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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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.

process of a perfectionist

When will it end? When will I be “finished” as a person? I used to struggle so much with the process of life. I wanted to be perfect and I found the fact that I was not both disappointing and discouraging.

If you have read my blog for a while, you may remember me referring to myself as a “recovering perfectionist”. It’s true. I have come a long way. Just ask my sister (don’t sisters always know?). Not that perfectionism is inherently bad, but it was bad for me. I used it to point out all my flaws and failures to myself, to make myself miserable and never enough.

But now – mostly – I embrace process. I love it, in fact. I find process completely energizing and exhilarating. The fact that I am never finished; there is always more to learn, more growing to do. I don’t have to have everything all figured out. I can be free to make mistakes because, of course, I am still in process.

But every once in a while, I have days like the ones I’ve had recently where process is arduous and painful. And I’m just sort of tired of it. Weary. And I would like some days where maybe if I don’t have all the answers, I wish I just had some.

And when I am having those types of days, I do what I know makes things worse, but I can’t seem to stop. The familiar voice of perfectionism sneaks back inside my head.

I point out all of my flaws to myself. I point out all the ways other people are better than me, stronger, more together, prettier, more fashionable, better with their money, and on and on.

And then, when I finally convince myself that comparing myself to other people is destructive and terrible, I simply continue on by comparing myself to my former self.

Perhaps I have grown and changed, but I point out how it is just not enough. If it was, then I would be there, I would be done, I would be finished, I would have arrived. And I wouldn’t be struggling so much.

The thing about the process of personal growth is that it is just so endless. But the only other option is to become stagnant. And who wants to be stagnant? Living, but not really alive.

So I go on, putting one foot in front of the other and trying to grow through these days when process feels heavy. And I remind myself that these days are part of the process. I will never be a recover-ed perfectionist. I will have to settle for recover-ing. Because recovery is a process.

stopping for snuggles

What is she doing?

The scene flashes before my eyes quicker than my brain can process what I see. There is a clearing where I get on the freeway and another ten freeways converge and veer off. I see a woman standing there, safely centered in the middle of a grassy area with her car pulled off the road. The expanse is surrounded by fast-paced, southern Californian roads and freeways. She stands out like a sore thumb.

She is holding her baby.

Her body gently sways back and forth as the look of patience and compassion adorns her. So many thoughts rush through me as I try to put the pieces together.

I have vivid memories of driving with my baby screaming behind me, helpless and frazzled as I navigated to our destinations. The tension would mount in my shoulders, tying my muscles into knotted rocks.

I was always so convinced of the nuisance I was to other drivers, sure they could hear what was happening in my car. They knew what a terrible mother I was a) for not being able to keep my child from crying in the car and b) for getting in everyone’s way as I drove so flustered and frantically.

But this woman let that all go. She stopped. And for this moment, when I saw her, she was living out her priority that her child was more important than her destination or what other people thought of her.

And she has come to my mind so many times in the last week. I have been raw and surging with hormones. I’ve been processing some family stuff. I’ve been wrestling with a desire to write more that clearly doesn’t seem to be getting me anywhere. And I have been reading The Hunger Games – with all it’s intensity (dying I love it so much, by the way!) – which has delightfully pulled all of my emotions right to the surface of me.

As a result, I’ve been a little short tempered with my children. This is my Achilles’ heal, my continual battle with myself. Not getting loud and shaming when my patience runs thin. And while it is true that my children are neither perfect nor angelic, my temper is my problem, not theirs.

And in the middle of one of my “You better get your shoes on or you will be late for your preschool fieldtrip!” episodes, my four-year-old looked up at me with his crocodile-tears and big hazel-brown eyes and adorable little face and cried out, “I want some snuggles!”

He does this from time to time when I loose my cool.

And it is as precious as it sounds.

And I immediately think of that mom safely off to the side of the freeway, swaying back and forth with her baby cradled against her body. And I stop, and I snuggle my four year old. Know what? Turns out snuggles is just what I need right now, too.

monster

I know

I am a monster to you

That is the only way you

can hope to understand my

choices

And I know

the monster you think I am

is hurting you

and I am

so

sad

for your hurting

I think you would like me to explain

I would be happy to

I think it could help you hurt less

But you can’t hear me

when your fingers are in your ears

You cling to control

in hope of getting love

just like me

But I am learning a new way now

FREEDOM

And this new way doesn’t shout

or force

But waits

and hopes

for the day when you take your fingers out of your ears

yourself

You can have your way

that’s okay with me

you just can’t

have me

too

I know your hurting

started long before me

and I wish

there was something I could do to

salve your wounds

make you whole

I long

for the day

when I see you in Heaven

and you don’t hurt anymore

I see you there

in my mind’s eye

and I rejoice

I know that what you think

can’t hurt me

or change who I truly am

so until then –

when you are whole

and the hurting has stopped –

I have to let you think

I am a monster

It is compassion

relinquish

love

discovering hope in the cold

What is your favorite season? I am always curious to hear what people have to say in response to that question. To me it is so obvious that spring is the best season of all. The sun is warm but not hot, the land is waking up out of the slumber of winter, leaves are turning green again, the hours of light are increasing, and the air holds the aroma of hope and potential and that is why I love it so.

But some people love winter. Perhaps you are one of them. It seems a little bizarre to me, but then again, I choose to live in San Diego where it can be argued there is no winter.

Even in San Diego, my winters are a constant attempt to get warm. I have a bag of rice that I heat in the microwave at night to snuggle my toes against. I shake my fist at the sky when it pours rain during school drop off or pick up. I have even begun to dress as strategically as possible with my under shirts and scarves and socks and boots and jackets and it seems like such a bother. I hate to be cold.

So of course I wonder why anyone would like winter. But lately I have been thinking metaphorically about seasons, and I am beginning to have a new respect for the winters of my life.

I am hoping against all hope that the snow is melting and light is over taking dark at the end of what seems like a much too long season of winter for me and my family. A few years ago I incurred a trauma that lead me to deal with some nice items of baggage I had collected in my journey through life. That took its toll on our little family of five.

We made it through that just in time to have the economy and some investments catch up to us, thus giving my husband his turn with the bags he has collected along his way through life. Add to that my oldest son starting middle school, throwing our family dynamic on its ear and leaving us groping around in search of a new normal.

And it has felt very dark. But just in the last few days I have seen some glimmers of hope that spring will in fact come and bring life to my weary soul once again. And I just want to stand in front of that rising ball of light and weep with exhaustion from enduring such a lengthy time in the cold.

Winter Snow - Landscape

I realize with this dawning hope that we are making it through this difficult season. And our family will be stronger for it. We will be deeper. More bonded for having weathered the storms of a bad winter together.

Things happen under that mysterious layer of cold. Often I can’t see what it is until the snow melts, but I am beginning to realize that the season of winter has depth, beauty, and value all its own. Even if it means months of cold feet.

What beauty do you find in winter?