gone tomorrow, hair today

I am having an out of body experience. I walk by the shop and a reflection in the window catches my breath.

Who is that girl? The girl with the edgy haircut. She couldn’t possibly be me! I don’t have the guts to get a cut like that. I am not that kind of girl.

I am a color inside the lines kind of girl. A rule follower. A let’s-not-make-waves kind of girl.

The kind of girl who gets that kind of haircut is a girl who is confident. She is comfortable with herself. She gives herself permission to risk.

My sister does it. My friend Linsay does it. My friend Amy who I went to high school with can totally pull it off.

But not me.

If I had that haircut I would feel horridly self-conscious. It would show all over my body. That’s why I don’t get haircuts like that. I stay safe. Attempting to stay current without going too far.

Feeling that uncomfortable all day would not be worth it to me. Especially if it lasted as long as until my hair grows out.

But in another instant, I realize that girl is me. And I like my hair. And it doesn’t even feel gutsy to have it like this. I just like it.

So who climbed into my body when I wasn’t looking?

Some people might not think this cut is all that out there. I understand. It’s not a Mohawk, much to my husband’s relief.

But my hairdresser knows I don’t do short. I may think there are so many cute things you can do with short cuts and I may be a fan of almost all of them. But get too short and I start to panic.

When I was growing up, my hair was short. Like very short. And I got a lot of comments about being “such a cute little boy”. And I might have been scarred for life. Just a little bit.

But clearly I have healed. I didn’t even freak out when I washed my hair the next morning and found out it was all gone.

I must be getting more comfortable with myself. I must not be taking life so seriously. I must be more at ease around risk. Who knew?

And that’s how it happens. Growth and change happens so slowly and seems so small that sometimes we question whether or not it is there. But then something that might have been a big deal in the past…..isn’t. And sometimes, when something is no big deal, that’s a big deal.

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.

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.

love from Ghee

He is the embodiment of security for my youngest son. A tangible representation of faithfulness, gentleness, support, and love. I do not know how an inanimate object takes on such soulful qualities.

I like to think my son already has those qualities inside of him, which is how he is able to attach them to his beloved blanket. The blanket’s name is “Ghee”, and we don’t quite know how he acquired it, nor how he came to hold all that he does for my son.

One of my friends gave us this once blue (but now grey) cable-knit gift when my son was just a baby. I could swear Ghee was his favorite of all the blankets, but I thought that must be my imagination, the dream of someone who sang to her teddy bear when she was little, wishing that just one of her children would develop a fondness for a security item.

So after one of Ghee’s washings, back in the closet he went while my son developed attachments to the flannel blankets in abundant supply, always lying around handy.

But then one day my son was old enough to point to what he wanted. And when he saw Ghee on the closet shelf he communicated his desire clearly. As the saying goes when telling love stories…the rest is history.

Just recently, my son offered me a gesture of tenderness and love beyond what I ever thought I would receive. Recognizing this gesture required both the anthropologist in me, studying my son’s unique and individual culture, as well as the treasure-hunter in me, always on the look out for glimpses of unearned love.

We had just snuggled into my son’s bottom bunk after stories and one final trip to the bathroom. Ghee was there, as he always is. My son burrowed in closely to me as he always does, hugging his precious Ghee.

Then he pulled away a bit, wiggled Ghee out from underneath the covers and gently but firmly wadded him up against my neck right underneath my chin.

I recognized this offering right away and tried to open my heart as wide as I could to catch all the intimacy and purity of love held by this moment.

I have seen my son do this, night after night after night for as long as I can remember. He holds Ghee in this same spot whenever he is tired and ready for bed, sad and wanting to be comforted, lonely and wanting company, happy and glad to be home.

This spot, tucked under my son’s chin and soothing against the skin on his throat, is where Ghee feels the best to my son. That spot somehow transfers the magical wonders of Ghee the most clearly, the most effectively, and in the best possible way.

And now, with this one gesture, he was offering his most precious of moments to me. He was sharing. He wanted me to experience this wonderful feeling, too. I felt so honored, humbled, loved. Touched by the sacred, ceremonial beauty held out by a four-year-old and his treasured companion.

sparkling goo

What kind of creature leaves behind such a beautiful trail? My kids and I all squeal when we walk outside after a good rain. The thought of one miss-step leading to a crackly scrunch followed by slippery ooze underfoot is enough to turn my karate-chopping boys into prissy little girls as they make their way down the path that heads away from our porch.

Seriously, snails are not the most enchanting creatures. They are slimy and – dare I say – gross. And now that the weeds are mostly gone (at least for the time being), they cover my walkway after the slightest bit of moisture released from the clouds.

Yes, they have cool shells. And yes, they make their way through this world on one foot, which is quite impressive. And yes, I DID graduate from the college with a slug for a mascot (UC Santa Cruz banana slugs…..the ecological mascot……whoot-whoot!). But no, I am not a fan of this family of creatures as I play frogger down my path to avoid killing them and leaving their disgusting goop on my shoe.

However, I must admit they leave awfully pretty art for me to appreciate after they are gone. And, quite frankly, the more they leave behind the better. Shiny, delicate, light-catching patterns mask the aging and barely-there paint of my concrete walkway.

How ironic that such a putrid creature can leave behind something so lovely. And I start to think of what I have left behind this week. It’s not nearly as pretty as the snails. And I think myself to be so much better than those snails.

During Spring Break with all my children home and driving each other nuts, the imprint I leave behind at the end of the day is more akin to a snail smooshed by my shoe than glimmering doilies of delight and joy.

But then those beautiful trails catch my eye again and I am reminded. A mucous-propelled creature left those trails. Redemption is alive and well. There is hope that somehow, someway even my ugly days can be refashioned to bring beauty.

reminders

Why do I always need reminders? Don’t get me wrong, I know one gigantic reason is that ½ my brain cells were lost with each baby I gave birth to (and let’s remember I have three children). But I need reminders about more than just, “Where are my keys?” and, “What time does karate start?” and, “Which night is open house again?”

I need reminders about the important things in life. That is why I love reading Francesca Zelnick’s blog so much. She reminds me that there is beauty and love in this world. Because for some reason I am prone to forgetting.

My reminders often come in unexpected, seemingly random ways. Except they seem to be timed just perfectly for what I need when I need it. Funny.

Like a few days ago when I dropped my middle son off at school. I took my youngest to give his daily hello and fist bump to one of our favorite teachers and she had eggs hatching in her room.

I know. So cute, right?

Those new little chicks were a desperately needed reminder to me that new life is just around the corner. I never know when that egg will crack and something beautiful, in an ugly sort of way, will come out and warm my heart.

Once the chicks get fluffy, they are irresistibly adorable. But before that, when they first emerge from their shell, their feathers are wet, their heads are floppy, their feet are well too big for them, and they can’t seem to stand up straight.

And they are so very sleepy. Breaking out of the shell that once was protective and nurturing but now is cramped and restrictive is difficult work. The poor things just look exhausted.

But they are born.

And I am like those chicks, struggling to get my true self out of the shell. There is always something new birthing inside of me. And sometimes there is so much struggle involved in that process. It can feel endless.

So I soaked in those chicks this week because they reminded me. Hope.

Because sometimes, I simply forget.

My new life is around the corner, too.

oops…my roots are showing

When I saw these trees I immediately sensed they were showing me something about myself. Sometimes I feel like my roots are exposed. Like others can see parts of me meant for keeping underground.

I do not hide my emotions well. Add to it the fact that I blush easier than an elephant gains weight. And I am one of the fairest people you will ever meet, so my crimson shade has very little pigment to hide behind.

I am not a pretty crier, either. My nose turns into a faucet of snot and my eyes turn red and blotchy and it is about the most hideous thing you have ever seen. And it takes hours for me to look normal. Again, the fair skin does me no favors here.

Sometimes I am okay being so vulnerable. Sometimes it is intentional, like when I am around safe people whose love I can count on. Or when I am being brave and purposefully putting myself out there in my writing or by making a new friend.

And then there are other times when it’s an accident. When my emotions are controlling me for the moment and I am embarrassed and can do nothing else other than live through the experience and somehow make it out the other side.

But then I see these trees with their roots exposed and I think it is one of the most exquisite things I have ever seen in my life. Somehow it is ugly and breathtaking all at once. And I understand, ever so slightly, why we find such beauty in the transparency of one another.

These roots – these things that most of the time stay underground and out of sight – are a beautiful, mysterious mess. Just like me.

naked

Today is not this day. Today I have my makeup on, a bright purple ruffle-y scarf around my neck with a cute pink necklace peeking out underneath, copious amounts of bracelets clanging around my wrist, a fun new pair of knee-highs, and of course the boots I feel so sassy in. And it’s fun.

Most of the time I like putting my best foot forward in the day even if that day involves dropping off and picking up children, doing dishes, folding laundry, and cooking dinner. Because although I graduated from UC Santa Cruz, fashion and makeup are fun for me.

But not yesterday. I didn’t have a best foot to put forward yesterday. All I had was a foot. And I didn’t feel like pretending or working my way out of it either. So although I showered, I left the makeup off.

The freckles that have taken over my face in a way that by this time in my life is probably called aging showed in all their glory.

My eyelashes remained invisible.

The wrinkles that have started to emerge were not minimized by foundation.

And my nose that likes to turn red was one that even Rudolf would have been proud of.

I have these days from time to time. I think everyone does. Days when the fun of getting dressed up isn’t fun. Days when sadness seems to loom over my head and sorting it out to get better and move through it feels overwhelming. Days when the wounds of life catch up and I just need to take a moment and let it be so.

And on days like that I leave the makeup in the medicine cabinet and let the people in my world see that I do not have it all together, that I am not indestructible, that I am not super-human. Because I think the people in my world need to know all of that. Including me.

We often think everyone else has life all-together, knows what they are doing, never has bad days.

We tend to feel alone in our struggles. In our humanity.

And it’s just not true.

And that is why I left my makeup off and took this picture and wrote this post. I needed the honesty of someone standing naked in the middle of the rush hour of life shouting, “I can’t do it all!” Even if it was me. Maybe especially if it was me.

beautiful boys

I read a post the other day and loved it. The writing was amazing and captured so much of the beauty I see in boys and men. And while I am not male myself, I live with four of them. So an expert I am not, but I do consider myself well versed in the gender.

When I had my first son, I wanted to call him beautiful, but I held back for some reason. Boys don’t want to be called beautiful, I thought. Boys want to be valiant! And valor often comes through a fight. Having three boys I hear a lot of fighting. I don’t exactly think of it as beautiful.

But when it is not my boys fighting with each other and I have a minute to stand back and look at this fighting spirit – this drive for valor – I do think it is beautiful.

I was reminded the other day in a conversation with a friend who also has boys just how darn competitive they can be. I finished my dinner first! I got in the car first! I blew a bigger bubble! I’m stronger than you! I’m faster than you! The list goes on but I will stop before I bore you. I assure you it does not bore me but it does exhaust me while it drives me crazy.

But if I give myself a moment to think about it, all this competition is practice for this fighting spirit they’ve been given. And they need to sharpen this tool. It is placed in them to aid them through life because, as we all know, life throws some pretty nasty things at us sometimes and we have to fight our way through them.

Things like bad economies, car accidents, depression and cancer just to name a few. I have seen some men recently fighting their way through such things. I think they are beautifully valiant.

I just gave one of them a ride home from the doctor the other day. The news he got there was not what any man would have liked to hear and carried with it some realities that look like defeat. He probably felt anything but valiant as he shed his tears on the drive home.

But I thought his courage was astounding. He was being honest and real and vulnerable, which often takes more guts than the other options. And I think that is part of the fight of life – not loosing your self in the battle.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And the beauty I see in the valor of men is not in the winning or the losing but in the fighting itself. In the not giving up, no matter how wretchedly tempting that may sound.

I see valor in getting up each day to face the battle of what life has brought your way to beat you down – even when you feel beaten down and terribly un-valiant. I see valor in men who refuse to turn bitter from their life circumstances. Because circumstances – be they ever so discouraging – do not define the man. These things will pass and are on the outside. The inside is where the man resides.

And while these men I know may not see themselves as valiant in their fights against the bad economy, car accidents, depression or cancer, I do. And I find them wonderfully, heroically and valiantly beautiful.

 

 

P.S. The boys and I had fun discussing and trying our options for the picture of this post, but as the mom of three boys I made the executive decision that the jock straps and cups that often hang in our entry way was the most classic representation of boy-ness.