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.

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.

Life: Price of Admission

 

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Thanks to marugod83 and freedigitalphotos.net for the image.

Skinned knees, broken dishes, burnt omelettes, laundry. Hurt feelings and unbridled joy; ecstasy and boredom. Anger, frustration and hope.

Extremes: Utter joy and utter moments of well, being human.

Pain. Epiphanies.

The things we do that make us both wonderful and terrible; things that help remind us that we are “wonderfully and fearfully made.”

Socks with holes. Doors that jam. Those closets that either crash its contents on you upon opening. Or the ones you’re too afraid to go into or come out of.

Baby belly laughs.

Brownies.

Finding money in your coat pocket and other unexpected treasures like a clean bill of health from the dreaded doctor appointment. Wonder. The final bite of your favorite meal. Bubbles. New car smell.

Messes.

Disappointment.

Dread and shame and other words that describe terrible feelings.

The way the sun streams through trees, glistens on tissue-thin flowers in the early morning before anyone is up. Peace. Books so good you have to keep one in your own personal library. Foot massages. Chirpy bird conversations. Weight loss.

Life in this world.  Full of such visceral joy and such visceral pain, and holding them, mixed together like oil and water, in one body. Holding onto both of them at the same time.

Wonders never cease all we can hold onto and let go of in this place.

What kind of animal are you?

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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.

Price of Admission

I wrote this because, well, dishes and bottles.

One night I was standing at the sink doing dishes and thinking about how life seems to revolve around cleaning dishes and cleaning bottles lately, and I was sort of over it.

I started lamenting the fact that I ALWAYS have to do dishes and I ALWAYS have to clean the bottles and I ALWAYS…you know the drill; the ALWAYS and NEVER sickness that crops up every once in a while usually late in the evening when your defenses are down and you are bone-tired and perhaps a little more cranky than usual but you’re not sure you’re willing to admit that to yourself yet.

I imagine I’m not the only one who’s been through the whole bitter vs. grateful aspect of what feels like never-ending dishes pile or baskets of unfolded laundry or the countless other chores that are more constant than anything else in this thing called life with a family.

So, after I lamented to myself a little bit, then felt sorry for myself a little bit (well, a lot bit, if we’re being totally honest here), like I indeed was Cinderella confined by my evil step sisters to the sink, I remembered suddenly: Hey self, I chose this. And hey, self also: it isn’t that bad. After about 30 minutes of reminders to myself, I told myself to more or less get over it.

And then I realized (too late, as I often do) that maybe I need a teaspoon of my own medicine that I so freely give my kids: that with everything in life, there is a rose and a thorn. And learning that perhaps bottles are my personal thorns in the great, big, bold, beautiful rose that is having a baby. And the price of admission for having a family is dishes, and the price of admission for having a chubby, chortling happy baby is constant bottle washing.

And so out of that—I thought a lot about life. And voila!  This sort of poem (or whatever you would call this) about the price of admission for living a full life.

Price of Admission

Skinned knees, hurt feelings, jelly side down, broken hearts and those darn clam shell packages.  Socks with holes in the most inconvenient places. Crying jags.

Bad moods, overcast skies, laundry piled high, dishes. Missing keys, too much mail, pants that are too tight. Burned toast.

Late running appointments, over boiling pots, stepped-on toes, bitterness, children that are bedtime-allergic, shoes that still haven’t stretched out. Unwanted pounds. Selfishness. Ego.

Exhaustion – by things, people, money, traffic, yourself, noise, computers, politics, that earworm song that you can’t get out of your head.

Indescribable joy, unbridled pain and suffering, boredom. Equal parts pain and joy, unequal parts pain and joy depending upon your constitution.

Pets.

Sunshine.

Bubbles and ice cream. Days where everything goes your way. Autumn.  Tea in the morning and sun that still shines brightly no matter what.

Butter. Love. Rainbows. Innocence, like a child arguing whole heartedly with you that a unicorn really does exist. Hamburgers. God. Children. The cool part of the pillow. Wonder. Fireflies.

Naps. Books. The simple act of blowing a dandelion.

Sleep and purring cats.  Warm socks and silent nights. The sound of stillness. Eating cake for breakfast. Long walks, the beach and road trips. Hot baths. Exhilarating freedom.

Babies crying, dog poop found inside the house, spilled milk, Lego embedded into sole of foot. The kind of sick that involves vomit or the other thing. Or, on lucky days, both things. Confusion. Heartache. Not sure whether you’re tired, angry, or hungry, or all of the above.

The gym. Which really, could go either way if we’re being completely honest about it.

Middle aged spread. Fleas. Mosquitos and other annoyances. The kid that won’t eat anything green. Potholes. The strange crust that forms around the toothpaste tube opening that only very OCD or organized people seem to be able to avoid completely. Whining. Sadness. Weeds.

Being able to feel the breeze on your face, smell the newly cut grass in the air, barbecue. The first corn of the summer. Fat, round chortling babies.

Tenderness, warmth. Comforting campfires and long stories. Brushing the tendrils of hair out of your child’s sleeping face. Patience. Learning to be a beginner. Plump peaches. Quiet.

Hope. Kindness and mercy, especially in the face of something traumatic. Lending a hand. Mercy. Happiness that radiates up from your toes. Concerts. Living out loud. Learning to let go of who you were.  Wide toothy smiles.

The solid notion that life indeed goes on, which most days presents itself as laundry to be folded and dishes to be done.

The End.

Mother’s Day Recap

Mother’s Day Recap

I woke up to someone calling from the bathroom about a (pee-pee) related accident.

There were disagreements about what we were wearing and how we were doing our hair.

Nobody seemed to be a fan of breakfast, and the baby was hungry and clingy most of the morning.

Thankfully though, we made it to church (albeit late) but at least we had all calmed down and we were past yelling and being grouchy with each other, which felt like a small miracle given the morning’s events.

At lunch there were jokes, silly toddler insights, earnest trying to be kind and patient, forgiveness of morning sins, and a deep-seated of joy of just being together for a good meal.

Until the baby started crying. Crying-crying, the needs-to-be-taken-out-of-the-restaurant crying.

And to me, this is the perfect Mother’s Day. Could I deal without all the hassle, attitudes, diaper changes and I don’t wannas that seem to flow through my life right now? Of course.

But then I wouldn’t have the sacred role of being a mother, and being able to see everyone at their best and worst and have the privilege and honor of loving them all anyway.

We are raising small humans, which despite all of the things, ALL of the things (those things that I throw my hands up in the air about and the constant subject of many quick prayers) is a gift. A big, luxurious, crazily wrapped gift, but still, a lovely gift.

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.