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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have a lot of them inside, crashing like the ocean’s waves.
I have decided that this is what I need if I am going to make any movement forward. My word this year is persist, and I had to go back and read the original post to remember, even though it stares at me from across my room each day. Persist.
I am tempted to tip towards the opposite.
Maybe even extreme lethargy
If I am going to make a change, it has to be decisive, yet also kind. That is where the struggle lies. Where is the intersection of rest and productivity? Where is enough?
August brings with it feelings of summer’s end, even though summer is technically not even halfway over! Extended family visits filled June, vacation took July, and back-to-school appointments and band camp are the order of business for August.
Then school starts at the end of the month.
That makes summer feel over, though it runs into September.
This post is not what I hoped it would be. I have been interrupted no less than five times as I settle in to write. Each time brings a dire need from those around me which offers a clue to what is next. Tending to now.
So that is where I will persist. I will continue to tend to my home and the people and things inside of it. I will tend to me. I will persist in writing, even when my inspiration is fleeting, and I feel uncertain. I will do what is next, which, for now, is answering the call of the tea kettle.
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.
I was browsing a neighbor’s yard sale one street over and up around the block. My daughter had discovered it on a dog walk and took pictures of some items she liked. This piqued my curiosity, and I walked over with my husband.
We introduced ourselves, described where we lived, and that is when her face broke into a delighted smile and she called me the Flower Lady.
Yes, I guess that’s me! I would rather be the Flower Lady than the Porch Lady . . . I think.
Our porch is still a work in progress. A slow, but sure, work in progress.
I made my selection and paid for the items ~ a picture for a daughter’s room, a tray for serving breakfast (or working or watching a movie) in bed, and a pair of baskets to use for under-bench shoe storage.
Heading home with my treasures, I pondered her calling me The Flower Lady. It felt strange to be noticed for something, to be seen, to be named. In this season of figuring out who I am and what I like, flowers must be a thing.
I do like flowers. I try with flowers. I do not feel particularly skilled with flowers, though. It is always a bit hit or miss.
My first experience with a potted flower is embarrassing. I think about it every so often with curiosity and attempted kindness for myself and for what I did not know. I was given a Gerbera Daisy at church on my first Mother’s Day twenty-four years ago. Maybe that is why these caught my eye at Lowes one sunny day.
Mine was a beautiful bright yellow with a large and cheerful bloom. I did not know that flowers could be cut from a plant and the plant would keep putting out new blooms. The original yellow flower shriveled up and died, and I did not know to cut it off of the plant. It just sat there looking sad. It seemd to me like a one-hit-wonder, and I did not know what to do. I just left it alone, and that was the end of my first Gerbera Daisy (and yet, the beginning of my eight children!). It was many years later before I understood why it would be someone’s favorite flower.
This afternoon I spent some time outside cutting flowers. My Shasta Daisies were blooming abundantly. I gathered a vase full of them for the porch table. Stepping back, I captured this view and felt happy.
I am a Flower Lady. There is no right way to enjoy beauty, no right flower to choose. From the purple irises that bloom on the east side of the porch in the spring, to the multicolored daylilies that line the east side of the house in the summer, to the clearance hanging baskets of petunias and potted sweet potato vines rescued from the back table at Lowes, to the moonflowers that come up in surprising new places each year, my flowers make me smile.