Category Archives: memories

Let Go

On the heels of my post about order and how I experience the show Tidying Up, I stand in the kitchen set staring into an open metal cabinet full of games. A mashup of titles from Honeybee Tree to Stratego fill the shelves.

Paralyzed, I stand motionless. This is a familiar feeling when entering a place of downsizing and decluttering. Theory enters my mind. Idealism. Memories.

In theory, I can pull out a game a day, week, or another set time with the family to decide if we really enjoy it, or even play it. In fact, on this unexpected snow day, I could gather everyone around for a fun downsizing activity.

Let’s try playing these board games together and see what we want to keep and what we want to get rid of!

Reality quickly enters the equation, and the energy that would take drains me before I mention the idea. How often do we actually play board games together, anyway?

Idealism jumps in with its voice. It might not be long before another generation of littles is running around here. They might like playing Honeybee Tree, and you might have more patience threading the branches through the little holes with them than you did with your own children.

Memories flood as past, present, and future collide. Art Lotto was a favorite of the first generation of littles. Memory was a game I hoped I could enjoy with my littles as much as I enjoyed my mom playing it with me. I know that missing Stratego piece is out here somewhere. If we get more clay then Cranium could be fun to play again like it was around the table of the Green Street house.

Caught in the undertow, trying to swim parallel to the shore, I pick up an item that is clearly to declutter. It is not a game but a dinosaur kit. I am certain we do not need it anymore. Opening it, I remember that my youngest has an overdue dinosaur project. These plaster of paris pieces will fit the bill perfectly.

I pick up a shallow cardboard box being saved to organize things in a drawer (ala Konmarie Method) and call my daughter to the table to assemble the dinosaur.

The process reminds her of another project, a diorama, also due. She runs to her room and brings down something she has saved since first grade.

I’m glad I saved this. It will work perfectly.

The theme is frontier, and she asks about the Lincoln Logs. I find the bin and bring them to the table. It is like Christmas.

Can I take these up to my room when I finish making the log cabin?

Two projects are checked off of the list, courtesy of items we saved for way too long. It is a good thing we did not get rid of that dinosaur kit, the cardboard box, the old school project, and the Lincoln Logs . . . right?

Hence the bind.

Yes, it is a grace to have those things appear when we need them, but can I trust my needs to be met without having to account and project for every possible option and outcome? Can I release feelings of fear and scarcity to make room for possibility and provision?

Can I let things go?

On the way to school the following day, teenage brother sits in the passenger front seat, headphones on. Noticing the dinosaur in his sister’s lap, he recalls when he got the kit on a family vacation one year. He is the one who cast the pieces when he was ten or eleven years old.

I have no memory of this. None. We laugh and remember more of the story together. I express gratitude for the help he provided these many years later. I think of him at the time he got the kit, older brother of three younger sisters and little guy to four teenage siblings.

No one has an easy place in this family!

The projects are back home and sit on the dining room table. I look at them as I write, allowing myself space for things to be out of place while ordering my thoughts. I do not resolve the game cabinet situation.

Honeybee Tree and Stratego are keepers, for now. Memory is not in the cabinet when I go out to take a picture for the post. I must have let that one go already. The others will hold the space as I work through feelings, practice, and grow in my ability to let go.

27 Years

It is not raining which is what makes the rainbow over the lake even more surprising. Calling to me while grilling lunch, my husband of 27 years and I share the moment. We laugh and take pictures.

It has been an anniversary weekend of surprises, both good and hard, and in these last hours I try to hold it in all that was good while remaining curious about what still feels hard.

Returning to reality is always challenging, but there is something in our story that makes it feel moreso. Our long-distance start and breakneck continuation hold clues to the longing to step out of the whirlwind.

I do not take this space away lightly. So much came together to bring us here. I almost thought it would not happen and held the idea and plan loosely.

Adult sons worked together to hold down the home front while the people still living there pulled together to keep things rolling. Grandparents and extended family filled the gaps. Christmas gifts of food, drink, and sweets were brought along to sustain us.

Friends generously offered a place to land, one of our favorites. We stayed in a different room of the house this year, changing things up. It had everything we needed to enjoy time together, our greatest need of all.

It is a gift to be married to someone who you just want to be with. While we both enjoy adventures, we also love slow days and sharing space and reading and cuddling on the couch with no agenda.

We like to take walks and eat snacks and one of us saves all of the paper bits to paste into a travel art journal. We found a musty antique store and walked through it laughing over memories but not buying any of them.

We stayed off of screens mostly. I posted some links to looks back at anniversaries of days gone by in Facebook and felt gratitude for where this one found us.

Twenty-seven years is not a traditional milestone anniversary. When looking it up, all eyes are on 30, the next big one. While it is good to look ahead, it is even better to be here now. Every year we say, I still do is a big one.

This year’s celebration was one to savor and revel in. While acknowledging that difficulties and disappointments may arise during our time away, we also felt the joy of hard work and honesty, and its resulting rest together.

Mere hours remain until our return to reality. There is clean up and packing and ending the time well. I smell breakfast cooking and realize that I have skipped yoga time to write, and I am okay with that.

There is deep gratitude for the goodness we shared here. There is joy of anticipating seeing the faces we love and beginning the first full week of the new year with them.

Hanging Dresses

They hang from a curtain rod in the laundry room. They have been hanging there for over a week. Left to dry after being carefully washed, they have been dry for days. They have come to  represent a symbolic hanging on to all that happened over wedding weekend.

There is still much to process.

I say this out loud, and my husband asks for specifics. What do you still have to process?

Isn’t all of life a process? Will I ever be finished? I answer lightheartedly, because though I feel the weight of feelings, specific words evade me.

Folding laundry, I look up at the hanging dresses, grateful for what they symbolize. Just as I was clothed for my daughter’s wedding in an outfit carefully curated, so I was for my son’s, in a different way.

My metallic-colored, sheath-style Mother of the Groom dress was a Ross find over the summer. I knew it was the dress, and that by fall it would look even better on me as I tended to healthier eating and exercise habits.

A girl can dream, right?

Jewelry was found at a local consignment shop for under $15. A sparkly $6 scarf from TJ Maxx, a $10 purse from another consignment shop, and free sandals from my closet brought the entire look in at under $75.

I consider this a kindness for a season that found us in the midst of a major life change. When our son proposed to his beautiful wife in 2017, things looked a lot different in our world. Maybe the hanging dresses are continuing to remind me of the faithfulness of God in every change. Especially then.

There is enough.

I wore the black dress to the rehearsal dinner with shoes and a sweater from my closet. It was found, along with a sparkly necklace and silver purse, on a seasonal clearance sale at a consignment shop for $18, total.

I write of costs and consignment shops and looks, because I want to remember. I want to remember that even in seasons of uncertainty there are reasons to celebrate. Maybe especially then.

I want to remember that there is room for creativity and expression and for thinking outside of the box when finances are tight. I do not need to worry about what to wear. I can consider the lilies.

My son and daughter had a beautiful wedding weekend. There is more to share slowly as it unfolds in my heart, and I find more words. I am thankful for those of you who have been with me behind the scenes as life returns to what has never been normal. Part of this return should probably include taking down the dresses and putting them away.

Here is a peek at the wedding day. There is a bit more sparkle to my hair than there was 4 1/2 years ago at my daughter’s wedding. I love it.

 

Three (More) Years

 

Morning coffee at my parents with my uncle. Glad to be here while my heart misses there. #allendercenter #theseattleschool #morningcoffee

This update graced my Facebook status Saturday morning. With a full heart I continued to wrestle and sort out all the feelings surrounding the Externship program and not stepping into it this year. Among hugs and sympathetic remarks, a dear friend commented, Give it three more years.

Though an inside joke for us, in that moment I realized that I had grown, am growing, will continue to grow through this process! My ability to read and hear her words as a statement of hope and not despair was a huge indicator that good work is happening in my heart.

The last time she mentioned three years , I was not hopeful. I was angry, stuck, and lost. I felt forgotten and left behind. Now I believe that I am right where I belong, and that it is a good place. I know that three years will look both better and worse, and that I can plan and dream but there are no guarantees surrounding outcomes.

Earlier this week another friend texted a picture that she took during my first weekend in Seattle. We were at the market downtown enjoying Sunday afternoon together before my flight home.

I was caught off guard by how well the image depicted exactly how I was feeling the moment it came through. Wistful, longing, ponderous, contemplative. All of the above. I remembered how I felt in that moment as I let settle all that had stirred in me after that first weekend.

I remembered her kindness to offer space while showing me all of the best downtown places and sharing her beautiful heart with mine. It was such a kind time. Neither of us knew what we were stepping into at the beginning or how it would look in the end.

I only know that she and her husband were the first I told I was considering the program. I was curious to see if they would be willing to host me. They enthusiastically cheered me on, welcoming me into their home and life on the realest of real terms. This family became mine as they graciously opened their home and hearts each of the four weekends.

We sat together on Tuesday, separated by thousands of miles, joined by technology for a brief time of texting as I responded to the picture. I expressed gratitude for her following the prompt to send it to me. It was perfect. She jumped in as we caught up on life and shared heart space in the midst of mothering.

Three years. I will be 50 then. Another son will be 18 and my youngest will all be teenagers. Things will look very different. That intention sounds promising. It allows space for presence, not wishing away the time but fully engaging it.

None of us knows what the future holds, but I will hold to the hope of three (more) years.

Mother of the Groom

How am I the mother of the groom? How did this happen?

Tears streamed down my face and sobs filled my chest as I curled on the bed in the guest bedroom of my soon-to-be daughter-in-law’s childhood home. Her parents had graciously invited our family to stay with them for bridal shower weekend. Here we were.

It was late. I was tired.

We arrived Saturday evening in time for appetizers and dinner. Wine flowed freely into my glass. The large, gracious house was filled to the brim with family and bridesmaids, all converging to celebrate the beautiful bride-to-be at her shower the following day.

Experiencing Dana’s family space made me appreciate even more all of the times she had stayed in ours. There was a clear difference in size, decor, and number of people, yet she always was gracious about our accommodations when she visited us.

I did my best to avoid comparing and conjuring up stories of what everyone thought of us. This time was to celebrate the woman my son loves with his other family who loves him well. I was grateful to have a weekend of shared space together.

The 321 mile drive from Virginia to New Jersey was worth it, especially since all of my children can now tend their own rest area needs. In an act of brilliance my husband handed each passenger $5 at the beginning of the trip for any necessaries they may require along the way.

When we first met Dana, the not-so-little-anymores were 8, 6, 5, and 3. Now they are 15, 13, 12, and 10. They are all as tall as her or taller. I was struck by that reality as we emerged from the cramped mini van and crowded into the backyard. There were all of these big people. They were mine!

Gathering a plate of brisket, corn, and potato salad, I headed to the dining room where bridesmaids were seated around the table. Listening to their laughter and conversation took me to a young place inside. How could I be the mother of the groom when I felt younger than these women surrounding me? Where did time go?

This feeling is what followed me upstairs to bed that evening. It carried me into the space where my daughters were staying, Dana’s childhood room. A collection of Snowbabies lined a high shelf while her American Girl Dolls rested on another. A shelf of books caught my eye as did the bulletin board full of pictures, my son with her in many of them at various stages from ages 17-24.

All this is what primed my heart for the tears that began to flow, first in the presence of my teenage daughter standing beside me in the room, then with my husband comforting me in ours. Both offered kind space for my feelings that felt so big.*

I woke to coffee, quiche, and preparation for celebration. The bridal shower was beautiful. The joy was real. It followed my night of weeping.

I am here.

It happened because of grace.

*Edited to note that the flowing tears were only from me and not from said daughter and husband. They just kindly did not judge.

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.

 

 

 

 

Tending to Treasure

A family with an old person has a living treasure of gold. ~ Chinese Proverb

Recently I tended living treasure while my parents went out of town. I am blessed to still have three of my grandparents! That itself is worth its weight in gold. One of them lives with my parents, and she is the one I spent time with.

I tease that she is what keeps me at the peak of middle age, since doubling my current age equals hers. She was my age when I was born. We have a long history. Our time together added to our memories.

It is a sacred space, tending the elderly. Recovery from a recent broken hip and fractured pelvis means her mobility is not what it was. We did everything slowly and carefully. When I was looking.

The tricky part came when I was not looking. That is when I would hear movement and footsteps and know that she had gotten up using only her walker without following our carefully choreographed wheelchair routine. I would run to where she was and be met with the words, Don’t let me fall!

She had me there. I was figured out. My plan foiled. That was exactly my intention!

I’m right here. You won’t fall. Maybe we can get the wheelchair? Should we try that?

Our days followed a rhythm of eating, drinking, tending to physical needs, watching Hallmark Channel movies, conversing with visiting friends, playing cards, talking, remembering, trying to remember, repeating the cycle.

I slept on the couch downstairs so as not to miss anything in the night. Even with a radio monitor to alert me, I feared not hearing. After the first night I remembered why I never used a monitor when my kids were little. There were lots of sounds. Then when there were none there was anxiety about why there were no sounds.

On Sunday we dressed a bit fancier. She added sparkly necklaces to accent her pink top. I gingerly ran a comb through her hair, but she would have none of it. Don’t be so careful. Do a good job! So I wet the comb again and brought the more stubborn strands to order vigorously.

Our time together was sweet. It was hard. It was exhausting. We took a lot of naps.

There were things that I brought that I did not need. Yoga mat, computer for blogging, art journal supplies, and coloring items all went unused. My Bible and journal were the only items I opened briefly.

Tending treasure requires attentiveness in any stage of life, for isn’t all life a treasure? Whoever you are tending to, old or young, healthy or sick, hold onto the moments. Be present. There are no guarantees that we will all make it to old person status. So let’s seize our time together now.

And while we are at it, let’s practice being who we want to become.

Goodbye, Costco

A week ago I met Steve at Costco. We each needed items. Him for work, me for home. Since its opening in our town over 20 years ago, we have held membership through the school. This is one of the perks the move to a new career leaves behind.

Walking through the store last Friday, and unspoken sadness surrounded me. This is our last time to be in this space, this way, together. Many times we have met up to combine errands and grab samples. Sometimes a small person was with us. The milestone happened when we were alone, and it felt like a date.

I often make much and more of what is happening in my world. I sensed this was another ending as a boogie board, bathing suits, and a package of tortillas was placed in the cart.

Costco has played a big-box sized role in our family. At maximum under one roof level, there were ten of us living together. Countless Christmas, vacation,  Saturday stock-up, and midweek shopping trips have taken place. I am sure membership could tell us how much money we have spent. I am sure I do not want to know.

Costco prepped me to welcome several babies, but number six stands out most. That winter I needed all of the fruit in the house before going into labor. I remember walking through the pantry on the way to the kitchen after a Costco run and saying, There is so much fruit. I bought all of the fruit. Now the baby can come, because we have fruit.

Then I organized the china cabinet.

In a weird way Costco feels like family. You cannot engage people and a place for 23 years and have it not. But Costco is not family. Or if it is, if I want to carry out that analogy, it is the family we need to take a break from in this season.

It is strange having that door closed to us. It was open for so long. It is time, though. It is time to cut back on all of the spending for all of the deals. I hope to occasionally tag along as a guest to stock up on essentials. Canned chicken, coffee beans, dog and cat food, dog dental chews, and hair care products are all Costco staples here. Maybe I will splurge on the black olives.

So many things are not staples, though. Non-essential. Too many of those items find their way to our cart. For now it is all about essentials and all about saying no to the Costco draw.

Good-Bye, (for now), Costco! How we will miss you!

Swinging

Quick! Mom is on the porch swing!

This rare sighting is engaged with buckets of water poured over each other’s heads, while videotaping the action in slow motion. One sister stands on the grass and the other on the porch.

I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

In my childhood days, baptisms took place in the swimming pool as we fully immersed one another, Baptist-style. My Presbyterian children have witnessed differently.

Steve walks past with the mower, and I am secretly grateful he chose to pull it out in this golden hour of the day. This means I will not have to mow, and the grass will not have to be bagged.

The dog scratches at the front door.

One thing we agree on is getting soaking wet!

Soaking wet is an understatement. I remind myself that squealing, soaking girls means outside engagement is happening. We live in a great house in a great space. I am thankful for our yellow house on the corner, always a work in progress.

A breeze blows over me from the east, towards the setting sun.

The dog is brought out and clipped to his leash on the porch long enough to get wet in residual puddles of water left by soaking wet girls. He is then let back inside to shake it off. I hear this through the door.

Somewhere in the midst of it all, my 19 year old son steps out, and we look at each other and laugh. What else is there to do, as he observes the journal on my lap and bears witness to the chaos taking place? There is nothing idyllic about the moment other than the glorious rays of the setting sun.

Pressure on my chest reminds me of more to come. Two days more.

Two days are all that remain of what has been our normal for almost 25 years, Steve going to work each day at Good Shepherd School and Daycare, providing for our family. Over seasons we have worked together. We have worked apart.

I was a working mom, teaching through my 20’s. I took my 30’s off to be home with our children. At the peak of parenting there were eight of them under our roof that needed care. I returned to teaching when the youngest was in kindergarten. I was 42.

I ended my time at Good Shepherd last year. This was my year to regroup and be home; to figure out what was next. I jokingly called it my gap year. Mostly I spent time repairing harm done from times when I could not be there for my son, now 19, who had fallen through a gap in the family and was living with us in his (finally) finished bedroom after traveling abroad.

The year brought such a sweet space of breakfasts and coffee dates and sharing memories, both good and bad. There was laughter and lots of tears. I did not know at the time of Steve’s upcoming mid-life career change. It is probably good. Otherwise I would not have been able to be as fully present to my family and their needs.

Last night’s sleep passed as slowly as the water pouring over my daughters’ heads in the slow-motion videos they created. Insomnia is no stranger to me. Each hour I woke felt like another wave washing over me, as I mercifully fell back asleep. Dreams came in equal waves.

Tonight is Steve’s final program as Administrator of Good Shepherd School. Little Mae is playing recorder and singing and doing all of the things that kids in the programs have been doing for 25 years. Some of her siblings will be there to watch, remembering when it was their turn to sing the Piggy Song or play recorder.

I will remember the programs I directed over the years at all of the various locations. I will remember the peak season when large numbers of students were transported to Lehman Auditorium or Massanetta Springs Conference Center and the smaller ones of late at West Side Baptist where they all began for me.

One blog post is not enough to capture what is stirring in my heart. What do I do? Give a factual update? Share nostalgic memories? How do I honor the blood, sweat, and tears that my husband leaves behind? How do I honor my own?

This day brings both goodness and grief. Isn’t that all of life? Sitting and giving myself time to write is kindness. Allowing the tears to freely flow and be followed by deep sobs is necessary. More words will come in the future, but for now I will sit in the present.

Maybe I will go to the porch and swing.

Tin Roof Sundae

I arrived at my friend’s house exhausted from a seven hour drive. What feels different from the last trip is the intensity of emotional work in addition to the changes and transitions going on at home.

Mid-winter is also not an active time of year. That first trip was an adventure and foray into the unknown. Now I know a little more about what I am showing up for. It is also spring, a beautiful, yet busy, time of year.

I remember when I was a young girl my Aunt Marilyn came to visit us on Nicholson St. in Maryland. She drove down from Michigan. I’m sure I spent the day eagerly anticipating her arrival and all the fun we would have together.

When she finally reached us, her first words were, What a drive. I need a nap. She lay down on the couch for a rest as we waited nearby for any indication that nap time was over and she was rested. (Meaning, any sort of movement whatever)

That is how I felt when I arrived. I set a timer and went to my room for a rest. After 30 minutes of quiet I was ready for a walk. We walked to get ice cream.

It felt good to move after a day in the car, and the company was wonderful. We walked and talked and chose our ice cream.

When I saw Tin Roof Sundae was an option, I knew I had found my choice. There are several stories there about me and ice cream sundaes and where Tin Roof Sundae ice cream enters my story. I also understand better why Peanut Buster Parfaits are my Dairy Queen weakness.

Now it’s time to rest and write and read and talk and transition into what is coming. I am so grateful for a kind space and for kind people who care for my heart and soul so well.

To all of you who care for, have cared for, are caring for me on this journey, know that I am so grateful and hold you close at heart.