Why does it get harder to smile the older I get?

 

Why does it get harder to smile the older I get?

by Rita Davidson   

 

Do you find it hard to smile? Are you surprised to find yourself smiling one day, only because you don’t remember the last time you smiled ?

 

 Well, I think it’s a dilemma Catholic moms all face at some point. While for some of us smiling comes easier. I’m thinking Sanguine temperaments here.

 

But I think it’s a condition of a tired, overworked, worn out mom. Many little children under her feet. Running a home and homeschooling. Bringing in  harvests and correcting school work. Cooking up meals and nursing babies. We wake up one day, 10 years after our wedding day, saying, "what happened?"

 

It’s true once we get married and start a family, life just starts moving faster. But as it does, our smile seems to get forgotten. Billy’s broken leg, the mortage payment, hubby’s lost job, the van that needs fixing, the leak in the roof. What is there to smile about ?

 

The running to and from the store, to and from activities, to and from the doctor, we just all are left, well, ragged.

But problem is when we leave our smile behind our whole family suffers.

 

As children grow they don’t understand all the suffering involved with running a home. They need to feel secure and that security comes from seeing mama is happy. daddy on the other hand, has worries of his own. He too worries about Billy’s broken leg, and Emma’s fever last night. He knows he must work overtime to make enough to pay that van repair. He too has his own worries.

 

Then he comes home and mama is cranky and the kids are cranky his day is crushed.  Mama looks to him for some hope since she hasn’t found reason to smile all day, and when his hopes are dashed, it’s a revolving circle.

 

Now just take for a second what the devil thinks of this? He is in the corner laughing at this family who is too caught up in their life, and troubles and missing out on the blessings of their family. "Just where I want them he chuckles " if I can’t make them sin, I can at least take the joy from their family!"

 

So what is the solution?

Well, it’s not an easy one. Have you ever had to force a smile for a teacher, or a priest, or someone, because you didn’t feel well, but didn’t want to ruin their day? Remember when we were young it was hard to do that, but as we got a little older, and wanted to make a good impression we learned how to put ourselves behind us, and smile anyhow.

 

Let me tell you my story;

  We learned early to put our troubles behind us, when visiting non-Catholic friends and family. Even though well meaning, it didn’t take long for a remark here and there to give us an idea of their thoughts of the Catholic Faith. We learned we had to be careful. It was all they needed to see us struggle and they would blame our faith.  So, I learned early how to put on a ‘smile’ when it wasn’t really a happy time. In time I realized a secret. That it was possible to be sorrowful, it was possible to be sad, and to be smiling too. It wasn’t hypocritical, it was more a dying to the self. A dying to your own feelings and doing only what you ‘feel’ like.

 

 Feelings are fleeting and really do not have much place in the life of a Catholic. If the martyrs operated on their ‘feelings’ do you think they would have allowed their fingers to be chewed off by savages  as St. Issac Jogues did?

 

You see as adults, we have to grow beyond our feelings. They are not an indication of anything. If we drink a little too much, and we feel happy, are we really happy? No, we just ‘feel’ happy because the drink makes us forget our problems. You see?

 

There is this problem of pride. Oftentimes we get in a rut, and find it hard to smile. The longer we go without smiling the harder it is. Moping, brooding, is common in children, but can be with adults too. Melancholics are especially prone to this kind of pride. But we can all be guilty of it. This is another reason why we must work to put our troubles behind us, and learn to die to ourselves. A good way to do that is to smile.

 

St. Teresa of Avila, was known to say, "May God protect me from gloomy saints"

And so today, we have to grow in our faith, we have to die to ourself and say, I will smile today, even though I feel unwell. It is a humbling experience, and not one everyone might like at first. But unless we become like little children, it is said, we have no chance of heaven. And a great strike against that old pride, that we are fighting with everyday.

So today:

I will smile today, even though I have a headache.

I will smile today, even though I’m worried about the bills, and the kids, and my health.

 I will smile today, because my children deserve to have a smiling mama, who can give them security and prove to them how much she loves them because she smiles when it’s hard. When they look back at all their crosses growing up, they will remember, ‘ah, but mama was always happy’. And they will, smile. 

 

And daddy needs a smiling wife, so he is supported in his own crosses and then can be a support to mama.

 

A smiling mama and daddy will show their children how much they love each other. How much they sacrificed of themselves to give the children a happy childhood. Isn’t this the ideal way to imitate the Holy Family in your family?  Isn’t this the best way to give a good example to others of living the Catholic faith in the world ?

 

We cannot wait for life to get better to smile. We cannot wait for times to get easier to smile. Our children are growing now, and eternity is swiftly approaching. It is today, that we must put our troubles behind us, and give them the example of a heroic Catholic life.  With just a smile.

 

 What do you have to smile for today ?

 

(c)Copyright 2012 Rita Davidson  All Rights Reserved.

 

Rita is a Catholic wife and mother of seven children. She reverted back to the faith when her oldest was making her First Communion. By then, she had completed degrees in Hairdressing and Make up artistry. She went on to receive a degree in Natural Health and another degree in Art. At age 26, Rita suffered a minor stroke. With no lasting effects, this dramatically changed her outlook on life. In 1996, Rita began ‘Little Flowers Family Apostolates’ to reach out to other families with her new found faith, by creating unique Catholic books and resources.. In 1999, she wrote the bestselling, ‘Immodesty; Satan’s Virtue’. She was editor of ‘The Catholic Health Letter’ for 7 years. She has been a homeschooling mom for 20+ years, and has written for various magazines. She is honored that families have trusted her with their questions, needs and concerns over the years. She continues to write and reach out to Catholic families with her husband, Mark and their 4 boys through http://www.LittleFlowersFamilyPress.com

Decluttering and Simplifying for Catholic Families

 

Decluttering & Simplifying for Catholic Families

by Rita Davidson   

 

Every Catholic family today is feeling the pinch. As most Catholic families have more than a few children, space really becomes an issue as the family grows. We have felt the pinch, as many of you remember from our early days. I pulled out the following article that I wrote from my archives here, in hopes it would help someone else. This was published in a homeschooling magazine a few years ago. It lacks a bit of "Catholic’ content but I thought it was helpful in a practical way, as is.

Hope you enjoy it!

 

 When we started out, we were so happy to just be together that we could have lived anywhere. We started by living above my parents  until our third daughter arrived and we realized it was time to get more space.

   We were overjoyed to find a small 2 bedroom bungalow on a large country lot out of the city. I remember distinctly, looking at the smallish bedroom then looking at each other and saying, “We can eventually add-on.”

  As a homeschooling family with a home-business as well, we quickly filled the entire place. Bookshelves climbed the walls and 3 more children later we found ourselves desperate for more space.

  When we had our fourth child, I remember getting rid of the dresser in my room to fit a crib. When we had our fifth, we got rid of our bed frame. On having our sixth child, I ended up sleeping in the only place there was; the living room floor, that became our makeshift bedroom. This is just to give you an example of our cramped house. Space was not an option!

 Over the years we struggled to make sense of our space and find room for things. At Christmas and birthdays, gifts were small. All large toys would have to wait, there simply wasn’t room. All those large castles and garages I wanted to get for the boys just couldn’t be bought. One particularly painful event was our daughter who wanted a piano. It was a great distress to her that we simply could not find the space to fit one in no matter how we tried.

 

   One thing became most evident when looking at the world at large. Most countries did not have as much as we do in the Western world. Talk of our landfills filling up too fast and then looking at Third World countries and the extreme of their living brought a vivid reminder to us that we didn’t need to have as many adult toys as what we may have been thought we needed. As homeschoolers we may be stuck at home for school, but our horizons are ever wider as we look at the big picture.  It was a re-education process for us and it took 10 years to learn some valuable lessons. I hope these will be of some use to those of you that are struggling with lack of space in your own homes.

 

Three things stuck out at us at having to be the biggest culprits in filling up a homeschooling home.  *Books, Toys and Clothes.

  So twice per year we would sort these areas to rid ourselves of the accumulations that filled up nooks and crannies in our tiny home. Everything from gifts from the past Christmas, to things we picked up at the recycle shop for free. Sometimes it came in faster than we could blink an eye!

 Here’s a detailed look at our Bi-Annual Sorts:

 

  1. Book Sort includes: books  that were never read, gotten by mistake, too old compared to an updated edition, duplicates or perhaps ones easy to rent from the library.

Books are the largest culprit in a homeschooling family. Each year new students and new grades bring in more books. Soon they are in stacks on the floor and anywhere they will fit. We made good use of our walls. Bookcases that lined our only hallway had books that went to the ceiling. Other bookcases filled the walls of the large living room and we placed furniture in the center of the room to make use of the wall space for shelving. We even ended up with some bookcases lining the back of our couch facing the other bookcases. If it’s any indication of how many books we had, when we finally did move, our movers were exhausted and never wanted to see another book again!

 Bookcases can be used for more than one layer of books. To get the most value from bookshelf space we had all our bookcases lined with twice with books. Books in the back, then another row in front and then books on top of those on the side.

 

 

  1. Toy Sort  includes; broken toys, toys with missing parts, toys too complicated, or perhaps duplicates or just ones you didn’t like when your children opened the gift from Uncle Joe!

 Toys are one of those things that are just a part of every modern home that includes children. But, keep in mind that a child can often most enjoy a sandbox with some water and making mud pies than the latest plastic robot that will break in a week. Your choices here will determine what you will keep, but fresh air and sunshine were always my favorite choices for good, healthy, robust children.

 

  1. Clothes Sort; This is a tough one, but these include all stained clothing or anything too small that you don’t need to keep for another child. If you have a real accumulation of lots of clothes, sometimes you need to actually gather all the clothes per child. Set them all out in piles: Pants, Shirts, Dresses etc. Then see how large each pile is. You might be surprised to see they have 20 dresses and only 5 shirts. What you need to do is reduce these to a reasonable level to say enough for one whole week or 10 days. Get rid of anything but your favorites and reduce the amount of clothing that has to be sorted, washed, folded and so on.

Too many clothes are a factor in every modern home. Often one has so many clothes that they are in large piles everywhere. We often don’t realize that less is more, as they say, and that having less clothes makes for a much reduced burden on you and your machine. We realized this vividly when we washed our clothes by hand for four years. It is amazing how little one can do without if needed.

 

Our sorts became a tradition for us that we did each Spring and each Fall before the two gift giving seasons.

Armed with two garbage bags:

 One for garbage., One for giving away,  we sorted with a vengeance. Some might like to add another bag for packing away too. We did this as little as possible.

 

   The idea here is to keep things to a minimum. Anything that isn’t being used or is broken goes out. Anything you like, but just can’t use, should be given away too.

 We found it easy to know others could use what we had and so donations to our local recycle place really helped ease our discomfort.

 

 There are lots of other little areas that need attention too.

For example another tip is keep only what is practical. That means get rid of all the knick knacks that can clutter. Books are useful, but a glass turtle will only collect dust and need your care to keep clean  so out it goes. Except for a few very favorite items they have no real value in a small Catholic home if they don’t do something for you.

 Lastly, use your walls! We used to laugh as we considered if we could suspend shelves from the ceiling to make use of all that bare space! But, yes, use your imagination. You can put single shelves along the top of a window to hold more books. Shelves attached to the wall can fill up the space between a bookcase and your ceiling. Ikea has bookcases extenders that you can purchase as well. Making use of the space all the way to the top of your ceiling  will give you that bit of space you’ve been looking for. And bookcases aren’t only for books. They make great shelving for clothing, or boxes, or whatever you can think of.

  The amount of space your lacking will determine how much you sacrifice of your belongings. For us living with 6 children and a homebusiness in only an 800 square foot home made us have to take the most drastic reductions. Looking back there was likely even more I could have done. I’ve heard some mothers say they don’t have enough space with 2 children in 1200 square feet. You really need to take a good look at your own values, what you own, and what you can do without so that you can appreciate the home you have without constantly tending to it. Simplicity has a way of relieving you of a great burden so that we can enjoy life with our children more.

  Now that we are living in nearly 4000square feet of space, I am forever grateful that our children  and us, learned the lesson, that less is really more.

 

Endnote –

 

Reading over this article after so many years, it struck me how we need to declutter our hearts and souls. The cobwebs that settle into our hearts from discontent and lukewarmness, pride and vanity, cloud up our thinking. Our souls become dark like the unswept corners of our home. We accumulate sacramentals and statues and relics hoping they will be a visible proof of our faith, but they collect dust as we put our faith in ‘things’ rather than in our devotions as a living treasure.

 Be aware that as we clean our homes, and keep them tidy, that our souls are the most important possession we have. Without a grace filled soul, we would be lost. And that is the greatest tragedy of all time. This world is descending into darkness at an unprecedented pace. What this world needs is more souls to sacrifice, more souls to love, more souls to remain decluttered so that the light of Christ might shine forth into this dark world.

 

What do you think ?

 

©Copyright 2006- 2012 Rita Davidson All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Rita is a Catholic wife and mother of seven children. She reverted back to the faith when her oldest was making her First Communion. By then, she had completed degrees in Hairdressing and Make up artistry. She went on to receive a degree in Natural Health and another degree in Art. At age 26, Rita suffered a minor stroke. With no lasting effects, this dramatically changed her outlook on life. In 1996, Rita began ‘Little Flowers Family Apostolates’ to reach out to other families with her new found faith, by creating unique Catholic books and resources.. In 1999, she wrote the bestselling, ‘Immodesty; Satan’s Virtue’. She was editor of ‘The Catholic Health Letter’ for 7 years. She has been a homeschooling mom for 20+ years, and has written for various magazines. She is honored that families have trusted her with their questions, needs and concerns over the years. She continues to write and reach out to Catholic families with her husband, Mark and their 4 boys through http://www.LittleFlowersFamilyPress.com