Summer flourishes with overgrown flowerbeds. Weeds crowd corners daring to be pulled.
Black-eyed Susans, Coneflowers, and Lamb’s ears compete for space among the unwanted invaders. Climbing the steps to the porch, I succumb to feelings of hopelessness. Why bother?
Remind me next summer when I think hanging baskets are a good idea, that they are really not. I tell my husband and my youngest daughter. I know one of them will remember. The porch is not my happy place right now. Dry hanging baskets only accentuate that fact.
No longer the flower lady, I am the lady with the overgrown house on the corner. Everything feels a mess, both inside and out, reminding me that when one area flourishes, another often suffers. This year it is the landscaping. The gardens. The unfinished porch.
Still the flowers fight forward. They open and bloom and stand their ground. One day I decide to set a fifteen minute timer in twilight’s glow and pull weeds. A stunning before and after rewards my effort. Never mind the thistles and thorns lurking around the corner.
I choose to celebrate the beauty that is in front of me.
No cars line the street alongside my house. It is July’s end in this college town, townie summer, the pause before resume.
Dog barks frantically, running to his post at the window. His paws grasp the ledge, as he pulls himself up to look out at the culprit.
It is a moment of serendipity amidst the incessant barking when I realize the street sweeper is the source of his angst. Secretly delighted, I could not have planned a better time for it to make rounds. The cars are never all gone.
Usually we hear the barking and say, We should have moved the cars! This empty-street moment is brought to you by a last-minute vehicle inspection, a son with a driver’s license, a husband at work, and college kids still at their respective homes for summer break
The street is brushed tidily clean in preparation for August. It is washed down by the torrential rains that fell this afternoon. Swept and scrubbed, it waits in anticipation of what is to come.
I spend time sweeping and scrubbing the underside of the blog. Radically untended, post writing in this space has fallen drastically by the wayside. Though the word flourishadorns its front page, a better description of its current reality reads languish.
All is not lost. Much has been gained in other areas. It will circle back. As August approaches more settles, routine emerges, hope surfaces.
The new month beckons, swept and scrubbed fresh and clean, inviting me into its days. Gingerly, I take the first step.
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.
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.
How are you doing with your word? It’s imagine, right? How are you imagining?
What are you doing just for you this summer?
Just wanted to pop in and say I’ve missed your words . . . I imagine it’s reflective of the way your summer is going.
These questions and comments were posed to me this month at separate times by separate friends. I am usually the one asking questions and noticing things, so they caught me off guard. My answers were honestly vague, as I have not felt imaginative, nor do I have a clear image of what I am doing just for me.
I have been reading more books, gathering up the words.
I have been practicing yoga most days, connecting body with breath.
I have been moving things around, decluttering, sorting, ordering the externals.
These were my answers.
This summer finds me caring for those in my home and adjusting to my husband’s new work schedule and routine. When he shared his one month evaluation, I joked that I should have a one month evaluation, as well, to see how I am handling the change.
Summer naturally brings a different rhythm and routine to our home. This summer was no exception. There was much coming and going of children throughout June and July, with all of us finally together again on July 19.
Today I engaged my youngest daughters in painting. We sat at the dining table choosing colors for our palettes and brushing paint on paper. We found pictures to add. I tried to spark imagination, theirs and mine.
Afterwards, I gathered our palettes for a picture to capture the moment. Our colors tell a story of their own. Our works in progress are uniquely us.
To answer the questions, both spoken and not, I am caring intently for those in my home. I am having talks at bedtime and during breakfasts at favorite haunts. I am walking with and hearing hearts. I am meeting my own for coffee.
I sit in a new physical space while writing this. It is one I created this summer. It is a place I have imagined for years that has finally become a reality. Of course there are the unimagined parts, as well, such as the warbling of birds and the jumping of a dog. It reminds me that imagination comes to fruition with its own dose of reality.
I am living in reality, embracing the daily, walking by faith. Living in the shadow of the question. Always.
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.
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.
The hike began with micromanagement, a thing I still struggle to contain. A scan of everyone’s clothing and footgear upon exiting the car resulted in commentary rather than trust that my children are no longer 8,6, and 5 and can dress themselves now without input from me.
This was after posing for the before hike picture of the girls and me that Steve wanted to take and hearing everyone’s feelings about it. Over identification seeped from every cell in my body. Will I ever be free of that curse?
We stood at the head of the trail as I voiced my doubts and concerns. Feelings were strong. A decision to proceed with the hike was made. We began to walk. I lingered behind.
The girls led the way with their dad. I tried to focus on the gift of solitude and shade that the trail offered. Flat and high and green, it was a beautiful walk.
Do justice. Love mercy. Be humble.
The shirt that I wore seemed to mock me. I felt false. When another hiker heading back leaned over to me and whispered, I like your shirt, I smiled weakly.
The hike continued. We stopped for our first water break, courtesy of my amazing husband who looks out for us all always and somehow managed to find a water bottle for each, even though none were packed.
I’m sorry for not trusting that you know what to wear and for making a big deal about it.
I think I said something along these lines to my daughter. I hope I did, anyway. If not, that was my intention. Truly.
Walking on, my head began to clear and heart began to pound. How could I only be at 10% of daily exercise? How many steps have I taken? Surely it’s been more!
My focus turned to NOT looking at the activity tracker on my wrist and trying to keep my thoughts kind.
The hike was hot, sweaty, and just the right length. We turned around in a realistic place rather than pushing ourselves to exhaustion.
Upon return music began playing in the kitchen as lunch was fixed.
Yes. I need to smile for awhile. Taking a deep breath, I turn up the corners of my mouth and exhale.
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.
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.
This month’s writing and blogging began in a hopeful space. The most-read posts were written the first week, goodbye and hello, respectively. All of the changes triggered curiosity in readers, and I had a good writing flow.
My birthday found a Red Tent Living post running, definitely a confidence booster. There was growing momentum. That was the first full week of June.
Things came to a grinding halt the second week when school was out, kids were home full-time, and Steve entered week two of his new job. Any hopeful writing momentum grew precarious, like the wobbling handlebars of a bike before a fall.
Instead of confidently correcting and keeping a steady flow, I crashed. Words splattered everywhere but on the blog, and I landed in stunned silence, too tired to pick myself up and brush off for another run.
It is easy for me to grow discouraged in those moments that feel familiar. The silent crashes, sporadic tries, lost confidences are not new. What I would like to be new is the desire to get up, brush off, and keep going.
That is what this is. It’s practice.
It is also the reminder that any change in terrain is difficult to navigate, and this month has brought significant life changes. For someone who struggles with change, it is no surprise that I have been once again caught off guard.
To those reading and curious, thank you. Thank you for bearing witness to my words and world and growth. May July bring goodness and growth and opportunities for you to keep going, as well, in whatever you are called to pursue.
May it also bring rest and slowing down and enjoyment, things I am pondering and hope to explore more in the days to come.