Clutter Buckets

Clutter Buckets: a great junk-catching idea, in theory, that will soon be tested by the dull reality of real responsibility.

When one has a bunged-up knee with some kind of meniscus tear going on inside of it, one doesn’t much feel like going around and picking up everybody’s stuff that has been strewn all over creation.  Toys, clothes, school papers, DVD’s, shoes, and other generally unclassifiable junk somehow explodes, on a regular basis, all over the house.  Now that baseball season is here, the junk explosions are happening much more frequently.  Something must be done, or soon we will be swimming in a sea of our material possessions.

So to help matters, one goes to Tar-jay and purchases two large bucket-things with handles, made out of flexible plastic.  While there, one also grabs a few boxes of foam letters and decorative stickers with adhesive backing.


Then, with great fanfare, one announces to the two clutter monkeys that live in the house that we’re going to do a “fun activity!  Yaaaayyy!”  The bucket-things and stickers are presented, and the monkeys are encouraged to individualize their Clutter Buckets so that they can maintain possession of all their detritus.  The older monkey who is now wise to child psychology is skeptical at first.  But a bag of sequins and Elmer’s glue fortunately rallies some enthusiasm.  Sparklies always help, as every female knows.

lauren sweet carson's bucket


The idea is that the buckets will be carried around at various times, to be used as “collection mechanisms.”  It’s much easier to assemble junk in one place - and then unload it - than to carry it piecemeal to its various homes in drawers, cabinets, and toy boxes.  Even I use a laundry basket in times like these.

Maybe my basket needs some bling on it, too.

But the great question that remains to be seen, the great experiment, is this – will Clutter Buckets actually work?  Will they function as intended?  Or will the monkeys use them once, cooperatively, and then realize that personalized buckets are great and all, but they don’t really change the fact that you’re still having to clean up?

We shall soon see.

News at 11.

(Thanks, mom!)



Playground Drama: Act I, Scene I

The following playground scene occurred this week in our town, a scene that has been repeated on playgrounds since the dawn of time, a scene that won’t make the evening news – but one that has a profound impact on each child involved, nevertheless.  My child relayed it to me, and I know it all too well.  I can even see it in my mind’s eye.

ACT I : The curtain rises and lights go up on stage.

A small group of girls is happily playing together, the world of make-believe powerful enough to render them oblivious to any other children around them.  All is well.

Another girl approaches.  She’s “different” and not very well-liked for various reasons.  She is all alone.

“Can I play, too?” she asks them.

“NO!  You can’t!” says one of the girls in the in-group.  “BEAT IT!” she adds, for good measure, an extra-mean line that she no doubt picked up from TV.

Dejected, the “different” girl begins to walk away.  Uncomfortably silent, the other girls watch her go.

One of the girls feels a prick in her heart.  It’s not right, she thinks to herself.  But it’s easier not to say anything.  What if they get mad at me?  But I feel so sorry for her!
With the rejected one out of earshot, the conflicted one decides to stand up to the mean one.  “We should not treat her that way just because she is not like us.  We should let her play,” she says.  She walks over to the excluded one and reaches out to include her.

The curtain falls and the story ends, but only for that particular day.  Tomorrow they will all embark upon Act II, Scene I – awkwardly building on all the days that preceded it.  The girls in that drama are only just beginning to learn how to interact with others apart from adult intervention, an intense prospect indeed.  You can probably identify with one of those kids - or maybe even all of them at various times in your own life.

The Rejected One.  Uncool and overlooked. 
The Mean One.  Cruel and insecure.
The Timid Ones.  Intimidated and uncomfortable.
The Brave One.  A leader for the good.

Even adults act it out all the time.  Not nearly as overtly as the kids do, but the playground drama of old manifests itself in unexpected ways in the grown-up world, too, yet another way that children naturally prepare themselves and practice for what is to come…

…and it reminds me how much we need grace.

Grace for ourselves, and grace to extend to others.  At all times, and in all manner of circumstances.  Grace to bear rejection and trials.  Grace to soften harsh tongues.  Grace to give us courage to speak up and reach out.  And grace to follow through – because those who stand for the good are often maligned.  There’s only one place it comes from.

“But He gives us more grace,” says James 4:6.  God gives it!  A never-ending supply is in Him, a well of water to draw upon.  Without it, our inner resources run dry and crumple.  But somehow, in ways I don’t fully understand but have fully experienced, with His grace…we can stand. 

May you stand in His grace today.


Life is for Living

I am carried up and down on a ferris wheel. And up and down again.
I dismount for a break, discombobulated.
Still reeling from the rush of the up-and-downs, I stagger down the midway to the merry-go-round where I throw my leg over a friendly plastic horse tossing its mane, decked out in ribbons and bows.
That’s when the round-and-rounds begin.
GA_National_Fair_2006_149en Slow at first, then faster we go, as the piped-in calliope music approaches the threshold of annoyance. Will this horse respond if I pull back on the reins? I’m feeling dizzy. The up-and-down horses, coupled with the round-and-rounds, are taking a toll. I rub my temples. Throw in some cotton candy and funnel cakes and repetitive carousel music, and I am managing multiple sensory assaults at once.
A juggler nearby tosses apples into the air, and I catch glimpses of him at regular intervals, as the carousel allows. Down and up, down and up they go. Catch it, don’t let it fall. Keep it going, mister! You can do it. I’m holding my breath for you. He smiles and adds another apple to the mix. And another. He picks up the pace of the juggling with each increased challenge. The down-and-up apples don’t stop. And neither does he.
The ferris wheel is emotion.  The merry-go-round is circumstance.  The juggler is responsibility. They intersect there on the midway – where I am tempted to complain, where I forget the fun I am supposed to be having, where I feel overwhelmed.
But then I remember.  Life is for living.  On the ferris wheels and the carousels and in the juggling of endless demands, I find God’s blessing, not only in times of stillness, but even in the seasons of great activity.
Ecclesiastes 11:6 says, “Plant your seed in the morning, and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another, or maybe both.” 
What a funny little verse!  It says, you never know!  In the course of each day, you simply don’t know where the profit will come from!  Not necessarily the monetary kind.  You never know what impact you are making, what purposes are being carried out in the midst of the doing, what people you are meant to meet, what memories you are storing up in both the eventful and uneventful times.  And because you don’t know, you’ve just got to plant anyway.  Plant, plant, plant.  It all matters.
Spring is here, and with it comes a whirlwind that I can either shrink back from or embrace. 
I’ve got my ticket in hand.  Let’s go.


Stop Kony: the Disturbing Amazingness of Viral Media

The past few days in the social media world have been fascinating.
A non-profit group called Invisible Children launched a well-produced, 30-minute youtube video that made an emotional appeal to stop Joseph Kony, the Ugandan war criminal responsible for enslaving over 60,000 children as military combatants over the past several decades.
I watched the video after it relentlessly kept showing up on my twitter feed, and after a celebrity I follow implored everyone to watch it and, in an unabashed yet effective bribe, vowed to follow everyone who re-tweeted it. With 48 million hits on youtube and vimeo in two days, you’ve probably seen it too.
Kony2012-620x380 I clicked play. Since everyone was talking about Kony, I wanted to know who he was and why I should care. The slick video made the case against Kony, a case not hard to make, and it did so a gripping manner, crescendo-ing in a dramatic call to action to “make Kony famous.” It implored viewers, especially several targeted celebrity “culture-makers and policy-makers,” to make their voices heard so that the U.S. government will support the Ugandan government in its efforts to capture Kony. If I remember correctly, because I’m not going to watch it again, it encouraged the purchase of an action kit that includes two bracelets (one for you and a friend), stickers, posters, and a T-shirt. It named a date in April as “Cover the Night” – a specific night to plaster every corner of the world with “Kony 2012” posters. And of course, it asked viewers to donate a few dollars a month to the organization.
Critics of Invisible Children have charged that the video oversimplifies the complexities of the strife in Uganda and that clicking a re-tweet button is not the answer. The Ugandan government is responsible for plenty of atrocities themselves and is a questionable ally in the fight to stop Kony. The finances of Invisible Children have also been called into question, as only 30% of each donation goes directly to the actual work on the ground.
Proponents of the movement say that the more exposure the cause gets, the better, regardless of what criticism may come. That it’s all about raising awareness. Making Joseph Kony a household name. If that was the goal, then social media certainly accomplished it in a stunningly short matter of days. Earlier this week, nobody knew who this guy was, and now millions have lent their support to finding him and stopping him, evidence for the fact that people want to join a meaningful cause. Everybody wants to be inspired. Everybody wants something to live for. And everybody wants to do what everybody else is doing.
That is what has me scratching my chin in contemplation. The disturbing amazingness of viral media.
I have asked this question here before, but now I ask it again: where is all of this going? Of course, without question, this Kony villain is a low-life who deserves to have the world against him. No one should debate that point, and if somehow viral media plays a part in putting him away, then good. So in one sense, I respectfully admire viral-ness, with its lighting-fast efficiency and power. But in another sense, for some reason that I cannot quite articulate, it’s somehow unsettling and weird to me. I am not completely confident in the ability of the world as a whole to wield that power responsibly. I don’t know that I can always trust the bandwagon effect. If it’s used for a noble purpose here (raising up throngs of emotionally charged young people who are ready to march into the night armed with posters and duct tape), then might it also be used for less-than-noble purposes? Down the road, someone could produce an equally impressive, emotionally stirring video that is completely untrue, and it could go viral in a matter of minutes or days, and millions of people could get on board and believe. Just like that.
I am not a conspiracy theorist. I only know, because of what I’ve seen this week, that it is no longer beyond the realm of impossibility. And that should give us pause.
Some of my friends regretted jumping on the bandwagon when the criticism began to surface. Some did not, and they stand by their tweets and re-tweets and facebook posts, confident that they have played a part in contributing to a greater good. I am standing back and watching this phenomenon play out.
I will be observing future events like this carefully and with great interest.


Welcome, RP! (Replacement Pet)

Upon bidding farewell to our previous feathered companion, Ollie Farris, it was clear that an RP would be needed promptly. RP, as in Replacement Pet.
This time, instead of 20-plus birds in the birdie bin at PetSmart, there were only five. By process of elimination (too much like Ollie, too big, too old, too reserved, too much digging under the feathers…does that one have a skin infection or something?), we settled on this little blue girl. And it was decided she would be named “Wendy,” which sounds a little bit like the town we live in. It’s a stretch, but you can make it work. Also, she’s blue. Like the Wendy in Peter Pan, Wendy in the blue nightgown, Wendy who the Lost Boys called “Wendy Bird.” That’s a stretch, too. But whatever.
So, they gave her to us in a cardboard box with air-holes in it.
Which is all fine and good, until you realize when you get home that you’ve somehow got to get her from the cardboard box to the cage. Our living room/kitchen area has some crazy high ceilings, so I am still wondering why we attempted to make the birdie transfer in that room. Because in the midst of the transfer, Wendy escaped in a panic.
There she was, fluttering around up in the ceiling area, bouncing off the walls, hitting the windows. I was sure when I heard that first THUD that she was a total goner. Oh noooooo! Two birdie tragedies in a row. How were we ever going to manage this? My daughter wailed. My son covered his face. My husband and I looked at each other grimly.
But wait! She survived! Not too damaged, I hoped. She found a perch on the ceiling fan, which is about 20 feet up in the air. And there she sat. With absolutely no intention of moving.
My husband went down to the garage to get some instruments of some sort. He came up with a pool-skimming net, the flat blue kind with a long pole on it, and a child’s crab-hunting net. I could see the stress on his face.
He and I went up to the loft balcony that overlooks the living room, so that we were parallel with Wendy. Slowly, he extended the skimming net toward the ceiling fan and used it to gently knock one of the panels. Round and round Wendy went. Even then, she did not move. She just rode the carousel. So Cade knocked the ceiling fan a little harder the next time, enough to coax Wendy off. She fluttered around again. BOOM. THUD. Window. Wall. Each collision made my stomach drop.
Finally, she landed on the balcony near us, exhausted I’m sure. Using both nets, Cade was able to sandwich her in between them, and working together, we attempted to dump her into her cage. She escaped again, through an impossibly tiny slot in the cage roof. Ceiling fan. Round and round. Nets. Sandwiching. Lather, rinse, repeat.
When the circus concluded, we ended up with a sweet little bird in the cage, who I think has forgiven us and who has successfully passed her trial period that other birds have been known to fail. She is a long way from tame, but she sings, and for now, that’s enough to make everybody happy.
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