Dani + The Imaginaries (Five Minute Friday)

Dani has turned the stability ball (that was in the office for some inexplicable reason) into a bongo.

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.


For when you feel invisible

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.
You matter so very much.


The verdict

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

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?


I Almost Forgot

If it's true that I write to remember (and it is), then I should write about the time he ran his second race, achieved a new PR.
About the day she started preschool.

About the party for a boy who can't possibly be seven, but is.
I suppose I should write about all those things, about pink backpacks and black balloons, about the star wars lego guys guarding the light saber cupcakes, about using popcorn the force to synchronize the movement of two spaniel's snouts.

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.


Long before Martha Stewart began heaping inferiority complexes on mothers everywhere

Long before Martha Stewart began heaping inferiority complexes on mothers everywhere, before it was cool to bake your own bread, concoct your own granola and use zucchini to ruin a perfectly good pizza, lived my crunchy-before-it-was-cool mother.

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?


And never without smiling

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.

Just Write


In which I set my sights on a new PR

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.


In which I've finally decided what I want to be when I grow up

When I grow up,
I want to be
full not of myself
but of grace.

I want to be
to believe the best,
to forgive,
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.


The Small Life

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.

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