December 6, 2021
I absolutely love home improvement shows! I discovered HGTV as a nursing mom to my middle kiddo about 9 years ago when my awesome husband dragged our rocking chair into our bedroom so I could watch TV while my precious little angel took her sweet time learning how to nurse. At the time I also had another toddler running around the house and anything on Bravo seemed wildly inappropriate to have on in the background. So HGTV became a staple when I sat down to feed the baby. I learned about everything from shiplap to kitchen pendant lighting. From granite to concrete counters, peninsula vs kitchen islands, and barn doors. Ohhhh, how I wish I had space to put in a barn door somewhere in my house! I knew my obsession had grown when my then almost-two-year-old asked for Chip and Joanna by name!
From those early days to current days, HGTV has grown considerably in their lineup and I must say I still love most of their shows. Another favorite is Love it or List it, a show that pits a designer against a real estate agent who each vie for a family to choose either their current home in its remodeled state or a new home. In one episode the designer is speaking with the contractor about making some pretty big structural changes to the home and as the contractor is eyeing the project, running his hands over a beam he makes a statement that I found so genius, I had to write it down. He said,
“Is the juice worth the squeeze?”
After the designer chuckled for a minute, he went on to explain his statement. Is the cost worth the outcome? Is the time/money/work spent worth the final result? In other words, is the effort worth it in the end? I know he was speaking in terms of the budget for the renovation and if the high cost of reconfiguring a structural beam was really going to be worth it. Was the large chunk of money required to move this beam going to yield the results of the open concept kitchen they were looking for? Or could the resources be used in a more fruitful way to accomplish even better results? In other words, is the juice worth the squeeze?
Even though this quick 30-second conversation was over almost as quickly as it started, this question has stayed with me. Of course, it is a great question to ask in terms of a home renovation when the balance of budget, time, and big dreams are constantly being weighed. But what if we asked it in broader terms? What if we looked at other areas of our lives and begged the question?
It is way too easy to get caught up chasing our lives that we forget we have a say in them. Things have been done this way for so long we have adapted our expectations to fit this boxed living we have (sometimes unknowingly), created. The stresses of life become our benchmarks and running break-neck speed towards them seems normal because that’s what “everyone else is doing.”
Yes, I’ll take on a new project at work.
Oh, you need someone to chair the Gala at school? Sure, I can do it!
Need a driver on the field trip? Of course, I can!
Not enough coaches, no one to teach the middle school elective or be an Art at Your Fingertips docent? I don’t want my kids to miss out, so yes I’ll do it.
Here’s the thing. None of these are inherently bad or wrong. In fact, they are all good things. And I’m sure you can fill in the blank in your own life. But I think the problem becomes when we forget we only have 24 precious hours in a day and some of those hours are taken off the top because we need to sleep and hopefully sneak in a shower. With those hours we have left we are playing an intense game of Tetris trying to figure out how to line up everything just right so it fits in the day/week/month/year. Maybe that’s why this contractor’s statement hit me so hard because I needed God to speak to me in a way I would understand. Of course, He picked HGTV?! Because ultimately it leads to the bigger question of, is the time/effort/money spent here the best use? Could I be spending these resources in a better way to maximize them even further? By taking on this new client, is it pulling away so much time from my family that the money earned doesn’t make sense? Is buying a brand new beautiful home worth the stress that comes from an oversized mortgage? Is agreeing to chair the school fundraiser worth the tiny bit of free time I have right now juggling three kids? What is the cost to my health? Sanity? Family?
This question also stirs in me a bit of hero syndrome. Early on I learned quickly that doing a lot of things brought a boatload of praise. I threw myself into school and just about every after-school activity. As a kid, it was great and in many ways beneficial. But here’s the thing, even kids get burnt out and they don’t have nearly the same responsibilities as adults. As an adult trying to chase that feeling of accomplishment while at the same time being saddled with the responsibilities that adulting and parenting bring can be a prickly, slippery slope. My desire is to help wherever I can and I’ll be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed receiving my thank you bouquet of flowers at the end of the year school assembly for having served on the PTA and as Room Mom. However after my third baby was born, I quickly realized any free time I had evaporated overnight and I couldn’t plan or prep the way I had before which caused late-night trips to Michaels and Target in search of Halloween party crafts and snacks. I was the crazy woman crying tears of exhaustion picking through the dollar bins. It was in those moments that clearly the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze. If I could go back in time, I would have delegated or maybe even passed for a year or two until I had gotten my bearings back on life before I took on one more project.
Here’s another one. I love teaching singing lessons. Music was my first love and introducing a young singer to the joys of breath technique, elongating vowels, legato vs. staccato lines and storytelling is one of my favorite things to do. Before my girls were in school, teaching was my “me time.” It allowed me the opportunity to sing on a regular basis and teach others about my passion. It was an awesome way to juggle both work and mom-life. I worked in the afternoons when other kids were out of school and my kids would hang out with a grandparent for a couple of hours, it was fun for everyone. Can you sense the but coming? Then the whole day flipped when my girls started school. Suddenly the afternoons became a precious time to spend with my kids after not seeing them all day. Then came the after-school activities and homework. I tried for another few years to juggle it, but at some point, the chaos of making sure everyone did what they needed to do, be where they needed to be, and somehow make dinner in the mix got to be too hard. With a hubby who was working late nights and unable to help me, I finally had to throw up the white flag and take a step back from teaching. Even though I was sad to hit pause, there was such a great sense of relief that came from taking something off my plate.
And yet, sometimes the hardships right now are worth the squeeze because we know the juice is the bigger picture. That fighting through something really difficult right now could yield the sweetest fruit on the other side. Immediately I thought about marriage. How raising babies changes even the best marriages and how worth it is to keep showing up, putting in the work, making the effort, and taking the time. I have yet to talk to anyone who has been married for decades plus say that it was all cupcakes and rainbows (my middle daughter is obsessed with Trolls and this visual pops up a lot around here!) It can be so hard and messy and yet, marriage can also be the best time ever spent growing closer to your best friend.
Another example is showing up for your kids and finding ways to connect with them on their level. By taking the time to figure out what their currency is and live into that. It feels like an ever-changing kaleidoscope, keeping us on our toes, but finding out what they care about and then caring about those things too is how we foster that middle ground. My littlest is all about art projects right now and nothing delights her more than sitting at her table and cutting, gluing, painting with me by her side. We used to have a saying in the Mom Group I used to attend and volunteer for: if the hands are busy the mouths will speak. This couldn’t be truer with adult mamas or little kiddos, when the hands are moving hearts begin to soften and mouths begin to share. One of my girls loves board games and that is when she begins to spill the beans on middle school life. Laying the groundwork of communication now is the best shot we have at having a lifeline when our kiddos are older and the barriers become greater. Letting my girls know I’m listening, present and on their level now hopefully will serve as a searchlight later when the struggles become greater. My hope is they will come to me first rather than me stalking them on Tik Tok, or whatever app comes next, to find out what is going on in their lives.
Another place I have seen this is in seemingly tiny moments that tend to add up over time. Taking dinner to a neighbor, mailing a card to my BFF on the other side of the country, clipping flowers and giving them to a beloved teacher just because, Facetiming with my brother, holding the door for a mama struggling to balance a stroller and a toddler, thanking the bagger at the grocery store for doing such a marvelous job packing up the weeks necessities, leaving bottled water for the Amazon delivery person, or maybe just offering a smile. I’ve seen a huge difference in the little corner of our neighborhood because we decided to show up for one another. We have witnessed neighbors pass away, suffer significant health crises, and babies have been born. We have cried, laughed, shared food and resources, and prayed alongside each other. Covid times have certainly amplified the need to be there for one another.
I was challenged 8 years ago by a Bible study group we were in to love our neighbors. On the surface, it was an experiment. What if you spoke to your neighbors and really asked them how they are doing? What if you made cookies and dropped them off with a note? What if you took in their trash cans? What would happen? 8 years ago, with my two little kids in tow, we made cookies for every neighbor on our little stretch of street. We introduced ourselves to the ones we didn’t know yet (even though we had been there 2 years already at the time!) and got to know the faces we waved at from across the street. In the 8 years since I first set out with my plate of cookies, I have cooked many trays of cookies and shared dinners and realized that I’m truly the one who has been blessed by it. Living amongst friends is truly a gift. During these 10 years of living in our house, I have seen Jesus work in people’s lives and show up in the most impossible ways.
In flipping back to another chapter in my life, when I first transferred to the University of Southern California to attend their music and business schools, I had no idea they had a football team. Yes, I did live under a musical theater rock. But my boyfriend at the time (turned hubby!), loved football. He loves all sports and has played everything under the sun, but he definitely has a passion for football. In the beginning, I knew nothing. My favorite part of high school football games was hanging out with my friends. So learning the game alongside my favorite guy became fun. He taught me about end zones, third downs, and what roughing the kicker meant. His excitement was contagious and now 14 years later, I still love curling up on the couch with him and watching our Trojans play. It’s even more fun to hear him explaining plays to the girls, decking them out in cardinal and gold, and hear his reasons for why it is a necessity to know all the words to the Fight Song. Taking the time to learn about something he loved gave us one more thing to share in, talk about and now drive back to downtown Los Angeles and lose our voices over!
Life is filled with all kinds of doors that we can choose to walk through, close, or not even open in the first place. Sometimes we open the door and race through it, other times it’s clear we are meant to close it quickly and find another. The choices we make shape the people we become and impact the people around us. We have the unique ability to take the gifts and resources we have been given and decide what we are going to do with them. How are we going to best spend them to have the biggest impact? It is not always easy to know. Borrowing a little tip from Anna of Frozen 2, it could be as simple as looking for the next right thing. And yet sometimes in order to figure out what that is we just need to lay down right where we are and ask the question, is the juice worth the squeeze?