Tag Archives: relax

Lump Day

It is mid-week. Hump Day. In navigating my new normal there is still much I have to learn about pacing myself and having realistic expectations for what I can accomplish and what constitutes enough. Our themes follow us no matter where we go. Mine are here in my quiet house with me this morning.

It was a kind gift to wake with my alarm and read my Bible before starting the day. That led to a timely shower and the surprise of breakfast made for me instead of the reverse. Fed, clean, and clothed, I was able to take on the rest of the kitchen routine and pack lunches without being thrown by the unexpected surprises that usually occur between 7:00-7:20am.

Drop-off was smooth-sailing, and the dog-walk uneventful. The brilliant morning sunshine was a welcome lift to my sagging spirits. I recognized the kindness of a canceled plan which opened space for me to tackle an overdue task that has been hanging over my head. It moved to the top of today’s list.

Finishing my evolving morning ritual, I gathered supplies to the table to begin working on an art journaling project. It was fun to plan out and gather the words and images to use. I opened a new package of glue sticks and dug some scissors out of the drawer. Immediately I realized the blades were sticky and squeaky, but I decided to make do rather than extract myself from the table to my bedroom for the good scissors.

The ambient sound of scrapbooking!

A voice from the living-room couch piped up after I had been working for awhile. My son was seizing a few moments of his morning off to read a book he had received for his birthday. The silence of his reading was punctuated by the sounds of my tearing and cutting and gluing.

I even tried not to cut too loudly with these awful scissors!

I laughed. We both have sensitivity to certain sounds and pitches and noises. This caused more laughter and an invitation from him to take a break and watch an episode together in the living room. I accepted and hunkered down on the loveseat. Dewey trotted over and jumped right up, settling onto me for a nap.

Twenty minutes later, I looked at us and laughed, christening the day Lump Day, as we were lumping on couches and not accomplishing much. Then it was time to get moving. He has to work. I have to clean up the art journal mess and sort the rest of my time before picking up kids from school.

OR

I might just keep lumping.

Shhh! Don’t tell.

The original post was edited to include this video shared with me by my baby sis who now mothers her babies every day and knows about songs like this!

Scenes From Seattle, part 3

The following pictures are from my January trip to Seattle. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

All packed up and ready to go. My four-legged little friend wants to join me.

Nothing beats a thoughtful suitcase-surprise!

This is the room waiting for a special visitor to arrive!

My beautiful sister, Deborah, flew in to join me!

This was a favorite space in our room. I loved the fireplace and the footrest. The chairs were comfy, too.

I still had to go to class during the day. Coffee and coloring helped me keep my focus on the task at hand.

Evenings were made for Lavender and Lemon Drop Martinis! Nothing beats a martini with the sis.

Seafood night! Dinners out together were the best. They were the highlight of my day. (Sorry, Group. You were a close second!)

My face when I am sitting across from one of my favorite people ever and cannot believe it is really real. And seafood skewers and wine make me smile, too.

There is so much love in this picture. And so much longing to not be so far apart. And there is also Ubering. That happened.

This is the smile of denial that we are getting ready to board the light rail to the airport. It was too soon to think about saying goodbye.

All aboard! A new experience awaits on the light rail ride to the airport.

A bag of goodies is tucked safely into my satchel. Bath bombs for all! They made it home with zero breakage.

I always appreciate the space for sitting with coffee and reflecting on the weekend as I wait in the airport for my final connecting flight, following the red-eye.

I left this,

. . . and returned to this!

Productive Stillness

I seize a moment when the clouds part and sun shines to run outside to the strawberry patch. The ground, softened by days of rain, offers up its weeds with no resistance, though an occasional tiny berry is mixed in and sacrificed to their twisted, choking growth.

Extracting myself from the tasks at hand inside is a challenge, but sunshine, fresh air, and moist soil draw me to the present, and white flowers beckon me to notice them. I stop and breathe, accepting the invitation to a bit of productive stillness.

strawberry plants

This is where it started, the inspiration to write for a blog outside of my own, in the strawberry patch. Each year reminds me of that. That, and a number of other things, like the fact that the strawberries were planted by my firstborn when she was still a teenager at home, and the first plants came from my dear friend’s yard before her life took a traumatic turn, exiling her from that home and yard.

There is a fence around the strawberries now. It is a nod to trying to keep the dog from trampling them, but it’s not working very well. Dewey has no problem in leaping with excitement over the low barrier if one of his doggie friends happens to be passing by or if he feels a need to defend his turf.

strawberry patch

It is so imperfect, the place that calls me back each year, rising from the ashes, defying proper gardening techniques. Each year I think, I’ll do better at tending this patch and putting it to bed when the season ends. Then I don’t do better. Each year strawberry grace meets me again.

I don’t know what this year’s yield will be or when we will eat our first shortcake or if there will be an attempt at jam. That remains to be seen. What I do know is that today I was met in the strawberry patch with kindness and grace and hope.

Friendship Friday ~ Making it Happen

I planned a date night.

This may not seem like a big deal to some, but for me it is. For me it is saying, I really care about spending time together, I know Steve will enjoy this, I know I will enjoy this. Even though there are 1,001 reasons to not make it happen and then feel disappointed, I am going to TRY.

When I saw that Second City was returning to JMU, I wanted to go again with Steve. We attended a show a few years ago with No Strings Attached, and it was fun. I participated in a Second City workshop in Chicago while chaperoning a school trip for my son and learned a lot.

I desired to do this together.

Several weeks ago, I checked out the tickets and pricing. Seats were going fast. There were a few left scattered here and there, mostly in the balcony. Asking Steve what he thought about going, and not hearing clear Let’s do it! in his voice, I let it go.

Several weeks ago there was also great letdown as a failed communication between us resulted in an anticipated longing falling by the wayside, unmet. I struggled through deep disappointment and wrestled with how to let go of past hurts while communicating present ones honestly.

It was difficult to admit to myself and my husband that I stuff pain and quickly say, It’s okay, or It’s no big deal, when it’s not and it is. I had to acknowledge my hurt, disappointment, and true feelings without accusing, blaming, and attacking. It was a difficult time. We are still learning to communicate honestly and to hear one another in a safe space.

Steve can’t read my mind.

I minimize desire. I long for more together time but don’t take action. I wish for connection but grow busy with distraction.

It was time to make something happen.

Last night, out of curiosity, I logged onto the theater website to see what, if any, seats were left.

The seat map showed two yellow squares at the edge of a sea of x‘s. And by sea, I mean every other seat was marked taken.

Two seats at the end of a row! A countdown timer at the top of the laptop screen ticked away the minutes I had to make a decision while Steve was out walking Dewey. Two seats. At the end of a row! (Can you tell that part in itself was HUGE for me?) The last two seats. My favorite spot in any row.

I took them.

Almost immediately, contempt and sabotage began to creep in.

What did you just do? That was stupid. You don’t even know if you can get a babysitter at this late notice. Steve didn’t act as if he wanted to go when you mentioned it before. You just spent money on something that you don’t know will work out.

And on and on.

I began my usual pattern of faux-not-caring. He can always take a friend if we don’t get a sitter. I can be here with the kids. It doesn’t matter if I go or not.

It mattered.

I tried.

I told Steve when he returned and was met with a positive response. He helped me begin looking for a sitter, which in the end I secured.

Thanks, Mom and Dad!

So tonight is a real date night, not that popcorn and Parenthood at 9:30pm doesn’t count. It’s the fighting forward for fun together that doesn’t just magically happen because I wish it would. It’s being in the moment in our marriage, knowing that it is worth it.

We are worth making it happen!

Reset Switch

I visited my sister last week. Laptop tucked away in my bag, I was certain that there would be time to blog. To write. To process. To think.

There was. In a way. Just not in the way that I expected. I didn’t come home with piles of posts and tons of clarity. I didn’t curl up on the back deck with coffee or wine and my laptop. Only with people.

Isn’t that the way that it is, yet I continue to fight against the flow. The unexpected.

It’s exhausting.

So processing looked more like long walks alone on the footpaths through her neighborhood. It looked like 20 minutes in the hammock together before a teen needed attention. It looked like face-down on a massage table drifting off to sleep as the deep tissue in my body was kneaded into oblivion.

Processing was remembering with someone who was there with me and listening to what my unexpected tearbursts were trying to say. It was viewing redemption in those strange places, small spaces. It was texting an adult daughter with a tough memory of us and being open to her response.

How did we survive 14? DID we survive 14?

Because being around fourteen triggers fourteen. Fourteen was hard. Is hard.

Processing involved riding a roller coaster with fourteen and breathing through the twists and turns and upside-down loops and remembering that I am held securely. It was pushing through my own discomfort to love, because love remains close through the hard and uncomfortable.

Processing was the newsflash that I should probably not do one of those tough mud races, because I barely survived a muddy hike. It was being curious about why I felt so stuck and overwhelmed. It was gratefulness for a teen who could drive home from the excursion with me curled up in the backseat crying.

A week ago I sat with my sister in her master bath, pulling out cleaner from under the sink to scrub the tub so that she could soak a sore foot. She had experienced minor surgery and was recovering from that with a house full of family. We were trying to care for her.

As I sprayed and scrubbed, her voice spoke out tentatively, Sooo, I have someone who comes and cleans the house for me. She will be here tomorrow.

Tearburst.

Yes. I burst into tears at that revelation.

Curious.

That’s great! (Because it really is. She has the ability to bless someone with a job and to bless herself with the knowledge that once a week her house will be clean and the pillows on the couches lined up at attention.)

We talked about it. The feelings. The tears. The hard in both of our lives. The graces we give to ourselves.

Sure enough, Wednesday morning came, and with it a smiling, cheerful woman, cleaning caddy in hand. Steve and I crossed paths with her while exiting the house to take the younger bunch to the movies. When we returned the house was lemony-fresh, the reset switch pressed for another week.

I smiled and breathed in the goodness and grace.

Rest Awhile

The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them,
Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest awhile.
For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
Mark 6:30, 31

I know the feeling of many coming and going with no leisure even to eat.

I was given that leisure and space this weekend with the offer of respite at my friend Angela’s house. From Friday to Saturday evening there was space and quiet and time to think and read and write. And watch a bluray movie on her massive TV.

I slept. I read an entire book. All the way through. I wrote. I rested. I listed. I sat by the fire. I listened to music.

It was a gift.

The disciples ended up being followed and recognized in their desolate place, leaving them with 5,000 hungry people to feed. Jesus worked the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes and then put them in the boat.

Soon I will get back into my boat and be launched out onto the water of a new week.

In that launching I will try to hold onto grace and peace and gratefulness for the time I was able to rest awhile.

Brilliant Beauty and Being Included

I’m sacrificing the comfort of my own bed and the predictability of my life for a weekend away with friends.

This was the beginning of my journal entry Saturday morning.

When the invitation came electronically through my phone asking for dates that might work, I felt conflicted.

There is always so much going on that it is never a good time, and yet, sometimes space just needs to be created.

I had one open weekend. One possibility. It wouldn’t hurt to try. At worst, it wouldn’t work out; at best we would be away from our daily grinds basking in the joy of friendship.

The date was a go, and emails began to move, making plans.

Stuff began to surface in me that I could no longer stuff down.

What am I going to contribute?

I am gifted at caring for a multitude, how do I care for me?

Is this even worth it?

My husband, ever supportive, reminded me that time away with friends is always worth it, so I persevered.

Saturday morning, looking through the window of my room at the morning sunlight casting itself brilliantly over the colorful leaves of the tree just outside, I felt thankful.

Thankful for being included. Yes, it was absolutely worth it.

Sweet-Smelling Fragrance

Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. . .

Today seemed a good one to talk about fall scent, or in the words of my son, foul stenchBoth are correct, actually.

But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom.
But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.
And who is adequate for such a task as this?
2 Corinthians 2:15,16

The recipe for Fall Scent is found on one of those lost plastic pages in my virtuous cookbook of yore. It involves simmering good-smelling things in a pot on the stove, being careful not to burn all of the water away, thus crusting everything to the bottom of the pot and filling the house with a stench.

It’s a great use for those lemons or oranges or other citrus fruits or even apples that are going bad in the fruit bin. One step ahead of the compost pile.

Fall Scent
1 lemon, cut in half or quartered
1 orange, same
some whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
A bay leaf or two

Squeeze the juice of the lemon and orange into a 2qt pot, dropping the rind in, as well.
Add the other ingredients and fill with water.
Bring the whole thing to a rolling boil, and then reduce to simmer.
Enjoy the scent, adding water as it evaporates.

VERY IMPORTANT! Do not leave unattended. If you smell a delightfully strong scent while you are in another part of the house, RUN to add more water, because the water is almost gone. If you have OCD tendencies, you might want to stick with something safer like diffusing essential oils, because it will drive you crazy wondering if you turned off the stove when you leave the house. Or come up with a ritual for signalling to yourself you have removed the pot from the top of the stove.

Trust me on this one.

I sometimes add apple bits, peppercorns, or other interesting spices to mix it up a bit. This mixture will keep in the fridge for a week or so.

The backstory to fall scent is that when we purchased our yellow house eleven years ago, it was rather run-down and ramshackle. Everything was filthy and old and broken, and the eight appliances that conveyed were from the 50’s.

That’s another story.

There was basic work to be done like updating the wiring and waterproofing the basement and refinishing the floors and cleaning. Oh my, the cleaning.

We would come over to work, and I would brew a pot of fall scent to mask the musty smell and try to make it seem home-y.

The following fall when we were more settled and had lived in the house for several months, I put a pot of fall scent on the stove. My then-little bigs got home from school one afternoon and the first thing child 3 asked was, Are there workers here?

The scent was associated with the work being done on the house. And now you know. . .

. . .the rest of the story.

I’m off to parent four more not-so-littles and move on through the day.

And who is adequate for such a task as this?

Enjoy your fall day, Friends!

Summer Reading

I love to read.

I have to start with that, because as much as I love reading, I struggle to carve out the time for it. Right now there is a stack of five books on my nightstand, not including the Nook holding several more within its memory.

That said, I had the opportunity to select a semi-random book earlier this summer, as Steve and I wandered into a used bookstore while on a weekend getaway.

Used bookstore.

Are you overwhelmed, yet? I certainly was! When Steve told me to choose a book to read, I had no idea where to begin. I had to fight the urge to be completely overwhelmed by the amount of words, thoughts, and facts contained within the pages of the books on those shelves.

I get weird like that, sometimes!

My eyes landed on a thick book by a familiar author, Pat Conroy. Having read Prince of Tides, I thought I would see what his book Beach Music was about. The back cover sang its praises, and I was beginning to feel anxious about the time I was taking, so I selected it and tossed it onto the counter.

Here. This one, I guess.

Spoiled by having both Booksavers and Green Valley Book Fair close by, the “deal” of half off the list price still seemed steep. $8.00?! Ok. I need something to read today.

Returning to our hotel, we took our books to the pool and began reading and relaxing, something that had become foreign to me.

Beach Music begins tragically, then wisks the reader to Rome, a bonus, seeing as how I have actually been there. I could experience the scenes, sights, smells, and sounds even more vividly with the help of the author’s descriptions.

What I enjoyed most about this book was its richness of writing and its focus on story. The story of the characters. The back story to the tragedy. The way stories intertwine and weave together. The way that how we choose to reject, rewrite, or embrace our story affects us and those we love (and hate!).

All of this is covered in Beach Music.

Family. Friendship. Love. Loss. Betrayal. Redemption. Grace. Understanding. Life. Sickness. Death. Grief. Joy. It’s all there.

Passages like this are what draws me in to this writing. . .

American men are allotted just as many tears as American women. But because we are forbidden to shed them, we die long before women do, with our hearts exploding or our blood pressure rising or our livers eaten away by alcohol because that lake of grief inside us has no outlet. We, men, die because our faces were not watered enough.

And this. . .

In the house Dr. Pitts (the stepdad) exploded after I had taken Lucy (the boys’, now men’s, mother) to her bedroom and she had recovered strength enough to take a sip of water and change into her nightclothes before she fell asleep. (Lucy is dying of Leukemia and has just had a collapsing episode on the beach.)

“I have something to say to you boys,” Dr. Pitts began as he poured himself a tumbler full of scotch. “I know you love your mother and I know she loves you. But you’ll kill her faster if you don’t get control of yourselves. All of you need to learn to be part of a room without filling it up. You need to learn to be in a scene without being the whole scene. You don’t need to be the funniest, the wildest, the craziest, the weirdest, or the loudest person on earth to get Lucy’s attention. She loves all of you. But there’s too much commotion around you boys. I demand that you quit turning every single thing into an event. Everything is over the top when you guys are around. Learn to relax. To muse things over. To look at things calmly and at a normal pace. Why is that impossible with you McCalls? Why must every day seem like a home movie from the Apocolypse? Your mother needs rest from all of this. She needs quiet. . .Things move from an event, then a spectacle, then an extravaganza. You attract noise and disorder. You’re all in love with what’s bad for Lucy. You’re killing her. You boys are killing what you can’t stand to say good-bye to. . .”

IMG_1242

So that is what I was reading in the backyard as I rested in my mess.