

    • Now that I’ve read the post, it was pretty good. I now live in Louisiana, but I grew up in Maine. I hadn’t thought of it for a long time, but I remember spending hours digging out the mailbox only to get one of those dreaded notices from the mail carrier that they couldn’t reach it.

  4. This is why you are awesome. I grow weary of the religious Mommy-written articles that always end in a glorious glow, as if once you realize how blessed you are, everything will right itself. Sometimes, you realize you’re blessed, and life still sucks for the present moment. I love your writing and wish you lived next door to me. Is that creepy? Yeah, it’s creepy. Sorry.

  5. Umnnhhhh…..

    Having a few decades’ worth of snowshoveling in background, I am amazed that you find the ‘back-toss’ method satisfactory.

    1) That method does not allow you to throw the snow for distance, meaning that you’ll shovel the same stuff twice (or more) in the total-clear effort; and

    2) That method does not allow “aimed-toss”, meaning that you cannot direct the snow to its precisely-best location next to your drive/sidewalk/doghouse/mailbox.

    I also found the “purchase a snowblower” method to be superior to the back- OR forward-toss, FYI.

    • mmm. or the “yooper scoop,” which allows you to load the scoop and slide it to the dumping point. no lifting required!

  6. I’m with you. Altho kids are now grown up, I’m a little older than I used to be, and don’t have as much area as you do to shove, I tried very hard yesterday to “offer it Up” while I was digging out yesterday. Had to get the “light, fluffy” stuff off before the ice storm. No salutes to the guy who wrote the song “Let It Snow”. Oh, and sprained my thumb or wrist in the process. Will see dr. tomorrow. His advice will probably be no more shoveling. That will be good advice in New England with another storm Friday.
    God Bless you, and Let it snow, let it snow!

  7. I always try that line of thinking – trying to be thankful that I have indoor toilets that I have to clean or that we have the ability to eat three meals a day, even if I have to cook and clean. And all of this true; so then I feel lame when I don’t feel a glow of gratitude and I get nervous that God will take those things away so I know how to truly appreciate them (sort of like I do with the kids’ toys when they’re left on the floor for the umpteenth time). Thanks for making me laugh and letting me know I’m not the only one….

  8. Laugh-out-FREAKIN-loud. We just moved from a place on a really busy state road with an uphill, curving driveway. There were two parts to a successful egress: 1. actually getting enough momentum and traction to get up the slippery slope and 2. having enough distance from on-coming traffic to get on the road.

    New house? Even longer, windier, steeper driveway emptying onto a less busy state road but with an enormous bolder blocking the view of racing cars and eight feet of plowed snow in front of that.

    If I can even get out, I have an older kid go across the street to check for traffic!

    I agree, Simcha, the compulsion to neaten up while shoveling is counterproductive and no one, but no one, EVER compliments me on how delightfully thorough and elegant my shoveling job is.

    Gratitude? Off state and federal assistance and on to managing an income. Thanks be to God that we have one at the moment to pay for this shelter.

    • Molly, if your shoveling resembles your ironing, folding, or kitchen detail work, count me as impressed and admiring. Not to mention inadequate and inelegant in comparison 🙂

  9. Thank God for you and your blog. I really need the laughs. I applaud you for being snark-free: intelligent, sharp, funny, and critical but with none of that nasty snark which is so overdone these days.

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