Thursday, March 23, 2017

Threshold

This happens every year. I wait and wait and wait for Spring Break.  Every year I think it will feel relaxing.  I expect to return to school feeling rejuvenated.  In my 12 years of teaching, that has yet to happen.  I'm not sure why I continue to expect it will.  In reality, I just trade one form of exhaustion  for another.

I've hit my threshold.  As much as I crave people and interaction, even for me, the often insatiable extrovert, I have a threshold.  My days -- all days -- are full of people.  And I love them.  I appreciate them. I value them.  But I've reached a point where I need (dare I say it?) alone time.  My classroom is an extension of me.  But this semester I'm privileged (incredibly privileged) to host a student teacher who is wonderful.  However, it means the space, the one space in my life that I have the ability to occupy alone for long stretches of time, is not empty.  It is shared.  All aspects of my life right now are shared -- the drive to work, my school day, the drive home, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, my bed, my trip to the bathroom (I love my children so much, but seriously.  Can I pee alone, just once? Can the story wait?).  It's all occupied.  And even on the rare occasion when I share companionable silence, it's still companionable, still shared.

So today I hit the threshold.  I can't hold any more.  And people all day have asked me what's wrong. It's hard to say.  I need alone time.  I'm grateful in moments like this that my husband is an introvert. He understands without me needing to explain.  I know I shouldn't feel guilty.  (I do.  I always do.).  I can say to him: I've hit it.  I've hit my threshold. I need alone time.  He's heard it so rarely -- maybe once a year or so -- that he knows how much I need it when I finally utter the extrovert's hardest words.  And he's there.  He takes over.

So tonight I came home from school earlier than usual, alone.  I folded laundry.  I sat in silence.  I drank a glass of wine slowly and without interruption.  I talked on the phone for a bit (an event which, though connected to another person, is surprisingly wonderful when you're not also putting out a thousand fires).

And tonight I'm taking myself to a movie.  Alone.  My favorite way to see a movie.  I'm trying to take care of myself tonight.  It isn't something that comes terribly naturally.  It's hard to give up the guilt. But I know that the few hours I give to myself will replenish.  I'll come back refreshed, recharged, and ready to be there for the ones I love.  I'll graciously and willingly share my spaces.  But tonight, just for a few hours, I'm going to be selfish.  I'm going to refill.  I'm going to enjoy the quiet.

Tomorrow.  Tomorrow will be for everyone else.  Tonight is for me. I'll savor it.  I'll be better for it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Things I've Said Today

I often don't think about the words I say in a day until I realize I have an audience.  This is life.  On the phone with my dear friend tonight, I was reminded of audience.  She was an unwitting observer of the chaos in which I live and the sheer amount of words I exchange with them in a day.  The oldest wasn't home yet.  He brings in a dynamic all his own.  This just encompasses the two littles.

For you, a window:

Sit your bottom down right now!
Levi Finn, do not touch that!
Consequences.  Consequences.
I love you, too, sweetheart.

Milo Augustus!  Do not throw that!
Why are you making a mess?
Don't eat that!
I'm sorry I yelled, sweet baby.

Do not feed that to the dog!
Levi Finn! Milo Augustus!
No wrestling!
Levi! Nice eyes!  Look at your brother with nice eyes!

Awww.  You guys are so sweet to each other.
Stop touching.  Stop touching right now!
Do you want to watch a cartoon?
Levi! Milo! Be nice boys!

Thank you for the picture, buddy.
Yes! I see you drew our family. I love it!
Yes! You wrote your name!
You're such a big boy!

Levi Finn!  1 ... 2... Do not make me say 3!
I know it was an accident, sweetheart.
Yes, baby, I still love you.
Yes, baby, I am so proud of you.

You two are the sweetest little boys.
Mommy loves you so much.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Patience

Patience is a virtue, just not one I possess.  I hate waiting.  My mind moves quickly. I'm eager to take action.  So the waiting period is always grueling for me.  And giving up control.  Uff.  That's the worst.

I practice yoga.  I practice meditation.  I utter the mantra: Be here. Be now.  I concentrate on breath. But I struggle.  Deeply. Here is hard.  There is where I want to be.  Accepting that many things are beyond me, that I can't move them by sheer will, is an unending battle, but one I'll lose every time.

I've taken a risk.  I hadn't even fully comprehended I wanted change, now I feel almost desperate for it.  Sometimes the universe connects us with others in ways we don't anticipate or understand.  I believe in that.  Maybe that's why I love Kurt Vonnegut so much -- I'm thinking of Cat's Cradle: "As it happened, as it was meant to happen."  So I don't have patience, but I'm trying hard to believe everything happens for the right reasons,  that everything will end up in it's right place.  But all of that requires me to give up control.  To trust.  To be patient.

I have to wait. And the waiting's hard.  The waiting's always hard.  And I've yet to reach the point where I can fully be here, be now.  Some lessons come harder than others. So I'll continue to concentrate on breath, on stillness, and hope I arrive at a  place of quiet calm, patiently waiting, willing to accept whatever's next.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Pretty Things

As I waited for 300 years while my child insisted on putting his shoes on himself, I caught myself looking at a print that hangs in our front entry way.  Obviously, I thought it was beautiful, which is why I bought it, but I realized this morning that I walk past it with little more than a cursory glance.  


Part of the beauty of a home is that you fill it with things you love, that bring you joy.  So I took a little walking tour of my home today with new eyes, looking at the things I've chosen to fill it with, the beautiful pieces that help make this space mine.
A gift from my sister-in-law, mixed media

I've often thought about what people would learn about me simply by walking through my house (aside from the fact that we are complete and total slobs).  

So here are a few of the things in my home I like quite a lot.

Story People.  I love these prints.  I babysat for the artist's kids, so they hold a special place for me.


New Valance: A Spring Break Creation
I love the way the light shines through the curta

Yes, this a hand towel.  I adore it.  It reminds me of my grandmother.


Jewelry Holder
A Growth Chart a friend made from recycled barn wood.



African Masks. Two were gifts. I've had them since I was 19.


An incredibly talented friend made this piece for me.

I love the vibrancy of the colors on wood.
Favorite Coffee Mug

Wedding Picture

This window is above our front door and it brings the most amazing light into our home.  I obviously didn't choose it, but I love it nonetheless.

I'm surrounded by beautiful things that bring me joy everyday.  I just need to remember to look at them, to appreciate the quiet beauty they bring.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Baptism

I'm pushing myself to work in a genre that feels a bit uncomfortable.











Baptism

And the Mississippi's mighty
But it starts in Minnesota
At a place that you could walk across
With five steps down.
-The Indigo Girls

You began as a puddle
Pooled after an early summer rain.
The world shimmered in droplets of jewels,
Fresh and green and hopeful.
You were new, perfectly collected,
Reflecting the placid sky, feathers masquerading as clouds, possibility.

Later you were a trickling cold-water spring,
An unexpected discovery, come forth
From limestone and lush ground covering.
The sound of you, both quiet and loud.
I dipped my fingers and toes,
Your chill unshakeable, a spark.

Soon you became a stream,
Peaceful, easy, clear.
Then quickly a river,
Current too strong to resist, rapids rough, flesh scraped against jagged rocks,
But then the curve of the riverbed
And again languid, comfortable, familiar.

Now you are an ocean,
Beautiful and dangerous in what you can reveal to me about myself.
I am buoyed and consumed by your depth.
The submersion promises life and threatens to drown.
I long both to submit and repel.
I am baptized, but not saved.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Your Child, Mine Too

On the one hand, I expected my children would be just like me.  I made them (with a little help, but you know).  But on the other, it's incredibly exciting to think about who and what they'll be in this world; they are their own people after all, not merely extensions of me.  I get so used to the bustle of daily life that sometimes I don't stop to take notice of who they are now, how they're changing. Extended time with them this week has provided those moments in spades.

Matt and I have a running line.  One of our kids says or does something neither of us want to claim and we turn to the other say, "Your child."  It's funny how eager we are to claim responsibility when it's a trait we like and approve of, but how quickly we attribute their annoying qualities to someone/something else.

Oliver is my child in every way.  He's creative.  He's kind and empathetic.  He's sensitive and takes things to heart. His mind is always spinning.  He thinks about weird things. He talks. And talks. And talks. When asked to just sit silently for bit, he happily agrees.  Mere seconds pass. Then he talks again.

We had our first public mother-son fight at Target this week.  I've never seen Star Wars.  That's right. I've never seen Star Wars. And you know what?  It doesn't freakin' matter.  I'm fine.  I don't feel like I'm missing anything. I'm never going to watch it. Because I don't care about it.  I have the right to not care about it.  Oliver, on the other hand, has a wealth of knowledge on the subject. He's deeply bothered by this lapse in my cinematic experience.  He's also adopted this quirk of introducing each new thing he's about to share with, "Here's a fun fact for you."

So there we were in Target and I was about 7 "fun facts" deep in the Star Wars subject when I sort of lost it.  I didn't yell, but I was stern.  I said something to the effect of: "Buddy.  I don't care about Star Wars. You know I don't care about Star Wars.  It's really rude to continue to force "fun facts" on someone on a subject they don't care about.  I don't want to talk about Star Wars.  It's super annoying."  Oliver replied, "Well that wasn't very nice.  Everyone should have the right to talk about what they want." But he did shut up, for about a nanosecond.  Then he started in on "fun facts" about deforestation, his latest obsession.  He made sure to preface this list by saying he knows I care about deforestation because the Earth is home to all of us.  Well played, kid. Meanwhile, a woman overheard our conversation and made a point to come up to me at the checkout line to share that she thought the exchange was pure comedy and it made her laugh, which helped diminish the annoyance quotient a bit.

Levi.  We often refer to him simply as "the middle child."  It is a darn good thing that child is cute because he is full of attitude.  More attitude than any 3-year-old should possibly possess. He has these giant eyes that he uses to communicate as much as he does his voice, his tone, and his gestures.  He has this funny way of tilting his head and looking at you out the corners of his eyes.  He's my little snuggler, but he also has a speech pattern and cadence to his voice oddly reminiscent of Mr. T. Recently, he's adopted a gesture in which, head cocked, he pulls the flat of his hand down in front of his little face (like he's about to back hand you) and says sternly, "I told you!" Things he may have told us: don't do that, I'm hungry, I need a kiss, be nice, Milo's being naughty, he can do it himself, and on and on.  All of it, my little toe headed, blue-eyed Mr. T.

This morning I asked him to snuggle with me.  He begrudgingly agreed, but let me know he could only give me two minutes, two fat little digits held out for emphasis. He climbed into my bed and endured my snuggles and kisses for about 30 seconds, complaining all the time that I was snuggling him too tight, that he'd gotten too many kisses, that two minutes had passed already.  This is the same child who yells out the door in his aggressive Mr. T voice every single time I leave the house, "When you get home, I'm gonna snuggle you!"  Like a threat.  But he's so cute and so sweet beneath that intensity.

He's mine too. Matt tells me often.

And little Milo.  He's growing so fast.  His personality emerges more and more each day. He grins and runs around the house, mostly ignoring any redirection, but then races toward me full speed for the sweetest hugs you can imagine.  He goes all in.  I melt.

He's a mischievous one though, very quiet.  Not yet 2, he's a master climber.  If he wants to get in the top bunk without a ladder, not a problem.  Climb on the counter or table?  Well he'll just push that chair on over and climb on up. This week I've noticed how much he observes.  He loves his brothers so much and wants so badly to do what they do.  He loves his chores -- putting his coat in the closet, picking up clothes and putting them in the hamper, putting things away, getting his shoes before we leave.  To watch him take in the world and make his own way fills me with unimaginable joy.  He's my child too; he does it his own way.

This is one of the best parts of parenting: the observations, the surprise, the awe. We make them.  We raise them.  We try to guide and point them in the right direction.  And they are extensions of us, but they're entirely themselves, too.  I'm grateful I've had this week to break free from the controlled and regimented chaos of the day-to-day.  I've had the time to observe my little men, to truly see them as the individuals they are. And my heart is so full.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Amy Krouse Rosenthal Has Died

I can't explain why this news has left me with such a sense of being punched in the gut. Because I love her?  Because she was a kindred spirit?  Because of her palpable passion for life, that she savored the tiny moments?  Because I'm as quirky as she is? Because she had such a gift for putting words on the page in a way that I could pick them up and cradle them -- they felt both familiar and surprising, like I knew them all along but just needed to hear them spoken to me?

I'm thinking about her, about the power of words and story and perspective.  And I'm thinking of something she lived by: Plan "Be," not Plan "B."  Today I will make a point to notice the small things.  To jot them down.  To be playful and passionate and poetic (well, I'll try at that last one).  I will celebrate the life I have, in honor of hers, cut short far too quickly.

Rest in Peace, you beautiful weaver of words, you splash of stardust, you whirling, magical wonder. I so deeply appreciate what you have given to the world, what you have given to me.

I'll leave you with these: two of my favorite excerpts from Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life (one of those sweet circumstances when a book landed in my lap at precisely the time I most needed it). Both speak to her intelligence, her way of seeing the world, her wit, her humor, and her poignancy.  I hope you read them and something resonates.  And that you smile.