remembering the important things

I took a long time to learn a very simple truth. I thought I knew this truth all of my life, and I did – in theory. Unfortunately the honest truth is I don’t grasp theories easily. Ideas and concepts are so very intuitive and abstract.

I learn through the concrete. I need examples. Then I travel through the example to find my way to the theory, the concept, or the idea. THEN I understand.

Maybe the reason the many examples of this truth failed to penetrate into my soul is because I thought I had the theory grasped. No matter what the reason all I know is that it took me a painfully long time to understand that I am loved. And that it is okay for me to let that love in. All the way in.

But now I know this to be true. I am loved. The problem is, I often forget. Not because I try to forget. I think it is simply human nature to forget that one is loved. And then to operate as though the entire world requires something from me in order to get something in return. Including love.

Because of this propensity for forgetting I am loved as well as a human resistance to letting that love all the way in, I set reminders for myself all around my home. Some silk flowers in a decorated yogurt container from one of my son’s preschool classes. A homemade card sent to one of my children from a dear friend.

And pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

Mostly my home is adorned with pictures of my immediate family. The piano is a shrine to my sons. Pictures from my wedding are scattered through the entire house. There is even a picture of Phil and I when we were dating that peeks out from behind the dishes when the stack gets low enough.

Tucked behind the glass doors of the china cabinet in between a few stacks of plates is where pictures from afar get stashed. They change every so often but there are a couple photos that have been lingering there for quite a while now.

I have two women who have poured into me during my life more than I can say. One opened her home and her family to me in the confusing teenage years when I desperately needed both. Another has listened for countless hours to the ramblings of a young mother trying to find herself.

And every time I go to get my camera, which perches on top of the china plates behind these pictures, the pictures fall out and I have to readjust them. While my hands fumble to rest the unstable treasures, I am reminded that I am loved.

These are safe people who have been faithful to me when I have been a mess in return.

And that is true love.

And it is okay to let that love in.

All the way.

i wanna be a dancing fool

How does he pierce his soul right through his body like that?

There will be no picture with this post. Even if I could catch this on camera, I would never make public such a private and sacred moment of one of my children.

Every once in a while I can catch a glimpse of my son dancing when he thinks no one is watching. This child has more soul in his pinky toe than most people house in their entire being. I am in awe when I catch these moments.

Clearly he is a safe person for himself. I marvel at the beauty of such a thing.

He has some serious moves. I mean it. I LOVE to watch him get his groove on. But I don’t know if he really has rhythm or if I simply see him through the lovesick eyes of a mother.

What I do know is that he is engaging his entire self – body and soul – with the music. He is expressing himself in a way that is beautiful and fun to him, and in that moment nothing else matters.

And that is exactly the way I want to live my life.

But the last few years, I have found it difficult to locate the rhythm of the music playing in my life. There was some “stuff” that came up two years ago requiring intense therapy, and while the rhythm of my life was the same as it had been, I was entirely different, so syncing up was a problem.

Then this last year when I had finally stabilized, the rhythm of my life completely turned upside down. New schools, pre-adolescence, and all the topsy turvy that goes along with learning to navigate a new stage in the life of our family.

And just now, when I think I might be getting a handle on things, my youngest drops his nap. Naptime has been a beloved part of my life for almost 12 years.

Truly, this new shift frees us up to have much more fun and flexibility as a family. But it’s new and different and I haven’t quite figured out the rhythm of the last five transitions we went through so how could I possibly figure this one out?

Can you call something a “new normal” if everything changes again before the actual sense of normalcy kicks in? And the question burning inside of me is……when will I write?

I don’t know. All I know is that life seems to be changing songs on me quicker than I can find the rhythm of any of them.

But then I remember my son when he dances. And I remember that the most beautiful part of dancing is when someone lets go and engages all they have in the dance whether they have rhythm or not. 

my minivan and me

Is this as good as I get?

As a vibrant, young bride-to-be, this question unexpectedly nagged my psyche. I had always dreamed of looking my “best ever” on my wedding day. But as the day drew near, I began to think about the days after I was a blushing bride.

Would it be all downhill from there?

Fortunately, that question disappeared as I walked around in my white dress next to the man I love, surrounded by all the people we cherish, brilliant colors bursting from the flowers and delighting my eyes wherever they looked.

And then yesterday when I was vacuuming out my minivan, the answer came to me.

We call her our “silver bullet”, and I will never forget the day my husband came home with her. His chest swelled with pride as though he had just hunted us down the biggest, fattest pig ever that was going to keep us fed for years to come.

I was so grateful. She sparkled with her shiny paint and fancy sliding doors. She was a dream come true. And she has proved particularly helpful considering more of her seats are filled now than we originally aniticipated!

I have to confess; she’s a mom car. She gets beaten up a bit. And neglected. All for the greater good, but still. The past few weeks (okay, maybe months) I have noticed she needs a vacuum taken to her insides as the stray animal crackers, cheese-it crumbs, and general grime have been accumulating to epic proportions.

But I kept putting it off thinking, “What’s a few crumbs mixed in with all the stains?” Because vacuuming will only get her so clean. She’s got a plethora of permanent scars now. (Note the picture of the floor mat as only one example.)

And as I finally took the time to clean her up I smiled to myself. Those stains have come from holding a lot of life in her seats. My van may not sparkle like she did the day we got her, but she has served us faithfully and valiantly. And I find her even more beautiful now than I did then.

She and I may have more in common than I want to admit. Perhaps I was a blushing bride on our wedding day, but the truth is I have sustained some damage over the years as well.

Stretch marks. Bulging veins. Hands that have aged from endless washings after diaper changes, cleaning toilets, and cooking countless dinners. And now the wrinkles are setting in. Oh the wrinkles.

I have to admit, I am not too thrilled about all of it. But I’m not ashamed of it either.

Raising a family with the man that I love is has required more from me than I ever thought it would. And it is worth every ounce, every “stain” I acquired along the way.

Funny how a definition of beauty can change over time.

going “koo-koo”

“Carrot cuddling cuckoo,” I hear him mutter as he trudges to his room. A smirk emerges on my face. My four year old is quoting a book. And his quote is quite astutely applicable in the current moment.

Berkeley Breathed, Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of comics Bloom County and Opus, has also written a book called Mars Needs Moms. (Seriously, go look at those links. You’ll have no regrets.) The title may sound familiar. Current Hollywood trends have been to take children’s books and turn them into full-length feature films, this being one of them.

However, I do confess I haven’t seen the movie. I am not sure I want to. The book is so perfectly succinct. The rhythm and timing are fabulous. And don’t even get me started about the illustrations. Berkeley makes me wish my gifts were in creating visual images instead of verbal ones.

As the story goes from the point of view of a little boy, Milo’s mom is a tyrant. She makes him do all sorts of terrible things like eat vegetables and take out the trash and work in the garden. Then, of course, she is shown to have no sense of humor what so ever when she cannot see what is funny about Milo dyeing his sister purple.

Milo’s mom looses her cool. She yells. At least that is what I am led to believe by the capital letters. My boys like to point out at this particular point in the story that Milo’s mom and their mom are kindred spirits. I don’t always take kindly to it. Which of course only proves their point.

But when we read the book recently, I realized there is truly no offense to be taken by their paralleling me and Milo’s mom. Because the end of the story is so heart warming and wonderful and saturated with love.

The best, most mysterious part of Milo’s mother – the part that was missed by both the Martians and her own little boy – is poignantly revealed on the planet Mars.

I believe the right word for this turn in the story is redemption.

All too often I associate redemption with larger than life, out of this world moments in books like this one. I struggle against a belief I don’t want to hold but can’t seem to shake that people only change when they are characters in books.

Then I discover small moments like this when I find myself smiling at my son’s mumbled quote. Characteristically, I should be fighting the urge to erupt into a volcanic fury fueled by my need to defend myself as a mother.

But instead I land in a moment of honesty and self-acceptance. A moment when a very human, perfectionist mother lets go to see the humor and brilliance of her son’s grumbled words taken from this beloved book.

Maybe people do change outside of literature. Maybe redemption isn’t always in galactic-sized moments. Maybe it dwells in smallness, too. Maybe even in me.

eyes to see

Sometimes I need help remembering what life is like from his perspective. I have a tendency to be human and forget that not everyone sees from my point of view. Especially my children.

When one of them gets a hold of my camera and starts snapping, there are often at least one or two pictures that shock it into me. Life literally looks different when you are the size of a child.

This time it was the youngest. He looks up at things I look down on. He sees things I ignore. He treasures things I want put away.

And somehow seeing that different perspective captured in an actual image that was taken with one part creative license and another part random chance drives the point home to me clearly.

My perspective is not invalid. And neither is his. But they are entirely different from one another.

My parenting may not change much as a result. Except for my understanding and compassion for my children. Which is everything, really.

So thank you, my son, for asking to take pictures with my camera. And thank you, me, for saying yes and being willing to let someone small handle something big that cost a good chunk of money.

Because out of it comes a priceless reminder that my set of eyes is not the only one in the world. That life is different when you’re four. Or eight. Or almost twelve. Or anyone besides me.

my revivers

Sometimes when I get to them, I am barely breathing. Life has a choke hold around my throat and the air hardly whispers through me. I am moments away from running out. Of air. Of patience. Of endurance. Of me.

I collapse in their arms. Their hearts enfold me. They cover me with themselves. They listen. They wipe my tears. They let me be a mess. They love me. And I think for the first time in what feels like forever that I just might make it.

My friends are mighty warriors who go to bat for me against the demons I fight. They remind me of truth. They cheer me on. They let me rest my dry and weary bones in their arms and they hold me.

They may do this over the phone or through an email. Maybe on the playground at school. They may do it in one of our homes in between kid squabbles and snack making. Or maybe on the steps of their porch in the one and only moment we have which will be over before we want it to be, but we take what we can get.

And I love them. Each and every one. I know I could not make it through this life without them. Because I have had some fierce battles to fight. Battles that would have done me in if I did not have them in my corner.

Surely I would have lost myself along the way if they were not there to find me. They forever remind me who I am and that I am worth fighting for. I owe them everything and yet indebtedness doesn’t compute in friendship.

When I walk away I know they have just breathed life back into me. They haven’t solve my problems or fixed me, but they have kept me alive. They have heard me and understood me and loved me – whether we talked at length or just a hello – and my airway is clear once again.

the dreaded PTA mom

Missing the adrenaline surprised me. Exhaustion set in for sure; I have never slept so hard as after the event.

But the next day as I thought about getting back to my normal life, all the things I normally love to do when I am not in charge of decorations for a circus-themed silent auction fundraiser (like write and spend time with my family), I realized I was going to miss the adrenaline that has kept me company during the last week.

I have never had such a role in one of the school’s main events. Quite frankly, I have stayed away from them. I am not a big “task” person. I prefer people.

And to be perfectly honest and risk offending people, the image I have in my head of a typical “PTA Mom” is not glowing. And that’s putting it mildly.

So for six years, I managed to avoid it entirely. I signed up for membership every year to show support for the school, but then helped in the classroom while avoiding eye contact with any one who might ask me to do something for or with the PTA.

But after enough years of avoiding the madness, I gave in.

One of my dear friends was chairing this event, so of course I volunteered for things I otherwise would have graciously dodged. And to be honest again, not all of it was easy or enjoyable.

But while I cannot stand the image in my head of PTA, the idea of coming along side schools to help them financially when they are being hit particularly hard right now is something I believe in strongly.

And that belief kept me going. Which was super helpful because getting different personalities together to work with each other toward a common goal can be…….tricky…….from time to time. We can all make each other crazy.

But that’s how we learn.

So now I am back to those things that connect me to my life and keep me grounded…….dishes, laundry, and toilet scrubbing as well as lingering snuggly hugs, intentional eye contact, and tender bedtime rituals.

And I love it, even though the adrenaline that comes along with being crazy together when planning a big event leaves a bit of a hole. I suppose that just makes me realize how valuable it was to engage in the process of working with others for a greater good.