I was re-watching a Master Class from Sarah Mackenzie at the Read Aloud Revival this weekend, and I had to pause the playback just to laugh. To all-out-rumbling-belly-chuckle at her analogy. If you know me in-person, you know I love the Read Aloud Revival and Sarah Mackenzie. Her online forums and personality are truly down-to-earth and very relatable. In her Master Class, Sarah teaches about learning to love our lives as homeschooling moms, with the kids, house, husband, and finances that we currently have. To love our current reality rather than wish and pine for the future when things will be “better.” One tool Sarah mentions is that progress in our homeschools often looks like melting an ice cube in a very cold room. If we are in a room that is below freezing and are only allowed to turn up the temperature one degree at a time, then melting an ice cube is going to take a lot of time and patience and commitment to turning up that thermostat one degree at a time. But the ice cube will indeed begin to melt! Even though we can’t see progress, it is indeed happening.
This is where my joviality overtook me. You see, I live in a home without any source of heat other than a wood burning stove. I don’t have a thermostat. In order to raise the temperature of our home, I have to go to the wood shed, gather a load of wood, and fill our stove. On really cold days I have to close doors throughout the house and systematically heat the most used rooms. Some days I have to re-kindle the fire as the ashes have gone cold over night. I have to find kindling, find the matchbox, carefully build a fire, and gradually add more wood. Bringing in wood is a daily chore. I love our wood stove and the character it brings to our home, but I do wonder if we have a penchant for doing things the hard way.
Sometimes I feel like my homeschool (heck, my life) is just exactly like melting an ice cube one degree at a time, only I don’t get to use a thermostat, I have to use a wood burning stove to raise the temperature. It’s a cold, windy, snowy day and there are ice cubes to melt, but no fire in the stove. I go to the shed only to discover that the wood hasn’t been split. I have to use the axe to split wood and attempt to shave off some kindling without slicing my hand. I gather the pieces and head inside. Then the hunt for the match box begins.
I find the matches, lay the fire, and strike. It’s so drafty in this old house, the match burns out. Strike two and the wood turns out to be wet. I add some cardboard and dryer lint and finally things get going again. Success! I have fire! Now I go back to the shed, chop more wood, and hurry back to feed my little flame. Alas, wood chopping took too long and the fire has burnt out. More kindling, more matches, more lint, more sparks. More chopping, more trudging. It takes all day to change the temperature even one degree. All day working endlessly to feed a meager fire that is buffeted by the wind and cold.
I go to bed, exhausted but pleased with my work. Next morning, I awake to even colder temperatures and a cold stove. I repeat the process again and again, day after day, and is the ice cube even melting? Is one? Are two or three? Are any? One terrible day, I burn too hot of fire and all the ice cubes melt, but not into the nice glasses they were meant for, rather all over the kitchen counter and onto the floor. Now I have to make new ice cubes, and try ever so carefully not to blast them with too much heat too quickly, lest they perish in the same way.
Marjorie Pay Hinckley said something to this effect: “when life gets hard you can either cry or laugh. I choose to laugh because crying gives me a headache.” That is definitely not a direct quote but the message is there. That is why I laughed amid my resignation to the difficulty of the task ahead of me. Life is no simple or easy thing. Well, maybe it is, but homeschooling, entrepreneurship, community service, and building a legacy are not. They’re very comparable to melting ice cubes the hard way.