Monday, September 15, 2014

on filling the time capsule

I’ve missed a lot of words in the past few months.  Life has been full, spilling over with all the everyday things of growing a family.  It’s a strange awareness, this juxtaposition of bliss and exhaustion “threat level midnight.” It’s this satisfying feeling of squeezing out every last drop a day can hold, every last lingering bit of energy, thought, and motion that a person can muster.  And then celebrating it all with the act of collapsing into rest (as interrupted as it is), only to wake up and repeat. 
This is my time capsule of these first, fleeting days as a family of five.
I’d tell you about seven years of marriage. There was a simple breakfast date of coffee and pastries on the couch, during the hour before the older kids woke up and after the nocturnal one returned to sleep. Steal the moments wherever you find them, I say. We try. But when I think of seven years, I’ll remember the following scene. Baby girl was hardly two weeks old.  Matt had returned to work. My body felt like it had been cut open (it had) with every movement.  Tired was the new black. Three kids depended on me. Basically, it was survival until he would get home and one day, we all climbed into my bed.  The baby slept on my chest.  The older two obsessed with her every breath gathered around me and when he walked in, tears filled my eyes. Unkempt, surrounded by children, I asked for a cold cloth for my neck.  Minutes passed.  I wondered how hard it could be to find a washcloth?   Soon, he stood in the doorway, holding a pair of his underwear, drenched in the coldest water August could muster.  He shrugged in defeat,  It’s all I could find, but they’re clean.  All the towels were dirty.  Laundry never had a chance in our current state of triage.

I looked at him for a good minute and burst into laughter-- the serious,  body-shaking, tears streaming down my face kind.  The baby on my chest didn’t wake.  The kids giggled in confusion.  And in the moments that followed, as he made dinner and started a load of laundry, I thought, this, right here is seven years of marriage, a deep, honest kind of love. Real. Exposed. Desperate. Sacrificial.  A give all you have kind of love, even when it’s only a clean pair of underwear to cool an aching body.

Maybe next year, there will be a slow, romantic dinner, perhaps a getaway? But, this kind of thing, it’s the substance of our days. It’s the bulk of our story.  It’s real life, messy, crazy, and oh so, beautiful.
and on the subject of life with three kids, I’d add this.
I’m in the laundry room. My son had grabbed a dinosaur pajama top and was trying to wear it as pants.  It was inside out and in frustration, he kept saying, where did the dinosaurs go?  His sister needed her grey tutu, because you can’t twirl without one, silly. MOM,(in her most serious way of saying mom) where is my tutu? The baby started crying. My husband was cleaning the kitchen, which is one of my love languages.  I’m standing there half dressed in my own pajamas.  A missing tutu. Disappearing dinosaurs. Crying baby.   Everyone needs me. I don’t move.  We catch each other’s eyes and shrug. Let’s run away,  I don’t say it out loud, because it wouldn’t be heard over the noise, but I think our eyes understood.  And then, action.  It’s in the laundry basket.  Those aren’t pants! Pick up baby.

These days are basically an ebb and flow of thinking either what have we done or we’re living the dream.  Sometimes it’s damage control. Sometimes it’s magic.
Like this next story. 
on homeschool and fostering an environment of learning.
I walked into the kitchen where he was pointing to a word on the wall, that he recognized from his reading lessons.  I walked into the kitchen and there he was, mama, this is the word IS

And when he said, let’s see if there are any other words I know.

And when I peeked in during naptime, to find her tracing the letters on her library books with her fingers.
and of course, our sweet baby girl
The way her little smile catches us off guard and freezes everything.  The way she has irreversibly changed four lives in only six weeks.  The way she showed up and made all of this feel so real and complete, like we’re all here, doing this crazy life together.

and now, coffee, rock a baby, and built a promised fort.

Monday, August 18, 2014

on what’s in a name

The first time we said it aloud together, I think we knew, but we let it linger in the air for a while, Clementine Monet. 

Clementine means merciful and gentle, and so far, it’s true.  Monet, of course, is after my favorite artist, the French Impressionist Claude Monet.  Impressionism is a celebration of color and light, a way of seeing and translating the world through a different lens.  At this point, it would be easy for me to go into a lengthy discourse of how that is not unlike the way we live and create, today, I won’t.

And then one day, I read the following excerpt. 

Van Gogh once wrote, “ If you hear a voice within you say, ‘you can not paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”  

You can replace the word paint with any dream we might pursue.  There will always be conflicting voices within us—those that whisper about the great dreams waiting to be realized and those that scream that we lack the talent or capacity to achieve them.  Part of the that process is deciding which voices will inform us.  I love how Claude Monet, a French impressionist who brought us an entirely new way of seeing reality, literally turned his back on the Louvre to put his focus on nature.  During his early years in Paris, while other paintings of the great who had found their way into this gallery, Money would go to the window and being to paint what we saw outside.  Monet’s internal narrative was deeply rooted in the wonder and beauty of nature.  He brought with his perceptions an astonishing use of color and movement.

Monet was mesmerized by the beauty around him.  His work is the expression of a man drowning in a universe of overwhelming beauty.  He saw the beautiful everywhere.  He once wrote in his journal, “Every day I discover more and more beautiful things.  It is enough to drive one mad.”

While van Gogh’s narrative was a journey of inner turmoil, Monet became a translator of beauty. 

- The Artisan Soul, Erwin McManus

There was no question.  That was her name.

Clementine Monet, may you be a translator of beauty, no matter your passion or interests. Make the world more beautiful. Fill it with hope, truth, and light.  Reflect the light that shatters darkness, the hope that eases pain of this broken world, and the truth that will always remain.  Paint the world with color. Or words. Or thought. Or action. And certainly with love. Whatever medium you discover, tell your story.  See the beautiful everywhere.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

when we were still just four

This. When everything is still, change is peaking just around the corner, but right now is so tangible that it can be seen and heard and felt for all its rich beauty. Moments like dust particles that dance in beams of sunlight, suspended in the air before a window, till they join others becoming indistinguishable.  (We’ll pretend, if you’d like, that your home is dust free.)

Life will forever be different and new and as it should be. And so it is that today, on this Saturday afternoon, I’m watching time and my reality linger.  However it happened that it’s the beginning of August and 70 degrees is a gift I won’t question.  A thick blanket of rain clouds hang over this weekend and no one is suffocating in the summer heat.  Is it all for me, if so I’ll whisper thank you to the heavens. 

This morning I rocked my big girl for the longest time.  She woke up early, sure it was time to pick up Gigi from the airport.  It wasn’t.  She carries anticipation the way I do, it fills her soul, it dances through her being, nearly visible on her skin.  How many ways do I see pieces of myself in her?  These past few days, how many times have I watched, savoring all I can of who she is in these last moments as the youngest.  Three and a half years old, with wild blue eyes that are growing deeper and more thoughtful by the day, like she sees the world in richer colors than the rest.  Her long arms and legs jabbed into my side, squishing the baby who is also squishing me.  Her silly grey tee-shirt, a smelly security ‘blanket’ is safely in her hand; we rock, in celebration of this part.  The part that comes before the next.  She tries to understand time and how many hours and how many more days, but it’s too much for her little self and how can we really grasp life-changing time in increments?

I’m not often weepy about sentimental things and even now, I just breathe it, feeling the suspension of all we know mixed with what lies ahead.  It’s strangely enchanting, like the first few notes of your favorite song.

And later, my boy, a few months shy of age six, sits close by my side as we watch The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  We spent the last few weeks reading segments at bedtime and finished last night.  He’s naturally a sensor and found many parts too intense for his little spirit, so we turned it off and talked about Mario, airports, and video game things.  Naturally, I’ve heard more than I’ve ever cared to hear about video game things, but he’s quite knowledgeable on the subject (thanks to his daddy) and I just listen, because seeing this person he’s becoming is a treasure.

Pretty soon, another creature will join our little tribe.  This family we are growing, it’s our story unfolding.  It’s the beginning of theirs.  It’s all the best and hardest and most beautiful things.

But this is today, as we know it, when we were still just four.

Lingering particles of dust suspended in the light.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

July 16, 2014: a love letter

Soft white curtains hang at the windows and through them, light shines.  Today, the air wafts in too, because we’ve been given a break from the oppression of humidity and extreme heat.  And just beyond the front porch, crepe myrtles are in full bloom.  Hot pink blossoms are doing a slow dance in the breeze and I revel at the way the window is filled with light and color.  I call them myrtles, like they are dear old friends who gather for brunch on a Tuesday morning, wearing gaudy hats and one too many spritzes of perfume. 

Last night, after we said good night to the children, we caught the end of the sunset from the porch swing.  It’s my belief that if the sun is going to set each night with a grand display of artistry, then it should be acknowledged if only for a moment.  Our street is bordered with large trees and uninspiring power lines interfere with the view.  We are given but a portion of the sky, where the trees part, so a portion we will take. 

We rocked slowly with the sleepy street below, where its people full of oddities and issues, linger behind walls and windows.  We once thought it would be something of a circus, when we met our quirky neighbors who played the roles of cat ladies, drug dealers, and the rough-around-the-edges-and-everywhere-else-too resident grumblers.  As it turns out, we’re the only ones they like and thus, reap the benefits in bags overflowing with garden harvests.   An occasional firefly pierces the dusk and we are at ease together, in the real and transparent place of knowing and being known. Laughter is sweet, deep, and rich, ripe with exhaustion and appreciation for all the blessings and responsibilities of this life.  And something finds us in the quiet, in the closeness, the questions we still ask, the dreams we dare to dream that have not yet been birthed or eroded with time and its practicality.  The ones we’ve asked from the beginning and perhaps until the end.  The life we’ve collected is woven into the words and pauses, our matching heartbeat of adventure sounding in unison echoes in the silence. 

A tall, five-year-old boy wearing pajamas and a hat cracks appears at the front door with a stuffed crocodile in hand, to let us know that he was just telling his crocodile that they were going on a trip to the moon, in outer space, which is where the aliens live, but he didn’t know the names of the planets with aliens and so he needed us to tell him.  Is that okay that I came out of my room to ask you, he says, and surely, it must be, so we mention a few planet names and satisfied, he returns to bed.  Again, laughter lingers in the warm summer air. 

Another little one stretches and contorts my abdomen, there is little comfort to be found in these last days and weeks before her arrival, save hot fudge sundaes and nightly foot rubs.  What have we gotten ourselves into, we ask.  It’s a question that needs no answer, but we respond in playful blame and banter as we consider the days ahead. 

It’s a beautiful madness, our wandering tale.  Our hearts beat strong with love and bold dreams and unwavering adventure.  Our minds and bodies are tired with its responsibilities and realities.  But, it’s ours, together and that’s the thing.

Oh, let us acknowledge the adventures of today and ponder those of tomorrow.  Let us face life with courage and hope, knowing we never desired easy and dull.  May we always ask questions and never stop.  May we laugh in the dusk of summer and winter snow— even when our laughter betrays our exhaustion (and that fact that we have no idea what we’re doing).  And in that comfortable space of being known by each other, let us dream, always.

Another day ends as the lights of our sleepy street flicker on to keep watch.  We move about, filling water glasses, closing blinds, and re-covering little ones with blankets that have fallen to the floor. 

And again, tomorrow.


Monday, July 7, 2014

where a soul can breathe

I am weary and want to collapse in defeat, of lost sleep and timing beyond my control, and the responsibilities that come with these gifts I’ve been given.  Wanderlust and my restless self are met by the last weeks of pregnancy and the blazing inferno of a southern summer.  It’s a combination big enough to make me tremble, but I try to solider on, until the dark hours when I toss and turn, wanting to scream for relief to fall upon my aching body. 


Of waiting.

Of losing sleep before I will lose more in the months to come.

Of carrying these dreams that roar into spaces too small.

Of not knowing the why and how of today.

Of waiting.

So, I pour all these words into the pages of my journal, where thoughts are prayers, most earnest prayers.

The wanderlust begs for going and doing and seeing. Life requires that for today, we stay and be and wait.  My every part aches with the promise of new life.  I must wait in expectation for the day, beyond all my control, beyond all my ways.  It will come, yes, and all the speakers of clich├ęs will throw their words around and they do nothing for me, but stir the fight inside. 

And after a tragic night of sleep lost, I want to weep under the weight of it all and I do, then a few hours of respite come and two gracious children allow me to ease into mothering on this Monday.  I see no other option, but gather supplies and paint.  If I will not stand before the crashing waves, if I cannot bring my restless before the restless of the sea and there be still, I must. I must meet him today. I cannot do this day without, because my soul longs to breathe, and it needs a space to roar and be held by the one who knows. 

Before the canvas, I watch the paint run in thick, watery streams, falling down, down, collecting on the drop cloth.  I sweep in passionate strokes, honest of prayers and in doing so, the heaviness is lifting. Restless finds shelter in the words of the song I hear, as the colors grow.

My life is yours/ My hope is in you only/ My heart you hold/ For you made this sinner holy/ Your glory is so beautiful/ I fall onto my knees in awe/ And the heartbeat of my life is to worship in your light/ Your glory is so beautiful. (Your Glory- All Sons & Daughters)

He says, come who are weary, so I splash my weary on the canvas and watch the greens, yellows, and blues come alive.  And I remember that these restless ways have been entrusted to me, by him alone.  I remember that the roaring dreams and wild questions, the insatiable search to look deeper, to know, to seek—this is who I am.  And who I am… is weary.  Weary of the responsibility of these gifts. Weary of the waiting.  Weary of the way they don’t always mesh with the routines and rhythms of each day, of each season… this one, especially. 

These most beautiful lives, full of potential, requiring such attention to growth, encouragement, and understanding. Daily, we pour into who they are and who they will be, vessels waiting to be filled with whatever we offer.  And I long for them to know a world, so rich in meaning, beauty, and truth.  I roar my prayers for them, for all of us, into the silent spaces of dinners, play, discipline, and time.  How do I show them, that life is beyond a simple existence, bigger and more beautiful than gathering and striving on this covered earth, things and status and security.   And how I long to collect my little tribe and say, darlings, let’s away, the big world awaits and we must tell our story.  But, sometimes, my soul doesn’t find space to breathe in the now and the waiting and I feel heavy under its weight. 

Today, I cannot carry it.  Come all who are weary,  and I do.  Covered in paint, shifting in discomfort in the hard chair, I continue. And from the kitchen, I hear my children happily play together in imaginary lands, a gift, indeed.  I am weary, meet me here, I say.  My soul longs for space to breathe, I can not carry the roaring inside, I say.

Come all who are weary, he says.

The painting evolves. I am emptied out and held by the one who knows.  In a moment, I attempt to paint in a style I don’t do well.  Realism is not my strength, I know. I admire the skills of those who can, but I know my strength lies in a representation, an impression of what is.  And I fear that all my hard work has been lost to a rather awful looking mountain, an actual mountain in the way of what was a beautiful color-washed sky. 

But, in the nature of watercolors and I’m sure the nature of God, I take a cloth, dabbed in water and begin to wipe away the strokes. This could be another mistake, but little by little, the mistake disappears and what remains is something I never set out to create.   I continue to smear and wipe away so many of my deliberate strokes, finding that under the layers of all my hours and intentions, is a work of art that tells our story.

I am humbled and breathless.

I know it’s done, because the artist knows.

And he says, oh my darling restless one, look, there’s room to breathe here.



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

on a tuesday and something about curry

The setting was the dinner table, where evening meals are entirely blissful and quality moments of happiness.  A place where young children always eat their dinners without resistance.  It’s downright magical, these things called family dinner, it’s nearly enough to make adults cry warm, beautiful tears of joy. 

Or… uh, no.

Allow me to introduce the cast of characters for our story of the hour.  There is a daughter, lover of all foods, especially tomatoes, ketchup, and pickles.  There is no food that can’t be dipped into a nearby condiment. Apples in ranch.  Apples in hummus. She’s a mess, eating is a whole body experience and she spills her drink 80% of the time.   And the boy, he’s older, months away from turning six.  When he was a baby, he refused applesauce and all green vegetables; to this day, the same applies.  There is, under no circumstance, a good reason for a food to by covered in a sauce-like-substance, and any sort of combination dish is out of the question. Ketchup has recently become acceptable, but only when dipping. Never squirt it on a hot dog.  And as of Saturday, yes, this past Saturday, June 21, 2014, he has decided to eat his cereal with milk.  Cereal with milk. 

For a long time, we’d allow him to eat something different, because if parenthood is about picking your battles, we picked other ones.  Then, we tried the whole, “you aren’t getting up from this table until you eat at least one bite of _________.”  And that obviously turned into a battle of wills and in the end, is it really about nutrition if he finally surrenders and eats one black bean?  Who wins here? No stomach is filled, no energy remains. Everyone hates the black bean.  And the dear boy with his gentle spirit also has the stubborn will of one thousand angry horses.   Oh, parenthood, so rich with opportunities for life lessons.

Well, I don’t know what changed, maybe being a million weeks pregnant, maybe running out of fruit and yogurt faster than any family should, we decided it was time.  He was getting older and with great freedom comes great responsibility…or it was time to learn that he couldn’t always eat what he liked and he couldn’t starve AND he had to learn to try new things. THE END. 

We started seeing progress, admittedly, there was bribery.  But, hell, PROGRESS PEOPLE!  And then, we quickly found ourselves playing a numbers game,  it always went like this…

”You have to try this many bites.”

“Is this three bites?”

“No. It’s one.”

A bite.  “Was that enough bites?”

So many opportunities for math lessons here.  (No one likes math.)

And on and on and on…

That game got old, faster than fast.

There was tweaking. 

Which brings us tonight. When that boy sat down at the table and asked what was in the bowl. It was a vegetable curry with summer squash, in a separate bowl from the rice, naturally.  (Baby steps.) Matt and I exchanged glances, certain this wasn’t going to be pretty. 

And he took a bite.

The heavens stood still. The earth was silent.

He took another bite.

Matt and I looked at each other in disbelief. don’t move, don’t say a word.”  He kept eating as we watched in wonder and then he asked, if he ate enough. When we answered, yes, he looked at us with the same disbelief.  Vegetable curry with squash?  A vegetable covered in a sauce went into the mouth of my son, more than one time.  It’s been a few hours since the event. I’m still not sure it was real.

It’s a Tuesday miracle, I tell you.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

a porch swing tale of life and surrender

At last, I steal away to the front porch. The children have been warned in all the, err… kindest ways of what will happen if they come out of bed to ask me for something to eat or what we’re going to do tomorrow.  There are seasons of bedtime and this one isn’t on the sweetest end of the spectrum.  Transitions have been rampant around here with my full-time work days wrapping up for now and a 12 days trip that threw us all into one exhausted, jumbled mess of something once resembling a routine. On top of all that they have been missing daddy something fierce because for six months, he was home during the days and now he started a new job and so good glory, I find myself crawling into bed just minutes after them, waving whatever flag says, I surrender.

I understand that transitions are real and they affect us all differently.  I’ll never forget our move to North Carolina, I was going forth bolding declaring my love for all things new and the beauty of change, when those two little ones launched a full-scale assault on all that was sane and holy… and mostly us.  I was beginning to wonder if we had forgotten our own children somewhere on the journey and wasn’t at all delighted in this newer version.  My easy going, happy children had become the nemesis of my existence and I probably, no, most certainly lost my mind.  I got the message loud and clear that from now on, we must tread lightly with these two fragile souls in the waters of transitions.  I’m still not sure how that works.

And did I mention that I’m nearly thirty weeks pregnant with our third and someone is supposed to start school in August, at a location to be determined.  It’s just… a lot.

Tonight as I write this, my husband concludes his part time evening job, five evenings a week and following that we will be entering into this strange and foreign land of having only one job, one of those crazy Monday through Friday, evenings and weekends off gigs.  I barely even knew they existed anymore.  It feels as if we’ve won the life lottery.  Certainly, life won’t slow down, but we’ll be spending more of these beautiful and exhausting minutes together and that makes a world of difference.  Worlds, even.

So, it was on this May evening, that all I wanted was to sit quietly and rather invisibly on my porch swing for just a while.  To let the gentle rocking wash the highs and lows of this full, complex, day, week, season into the grand motion of existence, where certainly, the sun rises and the sun sets and we rest in the promise of strength for today and new mercies tomorrow.  My neighbors returned from a walk and I prayed for the cloak of invisibility,  surely, not one further ounce of conversation was left in my lungs.  Graciously, I was ignored and the soothing began.  

It only took minutes for the sounds of little scampering feet to reach the doorway.  She needed to use the potty.  Twice.  Which is pretty much why I say to use it before getting in bed, but whatever.  Then, he did too, of course.  This was followed by, mom, why are you outside, what are you doing, can we come play? Essentially, the very opposite of stay in your beds and go to sleep.  Alas, my sails held no more wind and they flapped listlessly as I mustered all the last scrapes of something resembling patience for the day.   And with the promise of no longer having to face bedtime alone, I surrendered to everything.  I surrendered my quiet treasure of being alone and role of bedtime enforcer.  Everything.

The air was cool for a hot day, the kind that shouldn’t be missed and a light rain fell on the ground. An occasional firefly illuminated the darkening earth.  And we do have this really great porch swing.  So, instead of uttering once again, get back in bed,  I suggested, get your brother and come sit by me to the bravest one who is small and less afraid of consequences. 

They cuddled their long bodies of elbows and bony shoulders in really close and we rocked.  We rocked.  A soft, nearly invisible rain fell.   Under the canopy of night, the occasion song of birds and miniature flash of light.  I sang in the darkness, all the best nighttime songs.  A million questions interrupted all of the moments, even though they were asked in a whisper.  You sure are thinking about a lot of things aren’t you? I asked. He answered in the way of a thinker with a heavy yet, contented sigh,  yeah, mama, I do think about lots of things.

Little legs folded on each side of me, two heads infringing upon the space in which their new baby sister has taken hostage and we rocked.  There was nothing else to do, no better idea in this tiny shimmer of eternity when life feels to be just, so, everything.  It wasn’t about sacrificing my desires or giving in to their trickery.  It wasn’t some heroic motherly bit.  There is no hidden message about anything at all.

We rocked.  I stroked foreheads and squeezed babies.  I answered a million whispered questions.  The rain fell. The fireflies flickered. The birds were birds.  A soft breeze, almost cool floated through the air.  And all the words we didn’t say, went something like this,

hey, my small ones, we’re in this madness together, this beautiful, exhausting madness.


Monday, May 12, 2014

On the eastern redbud and where things grow

In the Smoky Mountains, the road weaves and we follow its path.  Always curving right and left among the jagged edges that have been carved out for travelers; rising and descending with our fellow sojourners, because once upon a time, they blasted through the mountains with tools and TNT, paving way for the possible.  Around each turn, we are enchanted where the bluest sky cuts deep into these green sloped marvels. Shadows cast the perfect mystery along the way and just beyond, a burst of light.

The open road invites us into a space big enough for thinking the kind of thoughts that require a great deal of room.  It s a place where one can find what they are searching for.

The road is lined with etchings, often sporadic, but also clear with intention; a timeless masterpiece depicting the laws of nature, carrying the whispers of yesterday and the willing canvas to the carvings of tomorrow.  They tell of the forces to which we will always fall prey, the howling winds and the rushing waters-- always creating, ever changing.

And the trees, always trees.   Green for as far as one can see.  And the thing with trees is that you can’t ponder them for too long without considering the roots.  And roots, that’s where the controversy lies.   Roots baffle me a bit with their consistent ways, how they dig in and remain. I’m not sure what to make of that. 

So, we continue and I considered the trees. Safely in the valleys and along the slopes they grow in masses. In the familiar soil, in all the designated spots, roots interweaving and combining, marking their territory for generations, in a this land is your land, this land is my land, kind of way.  I suppose it is desirable after all, it’s the way of trees and people.

And yet.

Along the road lined with jagged edges, among the etched stones and swooping cliffs, I notice them again and again.  I noticed until I could hear their story, a rather familiar tale.  The Eastern Redbud, with its slender trunks and spiny roots grasped the rocks, lingering near the edge, daring to thrive where others could not, burst forth with radiant purple blossoms.   And the roots, they were exposed, which is kind of a bold move for things of that nature.  They were hopeful and they were brave, because uncertainty was real, but so are possibilities. 

This adventure we are on, the inherent restless winds howling within, it’s baffling and beautiful. Tomorrow awaits us with absolutely anything and we can face it trembling with fear or delight.  So often, I want to make sense of this journey, the way our path weaves up and down and over, but understanding usually comes with some sort of finality and we’re still rising and falling with the trail before us.  

And yet.

Breaking the silence, as the kids slept in the backseat, I looked over at my husband and said, “You know, if I was a tree, I think I’d be one of those.” And after sharing my miniature discourse on the types of trees and roots, which, of course, wasn’t really about trees and roots at all, he agreed.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

On a Thursday

The calendar says it’s just a Thursday before a holiday weekend, but today was too special to be just anything.  I survived my position at the front desk of a large CPA firm. I survived tax season.  And while I have a couple of weeks of part-time days ahead of me, I’m transitioning back into my life at home.

This morning, instead of moving quickly to dress, eat, and gather what I need for the day, I poured my coffee into a cup with no lid, letting the aroma breathe.  I noticed how the sun caught the tips of the snapdragons on the counter, who were seeking refuge from an late spring freeze.  I washed breakfast dishes at leisure while my kids played in the other room.  I let all my favorite lyrics be acknowledged and heard, in the way they should.  And love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.   It was only us, my favorite songs, the morning chit chat of the feathered ones, children playing, the hum of the washing machine… the chorus of home.

I made bread that required four hours of rising, it seems a necessary ritual.  As the flour, yeast, salt, and water were mixed and allowed to rest, I pulled out my paints during nap time.  The brush danced with glee in my hand.  And my husband, he noticed. It’s like you’re back. Oh, I know, I felt it too.

I’m a huge believer in seasons and how even the unexpected ones are so important.  We play the roles we must and we face the tasks given with confidence.  And you know, sometimes, we’re really good at things we never considered, but it’s not who we are.  It doesn’t have to be. You can fake it till to you make, but there is never a substitute for our truest selves.  

So on a Thursday, when enough of the noise cleared and the minutes lingered, that primal instinct of my soul would not be silenced.  Dough was kneaded. Garlic was slow roasted to sweet perfection. Flowers were arranged. Lunches were made. A paint brush danced in my hand. My fingers fluttered about the keys. 

Today the creative energy burst forth from the damned walls of business hours and exhaustion, staking claim once again.

And it was good. So good.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A day is so many colors.

Once I painted a tree.  She posed irreverently with branches sprawled every direction.  She had no regard for the ways and regulations of symmetry.  She was wild and free.   Her vibrant pink blossoms danced to a song no one else could hear.  Once you paint something you know it, in a kindred spirit sort of knowing.  I saw her today, or perhaps it was one of her kind, but as I drove down the street, I whispered, hello, it’s good to see you again.

Once, I painted another tree.  He was pensive and captivating, bearing his spiny form for all to see.  Black lines etched against the grayest sky.  I saw him today, too.  Soon, before we blink, a new coat will appear and he’ll proudly wear a green masterpiece, the “it” color of the season.

These trees, I carry them with me through all the years, as though the paint on canvas was still shiny and wet. It’s not only trees.  Once I painted a sunset and years later it came to life.  In the moments when we meet again or for the first time, oxygen is insufficient and eyes see past human capabilities. 

A day is so many colors. 

Today, the world and all its tiny sub-worlds were just too full of noise. 

So, I listened to the colors instead.

I watched from my desk as the rain fell diagonally to the ground.  It turned to snow, giant flakes fell on the branches already are bursting forth with white blossoms. A confusion of seasons set against the grayest sky. In-between phones and files, I listened.  I saw the ominous clouds introduced a freezing rain and then they were sliced through with radiant light, as a golden sun illuminated the tops of the trees, creating the most marvelous of shadows.   Eight hours worth of effects set against the same backdrop.

It’s March and I’ll tell you, this month has a history of big changes for us.   In the last four years, we’ve moved three times during a March.  Tonight, we’re just a few days shy of 365 days after Minnesota.  And that saying, bloom where you’re planted is not exactly my first nature.  I think I’m downright awful at it.  I’m more of a float wild and free in the winds of change girl.  But, this March, we’re not changing anything.  It’s the most peculiar of feelings.  I’m itching for the calendar to announce that I can plant things in dirt, because it feels like a declaration of intention.  Bloom, this is where you are planted.   Pressing seeds into soil and surrendering to the germination.  It’s obvious in plants, as we celebrate inch by inch, sprout by sprout.  And it’s nearly painful in ourselves, with all the impatience and desire for understanding.   Surely, we are a complicated breed.

Trees. I like trees, noticing the way they bend and stretch towards everything above.   I rarely stop to consider just how fare below the surface the roots travel.

Do you see what I mean?

A day is so many colors.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

On a Saturday

The morning lingers.   Longer, deeper breaths celebrate the calm of this day.  I dress into a relaxed maxi dress, that oversized wool cardigan, the one he claims is his, and a pair of thick warm socks, because even though spring is tinting the world with green and sunshine, a winter chill haunts my toes.  My hair remains in a perfectly unkempt state, my favorite way.

Filling the kettle, grinding the beans, and the art of the press poured into small cups without lids.  I  draw back the blinds and open a few windows to hear the song of the feathered ones.  Sweeping  through the house, I let in the light, my favorite morning part.  Welcome back, dear friend.  The trees are eager to burst forth with foliage, but as of this morning, remain dark and spiny.  I can see a church steeple in the near distance, from where the bells ring at 11 o’clock every Sunday morning.  Soon the tree line will fill and the crepe myrtles will adorn the streets with the loveliest pink. 

More coffee is poured into small cups.  Pages of books are turned.   There will be porch swings, naps, and bubbles. 

Together on a Saturday.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

On numbers, eyes, and pauses

She walks in the building, in the motion of a day and its doings.  She wears a youthful beauty, but the effects of a heavy heart reside in her face, in her forlorn eyes.  I saw it immediately.   Like all the rest, she’s come to pick up her forms and tells me her name.  As I retrieve it from the drawer, I remember what was written inside.

I never considered that this job would be a front row seat to such humanity.  Answering phones, mailing invoices, scheduling appointments, greeting clients, these are the tasks where the stories of life are relived.  They flood the handset of my phone, spilling out into the spaces around my desk.  This place is not for sugar coated, hazy daydreams.  The tax office is where the deepest of life must be brought to the forefront.   And it gets me every single time. I never truly expect to find it in the sea of small talk, in the momentary encounters.  But, it comes, stealing my breath.

I remember how she placed an X over his name, every place it was printed.  The word, divorce, written on a key line.  I know the weight those seven letters hold.  I remember how it changed my family forever.  And there it is, on nearly every page, evidence of a joint life now being severed and split.   Brutal and real.  I uttered a silent prayer as she walked away.

And yet, another story where love surpassed the grave, as she slowly approached the desk with a smile on her face.  The spouse signature line will remain empty, for the first time in 54 years.  Her sigh is rich with a lifetime as she pauses there and sets down the pen.  Oh darling, she says.  We’ve never met, but I sense a kindred spirit.  It goes on, it just does, whether we like it or not and here I am having to handle all of this without him and to be honest, I have no idea what I’m doing.  But, another sigh, we go on, we just do.  I don’t understand how.  It’s a mystery.  As she walks down the hall for her appointment, I can hardly bare the weight of her story.  I can tell, theirs was a lovely life, rich with all the seasons.  And she carries their legacy in the fortitude of her smile, in the warmth of her eyes.  So heart breaking and beautiful.

Time after time, they pause at that same line, leaving it blank for the first time or perhaps, it catches them off guard too.

Does one ever get used to such things?  I hope not.  I hope that we always feel the tides of life, rising and falling, the motion of existence.  I hope the stories do not become commonplace. I hope the weight of life biggest moments are felt according their true value, as magical or devastating, as they may be. 

Birth and death and marriage and loss. Lifetimes. These are the stories of the tax office, often translated in lists and numbers.  Numbers aren’t my thing.  I read eyes and pauses, gathering a different kind of data.

The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.



Sunday, February 16, 2014

on the new, the known, and the terrifying

It all started with, oh perhaps, never mind and some details later, the pregnancy test that confirmed what I already knew.  Baby #3 was on the way.  And of course, all the people were like, oh, hey there’s totally no morning sickness the third time around, and I never believed them for a second.  Turns out, I was right. 

But, as the quality time with my old pals nausea and vomiting seems to be winding down, allowing me to return to something nearly human, I’m struck by the difference of time number three.   Is it because I already have one boy and one girl? Is it because we saved everything in the attic?  Is it a universal third time ease? I don’t know.  But, what I do know is that a handful of my friends are pregnant with baby number one and when I sit in a room with them, I see this great energy oozing out of them. This new, wonderful experience of waiting nine months for what will forever change them.  The excitement of making preparations, pondering just how different it will really be.  It’s a beautiful, powerful force, this energy.

And then, that thing called energy, it’s not a descriptive word I would use for myself, because while I am delighted at the idea of adding another life to our family, mostly I want to take a nap.  But, naps make me nauseous, which is totally unfair, because a girl needs sleep.  I am not lying when I say I was drinking coffee the other day and falling asleep at the same time.  Is this the picture of a mother of two, expecting her third miracle?  Anything resembling energy is distributed to the ones already born and any option to sit and rest, you take it, because this time you know a truth.  It’s all incredibly, amazing hard work, and somehow, you survive the sickness and discomfort and forget it in one glimpse, you lose sleep, you lose your mind, you’re happy and delirious, you give and there’s enough of whatever you need. Babies grow. Love grows. Children grow. There is enough.

As I was talking to a friend who had her third last year about this time, we laughed about spending twenty minutes picking out clothes for the first and how the same pajamas days in a row are good enough for the rest.  We talked of the energy that consumes a new mother and sustains the rest.  And then, with a trembling uncertainty, we talked about the next stage in which we find ourselves.  It turns out, five year olds go to school, and school, well, that’s a whole new game. 

We got the letter saying H had a spot in one of the magnet schools we wanted and the rest of the day I was something of shaken mess.  I mean, sure I knew he’d go to school, but all of a sudden, one stupid piece of paper and the marvel of a boy who I want to grow up to be brave, adventurous, kind, smart, and confident was again a fragile, new creature that I wasn’t ready to share, in the first baby kind of way. 

Today we read books and watched the Olympics and at bedtime, he said, mama, will you rock me and sing me songs?  Oh, I would.  More than anything in the world, I would. His giant legs spilled off my lap, but his head rested near my heart and in a way, it was like it had always been, since the beginning of us.  In the dark, I sang all the words to our favorite bedtime songs, you’re skin and bones, turned into something beautiful,  and the winds of change are blowing wild and free, and old dream maker, you heart-breaker, where ever you’re going, I’m going your way.  With his eyes closed, he said, okay, I’m ready for bed. 

Oh, my heart. 


At the end of that phone call, my dear friend suggested that maybe by the time the third kid starts school, we’ll feel the same ease in which we now talk about pregnancy.  

I don’t know though, suddenly August feels like tomorrow.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

because the words are antsy

Such aspirations to write often, to not let days pass by without penning thoughts and moments, but in these early weeks of growing a baby, I find myself with little left to offer the quiet of evening, but to sit and wonder how long I should stay awake before excitedly crawling into bed.

I know that is perfectly fine, but I still have words trapped inside.  So on this Tuesday, I'm claiming my lunch break, because they are getting antsy.

My mind reels lately, with all the thoughts of life, you know the same ones I've been asking and could be asking for forever.  I'm not sure I know more than I did before, but small trinkets come my way that carry me forward and I know that this journey, this wild adventure is absolutely orchestrated by the one who knows.  I'm starting to consider the questions differently, pondering that the answer I seek is not found in the form I seek it.

Anyone who knows me or follow along here know that change is my thing.  Feeling restless? Get a haircut.  Re-arrange the furniture.  Move to a new state.  Wonder if you'll ever feel settled anywhere on this earth.  And hey, get pregnant, because why would any calendar year pass without major changes.  I always laugh when it comes to tax time, and the software asks, have you had any major life changes this year?  It's nearly impossible for me to think of a year in my adult life that didn't include at least a handful of those.  And then I consider the people who answer that question with a resounding, NO and I'm thrown into this baffling state of wondering how that is possible and what that may be like.  But, I never get too far down that rabbit trail, because the very idea makes me feel a little trapped, for them, even for me.  I don't like that at all.

Throughout most of my days, there is a continuous discussion of my thoughts that goes something like this...  Is there a place on this earth that will ever be really, truly home? 

Like, in the scene at the end of Away We Go, a film that forever stirs my restless.  I can not watch that movie without feeling all of it, the search, the wanderings, the wonder if ever home will meet them somewhere on a map.  And then, they arrive at her childhood home, just weeks before the birth of their child and she steps into the closed-up house and sees the light streaming in and hears the beckoning of the waves beyond the door.  She steps through the French doors and stands before the sea, tall grasses wave in the wind and in absolutely no words and endless emotions, you know they've found home.  That, right there?  It's magic I won't soon forget.  But, home for me, at least in the childhood sense doesn't exist anymore and when I got married, we both knew we needed to forge ahead creating our own. So, three states later, we find this landing place that we happily will fill.  And for all the things I like,  for all the reasons that let me know this is the right place for the right time, I've still to check the box called, "Discover the place that is truly home."  This place is nice.  It's important, but it's just a place and I don't know if I feel the tender roots nestling into the soil or if I feel just as wind blown and free as ever.

There are times when I feel slivers of it, standing on edge of the ocean before the dance of the salty spray, rushing winds, and crashing waves or fully the divine connection of being immersed in process of creating art. 

I read once, somewhere that I can not name, that perhaps some creative souls will wander the earth, driven by an insatiable desire to discover, experience, and create.  And because their souls connect to God on a deeper level, in this creative way, that perhaps they will never feel truly at home, until they stand face to face with the greatest artist of all.   Maybe it's his presence or the evidence of it, that sustains them, until that glorious day. So we search. We create. We are restless. This might be one of things that makes the most sense to me in all this world.  So,  how do I cherish that restlessness so innate in me, in this perfect blend of contented discontentment?  Because, contented discontent, oh, I get that.

Maybe I'll just ask questions for a long time without knowing, being sustained by the glimpses for all my days.  Or maybe we will indeed cross paths with that place marked home for us here, during these important, fleeting days. 

And so, as it goes, these words feel better than I have given them a space, as raw and unedited as they are. 

Until next time.