summer love

The lump sits in my throat as tears brim in my eyes. Nostalgia sweeps over me and I am left both joyful and grieving. What a summer this has been.

The garb has been plopped in the sand, the smiles slathered like sunscreen across our faces, and sibling skirmishes have been carried away by the cool breeze coming off the waves.

I can feel us all breath. Deep and cleansing, the air collectively fills our lungs. We are together in the best way.

I anticipated the summer to be a disaster. This has been a difficult year filled with a lot of transition. I figured summer would simply be more of the same. A lot more. All day long more.

But life often surprises us and sometimes those surprises turn out to be just the relief we need.

After a school year charting new territory of middle school and having that territory effect so much more than just the one in middle school, this relief came to a weary bunch. But it came.

We have actually enjoyed one another this summer. Even my children. Not all day long every day, but enough. Enough to say that we found one another again in this new landscape.

And the beach seems to symbolize all the goodness we have experienced in our togetherness this summer. So as I watch my boys playing at the shore engaged in some team building fun, gratitude fills my heart. For this time together. For each one of them. For all of them together.

I realize that in a few short days, the start of school will mark the end of this summer. We will never get it back. Time marches on. And I don’t want to stop it because I love the process of life. But I wish I could save just a few of those grains of sand from the hourglass and set them aside for safekeeping.

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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. 

hope in the middle

I don’t know him, but he gives me hope. Everyday.

Middle school is not an easy time, to put things lightly. Even now as an adult when I drop my son off or pick him up, I see it. The invisible yet obvious undercurrent of the caste system there.

The power of some. The shame of others. The pain and insecurity of all. Kids. Going through an excruciating stage of life.

But when I see him, I am always inspired. He is tall with a strong build and an awkward looking run. His blonde hair with gentle waves seems to suit the sweet spirit I see in him. My sense is that he comes from a family where he is loved and valued. He holds his head high and smiles from the inside out, even though I never see him with friends.

He is my reminder that right now is not all there is.

Because let’s face it, when we’re in it, middle school might as well be an eternity. The pressure to be perceived well is crushing and ever-present, making us all acutely aware of everything we say or do and how it might look to the eyes of others.

But as I have told my son, this is the worst of it. After middle school, people get better and better and better at accepting others – and themselves – and not being as mean and cruel as they are in middle school.

Except for those who don’t, because there are a few who remain forever in middle school. And there is a tiny bit of middle school that remains forever in everyone. But for the most part, we grow out of it.

And this boy reminds me of that because every time I see him, I see who he is now. Probably not the highest one on the social totem pole. But of all the kids who walk by while I wait in my car for the bell to ring, in him I can also see who he is going to be.

His future self seems to leap out of him right before my eyes. Handsome, yes, but also compassionate. The guy all the girls will swoon over because he will not only have looks but also heart and soul.

He is and will be smart, hard working, and going somewhere. Where I don’t know, but somewhere far away from middle school. And not only going somewhere but also being someone, as he already is. Someone wonderful. Someone people want to be around.

Those middle school kids can’t see this now. But I can. And it makes me smile.

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.

forever preschool

When will he finally get this? To be fair, he is truly doing an exceptional job learning. But even still, I find myself quick to be frustrated with my youngest son. He is all of four years old now and we are constantly working on the tasks of his life-stage.

Learning to not get his way and handle himself appropriately.

Learning to speak up for what he wants instead of whining or whimpering.

Learning to respect others, get along, and use his words.

And all the while figuring out who he is and how the world works.

Simple.

So why do I not have more patience for the poor boy? I am not in new territory. I have done this before. Twice. And yet there is something in these moments of teaching and coaching that reaches beyond this one child. Whatever it is seems to trigger a quiet desperation inside of me. One that is distinctly disproportionate to the four year old at hand.

Eventually, after one of the days of family togetherness that didn’t bring out the best in us, a light bulb goes on. I am not just disturbed by Zachary and his age appropriate behavior. I am also discouraged with his older brothers and the fact that they have not mastered the tasks of preschool yet, either. And I am disgruntled with my husband because he has not mastered the tasks. And while I am at it, I am completely stymied with the entire world for not mastering the tasks of preschool.

Which really, of course, all boils down to the fact that I am irritated with my own self. Because I have not mastered preschool either.

So my distinctly disproportionate desperation comes from the knowledge that no one ever truly masters these tasks. My son is doomed to live a life of humanity. And so are his brothers. And his father. And the rest of the world. And me.

I must have tricked myself into thinking these tasks should be easy because the age appropriate time to address them is when we are small. And my frustration only magnifies when I realize NO ONE has mastered these simple tasks, including me. The futility of the situation glares at me every day.

The problem is, the tasks I speak of may be simple but they are also enormous.

And so I have changed my mind. Instead of thinking the tasks are small because we teach them to small people I realize the tasks are just as gargantuan as they sound and that is why we start learning them at such an early age. Because truly, these tasks require a lifetime to even begin to grasp.

But I have to believe it is worth the effort to try.

you matter

Her words cut through my heart. There was such beauty there in the room. They were showing me where they are vulnerable. They want to be loved. I can relate.

I looked around my family room and saw a half dozen faces of young people. College. Post-college. This is not an uncommon view from my spot on the couch. We love them, my husband and I. They love our children and fill our home with life and energy and eyes dancing with eagerness.

I asked them the question I am always baffled by. Why do you like coming here? What do you get out of spending time with our crazy family circus?

“You’re real.”

“It’s honest here.”

“We are welcomed; accepted.”

“We don’t have to be our best; we can let our guards down.”

And then it was her turn. She has no idea how beautiful she is. Her purity of spirit shows through. She is honest and vulnerable and stunning.

Her voice, quiet and true said, “We are little college students, but we matter to you.”

I looked down at the journal I had been taking notes in. The pen in my hand froze between my fingers. I heard my heart pound in my ears. My gut felt like it had been punched, not by a fist but by words that were true and meaningful and struck a chord in me.

Because you do. You matter. Not just to us, but you matter in life.

I know it doesn’t feel that way. The world tells you that you are not enough. That you count for nothing. That you don’t know who you are. That you have not accomplished enough. That you are not worth the time someone would spend on loving you.

The world lies.

You are infinitely valuable. Each and every one of you.