When you run too hard and mess up your leg (that's the technical term, right?), the experts--whether they have medical degrees or marathon medals hanging on their walls--will all tell you to apply pressure to the point of pain. Wrap it. Tape it. Wear compression socks. (Have you seen those? They're ridiculously ugly and expensive. Kind of like Uggs, only not as warm.)
Apply pressure to the point of pain. That wouldn't be my first reaction, nor the second or third. It's easier to wince and look away. It's more intuitive to ignore the discomfort and to avoid the troublesome area than it is to face it.
But we won't heal by popping pills and pretending not to notice. We heal only when we lean into the swollen and tender spots eyes open, press deeper, pinpoint weakness in the chain, adjust our gait.
Apply pressure to the point of pain. So, um, this post isn't about running injuries anymore, is it?
Friends, I've been feeling a
very strong and highly uncomfortable assault tug on my heart for the last year or so. It's getting more exhausting to ignore it than it would be to take action. So this is me, taking action.
There's a fiery point of pain to which I need to apply some pressure. I need to look it in the face. It's not my personal pain. It's not my story. But it is the story of far too many, 27 million too many. I'm talking about human trafficking, about the estimated 1.2 million children who are trafficked annually. I'm talking about girls, many no older than my own daughter, taken, exploited, a child sold every 30 seconds.
It makes my stomach lurch and my eyes blur. But see, there's this
extremely annoying little detail reminder God keeps bringing to mind. It's not about me. It's not about what I feel comfortable with. My life goal, apparently, isn't to surround myself with a nice bubbly cushion of happy-clappyness. Which is a bummer, really, because hiding underneath a rainbow-colored bolt of bubble wrap sounds pretty good right now.
So. Apply pressure to the point of pain.
In the next week, I'm launching a blogging-meets-running initiative called Run for their Lives, designed to help us all look this issue in the face and inspire us to action.
I'm going to invite you to join me in training for and running a race.
I'm going to invite you to learn more about the cause.
I'm going to invite you to donate if you feel led.
I'm going to share of series of posts with practical tips and running advice for the regular old Jo.
And best of all, I'm going to give away some cool custom running tees. So stay tuned.
To be perfectly honest, I haven't thought this through completely. I haven't planned a single post yet. I'm bumbling my way through the technical set up. I'm unprepared for whatever it is I've just signed myself up to do. But I'm going for it, comfort zone be damned.
Come with me?
When you run too hard and mess up your leg (that's the technical term, right?), the experts--whether they have medical degrees or marathon medals hanging on their walls--will all tell you to apply pressure to the point of pain. Wrap it. Tape it. Wear compression socks. (Have you seen those? They're ridiculously ugly and expensive. Kind of like Uggs, only not as warm.)
"I think we should give Santa a present. And not just cookies. Liiiiike, saaaaay, an ornament. Can we buy him one? I mean, Christmas is s'posed to be about giving, right? So I'm just saying we should give Santa something."
So apparently you can believe both in the magic of Christmas and the economic inevitability of job exportation. I'm just glad I wasn't the HR rep who had to "down-size" the elves. Aaaaawkward.
The stories I tell begin and end in the same place. Call me circular, but I can't help spinning, revolving every last particle around my nuclear family. Today I've been married for exactly 16 years, and on Sunday, she'll have lived exactly five. *
Next week we'll sit by the fire and the tree and around the table, and the boy who is seven will probably get icing on his Christmas sweater. And the girl who is five will probably throw a fit over whose turn it is to open the new door in the Advent book. And the mom and the dad who have long ago given up on perfection and settled for grace, we will probably struggle to keep eyes from rolling and voices from rising.
But we won't beat ourselves up for not appearing at all times like a perfectly quaffed family in a sample Christmas card. Life in all its mess and we in all our shortcomings, this is what's real.
And this is what's beautiful--to love each other anyway. Not to airbrush the ugliness, but to forgive it. Not to hide behind a mask of perfection, but to show messy selves to each other, to be known as we are and loved anyway.
This is when love is most like a miracle--when it's so clear how little I deserve it, and yet, there it is, relentless and unrationed. When I say I believe in the miracle of Christmas, this is what I mean. That Love came down. That He loved us first, always, and anyway. And that He showed us how, enabled us to do the same for those around us. This is the gift. This is the miracle.
*I began writing this last week, and in a shocking twist, was interrupted. I came back to it today to "Just Write" the rest. Thank you, Heather, for hosting today.
I'm also linking this up to Emily for her last installment of Tuesdays Unwrapped, which shall remain one of my all time favorites.
**I believe it's against the law to get the entire family dressed to the nines and not take a family photo. So even though I've clearly admitted to being a mess of a family, here's our perfectly quaffed family photo. The people who did Dani's flower girl hair also did my make-up, so I'm wearing a year's supply of make-up in one evening. When my son first saw me, he asked "What happened to your face!?" And when my husband saw me, he just said "Oh. Wow." Not wow as in you look amazing, but wow as in yikes, and this was you telling them you wanted a natural look? Also? It's all fun and games until you try to get the eye make-up off. As in anyone have any paint thinner I can borrow? :-)
"I really, really just need a dreidel. I have everything else to play the game, and I already know how!" Caed followed his request with a long explanation of every rule--none of which I recall because as soon as I heard the word "spin" my eyes glazed over and I began deliberating over what frosting recipe to use for Dani's birthday cupcakes.
"Buddy, I don't even know where you get a dreidel." I replied, scooping scrambled eggs from pan to plate.
"Maah-uuum, that's so simple. Just go to Walmart. Or go online." He paused to chew a tremendously big bite of sausage. I paused to note a tremendously big serving of irony.
"And if you aren't going to do it, then I'll just have to ask Santa to bring me one." Well then. That's settled. I'm sure Santa has a huge store of the season's most popular stocking stuffer.
In other news, Caed requested potato latkes for Christmas breakfast and wished for a menorah to light during our Advent time. It appears my little Irish boy has a severe case of Hanukkah envy. There really is a first for everything.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to run out for some last minute dreidel shopping. To Target. Not Walmart. Because I'm all for buying a dreidel. But buying it at Walmart? Well, that's against my religion.
I took countless pictures with my eyes, willed myself to remember without the aid of a pen or camera. These days, these packed and precious days careen past in a blink.
She stepped so earnestly down the aisle, tossing bright red rose petals from her fingers to feet. And then upon arriving at the end with the basket still nearly full, she decided she ought to go over the aisle again, one more time for good measure. She was halfway back and ten more petals in before I could coax her back to her seat beside me.
He marched down with the ornamental pillow in hand, a sheepish smile on his face. I might have told him he looked like a prince, but unless it was Prince Caspian we were talking about, he would have just made a scrunchy face and asked how many pieces of cake he could have. Prince, schmince. All that matters is that he can eat like a king.
At the reception, my husband nearly upstaged Mickey and Minnie when he and his sisters led the crowd in dancing the YMCA. (A special request granted by the DJ. Because for some crazy reason, the bride--also his sister-- hadn't even put that one on the play list. Can you imagine?) But I say "nearly" because really, it's not a party until you've danced with Minnie to ABBA. My children will never be the same. All parties heretofore will surely be referred to as "lame" in comparison.
As we walked back to our hotel that evening, the children still dressed to the nines, tiara and ties in tact, Dani suddenly remembered she hadn't had the chance to finish her mid-morning snack of goldfish. "Mah mah my gooooldfish, I didn't get to eat dem! Oooaaaawwwaaaah...." Dramatic cry, tears streaming, melting down over a dozen goldfish. Overtired, much?
The next day the kids slept in a whopping 30 minutes longer than usual. Because who needs sleep when the long-lost North Carolina cousins are in such close proximity? Three pools plus one pirate ship water slide plus abundant warm sunshine, multiplied by cousins equals a long day of perfection.
They topped it off by sharing a "Sink" of ice cream. I'm going to need Uncle Jerry to share the picture he took just to impart to you the yummy hugeness that was served in a bowl twice as big as Caed's noggin.
When the clock struck 9:00, we made our way back to our hotel via boat. And wouldn't you know it, tears again. But not because of silly goldfish. Because a perfect day was over. Because we had to say goodbye.
Because we know whether we are 7 or 37 just how precious these times are, how quickly they pass, how it is all we can do just to blink it in.
Her dusty brown ringlets had disappeared before the opening act, the outcome of our first experiment in gravity versus hair spray. She might as well learn early that gravity always wins.
She perched herself atop a red booster and craned her neck expectantly, eying the stage for the slightest sign of movement. She fingered the unfamiliar string of pearls around her neck, smoothed the green and gold plaid skirt over her knees, admired her black velvet "high shoes". No matter all of it had been handed down, she owned every bit of her outfit.
"That side is fancy, and that side is fancy. All the sides are fancy. Even the sky is fancy." She said, pointing to the balconies on either side, the ceiling above.
When the organ faded lower and lower into the orchestra until disappearing entirely, when a voice from overhead boomed welcome, she grabbed my arm and scrambled to sit on her knees. The curtain rose.
We traveled with Clara to another world, my girl and I. She leaned forward, riveted, entranced, mouth agape. Her eyes never the left the stage.
Torn between two beautiful scenes, I divided my gaze between the dancers and my daughter. I watched her watching, her lips never quite closed, her eyes never still, dancing along. I saw in her face the promise of a childhood memory that will never be forgotten. This was my Christmas gift to her, the "big gift", and we will wrap it under the tree in a picture frame to help her remember this special day.
But really, this was her gift to me, an archetypal yet altogether original scene of mother and daughter, of ballet and beautiful dresses, a gift of moments perfectly stranded together. And I'll wear them around my neck as long as I live.
It's been a long time since I've had the chance to join Emily in Tuesdays Unwrapped. Sure, it's a Monday post, but as I'm only writing once a week (if that!) these days, I can stretch Monday into Tuesday, right?
I'm forgetting. I'm not writing it down, not here, not anywhere, and I'm forgetting all the cute things they say, the ways they make me laugh, the ways they make me think.
I'm forgetting, and then I'm feeling guilty for forgetting, for failing to process with words, for failing to download (or even take) any pictures. And we all know what a productive response guilt is, right?
So then....no kidding....I berate myself for feeling guilty, tell myself to let it go, to allow myself the freedom of not keeping up. With everything. Perfectly. All the time.
I've been thinking lately about the way I'm wired, how I gravitate toward structure and that which can be measured (but please only measure it if it means I come out ahead). How I shy away from the subjective investments, the unquantifiable expenditures of time--like throwing the football with him or playing doll house with her or cuddling just-one-more-minute with them both. Like choosing to sit and engage in eye-to-eye conversation instead of loading the dishwasher while tossing in the obligatory "uh huh" at regular intervals.
This internal drift toward structure and efficiency and measurement--it's a fine way to be wired if you're running a department at a faceless corporation. But it's no way to run a home.
When my friend asked me how she could pray for me this week, I told her that I had a to-do list threatening to overwhelm me, but not to pray that I would get it all done. I asked her to pray that I would keep my trivial to-do list in perspective, that I would regard relationship more important than accomplishment, put people ahead of tasks.
Because even someone as wire-crossed as me, someone foolish enough to waste emotional energy feeling guilty about feeling guilty, even I know what really matters. What really, seriously, (yes, Seth, reeeally.) truly matters.
And it's right in front of me.
If it weren't for Heather and her simple yet brilliant Just Write idea, I'm not sure I would still have a blog. So here I go again, linking up for another installment.
as we lean into the slow hum, the warm fire, the open book,
"They are the days of a long time ago, Laura," Pa said. "Go to sleep now."
But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa's fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the fire-light gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.
She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the fire-light and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.
She's just one month shy of five, and I want to go on about how she was two the last time I checked, but this is now. And I'm so glad, like Laura, that it cannot be forgotten; because now is now.
We're here in it, she and I. And what we need is here. All we need is now.
I live in a rhythm of unremarkable days. We get up (too early). We get dressed. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she fights me about wearing long sleeves. On Wednesdays, it's usually about the tights or leggings. Then we go places. To school, to the grocery store, the gym, the dry cleaners, the dentist.
Sometimes he bounds off the bus, reporting his spelling success as a "dream come true." Sometimes he drags every step up the driveway, head down, because a mean boy smeared cheese on his cheek and sleeve at lunch. (A nightmare for a boy who equates the smell of cheese with the end of the world.) Sometimes we sail through homework, and sometimes he stretches 20 minutes of work into an hour. Sometimes I beam. Sometimes I growl.
It grows dark, even before we sit down for spaghetti and broccoli, and by the time they start rifling through their halloween candy bags, half past six might as well be midnight. We are all tired, but I'm the only one willing to admit it.
She scooches under the covers she will most certainly kick off in a few short hours. We read about the time Pa thought an old stump in the woods was a bear, and how Ma thought a real live bear was just Sukey the cow. Her brother puts down his Boxcar Children book, wanders in to listen. He's not interested in girl stories, and besides, he's read this one before. But still, it's a story about a bear, so he thought he'd check whether his sister was scared.
I turn out her lights, and now it's his turn. We take turns reading, page for page, and he stands straight up on his bed, throws his arms in the air and shouts, "Asaahlan's on the move!" And when Father Christmas gives Peter a sword, he flips ahead. Only one more chapter until Peter's first battle!
We pray. He almost always prays the same thing, a quick thank you for a wonderful day, for a warm house and food to eat. But tonight he says only, "Thank you for my mom. Amen."
I turn out his light, then change into PJs before tackling the dishes. I scrub the saute pan and debate whether to write. I decide I'm too tired, that there's nothing remarkable to write about.
Then I change my mind. I write anyway. I begin to remember, to smile. I add it all up, find myself shocked at the sum. Next thing I know, I'm tapping my foot to the rhythm of these unremarkable days.
Joining Heather today for Just Write.
His pager is dying, and it beeps at me every 20 minutes, and you'd think after three hours of this, I wouldn't jump each time. Or that I'd just change the battery.
I remind her again that the tights she's whining about putting on today weren't my idea. She's the one who insists on wearing a dress every. single. day. And if these creamy white tights are really the torture she claims they are, then why can't she put on a stinkin' pair of pants for once?
We head out early to have donuts at school and peruse the book fair. And while my girl and my boy beg to buy a Pinkalicious set and a Clone Wars paperback, all I can think is this is why we have a library. Because when I can't possibly read another page of Pinkalicious, I can at least blame the book's disappearance on a due date.
His report card came home this week, and my heart pounded faster when I opened it, as if the entirety of my child's college aspirations rested squarely on the first quarter of second grade. What is wrong with me!? (Should I mention the time I cried over what would be my first and only B--in third grade penmanship? To this day, I still hate penmanship. And I love typewriters.)
I drift through the rest of the morning thinking about achievement and success, how it still means much more to me than it should. How I continue to define "success" too narrowly and shallowly--and how now if I'm not careful, I could stretch this same warped grid against my children. Oh God help me. No. Haven't I grown at all? Or am I still that fearful freshman hiding behind a lifelong 4.0, with a remarkable talent for avoiding failure, and life along with it?
I take her hand, the girl wearing the creamy white tights and the sweater dress (which I admit now is absolutely darling, much cuter than a dingy old pair of pants). We mingle among a dozen other residents, all quite elderly and all probably voting against the desperately-needed school levy. On our way out, my daughter puts on a sticker that says "I love voting."
Then a man with thick glasses and weathered skin and barely a hair on his head, though plenty above his lip, he smiles wide and holds the door open for us both. I return his smile and say thank you. And I hope that when I'm 73, as I imagine he is, that I'll have learned how to be a breath of fresh air to a neighbor. And I hope too, that by then that I'll have mastered what cannot be graded--how to show grace, to choose joy, to lean into difficulty, to refuse anxiety, to persevere, to love.
Maybe you're the meal maker--the one who can whip up a chicken-rice casserole in the time it takes to say "new baby!" And the brownies, you'd never forget the brownies. Who knows how many of your old pans and containers (though they were carefully labeled) got lost in the kitchens of those once in need? Shoved in the back of the cabinet, forgotten, unreturned.
And when it's your turn to recover from surgery or have a baby or spend a week with your eight year old in the hospital, it's hard not to wish that someone else knew that chicken-rice casserole recipe. And that someone else cared enough to bring it.
Maybe you're the young wife, the one hanging on to a love he says was likely never there. You want to believe you have enough love for the two of you, that he'll change his mind, that what felt at first like a fairytale wasn't just your imagination, that what feels now like a nightmare will pass, that he'd be there to say he loves you too if only you could find a way to wake up.
Maybe you're the middle child, the average-at-everything, never-enough-to-be-noticed daughter who wishes just once you could vault yourself toward the exceptional side of the spectrum--in something, in anything. Just enough to be admired, just enough to be seen. So many times you sat on the sidelines to cheer a brilliant goal or in the audience to applaud a beautiful solo, or off to the side at a party, wishing you had just a drop of the social confidence those gorgeous gregarious girls seemed to be swimming in.
You give and you love and you admire, and really, is it too much to ask to be on the receiving end every once in a while? Of a casserole dish, a kiss, a compliment?
Could it be that this desire to be loved, to be thought of, to be seen, that it's all by design? His design? And while we frantically hunt in every other realm but His to find it, to meet that need, He waits with arms wide, loving us long before we even acknowledge Him, let alone love Him back. With Jesus, it isn't mutual. He's been all in since the beginning, long before we noticed. And when we see the lengths He'd go--the lengths He's gone--surely we can believe it's for real when he tells us his love is enough for the two of us.
Linking up today with Emily at Imperfect Prose.
The substitute-a-harvest-party-for-halloween people are smart. Because sure as heck those saints aren't going to be traipsing around in 39-degree weather along with their shivering Cinderellas and Luke Skywalkers. Even the force and fairy dust combined are no match for the chocolate-freezing chill of northeast Ohio. (The only good side here being that the Snickers I'll be stealing from the kids' candy bags will already be the perfect freezer temp).
As we prepare to go trick-or-treating tonight with "the cousins", do you know what scares me the most? The battle I'm undoubtedly going to have with Cinderella about wearing her winter coat.
But it could be worse, I guess. We could have snow on the sidewalks like our old neighbors in Virginia and Maine. Or we could have rain, like we've had every bloody day this year when it isn't already snowing. Okay, I'm exaggerating ever so slightly. But really, if we're going to break weather records in Ohio, couldn't it be in the abundant sunshine category for once?
All complaining aside, the truth is I'm so very thankful. And not in the I'm-only-looking-at-the-bright-side-'cause-I'm-supposed-to way. Really, this morning, the gratitude comes easily. The list is as long and obvious as an Ohio winter.
For living close enough to my sister that we can get our families together for dinner and dress-up.
That the kids' fevers that came and went before the holiday.
For snickers bars and reeses cups and hot apple cider.
For the beauty of change, for seasons that sing four beats to a measure, giving us an unforgettable rhythm beneath the harmony of tradition and memory.
But I was wrong. He was six months shy of five when he wished Aslan would appear again within the pages of the story. "Because," he explained, "Aslan could make it all better--kind of like God..."
We finished the series over two years ago. This morning, he picked up The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and began to read. On the way to school, he leaned forward in his seat. "Hey, Mom. Guess what part I'm in? Lucy's at Mr. Tumnus's house. The other kids haven't come into Narnia yet. And I was just looking ahead--chapter 12 is Peter's first battle. Oh man, I can barely wait till I get to that one!"
So this is what it feels like. To see what two short years can do to a little boy. To grieve ending and celebrate beginning in a single breath, moment, word. This book marks for me the places, then and now. Like a landmark you once saw as a child, now appearing along the highway, looking so much smaller to adult eyes, showing in an instant how far you've come. How much he's grown. How it's only the start.
Shared today with the beautiful community Emily hosts on Thursdays at Imperfect Prose.
It was amazing. But we are home now, reentering the world of leafless trees and chilly rain and six-shifts-in-a-row. It's good to be home. Really, it is. The sun rises here too, and the beauty, it's around here somewhere, even if we have to look a bit harder for it.
|Sunrise at Cadillac Mountain, October 2007|
But in the morning, in the pitch black quiet, I shush the bossy old voice that shrieks in exclamation marks. And I listen to the morning voice, my own, the one that pleads gently with me to write, to say something beautiful, to let myself drift, to feel.
I rarely get it right, this balance between what needs to be done in order to get by and what I need to do in order to know who I am.
My little girl just toppled into the quiet, climbed on my lap and leaned her tangled, lavender-scented hair against my face. I can barely reach around her to type, and both coherency and contemplation have scampered away like frightened little mice.
I need to pack the lunch now and put peanut-butter on the bagels and make sure he's wearing clean socks.
My morning voice fades at sunrise like a sorrowful moon, when the sky no longer offers contrast, not enough to be seen, not enough to be heard.
Maybe tomorrow, I think, exchanging wistful looks with my morning voice.
Then the bossy voice barges back in with a fresh fistful of exclamation marks. Those dishes aren't going to clean themselves!
Any other frustrated morning writers out there? Or are most of you night owls? And for those of you non-writers (the ones who couldn't fathom churning out 500 words unless your history grade depended on it), what do you do to gain perspective, to stay sane, calm, to feed your inner self? Or am I making a huge assumption here that y'all are actually calm and sane and not a bunch of high-strung crazies with highly malnourished inner selves? (Not that there's anything wrong with that....)
"Allergies?" I asked, offering her my most empathetic smile from the other side of the preschool art room.
"No," she took off her glasses, wiped her eyes with her sleeve. "I'm Italian. This is what we do. It's not even her first day--only the open house--and already I'm blubbering."
I moved in closer to introduce myself, to tell her that it's not just the Italians.
"She must be your firstborn?" I guessed. "She's adorable. And she's going to have the most amazing year," I promised, giving her my recently acquired and most reassuring I've-done-this-before look.
"But first, let there be blubbering."
The truth is, I didn't cry when my firstborn went off to preschool. I didn't cry when my lastborn went off either. No, that would be way too normal. I'd apparently rather wait until October, when both children have been happily deposited in the school routine for over a month, and then rifle through pictures from three years ago and sob like a 10 year old during the last twenty minutes of Old Yeller.
I let myself think for a minute today about what life would be like if I lost one or both of my children. I don't know why I allowed myself such a dangerous hypothetical. These are clearly the sorts of rabbit trails that could wreck me. But I dug out of the what-if-ditch quickly enough--before the fill-dirt anxiety starting pouring in. And I stepped from that shaky, shifting what if soil onto the firm ground of gratitude.
However long this amazing gift is mine--as long as these two miracles sit across from me at dinner (never mind that they're making scrunchy faces at the tortellini)--however long I can pull them in by the cheeks to kiss their foreheads, however long we are here, together, a family, I will give thanks. Continually, if possible. (Except for perhaps a few moments of extreme annoyance with the aforementioned miraculous children).
And so it's gratitude, really, that's making me cry. I see the pictures, October upon October, and I'm so overwhelmed by the thousands upon thousands of moments--each one a gift--piling up into this beautiful history. And how, I think, how has this come to be entrusted to me?
Linking today with Heather for Just Write.
Also, to whoever is in charge of monitoring the use of double dashes--I'm really sorry I used a year's supply in this post alone. That's what happens when I "just write" and tell my inner censor to be quiet. Who knew my inner censor exerted such a tempering influence on my punctuation? Oh well, double dashes it is. Get used to it.
And she is singing a song. It goes:
I will push you down, but I will help you up.
Oh yeah, I'm gonna be your friend, and you will be my friend, and I will just love you, no matter what you dooooo!
Do you want to be my sister, and I will be your sister, and then their will be seven kids just like my cuuuuh-zins, and my brother will be your bruuuuh-der, and you will love him so, so, soooooo much!
Second verse, drum no longer in play, stability ball back to being a rolling stage:
Oh yes, we will have so much fun together! I will swing all day long, and we will have lunch and dinner and never stop the plaaaying. I roll down the haaaallway on a giant ball, and my mom and dad don't miiiind!
Um, actually I do mind. So sorry to cut the song short, but there's no stability in stability balls when a four year old is at the helm. So applause, applause, beautiful song, now take a bow.
This post brought to you by Five Minute Friday where Lisa-Jo gives us a prompt and we give ourselves five minutes and then we give you whatever found its way from our brains to the page. Special thanks to today's special contributor, Ohio's rock n' (literally) rollin' singer-song-writer Dani + the Imaginaries.
I know you think you're invisible, that you could disappear from the pew, and no one in that sanctuary would give a damn. That you could vanish in the produce aisle, in the carpool line, on the sidewalk in front of the post office, and no one would notice, save for the half-filled grocery cart, the driverless minivan, the toddler kicking in the stroller.
I know you think you're too small to matter, your thoughts not lofty enough to be spoken, your ideas not novel enough to be your own. Maybe you write a blog that no one reads. Or populate a database that no one uses. Or teach a room full of eighth graders who despise you as much as they do learning. Or make meal after meal that no one eats, at least not without coercion.
Maybe the only platform you get to stand on is the old stepping stool in the utility room, the one you use to reach the cabinet where you stash extra light bulbs.
But there's something I want you to know.
I see you.
I see you handing your baby into someone else's arms, your high heels dragging back to the 5-minute-drop-off-only parking spot. I see you rushing, straight from work and still in scrubs, while your six year old races from the car to the field in half-tied cleats and the toddler in your arms slumps heavy and asleep on your shoulders. I see you, the spit-up still on your shirt, the baby in your lap, the eyes that would give anything to close for more than ten minutes at a time.
I see you.
And you are anything but small. You are anything but invisible. You are anything but weak, ineffective, insignificant. Please, will you stop talking to yourself that way?
Do you know what you really are?
You're amazing, sacrificial, thoughtful. You're beautiful (yes, even without make-up, even in sweat pants and the sweater that smells like thrift store). You're giving this life of yours all you have, and all you have is going to be enough.
You are significant. You matter because He made you, fashioned you as a work of art, mixing color and shape and capability in a pattern uniquely yours. Your ideas? They're good. And your dreams? They're not foolish.
So look up, friend. Meet my gaze. Because I want you to hear this.
You are not invisible.
I see you.
He sees you.
You matter so very much.
Thank you all for indulging me in that bit of ankle-gazing yesterday. I do realize that this "injury", this "dilemma" about whether to run doesn't even register on the scale of Life's Most Important Things.
After a two-mile test run yesterday, I decided not to run the half this Saturday. It wasn't awful, but I could tell from the first mile that trying to go another 12 would be a bad idea. Also, when my dearest friend who also happens to have a masters in exercise science and kinesiology screamed at me in all caps DON'T RUN! and then proceeded to type-sing the hip bone connected to the knee bone song, I took that as a pretty strong sign that maybe it'd be best to sit this one out.
I woke up today feeling really good about the decision, and actually pretty hopeful that I can recover fully and come back stronger. Besides, obstacles and set backs are what turn a good story into a great one, right? (Not that I fancy myself to be living in a middle-aged mother's version of Chariots of Fire or anything. At least not that I'll admit to you.)
So I'll be one-for-three as half marathons go. Not a great batting average unless it's baseball you're talking about. But I'm three-for-three in the picking up the tee-shirt and wearing it like a rock star category. And yep, I can totally live with that.
To run or not to run. That is the question.
I went to the doctor a couple weeks ago, and he prescribed rest, ice baths, stretching. Thankfully, I don't have a stress fracture or full-blown shin splints, but without making some adjustments to my gait and training and shoes, I was on my way toward both. For now, it's just posterior tibial tendinitis---in both legs, but a bit more severe in the right.
He told me I'd come too far and worked too hard to give up outright on running the half. He said I could try as long as I wasn't in pain come race day. He made me promise not to go out too fast, to go for negative splits. (Can I just pause here to say that I love me a doctor who uses the term "negative splits" when discussing my prognosis? The man gets it.)
So I've followed the doctor's orders. I've iced and iced and stretched and stretched and rested to the point of insanity. And the pain has diminished quite a bit. Not entirely, but still a huge improvement from two weeks ago. But here's the thing--I'm totally undecided about whether to run on Saturday.
The whispery-ridiculously-calm voiced lady on my Yoga for Runners DVD tells me over and over to listen to my body. But you know what? My body has no freakin' idea what it's saying. One minute, my body's all, "Let's run! Let's run like the wind! C'mon!" The next minute my body is screaming like a baby, "What do you think you're doing! Get off this blankety-blank eliptical or I'll send you straight back to ice baths and ibuprofen before you can say 'tempo run'!" Also, as my sister Robin elegantly pointed out, "It's not like bodies are eloquent communicators. I mean, really, bodies fart."
So in lieu of listening to my body, I thought I'd listen to my dear readers. What do you think I should do? Should I go for it, hope for the best? Should I play it safe and stay home, sleep in? I'm afraid that even if I do run, I'll be disappointed if I don't PR--considering I was training at a considerably faster pace than the last half marathon. I don't want to run this just to finish. I want to run it well. And between two weeks of lost fitness and a nagging injury, I'm not sure I'm still capable of a PR. So am I better off just sitting it out until I know I am at my best? Or will I kick myself if I don't at least try?
So come on, runners and non-runners alike, please tell me what you think?
About the day she started preschool.
About the party for a boy who can't possibly be seven, but is.
I suppose I should also confess to being a reluctant soccer mom, the kind without a mini-van, but still. I suppose I should share my growing conviction that organized soccer should be in no way encouraged or allowed until such time that the budding player can put on his own blasted shin guards and soccer socks.
I suppose I should tell you that teaching a four and half year old to read is only a good idea if you are heavily medicated.
And I probably should confess that Dani roped me into playing doll house this morning, and the only reason I went along was because of capital G Guilt. I took my phone and coffee and tried to shop for Caed's snow pants and boots while playing the dual roles of the pink pony and the only nice mommy in a kingdom full of very mean dogs. Dani, being too stinkin' smart for my own good, took the phone, saying "Here Mama, I will put it away up here for you so it will be safe while you play with me." Can we add capital B Busted to the list?
And I suppose, if I write to remember, I should tell you that I have abdicated Dani's reading lesson for the day to PBS Kids. But really, can we just forget that one?
I struggle mightily to make the most of these fleeting days, and this without even having a Pinterest account to distract me. Then I beat myself up for struggling. Which is a bit hypocritical, considering how quick I'd be tell you that motherhood shouldn't be about guilt, and life shouldn't be about shoulds, about musts, about reluctant compliance to some ridiculous vision that equates enough with perfection.
So I suppose, if it's true that I write to remember (and I do), I should write about the time I almost forgot that perfection and to-do-lists and glittery art projects and fresh baked bread and straight As and clean toilets and weedless flower beds shall pass away, but the greatest of these is love.
Joining Heather today for Just Write.
She sewed clothes for us out of remnants and made entire summer meals from the produce of dad's vegetable garden. Judging by the jars of beans and peaches and salsa and tomatoes and jam, you'd assume she grew up in the Amish country and not on the shores of southern California.
My mother left her job teaching elementary school when I was a toddler. And so as long as I could remember, she was home, always home. Making that blasted granola.
Why couldn't we just have Lucky Charms and wonder bread like the other kids? When she packed my lunch, it was raw veggies, raw fruit, homemade bread with homemade jam, and sometimes pretzels. Fat chance of ever trading any of that for Cheetos or a Twinkie.
For a very long time, I wanted nothing to do with this version of motherhood. I helped with the canning only when it was mandated, spurned the needle and thread, and schemed with my big sister about how, when we grew up, we'd "pick up pizza on the way home from work."
Yes, indeed, my crowning act of rebellion would be to buy Domino's Pizza.
But today, twenty years and too-many-to-count take-out pizzas later, I'm wishing I paid attention when mom was baking her famous sour-cream chocolate cake. Because tomorrow is my son's seventh birthday, and I'd rather eat crow than another Costco cupcake.
Mom, I love you, and I finally appreciate the hard, thankless work you did all those years. Also, can you come visit this week--and bring your canning jars? I have some tomatoes dying to be turned into salsa.
So did you grow up eating Lucky Charms or granola? Wonder bread or homemade whole wheat? Has the way you grew up shaped how you do things in your family today, for better or for worse?
I click "create new" and then I stare. For a very long time, 30 seconds to be exact.
Which feels like a very long time when it's the first 30 seconds you've had to stare at a screen in what feels like days. And really, it's been days.
The dog on my lap, she is mine only for the week, and I am not really a lap dog sort of girl, but she is a lap sort of dog. (Her name is Princess if that gives you any clue.) So here we are, sitting. She is as comfortable as can be, and I feel as though my right foot is on the verge of falling off.
Today I drove a taxi for four children and three schools, there and back and there and back. Squeezed in gymnastics for the littlest of the four while I was at it, her very first day. And I got the time wrong too, just to make things interesting. Oh and before that, it was the Room Captain meeting for one of the four kids and one of the three schools, the meeting I only got the invitation to on Sunday because, well, they apparently let anyone do this Room Captain thing, if they are desperate enough. (And they were. Oh, they were.)
Have I mentioned before that I tend to freak out when there is no white spice on my calendar?
But before my calendaric claustrophobia progressed to the point of breathing in a bag or eating ice cream for dinner, I overheard the soothing sound of regular, rhythmic, unhurried life humming in my living room. My nephew sat with my son while Caed practiced piano. They talked notes and finger position and then out came Micah's trumpet, and an impromptu duet of This Land is Your Land.
Calli started howling, turned it into an ensemble. Dani and Caed started cackling, couldn't stop. Micah kept playing and Calli kept howling (and trying to smell the trumpet), and the rest of us kept laughing.
After the concert, James said no to more of Harry Potter #4--and oh it was a good part too--in order to say yes to his little cousin Dani, yes to playing doll house and yes to pink legos.
And this was all I needed. I'll drive 25 gas tanks worth of school pick ups and drop offs, if it means that when I have finished scurrying, I'll hear the hum of affection and admiration and laughter and learning and togetherness. The sort of togetherness that brothers and cousins and sisters and mothers will always remember, and never without smiling.
Shin splints ail me, this I know, for the google tells me so.
No more runs to me belong, ankle's weak, though quads are strong.
(And to the composer of the beloved children's song Jesus Loves Me, I'm so very, very sorry.)
I have a confession to make. I'm an addict. I don't run for fun anymore. I run because I need to run, might go crazy if I can't run, start to rewrite lovely songs in a terrible terrible fashion if I don't run. You get the point.
In what began as a healthy obsession, I was on target to easily achieve a new personal record (PR) in my second half marathon, just two weeks away. However, it's possible that a mild stress fracture or a strange case of shin splints will sideline me for several weeks. It's also possible that whatever is wrong could be righted quickly with rest and stretching, and that I might be able to run the race in a couple of weeks.
Either way, I'm a mental case right now. I vacillate between calm acceptance of whatever might be and a mix of panic and frustration over the mere possibility of a no-running recovery regime. It sounds very trivial when I type it out here. What's the big deal? So you can't run. It's not like someone is chasing you with a deadly weapon. Tell me again why you consider this an actual problem?
But no matter how trivial it sounds, this broken stride, these broken plans have sent me straight back to battle against the neon, eye-assaulting shades of anxiety. So I fight with the only brush I have--thanksgiving. I find a reason to say thank you. Then I say it, and it's miraculous how the muted pastels of prayer cover every gaudy inch of anxiety, how I see a new picture.
But like any battle, even ground gained, left unprotected, can be lost again. And so it's over and over, thought against thought, stroke against stroke, prayer against panic.
When my husband came home this morning, he'd barely laid his keys on the counter before he said, "Some really sad cases last night. They came in pairs." And then he told me about the gun shot wounds, the MVAs, the hopelessness that too often haunts the trauma bay.
Minutes earlier I had set the table for my pity party, complete with coffee and whine. But as it turned out, I felt too foolish to attend, much less invite my husband. Life is too short, too precious, too beautiful to waste on that sort of thing, don't you think?
So I've got a new goal. No matter how long the road to recovery, no whining along the way. And as my husband will attest--if I can pull this off--it will be a PR for sure.
When I grow up,
I want to be
full not of myself
but of grace.
I want to be
to believe the best,
to hope against history,
to trust against odds,
to be brave enough to be broken,
wounded, even in the over and over way.
When I grow up,
I want to be
the friend you call when you are a mess,
the one who knows how to cry along in the dark places,
the one who knows the language of light and when to speak it.
When I grow up,
I want to be
slow to anger,
quick to laugh.
When I grow up,
I want to be
the girl who glimpses heaven in an ocean shore,
the daughter who finds the gospel forever amazing,
the mother who lives in the moment, for eternity's sake.
Today I am 7 + 30.
And I know
what I want to be
when I grow up.
I love the small life, the invisible one, where no one glances in my direction, gossips at my expense, "What makes her so special?" or "I wonder what she did to get that job?".
I love that I can wear the same outfit two days straight and no one notices, that a magazine won't ever call me out as a fashion don't (or do).
I love this small life.
I might be a practicing extrovert, but at my core, I remain a devout introvert.
I would rather be known--truly known--by few, than to be known of by many.
I could lose a whole day in nothing but slicing peaches and playing doll house and rinsing dishes and reviewing math facts and brewing coffee and shimmying socks over shin guards. And no one would see except my littles and maybe the overtired husband. And by nearly every definition society offers me, it's a day lost, nothing lasting accomplished, no shining success.
But it feels to me exactly as I'd hoped a day might feel, like I am part of something that matters.
In this small life, the world around me asks very little. They do not look to me to solve the famine crisis or to broker peace in the middle east. They no longer look to me to meet a deadline or make recommendations to the board or to finish performance reviews. They have never looked at me to direct traffic or prosecute a case or fly a plane or run a code or build a bridge or save a life. As it stands today, the world around me doesn't look to me for anything.
But my son and my daughter, they look to me for everything. And I get to be here to return their gaze and to be their world.
And there isn't anything small about that.
"Finish that last bite, Caed. And then I think we should play the original Sorry game," he said, shooting me his all too familiar half-winking-wait-till-you-see-this look.
"How do you play the original Sorry, Daddy? Do we already have that game or do you have to buy it?" Caed asked, his mouth full with the last of the green beans.
"I'll show you. C'mere Dani. You can play first."
Dani padded over to his lap, climbed on without prompting. Daddy's arms clamped instantly round her, and she squealed and squirmed.
"Do you want me to let you go?" he asked.
"No," she giggled.
"I don't get it. Is this the original Sorry? Don't you use a board and pawns and stuff?" Caed questioned, still chewing.
Dani kept giggling, squirming. "Lemme go! Lemme go now!"
"SAAAH-REE!" Daddy replied.
Caed bounded over to the chair. "I wanna play now! I wanna play! My turn, Daddy?"
And so it was that the original game of Sorry came to trump all other games. Now, instead of a bedtime game of UNO or Sorry (the real one) or Zingo or Chutes and Ladders, the request is always, always, always: "Please, please, can we play the original game of Sorry?"
As for Daddy, he might be a little sore and a lot tired of this anything-but-a-board game, but he's not sorry. No, he's not sorry at all.
"I had the jitters last night before my big first day," he whispers as I tuck him in. "But only the good kind--the excited kind, not the nervous kind."
"I'm so glad you love school, Bud. So, so glad."
I kiss his forehead, rub the top of his freshly buzzed head, pull his beloved green blankie up to his shoulders.
When did he grow from only three weeks old to just three weeks shy of seven? And how did I get here--a mom not of babies or toddlers or preschoolers, but actual schoolers?
I'll tell you how. One night at a time.
One sleepless, restful, too long, too short night at a time. Growth takes them by the hand while they dream, leads my babies from one size to the next, too slow for my eyes to see, too fast for my heart to accept.
"Good night, big guy. Get some rest. Tomorrow comes quickly."
Much, much too quickly.
Linked to The Gypsy Mama for Five Minute Friday. Disclaimer: I took a few minutes more than five to write the above as I hadn't intended to link up today. But then I saw Lisa Jo's prompt was "older" and well, it just fit.
In minutes, the sun will rise on the first day of second grade. I look out the kitchen window while I pour the coffee, notice the black backdrop still hanging from the sky. The sun must have hit snooze, pulled dark clouds back over her head. She hides while the rain bullies the height out of the grass. My unsuspecting windows stay open, and morning creeps through the screens smelling like wet bark and frizzy bangs.
I wonder where I'll stage the first-day-of-school picture. I wonder where I put the umbrella. I wonder if it will always feel this anti-climatic--like why wouldn't the bus be stopping to pick him up in half an hour--hasn't it always?
I finish packing the lunch. I set a bowl of yogurt in front of him, a spoon to his left.
I find the umbrella, drape his rain coat over his backpack. It stops raining (and only because I finally found the umbrella).
The dogs paw at the screen door, desperate to join this front porch photo shoot. He says things like "I'm only gonna do lip smiles" and "Dontcha think that's enough pictures, mom?"
They say writing is like exercise. Do it every day, keep using the proverbial writing muscle, and you'll grow to be a better, stronger writer. But I haven't been writing. Not here, not anywhere. So, yeah. Atrophy much?
It's a rainbow wheel, spinning, and I stare at it for what feels like hours. I shake my head and pull at the roots of my hair, my signature not-getting-anywhere move.
It all started with a simple command.
Now the school supplies list and corresponding coupons are locked in screen prison. And I'm wearing these hours like ill-fitting pants, tugging at the seams--the minutes--to make room, getting nowhere.
My boy goes back to school a week from today. I check the mailbox for the bus schedule, but it hasn't arrived. I return to the house, check the computer. Still spinning.
Should I just give up, force quit?
We arrived home from Becky's on Monday. Tuesday was a blur, and Wednesday--the day I deemed a catch-up day--threatens a similar fate. Spinning.
I intended to post pictures from our fun Virginia visit, but did I mention the Great Spinning Issue of 2011? So instead of an upbeat and silly recap of our trip, you get a melancholy-ish rant about my slow computer and my too-quick life. I'm just not ready to move on (and apparently neither is my Mac).
I'm not that guy in the Staples commercial going skipping through the aisles to the tune of "Most Wonderful Time of the Year." I'm that mom in the Target aisle on the verge of tears, and not just because Target is out of everything on my list and I should've gone to Staples, but because there isn't a darn thing I can buy to get me emotionally ready for another year of school, for my son to turn seven.
Oh, wow, would you look at that? A happy picture! (And this, only 18 hours after my first attempt. Notice how it's no longer Wednesday?)
My computer recovered nicely. I'm still awaiting the prognosis on my emotional operating system. I'm sure I'll get there eventually. I'll return to a stable hum. But it might take an ugly cry at the bus stop (crash! reboot!) before I do.
Alright, friends. How are you feeling about the start of a new season? Are you ready for school? Are you mad at Target for being out of the glue sticks that you took five hours to print a coupon for? Or is that just me?
The last two weeks have held so many sweet moments, the kind you hope you'll never forget, the kind that wait for no one and aren't terribly keen on posing for the camera.
So this is a list, in no particular order, because it's all I have time for in between the happies.
1. After a week of swimming lessons (and Dani heading toward yet another repeat of the beginner class), Larry joined us at the pool (after having worked 14 hours the night before and having been up for at least 24) and taught his little girl to swim like a fish. A fish with a noodle, that is. But still. She puts her face in the water now and kicks like a champ, thanks to Daddy.
2. Nana and Papa visited this week. The boys (Larry, Caed, Papa) went to the Indians game (the one that had a two-hour rain delay, then lasted 14 innings). And the girls (me, Dani, Nana) went to the Apple store and out to dinner. We sat outside on the deck on a gorgeous night while Dani ate fancy mac-n-cheese and squealed with delight when a "baby birdie" snacked on the noodles that had dropped. Then as we walked through an accessories store on the way back to the car, Dani (after commenting about how she loved all the "neck-uh-laces" and "brace-uh-lets"--she adds her own syllable to both), began to dance like a goofball through the store. She made silly faces in between outbursts of her own laughter. She's our comedian.
3. I took the kids to the science center. They spent over an hour in the kids' area, had a blast, and wonder of wonders, did not bring home any viral souvenirs. This miraculous germ avoidance made me the happiest of all.
4. Caed learned to swim this summer, the ultimate motivation coming from his desire to get in the bigger pool with his cousins and be able to go down to the "super twirly slide". Last week we met the cousins at the pool and Caed went down the slide with his cousins James non-stop for more than an hour. The delight on his face stays with me, even now.
5. We made a pretend volcano, experimenting with baking soda and vinegar on the back porch. The kids were mesmerized. Dani was hesitant at first, wondering if she should change out of flip-flops so the hot lava didn't burn her toes. Caed showed decidedly less caution, imploring me to "just pour in the whole bottle and see how big it gets!"
6. My long-time friend and kindred spirit from college came north for a family visit, and we met for dinner last week. The conversation plunged down to soul-depth before the guacamole arrived. Then within the next ten minutes she had me laughing so hard I almost choked on the coconut-mango rice. She's just that kind of friend. Now if only she didn't live so far away.
7. Speaking of long-time friends, I'm sitting here typing this post at the kitchen table of my dearest friend Becky. The kids and I drove down yesterday for our semi-annual visit. Caed, Max and Dani were too excited to sleep last night, and we figured they'd sleep in this morning. We figured wrong. They're taking the concept of spending "every waking moment" together to a literal extreme. I can't say I blame them. When you're finally reunited with your best-est friends, why waste time sleeping?
8. Oh, I almost forgot! We finally made it to the zoo! The place was packed (what a zoo!), but we still had a chance to feed fish to a seal, feed lettuce to a giraffe, and to wave to the grizzly cups from a very considerable distance. We met up with some new friends, and spent the better part of the day exploring together.
I realize this isn't my typical sort of post--to blurt out bluntly the events of the last few weeks. But I appreciate you indulging me in it, as I simply had to get it down here before the sweet moments disappeared entirely from my memory. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go. A full shipment of happies is due in today, and I need to be there to receive it. Have a great weekend, friends!
I tug at the base of the crab grass, sweat trickling down the slope of my nose, and I think:
This is grace, showing up in a neglected flower bed. Even after the fall, after all paradise lost, the curse stopped far short of our whole earth shrinking into ugly.
Beauty still blooms when we tend to it, toil over it, and this is grace.
What if we rolled our Rs instead of our eyes,
if we gazed at faces instead of screens?
What if we wore our listening ears always (no more taking them off only to put them back on),
if we popped off our sunglasses so our eyes could smile along?
What if we tore away at defenses one disarming compliment at at time,
if we stopped screaming "hurry!" and started whispering "wait"?
What if we stopped looking around for something else, someone else, and simply loved and let ourselves be fascinated by the something, the someone right in front of us?
What if we did all of this?
Wouldn't we together sand at least a few harsh edges off the world?
I tend to get worked up about how we will ever feed the children in famine or rescue the women in slavery. I give too much weight to the things I can't fix and not enough weight to the things I can. But there are tiny things we can do to make the world a better place, to make someone's day. And I've got to believe that the someones and their days add up.
What do you think? What small things can we do to smooth the world's edges, to make someone's day?
And I want to believe she'll last forever. I want to believe we have all the time in the world for all the world to be ours. Summer, please tell me we do. Please! Come back here and tell me!
Lie if you must.
Linked up with The Gypsy Mama for Five Minute Friday.
First, take off your shoes. Sink your feet into summer.
Don't be afraid to get wet.
Stoop low if you must, to really see.
Ask your Dad to play just one more game of Uno. The worst he can say is no.
Search the sky for amazement. Find it.
Cheer when barriers break. Cover your ears and smile and wonder how.
Swing at everything.
Stay on pace with summer.
Touch every base until you reach home.