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Cascade of Courage

“I wonder if anyone actually reads all their wedding cards?” I said to Marnell on December 11.

There was wrapping paper everywhere and clutter and schedules we didn’t yet know what to do with and we just couldn’t absorb all the beautiful words. It did seem a shame though, that so many people had picked a beautiful wedding card up for us, signed it, and often added a few extra words, only to have us breeze over them.

We had arrived back from our honeymoon to a house knee-high in wedding decor, wedding gifts, and wedding clothes. We decided to go on a gift-opening marathon the day after we got back. It took about four hours but we did manage to open all of the gifts and document each one. But the cards, decked in glitter and ribbon and warm messages, looked like a skyscraper.

There is this problem with large tasks. They’re just too daunting. Don’t ask me when I last spring-cleaned my house, for instance. I couldn’t say it on social media, because if my grandma or my neighbor Mary or my friend Velinda caught wind of the truth, I would probably be forever banned from my family, my neighborhood and my church!

In fact the last time I talked to Mary about how often I do or don’t pull my stove forward to clean under it, she concluded by saying, “Don’t tell anyone, Katrina!” She does this task once a month. My grandma, in her eighties, has family come help her clean every now and then. When the girls arrive to start cleaning, she’ll often mention that she already pulled the washer and dryer forward and cleaned behind them, so it wouldn’t be too much work for the others. My friend Velinda will arrive home from an event on Friday night at 11, and pull out her vacuum and start cleaning house.

So I stand among the blades of grass, looking up at the dismally high bar, without considering multiple pounds that need to be lost and multiple teeth that should be flossed, music that should be played, books to read and write, clothes to buy and sew, menus to plan…

In Hello Mornings by Kat Lee (not me) she talks about making a goal that is so small that you almost can’t skip it. If you have a problem with flossing your teeth, you should start by flossing just one tooth, faithfully, every day. Don’t let yourself do more than one! It gives you too much liberty to say “I don’t have time tonight.” But who doesn’t have time to floss one tooth?

The key, I think, is that if you give yourself a step so small that you can truly do it every day, you gain courage. Then, when it begins to become a habit, you can expand.

My accountant brother used to talk about the broken window theory. Apparently it’s actually a theory about a ruined factory needing a huge amount of repair. The theory is that if you pick just one broken window and fix it, you set off a cascade of courage and soon the whole factory will be clean.

Well, that hasn’t happened at my house yet, but we did come up with an idea to deal with the stack of wedding cards. We read one every night!

Every time I fix the bed I put one on the pillow. I have the un-read stack and the read stack in the bedside stand so it’s easy to reach. It’s like getting a Valentine’s message every night, and we never don’t have enough time to read a few lines. Then we try to remember to pray for the person who gave us the card (my sister’s suggestion).

Well, before anyone comes with a flashlight to look for missing pets under my stove, I’ll have to work on how to apply my own advice. Do let me know if you have any additional tips for this department, and have a courageous week!

19 Responses to Cascade of Courage

  1. Rachel January 27, 2018 at 9:31 pm #

    Housecleaning can be daunting!! Spring/fall cleaning…those can seem insurmountably massive tasks! Maybe I’m too much of a perfectionist, maybe i have too many other demands on my time, maybe…
    Your idea of reading one wedding card per nite is so neat n creative!! N then praying for the person/people…wow!! Very nice!

    • 500Admin January 27, 2018 at 10:06 pm #

      Thanks Rachel!

  2. Scott January 27, 2018 at 10:05 pm #

    I don’t distinctly remember explaining the broken window theory to you, but if I did I must be a complete failure as an explainer. As I recall that theory has more to do with holding back crime in a neighborhood by attending to the small details, such as broken windows. The idea is if nobody cares to fix the little things, soon bigger problems (such as violent crime) develop. I’m also really sure I didn’t mention a “cascade of courage”.

    Having said all that, though, the theory you put forth is indeed a good one, and perhaps worthy of it’s own name…the Cascade Theory?

    -Your accountant brother

    • 500Admin January 27, 2018 at 10:10 pm #

      Oops! I wonder how many times I have quoted people incorrectly. But I don’t doubt that I remembered it the wrong way. However it sounds like it’s sort of an inverse of what I remembered. Instead of recovering from chaos it sounds like it concerns situations where you want to to keep a cascade of bad things from happening.

    • 500Admin January 27, 2018 at 10:46 pm #

      Oh and I definitely did not think I was quoting you when I said cascade of courage. That was my own sentimental interpretation of what I remembered of your story!

  3. Linda January 28, 2018 at 1:41 am #

    My friend’s family does this with their Christmas cards each year – gives me an extra incentive to get those cards mailed! : ) thinking maybe we should get our wedding cards out and actually read them! I’m sure the messages would still be meaningful even though it’s been many years since we received them!

    • 500Admin January 28, 2018 at 7:46 am #

      Interesting! And yes I’m sure your wedding cards would still be meaningful.

  4. Sara January 28, 2018 at 8:09 am #

    Pull appliances forward. . . You mean they can be moved around like that?

    • 500Admin January 28, 2018 at 8:21 am #

      Hysterical. And refreshing. You’re right I’m pretty sure mine were not made with the capability of moving once a month anyway.

  5. Connie January 28, 2018 at 8:18 am #

    I’m right there with you on the spring house cleaning idea. My thinking is, most of us don’t have coal or wood stoves anymore so things don’t get as dirty! I can just see your grandma rushing around to get that done before they get there.

    • 500Admin January 28, 2018 at 8:51 am #

      That’s a good point about the woodstove!

  6. Christine January 28, 2018 at 11:10 am #

    The best time to clean behind an appliance? Just before the new one arrives! I once wondered why some people clean so much. Some like to clean; others do so out of necessity; for some, it’s both. If you grew up doing “morning work,” it is likely a habit. And, yes, woodstoves–and farm life–make more work. I once wondered why a friend needed to wash her walls. Well, she explained about the woodstove, plus the many marks from flies. Another friend pointed out that some homes do not get all that dirty, but others do. (We generally remove our shoes at the door, which cuts down on the dirt.) And think of this: People simply spend their time differently. It’s good for some to be the queen of clean, but that should not make the rest of us cower in the cluttered corner. I spend much time cleaning up … words. I write and edit and proofread; I doubt any of the cleaners out there feel ashamed if they don’t! 🙂

    • 500Admin January 28, 2018 at 11:12 am #

      Great point, Christine! It is actually quite time-consuming to write a weekly blog…

  7. Anonymous January 28, 2018 at 9:45 pm #

    Katrina really now… You know we have never spring cleaned so quit comparing! 😊

    • 500Admin January 28, 2018 at 9:48 pm #

      Okay, Someone 😀

  8. Rosetta January 28, 2018 at 10:59 pm #

    Oh how I love your honestly. And your cleaning values. Spot on! 😊👌🏼

    • 500Admin January 28, 2018 at 11:01 pm #

      🙂 Oh how I love your comment!

  9. Cindi January 30, 2018 at 8:21 am #

    I’m terrible when it comes to spring and fall cleaning! When I I first got married I felt like I should cause my in laws do. I didn’t grow up doing it because my Mom cleaned so well every week that we never had to. That method doesn’t work well for me anymore with 4 littles and I’ve learned to focus more on surface clutter than areas that you can’t see thanks to the encouragement of my husband. I’ve actually found a lot of help in the online world for this area of my life. Some of my favorite courses and inspiration come from ( she has the elevate your clean routine course) (she talks a lot about minimalism as a mom, I wish I’de have heard her before we had kids) (Jami has so much good stuff to help out with homemaking! I always feel so encouraged when listening to her podcast and she’s got lots of book recommendations.)

    • 500Admin January 30, 2018 at 8:16 pm #

      Thanks Cindi!