where on earth have I been???

I really thought I would have gotten more done by now. My children have been in school for over a month now. All of them.

Aren’t they so cute on the first day?

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Today I took some time to review my last few posts here. I was reacquainting myself. Reconnecting with that woman who does her best to put her soul into words and claim it by writing on her little corner in cyber space.

That woman has still been musing, still been creating, still been learning and growing. Still writing even. Just less and not on here.

Not because I don’t love what here is, because I do. I am so grateful to have readers who meet me in this place, who see me for what I offer, who peek inside themselves and share with me that I am not alone.

But I also have some safety issues. I’ve alluded to them here and there. They pop their head up every once in a while and prevent me from sharing what I want to share on this particular blog.

My battle with them has been a bit more present than normal the last several months, if that makes sense to any of you. That’s the yuck part.

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The yay! part is that I have also been embarking on new adventures. “Digging in” was the main theme of the summer. The boys and I did not do all that much. We stayed home and were together a lot. We enjoyed a slower pace. We rested. We dug in to time at home. Insert deep breath.

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Mostly I loved it. Sometimes I had to fight the voices that like to tell me my value is in how much I am doing. That I’m “supposed” to live life at a fast pace or I don’t count for squat. I learned that living within my boundaries – not writing on my blog for instance because I simply can’t do it all – takes practice. So staying home might not seem like an adventure, but it was, and I think it was really good for all of us.

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I also dug into our Lego collection. I sorted them. I know. You’re right. I might be a little insane. I can’t really explain it other than I needed to. Sorting Legos was my cathartic way to process the fact that my children are growing up.

And staying home allowed for me to have time for working on my yard. And I actually wanted to, can you believe it? I’ve been working hard. Digging and pulling and clearing and watering and digging and digging. Our yard is a far cry from what it was back on my Insideout post.

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I have decided that pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are about the MOST exciting thing a new grow-er can plant.

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And I have been dreaming new dreams. I have discovered something in me that needs to be pursued. And that involves grad school.

Yikes.

calendar rebellion

They were just the words I needed to hear. Which is exactly why we read, right?

I have a love/hate relationship with my calendar. I used to love organizing and keeping things inside the lines of the nice, neat, pre-printed squares. And my pocketbook sized calendar fit in any purse. Easily managed.

Then I had children.

And everything got a little hinkey. I had to get a bigger calendar. Then I had to get a bigger purse to accommodate for the bigger calendar. Would be nice if they sold bigger brains.

Then I had my third child.

That is when the color-coding started. I know. But when my brain went ADD, my calendar countered with OCD.

Not long after that, I rebelled. Against the calendar. Too many colors, too many appointments, too much to keep track of. Just chuck the whole thing. Live life in the moment.

But when I have five people in my family with dental appointments and karate lessons and play dates and coffee dates and school and laundry and dinner and dishes and and and and and and and……life, my little brain has be known to forget a thing or two.

But once I write ALL those things down and actually look at it, rigor sets in. Thus the love/hate.

This is so hard. No wonder I feel like I am running a sprint that never ends all the time. I am.

I cannot possibly do it all. So I will sit here in my paralytic state and enjoy the warm cozy feeling of overwhelm. How on earth do single parents survive?

Then I read this post from my friend Leeana. She is married to a SEAL. Leave it to the SEALs to make the impossible sound fight-able.

So the last few days I have been attempting to channel my inner SEAL. Yesterday was the only easy day, I keep chanting to myself. My how I love a good mantra.

Maybe I don’t hate my calendar after all.

pieces

As I sat around the table, the people around me held out pieces of me. Pieces I had not seen in a while. And it felt so good.

Those pieces are always with me, living inside of me. Sometimes I just forget about them. I live disconnected from them.

My life has moved on from when we were together, these friends and I. Marriage, babies, therapy, life. And it’s good. Moving forward, growth, change. All of those things are good.

And at the same time, sometimes I can forget that the college student me is still in there too. Along with the mom me and the wife me and the almost 40 year old me (ugh, really?).

But I am fortunate enough to still have friends from way back when. We were all on staff at camp together. And camp bonds people in a mysterious way. I have yet to experience it elsewhere. It could be the dirt, the camp food, or any number of the only-appropriate-at-camp conversations surrounding bodily functions.

I think it is all those things plus a whole lot more.

There is a sacredness about it, about the fact that we hold pieces of one another’s history. These people know a side of me that my friends today have only caught glimpses of, if that.

For a while, a few years ago, I felt in between. My friends where I live didn’t know my history but my friends from my past didn’t know the richness of my present. And I had this weird, awkward urge to prove myself to all of them.

But something must have settled in me. Made peace with the fact that the only one who knows me my whole life is me. I am the only one who holds all the pieces.

And occasionally that can feel like too much to hold. Sometimes I forget about the pieces that aren’t necessary right now. But they are still in there. They are who I was which is a part of who I am.

And it was whole-making, to have these people who are dear to me stir some of those piece to the foreground. To the surface.

They had not forgotten those pieces. They loved them. They kept them safe. They saw beauty in them. They remembered them. And being together reminded me of them too.

And it was…..settling, calming, restoring…..for me to be reminded that all of those me’s are really just parts of the same whole.

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.

HOLD ON!!!

In that moment, the adrenaline surges as my stomach goes haywire because I know it’s about to end up in my chest. The cars all obediently hooked together have taken their last few chink–chink—chinks on their way up the rails. We can just barely see over the crest of the ride and the impending descent is upon us.

I grew up in the Bay Area, which meant of course that I didn’t miss the magical wonders of The Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. There is a right of passage to it, riding the classic coaster that has appeared in movies like The Lost Boys, Dangerous Minds, and Sudden Impact.

The Giant Dipper is a traditional wooden roller coaster ride. No fancy loop-de-loops or corkscrews. Simply and beautifully, the ride showcases large ups and downs for the purists in the crowd.

And for that reason, the moment when the ride goes from sounding like it will never ….make it ….up ……..…the ……….…hill to a whipping, whirling, out-of-control rush that’s over before you know it has been etched into my brain. To me, this encapsulates the quintessential roller coaster experience.

I have found myself thinking about that moment on the ride in Santa Cruz quite a bit lately. My early years of parenting were wonderful and treacherous all at once. Elusive sleep and demanding little people always underfoot existing side by side with sweet kisses and nighttime stories and snuggles that made my heart burst.

Truthfully, I often felt like the roller coaster fighting to make it up that hill, trying to survive to the next stage.

And suddenly, the top of the hill is in view and I realize in moments this will all be over. The phrase “the days drag but the years fly” is giving way to a blur where everything is flying.

I can see our oldest turning into a young man more and more each day right before my eyes. And I know that his brother is right behind him. And that our baby will be only a blink after that.

There is much life to be experienced in the immediate years ahead. And I don’t want to miss any of it.

I may be a little exhausted at times. I may feel overwhelmed. I may not return phone calls or check my email with a speed or frequency I (or any adult person) would deem appropriate or responsible. I may not read or write as much as I prefer. I may not think we will make it in one piece every now and again.

But I am gripping the safety bar and holding on for dear life as I can see what is to come. I am screaming for fear and for fun and for all of the life in my life that I love with precious ferocity.

And I am determined not to blink. 

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 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.

practice is hard

I have a confession. There are things I say as a parent that come out of my mouth much easier than they sink down into my heart.

“All anyone can ask is that you do your best.” Every parent has said it, right? But when it comes to living it out myself, occasionally I want to scream at that sentiment. Because sometimes my best is not good enough.

I mentioned recently about practicing life. Which was very lovely at the time, but what I failed to mention is that when I am giving my best at practicing something I suck at and I don’t see myself improving to the degree that I think my best should be improving me, I feel incredibly discouraged.

And overwhelmed.

It’s exhausting.

Truly.

And these are the kinds of times when that nice little sentiment about doing my best just doesn’t cut it. Don’t get me wrong; I realize the reality and truth. All I can do is my best.

But my best is not always enough for the task at hand or the opinions of those around me. And before I know it, my best is not good enough for me, either. And that is a much bigger problem.

Because what I think of me affects me much more than what other people think of me. My nasty little perfectionism tries to take over my brain and push me down so that I forget my value and worth as a human being.

And this is when, for me, it comes down to sheer perseverance. Can I ride out the storm happening inside of me long enough to see the sun shine again? Even though my best isn’t enough right now, can I keep going because I know it is all I can ask of myself?

Can I offer myself the same grace I offer my kids when I tell them all they can do is their best?

zachary and the zoo

English: Bai Yun, a female Giant Panda at San ...

Image via Wikipedia

How could I have almost missed this moment? His eyes danced with the sun while they shined with joy and a sparkle that makes my insides go crazy. The skin on his cheeks looked rich as butter and flawless as porcelain. We were being taken up and away from life down on earth. For a few moments we hung in the air as the skyfari took us from one side of the World Famous San Diego Zoo to the other. And it was bliss.

And I realized in those moments how glad I was that I had made the time to be there with him. Just my youngest son and me. His older brothers and I did this much more frequently. But the more people in our family, the more practicality seems to necessarily out weigh fun.

But today I could hear the zoo calling us and I was willing to answer. So I left the dishes in the sink, the dirty clothes in the closet, the half written post on the computer, and the emails I am so far behind on in my inbox. I packed up a pbj and apple slices and off we went.

But I second-guessed myself the whole morning. Did I pick the right ball to juggle today? The elementary school had a short day that would cut our time at the zoo short, so maybe we shouldn’t go. The house has to get cleaned sometime, and today is house-cleaning day. I also have some writing I really need to get to.

And through the entire internal battle, I had this nagging feeling like I needed to take Zachary to the zoo. But my uncertainty in what to juggle this morning left me feeling a little like a failure at everything. And I was beating myself up on that skyfari for not being a better juggler.

However, even through that beating up, the moment of beauty and love imprinted itself on me and a few days later I could see it for what it was. A reminder that I am loved no matter how much I question myself or how poorly I juggle.

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.