Dark chocolate, wine, nature, invitation to embrace my calling, I am seen by my children this Mother’s Day and every day. I feel loved all year long by the best kids. I do not need a specific day to remind me.
Still, they show up with surprises. Some with their presence, some with a text, some with a call. Loaves of dark chocolate babka (not pictured) draw waves of laughter, because Baab. Of course it is a fitting type of Mother’s Day specialty bread.
We tear into it together with delight. Then bemoan our stomachs being full of chocolate and rich, glutenous bread.
I have learned to rest on Mother’s Day. I have come to a place of deeper healing and kindness in my mothering story. What once was a struggle has become a challenge, an honest one, at that. Engagement with my narrative has brought deeper healing to my heart.
I have learned to repair with my children. They extend grace upon grace upon grace.
We laugh and cry and discover more inside jokes. Older siblings heal through youngers, as they name similar feelings and childhood anxieties and process them together. It is a beautiful mess.
So on this day set aside to honor mothers, which can feel fabricated and false, I marvel at the booty arranged on the table. My people love me well. They love me with their thoughtfulness and presence. They love me by feeling freedom to celebrate with their other mothers. Oh, how I love the others who mother them.
It brings me deep joy to see my adults living their lives in freedom as individuals. Whether with me in person or by text or by call or in spirit, the space we give one another is a gift. There is big space.
Now I do not want Mother’s Day to end. I want it to last and last, and in many ways, it does. Every day feels like Mother’s Day.
I look forward to a card arriving in the mail this week. I anticipate goodness with a son and his girlfriend joining us for a favorite dinner on Wednesday. The sun goes down on the day, and my heart feels full and so very blessed.
The man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father. . . Proverbs 29:3
Evil people are trapped by sin, but the righteous escape, shouting for joy. Proverbs 29:6
There is much ambivalence surrounding today’s word. I feel weary, not joyful. I am not doing well at slowing down and living in the moment, though this journey with my art journal is helping.
As much as I tried to find a different prompt, joy stuck. It helped that I knew the image I was going to use for the title. It also helped that I planned to use only the paint colors gifted to me by my friend, Kim, duringCertificate 2training.
I looked up some former posts on joyto stir my heart or at least help me remember. I set off on an early dog walk, hoping to beat the rain in the forecast and gather some inspiration to create something when I returned.
While walking, Kim came to mind, so I called her, expecting to leave a voicemail. Instead she picked up, informing me that she was preparing to teach a college class. I fought back the feeling that I was interrupting something, because she chose to answer and has good boundaries surrounding her phone.
She wanted to say hi and had her students say hello to me over speaker phone. That made me smile and brought joy. I told them they were lucky to be sitting in her class, and I wished I could be there.
Continuing on, I entered the community garden to see if any butterflies were resting on the flowers. There was a monarch, and I stood and watched her for awhile. I soaked in the stillness.
Returning home, I pulled out the folders that hold my pre-cut images. I found the word Joy along with a picture of a bird. It was perfect.
I began with a layer of green. Then I went to the kitchen to bake chocolate chip cookies while it dried. That is how today’s page was created. Work a little, paint a little, work some more, glue a little, finish.
My favorite metallic gold went on next.
Yes, that paint is from Kim. It’s so perfect.
I arranged the cut out pictures over the dried page and glued them on.
I began adding color to the page. This is a palette with all four colors ~ turquoise, green, brown, and metallic. There are also several rolls of washi tape that I will use another time.
This is the final result. I love that it is a picture of a bird, that it has a saying that touches my heart in a deep place, and that I worked turquoise into the color scheme in an artistic way! That was my biggest doubt about today’s intention to use all of the colors, the turquoise.This process has brought some joy, but honestly, right now I have a tightness in my chest that I know as tears. I will sit with them for awhile.
Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Psalm 30:5, NLT
I cried myself to sleep last night. Sitting in bed at the end of the day with journal in hand and tea on the nightstand, I began writing.
Where to begin I don’t even know.
Words poured honestly and incoherently from my pen. No editing, no polishing, letters on the page strung together finding their place. I ended with a final question.
What do I need to just grieve?
Tears flowed from somewhere deep inside. From the heart of a much-younger me, cries of loneliness and pain began to escape, first silent, then sniffles, then sobs. I could not be comforted, as much as my dear husband tried. I just needed to cry.
Sleep finally came and with it the dreams. Tornadoes, crowds, a pack of dogs that all looked like Dewey, these were the themes. My overloaded brain downloaded and sorted and shuffled. I woke puffy and groggy and rested.
Coffee left by dear husband in my Seattle School mug replaced the empty tea cup on the nightstand, reminding me of where I was not. It also reminded me of a journaled prayer from earlier in the week,
God, You are faithfully loving me through the work you have given me in this season even as you faithfully love my friends through theirs. As the new group of externs comes together, help me to be content that I am here in H’burg and not boarding a plane to Seattle. Help me to be fully present with my family. I don’t know what you are doing, but I am trusting the work to be so good and kind that you can make a way for me there in my absence.
Shortly after waking, I saw my writing on theRed Tent Living blog. Overwhelmed with joy I linked it to my blog wall with the comment I’m not in Seattle or Austin this morning, but I AM in the Red Tent today. Such kindness for my heart. Stop by for a read. Happy Friday, Friends!!!!
It is a happy Friday. I am thankful for new mornings, new mercies, and for joy that follows the tears.
Not all has been sad in my world. Though the tears often eclipse the smiles, I am trying to focus on the splashes of joy that creep up and surprise me. One of those moments happened last Saturday.
It was a rare afternoon plan that came together at the last minute. Two of our daughters were at a middle school retreat, our youngest was with her cousin, and teenage son was recovering from a band all-nighter.
Steve’s planned weekend away with friends was postponed, leaving him home unexpectedly. We decided to seize the opportunity for a real date away from the house. That is an important part of the equation. This was a last-minute plan.
We decided to visit Crozet, an area Steve had traveled to for work and wanted to return to together. We would do wine tasting, get lunch, and end with coffee, keeping all of the activity together in the same location.
Another key point of this story is that it was bachelorette weekend for our soon-to-be daughter-in-law. I found this out on Labor Day from my adult daughters. They were attending the weekend festivities to be held near Charlottesville.
Our drive over the mountain was relaxing. We marveled over getting away and actually doing something fun. Though overcast, it was not raining, and we enjoyed conversation. When we arrived at the vineyard and pulled into the parking area, Steve received a text from our oldest.
I think you would enjoy being the person behind the counter doing wine tastings for people (my paraphrased version of her words).
I would! Mom and I are at King Family Vineyards to do a wine tasting (my paraphrased version of his response).
Immediately Steve’s phone rang with our daughter’s voice on the other end.
That is where we are right now!
Looking up past the parking area and towards the tasting room we saw her running towards us. At picnic tables on the lawn beyond, with a bountiful spread of food and several bottles of wine, were 18 women celebrating the bride-to-be.
I could not believe it. Laughter was my only response. That and profuse explanation.
I had intentionally stayed off of the bride’s social media sites to avoid creeping on the events of the weekend. I had intentionally chosen a winery that I was certain they would not choose (though if I had investigated further, I would have noticed that this one accommodates large groups, which I learned in the tasting room).
We said hi to our daughters and daughter-in-law (to be) and laughed together at the coincidence. We made it clear that we were there to do our own tasting and would not intrude on their picnic space. We made a crazy pre-wedding memory that could not have been planned.
I know it feels like fall. School is back in session. Football games have begun. Life has resumed routine. Morning drives to school find me facing a blinding low-rising sun in the eastern sky. Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back.
But it’s still summer for a little while longer.
Today I celebrated that truth by stepping off into the deep end of my daughter and son-in-law’s pool and swimming to the other side. It was my first time in the water this summer. The sensation was lovely.
My intention was to try to turn around the funk that seems to have settled around my shoulders, pressing into my heart. Surely water and sunshine would wash it away.
It was worth a try.
Several of my kids and my husband joined me. Others sat on the edge. We talked and laughed. We played games.
It was a relaxing space to regain perspective.
I wish I could say I left my troubles at the bottom of the pool with the leaves that have begun dropping, but it is not that easy. I wish I could say that I have leaned from Dewey to just live in the moment.
I am still practicing and being given plenty of opportunities to do so.
This afternoon brought laughter and connection and escape. It brought exercise and fresh air and a son-in-law who grilled hamburgers while we swam in his pool.
It brought goodness and kindness and another reminder that even when life is hard and unpredictable and wearisome, there is beauty and joy and love.
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.
I discovered the nest last spring while on a walk downtown. I would have missed it completely, had it not been for the erratic behavior of a male Mallard on a nearby patch of mulch. His frantic quacking and wing flapping engaged my curiosity, inviting me to move towards him.
A low bush stood at the edge of the sidewalk. There’s nothing to see here! quacked the duck, running back and forth. Through an opening in the branches, I noticed a female sitting on her nest. This was the cause of the male’s display. He was trying to divert attention from his mate and her clutch of eggs. Instead, he achieved the opposite.
This discovery brought me joy, as I walked home. Each day following, I made sure to walk past the nest and check on the duck. One day all that remained were empty egg shells. The ducklings had hatched, and were led away by their mama. It happened so fast. I did not even get a peek.
Mama duck is back again.
I noticed her last week on one of my walks. Since then she has been spotted both on and off of her nest. There is a pile of yellow eggs she is incubating, numbering upwards of nine, maybe ten. I am eagerly watching and waiting for the ducklings to hatch.
Maybe I will see them this year. Maybe not. Maybe I will have to pretend, once again, one of the many duck families down by the stream is mine.
The odd thing about this nest location is its distance from the stream. I imagine the mama leading her babies across the street to the grassy patch alongside the Catholic Church and down to the water. I wonder if she has a route planned out already? I wonder if traffic will stop when they cross?
Make Way for Ducklings much? This certainly isn’t Boston!
The rhythm of nature brings comfort to me. When uncertainty abounds, I know I can walk and check on my mama friend, and she will be waiting, just as I wait. She will be there until she is not. One day she will move on to the next thing and lead her ducks to water. I, too, will do the next thing.
Until then I enjoy the gift of another spring with her. I bask in the simplicity of watching Mama Duck feather her urban nest, as I work to feather mine. I lean into believing what I have, an indentation of soft earth, some downy feathers, sheltering branches, simple foods, a break in the twilight hours, is enough.
Another one has come and gone. Graduation of child 4 from high school took place last weekend. It was a full, emotional time and the chance to be filled with nostalgia, as my thirteen-year-old son was sure to articulate at every opportunity.
There were many finals.
Final concerts, final performances, final gatherings, final awards ceremonies.
There was also a Mama Final.
This is what I call the gathering and assembling of a memory board to display at the graduation party. I fantasize that some more organized mamas have it all together and have been working on the project gradually over the years, having only to add finishing touches here and there for the final display.
Remember those science fair projects and research reports that started with the best of intentions and ended with holding a blow dryer over a paper-mache dinosaur to get it to dry faster the night before it was due? Is it just me?
My process has been trial and error, fueled by pragmatic inspiration. Sadly, my firstborn was not the recipient of a properly-executed final exam. Her display took over most of the dining room, as school pictures of her were hung, illustrating her various awkward stages of growing up. I am grateful that she graded me on a curve for that.
I didn’t discover my method and groove until child number two graduated from high school. Because he was a pianist and giving a senior piano recital, I planned out a memory board to be displayed at the reception that followed.
Not wanting to waste my efforts, the thought struck that if I used a display board and attached decorated scrapbook pages to it, I could later remove the pages and insert them into an album. Armed with this inspiration, I chose to use green and gold, his chosen college’s colors as the backdrop colors and set to work planning out pages.
I did the same for the next graduate, a girl who planned to take a gap year. Her album was recently pulled out to remember and reminisce.
Enter the month of May. Busy and full, I felt grateful that my last day of work left me with two full weeks before everyone else was out of school. I began to focus on the task at hand.
Here is how it played out.
I pulled out the display board stored in my closet from the last graduate.
I started with a blank display board like the one used for school projects.
I collected the boxes of memories that I had saved over the years and began sorting, patchwork quilt style on my bed.
Choosing red, blue, and white as school colors and purple as an accent, I pulled them together with tie-dye and rainbow pixel paper as a background.
I began committing by cutting and gluing pictures to the scrapbook paper as page themes emerged.
Here is an up-close look at the marching band page.
I set aside my perfectionistic tendencies and not good enough voices in my head and just did it. I made something.
After attaching the individual pages to the backboard, I stood the finished project on the table to view a new perspective.
The morning of the graduation brunch, it was fun to have this for people to enjoy.
We celebrated at a park under a shelter. I propped the display on a picnic table bench for all to see, using a potted succulent to hold it in place. One of the other moms provided a journal for friends to write in, which was a wonderful touch!
Afterwards, I organized the pages into a photo album, scrapbook-style.
This is where I removed all pages from the display and slid them into a scrapbook. Here is a sample page from that.
There you have the process for a successful mama final exam. If this mother of eight can do it, you can, too! One of the biggest tips I have is to designate a bin for each child to collect their memories. I plan to write more on this topic soon, but that is a good place to start.