Undone.

Like so many other things in my life, this wall is still undone.

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I’m sure I’m not the only one with things left undone.

But it’s not that piece that gets me; it’s the voice in my head that in order to do a project well and good and lovely, it needs to be done in a certain way and time frame.

“Do it perfect,” it whispers.

“Not right,” the voice reminds me in my thoughts before bed.

Most days I wonder why I listen to this voice – this little naggy, uptight voice – at all.

So a little something for all of us to remember when the voice of perfection gets too loud:

 

You can have it all, just not all at the same time. Or, in my wall scenario here, for me, not within in a day, maybe. Unless you bring in lots of help.

For you with little ones: Hold tight. The years go quickly, but the moments last forever.

And one day (this story I’m preaching to myself) you’ll have shiny clean floors, new carpet, and well, perhaps a freshly painted house.

But right now?

Time to rejoice in the life here. Fingerprints everywhere. Toys on floors. Chortles of laughter through the hallways with the terrible carpets.

And a real-life reminder that contentment and fulfillment never mentioned anything about perfection.

#truth

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Mom of the Year

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Mom of the Year

Let her kids eat a dinner of Cheetos and fruit, blessed it, and called it good.

Mom of the Year

Forgot to put sunscreen on the children on at least a handful of visits to the pool.

Mom of the Year

Almost drove home with an extra kid in her car (carpool works well when you remember to drop that last kid off at their own home.)

Mom of the Year

Lost her patience with her family this season more times than she can count.

Mom of the Year

Decided one night to paint her toenails instead of reading that last, final story and of course instead of doing the long piled-up dishes.

Mom of the Year

Was sure her children would be shoeless wherever they went, as the shoes went on slow as molasses EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Mom of the Year

Gave into every whim of hers, including losing her cool and letting all the kids have all her energy and forgot to save any for her husband. And proceeded to sigh more than once when all he wanted was just some time with her.

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Mom of the Year 

Listened to that story that she’d her already a hundred times and nodded politely, made eye contact and in an instant, made her three-year-old feel valued.

Mom of the Year

Withheld judgement (and cuss words) about the state of how many diaper changes she did that day and just did them without complaint, without fanfare, and certainly without pay.

Mom of the Year

Waited patiently while someone learned to put on their shoes, pour their own cereal out, complete with milk spills.

Mom of the Year

Chose the extra story and snuggles one night.

Mom of the Year

Infused her car with music, laughter, and a bit of magic when she sensed the carpool friend was feeling a little down.

Mom of the Year

Cleared her schedule, reset her heart, and let the laundry go and listened to her husband’s day and with him, just spent time. 

Mom of the Year

Made a proper dinner, complete with vegetables, all the food groups, and carried on with a smile despite all the complaints about said vegetables.

Mom of the Year

Is wise enough to know that her mothering is the sum of all of her days, not just one, not just a season. And knows that she is doing alright, despite life not being always okay. She knows, deep within, that mothering neither lies in the accolades nor the failures, but showing up for her family day after day.

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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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.

The long haul

 

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After about twelve years, everything begins to show seams.

The wedding dishes, the ones you painstakingly selected together and thought about your daily lives together (although all things considered, he just sort of went along with because, well, it’s dishes) begin to show signs of wear and tear. Add in a couple of chips and slight cracks to make it authentic and keep you on the edge daily, wondering if the plate will hold through the next meal.

Someone’s back will go out or there will be a minor health scare or you’ll get a dog or a house or have some kids (or all of these things) which will be grand, really great in a whole myriad of ways but also will exhaust you and put you at each other’s neck sometimes about things seemingly innocuous as pee pads and pacifier use and weighing your spouse’s wall color opinion vs your own and trying to determine what color to actually paint the bedroom.

Little fights threaten at the edge of the perimeter, sometimes out of nowhere, like campfire grounds that if not tended, will turn into a forest fire. The Forest Fire, you think to yourself, that could possibly end your marriage. Instead, you try and deal with the small but feisty ones together, you and your spouse a ramshackle team of volunteer firefighters at best. Though you’re arguing, you’re a team with the same desire to not let this small fire involving the electric bill and what to bring for Thanksgiving dinner at which family’s house ignite your whole world.

The pet you had previous to marriage might die. The things you came into the marriage with that were more personal than useful, like pink cocktail glasses, might have been given away or sold in a series of garage sales. Or in strange events that you’re not sure how you became suckered into, become part of your child’s flim-flam set up of odd, unrelated things you don’t know what to do with that somehow, but they cannot part with now. These previous life things, these sweet innocent knickknacks that remind you of who you were but have outgrown, your child adores and sees the beauty in long after you’ve moved on. You’ll still hold onto to a couple of small things from your single life before the spouse/house/pets/kids but most will go. You’ve merged, changed. Merged and joined life with another person which may or may not include cocktail hours and a love of cute quote decor.

The clothes and persona don’t fit anymore, you’ll find one day while trying on an outfit for an especially important event. You’re not a new person, not a different person, but one that has stayed the course and seen some things–and felt a lot of things, both good and bad, that you’ve never thought you could feel about another person. And since your mind and heart has changed so – your wardrobe begins to slightly change alongside. And sometimes, the sizes are larger than you expected and yet you are still stunned–the perfect size 6 you were is not what has kept them here; while it originally attracted, it’s not what has made them stay. While sometimes you long for that body, that lifestyle involving all your own choices and decisions instead of hotly debated group decisions over where to vacation, wonders never cease that you are able to tuck in at night next to the one you love, size 6 or not. And you marvel how the feeling is the same but different somehow, weightier, deeper than you had ever imagined. And this contentment and happiness looks a lot more like peace and small decisions about what to get mad about and less like the widely advertised image of happiness of running through sunflowers in the early spring, smiling to the edges of your face.

The furniture begins to sag. If you have an animal of any kind (including those lovely magical ones we call children) there may be some stains – biological stains, unsightly ones, and ones that only a mother can smile and fume over at the same time that are marker stains. Try as you might, every cleaning product and process you’ve heard of and asked around about, they will not come out. You will welcome guests into a home full of love, laughter, but high imperfection including worn tiles, walls with scratches, kid art adorning the fridge and marker or some other “free artistic expression” on some piece of furniture/wall/curtain that happened the moment you turned around to turn on the stove. You will encourage guests that they are welcome here, just don’t mind the bleach spot on the carpet where there was a science experiment very quickly gone awry. Some laugh knowingly having been there; others will try to hide their slightly appalled faces while silently making a tally of just how many things in their house will need to be scotchguarded and/or replaced should they have children.

The age will show–all of it. Your face, your body, your mind. You willfully talk to your face that the joy you have in life is (hopefully) what people see first, not the wrinkles, the exhaustion, the 3 a.m. debate you had with your oldest child about how best to settle down and go back to bed.

The way you have thought of things has shifted; you now know the essential things about life, like proper car care and other practical things that you as a self-made woman would have figured out on her own but short cutting that process is okay, sometimes, you think quietly to yourself. You are so glad some days when you can’t find the keys or the last thought you thought or what that last item you needed to remember from the grocery store, that there is someone lovely, sturdy and practical to help fill in the gaps of an absent-minded, impulsive, emotional true self you’ve realized you were all along, but spent so many years hiding because who could love that?

Staying in is much more appealing than it used to be. Sometimes it’s the back, or some other irksome body part acting up or causing concern; sometimes it’s just too much loudness out there, but most of the times it’s because you have the very best person next to you. The one you love and trust and have lived life with, that you want to hear their opinion, their thoughts. You’re so close to them you needn’t go far at all, most days.

Signs of life.

Signs of the long haul.

Signs of keeping it together, even when the world wants to rip it apart.

Brave day

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Yesterday, a solemn day.

We remember, those of us old enough to experience it and those of us young enough to sense the enormity of it from our family’s and friends emotional, brow-knitted retellings.

It was a day you wondered where God was. I had wondered many times that day and the days after, had he let our collective foot slip?

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

  Psalm 121: 3-4

I recounted these words yesterday and remembered this feeling of fifteen years ago. That perhaps this loving God had fallen asleep; that somehow He was caught unaware, in the throat, like all of us were on that day.

I remember, most days at least, that He’s with us all along.

But we were all questioning it on September 11th.

Today, I think about the day after all this. The day also, in my opinion, of the brave.

Of those that had to face the first morning alone in twenty years. Of those who had to face the children without their father. Of those who had to make sense of their husbands and wives rushing into calamity and chaos instead of running away. I think of the children that never had a chance to know one or both of their parents because of this. Or the older business owner whose whole life, business, was smashed and covered in smoke and soot the day before.

I pray there was a reason, a something for this pain. Because I can’t grasp a pain this deep and this big without any purpose. A pain and suffering of this level without any purpose would shake my faith to the deepest core.

Today feels as solemn (or maybe it’s just me) as the 11th. The day after feels just as painful; the day we all had to make sense of what had happened and work to move on. To figure out how to live again. To figure out just how to get up out of bed again.

How to muddle through the ordinary the day after. How we were and are brave in the ordinary days after.

Those parents that rose to take care of children, spouse-less, the day after. The firefighters and first responders that woke up and put on their gear for another day of searching, the day after. The parents of missing children that tried calling and calling and praying and praying again the day after. The kindergarten teacher that returned to work the day after. The postman that still delivered mail the day after. The airport and airline staff and security that still returned, the day after.

All of us, the brave and the ordinary, that showed up, even though bloodshot eyed, heartbroken and confused, the day after.