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.
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.
May 1st. May Day. That very last thing I feel like doing is writing a post which is the very reason I am writing. The sound of resignation was named in me today, and if for no other reason, I am proving to myself and to others that I have not resigned. Not yet. I will write.
We all know that means Help me! Right? We know that? It’s the first thought that ran through my mind this morning when I woke and realized it was May first. Not, Look at the beautiful sunshine and a chance to live another day, but rather,
Help came in a delicious breakfast prepared by my daughter, in a timely text from a friend, in a painfully honest conversation full of hard truth with another, in buckets and gallons of gut-wrenching, soul-wringing tears and heart-pounding sobs. It came in music from the neighbor’s house as I weeded the strawberry patch.
It is with me now as I write.
Mayday is from the French, M’aidez. (Help me) I did not know this until I looked up the history. It makes sense. I am glad for those years of French to help me understand. At least I was learning pronunciation when I was not being sent out of class for disruption.
It is risky to ask for help. To receive help from others. To be reached out to and reach back. To feel safe in needing help. It is risky to need.
As I prepare for the final certificate 2 session next week and sit in my story, I am acutely aware of my need for, yet resistance to, help. I can see where resistance was formed and solidified. Where need was weakness and weakness was not tolerated.
I was needy.
Help waits for me at the end of the day in a living room with friends offering to engage hard struggles. I do not have to be alone in what feels too big and scary.
Because inside of me is a 19 year old who is trying to keep it together, and everything feels too big and scary.
I have been pulled behind a boat a handful of times. Most memorable was during my middle school years, when a friend invited me to her family’s lake house for the weekend. She was an excellent water skier, gliding and jumping the wake as I watched, seated backwards in the boat. feeling the warm sun on my legs and face. Her older brother took his turn, as well, stepping it up a notch or two by dropping his skis and doing tricks.
My opportunity in the water was spent struggling to rise up, and after surfacing, unsuccessfully keeping the skis from flying in opposite directions off of my feet. I never experienced the feeling of actually skiing behind a boat, only bumping behind it clumsily until the boat slowed or I let go, whichever came first.
Letting go brought an instant halting and sinking into the water, buoyed by the life jacket keeping me afloat. Bobbing up and down, I waited for the boat to circle back to either try again or climb back in for a break. The waiting brought a strange sensation of suspension between what had just happened and what was coming up next. It was a vulnerable place to be, hanging out in the middle of a lake waiting and watching the other boats and watercraft zip around me.
This is the visual that comes to mind when I describe how I am doing these days. It feels as if I am suddenly sinking after years of being pulled at break-neck speed over and across the water, bumping over and skimming the surface, hanging on for dear life. I have been handling a lot of surface things, feeling the spray of the pace on my face. My arms have grown tired of holding on as discouragement from not being able to quite pull myself up and move gracefully settles in as reality.
The release of the rope has caused me to go deep. At least in the water a lifejacket keeps you afloat as you wait for the circling back. I am not sure that I am wearing a life jacket. The water feels murky, and I wonder how to navigate it. Has the driver of the boat noticed I am not there anymore? Will there be a circling back?
So this is where I am. I am in a slower, deeper place, trying to decide what the next step is. Do I wait to reach for the rope and give it another go or climb back up into the boat for a rest? Do I ask for a tube to be thrown to me so that I can do something that feels both fun and successful while I sort it out?
These are the questions that fill my mind and both energize and paralyze me. So I wait in the deep.
We were talking about the day and about feelings and life. I told him about an upcoming trip that had me feeling nostalgic. He told me about an incident he had witnessed over the weekend that turned on my tears.
He began to apologize. There was no need. He had done nothing wrong. I was feeling my reality. The tears were inviting me into more of it.
Last week we were on vacation. We had a beach day. Every year we take the same lunch in the cooler.
Polska kielbasa cut into slices
Easy cheese in cheddar and American styles
sodas and water
some kind of fruit
When I am well-prepared there are also paper plates and napkins. This year was a not-well-prepared year. We had to live dangerously, risking dropping the can of cheese in the sand or the cracker in the sand, or the meat into the sand.
All to be coated in sand.
There is always a lot of sand. Some people like the added texture. It is a lunch not for the faint of heart. It is the beach.
This year I noticed a can of Cheese Wow! mixed in with the name brand cheeses. My husband had offered to do the grocery run when we arrived in town to start our vacation. For a good $3 less, it was quite comparable.
But you have to say Cheese Wow!
So in the kitchen today, as my tears began to squeeze out of my eyes, I couldn’t hold them back. No matter how hard I tried to keep them in, they came squirting out.
Easy Tears just like the Easy Cheese at the beach. Just as salty, too.
I have a lot of them inside, crashing like the ocean’s waves.
I have decided that this is what I need if I am going to make any movement forward. My word this year is persist, and I had to go back and read the original post to remember, even though it stares at me from across my room each day. Persist.
I am tempted to tip towards the opposite.
Maybe even extreme lethargy
If I am going to make a change, it has to be decisive, yet also kind. That is where the struggle lies. Where is the intersection of rest and productivity? Where is enough?
August brings with it feelings of summer’s end, even though summer is technically not even halfway over! Extended family visits filled June, vacation took July, and back-to-school appointments and band camp are the order of business for August.
Then school starts at the end of the month.
That makes summer feel over, though it runs into September.
This post is not what I hoped it would be. I have been interrupted no less than five times as I settle in to write. Each time brings a dire need from those around me which offers a clue to what is next. Tending to now.
So that is where I will persist. I will continue to tend to my home and the people and things inside of it. I will tend to me. I will persist in writing, even when my inspiration is fleeting, and I feel uncertain. I will do what is next, which, for now, is answering the call of the tea kettle.
I was browsing a neighbor’s yard sale one street over and up around the block. My daughter had discovered it on a dog walk and took pictures of some items she liked. This piqued my curiosity, and I walked over with my husband.
We introduced ourselves, described where we lived, and that is when her face broke into a delighted smile and she called me the Flower Lady.
Yes, I guess that’s me! I would rather be the Flower Lady than the Porch Lady . . . I think.
Our porch is still a work in progress. A slow, but sure, work in progress.
I made my selection and paid for the items ~ a picture for a daughter’s room, a tray for serving breakfast (or working or watching a movie) in bed, and a pair of baskets to use for under-bench shoe storage.
Heading home with my treasures, I pondered her calling me The Flower Lady. It felt strange to be noticed for something, to be seen, to be named. In this season of figuring out who I am and what I like, flowers must be a thing.
I do like flowers. I try with flowers. I do not feel particularly skilled with flowers, though. It is always a bit hit or miss.
My first experience with a potted flower is embarrassing. I think about it every so often with curiosity and attempted kindness for myself and for what I did not know. I was given a Gerbera Daisy at church on my first Mother’s Day twenty-four years ago. Maybe that is why these caught my eye at Lowes one sunny day.
Mine was a beautiful bright yellow with a large and cheerful bloom. I did not know that flowers could be cut from a plant and the plant would keep putting out new blooms. The original yellow flower shriveled up and died, and I did not know to cut it off of the plant. It just sat there looking sad. It seemd to me like a one-hit-wonder, and I did not know what to do. I just left it alone, and that was the end of my first Gerbera Daisy (and yet, the beginning of my eight children!). It was many years later before I understood why it would be someone’s favorite flower.
This afternoon I spent some time outside cutting flowers. My Shasta Daisies were blooming abundantly. I gathered a vase full of them for the porch table. Stepping back, I captured this view and felt happy.
I am a Flower Lady. There is no right way to enjoy beauty, no right flower to choose. From the purple irises that bloom on the east side of the porch in the spring, to the multicolored daylilies that line the east side of the house in the summer, to the clearance hanging baskets of petunias and potted sweet potato vines rescued from the back table at Lowes, to the moonflowers that come up in surprising new places each year, my flowers make me smile.
February 23 is when I first dared speak it. I was at an extra-curricular fair at the high school and connected with a safe sister who teaches there. I knew she would hold my words in confidence while holding me accountable to them. I had spoken them to my husband the day before.
I’ve made the decision to leave Good Shepherd at the end of this school year.
It felt terrifying, yet I knew I was the only one who could make the decision. No one else could do it for me. I needed to use my own voice. Hearing that voice speaking the words aloud stirred a mixture of fear and peace, confidence and uncertainty, joy and sorrow, relief and grief.
There was So. Much. Ambivalence. attached to the decision to end my teaching season.
There were nudges in the direction. I had agreed to two years when I signed on to return to the classroom. This was year four. There were changes going on in my world both internally and externally. There was little margin for the best with all of the good I was doing.
Wrestling with the decision was hard.
It was hard to imagine leaving the students and other teachers whom I dearly loved.
It was hard to imagine finding a replacement for my income.
It was hard to imagine walking by faith and not by sight. It was terrifying, but I knew it was time to step out.
I don’t know what’s next, but I know what’s now.
I penned these words in my journal the weekend I composed a resignation letter. I turned in the letter on Monday morning, and then spoke in person to those I knew needed to hear the words directly from me, not in a memo or through the grapevine. I let them feel their feelings while I felt mine, not rushing through or trying to fix. It was so hard.
Again I wrote,
There are so many feelings inside. So much stirring. With the end of this chapter in sight, I need to be attentive to what is required to attend to the hearts around me and finish well. I am trusting what God has in store for me as good.
Last night was rough when the lights went out and things were still. I began to wrestle with the reality to end my time at Good Shepherd and with adulthood. What about all of the unknowns? Will you be there, God? Of course you will! How can I not trust that you have been and will be?
Holding my decision until an official word from the school office was released was challenging. I longed to write about my version of The End, May’s theme for Red Tent Living, and process on my blog, but the timing wasn’t right. I wanted to honor the timing.
I am glad that I did.
The day that the student intent letter went home with the information that I would not be the classroom teacher in the fall, there were many big feelings from small people, some of whom I had taught for all four years due to the nature of our program. There were feelings from adults, as well.
Today my students found out I am not returning next year. There were lots of feelings and emotions. Next week will be long. I need to trust.
There is much to ponder and process still about how that final week went. It was long. It was good. It was full. It was kind.
A smiling face wished me well at the very end of a particularly long day. It had been a particularly long week that led to a moment where I felt tired and not too fond of mothering. I received both the smile and the words in the spirit offered, though I struggle with Mother’s Day every year.
I’m never having kids! They’re brats, and they don’t listen to you!
My teenage self made this vow that obviously did not stick. Of course kids didn’t listen to their eldest sister, even when she is supposed to be in charge. Especially then. My adult self gave birth to eight children, four of whom have reached adulthood, and four who are still on their way.
I remember being 27, having just birthed my fourth child. It was a ten-pound, four-ounce boy who shocked and surprised us all. Where were you hiding him? asked the midwife. I was not unusually large and had not gained excess weight. I was in love once I regained consciousness and energy.
Baby number four rounded out the bunch, giving us two boys and two girls. I thought it was the perfect number of children and remember thinking I would be content to be finished. People wouldn’t ask if I was trying for a particular sex or if I was disappointed to not have a particular gender or any number of the rude things they feel entitled to chime in about when you have a family of a certain size.
There was one technical difficulty. I didn’t have a voice to express this, nor did my husband have the ears to hear me even if I could. So there was a bind that is still being processed and sorted. We are still finding words for the story of us.
In my 30’s more children came. Four more, to be exact. When all was said and done, eight children were grown in and birthed from my body, one at a time. People ask. That is a lot of pregnancy, birth, postpartum, breastfeeding, diapering, hormones, mothering. A lot.
Eight children is a lot and my hard thing.
Four children was my perfect family size, and I would tell you if you asked. I would even joke that it was so perfect that I did it twice, including baby bunching when I had four kids under the age of five. Twice. It brought goodness, and it brought grief.
I have struggled with my story of mothering. I have cringed at the assumptions made about me by people who have no idea. I have grieved my departure from the lives of my bigs when caring for the littles was all-consuming. I have wept over what I have tried to, but could ultimately not, control.
Then God, in incredible, generous kindness, brought healing to this place in my heart during the final weekend of my certificate training in Seattle.
Rachael Clinton was teaching from Isaiah 61. As she read the passage, I heard these words
Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; Instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy. Isaiah 61:7 (ESV)
My heart was touched in the deepest of places, as I felt a shift from duty to delight, from obligation to honor, from fear to freedom. In that moment I heard God say, I have given you a double portion.
Would Shannon’s mom report to the mall office, please? Shannon’s mom to the mall office.
My heart is in my throat as I step from the carpeted floor of Centerpointe, the Christian bookstore in the mall next to JC Penney, to the sleek tiled floor of the mall’s common ground. Already, time has passed too slowly and too quickly in my search for a preschooler entrusted to my care, not for a few hours a day, but for LIFE.
I am failing at it. I can’t even keep track of ONE small child. How can parents continue to trust me to care for their children day after day? In that moment, all I feel in my brain is the relief that Shannon is found and only gave her first name. What if someone heard that Mrs. McClay had lost a child? I would never be trusted again.
How did this happen?
It was supposed to be a quick, after-work trip to the mall, bringing my youngest child along for some quality time together. We entered through the Walmart anchor end, making the long trek past all of the stores towards our destination at polar opposite.
She noticed the coin-operated merry-go-round and asked to ride it. Not now was my response, because I had no change, and we had places to go. Let’s be honest, my response was usually not now, because, well, just because.
Today we are pressed for time, because I have just gotten off of work, and there are things that I need to look for before heading home to fix supper and get on with the evening. There are always things to get to. Always that next thing.
We enter Centerpointe, precursor to Family Christian Store, and I begin to look in earnest for whatever it is that I need. I enjoy it here, because there is a play area for kids in the back where VeggieTales videos loop and books and toys are accessible, while moms like me peruse the latest CDs and Christian books and tchotchkes.
Shannon is into VeggieTales, these days, so much so that her birthday party was a VeggieTale theme, so I am more than happy to oblige when she asks if she can go to play with the toys.
I scan the CD display, searching for something new, that I know will lift my spirits, though I won’t be able to buy it. I remain lost in thought for a few minutes before returning to reality and heading to the back of the store for my girl.
I find emptiness.
The play area is empty.
Bob and Larry sing silly songs to an empty chair. There is no little girl in sight.
Panic rises in my chest as I run to the front of the store where a cheerful, curly-haired cashier is ringing up a purchase.
Did you see a little girl walk out of the store?
Looking at me with concerned eyes, she shakes her head. She has not seen a child, but she has been busy ringing up purchases. I feel her care and concern as shame washes over me. She is doing her job. I am clearly not doing mine.
It is at that moment, in the front of the store, that I hear the mall loudspeaker calling for me, and I rush out to the mall office.
Scooping Shannon into my arms, I have never been so happy to see a little face.
Well, you SAID I could play with the toys, so I went out to try to find them, but I went the wrong way.
The toys. The TOYS. The merry-go-round. She was asking to go play on the merry-go-round.
We talk it over and realize where she made a wrong turn, and where I made a wrong assumption, and I tell her I am glad that she was able to say her name so that I could come and find her. We leave the mall together with a memory and the huge relief of being reunited.
I have been Shannon’s mom for 21 years, now. I love her and how she has helped me to grow and become a better mother and person. I am realizing that there will always be wrong turns and wrong assumptions, but if we remember our name and ask for help, the reuniting is sweet and the memories are rich.
This is from Shani’s first birthday. Her face captures her essence even at a year old. Those big eyes and that furrowed brow speak volumes. I just want to scoop her up and hold her close again. Love those babies, Mamas!!! Time really does fly. Happy 21st, Little Angel!