Bucket list – check.

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How long I’ve waited for this: published. 

And no, I haven’t written a book yet (parts are still swimming, loose in my head; not in any logical order yet.)

But, since I have started writing (at 15, if we’re being precise) I have always wanted to be just exactly this.

Published.

And here I am, years (and years!) later.

Exactly that.

Published.

My good friends call my bluff on the notion of being published.

“But didn’t I read a devotional on some blog by you?” they ask, confused.

“Or what about that bio in Dallas Baby?” they wonder aloud, looking at me perplexed, as if I don’t remember parts of my own journey.

Yes, I’ve been published before, several places actually. Five different blogs and magazines have published my work.

Which yes, counts for something. Counts for a lot, actually.

But me, the competitive, bar-can-never-be-quite-high-enough me, well, one of my bucket list items is to be published by a publication that doesn’t know who I am. That has no stock in me. That is not invested in the outcome or cares about my feelings.

Because as much I love my friends and family dearly and trust them and what they say about my writing, I need to know (it’s an insane need, I realize) that my words can stretch and resonate with someone else “out there.” Someone else that could care less as to who I am. Someone who doesn’t know me, just knows they like the words I’ve written, that these words have hit the right note somewhere in their soul.

After years of being known for other talents (the ones that keep you in a steady job and productive, and get you glowing reviews from your supervisors) I want to know one thing. One thing about what I truly feel is my calling, what I am here for.

Do I have any talent?

The big challenge with my writing (for me, personally) has always been what do other people think? Perhaps I put too much stock in what others think. Or, perhaps I don’t, as I write only what resonates with me; I don’t give much headspace to the critics. But I’ve always wondered (and yes, I’ve always overthink things a bit too.)

Would my writing resonate? Get published?

Well. Yes.

Bucket list number one item checked off.

http://bit.ly/coltpiece

colt MAW

Summer is here.

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It’s summer, isn’t it?

Don’t know about you, but here it’s full-on summer: hot, muggy and well, the sorts of days you either hang out in damp bathing suits. Or take long afternoon naps followed by fresh corn for dinner. The season of simple, earthly delights.

We’re in the thick of it now; no one is dreaming in anxious anticipation about popsicles and trips anymore. We’ve already gone through several boxes of those around here.

And, we’re packing and unpacking; looking forward with delight, back with contentment. Or, well, sometimes, depending upon how the vacation/trip/family visit went, just glad to be home.

I don’t know about you, but like this time of year. These days after the sheen of the newness and excitement of the new season has worn off a little. You just settle into things for a bit.

The moments where you’re focused on enjoyment rather than anticipation.  Sitting and drinking iced tea as opposed to planning out the next weekend to manage your family’s calendar and/or sanity levels for the rest of the month. Summer: the lovely, in-between season of not rushing from one event or holiday celebration to another. Winter–looking at you. You’re suspect, as always.

No, this time of year we’re in that sweet spot: comfortable. Easing into our daily routines without the crazy-making that is May and December.

Summer. Long heated days with sometimes a swim afternoon (or day) here and there.

And a great deal of the very best days: the days too-hot or too-rainy, full of Legos, ice cream, projects and a fresh set of books to get lost in.

 

 

 

I’m still here

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I’m still here, yes, despite what I imagine feels like a lot of silence.

Blog posting: Clearly a discipline I have to still work on. Sigh. Along, clearly, with the laundry.

In the meantime, though I haven’t been consistent on this medium (and apologies about that! If you want more of my writing, I suggest you follow me here and here, to ahem, hear from me more often) I have been writing.

Lately, I’m flexing all sorts of different writing muscles – speech writing (I’ve written four, and working on several more for fall,) children’s stories (many still in draft form, but with a goal of sending them off in winter, and one piece with Highlights, eagerly awaiting an answer) and still writing my heart: non-fiction writing, which happens to focus on parenthood/motherhood and a life among children.

And that last category, the non-fiction parenthood/motherhood stories–I’ve received an acceptance from one of my favorite websites on one of my pieces. Hooray!

So, just a note that I am still here. Just writing, mostly, but not so much talking about it. Just writing. And laundry.

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On purpose

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Some days I wonder my purpose, my reason for being here. (Not those dark thoughts; I’m talking about those other thoughts I take out for a spin on the constant merry-go-round of my mind.) I find it mostly happens mostly when I’m doing something menial like dishes or laundry and wondering about grand lives and people and the big things they’ve done in life.

My purpose was so clear when I was working full-time, out of the house: earn money, maybe enjoy yourself a little, keep the family alive.

Which of course meant more chaos than I believe I can handle: late-night grocery runs or weekend grocery runs during nap time, emailing and calling all the people–schools, plumbers, exterminators, husband, my writing group friends and committee co-chairs. I frequently remember -not sure if this was the turning point for me or not- 11p nightly, finally starting up the washer and going to bed. Knowing when I got up around 5a, I would move it into to the dryer while rubbing my eyes, grateful for coffee and the quiet. Looking back, perhaps I could have been a bit more organized. Looking back though you see sometimes a lot more of what you could see in front of you at the moment.

I wonder about those days sometimes. Did those days, busy and full of things constantly, have more purpose than these days?

I had a sense of purpose working, and I have one here, in this new role too. Though it’s much milder and more easily manipulated — one day, purpose is getting the house clean; the next, it’s returning all those forms signed to school and making sure that everyone gets out the door on time and dressed. Which seems simple and well, a lowly thing until one doesn’t want to get dressed and the other is having a breakdown about what to bring and the other is in the bathroom and I’m still working on trying to take deep breaths and be patient. Some days, the purpose, the end goal of being on time is about all I can handle.

But that’s not my sole purpose; to make sure everyone leaves the house on time with shoes on. That’s not the only reason I’m here I know. But of course, I question this deeply on the days this and other minor things go badly. On those days I also question a great deal of other things too, like how can we read and write but not know where we left our shoes?

I don’t remember where I read it, but it was a blog post somewhere on the kinds of purposes (yes, many) that women have. The theory was that there are many purposes, both big and small, and most running parallel to each other. For example – mother and doctor. You can be both; both are probably Big P purposes. Mostly, purpose–with a small p is mainly your roles (mom, parent, aunt, etc–though, those are no small things!) and your big P purpose is your life calling–what you were meant to do; what you were put here to do.

I’ve been mulling that one over for a while.

And then I wonder if my opinion of what I feel about my purpose even matters.

But our work matters very much so more than the opinion of what we think of that work itself.

But the work–the act of doing it, and the act of putting it out there in the world, most of the time matters so much more than we think it does. Whether that be your Big P like motherhood and writing, or your little P like being a good aunt and planting a garden.

But we base it upon how we personally feel about it, as opposed to maybe, perhaps what God is doing with it. Which is far greater. And stranger. And lovelier than we can imagine.

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Part of Esther 4:14 comes to mind:

“…Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.”

So much potential in those words.

And truth in those words. Knowing all the while, that is full to the brim of moments to feel this. To wonder if this, in fact, is the moment we’ve been created for.

Tightrope

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She hands me a flower, still, at almost seven, plucked straight from the garden that isn’t ours.

I smile as I receive it; conflicted about how I feel – is six too old to still be doing this? Haven’t I harped on her enough about what is and isn’t ours? I wonder. Wow, that’s so kind and sweet; I think remembering that just this morning we were making grumpy faces at each other and exchanging frustrated words on the way to school.

This is seemingly how it is with our relationship–a bunch of emotions all running together, gooey and sticky, and completely blurred lines like when you use too much water for watercolors. It all runs together and all you see are impressions, moments of bold color and pale pinks dripping down the page when all you had hoped for was to paint inside the lines, nicely.

I wonder if it’s like this for all mother-daughter duos.

My son, on the other hand, is still relatively sweet, uncomplicated. He likes what he likes and that’s jumping in puddles, fish, and tickles. Any of those things at any time are okay.

Stormy clouds lurking ahead aren’t gathering under the surface like I see in my daughter and in myself. I see them at once in his voice, actions; meaning clear. He hands me flowers too, but he is little. He is clueless as to what flower belongs to him as I haven’t gotten him out of the impulse move of seeing a flower and immediately picking it. Just like his nose.

Is she old enough, is she too old, is the constant question I bat around numerous times these days like a cat with a mouse toy. Too young still for movies with high drama or is it being still for long periods of time, I wonder. But definitely too old for the naivety of flowers from someone else’s yard, I know now, firm in that opinion. But too young, I determine for all things bikini and the Justice clothing line.

But too old for rocking or comforting night time routines? While I don’t question myself on what she’s too young for as that’s relatively easy for me to detect, what she’s told old for is a different ball of wax entirely. It’s a tight wire rope I frequently fall off of, wanting to not hold her back from growing up, while not forcing her to grow up because the world around her will soon hold so much weight. It so heavy already.

If anyone asks me what’s so hard about the school-aged years, that’s it. The push-pull of letting go but staying close, being shifted from the seat of CEO of All Things You Should Know. Going from the vocal CEO with opinions and the know-how of how to do things, like tying shoes, to becoming the coach, watchful and intent but getting out of the huddle (and out of the way) through the game that is life is the most challenging I’m finding.

The watching and waiting, but not always in the game.

These are the tightropes that are being constructed in this phase of parenthood. And I’m not a tightrope walker. But I’m certainly learning.

Staying within season

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My January so far is cold and quiet.

After the blazing end of the year to the tune of a seventy-five degree Christmas (husband sweating and aching for shorts while all the girls in the family still dressed up in flannels to pretend it was a snowy Christmas) well, it feels good to have a bit of winter now.

The fiery, flaming finale spectacle of a month that can only be Christmas feels fun and festive in that special way only the ending of something can bring. Come November and December, everything is over the top: food, fun, family, gifts and noise (good, happy noise.) To me, it feels so very much like a final flameout, a Last Supper-type scenario, with the moments and scenes building into a loud crescendo.

And usually my energy matches – the familiar valleys and peaks of the holiday season – can you wrap another present? Bake another cake? Do another Christmas craft and/or activity?! It’s always such a spectacular energy and all-out blitz blowout on so many levels: spiritual, financial, well-being (what’s one more biscuit? I happily say to myself while opening wide) and energy.

And then January comes.

And the stark, cold, quiet January that returns each year, every year, still stuns me into surprise. 

Mostly, it’s a letdown.

I get all sorts of moody usually in January, wondering what’s wrong with me, or why everything seems so gray, so dry, so boring.

And then in an instant, when the buds begin to bloom in late February and every store is smothered in drippy pink and red hearts decor I suddenly remember too late– that’s what January was supposed to be: Dry, cold, wet, quiet. A repose from the noise (albeit happy, wonderful noise) that is December.

In the past, I hated January. Who had time for quiet? This is the New Year, people, I would think, getting my hustle turned up a higher notch into (slightly insane) overdrive. My goals seemed to scream at me: Time to get moving! Accomplish something!

I’m finding this year that January, this drizzly sort of muted month that has a low number of events and energy for me personally, is exactly where I need to be.

I have goals and I have actually done a fair share of planning, but mostly: it’s a month for quiet and reflection. And I’m going to take it. Very soon my schedule won’t be like this – in combination with my family’s schedule, it will shortly be full.

So this year, I’m finally realizing it’s okay to slow down. Finally.

January – the month whose working is forced rest. After all, frozen ground soon gives way to defrosting. Soon defrosting gives way to warmth. Which leads to growth, spring.

Perhaps now I’m realizing what I’ve needed all along: a little hibernation, a little pitstop before the year starts heating up, growing. I’m learning to slow. And be content in waiting for the signs of new energy (and green shoots) to rise in due time.

Why I write

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This listing of the headlines from around the world (found on CNN, don’t judge) is the reason I write.

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To be fair, Friday wasn’t a particular day that I picked out to read the news; I just do it occasionally to be somewhat in the know, as most days I prefer to keep to my little life and my head down since most of the news is just so shocking. I cannot keep constantly crying into the dinner I’m making. Not only is it not good for my soul – it throws off the salt balance in my dishes, particularly the soups.

Despite the fact that most of the news I see makes me sad, I’m writing this one because I’m mad. I’m beyond the sadness and now just angry, just an angry person who has moved beyond grieving about what’s happening in the world into a person who is wanting to know not only how I can help, what I can do. A wishing and praying hard sort of angry; not the other kind that’s fueled by vengeance and pain.

It’s the flavor of anger that creeps up my neck whenever I feel injustice or sorrow that I knowingly cannot control, but blindly believe I can.

These are the days that I am more demanding than usual to help my kids “work together” for peace; for non-conflict. These are the days there are more questions in their eyes than I have answers to as why this day, why this time in their lives they HAVE to make peace.

I imagine also, that this particular parenting trait of mine will be discussed in the days to come in their adult lives as to why their mom was so adamant about making things calm; conflict-free. But at this point, I feel like demanding everyone get along with each other under our tiny roof is a step in the right direction; a direct rebellion, the opposite of what is currently happening outside the walls of our home.

I cannot change war, but I can teach peace.

And I’m hoping that by teaching that, my family experiences peace deeply and will strive for that in their adult lives too. Fingers crossed and prayers said of course, as one only knows what bits and pieces kids take from their home and out into the world as a guidepost.

But as much as I’d like to gloat and sing my praises about training my group to work for peace, I have to also admit–I’m angry because I want to know what my role in all this bad news has been. Ignoring, I believe, is a role. And it’s one I’ve played for a long while. If all is okay in my world, why worry? I’ve thought before. No, don’t think of Aleppo, Liz. You can’t be stressed out all the time. If I can’t control what’s going on out there, why can’t I be comfortable here? Might as well enjoy my comfy couch.

And ignoring (like I tend to do for fear of crushing my soul) is my M.O.; my mode of protecting myself from the pain that knowing brings.

But maybe it’s time to let my cocoon of comfort go. Maybe it’s time to feel the pain. Have the eggshell of my heart crushed over and over again. To learn to be more compassionate than self-protecting. Compassionate enough to listen to the news, people’s stories, to bear witness to the atrocities of our world through what people have had to endure.

Because I don’t know if I can bear witness to a culture that reports the news that is hard to hear, like Haiti’s rape crisis, while interweaving the news that most applies to me: like what to do after a Netflix binge.

May I have eyes to see and ears to hear. Beyond what makes me feel safe.