The long haul

 

THE LONG.png

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.

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Merry Christmas, Y’all

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? So sorry about that. Life, sick kids, broken dishwasher and washer in.the.same.week and behind on all things Christmas, well, it all gets in the way of my me time, which is writing.

Regardless of all that, here’s this at least: a sincere holiday post and wish. Hope you all have good ones.

I’m sharing this post from my personal Facebook book page, because it’s relevant, I’ve already written it, and psst–I’ll be totally authentic here: I’m testing this. Testing to see if these (LENGTHY) Facebook posts of mine make good blog posts. Say what you will about me, at least I’m honest. And hey, you all be honest too-if you love it or hate it, let me know. That’s the beauty of a blog vs a journal–the people reading it get to tell you their opinion. Feel free to share yours with me.

So, without further adieu, here it is, and hope you enjoy. And Merry Christmas, y’all.

image courtesy of Michal Marcol
image courtesy of Michal Marcol

It’s the last lap of the holiday season, and we’re all merry at this point in my tiny neck of the woods.

We have (thankfully) decided that either the presents will get there in time or not, and on the latter, it may be no big deal if it’s late. There are worse things, worse fates, we’ve decided. For example, lots of the world’s issues for example, just pick one–would be bad, but the gifts being late? Eh, we can only control and worry so much. We’ve of course decided this now, after 20 some odd days of hustle, hassle, stressful late nights and worry. We’ve decided only now that it’s ok to give ourselves a break, enjoy the season, maybe even a smile or two and kick up our feet while enjoying the season instead of fretting about it. This tends to be my typical holiday season mode of operandi, and each year I swear I’ll learn from the last, and yet, here I am again. Thank goodness for grace and the hope of another year.

We’re also suddenly kind to each other now—when we see a parking space, no, no it’s yours, go ahead, we wave to the other car, hand grandly out to the right like a butler gesturing you to enter a room. You first, we say with a smile when days before we would have thrown a fit, cussed, maybe thrown a finger also. But we all realize we’re in too deep now, it’s going to happen or it isn’t, and so now we have the time to be kind. If only we could remember this the other 364ish days of the year, well, we’d perhaps be in a more peaceful state

Around here we’re baking cookies for Santa, trying to relax and take naps. We are busily wrapping, cooking, hiding all the laundry piles and changing bed sheets for the guests. As if there isn’t enough I’m already trying to do, I’ve decided I’m going to create reindeer “tracks” on our front lawn for the kids (mostly the older one) this year. It will be a cool holiday effect hopefully: visible, tangible tracks of glitter and sequins and pom-poms and all other things that kids translate as ephemeral, magical and full of lore. Wish me luck and patience, especially for B as I’m not sure how keen he’ll be about finding glitter in our grass 6 months from now.

If you’re a certain sort, you’re also aggressively planning play dates and activities for your energetic little ones, because, well, after the gifts are opened and well-played with, the food and relatives gone, there will still be 6 hours left on Christmas Day. There are only so many non-breakable things in your house but the proportion of breakable things to your child’s energy is immeasurable. We’re very familiar with this idea so if you’re around the DFW area this holiday season, let me know. The wild pony that is my daughter would love to play with your children, and we have days to fill and in my daughter’s eyes, naps to continue to avoid.

It’s also the time to count again all our blessings and what we’re thankful for. My annual holiday tradition is buying an ornament that sums up the type of year we’ve had, and 2013 was faux popsicle. Fitting for such a year full of so many beautifully sweet and sticky things. Much like life itself: sticky and sweet.

I have, of course, written too much again. But through all this—I sincerely hope you and yours have good holidays. Here’s a wish for holidays full of warmth, love, and of course, mirth and gratitude, the parents to true joy.

I hope you enjoy it all—too many wrapping paper messes, late bedtimes, eggnog and uncomfortable tight hugs—all, my friends.

It’s a crazy, messy, but lovely, life that we get to live.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays y’all.

Five Minute Friday (on a Monday) Red

Five Minute Friday, yep, on a Monday. Monday. I clearly ain’t that proud.

But, wanted to do this, and so here it goes–writing, amongst the laundry piles, the to-do lists and the general clutter and eons-long list of things yet to be done. But writing, still. In the midst of all of that and the new bit of life with a baby, so feel like a champ that I can just sit down for 10 or so odd minutes and pound out some words and thoughts. Truly, this feels like superhero work that as a bonus, makes me feel good about life. And P.S.-it’s a special treat for you if the words and thoughts are actually spelled correctly!

So, here is this, a Five Minute Friday challenge, one I used to do with some regularity a while ago.

And here are the rules, should you want to join me, which I hope you do some day. This is fun stuff here, and challenging, and a great side effect is that your writing gets better, stronger. And you also get to encourage others too, which is icing on the cake.

For a reminder-this Five Minute Friday thing is a weekly writing “game” from my bloggy friend Lisa-Jo Baker, who blogs (and writes heart-breakingly, beautiful words and stories) at http://lisajobaker.com/

So, here’s the challenge, should you accept it: you write for 5 minutes with freedom like you have no fear or shame.  Or propensity for run-on sentences and inappropriate comma use, like I do.  And then you have to be brave (or at least pretend to be) and link up to her blog.

Encouraging the writer who links up before you is part of the deal, too. This last rule is crucial, as we all need to encourage others. Why encourage another writer? Because at one point or another in our lives, we all need encouraging, yes, oh yes we do.

Each week is a new word, a new thought starter, and you have 5 minutes to write….and are you ready?

go-

 RED

thanks to nuchylee for the image use.
thanks to nuchylee for the image use.

Can I tell you honestly? When I see the word red, all I think is seeing red, devil with the red dress on, and this little random factoid that I learned: that red is the most important color on a Pinterest pin because it is the color that attracts the most pinners.

Random, right?

But, since I can’t write about all of these, I’ll write about one, and that’s seeing red. Which, unfortunately I see more often these days, as I’m a mother of a new one and have sleep deprivation on a pretty regular basis. And I’m also a mother of a toddler, so therefore in the stage of being entrenched in their daily negotiations that so much so that it feels more like negotiating with a crazed terrorist (but the loveliest, cutest sort) than it feels like rearing children.

And so often, I lose my cool. I don’t yell, I don’t scream, which I’m real thankful for, but I so quickly lose my patience for the 30th “why” question on something I’ve already explained about 20 times before; I so quickly get tired of the “stay away from your brother’s face” phrase I have to repeat over and over again; I so quickly get tired, in spirit and in just maturity, of being the parent and being the bigger person instead of falling into the emotional exchange with a toddler who’s so deeply seated in the smack-dab middle of her toddlerhood that I think she may never come out of this stage, and all the while, me acting like a eye-rolling babysitter instead of her mother.

And I know it has nothing, this toddlerhood, on raising a teenager, so I hear. But I have to say, that all the cards I’ve been getting lately for our new one’s birth have said, more or less, “good luck on going from 3 to 4!” and every time, I jump to the conclusion that they are talking about my toddler, and how going from age 3 to 4, age 4 which happens later this year.  I only recently figured out that these cards were talking about our family going from 3 people to 4 people, not about my toddler’s age at all.

Can you tell I’ve been a little exasperated with my 3 year old?

But truth be told, I love her, dearly. Always have. Always will, despite anything and everything, even my own attitude. And that’s true for the new one too, no matter what sorts of trouble or little annoyances crop up.

And another truth-I am so thankful, especially, for the one who hears my prayers, my desperate, keep-me-calm and help-my-keep-my-tone-and-attitude-respectful, sometimes red-laced prayers.

Those Days

thanks to  Rob Wiltshire for the image.
thanks to Rob Wiltshire for the image.

Those days

There are those days that the baby won’t nap, no matter what routine or rock/cradle/swing contraption you’ve tried, and you’ve spent every last dime of energy and money of hopes and dreams on a swing and a down payment’s worth of batteries. These are the days the laundry remains undone, much like your sanity. There is dust and there is chaos and there are the older women, the ones with older children, perfect houses and orderly lives saying these are the best days, and you wonder if they’ve remembered their early motherhood days correctly. There are those days, sometimes the same day, those days that the toddler wets the bed, a mess of emotion and shame and all sorts of confused as the new baby has distributed her life and everything she’s come to know about her place in the family, and all you can do is cry with her, hug her, assure her that it’s all ok and that life in this family is messy, full of accidents, slips and trips, but also full of a love and grace that we can’t define, only believe in.

There are those days. Lots of those kinds of days, in abundance, overflowing.

Then there are those other days, the ones with sun shining brightly while it rains, the days life seems all together perfect and manageable, downright sunny: the day the baby (or you, but you’re not so sure who’s really in charge) finally figures out a nap schedule. The day the toddler gives you a hug so hard you can scarcely breathe or hold back the happy tears. The day it all goes right and you, somehow, and you can get to the nagging to-do list that includes more laundry than you know what to do with. In that moment you realize you both simultaneously love it and long for it, all the while mourning for anyone, really, who misses out on what special kind of joy having a family is.

Deep happiness

Thanks to gubgib for the image.
Thanks to gubgib for the image.

I am happy.

It’s taken me so long to say that, but I am finally happy, in a way that is deeply joyful, happy in a way that feels more like long-lasting joy than happiness in say, finding the perfect pair of shoes which so often the sort of short, temporal lift I get when thinking about life and happiness—it all feels so fleeting.

This all occurred to me several mornings ago when I woke up, randomly, at 2:30am.  And I wasn’t wide awake, but sort of woke up with a jolt, and couldn’t go back to bed right away.

So, I thought about some things, thought about some other things, and then thought about just at that moment, how deeply blessed and grateful I was for this life, this exact life.  Which, if you’re anything like me, is amazing.  If you’re anything like me, some days you wish for someone else’s life, maybe someone who has it more together, is more organized, is less prone to over think and more naturally joyful.

If you’re anything like me,you tend to think your life needs to be a lot more Pinterest and Facebook-worthy, just some how a more beautiful and Photoshopped version of what you have and who you are, and before you know it, the comparison bug is biting you in the leg again.

But this morning was different.  It was a true appreciation for exactly where I am now, for exactly what I have now, and no, we’ve haven’t just all the sudden become millionaires. No, our lives are suddenly perfect.  Yes, there is still confusion and chaos and disappointment and disorganization running rampantly and abundantly in our lives.

But this feeling, this thought was so real and tangible I wanted to hold it, keep it forever: a deep, simple of sense of gratitude and contentment for a wonderful husband, this strange and yet familiar relationship of being a wife, parent, and a person maybe finally becoming comfortable in her own skin.

And knowing that all of this is good, even knowing what I know is to inevitable come: more temper tantrums, dirty diapers, loose teeth, arguments, sibling rivalry, work-life balance negotiations, difficult choices and going through growing pains and all the other things that come with what it means to be a family.

That this is good, come changes in fortune, luck, seasons and those days I blatantly misjudge and  feel like I’m getting the backhand of God instead of the usual open-handed fullness I feel from Him.

That this is good, no matter what changes or what stays annoyingly the same, that this, this mess and beauty that is life, is all good.

And I’ve been taken aback at how this feeling was so refreshingly simple, deep, and yet so full all at the same time.

All my life I’ve been chasing at meaning, happiness, grasping empty-handed at this full-of-life feeling, vivacity, like it was some complicated algorithm that I was never going to be smart enough to understand.

And I’ve realized now, it’s not. Not that complicated. The one who has complicated it has been me. This feeling-it’s just a deep appreciation for where you are, with who you are, and who you are with, regardless of how many piles of laundry that it brings, how many toddler negotiations you have to deal with, regardless of the dust, clutter, dancing and weeping and all that comes with, some days like unfriendly barnacles, the joy of family life.

Simple happiness.  Dare I say contentedness. Who would have guessed?

Five Minute Friday – Here

Here we go again–Five Minute Friday challenge, this time, on a Sunday afternoon!  And this time, later than usual as we were away for the weekend, and I, being the all-or-nothing person I am, wanted this weekend technology-free. Which mostly, it was.  I was very proud of myself for how few times I checked my phone. 🙂

So, there’s the explanation for the time lag, and below, is the late-ish installment of Five Minute Friday…

For a reminder-it’s a weekly writing “game”  from my bloggy friend Lisa-Jo Baker, who blogs (and writes heart-breakingly, beautiful words and stories) at http://lisajobaker.com/

So, here’s the challenge, should you accept it: you write for 5 minutes with freedom like you have no fear or shame.  Or propensity for run-on sentences, like I do.  Pretend those don’t exist or don’t matter. (Ha!) And then you have to be brave (or at least pretend to be) and link up to her blog. Encouraging the writer who links up before you is part of the deal, too.  This last rule is crucial, as we all need to encourage others. Why encourage another writer? Because at one point or another in our lives, we all need encouraging too.

Each week is a new word, a new thought starter, and you have 5 minutes to write….and are you ready? go-

 Here
thanks to nuchylee for the image.
thanks to nuchylee for the image.

Here, in the midst of a happy Sunday, in the midst of a mini-family reunion, finally home from a conference, living in what I wish my daughter would have done—hug me overwhelmingly, bone-crushingly hard, with lots and lots of words about how much she needed me and missed me, here is where I live today.

Here, in the midst of too many words and too few minutes, always too few moments of time to write, to practice the what most days is the chicken-scratch writing from my soul, over-drenched with too many feelings and too many commas for any “real” writer to acknowledge, here in the imperfection, is where I live.

Here, where there is too much life, so much graciously abundant overflowing life, and not enough time to catch up to it, to ponder over it, or reflect on it, on how very lucky and blessed I am, here I am.

Here, where there is too much laundry and not nearly enough time or dedication to do it, here where there are messes made clean, repeatedly, but with great sighing, here, between the imperfect and sustaining love of a good man, here between the crayons and the play-doh droppings on the floor, here between the grooves of perfection and the spotless baseboards of what life tells us life should be: perfect, here, between all of those moments, here is where I really live.  In dusty, mostly messy and chaotic cycles of life, the loose ends of the unfinished business of living, here is where I love to live.

Five Minute Tuesday – Stay

Hi Again-

I’m doing this 5 minute writing challenge late. Again. Super late.  A Five Minute Friday challenge on a Tuesday.  Not any real good reason for this except for that this weekend was crazy and I needed some time to think.  And cook.  And make a mess in the kitchen while baking cakes and cooking dinner.  And then make myself do the Herculean effort of cleaning it all up.

And that only took since Friday.

So, since I’m now in the proper head space and not underneath a pile of dishes any more, I finally have a moment to write.  Which I am thankful for.  Writing heals me in ways that the dishes and laundry do not.

But that’s another post for another time.

So, a reminder in case you’ve missed it, this is the Friday Five Minute writing challenge, just in case, you know, you want to play sometime too-

This is a weekly writing “game”  from my bloggy friend Lisa-Jo Baker, who blogs (and writes heart-breakingly, beautiful words and stories) at http://lisajobaker.com/

So, here’s the challenge, should you accept it: you write for 5 minutes with freedom like you have no fear or shame.  And then you have to be brave (or pretend to be) and link up to her blog. Encouraging the writer who links up before you is part of the deal, too.  This last rule is crucial, as we all need to encourage others. Why encourage another writer? Because at one point or another in our lives, we all need encouraging too. And a big PS if you aren’t a believer yet: this little 5 minute challenge has matured and developed my writing like nothing else has.  Thank you Lisa-Jo!

Each week is a new word, a new thought starter, and you have 5 minutes to write….and are you ready? go-

Stay

Dawn, courtesy of Dan.

 

I want to stay some days, in the moments that I hope live forever in my memory.  I want to stay in the folds of her skin, the plush baby wrist rolls that I hope never stretch out, fade away as it means I can’t hold her in my lap like once before.

I want to stay, in the fleeting minutes with the warm sunshine rising on my grass, glazing the landscape and the window and the wall inside with golden light I accustom to God, to what heaven must be like; stillness and gold and God.

I want to stay, in the overly loud cheering section for some football team I don’t know anything about except that the team colors clash. I want to stay, in the beast of burden and beauty that is family, that is warmth and overwhelming emotions and double-parked cars on a driveway on a Thursday afternoon.

I want to stay, all day, all life long in these moments.

But I again have to remember that this place is not my home, this earth not my final destination.  But those moments give me glimpse and hope, full of wildly expectant ideas that heaven is overflowing with these places that I cannot stay but long to.