The parable of the Ranch dressing

I had a meltdown yesterday.  A put-my-head-down-on-the-desk-and-cry kind of meltdown.  I also cried in the kitchen and again in my bathroom, and up and down some stairs and halls.

I’ll tell you why.  (This may sound a little bit like complaining or self-pity.  That’s because it is, but I’ll get over it by the end of the story.)

I went to bed too late and my children woke up (as usual) too early.   I lay in bed listening to them crack each other up with jokes you have to be in kindergarten to appreciate.  Grant came to my bedside to tattle that Clark was playing the game downstairs that they’d been grounded from yesterday.  I sent him back to deliver a warning, and a few minutes later I could hear them both playing that same game.  I heard (and felt) bumping, laughing, wrestling, fighting.  They finally progressed to breakfast and scavenged around in the kitchen because I was so out of groceries.  The noise, scuffling, and lame jokes continued.  I tried in vain to hush the boys so that they wouldn’t wake up Natalie.  They did.  It was one of those mornings where I dreaded getting out of bed and starting the day.  (This happens occasionally when the day begins out of control before I’m even awake enough to face it.  It usually fades once I get up and start moving. This time it didn’t.)

Dishes in the sink. Cottage cheese on the floor, table, wall, door.  Grant couldn’t find his library book.  Hurry, you’re going to miss the bus and I’m not taking you. It’s so cold outside and I’m in a constant state of chill, even in my house.  No food, no milk, can’t put off grocery shopping any longer.  If I’m going out to the store, I should go to the Post Office too (dread, dread, dreaded task) to mail Christmas cards and a package that I’ve been meaning to send for at least a week.  “Matt, is the printer working yet?  I need to print the address labels for my cards?”  He’s been studying for finals and couldn’t get it to work since our Internet went down last week.  On his way out the door, he handed me a network code on a post-it note and claimed it would be easy for me to punch it in somewhere and make the computer recognize our printer.  I was bathing Natalie and told him to put it on the desk.

As I walked downstairs, I passed the waist-high reminder of laundry that needs to be done.  Sigh.  And, oh great, look what the boys did to the playroom this morning.  Where’s that blasted post-it note?  Not on the desk.  Called Matt.  Finally found it on my bed.  Tried, tried, tried to get printer to work.  No clue.  Frustration.  Called Matt again.  He can’t really help me over the phone.  Frustration again.  I tried a few more things and somehow managed to disconnect the Internet all together.  Huh?  Tried again to fix it.  Nope.  No Internet.  No printer.  No labels.  No Christmas cards.  Too late, will never get mailed on time.  I spent too much money on them.  No internet?  Now I can’t even transfer money to my account to go grocery shopping either.  That’s it.

I hit a wall, dropped my head on the desk and cried.  Pretty  hard.  Clark wanted to ask me some questions and I answered the best I could, but I wanted to get away.

The phone rang, and I composed myself.  It was my neighbor who wanted to borrow some Ranch dressing for her boys’ lunch.  A wave of frustration set over me because I remembered I had NO GROCERIES.  I told her I didn’t know if I had anything, but I’d check.  She assured me it was fine if I didn’t.  I opened the fridge and found some.  I told her I had less than a quarter bottle.  And it wasn’t even regular traditional Ranch, it was the three-cheese kind.  I sort of apologized I didn’t have more or the right kind, and she said it sounded totally fine.  We agreed Clark would drop it off when he got on the bus for kindergarten.  Then Matt called and asked about the printer.  I started to cry again and he (wisely) decided he’d just call back a little later and promised he’d help when he got home.  I managed to keep my tears to a minimum while I fed Clark and Natalie a piece-meal lunch and got him out the door for school.  I put Natalie in her room for quiet time, and the flood gates opened again.

There was no place to hide.  Every room had some glaring pile or reminder of something else I needed to clean or do or wrap or fix or fold or put away.  More crying.  I thought about my grandma who had a nervous breakdown once, but she had nine children and lived in an old drafty home and had no money to buy groceries.  My life is so much easier than hers was.  What is wrong with me?  All my thoughts started with “I can’t . . . I can’t . . . I can’t . . .  I  just can’t.”

I was melting down.  I stood at my window and stared out across the street.  I saw into my neighbor’s house where she was feeding her children lunch at the table.  With my ranch dressing.  This is what my brain said (and I know it’s dumb, but this is really what I thought):  You know, Stephanie, maybe you’re like that ranch dressing.  It didn’t seem like enough, and it wasn’t the “traditonal” kind, and you assumed it wasn’t what was wanted or needed.  But it was.  It accomplished exactly what it was needed for, and everything’s fine.  It was enough.

I took a deep breath and thought, “What does Satan want me to do right now?”  (It seemed a little more concrete at the moment than “What would Jesus do?”)  He probably wants me to crawl into bed and never get out. I did get in bed, but I said a prayer.  I told Heavenly Father I can’t do this on my own– even stupid laundry and wiping cottage cheese off the door.  I needed help outside of myself to get this stuff done.  I sat up and the first thought that came to my mind was, “Start with the red coat.”  I looked at my coat on the floor by my closet for a minute and felt grateful that God gave me a place to start because I just felt too overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I needed to do.

And little by little, I made progress.  When the kids got home from school, I had some warm banana chocolate chip muffins waiting for them, and a long list of chores and three dice.  They rolled dice and did the chores with the matching numbers.  We all worked together for a couple of hours, and we got a lot done.  I felt lighter and lighter, and by the end of the day, I was myself again.  I felt silly about my meltdown.  It’s only happened two or three times since I got married a full decade ago, but it happened.  And it might again, but God helps me crawl out when I finally break down enough to admit how much I need Him.

And I don’t think I’ll ever see a bottle of Ranch dressing again without remembering that no matter how little I have to offer or how different I feel from what I think I should be, I am enough (with God’s help) to accomplish anything that really needs to be done.

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34 thoughts on “The parable of the Ranch dressing

  1. Oh Steph, once again, (for like the 50th time) you have posted exactly what I needed to hear. I had a meltdown of my own yesterday, and while the darkest clouds were gone by this morning, I was still stuck in a bit of a funk. Insert your amazingly honest and wise post. Phew, I feel like I can breathe again. Thank you from the depths of my heart. :)

  2. I remember standing in a pile of laundry about the same height as you describe and crying my eyes out in frustration (and normally I love to do laundry) several years ago. All I can say is that it gets better. It really does. And looking for the positive things helps too, even though sometimes finding positive things is like scrubbing the Taj Mahal with a strand of dental floss. When we can’t find hope in ourselves, there is always one place we know we can find it, even if we feel we don’t deserve it or think we don’t have enough faith.

  3. Laundry, dishes, food on the floor/door/walls … yep, sounds like my house. Thanks for the wonderful post and reminder that, even when I feel like a failure, I am good enough for the Lord.

  4. You have such a way of expression. I love it. I have yet to really break down over the cleanliness of my house, but I have cried in frustration when the mess gets past my line of sanity. I talked to a therapist about this anxiety I get over it and she said the only way to combat it is to not let it get past the line. So when it gets past that point and I feel my mind starting to crumble in desperation, I have my husband help get me back to the point so I can get going full force again. Cuz sometimes you just need 30 minutes of help. It’s amazing to me how much more gets done with more than 2 hands and 2 feet and 1 brain. :)

  5. I am totally impressed that you’ve only melted down 3 times since you got married. Seriously. You are waaaaay better than I am!

    Thanks for this, today especially. Now I’m looking for my “red coat”, because I’ve got to start somewhere, too.

  6. Oh what a beautiful woman you are! You always know exactly what all the rest of us need to hear. See, I think you had your meltdown experience yesterday simply so you could post it and show us how to get out of our own. And I don’t think your thought about the ranch bottle was odd or random, I think it was from the Spirit telling you that you are exactly what you ought to be. Thank you for being enough and helping us to find our “red coats.”

  7. It’s so hard not to feel overwhelmed… especially this time of year, I think. But bit by bit, little by little, we can make progress. The most comforting thing is that we are all in this together… doing, trying, pushing through the hard days because it IS worth it. Loved this post. :)

  8. Thank you for this. Sometimes I get in a funk, and I don’t realized that I need to change the way I’m praying. Off to pray for strength to face the house, and help to get rid of the ‘not a soul helps’ attitude. You rock!

  9. Um. I melt down like this on a monthly basis, if not more often.

    However, I am really thankful that you take the time to blog about these moments. It helps me realize I am normal, and it gives me so much hope and faith. I love how you dealt with it, and how the Spirit helped you remember that you are doing your best and that is enough.

  10. I’m just going to put this out there for anyone who needs to hear it: Raising little children is HARD. Really, really hard. I know it doesn’t seem like it should be, but that’s the word that gets you as a young mother: should.

    In many ways, having teenagers has been an easier proposition than those early years, no matter what silliness I write on my blog.

    I got to where I had to ask myself “what is needed”, and some days the only thing that got done was the kids were fed, dressed in appropriate clothing for the day, and given a kiss as they boarded the bus.

    Thanks for sharing your insights, Stephanie. You’re awesome.

  11. Boy howdy do I know days like this! And I wouldn’t even have the ranch dressing. It’d have been Thousand Island because nobody likes it so we still have it. You have a gift with words, my dear. Thank you for honestly portraying a day in the life..

  12. It was such a comfort to read this and know that I’m not the only one. As I sit here and have a breakdown about the loud fans in my house that are trying to dry out the floor from my broken pipe. The red coat thing… really hit me hard. So many times all I need is someone to point out the red coat to me. I thank Heavenly Father for YOU and your putting up these posts that help me so much.

  13. I came pretty close to a meltdown just two days ago, and another one this morning.

    I would blog about it, but I don’t think anyone would actually BELIEVE how bad my morning has been.

    So, basically, what I’m trying to say it -THANK YOU.

    I might go frame a label of Ranch dressing.

  14. I’m glad to hear you passed “The Meltdown” test. They’re as difficult as a treacherous college final…and then when it’s over…you feel light and relieved. The Lord’s an awesome teacher. It’s just hard to feel like you’re ever going to pass the class some days.

    Wishing you a great Christmas!

  15. I’m laughing as I read this because it has taken me three or four tries to get through your whole post because of ‘distractions’, and even as I’m writing this I’m hollering at my son to finish his piano practice and looking at how messy my desk is…yeesh.
    And I’m willing to put money down and say that I bet your grandma had more than one little breakdown. That’s what we women do sometimes. :)

  16. I like that…”What does Satan want me to do?” and then NOT doing it. That might also be easier in those moments when you simply cannot find it in yourself to be as selfless as Christ, but as least you can thwart the Bad Guy’s plan.

  17. Oh, I think you’re great! I was just telling my sister on the phone last night (she lives in Wisconsin, so hey, almost like a neighbor!) what a good mom I think you are and how I so love your ideas and your posts.

    You know, it’s so refreshing to hear real honesty from someone, someone whose life really seems to parallel the chaos of mine sometimes. Both yesterday and today I’ve felt like having a complete and total meltdown but it just won’t come. Sometimes the ache hurts worse than the tears, and I wish they’d come so I could have the relief of a good cry.

    Thanks for such a good post. I know you’re doing better than you think you are. I know if I were your neighbor or in your ward I’d admire you (as I do now, from afar).

  18. Oh, I’ve been there. Sadly, way too often. Today wasn’t as much a crying-fest, as a screaming one. Which makes me feel worse. Poor kids of mine. But, it’s true–we are enough with God’s help. More than enough, really. Thank goodness. (Although, I’m not so much a Ranch fan, so I’ll just say I’m more like some French dressing. Bonjour.) :)

  19. Wow, do you feel the love from all these women responding to your bad day? Isn’t it wonderful that you can send your words out into the world and get a big internet hug from people you don’t even know?

    You write so well, Stephanie, and you can put into words the things most of us can only think. I’m glad that you got through that day. Make sure to ask that ranch dressing neighbor (and your others, too) for help when you need a break, ok? You don’t have to do it all alone.

    Thanks for being a blogger.

  20. Thank you. Thank you…

    Stephanie, our Christmas cards…will be late too. Can you send me your address, please? (en serio; está en casa, en algún lugar recóndito! pero no ha habido manera de encontrarla)

    …and thank you.

  21. I love you, Steph. What a fantastic post. Thank you for being real, and by being real, validating what all the rest of us are experiencing and are too afraid to talk about. I don’t think I’ll ever look at ranch dressing the same either!

  22. Thank you for sharing this! I stumble upon this when I was looking for scripture for a friend. I have most definitely had those exact same days, and this is very encouraging!

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