Category Archives: self

in the kitchen

I stand in the kitchen and listen to the quiet. The children are walking around the neighborhood, a freedom they’ve recently earned. The older two are now responsible enough to make sure the little two make wise choices, something we talk about over and over and over throughout our days. I relish the quiet now, but I can see myself standing in the kitchen years from now, making chicken and green beans and wild rice, but only for two. Then in the quiet I’ll hear my memories laughing and squealing and having fun. I’ve learned that it’s rare for memories not to become sugar-coated over the years.

I snap the beans two or three at a time and wish they’d come straight from the garden. One day, I tell myself, I’ll have a garden. One that actually produces enough to make it worth it. But by then I won’t need as much and I’ll (maybe) have more time, so that should work out nicely. I want peas, maybe purple hulls or lady peas or both. I want to sit on the front porch, rocking back and forth, shelling until my fingers are raw.

The pot sizzles at me as I move it onto the burner and I snap back to now. Even in the quiet, there is a cacophony of sound.
Snap.
Sizzle.
Hiss.
Hum.
Swish.
Bubble, bubble, bubble.

I love my todays. Sometimes they are exhausting. Other times, exhilarating. We laugh, guffaw even, together often. Occasionally we catch tears running down each other’s cheeks, overwhelmed by the moments.

I love my yesterdays. Drenched in sunshine and rainbows, they smile back at me. A few dark clouds hover in the background, the moments that will never go away but drift farther and farther away.

I love my tomorrows. Full of hope and promise. I love to dream and think about what will be, knowing darn well that nothing happens exactly as planned. It’s the swoops and swirls of life that make life what it is, makes us who we are.

I wonder who I’ll be then.
I wonder, too, who I am now.
But I do know this: we are more than just a collection of memories, more than a bucketful of dreams.
We are bits of this and bits of that, full of stardust and matter and imagination.
We have always been and always will be.
Matter is neither created or destroyed, remember.
Created in the image of God, I stand in the kitchen and wonder…

 

Bigger Than The Stars

We spin and spin and spin, one child after another and my head swirls as I fall into the grass. It’s been way too long since I let them wrap their arms around me and swing them ’round. One squeals in delight, one screams in exhilaration, one goes aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh with his voice wavering up and down, and one laughs and laughs and laughs. My heart races, but not from the spinning. I love their unbridled happiness, how each one does their own thing, personalities gleaming through the swish and swirl.

I’ve been listening a lot more lately. I laid in the grass so long one night that dew settled on top of me, soft, almost imperceptible. I looked up at the sky and watched the clouds pass, some scurrying along and others dragging, tired and sluggish. It is night, after all. And when they all had gone their own way, there was nothing left but me and the stars. I’m not sure where the moon ran off to. Maybe playing hide and seek with the horizon. I found myself spinning and spinning and spinning, heart racing and full. Here I am, just a girl in the grass. The stars seem so teeny tiny and I so big. Everything is relative, isn’t it?

As I sunk into the ground, I felt the grass cradling me. I heard the air, really heard it barely sweeping by. A bird. A car far off in the distance. Crickets going and going and going. Do they ever stop? A bullfrog joins the song and there’s a symphony of sounds in the silence. If we only stop spinning long enough to listen.

 

See what you’ll see. Be who you’ll be.

It’s been so long since I’ve written here. I wonder if my children will look back one day and say, “What happened? She just faded away”. But the truth is that life got in the way. Things got crazy and busy and words needed to come, but they didn’t. Maybe I wouldn’t let them, or maybe they were just stuck. I can’t really tell. Either way, I feel them coming back. My fingers are dancing over the keys now, happy to be clicking and clacking away. My heart pumps hard with all the thoughts I want to share. There have been so many moments – splendidly amazing moments, painfully agonizing moments, and a million moments in between. I can never go back and recapture them, but sometimes you don’t need words to feel the moment as it was, as you remember it.

The moment below needed words. I want…no I need to catch his words and bottle them – the sound of his tiny voice, the way he stumbles over a word here and there, those big trusting eyes that look right into my heart. Oh, these precious children of mine. I do love them so. I like them so, too.

photoDate night with my funny little fellow. He ordered grilled cheese with broccoli because the other option was fries and fries are made from tomatoes. No, not tomatoes. Amatoes…ugh! What is it, Mommy? Oh, yeah…potatoes. And I laughed on the inside, but not the out because I never want to hurt his big feelings that are smooshed into that little body. I had a salad with chicken and a delightfully tangy vinaigrette and all the fruits I love best. I finished well before he did, even though he only ate one piece of broccoli and all of his sandwich except for the crust. (I don’t like crust either). We sat in silence for a while, and it made me think of so many meals I’ve shared with Marshall; just sitting together and being quiet. We’ve laughed before how other diners probably think we’re mad at one another or have just run out of things to say, but the truth is that my brain is always going, going, going and so are my words and I’m surrounded by a cacophony of sound all the time and it really is such a release to just sit and be.

We were there together because he’d had a rough day. He yelled in anger at his sister, and when I butted my head into the conversation he teared up and said, “But I never get to be alone!” And gush! My heart gate flooded because I know (oh, how I know) exactly how he feels. I love having my family around me. I love being with them. But sometimes it’s just too much. I need quiet and focus and {deep breath} just to breathe. So I asked him if he’d like to go on a date. Just the two of us and he grinned and picked the restaurant that had the best grilled cheese.

On the way out the door, I reached out for his hand. He’s taken to rejecting my hand by saying, “I’m brave enough, Mommy” as we cross the parking lot, but this time he obliged. I looked down at him. “Thanks for holding my hand. I love holding your hand”. “I love holding your hand, too, Mommy”. And almost imperceptibly , he sighed out, “I like you”. “I like you, too, love”, I whispered back. Oof.

As were were coming home, the sun was shouting goodbye as loudly as she could. She waved to us between every tiny crack and crevice of the forest. And he held his cup up to his eye – his big, beautiful eye - and looked out at the world around us. “Whatcha doin”? “Oh, just looking at the world in a different way. I like to do that sometimes”.

{Me, too}.

Over.

I just need today to be over.
It’s one of those days where I feel bad for complaining because it’s really not so bad
but SERIOUSLY with all the little things just slamming me in the shin over and over again.
And I think, “I should be able to handle this.”
But instead of rolling off my back, it puddles up at my ankles and rises slowly
until my nose is just very barely above the waterline
and if I open my mouth, it will all rush in and I don’t have time to clean up that kind of mess.

And every little thing, every.single.little.thing.
crawls under my skin and burrows there
And I try to close my eyes and take a deep breath
but even that doesn’t work today.

I just need today to be over.
After all…tomorrow is another day.
(Isn’t that what all Southerners say)?
Preferably one with lots of sunshine.
(Literal sunshine).
I think that will help.

Word of the Year {2014}

I typically choose a word of the year when the school year begins but when August rolled around, I just didn’t feel done with my word. I still haven’t conquered ‘illuminate‘ as well as I’d like and it’s completely possible that I’ll come back to it in a few years. I really love all the meanings hidden in that bright word. But my heart is yearning for a change and I’m really trying to simplify all aspects of my life, including my word of the year. So this time I chose something I know I won’t be able to do or be at all times but something I want to be reminded to do or be at all times. It’s not a big word or a fancy word. It’s not even a very pretty word in my mind. (Yes, some words are prettier than others). It’s something that even the “baby” understands the basic idea. This simple word is: kindness.
20140101-234230.jpg
I don’t expect living up to this word will be easy. Especially that part about wanting and liking to do good. It can be easy to fake-it-til-you-make it with one of those but not both (at least not easily).

Four and a Half Pounds

As Thanksgiving drew near, I made a conscious decision to soak in all of the holidays. I promised myself that I’d leave my head and heart open to the things around me. I wouldn’t stress about all the things I “needed” to do. And one of the biggest decisions I made was to ignore my “rules” for eating. I haven’t always been the healthiest of eaters, but in the past year or two we’ve made a decent number of changes to how we eat in our house. We still eat out too often. There are still days when we eat cereal for dinner. And I still drink too much Diet Coke. But over all, we eat a lot of fresh, non-processed food that has been simply prepared. I lost a decent amount of weight since we started eating that way and I certainly love the way my body feels when I’m eating properly. But I decided that over the holidays I wouldn’t stress over what we were eating. And you know what? I gained 4.5 pounds. But, truthfully, I don’t even mind. That’s 4.5 pounds of happy memories. It’s from making snacks with my children for others and sampling as we went. It’s from enjoying goodies gifted to us from friends. It’s from (collective) hours around the tables of friends and family where we lingered a little too long…sometimes long enough for second dinner. It’s from drinks and chocolate and laughs and (good) tears. My pants may fit a little more snugly than they did before the holidays, but my heart is also full to the point of bursting wide open with the happy.

And the most interesting part to me is that now that the holidays are over? I’m not dreading a return to our regularly scheduled diet. I’m craving fruits and veggies and whole grains. Bring it, 2014. We’re ready! Starting with this:photo (7)

Five.

Oh my sweet, big boy,

I want to say all those Mommy-things about how I can’t believe you’re already five. FIVE! And about how much you’ve grown and how big you’ve gotten. I want to go back and look at pictures of teeny tiny you and reminisce about the day you were born and the moment when your siblings first saw you and coming home from the hospital and cuddling in my chair with all three of you in my lap. Did you know that when we left the hospital, we didn’t take you straight home? We stopped at church. It was Christmas Eve and that’s one of my favorite services of the year and it was about to start, so we slipped in the back – you in your carseat and covered with a blanket. I don’t remember much about that service, honestly, but I remember staring at you and thinking of how similar me looking at you must have been to how Mary looked at Jesus. A mother’s love. Oof.

20082013.jpg
And some how we went from that to this in 2.6 seconds. I loved that little baby, but I love this little fella even more. Because this guy? This guy is a trip! I never know exactly how to describe you. Laid-back? Friendly? Exuberant, maybe? Yes! Yes, that’s it! Exuberant – joyously unrestrained and enthusiastic. You have an energy about you that pulls people in and makes everyone feel important. You are so full of joy and light, your smile is infectious, and you’ve never met a stranger. You are tough as nails when you need to be, but you are empathetic and sensitive as well. You can be quite mischievous sometimes, but those long lashes and big ol’ eyes keep you out of trouble (probably more often than it should).

I love the things you come up with. You will do anything for a laugh, which sometimes isn’t the best of ideas, and you very often succeed. And your laugh is just the best! I love it so much that I recorded it and turned it into a ringtone for my phone.

You are starting to sound out words and can read some things. While we were wrapping Christmas gifts you sounded out “Dddddd…D. Aaah…aaah…A. Ddddd. D. Eeeee. E. Daddy is D-A-D-E!” I probably should have corrected you but you were so proud and it was so totally you and I just couldn’t. Kinda like with the word remember. One day I’ll miss you saying “binimber”.

I’ll binimber you for always, little buddy.
I love you soSOsoSOsoSO very much.
Love,
Mommy

Logic and Glory

On Tuesday morning snow came down on the Eastern Coast. Not enough to worry some, but enough to cancel school and work for many. DC was covered in a lovely blanket of white and I was slated to fly in on Tuesday afternoon. I watched the weather carefully all day Monday and Tuesday morning, simultaneously hoping that it wouldn’t snow enough that my flight plans would be disrupted but that it’d snow enough that some would still be on the ground when I got there. (We don’t see a whole lot of snow down here in Georgia). Sure enough, the weather cleared up before I arrived and there was just enough snow for me to show my kids via text and FaceTime and win cool points. Sure, it was half-melted and had gone from fluffy to crunchy but it was SNOW!

Another way I get cool points with my kids is to show them pictures from the airport and from my flight. As we were beginning our descent into DC, I noticed our shadow in the clouds – something I’d seen before but knew my kids hadn’t. I quickly opened up my camera and tried to get a shot before we came out of the cloud. It was so fast that it didn’t even really have time to focus, but as soon as I snapped the shot I realized that there wasn’t just a shadow. Around the shadow was a perfect glowing circle. This is a cropped but not edited picture of what I saw. Nothing has been added or altered in this picture. No filters, no editing, no anything.

Untitled

Logic tells me that it was probably something to do with moisture in the air and the sunlight hitting it just right and blah-blah-blah. (Side note: Glory be! I was right). But sometimes logic doesn’t satisfy the soul. I’ve shown this picture to a handful of people, all of whom have called it something different(a circle of protection, the hand of God, a guardian angel) but who meant the same thing: something or someone protecting us on that flight. And though I believed that (logically) there was a reason for it, I’d be lying if I didn’t also feel (emotionally?) that it meant something. Even though I knew darn well there had to be a good explanation, I have to say that a warmth did settle into my chest. Like that feeling you get when a piece of music stirs your heart beyond words. Or the first time your child says “I love you” and you find a little catch in your throat. Or when the sound of someone’s voice stops you in your tracks and makes you turn, with a smiling face and thumping heart. Sometimes reason rules. Sometimes you have to listen to logic. But sometimes? Sometimes you just have to zip your lips, open your mind, and let your heart feel it all.

Creative Liberties: Holiday Edition

St. Nick's Night

Have you ever heard the story of the holiday ham? A young woman is hosting the holiday dinner at her new home and she gets the turkey started in the oven and then pulls out the ham, cuts it in half, and puts both halves in the oven. Her new husband asks why she went through all that work to cut the ham in half and she looks at him as if he were a fool and says, “That’s the way you’re supposed to do it.” The young man wasn’t so sure about that answer but he was sure that he didn’t want to get her all riled up before everyone got there so he dropped it and went on his way. But his question stayed with the young woman all morning long and when the young woman’s mother arrived the daughter asked, “Mom? Why do you cut the ham in half before you cook it?” “That’s just the way you do it,” answered her mother. “It…it cooks faster that way, I think.” But the young woman’s mother wasn’t really satisfied with her own answer and thought about it off and on the whole day until her mother arrived for dinner. While Grandmother was in the kitchen looking at all the delicious food, the Mother said, “This morning Susie asked me why you have to cut the ham in half before you cook it and I realized I don’t really know why. I’ve just always done it that way.” Grandmother begins to snicker as she says, “Well, I don’t know why you do it that way, but did it that way because I didn’t have one big pan to fit the whole ham on so I put one half on each of my two smaller pans.”

How many “traditions” started just like this. (I’d venture to say more than we realize)! Someone makes a split second decision and they run with it, not imagining that it will have much consequence but someone else latches onto it and whoops…now it’s tradition. “Well, that’s just how things happened” becomes “That’s the way we’ve always done it!”

Saint Nicholas Night happened like that for us. Several years ago a friend of mine told me about the Catholic tradition of St. Nicholas Feast Day which, long story short, is a day to celebrate St. Nicholas and his generosity. To celebrate, some children leave their shoes out by the hearth and St. Nicholas drops by and leaves them small toys and/or coins tucked inside. We decided to further that idea and leave out toys for St. Nick to pick up and take to the North Pole, refurbish, and then redistribute to other children for Christmas. That’s a Win-Win-Win in my book. Clear out old toys, teach the children about giving to others, and make it not so obvious if/when Santa brings pre-loved toys on Christmas morn. So we did it one year and then, quite honestly, I forgot about it.

The next year I saw a friend post about St. Nicholas on the morning of December 6. Whoops. We missed it! So we rounded up our toys (and I made a quick run to the store for goodies) and I told the children that St. Nicholas day was indeed December 6, but he didn’t come until that night. Carter was old enough that apparently that stuck in his brain and we’ve been doing it on the night of December 6 since. Thanks, Catholicism, for letting us borrow your Saint’s feast day. We’ve taken some creative liberties with how it should be celebrated and changed it around a bit. We call it St. Nick’s Night and he brings candy instead of small toys or coins. I love how it’s teaching our kids to think of others, to clear out some space and pass along what they’re aren’t using anymore, and to be mindful that pre-loved toys are just as lovely (sometimes even more so) as brand-new-in-the-box toys. This little tradition makes me happy and I wonder how (or if) it will change over time. Most things do, I suppose. But this is one idea that I’d like to keep around for as long as we can.

Happy St. Nick’s night, y’all!

 

 

Resolve : Cracked

I’m going along and one little thing after another chinks my armor,
this steely resolution that I’ve built around my head, my heart.

Weeds of doubt slip into the cracks. Words snake their way in.
And I am frightened but I don’t move. (I can’t).

I convince myself that it’s just a little thing. I can handle with it. NBD.
But it grows and grows and grows – little thing after little thing – until it’s all I can see.
The weeds curl around my heart and squeeze.
Bits of my soul ooze out, but I don’t feel a thing.

It squeezes and squeezes and squeezes until the only things left are anger, bitterness, hurt, and yes…a little pride.
(But not enough).