Tightrope

“…Is she old enough, is she too old, is the constant question I bat around numerous times these days like a cat with a mouse toy.”

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She hands me a flower, still, at almost seven, plucked straight from the garden that isn’t ours.

I smile as I receive it; conflicted about how I feel – is six too old to still be doing this? Haven’t I harped on her enough about what is and isn’t ours? I wonder. Wow, that’s so kind and sweet; I think remembering that just this morning we were making grumpy faces at each other and exchanging frustrated words on the way to school.

This is seemingly how it is with our relationship–a bunch of emotions all running together, gooey and sticky, and completely blurred lines like when you use too much water for watercolors. It all runs together and all you see are impressions, moments of bold color and pale pinks dripping down the page when all you had hoped for was to paint inside the lines, nicely.

I wonder if it’s like this for all mother-daughter duos.

My son, on the other hand, is still relatively sweet, uncomplicated. He likes what he likes and that’s jumping in puddles, fish, and tickles. Any of those things at any time are okay.

Stormy clouds lurking ahead aren’t gathering under the surface like I see in my daughter and in myself. I see them at once in his voice, actions; meaning clear. He hands me flowers too, but he is little. He is clueless as to what flower belongs to him as I haven’t gotten him out of the impulse move of seeing a flower and immediately picking it. Just like his nose.

Is she old enough, is she too old, is the constant question I bat around numerous times these days like a cat with a mouse toy. Too young still for movies with high drama or is it being still for long periods of time, I wonder. But definitely too old for the naivety of flowers from someone else’s yard, I know now, firm in that opinion. But too young, I determine for all things bikini and the Justice clothing line.

But too old for rocking or comforting night time routines? While I don’t question myself on what she’s too young for as that’s relatively easy for me to detect, what she’s told old for is a different ball of wax entirely. It’s a tight wire rope I frequently fall off of, wanting to not hold her back from growing up, while not forcing her to grow up because the world around her will soon hold so much weight. It so heavy already.

If anyone asks me what’s so hard about the school-aged years, that’s it. The push-pull of letting go but staying close, being shifted from the seat of CEO of All Things You Should Know. Going from the vocal CEO with opinions and the know-how of how to do things, like tying shoes, to becoming the coach, watchful and intent but getting out of the huddle (and out of the way) through the game that is life is the most challenging I’m finding.

The watching and waiting, but not always in the game.

These are the tightropes that are being constructed in this phase of parenthood. And I’m not a tightrope walker. But I’m certainly learning.

Staying within season

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My January so far is cold and quiet.

After the blazing end of the year to the tune of a seventy-five degree Christmas (husband sweating and aching for shorts while all the girls in the family still dressed up in flannels to pretend it was a snowy Christmas) well, it feels good to have a bit of winter now.

The fiery, flaming finale spectacle of a month that can only be Christmas feels fun and festive in that special way only the ending of something can bring. Come November and December, everything is over the top: food, fun, family, gifts and noise (good, happy noise.) To me, it feels so very much like a final flameout, a Last Supper-type scenario, with the moments and scenes building into a loud crescendo.

And usually my energy matches – the familiar valleys and peaks of the holiday season – can you wrap another present? Bake another cake? Do another Christmas craft and/or activity?! It’s always such a spectacular energy and all-out blitz blowout on so many levels: spiritual, financial, well-being (what’s one more biscuit? I happily say to myself while opening wide) and energy.

And then January comes.

And the stark, cold, quiet January that returns each year, every year, still stuns me into surprise. 

Mostly, it’s a letdown.

I get all sorts of moody usually in January, wondering what’s wrong with me, or why everything seems so gray, so dry, so boring.

And then in an instant, when the buds begin to bloom in late February and every store is smothered in drippy pink and red hearts decor I suddenly remember too late– that’s what January was supposed to be: Dry, cold, wet, quiet. A repose from the noise (albeit happy, wonderful noise) that is December.

In the past, I hated January. Who had time for quiet? This is the New Year, people, I would think, getting my hustle turned up a higher notch into (slightly insane) overdrive. My goals seemed to scream at me: Time to get moving! Accomplish something!

I’m finding this year that January, this drizzly sort of muted month that has a low number of events and energy for me personally, is exactly where I need to be.

I have goals and I have actually done a fair share of planning, but mostly: it’s a month for quiet and reflection. And I’m going to take it. Very soon my schedule won’t be like this – in combination with my family’s schedule, it will shortly be full.

So this year, I’m finally realizing it’s okay to slow down. Finally.

January – the month whose working is forced rest. After all, frozen ground soon gives way to defrosting. Soon defrosting gives way to warmth. Which leads to growth, spring.

Perhaps now I’m realizing what I’ve needed all along: a little hibernation, a little pitstop before the year starts heating up, growing. I’m learning to slow. And be content in waiting for the signs of new energy (and green shoots) to rise in due time.

The long haul

 

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After about twelve years, everything begins to show seams.

The wedding dishes, the ones you painstakingly selected together and thought about your daily lives together (although all things considered, he just sort of went along with because, well, it’s dishes) begin to show signs of wear and tear. Add in a couple of chips and slight cracks to make it authentic and keep you on the edge daily, wondering if the plate will hold through the next meal.

Someone’s back will go out or there will be a minor health scare or you’ll get a dog or a house or have some kids (or all of these things) which will be grand, really great in a whole myriad of ways but also will exhaust you and put you at each other’s neck sometimes about things seemingly innocuous as pee pads and pacifier use and weighing your spouse’s wall color opinion vs your own and trying to determine what color to actually paint the bedroom.

Little fights threaten at the edge of the perimeter, sometimes out of nowhere, like campfire grounds that if not tended, will turn into a forest fire. The Forest Fire, you think to yourself, that could possibly end your marriage. Instead, you try and deal with the small but feisty ones together, you and your spouse a ramshackle team of volunteer firefighters at best. Though you’re arguing, you’re a team with the same desire to not let this small fire involving the electric bill and what to bring for Thanksgiving dinner at which family’s house ignite your whole world.

The pet you had previous to marriage might die. The things you came into the marriage with that were more personal than useful, like pink cocktail glasses, might have been given away or sold in a series of garage sales. Or in strange events that you’re not sure how you became suckered into, become part of your child’s flim-flam set up of odd, unrelated things you don’t know what to do with that somehow, but they cannot part with now. These previous life things, these sweet innocent knickknacks that remind you of who you were but have outgrown, your child adores and sees the beauty in long after you’ve moved on. You’ll still hold onto to a couple of small things from your single life before the spouse/house/pets/kids but most will go. You’ve merged, changed. Merged and joined life with another person which may or may not include cocktail hours and a love of cute quote decor.

The clothes and persona don’t fit anymore, you’ll find one day while trying on an outfit for an especially important event. You’re not a new person, not a different person, but one that has stayed the course and seen some things–and felt a lot of things, both good and bad, that you’ve never thought you could feel about another person. And since your mind and heart has changed so – your wardrobe begins to slightly change alongside. And sometimes, the sizes are larger than you expected and yet you are still stunned–the perfect size 6 you were is not what has kept them here; while it originally attracted, it’s not what has made them stay. While sometimes you long for that body, that lifestyle involving all your own choices and decisions instead of hotly debated group decisions over where to vacation, wonders never cease that you are able to tuck in at night next to the one you love, size 6 or not. And you marvel how the feeling is the same but different somehow, weightier, deeper than you had ever imagined. And this contentment and happiness looks a lot more like peace and small decisions about what to get mad about and less like the widely advertised image of happiness of running through sunflowers in the early spring, smiling to the edges of your face.

The furniture begins to sag. If you have an animal of any kind (including those lovely magical ones we call children) there may be some stains – biological stains, unsightly ones, and ones that only a mother can smile and fume over at the same time that are marker stains. Try as you might, every cleaning product and process you’ve heard of and asked around about, they will not come out. You will welcome guests into a home full of love, laughter, but high imperfection including worn tiles, walls with scratches, kid art adorning the fridge and marker or some other “free artistic expression” on some piece of furniture/wall/curtain that happened the moment you turned around to turn on the stove. You will encourage guests that they are welcome here, just don’t mind the bleach spot on the carpet where there was a science experiment very quickly gone awry. Some laugh knowingly having been there; others will try to hide their slightly appalled faces while silently making a tally of just how many things in their house will need to be scotchguarded and/or replaced should they have children.

The age will show–all of it. Your face, your body, your mind. You willfully talk to your face that the joy you have in life is (hopefully) what people see first, not the wrinkles, the exhaustion, the 3 a.m. debate you had with your oldest child about how best to settle down and go back to bed.

The way you have thought of things has shifted; you now know the essential things about life, like proper car care and other practical things that you as a self-made woman would have figured out on her own but short cutting that process is okay, sometimes, you think quietly to yourself. You are so glad some days when you can’t find the keys or the last thought you thought or what that last item you needed to remember from the grocery store, that there is someone lovely, sturdy and practical to help fill in the gaps of an absent-minded, impulsive, emotional true self you’ve realized you were all along, but spent so many years hiding because who could love that?

Staying in is much more appealing than it used to be. Sometimes it’s the back, or some other irksome body part acting up or causing concern; sometimes it’s just too much loudness out there, but most of the times it’s because you have the very best person next to you. The one you love and trust and have lived life with, that you want to hear their opinion, their thoughts. You’re so close to them you needn’t go far at all, most days.

Signs of life.

Signs of the long haul.

Signs of keeping it together, even when the world wants to rip it apart.

The Church

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Recently, a friend of mine in a writer’s group invited us to share our thoughts and opinions about the church with her, as she wanted to do a series of essays of different views about the church. Views about the church as a whole; what the church gets right, gets wrong and any and all things in between.

I wrote a piece about why we need church…and specifically why I need church.

Here’s an excerpt:

I cannot express that enough; we need it, I need it. Some Sundays I need it to get through my week with my pre-pre-teen daughter who has strong opinions about all things, including my mothering and down to exactly how her school lunch should be made.

“But it’s so boring,” she complains, that long drawn out drawl of a whine that all mothers live for. I counter with words about how boring can be good for us, make us grow, stretch, and then say “I understand,” remembering a great deal about my church growing up and a countless number of committee meetings, dry sermons, and all the other things I’ve sat through over the years.

“Why church?” I start, “Because, sweet pea,” I say….Read more here, at Creating Space for Rhythms of Grace

 

Just listening

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Thank to Stoonn and freedigitalphotos.net for the image

Can we be honest here?

I’m not sure what the hell I’m supposed to be doing.

While I’ve had (what I’ve felt over the course of several years) was a calling from God to write, I’m not so sure anymore. There have been things that have developed (now that I can clearly see with two undistracted eyes) that need some addressing and taking care of, now. More immediate than the lifelong dream of being considered a “writer.”

Nothing bad, no, and thanks for asking.

But I’m seeing things and behaviors in my family unit that I just accepted because well, I was too busy to address, and here’s the frightening thing: even notice.

Too busy to even notice.

From me, the Always Constant Noticer, the One Who Remembers, or so I’ve been called (and have recognized that tendency in myself ), this is terrifying.

Too busy to notice. Which is heartbreaking to me because it begs the question: What else have I missed?

What else has sailed on right past me because I was too busy building my career, focusing on me, wondering, just when in the hell, I could have a writing career of my own?

Please hear me: ambition, work, not bad things in life. Good things, actually.

But when you realize you perhaps, have a problem with ambition, in that it drives you to see only you and how things might work out for you, I think you have a problem. I’m using the word you, of course, meaning me.

What other things will I find under this big heavy rock of selfishness, I wonder lately.

And each time I wonder, more worms. More selfishness. More, sigh, dirt.

My husband reminds me that I’m changing too, a transformation of my own, and to not be so hard on myself.

But still I wonder what more I’ll uncover, hesitant. Though ironically knowing that what I discover about myself (negative or otherwise) is really, truly an opportunity.

An opportunity, yes. Even if it feels a little bit (I won’t lie: a lot) like pain and something I don’t want to have to deal with.

It’s like what they say about sickness and also well, my personal thoughts about clutter/cleaning up: it always gets worse (or seems worse) before it gets better.

So, that’s what I’m reminding myself now. To holding on. To hold on and know deeply that all the things and relationships I had in a certain arrangement in my previous life are transforming, changing, shifting. Just like me.

And through it all, remembering to listen to God. Because if He’s changing me, the dreams I’ve held for several years may also need a bit dusting off too.

All I can do is wait. And listen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day Recap

Mother’s Day Recap

I woke up to someone calling from the bathroom about a (pee-pee) related accident.

There were disagreements about what we were wearing and how we were doing our hair.

Nobody seemed to be a fan of breakfast, and the baby was hungry and clingy most of the morning.

Thankfully though, we made it to church (albeit late) but at least we had all calmed down and we were past yelling and being grouchy with each other, which felt like a small miracle given the morning’s events.

At lunch there were jokes, silly toddler insights, earnest trying to be kind and patient, forgiveness of morning sins, and a deep-seated of joy of just being together for a good meal.

Until the baby started crying. Crying-crying, the needs-to-be-taken-out-of-the-restaurant crying.

And to me, this is the perfect Mother’s Day. Could I deal without all the hassle, attitudes, diaper changes and I don’t wannas that seem to flow through my life right now? Of course.

But then I wouldn’t have the sacred role of being a mother, and being able to see everyone at their best and worst and have the privilege and honor of loving them all anyway.

We are raising small humans, which despite all of the things, ALL of the things (those things that I throw my hands up in the air about and the constant subject of many quick prayers) is a gift. A big, luxurious, crazily wrapped gift, but still, a lovely gift.

Those Days

thanks to  Rob Wiltshire for the image.
thanks to Rob Wiltshire for the image.

Those days

There are those days that the baby won’t nap, no matter what routine or rock/cradle/swing contraption you’ve tried, and you’ve spent every last dime of energy and money of hopes and dreams on a swing and a down payment’s worth of batteries. These are the days the laundry remains undone, much like your sanity. There is dust and there is chaos and there are the older women, the ones with older children, perfect houses and orderly lives saying these are the best days, and you wonder if they’ve remembered their early motherhood days correctly. There are those days, sometimes the same day, those days that the toddler wets the bed, a mess of emotion and shame and all sorts of confused as the new baby has distributed her life and everything she’s come to know about her place in the family, and all you can do is cry with her, hug her, assure her that it’s all ok and that life in this family is messy, full of accidents, slips and trips, but also full of a love and grace that we can’t define, only believe in.

There are those days. Lots of those kinds of days, in abundance, overflowing.

Then there are those other days, the ones with sun shining brightly while it rains, the days life seems all together perfect and manageable, downright sunny: the day the baby (or you, but you’re not so sure who’s really in charge) finally figures out a nap schedule. The day the toddler gives you a hug so hard you can scarcely breathe or hold back the happy tears. The day it all goes right and you, somehow, and you can get to the nagging to-do list that includes more laundry than you know what to do with. In that moment you realize you both simultaneously love it and long for it, all the while mourning for anyone, really, who misses out on what special kind of joy having a family is.