whistle baby!

Keep a straight face, keep a straight face, keep a straight face! The whole thing will be blown if your oldest sees you smirking.

He is sitting shotgun right next to me. And he doesn’t miss a thing. So if I and his younger brother, my middle son, are going to continue to enjoy this moment, I must keep from showing my grin.

I have no idea what it must be like to grow up in the middle of the family. My best friend growing up was the middle child and after watching how much she struggled with her place in the family I vowed I would never do that to someone.

Then I had a surprise that turned my baby into the middle child. And my heart has ached for this tension in his life ever since.

To be fair, sometimes I think I struggle more with Colby being a middle child than he does. He certainly loves his brothers with a depth I am not sure any of us can fathom.

But sometimes I can tell it wears on him. Someone always going ahead of him, learning everything first, excelling at everything he tries. And someone constantly behind him being cute and adorable and the youngest.

Then a few weeks ago, I realized I had been hearing a new sound. A sound I had never heard from a child in our home before.

Whistling.

Our oldest whistles through his teeth. It qualifies, I have reassured him, but there is not a whole lot of umph behind it.

I called the whistler over to me and said in a stealthy but clearly exuberant voice, “Colby! YOU are whistling!!!”

“I know.” His notorious deadpan.

I cup his face in my hands. “Do that again.” My eyes dance with delight as the air goes from his lungs and passes through his pursed lips, making a song as it goes.

I look around and then I say very quietly, “You know…..your brother doesn’t know how to whistle. Not like that.”

“I know.” His smirk and twinkle tell me everything I need to know. He knows. He learned to do something his brother can’t do.

I would love for my children to be satisfied in who they are without comparing themselves to one another. But the fight for alpha exists anyway. So I work with it and try to celebrate their individual strengths anyway.

So a few days later as we drive in the car and my oldest starts whistling in his own special way in the front seat and a minute later I hear a (real) whistle coming from the back, keeping up, fluffing his feathers, and I know it is completely intentional, my heart does a little happy dance.

This middle child now has one thing he did first. He can do better. And in his sweet little non-confrontational way, he is celebrating. And so am I.

And it’s our little secret.

As long as I can keep a straight face.

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moments

String of pearls

The sound of my family is filling my heart and my ears. As I sit outside letting the night air cool me off from this hot October day I can hear my husband and my younger two boys inside playing Battleship. I love it.

I am struck by the moments of life. They string together to like a pearl necklace, but each has a beauty and story all it’s own.

In this moment I let the sweetness sink into me. Writing about it helps.

I have been trying to write for days. I have a beautiful moment I want to savor, commemorate, and express but it’s just not working. I sit down, my fingers fly across the keyboard, but it’s not coming out the way I want.

And then today something dawned on me after two failed attempts on the laptop and endless ones in my mind. I’m maxed out.

I have taken on too much. And like most things, some of what I have taken onto my plate is completely energizing and some of it weighs me down like concrete bricks.

But all of it strung together is a huge reminder to me that I am limited. I have boundaries. I can only do so much.

And it is not so much the feeling of stress that reminds me. It is the breakdowns my brain keeps having. The thing simply stops working.

For me, writing requires a certain way of life. Time and space to breathe. Moments. Brain power.

And I have made a commitment to help with a function at school that is requiring those moments and that brain space. I am glad to do it, but I am not sure I will do it again. At least not in the role I committed to this time around.

But keeping commitments is important to me. So when this all dawned on me today I realized I needed to let go of this one post I was working on. At least for another week and a half.

And this is the dance of life. Living out my priorities does not always look the same from moment to moment. There’s no formula to it. Sometimes the choice is writing, sometimes it is not. Sometimes it is family, sometimes it is projects.

And each moment has something to show me. Perhaps my limitedness. Perhaps the beauty of family life. Perhaps something else entirely. Something reflected in the way the moments are stringing themselves together.

And that is part of the beauty of the whole thing. Each moment having value all it’s own but also connecting to other moments to form something bigger. A day. A season. A life.

what’s worth got to do with it?

I am a little late to the party. Brene Brown’s videos have been creating quite a buzz, but I only recently watched her most well known one, The Power of Vulnerability. Really phenomenal stuff. I am a fan.

I laugh at her humor and marvel at her succinct articulation of things I have intuitively believed but still questioned all my life. And I feel completely validated by the fact that all of what she says is backed by research.

There is only one thing that I have trouble with. It’s not the validity of the research or the conclusions she makes based on them. It is what those things confirm to me about how the world views love. And I simply wish we saw things differently.

In The Power of Vulnerability, Brene talks about people she calls “whole-hearted”. Basically these are people who live full and satisfying lives with deep, connected relationships. She says that what sets this group apart is a belief that they are worthy of love. Those not in this group, those living disconnected and unfulfilled in their relationships, seem to have a belief that they are not worthy of love.

(There’s more to it than that, but if you are not going to watch the video linked to the blue words above – which you totally should, just hover and click and it will take you there – that summary will have to do.)

I believe I fall in both of these groups at different times and moments in my life. I believe the truth of what Brene proposes that this basic self-assessment has a dramatic affect on our lives.

I just don’t like it.

Because while believing we are worthy or unworthy of love may impact our lives in magnanimous ways, either way we are viewing love as something to be earned. And that is the problem I see in the world, the problem I see in myself.

A misunderstanding of love. 

Love does not account for worth. Love is a gift. Truly, no one is “worthy” of it. It cannot be earned. It is not a commodity to be traded for inherent value.

Don’t get me wrong; I think that every human being does have inherent value and worth. I think every human being desires to be loved and needs to be loved and should be loved and is loved.

But that love is not earned by value or worth. In fact, love is distinctly given in spite of those things. That is what makes it love.

Believing we are worthy might help us in life, but it perpetuates a misunderstanding of love. I think the trick is to let ourselves receive love – truly take it in and accept it – regardless of our worthiness of it.

 

(Normally I would stop here because I have a short attention span as a reader so I try to keep my posts under 500 words. So I promise not to hold it against you if you stop reading here. But I just can’t leave this next part out.)

For me it comes down to moments like this: picture a moment of marital friction. I am furious about something. I want to be right. I am stomping around and screaming because I want my way. And then I realize I am acting like an idiot. And I am sick with myself about it. But I want my way anyway. And I know that in this moment I am unlovablly human.

But my husband comes close to me and touches me tenderly on the shoulders anyway. He tries to pull me in for a hug.

In that moment, what do I do?

Sometimes I push him away because I am so furious and confused and pissey and weak and human and unworthy of love that I refuse to accept it. I only want the love that I think I have earned.

And sometimes, due to some intangible miracle, I let his touch soften me. I let it break me. I let it in past my will and my need to be right and my need to control. And I know I am not worthy of it. But that’s okay. It’s love. I can let it in anyway.

So the question for me is not so much if I believe I am worthy of love, but will I let love in even though I am not worthy of it? Because that’s what love is.

control freaks

The discomfort is seeping out of my pores. I tried to find anything else ready to post. I like to have things more thought out. More refined. More controlled. This one feels more like a zit I can’t stop myself from popping.

Lately, I have been watching and listening to both my self and the people around me, and the theme of control seems to be slapping me in the face everywhere I turn.

I think we as humans grab for control. But I don’t think that is truly what we want. I believe that what each human being truly desires more than anything else in this world is love.

But, as I have mentioned before, love is inherently uncontrolled. Unearned. Unpredictable.

And that makes most of us quite uncomfortable. Including me.

So when we want to show love to someone, we often try to control that person and make that person do what we think is good for him or her. But that is not really love at all.

When we want to be loved, to have someone else show love to us, we also try to control others. Manipulation comes into the mix and things get messy fast. Because we as humans seem to feel loved when we get what we want. But that’s not really love either.

And all the while, during this time when we are grasping for control, trying to make people do what we want them to do or be who we want them to be, we miss the fact that what we are given to control is ourselves.

We ignore that truth and try and control other people instead. Because they seem so much easier to fix. Because taking an honest look in the mirror and dealing with our own stuff is hard. One of the hardest things I have ever done or continue to attempt to do.

However, my hope in doing so is that my haunting need to control lessens and I become more capable of giving love. Freely. 

beauty in the attempt

I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to write what I want to write. I am tired and empty and spent from all of the relational and emotional work I have been doing and I want so badly to pour out what is inside of me onto this screen, but it’s not working today.

I think I have something important to say. A reminder that we all struggle, a declaration to the world, but more importantly to me, that none of us is as alone as we think.

But the words are not coming out right. My passion and vision and desperation are all tripping over each other and I think, “I can’t do it.”  “Why am I trying?” “What difference can one person make?”

But then I collide head first into my conviction.

And my conviction tells me if I want the world to be a more authentic place, then I need to be authentic. If I want the world to be an understanding place, then I need to offer myself understanding. If I want the world to be safe – to value process over performance or perfection – then I must first become safe for myself and give myself freedom to be in process and not perform for others (or myself), requiring perfection at every turn.

“So try,” I tell myself.

Because I am a writer. Writing has become more than a hobby or something I do on the side. Writing is a part of my life. Writing does not define who I am but I cannot be me without it. No matter if anyone reads it or not, I am a writer.  (http://youareawriter.com)

And the kind of writing I offer the world is honest and it comes out of the very things I am struggling with right now. I could write all about how I think everyone else should be better human beings, how the world needs to change and be a better place than it is.

But I don’t.

I write about my own honest and arduous transformational journey in letting love in. Which I believe changes a person from the inside out. However, I also believe allowing myself to receive love that I don’t think I deserve or have somehow earned is much, MUCH harder than it sounds.

So today’s struggle is letting myself be a writer even when I am not perfect at writing. When the words do not flow the way I want them to. When I walk away with still so much trapped inside of me that I wanted to get out.

But I tried. And sometimes that’s all I’ve got.

mysterious middle child

I find him the greatest mystery of the three of them. He is both the most like me and the least like me all at once. One of our friends (who relates to him and seems to “get him” in a way that I long to) told me he is probably a mystery to himself right now, too.

He feels things deeply. And a lot. And he doesn’t quite know what to do with it all. And neither have I. Who grows up in a family that deals well with emotion? No one that I know.

But I have been learning about my own emotions and how to handle them and not to fear them, and – of course – that helps me with his emotions too. And we have been working together on our feelings and accepting them and making space for them and communicating them.

It is incredibly difficult work.

For an eight year old and a thirty-eight year old.

But there is this song by Jason Mraz, who was already a favorite at Chez Koo, and it came on right after the board break that took all of who my son was. Of course. The song is called, “I won’t give up”.

And so this has become his song, and it helps me understand him better. Every time I hear it my soul belts out every word. Because it seems like our song, too. He is my son, so I love him more deeply than I ever knew I could. Deeper than I even understand.

At the crescendo of the song, the words hold so much more than what they say. “I had to learn what I’ve got, and what I’m not, and who I am.” I think those are words of life. My life. And my life with my mysteriously beautiful and wonderful son. Without understanding it all the time, we are becoming. Together.

So give the song a listen. After all, I figured out how to put it here for you (which you should be highly impressed by even though it is not centered, considering I am the world’s largest tech-no-it-all 🙂 ). You won’t regret it. Maybe it will become your song, too.

a needed love


He was the source of nurture at my house. He tucked me in and rubbed my back. “Tickly light please, Daddy.” He said prayers with me even though I am not sure if he knew whether or not he believed in them. When I had bad dreams, I found myself on his side of the bed, snuggling up to him to calm down.

He was also the one who came to check on us after the very loud fight when they threatened to leave one another but didn’t. “Are you guys okay? Were you scared? No one is leaving.”

And he was the one who left me a note on the night he had to leave when I was in high school. “I didn’t want things to end up like this. I will always be here for you.”

My last two years of high school I lived out of my car, moving every two weeks from one parent to the other. I never quite knew where all my clothes were. I suppose it should not have been a surprise when I drove out of town for a wedding not realizing I left my dress behind. He drove an hour and a half and dropped it off to me, hugged me, told me to have fun and then got back in the car and drove and hour and a half home. No shame, no guilt. Just love.

Then there were a few years of crazy between us. More people came into the mix and things got complex. I got damaged in the process. We all did.

I know it hurt him when I asked for space last year. I wasn’t trying to punish him or be childish and angry. I was falling apart and I needed my therapist and some time. He worried. The whole time. And it took a lot longer than I thought it would.

But now that time is over, and I hear something new in his voice when I call. Gratitude. He seems so much more aware of being glad to hear from me. He takes time to ask questions and really listen.

His love continues to keep me sane. I have always had this gut sense for what a loving parent feels like, but my mind likes to tell me that I am a terrible child, undeserving of such love, foolish and unreasonable for desiring it.

So I need the reminder that he is and the unearned love that he gives.

Desperately.