Tag Archives: relax

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.

Bird Nest

Sitting on the floor of my daughter’s vacation room, I look through the glass door up at the nest. It is tucked into the balcony rafters. Mama bird has just returned to her babies.

I feel a kinship with mama bird, seeing as I am here this week with my three youngest chickadees. It’s a different vacation dynamic than years gone by.

The last time we were in this space, our unit was divided into a boys’ side and a girls’ side. There were eight of us. Someone got sick.

This year we are four females until Papa bird joins us. Each has her own space. Mine is on a pull-out sofa. Some years that is how it goes. I wanted my older girls to have their own rooms.

It’s kind to have a getaway gifted by the in-laws in the midst of this transitional summer. The change of scenery is doing us good, even if it’s only a different space to eat and sleep and watch Cartoon Network.

For me it’s also doing yoga on my travel mat, reading books, and journaling. It’s laughing with the girls at episodes of Teen Titans and Gumball and crying alone during Inside Out and A Wrinkle in Time.

It’s going for walks in the heat and playing miniature golf on a course where the young man behind the counter taking our money recognizes us from years ago when he was younger and his family came to our house for dinner that time.

We are not far.

Just like that mama bird who swoops down and away whenever I try to sneak out onto the balcony for a closer look, I swoop out and away to my own balcony to read or write. I swoop out for walks.

I always return, just like her.

Unlike her, my babies are old enough to swoop out on their own, as well. Little Mae took her own walk last evening. My teenage daughter steps out regularly for moments of self-care.

Teen sons are each off on their own adventure this month, instead of on vacation with the family. That is how seasons shift and change.

Maybe that is what continues to draw me to the floor of this room looking out of the window and up at a bird nest. Grounding. Remembering all of my birds when they were contained.

I always ask first.

May I go look at the bird?

Usually the answer is affirmative, unless I have been particularly annoying or grievous. Then I just wait a bit and ask again.

Mama has hopped out of the nest and is perched on the ledge. Her eyes peer around, scoping out the territory. I refrain from opening the door or making a sudden movement.

Instead I sit and bless her. I listen to her song through the window and marvel at her role in the world. She is enough just being a bird.

She does not have to compete with or compare herself to other birds. She is enough moving back and forth from her own nest minding her own business.

Enough. Just like these words.

Just like me.

Living in the Flux

It’s July, and I am making space for a deep breath or several. This month is the one that is all summer, no days of school for the kids. It is time to rest and recharge and resist the urge to structure the unstructurable. I realize that is not even a word, but it gives voice to the impossible I often try to achieve.

Kindness says, Let it go.

July looks different for us this year. Beginning with a local vacation and ending with an out-of-state bridal shower, much is sandwiched in between. The teenagers are each traveling to various destinations on their own, leaving the family dynamic in constant flux. We will not be reunited under the same roof until August.

Resting and recharging is a desire that feels uncertain. I plan to journal and read through a small stack of books this week. I hope to be intentional with my girls in a space where we can be both together and separate. I will exhale.

July is not a month to make big proclamations and plans. It is a month to savor space. With a tendency to just push right through things, my challenge is to remain present to the moments.

I don’t want to fight the flux but embrace it. I know that I can’t control it. Here’s to being in it along for the ride and for coming out on the other side.

Hello, July!

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.