Tag Archives: summer

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.

Into the Woods

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.

Thanks.

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.

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!

Get Up, Brush Off, Keep Going

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.

 

Progress

On April 4, 2013, I opened a post on my private blog titled The Tearing Down. These words flew from my fingertips, Kieran began tearing out the faux paneling f.

That’s it.

I had great intentions and high hopes of writing an insightful piece full of analogies and wisdom related to the remodel of the worst room in the house. We were finally beginning it. Kieran was a freshman in high school.

It’s been over five years.

Kieran no longer lives in the house, though he was able to live in his (almost) finished room last year after returning from his post-high-school travels. The paint was never quite right, the blinds were never installed, and the door had to be held shut on the inside with a paint can.

I don’t mind. I don’t want to deal with painting. I have tapestries to hang over the windows. It’s easier for Zephyr to get in and out when the door doesn’t latch.

Okay, maybe he didn’t say the last thing, but he was certainly gracious in all that was unfinished. I was glad for him to inhabit the space that we had long promised.

We moved into this big old house 14 years ago. It needed a lot of work. Electrical updates, waterproofing the cellar, the kind of work that is not pretty but necessary. We also had five kids at the time.

The house had lots of rooms that could be configured in different ways. We have configured and plugged along working on projects as we could. Three sisters joined the five that moved in originally. There were lots of cribs and toddler beds.

The older siblings can tell tales of five of them in a room as we worked to remodel other spaces. The room they were in was the one we just finished. The worst room in the house. Gradually, we moved them out into their own rooms, starting with the firstborn and working our way down.

There was always a lot of shifting.

This week I worked to do the final room move-about. Kirk moved into Kieran’s old room after we fixed the paint, installed blinds, and fixed the door latch.

Child seven moved out of the Harry Potter room at the top of the stairs and into Kirk’s old room. Shhh. She doesn’t know it, yet, since she has been away at camp all week. Don’t tell!

Coco and Mae kept their rooms, making the moving around a bit more bearable. Coco’s birds now inhabit the room at the top of the stairs. She is also at camp, so that part is a surprise, as well. We talked about it as a possibility but did not set a time.

Of course this puts me in a sentimental place, as it is a reminder of another season coming and going and of the change that is constant. We now have each of the remaining four in their own space, the space I knew one day would come.

Hello, One Day!

Week’s End

Dewey captures perfectly the way I feel at the close of this week. As I write he sprawls on the floor, moving only to change lounging positions.

This week has been full of beginning and ending and celebrating which all adds up to exhaustion. If I were a dog, I would have the answers to life’s complexities. Just sprawl out and sleep.

Steve began his new job and the kids entered their last week of school. We adjusted the routine that had served us well all year. I am grateful it was only one week of adjusting. That was disruptive enough!

In the fall when we begin again, things will look different. I keep reminding myself that it will not always be this way. It will not always be my husband’s first week at a new job and my kids last week at school.

There will not always be the transition of an adult moving out while the youngest excitedly anticipates her double digit birthday. I will probably always dread my birthday, somewhat, though. And life will always be full.

Much fullness converged this week in the form of awards assemblies and final projects for my school-age kids. The youngest was home with me as we tried to find some sort of a groove while preparing for our shared birthday.

My husband began a new work schedule which left me in the role of solo home front manager getting kids to and from school. We were reminded of the need to communicate better, as the old morning routine we had settled into no longer served us well.

I was reminded of how I always think I will find the magic solution to make all of life feel wonderful when in reality I have to learn to live in the tension. That is a constant process.

I need to learn to bask in the patch of sunlight even if everything around me is a mess. Dewey illustrates this so well on the floor of my room moving from place to place and hunkering down.

This is the last morning before summer break officially begins when I pick up the kids from school at noon. It finds me in the aftermath of a birthday celebration and a day full of goodness and surprises.

It also finds me in a bit of chaos. My temptation is to try to do everything to fix it all immediately which is unrealistic. So instead of doing all of the things, I am sitting and writing, inspired by a small dog who is now curled into a ball close to his grandpa’s flip-flops.

Week’s end reminds me of all of the grace that gone before and behind and surrounded me during this transition. There is much more to write, but for now I will say, Happy Weekend! Enjoy the start of Summer Break!

Blooming in the Crack

I left the tiny shoot alone when I noticed it poking through the curb crack along the road. It grew bigger day by day, and I soon recognized a tiny moonflower leaf. Two larger moonflower plants flanked the side porch steps in the place they took root this year. Moonflowers migrate around the yard, and it is fun to see where they appear each spring.

The plants in the flower beds began putting out copious blooms nightly. The one in the crack worked to bloom a few times a week. Still it bloomed, and I left it. It became my reminder that even if I land on a tiny bit of soil between two cement blocks, I can still bloom, as well.

It is often difficult for me to know how to show up. Right now I am in a place of uncertainty. I feel trapped and penned in on all sides, much like that plant looks as if it could feel. It is not comfortable. Growth rarely is.

I was standing on the front porch talking on the phone, when two ladies walked by chatting. They stopped to notice and comment to each other the novelty of the flower. Hold on a second! I said to my understanding sister. I held the phone away from my face. To the ladies I called, Do you know why I left the flower there? It’s to remind us that wherever we find ourselves planted, we can still show up, bloom, and bring beauty.

I love the simple beauty that is blooming in the crack this year. It is just the visual I need. It is this year’s version of last year’s pumpkin patch. I am grateful.

How about you, Dear Reader? What visual have you been given as a reminder to bring your full self and your beauty to a situation? I would love to hear your story in the comments. Blessings!

Update

It’s dark here on the back deck of my grandparents’ home in Clinton Township, Michigan. The hum of the air conditioner unit competes with the chirping of the crickets, as the light from my phone competes with the stars.

Man-made sound and light drowns out those of nature.  The chatter in my head drowns out the still, small voice of the Spirit. I am pushed and frenzied and expanding to hold much, as I struggle to rest in the arms of the one who holds my expansive soul.

I turn the phone upside down on my lap to brighten the night sky. My eyes adjust to the shades of dark and the silhouettes of trees against the gray sky. Overcast clouds allow stars to shine behind, not through, them, as one or two dare to peek out before being hidden again quickly.

My last visit to this area was 26 years ago with my family and fiancé the summer before I was married. Michigan, the place of childhood vacations and Christmas breaks, was a chapter closed.

This week I returned with my mom and daughter and my brother and his daughter to visit my mom’s parents. Four generations gathered in a place I had never been. It is one that many of my older children have visited, taking trips with their grandparents.

It was my turn.

It is strange to inhabit a new space filled with childhood memories. Walking through the newer, modern home with its unfamiliar floor plan, I felt the walls and shelves both comforting and disrupting with their familiar decor. Much is from another era that I remember vividly, yet is also a blur.

This has been a visit full of laughter and tears and deep conversations. There have been times of wrestling and struggling in my heart concurrent with unexpected joyful and aha moments.

I have gotten face time with precious family members who hold shared memories and also surprises. I have drawn a clearer picture of people I love, as their faces and stories come more fully into focus. Hearing their perspectives, impressions, and experiences has brought unexpected tears along with head-nodding laughter.

I have connected more deeply with my people.

Those places of connection are settling in my heart as I ponder all the conversations that these days have held. The thing about real life stories and connections is that they belong to their own tellers. This is a space for mine, and for what I choose to process and share of it.

For now it is this picture of feet side by side and propped on a table as laughter rang out while tales were told.

And also the bowl of M&Ms that kept me grounded when I needed some space and chocolate.


Goodnight, Friends. I know it is late, but this is when it is.

Easy Tears

We were in the kitchen, adult son and I.

I was fixing lunch, quesadillas. Easy.

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.

Instantly.

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.

  • Ritz crackers
  • 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.

Tears Wow!

I have a lot of them inside, crashing like the ocean’s waves.

That is all.