What kind of animal are you?

oh-my-dog-1533700-640x480
Thanks to Tom Hemeryk and freeimages.com for the (way too fitting) image

I’m currently working through Julia Cameron’s “self-help” book for artists entitled, nobly, “Walking in This World” and she has some really great points on transformation and identity (and the crisis of change both of those bring.)

Her main point here is that it’s not a matter of who you are, but who you are changing into. She uses the analogy of an old story about three blind men describing an elephant – one says it felt like a brick walk, the other mentions a trunk and a third mentions the sheer presence, if I’m remembering at all correctly (I’m probably not.)

Anyways, she goes through this exercise to demonstrate a point: we are all a portion of what we really are; that we as artists forget our largeness, forget the sum of our parts. We tend to just remember our parts, like an actor reads up on his “role” as a writer, painter, or composer.

She goes on to explain that an elephant is not just a wall of grey, nor just a trunk. And neither are we – we are a sum of all of those things too, not just the things or the roles that others, including our friends, define us as. That perhaps, we could be a writer-composer. A this AND a that.

So, as things go, I spent half of today chasing my tail after a bad night of sleep and wondering why in the world I couldn’t “get it together” all the while, simmering in the background, wondering what kind of animal I am nowadays. My brain would whirl around these questions and those naggy little thoughts like Why am I not gliding through the to-do list? What’s wrong with me that I can’t get to the kitchen immediately after groceries? Why, why, why? Why am I so slow? Am I depressed?

As you can see, it’s a wild ride in my head.

And of course, with all of this I’ve learned about my particular brand of crazy, I’m sort of prepared for it. Most days, when I’m not so sleep-deprived, on better days, that is. But the answers in short are: I’m tired. I’m older than I used to be. I have a small one with me at all times, and goodness how I love a clean and well-run house, I love the people in them more. So I chose people first, usually.

And the groceries were bought and put away, lunches made, naps had and stories read, so all in all, I’ve done an okay job. But the mind – the monkey mind that is mine won’t let me slow down nor give myself grace. And is seemingly always on Depression-Watch, which clearly is a very narrow definition of depression, in that, if you’re not being productive, you’re depressed.

Oh, me. It’s funny when I remember to recognize the antics my brain plays with me.

And halfway through my workout this afternoon (that should have been this early morning before the kids woke up, my mind reminded me) it dawned on me what kind of animal I am:

A dog in a cone of shame desperately trying to scratch it’s wound.

I’m exactly that poor meme of a dog that keeps trying to scratch its wounds while wearing the cone of shame.

Heaven help me: I’m the cone of shame dog.

It’s sad to say at this point, but I share it because at this point in my life it’s true, and second, maybe you can laugh as maybe you can relate.

Yes, I would like to be an elegant horse or perhaps even a cat, maybe an elephant even, with all that commanding presence.

But in this journey of becoming more me, and hopefully a little more graceful with myself, I’m learning that cone of shame dog unfortunately fits for right now.

Sigh.

And maybe one day, I’ll let that wound go, let it heal. And maybe then, I’ll can just simply be a dog. Or my own sort of animal altogether.

Here’s to hoping.

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5 Gifts to Give Yourself for Mother’s Day

Yes, 5 gifts to give yourself this Mother’s Day.

Especially if you are a mother with a young family.

1. Grace.

Truth: We all need it, and especially those on the first line of defense (read: moms of toddlers) need lots of it, in huge serving sizes. Give it to others, your little ones, most importantly to yourself often.

2. Plastic, wipe-off placemats.

I know, I know, they are tacky and I can’t believe I’m saying this either. And usually they come in polarizing primary or fluorescent colors, and may or may not have Dora and Batman (or another crazy theme, like ants on a picnic table) scattered across them. I know, I get it–they are not cute.

But you are only in this stage once, this children-are-so-small-and-tender age, and with that, to some degree you have to let things go so you can enjoy them while they are still small. And to me, that means being able to clean up at least something quickly. There will be time for beautiful table settings later, I promise. And yes, preaching this to myself as I wipe down said (hideous!) placemats. Fist bump, sister.

3. Letting go of the need of perfectly snapping the freshly cleaned lovely little onesies at the bottom, all 3 snaps, snap-snap-snap, before you hang it up or fold it and put it away. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

4. Saturday morning hair forgiveness.

That crazy mess of hair that is either rolled up in a bun, pulled back in a cap or a ponytail, or somehow just out of your face so you can run after your kids, cheer from the sidelines at their early morning soccer game or run to the store before they wake up.

Whatever it looks like, it’s cool. You’re doing the best you can to be the best mom your can be, and sometimes that means that the fancy braids and whatnot that you’ve been pinning on your style board just won’t be used on Saturday morning. And that’s okay.

5. When all else fails, a hot bath and/or a massage.

Yes, you’re allowed.

Happy early Mother’s Day, mamas.

Five Minute Friday – on a Saturday evening

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

We won’t mention how long it’s been since I’ve participated in this, that’s not polite conversation. But, if you must know, it’s been a while. See previous post for the reason why.

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.

You ready? Here we go:

Grace

thanks to  papaija2008 for the image use.
thanks to papaija2008 for the image.

 

So, today, because I apparently like to make more issues for myself (as if there aren’t enough there to deal with already) in the middle of a beautiful November day—crisp, crackle-y and full of all kinds of wonderful autumn colors, I decided to go jean shopping.

Because I apparently like to take my life in my own hands.

So, with already faltering semi-ok attitude and a gift card in hand, off I went.

It didn’t end well. In fact, if I’ll be really honest with myself, most of these shopping escapades lately don’t bode very well for me; at the very minimum, I end up feeling very bad about my hips; and at the very worst I end up hating all of life, wondering about all of my choices in life, my husband, my house, and the last dessert I had that only aided in creating the hip situation I’m currently in. It’s not pretty.

Maybe there should be a law about jean shopping less than a year after you have a child.  Perhaps I should follow it.

Like I said, I must really, really like to take my life in my own hands.

But thank God for God, and for grace, because on the days I don’t quiet the little voice inside of me with donuts, I hear Him. I hear Him say it’s all ok, and then there is an overwhelming quiet and flood of peace that I can’t deny. And I have to say that is a whole lot more reassuring and confidence boosting that trying to fit my whole self into a pair of jeans that clearly weren’t meant for me.

His grace is the one I seek, the one I so desperately long to find, especially on days like these, running long on self-deprecation and short on mercy. And jeans.

But that’s ok. Because in this grace and quiet, I’ve decided maybe it’s cords for me this fall.

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.

Children of Noah

Thanks to Jeff Ratcliff for the image.
Thanks to Jeff Ratcliff for the image.

So as the story goes we’re all children of Noah, right?

If you follow the Old Testament and read the Bible and remember all the stuff that went down about that flood, if you have any belief at all in Christ or in God, if you remember the story, the whole earth was wiped clean because humankind was so dirty, bad, almost un-savable.

Everyone, of course Noah and his family.

And if I remember correctly, even God was sad, even God was a bit regretful He made us, His finest creation, and He was deeply sad about having to wipe the slate clean so to speak, but there wasn’t a way around it, with God being who He is.

Argue the theology all you want and try to rectify that into your understanding of God. It’s a hard concept to grasp from the God of love, but if you think of a parent disciplining their child, or letting their child take responsibility for their own actions, I think you’re coming close to maybe grasping the concept, although no one can really grasp the strange backward paradigm that is God.

But I’m not here to argue theology.

I’m here to remind us that we are Noah’s children. God’s children too. We are offspring of holy.  Holy.  Let that sink in.

And I think we need a reminder in this time of too much bad and graphic news, a reminder that we are holy and precious things, people from the holiest man at the time.  Children from a family that God, God alone chose to save.  We are children of Noah.

And because of God’s great and wonderful promise, he promised not to wipe us all out again in a flood.

Lately, after seeing how destructive and cruel and inhumane we as humans can be, and with the recent development of the kidnappings in Ohio and all the gory and inhumane details that will spill out about that house and those men, in a matter of days, some days I wonder if a flood again, to wipe us out, would not do us just a tiny bit of good.

I’ll say it: all un-Christian and everything: there is a large amount of hate, of vileness and repulsive feelings I have for those men, for any people actually, who hurt, abuse, and/or use power in a perverse way over humans and animals.

Those people, I think, well, some days I think a flood would be helpful in their particular cases.  But those are not nice things to think, not Christian things to think at all.

They get me worked up into a mix of rage and sadness, so much so some days that I have to remind myself that I am a Christian, and as one, I don’t get the last say.

I don’t get to go be negative and get revenge.  Some days this is good, as it keep the latch locked on the fence of the wild pony of my emotions that would love to jump over the fence of discipline and shout obscenities (amongst other things) at people who do so much wrong, so much hurting. But I don’t get the last word on that. God does.

And while I’m choosing to trust God and not become the bitter and revengeful person I can so easily be, I still have a call as a Christian I do have to speak up and do something. And writing is where I start.

Here’s the thing about my wishes and the flood–God’s not going to do that again.  This is a mixed blessing, a mixed bag, because a part of me always wonders, always wants a report card—God said he won’t do it again, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t worthy of it happening—are we as vile, cruel, unloving and destructive as those people from the Old Testament?

If our God wasn’t as loving and as faithful as keeping his promises to us, how many times would we have been wiped away, gone, already, in this age? I have to say I’ve pondered this one too many times in the last 6 months or so, every time something horrendous happens, and I’ve pondered it more times that I would care to admit.

But that’s not the point of all this.

The point is to trust God, that all things will be redeemed in His time, in the end.

This makes no logical sense, really.  This is something I grapple with daily, because it feels a lot like giving up, like being passive.  But n actuality, it’s probably the most aggressive and radical thing you could believe.

But the whole ‘everything will be redeemed in His time’ concept? That’s a long time to wait, maybe.  And that’s a lot of trust we have to put into a God that we think is taking too long, or a God we don’t quite fully grasp, a God in reality, that is much bigger and wider than any of our minds can comprehend.

On these days, the down days, I wonder what heaven is like, if it really is perfect. I, of course hope so, but wonder: then does it get boring? What happens with perfection, with things always going so good?

And then I think of the news last week, the horrors we feel and see and hear and think to myself: heaven, redemption, you can’t get here fast enough.

That cool glass of refreshing water that is heaven cannot arrive too quickly.

But in the meantime, we have to live, and love and somehow maneuver through this world, carrying both the pain and the joy of living in these days.

And we get through with each other, and the answer isn’t a cape and a 28-minute episode where all bad things and people are resolved at the end of the show. It’s doing small actions, the small things, inconvenient steps, each day.

Oh yes, inconvenient.  If we are going to change the world and revamp the world into one we actually want to live in, we’re going to have to put down the iPhone occasionally and look up, look within, and notice what is going on within and around us.

And that means we simultaneously guard and open ourselves, our families, our communities.

We help each other with things get bad.

If things or life or our choices completely fall entirely off the rails, we are open enough to admit it, get help and move on.

We are open to community.

We are not afraid.

And we are not afraid to take action, step in, step on our neighbor’s toes in the process of trying to get it right.

It does not mean ignoring, feeling pity for others without praying; it does not mean, for certain, indifference.  Or a lot of “that’s too bad” comments on blogs.  It means we need to do something. It means action.

We care about our neighbors, and those in our community we get to know them, and we say hi and make efforts. These little things are the big efforts.

We don’t just pull our car into the garage and hop from one location to another, keeping to ourselves or to our phones, just barely noticing others.

In short, it’s that we realize that we are all family and we all have a duty to help each other out, even if that comes with defensiveness, feelings being hurt, missteps, mistakes and all of the awkwardness that comes in knowing one another authentically, as people.

And we continue to do it.  Get into relationships with other people.

Even when it gets hard, messy, ugly.

And we ask God for all the help we can get, and all the help He can possibly give us.

And we pray. We pray like the world needs help (it so desperately does), like our society needs more help that just simply a Band-Aid, a patch over problems, and we get on our hands and knees and pray like our lives are depending on it, because they are.

And we trust, still radically trust, that He has it all under control.

Blog Birthday/Anniversary

thanks to Rawich for the image.
thanks to Rawich for the image.

So, this is the day, MLK Day, that marks WAY many more important things than my blog anniversary, but amongst today there is this, the year anniversary of deep fragile grace.  What began as a mini-experiment is now a part of my life, something that has become important enough to me that I still try to work writing and posting in at least once a week.  Which, for a “hobby” that’s really good odds for me.  You should see my craft room of all of the other “hobbies” that petered out halfway.  Not so good.

So as I do every year in January, I ponder what I’ve learned.  What road I’ve traveled, how I’ve gotten here and if indeed the bumps were worth the ride.

And though I can’t say I’ve learned lots and lots as I’m not a full-time blogger, I’ve picked up some things.  Most things that I’ve learned can be summed up as this: there is more to learn, and be patient.  But, if you are still interested (ha!) here is a more detailed list:

  1. Not everything that you write is going to move mountains.  If you’re lucky, it will move readers emotionally, and you may never hear about it.  And that’s ok. And not only that, what moves readers emotionally will be the posts and the subjects you never saw coming.
  2. Your writing will improve.  Your writing improves in spades when you participate in the weekly Five Minute Friday from Lisa-Jo Baker.  (You can find her at www.lisajobaker.com) Yes, 5 minutes once a week with a word challenge helps more than any of those 10, 000 idea-starter books you have.
  3. Your blogging is inconsistent at best, and that’s ok too.  You are also trying to be a full-time wife, mom and worker bee, so writing, though fun, is not always the highest priority.  Loving well will always be the highest priority for you, and that’s not something to be ashamed of. But writing is fun for you, so try to do it whenever you can.
  4. You will feel like a superhero that saved the world when you finally figure out how to upload pictures with a post.
  5. People and friends you never expected will read this blog.  This is a good thing.
  6. You will get frustrated and angry and impatient with your writing and your supposed progress, and you will want to pull your hair out every time someone says “give it time.” But, it’s true, you need a little time and a little distance to do this well.  Play it loose.  Watching every stat, monitoring every post will only make you crazy, and the looser and with more slack you play it, the more successful you are.  I know it sounds crazy, but this is your truth and your personality. Just zoom out a bit, widen the perspective.
  7. A year later, you are still shocked that people read this.  Though not technically a “writer” you are one.  You’re writing.  That counts for something.
  8. It’s not the amount or the reactions of people reading it that count or matter. Seriously.  It’s the emotions, the people you touch that end up making it all worthwhile.  I know this is hard to believe.
  9. You are doing just fine.
  10. You are still writing!  Hooray!