I’m sitting in the car in the rain as husband runs into Food Lion for the last of the groceries after our Saturday Costco trip. On my heart is recovery of teenage self. Literally. My chest keeps tightening and breath catching. That young woman is so lost inside of me.
This week I take one of her stories to certificate 2 training. It’s from the last year she was a teenager, 1990, where she believed her fate was sealed and all hope for choice was gone. It’s where she finally departed herself, shedding any remnants of who she was or might have been for who she was required to be.
I have punished her for that. For years she has borne the brunt of blame for trying to survive. For doing the best she could. For existing.
I’m in a weird space of feeling all of the feelings connected to that part of me as I sort them into their categories. Everything feels way too intense and current. Things that should not be a big deal seem huge. And things that really do loom large, well those feel unbearable.
Today’s 7 stares back from the calendar app on my phone, reminding me that in one month I will be another number away from nineteen. Twenty-eight numbers away, to be exact.
What is this crazy feeling of being so close, yet so far from myself? I hope to find out more this week as I regroup with others as we walk through our stories together.
I am grateful to my family for, once again, holding down the fort and to my friends for cheering me on, as I bravely go where I haven’t before, into another scene from my past.
The countdown is on!
I sit in the final Saturday of 2017 surrounded by binders and journals and books and baskets of laundry. Family members are out and about running errands or socializing with friends. One is resting on the couch, uncertain of how she is feeling. I stop to care for her and warm up a heating pad occasionally. Chicken noodle soup was prepared for her lunch.
Earlier in the kitchen my husband looked at me with the face. I know it well. It is a half-smirk that tries to cover and hide the feeling behind it, but I am too vigilant for that and know there is something going on inside his head. Rather than guessing at it, I ask.
What? What is that face for?
What face? I don’t have a face!
Yes you do. There is clearly a face, and I am curious about it.
We banter back and forth a bit, as he insists it is nothing when I know better. He finally caves.
I was just wondering if you have fallen into your end-of-the-year processing funk, yet?
Laughter ensues from us both, because I am aware enough to be able to laugh at what is obvious about me, and he is courageous enough to name it. Family members are growing safer in being able to share how they experience me, and for that growth I am grateful.
Secretly, I feel pleased to be known and seen so well by my life-partner. It has not always been so. There have been many unseen and unheard years resulting in much hurt that we have worked hard at uncovering and naming this year.
And, yes, I am in my final 48 hour funk, sort of. Not really. It is a strange ambivalence.
It feels different this year. Still ponderous, but in a hopeful sort of way. There is anticipation of things to come in the midst of uncertainty. If anything there is a temptation to panic that time is running out, and I must do all the things.
Time is running out, but I do not have to do all the things. I can do just what is before me next and move in gratefulness for what has been and what is to come.
I sit in the day after Christmas, carving out some reflective quiet in the midst of all of the celebrating. In the moment there is relative peace. There are no deep conversations to engage, no projects to help facilitate, and no needs to meet. In the moment.
There has been much change and growth this season, and like most growth and change, it is not noticeable until you look back on what was. The looking back took place through the eyes of an adult son who was on the other side of the world last Christmas.
Christmas morning was so much more chill than it was two years ago when I was home.
It is true. Little people have grown and are growing, and while there is still excitement, there is not the frenetic level that once was. There is greater ability and capacity to wait with expectancy and hopeful patience and to enjoy the process of giving and receiving gifts on Christmas morning.
I noticed changes in many areas over the season.
Cookie baking looked different. It required minimal help from me in the gathering and helping to mix ingredients for dough. The rest took care of itself as four sisters sat and decorated them together.
There was such playfulness in the decorating, as inside family jokes were engaged and battle scenes created with cookies and icing. Growth. Laughter.
Christmas dinner felt calmer as we ate and laughed and played a game around the table. I really want to insert a picture, but it is the season where not everyone is fond of being posted. Changes. So I refrain and instead post the final result of our Advent tree.
That was a change, as well, since we kept up with the pieces and candles this year after a rocky beginning.
I am thankful that I pushed through the hard to get to the other side. We made a lot of memories around the table and the tree.
A final note on this day after Christmas is how my gifts have changed over the years. From giant plastic candy canes of days gone by to thoughtful gifts that show just how much my kids have grown and know me, this year’s Christmas bounty was so sweet. And I am not talking only about the giant truffle!
This is me entering the last week of 2017, blogging about Christmas changes, anticipating other changes on the horizon. While I do not know specifically what they are, I feel them inside.
I hope to have more time to process this week, maybe even on the blog, about what is coming up in 2018, including my word which will be revealed New Year’s Day.
We shall see!
The first weekend of November found me at a lake house with my friend Angela for what has become a fall ritual ~ Introvert’s Weekend Away.
It is a great space, wherever we land, of reading, writing, thinking, processing, and just being. Sometimes we talk. Sometimes we are quiet. We do things together, mostly taking walks and eating meals. We do things apart, like all of the other stuff.
There is music. We talked about five songs.
My space at the table looked like this for most of the weekend.
It was lovely to be able to leave works in progress and come back to them.
Last year I was working on work for module 2 of the certificate program and had a strict agenda of reading and writing to complete. This year it was fun to just play with and in the space.
The misty day could not keep me from swinging to the music in my ear buds, soaring high into the air. Little did I know I was creating a safe space for my soul. There was solitude and beauty and much-needed calm before the storm that was brewing.
If you could only listen to five songs for the rest of your life, what would they be?
My friend, Angela, read this prompt to me last weekend, and it immediately sparked interest.
Oooo, yes! Let’s do that right now. Let’s list and share our songs with each other and then listen to them.
I began thinking and writing in my journal. Music is what inspires me and brings me hope. It makes me feel most alive. Music is where I find encouragement. So in choosing only five, I went with songs that remind me of truth when I am struggling.
I am curious, Dear Reader, if you have five songs, or even one song? What are your go-tos that inspire, keep you going, or are just plain fun to dance to? What is music to you? It can be any style, not just worship or inspirational! Share in the comments!
Here are my five songs.
Two weeks ago I was in Grand Rapids, Michigan at the Brave On conference with my friends Angela and Becky. The plan to attend this event began to take shape back in February, so to say it had been long-anticipated seems a bit of an understatement!
The road to Brave On had its share of bumps and jolts and opportunities to be brave about naming feelings and hopes and expectations. That was its own exercise! There were times when I wanted to run in the opposite direction of, rather than towards, whatever was stirring inside of me. Usually it was in the areas of conflict with others and glory in my gifting.
When all was said and done, the conference came and went in a whirlwind, and I was left sorting and sifting through what had landed in my heart. Longing to write something, yet not quite having the words, I composed a post on my travel necessities.
It was a start. Those needful items are what helped me focus on the task at hand while listening to a variety of wise and kind women share scenes from their stories and invite me into more of mine. The pages below were from the self-care panel. Much goodness and truth was shared from the hearts of women who did not have all of the answers but who held an invitation to be curious and open to possibilities.
Throughout the day, I was invited to connect with others. There were quick hugs, registration and restroom line chats, and deeper conversations during breaks and around the table. I was surrounded by rich goodness. It was full of tiny cracker and sip of juice moments foreshadowing the deeper connections we were created for and that we will one day eternally enjoy.
In the meantime I was given the gift of face time with dear friends and the gift of a new friendship. I spoke in person with women whose writing I enjoy and who enjoy mine. I listened to beautiful music and words from the heart of one of my favorite singers and marveled at how music can speak to so many seasons and stories simultaneously.
The day was a gift.
I am still reflecting on my art journaling and handwritten notes and pondering where God met me in the specifics of the conference. I am wondering what will come about as a result of my time spent Braving On. I admire Angela’s ability to form and share a concise reflection on her experience which you can read about here.
One of many things that I am learning to embrace and to hold is that it is okay to just be me, whoever that is. I do not have to look or be like anyone else, and I have my own story to live and to tell. There is freedom to take time to figure it out.
I wait for it with patience and anticipation.
I realized while on a recent trip to a conference with friends, that there are certain necessities that I pack while traveling. I have tried to take better notice of the things I need and use and those that are just wishful thinking travel items. In an ideal world I would create a packing list. Maybe one day I will.
My art journal bag is a necessity. I noticed this while sitting in the airport waiting on a delayed flight, cutting apart a Fly Washington free magazine and reassembling pieces of it in my travel journal.
I noticed it while sitting in my place at the conference cutting apart the program and reassembling it in my travel journal while the speakers were presenting. Occasionally I jotted down notes, but mostly I cut and glued and taped.
My clear, make-up sized bag contains the following:
- glue sticks (must have at least 2)
- several rolls of washi tape
- mini binder clips
- AAA batteries (wireless mouse needs)
I also take my rolled up case of colored pencils, however, I scored a mini pink zip-top pencil case with several basic colored pencils AND a sharpener for $1.14 at Target today on CLEARANCE! I was irrationally excited about this find. What made it even more fun was the risk of guessing what was inside since it was sealed. I was fairly confident there were little pencils in there. The sharpener was a bonus! This will definitely be a new staple in my travel bag.
So my travel necessities look a bit different from others, and that is okay. I am discovering things about myself that are unique, and this is one of them. I love to create things and recreate things and process in surprising ways. One of those is by cutting papers apart and reassembling them.
This image is from my final flight out to Seattle back in March. Those trips are also on my mind, as it has been a year since I began that journey. Since my heart and mind are so full, and it is difficult to focus on writing, I am grateful for the space to write about and process random things like my style of creating. Maybe it will inspire you to be curious about what inspires you.
Thanks for stopping by!
I do this thing with birthdays. On a particular child’s birthday I stop, subtract their age from mine and their siblings, and reflect on the numbers. It helps me process more fully a life that has been so full.
I did this recently when my third turned 22. I was reminded that at her birth I was 24, the same age as my firstborn right now, and that her siblings were 2 and 1. It put more of my story into perspective and gave me a tangible space in time to inhabit while processing it.
Today is different.
This Saturday marks seven years since I heard the news that Brian Carderelli was killed. Not only is there a number but also the feeling of the actual day.
That Saturday morning had been a difficult one. Seven years ago I was 39. It was the season of peak dependence of dependents in our family, as the children were 17, 16, 15, 11, 7, 5, 4, and 2.
My firstborn was out of the country. The others were home at ages where they could be left alone for brief periods of time together. This had happened ~ Steve and I left them alone to go out briefly ~ and we returned to them acting like siblings who had been left alone together, some of them in charge, some of them little.
It was a mess of feelings and emotions from everyone that triggered deep feelings and emotions in me. I had often been left alone in charge of younger siblings. I had not yet begun to deal with younger me and all of the turbulence I felt inside.
Intense emotion spilled over and out and into my journal as I disappeared into my room to process a pile of pain that had nowhere else to go. After venting, I fell asleep.
I woke, and Steve had me read an email that Brian Carderelli had been in an ambush and was presumed dead. I remember sitting at the computer desk and going numb. It just couldn’t be true. Brian was a friend and neighbor whose presence in our life came at a time when a huge gift of grace was needed.
He often gave the teenagers rides to youth group. He would wave and smile at me from his car when he stopped at the sign on our street corner. I was usually outside supervising littles riding tricycles or drawing with sidewalk chalk. He was supposed to be coming home from his travels soon. How could he just be dead?
It was confirmed.
I cried a lot.
My kids are sad. I hurt. I hate killing and death . . . I am afraid. overwhelmed. hurt. So tense and overwhelmed which manifests in anger and panic. I don’t want to live in a hate-filled world.
These were some of the words written in my journal immediately after the news. Before any real processing began.
I took food to friends, because that is what I knew to do at the time. Bring food and sit with.
Seven years later, the day feels similar, yet different. I am 46. My children are 24, 23, 22, 18, 14, 12, 11, 9. Half have reached legal adult status. For those left behind, life marches on.
Still we remember. Still we grieve loss. Seven years since.
Brian, you are missed.
We said goodbye to Roo’s beloved guinea pig this past Wednesday night. It was the eve of two years to the day that he came home with us from the pet store. It was completely unexpected.
Wednesday morning, eager with anticipation of meeting a friend in Martinsburg, WVa, for lunch, I had no idea that the evening’s at-home date would be interrupted by a knock on the TV room door by a traumatized child.
In fact, I still had not broken it to my parents that when they took care of him for us while we were on vacation, he would need at least one cage change. I was still figuring all of the details out, not knowing that by the end of the day there would be no need.
Buddy was in his cage and kicking his legs. I thought he was having a bad dream, so I picked him up, but he went limp. Something is really wrong with him.
We rushed upstairs with her. Indeed, something was very wrong, as confirmed by her father, the brave one of us when it comes to all things animal-related. I brought a dish towel to wrap him in, while Steve held and confirmed that, indeed, Buddy was dead.
I began to cry, then sob, in the hall with my daughter. The bedroom door of the youngest opened upon hearing the commotion. She came out, heard the news, and began to cry. She also wanted to hold Buddy.
She is a braver soul than I.
I knocked on brother’s door to alert him, as well, knowing that he would want to be aware. He came out and joined the sadness. So did sister at the end of the hall.
We made our way downstairs to the living room and sat together. Tears were flowing and words spoken of Buddy’s days with us.
Most recently, because of summer break, he had spent more time downstairs on the laps of those who were doing their screen time. The kids called him a Buddy Loaf and dubbed him their therapy guinea pig.
He was well-loved.
Even Dewey, who tried to get a little too close and curious to Buddy at every opportunity, was noticeably out of sorts.
He mirrored everyone’s sadness.
Buddy’s death was sudden, unexpected, and happened as his ten-year-old owner was holding him. It was a trifecta of trauma for her. We are processing this grief together. It is hard and sad.
In the midst of the hard, there is good.
I am grateful that just last Sunday our pastor brought a perspective of pets and heaven to us in a hopeful tone. This gave Roo much comfort the following evening as she went to bed in the same way and space that 24 hours earlier had found her watching the life slip from her pet.
I am grateful that he did not die while we were on vacation.
I am grateful that it was summer break and that he was getting a lot of attention.
Mostly I am grateful for kids who love big and deeply and well.
Goodby, Buddy. You were loved so much that it hurts that you are gone. Thank you for the joy you brought to us and the contribution that you made to our compost pile each week. You will be missed.
Mrs McClay! What are you doing next year? Who is taking your place?
All I wanted to do was get through the Sharp Shopper checkout line with my groceries and my youngest and get home. I did not want to think about the question that plagues me daily ~ What’s next? I answered the grocery attendant with what I knew, the name of the teacher replacing me, hoping that my face did not look as blank as I felt.
I’m ——–‘s grandma!
Context is everything. Of course! There is something about crossing paths with someone as they occasionally drop off their little grandperson before school. The connection is obvious and belonging then. It is completely different to be in the grocery outlet line in the middle of summer and have the same person conversing like an old friend.
We made small talk as I gave my semi-rehearsed answer that still feels stiff and awkward, I’m not sure. That is what I am trying to figure out. What is next? I think I will take a gap year.
The thing is, before I get to next, there is a lot to tend to now.
Now looks like all of the things that have been put off due to the busy-ness of working and finishing my certificate. It looks like parenting four people still at home while hearing from four who have been grown but still need time and attention to process their parenting.
I am being reminded that when space clears, things move in to fill it. The space that has been cleared by me being home now instead of at work, even though it is summer and my normal in this season, has been filled with projects and conversations that have been on hold these past four years.
I have been holding a lot.
Next is waiting in the wings while I do now. Now is summer. It is time with family and friends. It is planning for vacation and ridding the house (and my heart) of excess clutter. It is taking time to read and to walk and to prioritize what is most important. It is catching up on appointments and looking ahead to fall a little bit and having space for conversations.
Now is a timer going off reminding me to head to the kitchen to fix some food and to take a deep breath and let go of next.