Category Archives: mothering

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.

 

Focused Writing

It is God’s privilege to conceal things and the king’s privilege to uncover them.
Proverbs 25:2 (NLT)

My day began with these words. Pondering the privilege of discovery I wrote, Jesus, what will I discover today? Little did I know. It is only half over.

This day is full of mixed feelings. My heart is acutely aware of its longings and desires and the difficulty of being finite. As dear friends converge in Seattle to begin Externship training and others gather in Austin in anticipation of the Brave On conference, I am here doing what I have been called to in this season.

I have been called to stay and uncover what it is God has for me in this place, under my own roof, with my own people. Instead of packing a suitcase and saying goodbye, I am unpacking our story and saying, I’m here.

Here looked like quite an adventure on the ride to school.

Teen son was up and about early enough to drive. I sat in the passenger seat and Little Mae was in the back. The careful drive began.

At a slow intersection while stopped at a sign, student driver put the car in park to adjust his seat. There were no other cars around, it was not a dangerous situation, but my anxiety began to mount.

Opening my mouth to begin a lecture, another sound came from the back seat. A frantic, terrified, gutteral scream rose from somewhere inside Little Mae. My heart stopped as I looked out the side window, fully expecting to see that we were the victims of a car-jacking.

SPIDER!!!!!

Turning in the direction of her scream I saw a huge spider on the back of my headrest.

Pass me a tissue.

I spoke in the calmest of voices, fully expecting a lunge, scurry, or sudden movement from the spider and the ensuing chaos that an inexperienced driver and panicked 10 year old would bring.

I was not thinking that I would have to feel the spider through the tissue as I gripped it gently and tossed it out my window that, somehow, I had rolled down. I felt it. I did not squish it.

A collective sigh released from us all as the driver took the left he had planned. We debriefed the series of events and how good it was that the car was stopped and not driving. We laughed and maybe cried (not the driver), and my heart continued racing, flooded with adrenaline, well beyond morning drop-off.

Everyone made it safely to school. I made it home. The day continued.

Washing breakfast dishes, I looked up to see a pink flower blooming on the hanging plant above the sink. It is a transplant of this one and a special sign to me. I posted its picture on social media and a friend commented tradescantia/spiderwort .

Of course! Spider redemption, if only in word form. I had to laugh as I rejoiced that I now had a focus for today’s writing.

Change of Plans

I’m sorry I don’t have any quarters.

The cashier apologizes while fishing through her drawer for $.58 in coins to add to the dollar bills handed me as change for my $6.42 purchase. I quickly pass the paper money to my husband and prepare my hand for the pile of coins she is counting.

That’s okay. I actually prefer dimes.

I am speaking truth. I do. Dimes remind me that I am seen and that there is enough ~ enough money, care, resources. I watch for them and notice where they appear. On the floor of a closet I am cleaning, in the dryer, on a walk, there they are. I collect them.

We say goodnight as my husband, dog, and I exit the neighborhood Dollar General. I am grateful for its re-opening in time for the start of the school year. It is my go-to for last-minute necessities that arise. Along with the needed item, I feel care in my hand, heavy with coins.

Would you keep these coins in your pocket for me until we get home?

My husband obliges, and I pick up the pace, eager to see how many dimes I will find when we arrive.

This Sunday night is different than last when I was anticipating back to school week for my children. They headed back to school, then one returned to do school at home this year. With this change of plans came uncertainty, sitting in the tension between withdrawl from one program and application to another.

I know this  unexpected turn of events is for the best this season. That is how we do it, year by year. I am thankful for resources, space, and time. For knowing my focus.

I am thankful for an unexpected handful of change containing no quarters and four dimes reminding me again that I can trust.

All will be well.

 

Write Something

It was on my list of three fun things to do over the weekend along with take a long walk and yoga. Sitting in the corner of my room with journal open ready to write, I wondered, Is this really fun?

What is fun for me?

A voice asked me over Sunday’s lunch, What do you want to do today, Mom? and my head filled with white noise.

Close my rings.

That was a true answer. I have determined to be more diligent about closing my exercise and activity rings consistently. I do not know that I would classify not wanting to be shamed by Apple technology as fun, though.

I read a book for awhile before falling into a deep Sunday afternoon sleep full of crazy dreams. I woke to another load of works of necessity laundry to put in the wash due to sickness that entered the house on Saturday.

What is fun for me?

The question returned upon waking.

It is fun for me to be in my house with no expectations or things to manage for awhile. It is fun to have alone time. I am just not certain what to do with it.

Fun often evades me. It is elusive. I lost it in my story during a season of drastic change. It was packed it up and thrown away along with other evidence of my previous life. I said Hello to work, leaving fun far behind with the power tools and kitchen chairs.

Survival chased fun from the room. I learned to manage and contain it, to banish my need for it just because. Now I am not sure if the things on my fun checklist are fun or basic needs.

I lost my fun in work and goals and in managing other people’s. How do I find it again?

Over the weekend I was given the invitation to be reconciled to fun and was curious as to how I would receive it. In a moment of inspiration I invited daughters to walk to Kline’s for ice cream. This week’s flavor is Red Raspberry, and I had a coupon.

I have not shared my struggle with fun. They live it, though. They see. There is rare laughter and merriment as we amble down the sidewalk towards downtown.

This way mom can say she did something fun with her kids this summer before school starts back up next week.

I receive the statement in the spirit it is offered, with humor. These girls are quick-witted and fun-spirited. They are truth-seers and truth-tellers. We get our ice cream and walk home.

You look happy.

A daughter enters my room as I finish writing this post. I look up at her, surprised. She observes and names what I cannot see in myself. I am having fun as I write something.

Writing is fun for me. That is why it made the list. I determine to make more time for this fun, more time to write.

Starting now.

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

Duckling Drama

The ducklings hatched while I was away with a friend last weekend. My husband sent a picture. It was more than I got last year which was a live view of an empty nest with a few broken eggshells. I felt grateful and said as much to him.

Last Sunday evening, I walked Dewey downtown to the water to see what I could see. There were a mama and Mallard wrangling a passel of puffballs. I knew they were mine and kept the dog up on the bridge, away from the activity, watching from a distance.

Late yesterday afternoon, my youngest asked if she and her visiting cousin could walk the dogs. (My firstborn and her husband were in town with the granddog.) I agreed with the caveat that I go with them.

They eagerly leashed the animals and headed outside. I followed close behind.

Can we walk down to check on the ducks?

I allowed them to lead the way downtown. The break in the rainy weather was nice.

From the bridge over the water, we saw a mama and Mallard with three little puffballs. Not far away was a large family of twelve ducklings, tended by their mama and Mallard. Suddenly chaos ensued as one of them wandered too close to the puffballs.

New mama pinned the wanderer to the ground, quacking furiously. With a flurry and flutter of wings, junior’s mama hurried over, giving the protective mama what for for interfering with her offspring. Order restored, new mama returned to her puffballs and the other huffed away with her ducklings in tow.

Following their Mallard, the large family waddled up the hill, leaving behind a straggler, wandering down by the water. When the lone duckling realized he was left behind, a continuous peeping quack escaped his bill as he frantically ran to and fro in the empty space by the water, looking for his family.

It was no use asking new mama for help, though he tried wandering in her direction. She came at him in a fashion that said, I dare you to come closer! Resignedly, he turned back toward the water, still calling for help.

Meanwhile, the large brood had flocked up the hill away from the water towards the parking lot where I was standing,leashes in hand. By this time I had been relegated to dog keeper while the girls sat on a bench watching the duck drama unfold.

Oh no! That duckling is lost! We have to help him!

They proposed the idea of chasing him up the hill, but then the duckling stepped into the water and swam to the rocks on the other side, still peeping and quacking.

I decided to use the dogs to herd the wandering flock back to the water. Leading Dewey and Wren toward the large brood, we watched as they ran back down the hill and stepped into the water. They began to glide toward the duckling, his peeping quacks still out of reach.

Excitedly the girls cheered the family and duckling closer, hoping to witness a reunion. Rain began falling in a light drizzle. I, too, was hoping for  reunion and resolution of this duckling drama rather than a lesson in survival of the fittest.

Suddenly there was a burst of speed as the duckling made connection with his family and came flying across the water. Literally. I have never seen a duck swim as fast as this little one who was making a mad dash to reunite with his raft.*

On the shore we cheered, then turned to head home.

* a dense flock of swimming birds or mammals

Mystery Solved

Mom, I don’t know how to tell you this, but I got the hanging basket for my girlfriend.

My son’s words rang through my ears along with the thought, I just blogged about them! Mortification followed close behind with shame bringing up the rear.

Laughter erupted from one who jumped from the table and dashed to the computer furiously typing in the search engine bar.

Mom just blogged about those flowers!

No, Please! Don’t look it up. I just need to delete the post. I knew I shouldn’t have written about them! Don’t read what I wrote. Please. I’m serious. I am so embarrassed!!!!!! Don’t look it up!

Sometimes I can laugh at myself, but this wasn’t one of those times. I was in a panic. The nineteen-year-old inside of me felt exposed and out-of-control, two things not tolerated in her. I ran to the kitchen set and began to sob. That wasn’t the best place, so I regrouped and returned to the scene of the crime, the dining room. That wasn’t good, either. Tears erupted as I dashed to my bedroom and grabbed my journal and markers.

It all made perfect sense. A missing piece, hunch, whatever you want to call it clicked into place.

The playful color of the pot and flowers. I knew that orange was girlfriend’s favorite color. Of course they were for her! I am not the only one in this house. I had even wondered, What if this really isn’t for me? What if I am just assuming it is because it is on my step?

So that thought had entered my mind before I dismissed it and blogged about how much I loved the flowers, etc., etc. . . Because I really did.

The tears would not stop. Something had set them off, and it was not even about the flowers. That’s the thing. It was about the girl inside who looks like a 46 year old woman but still has insecure wounds that flare up at unexpected, inopportune times.

And now the internet witnessed one of them. At least all 14 people who read my post. I quickly switched it to private while processing my feelings. It was a huge step to not delete.

My son came to talk with me. I explained that it was not about the flowers and all about my 19 year old self processing a wounded place inside, exposed by the flowers and laughter. He listened and gave me a hug. I allowed more tears to fall.

Engaging the topic more, we came to a place of understanding, and I rested in a mystery solved.

I found the other family member to clarify that I was not upset with the laughter, and the tears were not about or because of them. It was me. Sometimes I can even laugh myself. I am moving closer to being able to laugh about this situation now that the intensity of feeling has waned, and I have had space to sort out what was happening inside. The person I freaked out at was kind and understanding.

I sat in a place of grief with myself for other times when similar flare-ups occurred when my adult offspring lived at home. I am sure there were many irrational mom freak out moments that caught them off guard and hijacked moments of laughter with buckets of sobs and tears, turning them into all about mom moments. I was not aware enough to recognize and name what was happening inside like I am getting better at doing now.

I still have a long way to go.

I am learning and growing and circling back to the nineteen-year-old inside. She is still there needing care and attention, and it is time to show up and tend to her.

And in the end, I reinstated my post as public, making only minor changes in wording. I am keeping the basket on the porch until the lovely girlfriend is able to pick it up and take it to her house where it will bring playful beauty and joy as intended.

I am grateful for the gift of its presence and story to help heal another space in my heart.

Resisting Routine

I am pondering and exploring my struggle with routine, namely, my resistance to it. I know that if I were teaching right now I would be reading to my students as they ate a snack. We would then pack up and spend fifteen minutes preparing for the school day to officially begin. From there the day would roll on in blocks of time, each with a specified task, until the end.

I am good with an others-imposed work routine. I know the benefits of following a plan to accomplish the things. It allows you to focus on what is being done in the present with the assurance that the next things will get done in their time. This saves physical and mental energy.

The struggle is with self-structure. I am a finite person with limited resources and must choose the best way to use them when there are so many good ways. And there are teachers. I am abundantly familiar with online and print teachers and coaches who encourage the use of personal routines.

The challenge is in the doing and the practice.

As I type the above sentence, I am struck with what I lack, and that is practice. Much of my life has been spent in overdrive, rushing from thing to thing with little intentionality. When others-imposed requirements are in place, I can follow those. If they are required to collect a paycheck, all the better.

When it comes to ordering my personal time or working on things to benefit myself, plans become muddled. This keeps me frozen and stuck and often at the mercy of others and their routines.

Once upon a time I stood in the kitchen of a new friend with my seven children scattered around. I felt like the biggest poser as she asked me questions about homeschooling (I didn’t) and home management (What’s that?).

At the time I was in a stay at home season. I had discovered Flylady somewhere online, and she rang familiar from my childhood with a mom who was a self-proclaimed SHE. I mentioned Flylady to my friend, most likely to have some sort of answer for her. As much as I tried to keep my home, there were more pressing matters like lots of children to keep.

Years passed.

Last fall we sat together in my living room, reconnecting intentionally to catch up. She had big changes on the horizon. During the course of our conversation she mentioned Flylady in a laughing way, something or another about not keeping up.

She reminded me that I was the one who had told her about Flylady. This reminded me about the whole others bearing witness to our lives thing (just now I typed withness and find that slip interesting.) I felt a mixture of shame and embarrassment at the woman I was who felt a need to share a system with someone rather than be okay with not knowing what I was doing or how I was doing it.

Maybe that is at the root of my resistance. Systems. For years in the midst of my overwhelm and wandering, the answer was always to find a system. The right chore charts, vitamin regimen, exercise plan, date night, home organization system was the answer. These treated symptoms but not root causes.

Having spent years addressing root causes and sorting through the beautiful disruption, it is time to rebuild. I am facing honestly my need for some sort of a routine, no matter how I may resist. I have come to the place where I know it is not the answer but a tool I am ready to learn to use.

So this new year finds me trying to imagine what a consistent daily and weekly routine might look like, with the understanding that even the best laid plans need room for flexibility. What about you, Dear Reader? Do you follow a set routine or plan? What inspires you to stay focused? What gets you off track? I am pondering these thoughts more as I continue moving forward in this new season of life. I would love to hear what works for you! Or not!