Exhaling

I think I’ve been holding my breath this week. I feel it as I sit on the balcony of our vacation unit and a giant exhale escapes me.

It’s a breezy, cool morning, unlike others where I have had to ration time outside as the sun rose and baked down on our east-facing balcony. Golf carts roll past in a steady rhythm. Voices call to one another on the course.

Inside is shalom as daughters continue a game of Dogopoly around the table. I love the banter I hear. Even their conflicts offer me an opportunity to practice not mine.

One daughter allows me to play with her hair. She doesn’t yell or tug away but indulges my mama instinct and desire to remember doing the hair of another daughter, now an adult.

I am taken back, waaaay back, to a video of The Fox and the Hound and one chance to get the hair of a three year old styled right.

I am taken to mornings before high school and being asked to braid another daughter’s hair before the bus arrives. I held my breath entirely through what felt like my one chance to get it right and earn her favor.

Maybe that is also part of the exhaling. There’s not only one chance. I don’t have to get it right. There’s nothing to earn.

Daughter isn’t sure what she thinks, but she doesn’t tear it out. It’s a different look, and aren’t vacations for doing things differently? I thank her for the gift of letting me play with the sacred space of her hair.

Brushing it back out, returning to normal, we laugh at the goodness and fun of the change. In the midst there is tension over the game and the plan for today, and I pivot away using my not mine skills.

Inhaling. Exhaling.

This season is different. A working vacation. We are close enough to keep up with responsibilities while far enough to breathe and rest.

I’m signing off to engage what remains of the day. There are things that I hope for and those that will come. As long as I keep breathing I can take it in stride.

Inhaling. Exhaling. Then exhaling again.

Into the Woods

The hike began with micromanagement, a thing I still struggle to contain. A scan of everyone’s clothing and footgear upon exiting the car resulted in commentary rather than trust that my children are no longer 8,6, and 5 and can dress themselves now without input from me.

This was after posing for the before hike picture of the girls and me that Steve wanted to take and hearing everyone’s feelings about it. Over identification seeped from every cell in my body. Will I ever be free of that curse?

We stood at the head of the trail as I voiced my doubts and concerns. Feelings were strong. A decision to proceed with the hike was made. We began to walk. I lingered behind.

The girls led the way with their dad. I tried to focus on the gift of solitude and shade that the trail offered. Flat and high and green, it was a beautiful walk.

Do justice. Love mercy. Be humble.

The shirt that I wore seemed to mock me. I felt false. When another hiker heading back leaned over to me and whispered, I like your shirt, I smiled weakly.

Thanks.

The hike continued. We stopped for our first water break, courtesy of my amazing husband who looks out for us all always and somehow managed to find a water bottle for each, even though none were packed.

I’m sorry for not trusting that you know what to wear and for making a big deal about it.

I think I said something along these lines to my daughter. I hope I did, anyway. If not, that was my intention. Truly.

Walking on, my head began to clear and heart began to pound. How could I only be at 10% of daily exercise? How many steps have I taken? Surely it’s been more!

My focus turned to NOT looking at the activity tracker on my wrist and trying to keep my thoughts kind.

The hike was hot, sweaty, and just the right length. We turned around in a realistic place rather than pushing ourselves to exhaustion.

Upon return music began playing in the kitchen as lunch was fixed.

Yes. I need to smile for awhile. Taking a deep breath, I turn up the corners of my mouth and exhale.

Bird Nest

Sitting on the floor of my daughter’s vacation room, I look through the glass door up at the nest. It is tucked into the balcony rafters. Mama bird has just returned to her babies.

I feel a kinship with mama bird, seeing as I am here this week with my three youngest chickadees. It’s a different vacation dynamic than years gone by.

The last time we were in this space, our unit was divided into a boys’ side and a girls’ side. There were eight of us. Someone got sick.

This year we are four females until Papa bird joins us. Each has her own space. Mine is on a pull-out sofa. Some years that is how it goes. I wanted my older girls to have their own rooms.

It’s kind to have a getaway gifted by the in-laws in the midst of this transitional summer. The change of scenery is doing us good, even if it’s only a different space to eat and sleep and watch Cartoon Network.

For me it’s also doing yoga on my travel mat, reading books, and journaling. It’s laughing with the girls at episodes of Teen Titans and Gumball and crying alone during Inside Out and A Wrinkle in Time.

It’s going for walks in the heat and playing miniature golf on a course where the young man behind the counter taking our money recognizes us from years ago when he was younger and his family came to our house for dinner that time.

We are not far.

Just like that mama bird who swoops down and away whenever I try to sneak out onto the balcony for a closer look, I swoop out and away to my own balcony to read or write. I swoop out for walks.

I always return, just like her.

Unlike her, my babies are old enough to swoop out on their own, as well. Little Mae took her own walk last evening. My teenage daughter steps out regularly for moments of self-care.

Teen sons are each off on their own adventure this month, instead of on vacation with the family. That is how seasons shift and change.

Maybe that is what continues to draw me to the floor of this room looking out of the window and up at a bird nest. Grounding. Remembering all of my birds when they were contained.

I always ask first.

May I go look at the bird?

Usually the answer is affirmative, unless I have been particularly annoying or grievous. Then I just wait a bit and ask again.

Mama has hopped out of the nest and is perched on the ledge. Her eyes peer around, scoping out the territory. I refrain from opening the door or making a sudden movement.

Instead I sit and bless her. I listen to her song through the window and marvel at her role in the world. She is enough just being a bird.

She does not have to compete with or compare herself to other birds. She is enough moving back and forth from her own nest minding her own business.

Enough. Just like these words.

Just like me.

Living in the Flux

It’s July, and I am making space for a deep breath or several. This month is the one that is all summer, no days of school for the kids. It is time to rest and recharge and resist the urge to structure the unstructurable. I realize that is not even a word, but it gives voice to the impossible I often try to achieve.

Kindness says, Let it go.

July looks different for us this year. Beginning with a local vacation and ending with an out-of-state bridal shower, much is sandwiched in between. The teenagers are each traveling to various destinations on their own, leaving the family dynamic in constant flux. We will not be reunited under the same roof until August.

Resting and recharging is a desire that feels uncertain. I plan to journal and read through a small stack of books this week. I hope to be intentional with my girls in a space where we can be both together and separate. I will exhale.

July is not a month to make big proclamations and plans. It is a month to savor space. With a tendency to just push right through things, my challenge is to remain present to the moments.

I don’t want to fight the flux but embrace it. I know that I can’t control it. Here’s to being in it along for the ride and for coming out on the other side.

Hello, July!

Get Up, Brush Off, Keep Going

This month’s writing and blogging began in a hopeful space. The most-read posts were written the first week, goodbye and hello, respectively. All of the changes triggered curiosity in readers, and I had a good writing flow.

My birthday found a Red Tent Living post running, definitely a confidence booster. There was growing momentum. That was the first full week of June.

Things came to a grinding halt the second week when school was out, kids were home full-time, and Steve entered week two of his new job. Any hopeful writing momentum grew precarious, like the wobbling handlebars of a bike before a fall.

Instead of confidently correcting and keeping a steady flow, I crashed. Words splattered everywhere but on the blog, and I landed in stunned silence, too tired to pick myself up and brush off for another run.

It is easy for me to grow discouraged in those moments that feel familiar. The silent crashes, sporadic tries, lost confidences are not new. What I would like to be new is the desire to get up, brush off, and keep going.

That is what this is. It’s practice.

It is also the reminder that any change in terrain is difficult to navigate, and this month has brought significant life changes. For someone who struggles with change, it is no surprise that I have been once again caught off guard.

To those reading and curious, thank you. Thank you for bearing witness to my words and world and growth. May July bring goodness and growth and opportunities for you to keep going, as well, in whatever you are called to pursue.

May it also bring rest and slowing down and enjoyment, things I am pondering and hope to explore more in the days to come.

 

Progress

On April 4, 2013, I opened a post on my private blog titled The Tearing Down. These words flew from my fingertips, Kieran began tearing out the faux paneling f.

That’s it.

I had great intentions and high hopes of writing an insightful piece full of analogies and wisdom related to the remodel of the worst room in the house. We were finally beginning it. Kieran was a freshman in high school.

It’s been over five years.

Kieran no longer lives in the house, though he was able to live in his (almost) finished room last year after returning from his post-high-school travels. The paint was never quite right, the blinds were never installed, and the door had to be held shut on the inside with a paint can.

I don’t mind. I don’t want to deal with painting. I have tapestries to hang over the windows. It’s easier for Zephyr to get in and out when the door doesn’t latch.

Okay, maybe he didn’t say the last thing, but he was certainly gracious in all that was unfinished. I was glad for him to inhabit the space that we had long promised.

We moved into this big old house 14 years ago. It needed a lot of work. Electrical updates, waterproofing the cellar, the kind of work that is not pretty but necessary. We also had five kids at the time.

The house had lots of rooms that could be configured in different ways. We have configured and plugged along working on projects as we could. Three sisters joined the five that moved in originally. There were lots of cribs and toddler beds.

The older siblings can tell tales of five of them in a room as we worked to remodel other spaces. The room they were in was the one we just finished. The worst room in the house. Gradually, we moved them out into their own rooms, starting with the firstborn and working our way down.

There was always a lot of shifting.

This week I worked to do the final room move-about. Kirk moved into Kieran’s old room after we fixed the paint, installed blinds, and fixed the door latch.

Child seven moved out of the Harry Potter room at the top of the stairs and into Kirk’s old room. Shhh. She doesn’t know it, yet, since she has been away at camp all week. Don’t tell!

Coco and Mae kept their rooms, making the moving around a bit more bearable. Coco’s birds now inhabit the room at the top of the stairs. She is also at camp, so that part is a surprise, as well. We talked about it as a possibility but did not set a time.

Of course this puts me in a sentimental place, as it is a reminder of another season coming and going and of the change that is constant. We now have each of the remaining four in their own space, the space I knew one day would come.

Hello, One Day!

Birthday Wrap-Up ’18

This morning was the final birthday celebration, breakfast with Dad. When the celebrating is over, it’s time to write the wrap-up post.

I was at a birthday lunch with a friend on Monday. When she asked how my actual birthday was I had to stop and think. I could not remember well, which is why I am trying to remember now. Even as I try to write, lethargy engulfs me. I am trying to push through.

I wrote a birthday list on the marker board in the kitchen at the beginning of the month. Little Mae printed hers in red pen and posted it to the refrigerator much earlier. Hers contained everything from Lego Ninjago to Black and Whilte Guinea Pig named Cookies and Cream.

Because we share the day, Little Mae and I planned a schedule of how to spend it, beginning with me attending a sixth grade awards assembly at school while she did morning screen time at home. This hanging basket greeted me upon return.

We took our birthday checks to the drive-thru window of the bank to cash them.

Then it was McDonald’s for lunch and Barnes and Noble for books and a birthday treat.

 

Rainbow came along.

While we were at Barnes and Noble a text came through that an adult sister was in town. She wanted to pick up the newly double-digit little and spend time with her. That meant I got free time!

It was such a surprise I almost cried.

A free afternoon offered a chance to grab the shower I had missed that morning, getting everyone to school solo. It was Steve’s first week at the new job, and we were all adjusting. I had to adjust my attitude with a phone call to a sister when my birthday morning was not going according to plan!

First on my free time list was a plant rescue at Lowes. A cart filled with clearance flowers cost $18 of birthday money. Coming home alone to plant and hang them, priceless.

I showered and rested and picked up the girls from middle school. We did our afternoon routine, and I worked on the birthday dinner planned in advance when planning the cake. It was a simple meal of ham, herb dinner rolls, and vegetables. I put ingredients in the bread machine and a ham in the oven.

Then it was time to make a side dish for my son’s band picnic. Since ham is not his favorite it was a good night for him to have an alternate plan. My adult daughter rode with me to the park to drop the food off and then to Starbucks for my birthday drink, another thing I had missed along with my shower that morning.

Birthday dinner was relaxing and fun with adult daughter and significant other, adult son, and phone calls from those adults not in attendance. Everyone wanted me to know that they had helped with the gift that would be delivered the next day.

Those around the table presented me with gifts of a new tea kettle and journal. We watched Little Mae open her gifts and ate cake. It was an enjoyable ending to a kind day.

On Friday a package arrived. I messaged my daughter to tell her that she had a delivery. She said it was my gift and that she would come over and open it and give it to me. I had some errands to run. When I returned she handed me a slim wrapped box, telling me it was from all of the adults and their significant others.

I was speechless after opening it. I am still learning to use it. Best feature so far is the voice text, though I have had some faux pas with the text still recording when I thought I was finished. Oops! My younger generation thinks technology is being wasted on an old person.

I am so grateful for another year, thankful for life, humbled by lavishly generous gifts and by the love so freely given by all in my family. I look forward to 47 with anticipation.

And yes, I got the Lora Kelley download that was on my list. You can get it here.

Week’s End

Dewey captures perfectly the way I feel at the close of this week. As I write he sprawls on the floor, moving only to change lounging positions.

This week has been full of beginning and ending and celebrating which all adds up to exhaustion. If I were a dog, I would have the answers to life’s complexities. Just sprawl out and sleep.

Steve began his new job and the kids entered their last week of school. We adjusted the routine that had served us well all year. I am grateful it was only one week of adjusting. That was disruptive enough!

In the fall when we begin again, things will look different. I keep reminding myself that it will not always be this way. It will not always be my husband’s first week at a new job and my kids last week at school.

There will not always be the transition of an adult moving out while the youngest excitedly anticipates her double digit birthday. I will probably always dread my birthday, somewhat, though. And life will always be full.

Much fullness converged this week in the form of awards assemblies and final projects for my school-age kids. The youngest was home with me as we tried to find some sort of a groove while preparing for our shared birthday.

My husband began a new work schedule which left me in the role of solo home front manager getting kids to and from school. We were reminded of the need to communicate better, as the old morning routine we had settled into no longer served us well.

I was reminded of how I always think I will find the magic solution to make all of life feel wonderful when in reality I have to learn to live in the tension. That is a constant process.

I need to learn to bask in the patch of sunlight even if everything around me is a mess. Dewey illustrates this so well on the floor of my room moving from place to place and hunkering down.

This is the last morning before summer break officially begins when I pick up the kids from school at noon. It finds me in the aftermath of a birthday celebration and a day full of goodness and surprises.

It also finds me in a bit of chaos. My temptation is to try to do everything to fix it all immediately which is unrealistic. So instead of doing all of the things, I am sitting and writing, inspired by a small dog who is now curled into a ball close to his grandpa’s flip-flops.

Week’s end reminds me of all of the grace that gone before and behind and surrounded me during this transition. There is much more to write, but for now I will say, Happy Weekend! Enjoy the start of Summer Break!

Ice Cream Birthday Cake

Today is my and Little Mae’s birthday. I am sharing our cake creation with you here as we spend the day celebrating another year of life together with our family.

We agreed upon an ice cream cake. The recipe we use is one that I remember Aunt Caryl introducing to the family when I was a girl. It has ice cream sandwiches as the base layer in a 9×13 pan followed by a layer of softened ice cream. Finally Cool Whip is spread on top.

That’s it!

Our week began on Monday with Steve’s new job and Mae and I home together. We went to Sharp Shopper, the local grocery outlet, for some items. While we were there, I found the ingredients for our cake, only slightly varied.

That is the way it is with Sharp Shopper. You have to hold expectations loosely and be willing to improvise. Things are usually slightly varied.

Here are the ingredients purchased for our cake.

Instead of ice cream sandwiches which they didn’t have, I bought chocolate ice cream sandwich making wafers, which they did. I bought two cartons of Moose Tracks frozen yogurt and two cartons of Cool Whip light topping.

For you locals, the only reason I didn’t use the Pumpkin Pie ice cream is because it is a shared cake. 😉

In the bottom of a glass 9×13 baking dish I placed a layer of chocolate wafers.

A carton of softened frozen yogurt was spread over the chocolate wafers. If these were ice cream sandwiches they would have ice cream in them already, but this is the Sharp Shopper version.

A second layer of wafers went on the softened frozen yogurt.

Another carton of frozen yogurt was spread over it all.

The final layer was Cool Whip, two 8oz cartons. I sprinkled everything with rainbow sprinkles and wrote with chocolate icing.

The finished cake went in the freezer, uncovered, to set the writing before covering it with foil to save for today. We will enjoy it after our birthday dinner!

Move Out Day

When the front entryway looks like this, it can only mean one thing. It’s move out day. Well, either that or there is/was a gig. In this case it is move out day (week?).

After a year together, the drummer is moving out and on. This is bittersweet for my mama heart.

I am grateful for this year we had together. I am thankful he was able to finally live in a finished room ~ the one he began tearing out his freshman year of high school and was completed during his season of post-high school overseas travel.

I am thankful for his grace over the painting fiasco. (And I just re-read that as parenting fiasco in my head and had to laugh, because it fits, as well.) We still have to fix the paint in the room. And some of our parenting techniques.

This past year I jokingly referred to as my gap year. Having Child 4 around gave me a chance to catch up on life with him we had missed together. He fell through a gap in our family as the older siblings were leaving and the youngers were arriving.

We had many conversations over breakfasts and coffees. We went hiking together and shared stories and laughter and tears. We grew. This year brought much growth for us both.

Having a nineteen-year-old in the house helped me to reconnect with my nineteen-year-old self. It helped me with the Certificate 2 work that I completed in May. It helped me to name the moments when the story of my nineteen year old self was struggling with my current parenting role.

This year brought much healing. I never dreamed at the beginning that we would be here at the end. We are here.

It is time. It is time for number four to launch. I look forward to impromptu drop-ins (his, not mine) for last-minute breakfasts, coffees, laundry, conversations. I look forward to showing up for local shows to watch my favorite drummer play.

Most of all, I look forward to what the future holds for this amazing man I am proud to call Son.