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. 

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.

wait a minute….

Sometimes I think I am the only person in my family who knows what waiting is. How hard it can be. How much I have to bite my tongue, try not to roll my eyes, keep myself from heaving that heavy sigh that says, “Please. hurry. up.

How foolish I am when I think such a thing. Of course I am not the only one required to wait. Children wait all the time. And my children happen to have the chattiest mother on the planet, so they wait even more than most.

But in the last few years, this practice of waiting for people I love has become beautiful to me, when I take the time to do it…..well.

When my four year old has something to say, I squat down and look him in the eyes and wait while his growing brain searches for his words. I see his earnestness, his eagerness, his excitement, his elation. All those things his eyes say better than his words anyway. All because I’m waiting.

And my eldest, the pre-teen who might just open up after I turn the lights out if I linger a moment or two longer, rather than hurrying off in anticipation of that time of my day when I am finally off duty.

And my sweet, sweet middle son who is coming into his own this year. He is the one who brings playfulness along with him where ever he goes. And if I hurry him along, refusing to wait and allow space for him to be who he is I will miss the play in my life entirely. I will miss him entirely.

And let’s just say that if I never waited for my husband to finish that one last thing (he is the KING of one last things) when I have all three boys and me in the van and ready to go, he would never come along with us anywhere. To anything. And without him I would miss the humor and delight in my marriage.

So I keep practicing waiting. And I think I am actually getting better at it. I believe it is a sacred art of sorts, involving the same letting go and seeing where the process takes me as creating does.

Waiting is the relinquishing of what I want, the destination I am headed toward, the timeline I want my life to move on and creating space for something I would not have otherwise anticipated, seeing where the wait takes me, what it reveals to me about myself and the people and world around me.

Waiting is a such a small thing, but it tells someone they are important enough for me to set aside the rest of the world that is vying for my attention and do nothing out of reverence for them.

And that is no small thing at all. 

invaluable

In his most earnest voice he asked, “Can I buy some-sing with my money I saved up from itunes?” My breath was caught on the beauty of his innocence. He had no idea what he was saying. With his handful of coins, some of which were mearly tokens leftover from a bowling alley birthday party a few months back, I immediately saw myself in the believing eyes of my three-year-old.

Yesterday, after I got home from the conference Phil announced we would be going to the Lego store. With three boys, that store is always a hit. Zachary ran off to his room and came back with those coins, his eyes dancing with excitement.

That is probably about what I looked like to the agents I met with at this writing conference. My writing was not nearly good enough to get me what I wanted from their store.

My son being three, I did not explain to him how little was in his hands. It is not the appropriate time for him to learn this lesson. What was important was that he brought what he had and believed he was contributing.

But I am no longer three and it was time from me to learn some of the harsh realities of the world of writing and where I might stand in it. And then I am left with a choice: do I take my tokens home and cry or to do I go back and work to get more in hope that next time I will have what it takes? Maybe a little of both.

Truthfully I am left with many more questions than that, but I will save those for another day. To sum up the conference, it was painfully invaluable in more ways than I could count. I am so very glad I went.

And thanks to my son, the sting has lifted a bit. I can see the beauty in coming with my handful of coins, even if it was not nearly enough.