Family

sitting still

It’s hard to sit still.  To let life blur past, spinning on its axis while I remain in one spot; unmoving.  It is normally not my modus operandi (m.o.) to sit still.

But sit still, I do.

As our family schedule transitioned from hectic end-of-school activities to the summer we, traditionally, jumped right into Father’s day, two of my three sons’ birthdays, the 4th of July and various camping excursions and vacations.  We are always on the go and my most favorite pastime is sitting in the passenger seat as the yellow center lines on highways blur.  The camera strap causes neck burn as I twist and turn snapping shots from my wide lens.

I laughed out loud as a line from Jamie Lee Curtis & Laura Cornell’s book, It’s Hard to Be Five, came to mind.

sitting still

Most summers I leap from one hectic schedule to another, keeping busy with vacation itineraries.  My hubby, the type B personality, is happy to stay put while I schedule various points of interest to sight see.  His constant complaint that there is no rest or relaxation on vacation falls on deaf ears as the boys and I look for the next thing to visit; happily tired at the end of each day.  Our summer months usually are filled with leisurely things to do.  Things that are fun.  But to some, leisurely means staying in one place and taking in the scenery.

Last year we traveled too often; neglecting things needed to be done at home: the garden, the garage, unplugged family time.  We stayed busy to distract us from the normal, mundane every day but when all was said and done, it still awaited us when we returned.

The epiphany came recently.  My constantly busy personality stems from a very boring and lonely childhood.  Our sole trip, each summer, was a one week trip into the city from our rural town to visit family.  Sometimes I would be asked to join trips with a friend; but most times I remained at home.  As an only child I entertained myself with books, reading of faraway places.  I often dreamed of what life would be like away from this small town and would get absorbed in music to pass the time.  Each day seemed to remain the same.  This was my life for the first seventeen years.

Once I moved away to university my life never stopped.  I ran to catch up with the years I missed to pursue bigger and better things.  I moved further away to pursue post grad studies across various state lines.  On my very first cross country road trip; the boyfriend (soon-to-be fiance and hubs), shared the drive to help me move.  My fond memories of road trips stemmed from our to and fro on Interstates 10, 20, 40 and many more.  He and I have since traveled to many places near and far by plane and by car.

I glanced at Fakebook at the vacation pictures from friends as the hubs glanced over my shoulder.  We both feel the pull to travel, to get on the road and go and as the long 4th of July weekend approached; we began to consider options.  Our summer plans to Yellowstone/Grand Tetons were re-scheduled to next summer due to school related activities for our two teenage sons.  This year, due to work and school related commitments, we have only traveled once.

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I long for redwood trees and tall mountains, large bodies of water and purple clouds strewn across red and orange sunsets.  I enviously glance at other friends’ scenic outdoor pictures and pull up the gallery of my own.  But pictures don’t do the outdoors justice.  I need to be out there too.  I am counting the days until we meet my childhood girlfriend and her family for camping; a trip that is becoming an annual outing for us both.  We come from the same place.

I continue to sit still.

I purposely chose to remain home for the first part of the summer.  Why?  To decompress.  To adjust.  With most social obligations on hiatus, I have chosen to find my inner introvert.  To fill my time and space with nothing but my own breath and thoughts.  The silence is deafening and I struggle to sit with it.  To let it wrap itself around me; like a peaceful, comfortable item of clothing.

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I’m trying this one on for size this summer.  And it is hard.  I am easily distracted and default to complacency.

In my mind I see the outdoor places I long to be.  Sunsets on lava rocks; waves rolling to the shoreline.  Boulders in rivers as my sons and dog swim in the cold flowing waters.  High vistas spanning miles of natural landscape.  I center these things in my mind for brief moments and open my eyes to where I am at the present moment.  And I sit still.  I have always told myself that if only I was: (fill in the blank) that all things would be better.  But really, I need to clear that mental block.

I. am. here.  Enjoy where I am right now.  There are too many if onlys and too little nows.  These past years I’ve lived my life in the rear view instead of the present moment.

I move from one room to another in my home, following the sun with a book in hand.  I sit on warm concrete with a towel, the sun filtering through my hat.  I put away dishes and focus on the scenery of my yard instead of the cracked tile that sits nearby.  I soften my gaze to see the green plants out my kitchen window.  The ones that create my landscape; clearing mental images of outdoor vistas of past trips.  Instead I evoke the feelings of gratitude and appreciation from these memories to the present ones.

This mental work makes all the difference.  I don’t have to travel to other places, rely on external people or things to bring me happiness or to affirm who I am.  Instead of distracting myself with itineraries and busy work I sit still and do my mental work.  I am grateful for right now.

My need to move is based on not dealing with things not dealt with.  I now do the simple tasks to fix these little things in my every day so that each moment isn’t based on distraction, but interaction.  With my hubby.  With my kids.  With my immediate surroundings.  But most importantly, with myself.

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To be true to others, you must take the time to discover your own truths.  Until then, you do not live authentically.

My sons are amazed at my silence this summer.  I work on little things: cleaning closets, organizing paperwork, understanding finances.  I water gardens and clean yards.  I work on my own inner struggles and discontent to communicate them with my spouse as we journey this midlife path together and beyond.  I make time to interact with my ever growing sons who continue to seek their own spaces and discover who they are.

In the silence I am finally listening to the beat within that has always pushed me forward.  We all have our own rhythms and without all the noise, I can finally hear them once again.

I am trusting my body cues to tell me when I’m hungry, when I need activity.  I find myself yearning to be outdoors on predawn jogs and late evening swims.   There is no magic program or elixir to perfect health.   If everything is in balance (portion control vs. activity) it works out on its own.

I surrender control.    My successes, my failures.  My needs and my wants.   I used to think I could control these things and get riled up.  I have no control over these things and can choose to not let them control me.  I am learning to accept things as they are and walk the path that fits who I am.

To dwell on the things not dealt with.  The dramas that unfold in family, social groups and organizations. To laugh, to cry, to shout.  To find my inner introvert and look within; to reflect in solitary silence and figure out how to progress forward or if not, to let it go.

In the silence the words emerge, the inner writer finding solace in them.  I read books, once again, of far away places.   I unexpectedly found a novel that filled my desires to travel while still sitting still.  I escaped to Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion and many places in-between and gained insight on the mental work I continually push through.  I don’t need to be on the move searching for answers to my queries.  In fact, I think I know them and finally made the time to actually sit and listen to them.  They have been with me all along and this summer, I don’t need to travel far to appreciate my destination.

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I am here sitting still.  I have already arrived.

 

 

 

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Uncategorized

my in-between place

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There are those who seek and those who settle.  And those of us in-between.

For years I stared at the barren space adjacent to my front walkway.  Some years I planted annuals that fit my whim.  Other years I transplanted items from neighbors or family members; unsure what to do with them.  Each weekend my neighbor cultivates the shared plantar between our front yards, fussing and pruning.  Every year-or-so the yard landscape changes; concrete plantars re-paved, outdoor light fixtures removed and added.  I have watched various appliances come and go, large yard renovations constructed and indoor items redecorated.  Our homes are mirror images of one another and ours has always remained the same; original to the builder’s plan.  You would never believe our houses are the same.

Our neighbors had been surprised, last weekend, to find me in our front yard digging through dirt.  They peered through the beautiful flowers and trees, between our homes, to the stark barren landscape of my yard and splotchy green grass.  I grinned as their curiosity got the better of them and chimed that my yard could not possibly compete with the beautiful landscaping, the wife, maintained.  In prior plantings I had hoped to create a vignette to complement my neighbor’s meticulous garden; always to no avail.  None of my entry walkway ideas remained for long; my desire easily distracted to the messy and neglected things indoors.  When the hubs turned off the water and sprinkler systems to maintain our state’s drought mandate, all things wilted away and returned to the earth.  My neighbors continued to water their gardens and washed their vehicles.

I knew this time, my inspired planting was different.  This one was sustainable.  I finally found what I’ve sought for so long.

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Although I’ve been on this mental journey for quite some time, this last year finally brought me some answers; ones that I would’ve known all along if I had listened and trusted myself.

I had spent quality time hiking local mountain trails with my family of five.  The recommendation to have breakfast on a mountain peak dissolved when we learned the lift was only open on weekends.  The one local cafe to eat would not open for forty-five minutes.  The five of us were hungry and knew there was a long hike ahead but, at the hubs’ urging, we pushed forward anyway.  We hiked-in for 2.5 hours before our grumbling stomachs urged us to turn back.   All we had with us was water; erroneously thinking we would have a large breakfast at the summit and a local mart to purchase granola bars.  When all of our options dissipitated in the cool mountain air, we trudged on and told ourselves we wouldn’t hike in very far.

But on this day, as we improvised and returned for dinner in the quaint, college village nearby, I shared my desire to visit a local garden and library.  The hubs and sons gave me blank stares and, knowingly, I heard the words none of them were saying.  This was not their thing but they knew I always liked doing family outings together.  When the hubs gently suggested I should go on my own, he hadn’t really considered that I would do it.  But I had known that this was something I would do, solo, and, with my family’s silent blessing, I planned my outing for the following day.  I am responsible for my own happiness.

I found myself on the streets I traveled often where my extended family lives.  During college summers I lived with my late cousin and his family, working in a local hospital and then the university research lab during my four undergraduate years.  I realized that I knew this area more than my childhood home as I drove by the gated Mediterranean and Colonial style mansions with the large expanses of manicured lawns and entryways.   In my mind I had returned to this place to quietly reflect on the Chinese and Asian themed gardens; to find inspiration in their beauty and walk the paths to sort through the various thoughts and ideas in my mind.  No one knew me here and, amidst the tourists and visitors; I noted there weren’t any kids my own sons’ ages.

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I was comfortable being alone.  I quietly ate my Chinese lunch overlooking the bridge; listening to the different languages being spoken all around me.

The next day as I roamed nurseries, the plants I thought I’d be choosing weren’t the ones I had gravitated towards.  I had returned home to stare at the plants in my backyard and saw the theme I hadn’t realized I was trying to create in my house and outdoors.  I love all things spherical and instead of the bonzai trees or cherry blossoms, it had been the prickly golden barrel cacti in the desert gardens that had beckoned to me.  I stood before the succulent section picking, and being picked and poked, by the various drought resistant plants that withstand high heat and low water.

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I chatted with my neighbors.  I realized I had no desire to compete with the artful garden that graced both of our homes’ front yards.    I wished to complement it with simplicity to withstand our drought.  I felt an affinity to the lone cactus in hostile weather and infertile soil; reaching for the sky. The golden barrels were prickly on the outside but they were survivors and withstood the harsh elements.  For the woman who spends most of her time indoors and toiling with trees and vegetables in the backyard, this was the perfect solution and fit all of my parameters.   This was sustainable.

Sustainability had been the answer I had searched for all along.

I sat in the crowded Asian gardens teeming with people and found myself walking the paths in the reverse direction.  I felt no refuge or beauty in the crowded, popular areas.  Instead I walked the hilly, curvy paths; past the formal gardens of herbs and roses and into the stark and silent beauty of the cacti.  I sat amongst the aloe vera plants amazed that, beneath their prickly and bony exteriors, lie the balm for burns and dryness afflicting humans’ outer skin.

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We, humans,  are well-kept and appear approachable on the outside; but most are brittle and hardened on the inside.

In these past few years I’ve circled back to the young girl I used to be; the one without expectations.  It was at this time that I began to collect circular globes and items that serve as decor within my home.  The corniness of the whole idea made me laugh out loud.  Who knew I’d be considering my life staring at a cactus; once again finding my passion, my value and my spirit?  This wasn’t quite the beauty I had envisioned.

My former expectations of success were not mentally or physically sustainable.  I sought value in the wrong places and settled in circumstances that were within my control.   It is a blessing to have others to walk alongside; supportive and full of encouragement.  I am responsible for my own happiness. 

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I existed in my in-between place; transitioning from one phase of life into another but never really taking stock of what I needed to simply be happy in my own prickly skin.  It wasn’t the lithe physique, fancy appliances or luxury cars; nor the full resume of degrees, titles or bank accounts.  We must all find our own happiness within and follow it.  To seek beauty, speak our own truths and have meaningful relationships (with family, with friends) and to follow where the path leads us.

It had been a conversation with my late cousin’s widow that made me finally see.  After being offered severance pay in the successful career she held for four decades, surviving the loss of her husband and watching her kids leave the nest and begin their own families; she sought to do what she loved best.  She didn’t sit around and wait for opportunities to find her; she sought them.  It was in these gardens that she offered to volunteer her time and share the beauty of this place.  Her love language is in service; just like my own.  It was why I had returned here, on my own time schedule, so I could explore the areas I wanted to follow without worrying or catering to anyone else.

For two days I tirelessly worked outdoors gardening.   Our own backyard represents the yards from our childhood; the sago palm from my in-laws, the trumpet vine from my late cousin, the rhododendron from another cousin.    The hubs handed me a gift card to splurge on a rose tree.  The fruit trees and vegetable gardens reflect the can do, independent spirit of both sets of parents; both wishing to go off-grid.  There is joy in watching things grow and blossom.    The things we’ve planted actually have a story or history; a purpose for why it is there: my husband’s obsession with horse radish, my sons’ desire for all things citrus.

I have settled into our home; no longer seeking greener, verdant pastures and in-between places.  Our landscape reflects who lives here now; simple and sustainable for many years to come.   I find beauty and inspiration in the place that matters.  The rain continues to come down as I sit at my window indoors; contentedly watching my gardens and sons grow.

 

Family

the rests

My thoughts have been all over the place in this past month.  I had countless unpublished drafts as I sifted and sorted, processing the experiences in the month of March.  I am in a changing season.  Seemingly random thoughts imprinted on my brain and there was no making sense of it all.  Maybe, I thought, this is what pre-menopause is like?  I was scattered.

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I found myself crying in a park over spilled egg dye.  My days of mothering young sons came to a close as I sat for three hours on a sunny Saturday; mourning this.

I sat with a dear friend; wondering why the drugs were working against her body.  Weren’t they supposed to help her?   Her son needs her at home.

I simmered below the surface, as I observed people maneuver and work to manipulate their way with hidden agendas, wondering at their motivations.

I contemplated aging and mortality; things that always seemed to be in the distance as I struggle to come to terms with my changing physical capabilities.  When the bff shared the story of the dad falling out of the treehouse with no chance of ever walking again; I was reminded to not take life for granted.

I clenched teeth as I analyzed numbers; wondering how to leverage them.  I was lost in paperwork and more paperwork with taxes, both income and property, looming just around the corner.

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I had mistakenly thought life would become clearer as I aged.  And easier.  As a high schooler entering into college, my path had seemed clear and I followed it, like an excellent sheep.  And the further I went, the more I questioned. The hubs threw a wrench in the works; entering my life and unknowingly capturing my heart.  Soon the goals were career.  Then purchasing a home.  Starting a family.  Pet ownership.  It all fell into line.

The goals began to change and I transferred my desires onto my children.  I volunteered in various pursuits and sought validation.  But I am left with the same confused feeling.  Wasn’t life supposed to be clear by now?

Left with a bunch of unanswered questions, I retreated into myself.  At a recent concert festival I heard the adjudicator’s advice to the wind ensemble.  The students were so focused on the musical notes that they had not given the respect due to the silences in-between the notes; the rests.

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My own mind was stuck on discordant chords as I plowed ahead in my life’s musical score.  I was too busy playing notes and focusing on the next bar that I had ignored the moments of silence; the ones that give pause for reflection.  In giving these quiet moments the attention they were due; they would accentuate the dynamic moments in the music and enhance the lyrical composition.  My symphony was stuck on repeat.  I became complacent.  I was falling in line; as in William Deresiewicz’ book Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life.

I had forgotten how to think for myself.

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I sought refuge in books; finally completing two of them, just because.  I sought beauty in unlikely places; hiking to a nearby park and sitting at a bench for three hours.  I watched young families stroll along the paths and the tears began anew.  I had cried over spilled egg dye because my sons had not wanted to color eggs on my timeline.  I was accustomed to setting our family schedule and my boys had wanted to color eggs.  But with thirty minutes notice they were unwilling to leave the glowing LCD screens of the den.  The hubs retorted they were busy and when I replied that they could color eggs without me; he had unceremoniously dumped the nine colors of dye down our sink.  I had spent nearly an hour boiling, cooling and preparing for this activity.  I had only requested a small amount of family time on our Easter weekend.  Quality time and acts of service are the two love languages, from Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages, that matter to me the most.

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Frustrated I had donned workout clothes and promptly trailblazed to my park of refuge.  I ignored the cell phone and sat in silence.  In my solitude the hard truth was that I had relied on my family to bring me happiness on my terms.  It was not fair for me to put that on them.

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I am responsible for my own happiness.

This letting go is hard; the acknowledging of a changing season.  I have been conditioned, as a mother, to find happiness in my children’s pursuits.  But it is not how they perform, look or what they will become that I should derive validation and worth.   No longer am I the director or composer.  I must affirm their desires and allow them opportunities to speak their own words.  I do not need to fill their silences with my own thoughts and sentences.  I must learn to accept their wishes and allow them to grow away.

I don’t want them to fall in line and that was exactly how I was parenting them.

I take a lot for granted.  I thought of my girlfriend who is away from her son; rehabilitating for her own health and the father who has lost the ability of mobility.  I watched the ducks waddle by as my husband’s words came to mind, like water off a duck’s back,  as I struggled with personal agendas in the organizations to which I serve.   I remembered the hobbies that brought me pleasure: reading, gardening, hiking and I sat in my uncomfortable silence.  As an only child I am accustomed to being left to my own devices and I knew that I had to take action, for myself.

I stared at the gazebo where a decade earlier, we had celebrated my middle son’s birthday.  In my solitude, I mourned the passage of time.  So many transitions have come and gone and I thought of the women in our bookclub.  They’ve endured separations and divorces, job losses, child losses and friendships forever changed.  There is no going back to those years but we must always put our best foot forward, to progress and learn from our mistakes.  I saw egg hunts of the past and fast forwarded to today.

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I took the time to acknowledge the rests.  I was done being stuck on repeat.  I had to discover how to find my own music once again; my composition had to be my own and no one else’s.  After three hours of mourning and soul searching I no longer could avoid the phone calls.  My sons voiced they wanted me to return home; to share lemonade from the multitude of lemons from their grandparents’ tree.  When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

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The hubs dug out food coloring and allowed the boys to color eggs.  They took pictures of themselves so that I could see that they had not abandoned this idea.  And in these small things of the every day, they let me know that they still wanted to hear me.  They wouldn’t always agree with my words  but they took the time to process them and came to their own conclusions.  They were sorry they hurt my feelings and understood it was my version of family time.   We were learning the art of communicating simply and clearly.

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I continue to evolve.

The clarity is slow in coming and only on a hike did my divergent thoughts begin to coalesce.  The volunteer activities I chose to be involved in, the questions I have continued to ask myself, the books I have been reading, that appeared disjoint;  all lead to the same place.    These pursuits are rekindling the thirst for learning and knowledge.  I sought to grow and discover new things; just as I had as a young girl.  Most of my life I had focused on arriving to my destination in the fastest and most efficient way possible.  I have stepped outside of myself; re-engaging in the larger scope of life.

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As I hiked with my family the hubs reminded me to allow the boys to hike off-trail.  It’s what they enjoy the most in our outdoor adventures; the thrill of exploration.  It was also the same mental journey I was embarking upon.  With no timeline I sighed and let my expectations go.

I seek solace in quiet places of beauty.

I try not to wonder at other people’s motives and let their words and actions flow over me; like water off a duck’s back.

I work hard not to judge my appearance or performance on what I look like and what my body can do.

I seek meaningful relationships and connection with those who reciprocate with hospitality.

I continue to be a work in progress; to model behavior to my family instead of dictating what I expect or want.

But most importantly, I have embraced curiosity and inquisitiveness.  No longer do I feel frustrated that I don’t have answers to my incessant questions.  I push through my complacency and hope to blaze my path, unlike the sheep, to rediscover how to think outside of my box.

I may be poor in wealth but rich in health.

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I take the rests, as I need them.  To reflect.  To take a break.  To heal wounds.  To become stronger.  I am learning to successfully fail and to age well.  I leverage my life experiences to create a broader, dynamic symphony.

 

 

 

 

Marriage

the gift that matters

Proof that love can conquer all…

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Seventeen years ago I said, “I do” to the man I had dated for four years and had been engaged for two.  It began at a table, with grinning guys, in college as I had sat there bewildered.  Unbeknownst to me, my good friend had harbored a crush over the three years I had known him.  But I was not ready.  My plans had been set.  I had a fifteen year plan and marriage had no place in it.

There was the time in Texas when I threatened to jump out of the moving vehicle to end our engagement.  The night that I yelled in St. Jude’s hospital room when my husband, (who had asphyxiated and was unresponsive at the bottom of his childhood pool and was rescued by our eldest son), finally awoke from being flat-lined with the audacity to ask how long had he held his breath?   The day I had cried when we crossed the state line into Louisiana and had difficulty understanding anything anyone said; the heavy southern accent questioning my wisdom of moving across the country.  The Republican and the Democrat.  The NRA toting military guy and the Greenpeace, Save-the-World gal.  The heathen and the Catholic.  The introvert and the extrovert.  He is the yang to my yin.

My mother had been relieved that someone would finally marry her only daughter.  She hoped the guy would last.

This man has felt the depths of my wrath, has given me his shoulder to mourn the death of my mother and say the countless goodbyes to friends from over sixteen years of military moves.  He continues to quietly stand nearby as I serve others.  I learned resilience as he served our country and I raised our sons; the boys we continue to grow into men.    They are blessed to have an easy-going, hands-on father who plays Team Fortress 2 in the dark den, boy/man-cave and watches blood and guts war/alien/zombie/apocalypse movies.  On my girls’ nights out they happily look forward to their boys’ nights in.

He is simple in all the right ways and always knows his center as I orbit around him.  I am the Earth and he is my sun.

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On this anniversary day we made no big plans.  We contemplated a trip to a local winery, sitting in a jazz club or walking art museums.  My late riser had awakened early to find flowers and placed them throughout our home.  I dragged him to my local coffee house to a cup of lukewarm coffee.  We began to clean our house, something a couple normally wouldn’t choose to do on their special day.  The hubs’ only prerequisite was in being together.  The in-laws insisted they would babysit the teens and ten year old.  But instead of an intimate romantic getaway day for two, we chose to stay close to home.  After a hectic week of back-to-school nights, PTA audits and two booster meetings, our home was a disaster; the house that is our sanctuary.   The mobile device(s) were banned for most of today; the focus on our home life as we put things back in place.  For dinner we chose to sit in a local brewery watching college football games and brought home pizza for our sons.

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I rarely reflect on the fifteen year plan I had chosen to leave.  I had been selected to become a naval flight surgeon to eventually become a geriatric oncologist.  I had been on my way.  I lived in Chicago whilst he was in flight school in Pensacola; the distance making the heart grow fonder.   Each week I would check in with the commander who laid out my future; until the week in February, when he said the words that would seal my fate.  I would never be stationed near my future husband if I continued in our relationship.  I would have to resign myself to duty first.  His  flight orders would be nowhere near where I needed to be.  I flew to Florida on Valentine’s day and arrived to flowers.   After that one year in medical school, I chose to leave the predestined path I had chosen at age thirteen.  I hadn’t really known if this guy would be “the one,” twenty-one years ago, but I knew it was time to listen to my heart and forge my own way.  I chose him.

I was surprised by the responses to my spontaneous Facebook post from friends spanning months and decades; all welcome.  I am reminded of those years by the friends who had occupied them, and continue to grow with those who currently reside along with us.  The years brought out our differences; testing our mettle if love really was enough.  There have been times they seemed irreconcilable: pride, envy, greed, false expectations and distance creating the divide.  At times the grass seemed greener on the other side.  Love is not perfect.  But with time we have moved towards the center; our opposing views converging into moderate ones.  We continue to strive; to get the balance right.

Each year  on our anniversary I revisit it; the verse read at our wedding.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV.

On our wedding day my mother-in-law revealed the flowers my bridesmaids and I would hold.  The church pews were filled with their scent.  It is my happiest and most favorite memory of that day; fragrant flowers.  Over the years I’ve received countless things from my hubs, big and small.  He’s surprised me when I thought he was deployed, written notes and sent gifts from faraway places.  I am empty-handed this anniversary day.  Over the years I, too, have come up with elaborate activities and thoughtful gifts.  But he reminded me that it’s really very simple.

Physical presence; not expensive presents is all he ever needs.

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This morning his simple act of hunting for flowers, in our local Walmart at 6AM, warrants the very top of my list.  It isn’t about the material things in the end.  Love is the proof and can conquer all.  I grab his hand  and hold on, forever and always.

 

friendships

true or false; the things I appreciate about the XY

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I am still learning, after several decades, the ways of being a female.  Currently the moon is full, the hormones fluctuate from day-to-day and I parent a ten year-old and two teenagers.  They call these years mid-life but I sometimes feel like I am re-living my teenage years all over again.  I’ve been granted a do-over of all the unresolved issues I never figured out way back when.

I stand before my closet, on most days, as if it is my enemy.  How does one dress for one’s age?  Most mornings I rush out the door; grateful to choose from among ten polos that bear our company’s name.  I have no time to change my mind; the choice easily made.   But what is appropriate for other occasions? Is the blouse too low-cut for work?  Are the overalls too casual for a parent meeting?   Is the dress too hoochie-like for a girls night out at the movies?  My cluttered closet overflows yet I can’t find anything to wear.

It is on days like these that I wish I were a man.

I watched the husband empty clothes hangers into black trash bags.  He never has to worry about a low-cut blouse, mini shorts or skirts, heels, nor make-up.  He doesn’t delude himself that he will fit into the jeans he wore in high school; he tosses them in the bag.  He holds on to the Top Gun shirt with the holes.  Four trash bags were donated; his closet almost empty.

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Men do not mince words and usually say what they mean and mean what they say.  They don’t waste time with small talk and get right to the point.  They do not tell you all is well when they really don’t mean it.   There are no hidden social snubs; they are much more transparent.   Instead of worrying if they should hug or kiss one another; they extend hands or clap twice upon the other’s back.  They can nod from across the room.  If a guy doesn’t like another one; he just stays away from him.

Not so for us females.  We enter rooms hoping our appearance exudes what we want others to see.  We are not transparent.  We will smile and hug our enemy while telling them they look great.  We assess bag brands, children’s schedules over coffee and tell one another what we want to hear; not necessarily what we need to hear.  We post pictures on social media; the good ones, that tell the stories we want others to see.   We form groups and cliques and love feeling included.  We cluster around those with titles and think of witty things to say; like queen bees and wanna-bes.  We write paragraphs trying to get our points across.  I am guilty.

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Yes, there are the males who compare cars and jobs, dropping hints of six figures.  But for the most part my male friends talk news and  politics and argue sports calls.  They are not super sensitive; they are more apt to say things like they are and hash it out.  They can assess situations much more objectively.  They use bullet-points to get their points across.  A sentence is short and concise; not more than six words.  It’s that simple.

I found myself asking the opinion of my hubs as I worked through a situation in my head.  My husband has always given me the same answer; the one I refused to acknowledge.  I was surprised to hear the eldest son interject his opinion as I rattled names out loud.  I am tired of the girlfriends who say things are fine when really they aren’t.  The son answered who were true and who were false.  He had no reason to lie; he spoke with candor and the depth of his understanding rattled.  He called things like they were.  I was blinded by emotions, false loyalty and history.

I admire the males who can exude confidence without drawing too much attention.  Those who are fair and can share what needs to be said to make things right.   The men who can lead by example and motivate others to serve.  I appreciate the XYs who are well-maintained (good hygiene, groomed, dressed appropriately, etc.); they don’t have to be buff or uber-athletic.  The ones who work with their hands and love the challenge of tough questions.  The guys who give people space without judgment; who don’t micromanage nor are OCD.  The males who smile without artifice; who can laugh out loud and take the heat when someone else dishes it out.  The guys who give hugs and words of encouragement, without subtle meanings.  The ones who won’t kick me down when I’m hurting but will lift me up and throw me back on the horse.

I wish my female friends could be more like men.

Don’t get me wrong, I can be a girlie-girl.  I love to go shopping and perusing make-up counters in malls.  I love to chatter away with a drink in-hand: coffee, beer or wine.  I write in paragraphs and enjoy the nuances and subtle meanings of the written word in poetry, books, music or news articles.  But I’m distracted by things that don’t matter and smoke and mirrors.  I say yes when I really need to say no.

I long for acceptance instead of accepting who I am.

I get lost in the cliques and brand names.  I am invisible to others without a title.  When people ask how are you?  they say the words but don’t really care about the answer.   I need a way to work this through; longing for boxing gloves and a punching bag versus disingenuous words and getting sucker-punched reading between the lines.  I need things to be simple.

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I thought the above as I sat in the cafe, waiting for our order.  The couple at the order counter had sat behind me in a crowded stadium, the night before, at a high school rivalry game.  We are parents in the same booster organization.  Last evening they were chatty and in the cafe I readied my hand to wave at them in acknowledgement.  When my hubs called to me to toss my keys; he had crossed directly in front of them.  But I never got to wave; their body language pretending they did not see me.   I was invisible.

When asked what super-power I’d like to have, I usually answer with invisibility.  Instead, I want the power of discernment.  To know who is true and who is false.

Most of my male friends do not hold grudges.  They get their agressions out and let things go.  All is forgiven.  I strive to tap into this mentality; to resolve my issues and stand up tall.  I take the hits as they come and am grateful for my hubs and sons to bring me clarity.  I speak my truths.   To the friends who have heard me I thank you; you know who you are.  I am making progress.

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May our relationships remain simple and our words be always true.

Family

cleaning house

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I took apart the 1000 piece puzzle that sat on my living room coffee table for the past six months.

It took weeks to put the puzzle together, in early January,  with the help of the members of my household.  Obsessively I would sit in the mornings finding similar colored pieces and patterns in the hopes of finding a piece to fit in the gaping holes.    An hour would pass me by as I studied them again and again hoping to fill things in.

The puzzle came to symbolize my life.  I yearned to piece it together, to fill in the gaps and make sense of it all.  I looked for patterns and straight edges to create my four borders and sorted similar colors together to see how they fit.   Every piece had its place.

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I used to spend a lot of my time scrutinizing individual pieces; wondering where they would go?   When it came down to the last few I couldn’t fathom what was missing or how they fit in. Where did these come from? 

But after stepping way and changing my point of view, the pieces finally fit in ways I had never considered.  Sometimes life has a way of doing this to us; throwing us for a loop where we begin to wonder why am I here?  What is my purpose?  How do I fit in?  I had lost sight of the big picture and was centered on individual pieces; insignificant things that really are placeholders or bridges to connect dissimilar ideas or people.

For years I rejected individual pieces of my life that didn’t seem to belong.  But I’ve realized all things have a place and meaning; the building blocks for the picture I am creating and constantly changing.  I ponder the framed masterpiece my kids will see in the end; post mortem.  I imagine my obituary slideshow with my music playlist in the funeral parlor.  I don’t wish for my kids to be maudlin and sad, I want them to celebrate the life we shared; to remember.

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This is why I snap pictures and scrapbook.  I long for my kids to see their stories, to read them when I no longer am here to remind them.  The albums my mother created may have mold but they are my prized possessions.  When we emptied her home the furniture, household goods and clothes were given away; the trophies and accolades of my childhood thrown in trash bins.  They had collected dust like neglected art in a mausoleum.  Only the framed photographs, albums and fine china remained in my possession.  They fit in four boxes, two of them still in my garage storage.  The china displays in my dining room; used when I entertain large groups of people.  My mother was known for her hospitality and it is this that I inherited from her.

Yesterday summer finally arrived in my household as I broke apart my puzzle and mixed the pieces up in its box.  I hesitated as I dismantled a small corner; thinking I could still put it back together again.  It took me fifteen minutes to dislodge one thousand pieces and when I placed the cover on the box and shook it for good measure, it was done.

My school year schedules and busy weekends concluded this past weekend with the fourth of July.  My volunteer commitments are on hiatus for the next few weeks.  I do not come home from work to place another hat upon my head.  These long, hot, days of summer, are now my own.  My slate is clean.

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Gone are the summers with planned excursions, academic workbooks or summer camp commitments.  This year is different.

I am allowing us time in our nothing box to relax and find spontaneity in the little things.

I began to clean house and without prompting, my three sons looked at the calendar to do their assigned chores.  Five hours of work were accomplished in one; the five occupants contributing their fair share.  Slowly our house repairs are being fixed; piece by excruciating piece.  My patience has waned thin on this home front but Rome wasn’t build in a day.  Our house is our living masterpiece; the puzzle that continues to need maintenance.  My floor is jagged and needs to be filled in.  But I must build one piece at a time, day-by-day, year-after-year.  In the grand scheme of life, my floor is a minor detail.  If the picture of my home is taken; it is the occupants in the home that matter,  The floor is unseen.

  • I continually learn to accept the pieces of my life; the good and the bad.
  • I consistently work to dismantle the clutter; filing and storing things for access.
  • I actively create open space to make room for new things.

The busywork is done and summer has arrived.  My house is clean.

Family

fantasy & complacency

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I sat across from the P.A. (physician’s assistant); this woman who is the exact age as my own.  On the occasions when I must see my health care provider it is she that I choose; versus the M.D. who tends to be didactic.  We talk of my health and gaze at the lab results on the screen.

My life comprises the sum of my choices; most of the time.  Sometimes there are too many of them and I become overwhelmed.  It is during these times that I default to the lowest common denominator; my comfort zone.  The easy choice.  The one that provides instant gratification without thought to the future.

Complacentadj marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” Def. 1. Merriam Webster Online, Merriam Webster, n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.

I strive to make life simpler.  To cut down on the distracting noise that overwhelms.  I have always appreciated the freedom of choice in a world where there are many countries whose women do not have this privilege.  I can choose to exercise the right to vote. But do I?  I can earn an education, work, have a family and own property/things but do I utilize them to their potential?    It is only when these choices are taken away, that we can humbly and truly appreciate them.

I am spoiled.  I take these things for granted.

I make mental notes of recent things that have me choose outside of my four walls.  The conclusions shouldn’t have been surprising but one of the common denominators was usually a person who inspires, is charismatic; a leader.   As I researched I found myself on teen psychology sites reading through identity crushes and thought, What does this have to do with me?

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It has a lot to do with me.  On almost each site a statement resonated; standing out.  Even women who are in happy, stable relationships choose crushes; to project their desires not presented in their lives to push them out of their routines.  It was normal, the act of daydreaming or fantasizing.  I closed the site in disgust, does a person or thing have to be beautiful to push me out of my complacency?

Which brings me back to my health.  The PA and I discussed cholesterol (good and bad).  She shared her plastic surgeon’s name with me and I guffawed; astounded at her casual mention of a matter so personal.  But I was grateful for her transparency; the svelte body before me assisted with the sculpting of a knife.  Genetically predisposed to high cholesterol I see the silver lining within the numbers.  My HDL is the highest it’s ever been; the good cholesterol affirming my hours of exercise.  But the high LDL reveals my poor dietary habits; a choice I can also easily control.  My body shape belies my fitness level and her words remind me of the unattainable.  I am born with this shape that can flatten, but will not be sculpted without outside assistance.  With her words I was grateful.

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Ironically, a day after leaving the doctor’s office, I sit at my desk emptying a box of Kleenex; the flu like symptoms wreaking havoc with my schedule.  Two of my sons accompany me in our workplace; one with the high fever; the other with the stuffy head and painful throat.  I easily default to my comfort food; eyeing the Sees Candies order received from my son’s fundraiser for Easter.  When I am miserable I again choose the easy way.  I daydream of laying in bed, covers on and schedule clear; sleeping away the aches and pains while being waited upon hand and foot.  The hubs runs machinery; the rhythmic thwack bringing comfort.

I am distracted by the email from my “crush;” the person I admire and wish to emulate.  The hubs teases me about this “boyfriend;” noting the whys and motivation.  I had been shocked when the hubs had first proposed this preposterous idea; that I had a crush on this individual.  He began to list the similarities and I reminded him of the fact that I am happily married.  To him.

And within the literature I find that my husband’s musings have merit; that they are normal.  He laughed as I read my findings, crossing his arms in I told you so.   Never have I ever found myself in this predicament.  I asked, Aren’t you mad?  He reminded me that our sons and I constantly tease him about the teacher he crushes on.  One day the youngest son finally asked, Mom.  Doesn’t it bother you that Dad thinks she’s pretty?

I had carefully considered my answer to this son, just last year.  This teacher is beautiful, both inside and out, and I could relate to my husband’s admiration. Over the years I recalled the wives who zealously kept tabs on their husbands overseas.  The military is not kind to relationships and when temptations abound; poor choices are made.  Call me naive but I have never had cause to question if my husband was faithful; nor has he had to question me.  I am most positive he looked when temptation swayed his way.  I was one of the few military spouses who did not map out red light districts or question whereabouts.  I chose to believe; to have faith that he and I would always make the right choice.  For better or for worse; in sickness and in health.  I shared my answer.  No.  It doesn’t bother me.  I think it’s kinda cute that he appreciates her beauty.  (And my sons do too.  LOL).

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I had said this to my son; joined by his brothers intently listening.  Life always came down to simple choices and it was my job, as a parent, to teach them the basics.  I know I must eat less to bring my LDL number down.  That I must trust in my husband and communicate, to keep our marriage healthy and strong.  There are many distractions that get in the way of making the simple choice.  Money.  Appearances.  Politics.  Religion.  Culture.  The trick is in cutting through the detritus to fight the complacency that resides within.  To question the boundaries and to create new ones.   To fantasize for inspiration and motivation.

I continue to push my four walls out; extending my sphere.

 

Family

messy T & A

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I told the hubs that my goal, this month, is to work on my T & A.  He grinned broadly and guffawed.   Female anatomy parts came to his male mind and amidst his lewd laughter I gave him a shove.

Transparency & Authenticity.

But for the month of January T & A really should be Taxes & Accounting. My waking moments were consumed in Excel & QuickBooks; deciphering numbers and tables.  I rifled through files,  ledgers, registers and countless IRS.gov websites.   I did this amidst a computer upgrade.  The things that were available at the click of a mouse were now moved to various locations on who knows where and in what hard drive.  I was astounded when the end of January arrived.  Where had all my time gone?

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Months prior I had reserved a cabin in our local mountains.   For a few years my sons have requested to return here; the place where they discovered snow.    My mind envisioned the icicles on the eaves and the mounds of over five feet of snow, shoveled to the side.  Our older sons recalled the wayward sled that narrowly missed the tree with our, then three year old; in it.  We cringed at the memory when the middle son’s head banged into the back of his older brother’s; the trail of crimson drops from the bloody nose in stark contrast to the bright, fresh snow.    We all were excited to return.   I had two requirements.  Snow and no electronics.

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There was no snow.

Our comrades in the northeast were socked in it; the midwest blizzards closed airports at O’Hare and Midway.  But the western coast continues to experience drought and unseasonably high temps in the midst of winter.   Though the temps were in the thirties it is not cold enough for the flurries to accumulate on the ground.  The snowboards sat in our SUV with our sled.  We could pay premium prices for lift tickets at the crowded ski resort; our car queued with others who wished to be spectators at the junior olympics qualifying event being held there.  I even convinced the non-compliant hubs to take us to a tubing play area for the boys to sled in man-made snow; where I stood in line to give my boys the experience we all saw in our minds.  It was at the ticket window that I balked.  I walked away as I glanced at the long lines of people behind me.  This was not what I had had in mind.

I used to be the person that envisioned the pictures I would upload to Facebook of all the great things I’d done; my picture perfect ideal in my mind for all to see.   I heard my sons grumbling behind me.  Why are we still in this line?  And I heard my eldest’s response; the trigger that brought me back.  Mom wants to take this picture.

Did I mention it was a full moon?   The hubs had hinted that the weather would not be cooperative.   He was happy to remain in the cabin all weekend; doing nothing.  His only requirement was for some rest and relaxation.

I realized the reason why I do not, usually, purchase passes or enjoy returning to the same places over and over again; year-after-year.  The first time I visit a place is usually the best.  I have no idea what to expect and my mind is open to the new experiences; even if they are bad.  It is when I return with high expectations that I am disappointed and disillusioned.  I had wanted to experience the snow with my sons at these ages they now reside.  To watch them wobble on snowboards or skis and gleefully maneuver sleds.   Opportunities I never had.  The pictures are my proof that I could provide these missed opportunities to my offspring.  And that I would remember them.  That these things would mark me as a good parent.

Instead I was a grumpy one.

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To appease me the boys acquiesced to an hour hike.  What I hadn’t realized was the steep 500 foot elevation gain for the first half-mile.   After scrambling up rocks all gripes were forgotten.  The views at 7,000 feet were spectacular.   Earlier in the day we had found an uncrowded spot; enjoying the fresh snow on a small embankment.    I did get my picture unknowingly; the snowboards not brought in vain.

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The sled came out and snowballs whizzed by.   When we got too cold we made the short drive back to the comforts of our rustic cabin.

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As I loaded snowboards into my girlfriend’s car, this morning, I thanked her and told her of the lack of snow.  She stopped me mid-sentence; sharing the words my eldest son had told her the day before.   She had asked him about his weekend and was sorry they had not been able to snowboard.  She had been surprised by his reply.

Because he still had a good time, he casually told her.  They experienced snow.  But he actually enjoyed being unplugged, without electronics, and spending time with his family; playing board games.

Board games?  I stared at my girlfriend in disbelief.  This from the teen who is always plugged in; headphones on and fingers flying over the keys of his PC or cell phone?  The phone had remained in his backpack with the book he had packed to read.

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The youngest had wiped us all out in our Monopoly round; the real estate tycoon with multiple homes and hotels.  The middle one beat us at Scrabble; which threatened to be R-rated with a lack of words to create on the board.  And the eldest had accrued $500 Monopoly bills; always trying to talk himself out of jail or paying rent.  It had been a boisterous round; kids yelling with the hubs’ comical commentary.  I had been the quiet banker; lamenting the lack of snow while exchanging money or properties.  Both times the boys also beat us at the game of Sequence.  We were as loud as when we watched the Super Bowl late Sunday evening; Seahawks on the one yard line with two downs to go and an interception thrown.

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My sons had understood what was important.  They didn’t care if we had the idyllic picture-perfect ski resort experience.   Instead they valued the rare uninterrupted family time over a piece of cardboard.  Together we ate three square meals and read by the fire.  These aren’t the most exciting things to do when you getaway to the snow.  But our time in the mountains was distraction free.  I had been fully present; allowing myself to feel the disappointment.  But by truly being authentic my sons were able to point my compass in the right direction; to remind me WHY I was there in the first place.

To spend time with them.

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I continue to kindle the fire, adding logs.  The warmth of it fills my spirit as I find my balance.  I feed my center to remind me what is important.

 

 

 

 

 

Family

here it comes

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I stare hard at my screensaver; hardly staring.  I let the anger flow through me as my eyes glaze over; willing myself to hold my breath and breathe deep.

For the fourth time in-a-row my son’s instructor has flaked.  Annoyed and irritated it was all I could do not to take out my frustration.  Eyes wide my son stared at me; wondering is she gonna lose it?

And after the umpteenth time of my hubs locking the garage entry door (which my key does not turn), I kicked the locked door angrily.  The garage motor whirred the heavy metal rolling gate closed.  When the hubs asked for my keys to prove that they would not turn this lock; I threw them at him.  Nice catch.

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Slowly my eyes focused on the beach of my childhood home; my screensaver.  I saw myself standing with the camera in my hand; shivering in the cold.  My family had been behind me and I had stood before the whipping wind hearing the waves roll upon the shore.

This is my happy place.

I heard the squeals and shouts of my neighbor’s son; joined by my own.  The sounds of glee filled our dark home amidst the twinkling Christmas lights.  The other son was playing chromatic scales on his trumpet with  screeching high notes.  I could hear the jingle of the dog collar’s bell and my bubbly champagne candle’s aroma filled the air.   I let my senses take over.

This seems to be a daily mental and physical exercise for me; finding ways to diffuse and relax.

I think of the days ahead, Christmas eve, Christmas, New Year’s eve.  I have long since let go of “perfect” holidays and trying to keep up with the Joneses.   These past few years I’ve tried to simplify the stress, the mess.  But there is a lot of mental work still to be done.

The boys reminded me that I needed to bake.  I had been surprised by their ardor and each day they would ask if baking day would be today.  As I tiredly sat at my table, after six hours of baking, I wondered if it was worth it. When the three boys made cookie crumb trails throughout the kitchen and drank all of our milk I came to my conclusion.  It was.

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As I packaged boxes to give away the boys asked if they could hoard some cookies for themselves.  But Mom you only bake once a year!  Why give it away to everyone else?

It is in what you give to others that you will receive in return.  In love.  In service.

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At church, last Sunday, I had turned to greet the family who sits behind my own.  In a sing-song voice I chirped, “It’s the last Sunday of Advent!”  The matriarch laughed out loud, replying that I was just like one of the kids.   I mulled that over, inwardly smiling.   Before I would chirp how many more days until Christmas, imagining the gifts to open, the feast to eat and the family to greet.  But this year, I was excited to celebrate the Nativity scene.  The day of coming was drawing near.  I wanted to light the center candle; the one that brought light in the darkness.

I’ve come a long way.

I look forward to the family gatherings.  The sharing of the meal.  No longer do I look expectantly for others to tell me I found, “the perfect gift” or made the most delicious cookie.  I won’t find fault in wrinkles and saggy areas; the physical markers of getting older.  I will celebrate the passage of time; the traditions tried and true of people coming together.  I will listen past the superficial chatter and really try to see; to hear who these people are and why they are important to me.  I will remember those who have passed through our lives and the gifts they’ve left behind.  The day of coming is in the coming together.  In re-affirming the ties that bind.  In finding our lineage; our line.  It all comes back to a child in a manger.

The gift that keeps on giving.  Relationship.  Family.

Instead of imagining how so-and-so will irritate me; I will breathe deep and try to see who they are.  Forgive.

Instead of being quick to criticize or judge I will place myself in their shoes.  If someone is quick to judge or criticize me I will envision my screensaver and smile.  Grant Grace.

If I see someone who is tired or disappointed and lost in the pretense of perfection, I will give them a hug and affirm them.  You matter.

For the mess and the stress; the extra calories, full stomachs and laden tables of food.  I will be grateful that I have family.  Give Thanks.

In the coming days I will be all of the above.  I will enjoy the holidays guilt-free and let go of the hoopla and expectations of an empty Rockwell painting Christmas.  All the gifts in the world don’t compare in value to time spent with loved ones.

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We have to make the most of it; the good, the bad and the ugly.  The time has come.

Merry Christmas.

 

Family, Work

my hat progress

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I had expected to hear the front door slam; waiting for it to reverberate throughout my house this morning.  Instead, it was  a quiet click.  The son ran late, once again, and yelled at everyone and thing in his path; finding fault in all things besides himself.

Progress.

The work computer continues to freeze and I am unable to send PDF attachments.  Another tile broke on my kitchen floor.  Something, which appears like mold, is on my garage door entry wall after being inundated with rain for the past few days.  The dog refused to be found to be put outside.  My mood at 7:39 am was sour, indeed.  The bills are waiting to be paid.   The property taxes deadline for our home and business sit in my inbox looming.    There is always something. 

I feel the bile in my throat rising; the dull ache in my head starting to pound.  I decide I need to breathe.  Deeply.  I reach for my coffee hoping the caffeine will kick in.

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I breathe deeply.  Slowly.  In.  Out.  Inhale.  Exhale.

I am discovering that organizing brings simplicity.  This seems like an oxymoron since a lot of my time is invested in organizing.  Usually I am on the go-go-go, distracted and shopping, buying, orchestrating.  I had not realized that I had declared the month of December as a calendar free zone until today.  My subconscious mind has been influencing me; fighting my natural tendencies.  It is slowly winning.

Progress.

I silently made a promise to myself, this year, to make this December as stress free and simple as possible.  To honor my family; to give them their time due.  In all my hustle and bustle thinking I was doing all of my activities for them; they were the ones who suffered They got the least time with me; with no quality.  Wifemom was busy with her various hats: the work one, the school one, the friend one, the Santa.  The wifemom hat hung in the corner, waiting….

This December my wish is to truly be me.    To be present to love and see.  For holidays to be stress-free.  To be an actively involved member of my own family.  Simplicity.

My December calendar is filled with various school activities, meetings, work projects and deadlines.  But I can now choose what to do with the white spaces; to de-clutter my life and to forfeit things to give me time.    I stare, daily, at my growing sons remembering the thoughts and impressions I had at their ages.  These same values and perceptions reside in me, even now.  For years some of them were lost; forgotten or hidden away to deal with another day.  But it is in these years, that my boys currently reside, where my values were formulated.  It is these years that I weather the storms and winds that blow off my wifemom hat.  I must fight to keep it on.

The vacant spaces on my calendar are moments I am free to be with my family.

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As I mentally work through my issues, organizing is helping me find my way.  The impulsive buyer, within, is becoming thoughtful.  With the 11% plummet in black Friday sales projections it appears many consumers in this country are on my same trajectory.  Business analysts ponder if consumers have less money to spend or are more discerning in where they put it.  Our economy is slow to emerge from the depths of the great recession.  I, too, now watch where my dollars are spent.  I creatively consider ways to show appreciation to vendors and customers without buying meaningless things.

But after wracking my brain, the master-of-the-obvious hubs stated the logical.  Why not just ask them what they like?  This goes against my grain; but since these gifts are to show appreciation I finally did call to ask.  And surprisingly, our customers were forthcoming and grateful for the question.  People do not appreciate receiving junk or things that have no value to them.  The best gift given is with thought and consideration.  Creativity.  Simplicity.

And with renewed purpose I can enjoy my search for things people truly enjoy.  The joy of the season of giving has slowly returned.  To give thanks.  To remember traditions new and old.  To honor my religion.  To remember my family who have come and gone.  To renew my values; passing them along to the next generation.    And most importantly, to expect nothing in return.

At night the hubs quietly sits.  He listens.  Patiently.  I am blessed that my extrovert tendencies are balanced by his introvert ones.  What he cannot help me process ends up typewritten here.   I think I have truly lost my mind.  But in losing it; I’ve gained a new one.  A fresh perspective.

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I am not obligated to host either side of our families for Christmas, nor the eve, this year.  I have moved dates earlier in December or to next year to be able to sit still and gaze at my fully decorated home’s twinkling lights.   The boys have requested a designated day to bake cookies.  Although my mind conjures up excess pounds, I will remind myself of moderation.   I am finally listening to what my family and heart whispers.  See us.  Be with us.  With the coming, this Advent season, my mind can finally settle down as the nights grow long.    It is hard for me to sit still.

I am a work in progress.  I hold the wifemom hat in my hands; anticipation building.   I can simply enjoy the holidays this year.