Listening to Myself

I’m sitting on a blue and white striped bedspread in a sweet little room named Nantucket. Boats and fishing nets and white curtains and distressed wood decorate this small room. The window is open and I listen to the little creek running through the backyard.

View from my room

Last night, I arrived at this little bed and breakfast, just outside the city on the way to the mountains. I didn’t really know what to do with myself – Two whole nights by myself?? An entire day, just me? I was at a loss, and got a little antsy.

Unable to just stop. To breathe. To listen, I watched a movie, read some books, and went to bed so early. Perhaps by divine intervention, I left my computer charger at home and arrived here with a half-full battery. I’ll have to be more intentional about screen time tonight.

I had been asking for 24-hours to myself for a couple years now but the timing was always off – pregnancy and newborns just seemed to complicate plans for a retreat. With school underway and a free weekend on the calendar, we decided now was as good a time as any.

And so, I’m spending some time relearning how to listen to myself. With days spent listening to the needs of two small children, of listening to the needs of friends and our family dynamic, I fall into the trap so many moms seem to: I forget to listen to myself.

So, here I am in a little room. A stack of books that would take weeks to read, just in case. A dying computer for a bit of writing but nothing else. And the sound of the creek outside, reminding me that it’s ok to do all or none or some of what I imagined for this time of rest.

How do you stop and listen to yourself? What is the best way for you to find rest?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “listen.”


When A Bandaid Makes It Better

We go through a lot of bandaids in our house (a lot!) – to the point where we’ll buy the Costco size of utilitarian bandaids and keep only one small box of fun, character printed ones. Once the fun box is out, Bea is stuck with the tan-colored ones.

When the fun box is full, any perceived scrape or cut or hurt feeling needs a bandaid. When they are gone, wounds seem to heal faster and often without the help of that protective strip.

My first year of teaching, our school health advisor (do not use the title nurse!!) dropped off a large box of bandaids so that I could take care of any non-life-threatening paper cuts. I hoarded those bandaids! A kid had to be actively spurting blood to get one.

After the winter break, our health advisor came around again with a new box and was surprised to see my almost-full one still in the top drawer of my desk.

You know, we have a ton of these. Don’t worry about using them up. There’s always more, she told me.

That first year of teaching, I had a weird sense of pride about not giving out bandaids. I wasn’t going to teach kids to be overly sensitive! This is the real world!! (Did I tell you I taught first grade that year?)

Over my years of teaching, I learned the value of a bandaid. Paper cuts, boredom, playground arguments all necessitated a bandaid. I moved the box to a spot in my desk that kids still needed permission to get to but where I didn’t mind them going without my help.

I learned that a small acknowledgment of a wound – however real or imaginary – healed so much more than the cut itself.

Now, when Bea asks for a bandaid, I give her a hug and say, Wow! That looks like it hurt! What can we do to make it better?

Sometimes, a hug or a glass of cold water is all it takes. Other times, the only thing that will suffice is a pink bandaid. But ultimately, that acknowledgment is what heals the wounds the quickest.

Parents, are you generous or stingy with the bandaids? What are some ways you see beyond the immediate wound and acknowledge the hurt in others?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “heal.”

Taking the Wrong Path

When I was a novice mountain hiker, my dad and I took the wrong path up one of Colorado’s high peaks. Realizing we were out of our league, we depended on the help of a more experienced stranger to get us to the summit and back to the correct trail.

Quandary 022

At the time, it rattled me and made me contemplate mortality in a way I wasn’t expecting in my mid-twenties. Years later (and many retellings of our brush with death) we found that we were on an actual trail – others purposefully sought out this particular, more challenging way up the mountain.

It just wasn’t the right trail for us. For my ability level, it seemed out of the realm of possibility that anyone would want such a challenge!

Some things have come up lately and I’ve had to think about choices I’m making for our family. Nothing major, just reevaluations of our season and my involvement in certain commitments. The easy way out is two extremes: Keep on going, feeling resentful or just quit, without brainstorming different possibilities. A lot of me leans toward these extremes. It’s so much nicer taking the path of least resistance.

And sometimes, taking that path is absolutely the best choice. It makes sense and it’s the best for all concerned. Other times, it means messiness and hurt. The more difficult trail is sometimes the better trail.

What I’ve learned from our wayward hike is that for us, it was a wrong turn. For others, our wrong turn was the destination. And in life, I guess that’s how it goes, too. Sometimes a wrong turn can actually be the right path.

Have you ever taken a wrong turn that’s turned out to be the path you need to be on?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “path.”

Shoo Me, Daddy!

Mom? I think you’re probably pretty jealous of me and Elle.

Oh? Why?

Because Daddy doesn’t shoo you when he gets home. He only shoos me and Elle.

unnamed-1One of our steadfast rituals when Frank gets home from work is that he must, no matter what, lift the girls high into the air. On the sound of the garage door opening, Bea runs down the hall yelling, Shoo me first! Shoo me first!! Elle is fast on her heals, squealing and insisting that her turn isn’t far behind.

There is something incomparable to daddy’s throws into the air. The feeling that you know you’ll be caught; that you aren’t really too far out of the reach of his hands.

Perhaps Frank can’t actually shoo me into the air, but of course there are so many ways he supports and lifts me up – by encouraging my gifts, but listening to my processing, by working hard so that I get to experience these fast, little years with the girls.

And, what Bea doesn’t see is that I shoo Frank, too. It makes me think about our perception of God – how so many people struggle (and rightfully so) with the image of God the Father. That some human fathers have so failed to shoo their children that the idea of a benevolent Creator is too much to comprehend.

As I watch Frank shoo our girls, both physically as well as emotionally and spiritually, I am grateful that their image of a Father-God will be one of lifting them high, of catching them, of not letting go.

Do you remember being lifted by your dad? What is your view of a Father-God?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “lift.”

Living a Content Life

Frank is getting ready to go on a multi-day hike in one of the most beautiful places I know, the Grand Tetons. And, I’m feeling jealousy creep in as the preparations build and the day creeps closer. I want a whole week off of parenting!! When’s it my turn?!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’re also definitely in the August part of summertime: Playdates are sparser; School is starting soon; The days feel long and creativity levels are low. Bea is asking when school is starting again more than I’m thinking it – we’re ready for routine and autonomy.

We talked about tiredness and time “off.” Frank made the mistake of wondering if I’d be happier working rather than staying home. I AM HAPPY!!!! I fumed. Can’t you tell?!!!

A friend posted about the distinction between being happy and being content. Beyond the happy moments that make up our days and weeks and years, there is a contentedness that permeates our lives. Even in the midst of wishing for more “me” time or more family time, even in the moments when I’m tired and not particularly happy, I am content.

There’s a deeper feeling, a deeper fulfillment in these years that I’m thankful for. If I relied only on happiness, I think we would have given up. It’s not that we’re not happy, but that word leaves so much to be desired.

So, while I’m not necessarily looking forward to parenting alone; while I’m ready for “my turn” at adventure, I’m content in knowing Frank will come home refreshed. I’m excited for a road trip up to a spot that has so much meaning for our family. And I’m happy that we are on this journey together.

What does the word “happy” mean to you? Are you, by nature, a happy person or does the word content resonate more with you?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “happy.”

Hidden Treasures

One year, when I was an early teenager, we were visiting my grandparents. I remember pulling a box down from a high closest shelf with my grandma and opening its treasures. It was filled with memorabilia from her high school days at a boarding school back east. Assembly bulletins, a calendar filled with squares reading “lunch with Stinky” and other girlfriend dates. We looked through these treasures and she told stories about her friends and schooldays.

Years later, we helped pack up my grandparent’s house – the one they’d lived in for over 40 years. I’m sure that box was thrown out in the shuffle. There came a point in the packing and donating and garage sale-ing that so many things were deemed memorable-but-not-keepable. After 40 years, downsizing can be brutal.

Just a couple years ago, we packed up our own small house and moved into a bigger one, as we anticipated growing our family. I came across a box of journals, but mixed in were also day planners – those books from the days before relying on my calendar app. I sat down and flipped through it: “lunch with Cece;” “Baroque & Rococo paper due;” “day trip to Reims” filled the pages of my years in Paris. “Lunch with Frank” repeated over and over from my planner during our early days of dating.

I was tempted to throw out my old planners – it had been years since I’d last looked through them – but the memories came back fresh and I imagined one day pulling this box out for a granddaughter and reminiscing over these hidden memories again.

Are you a saver? Do you like to keep bits of memorabilia or do you purge and remain minimalist?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “hidden.”

Defining the Spirit of a Word

I come from a very creative family. My dad is an illustrator and my brother is a storyboard artist. My mom has an amazing eye for color and design and is able to make a small shift that turns an awkward space into an inviting one.

My mom made that dress!

When I hear the word create, I often think, Not me!

I laughingly tell people the reason I studied art history is that I love art but am not creative. For my birthday, I asked for a calligraphy set and signed up for Skillshare to work on my penmanship. I struggle to find time for myself and am drawn more toward the couch and a book than the practice of lettering.

I’m learning that when I take words – like create – literally, I am never good enough. I’m never going to live up to the image of a creative person that I’ve constructed in my mind.

But, like so many words, when I take the spirit of them and find their abstract nature, I find myself as well.

When I think about creating space for community or creating a safe place to talk and listen, I connect with the word. When I think of creating an environment for my girls to grow up questioning and grappling and thriving, I can see myself in that word.

I wonder how many words I discard as not applying to me because I take them in such a literal sense. I’m not an activist; not a writer; not an artist. But when I remove the literal meaning and focus on the spirit of these words, I find myself and grow into that descriptor.

How would you describe yourself? Are there any labels you’ve wanted and learned to grow into?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “create.”

Dismantle and Replace

It’s happened again. People killed without trial. Retaliation. Leading with fear. Responding with more fear.

I read the news and wonder, How long? How many times? When will we learn??

Sides are taken. Names are called. People refuse to budge on The Big Issues.

And the cycle continues and repeats.

And I wonder, again, and again, and again. What can I do???

And I learn again, and again, and again. Stop, listen, lean in. Support. Teach my kids a different way. A way that is not rooted in fear but in love and hope.

I’m learning that the way to change things is sometimes to rebuild entirely. And yet, we can’t rebuild entirely a system that is engrained. A system built on hundreds of years of fear.

So maybe we rebuild slowly. We dismantle one small stone and replace it with hope and love. We dismantle one small idea and replace it with one of hope and love.

I don’t like slow moving change. I want people to open their eyes. To see the need to replace fear with love and to act. But I see over and over that we need to work small. That change is in the small work, frustrating though it may be.

So, with my small children, I make small changes. I build and rebuild and learn and grow alongside.

And I fervently hope and pray for a future that looks at this time in history with disbelief and shock. Because small changes slowly give way to big ones.

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “build.”

Raising Feisty Girls

When we got our puppy, we had a beautiful vision of our life as a family of three. Hikes, dog parks, frolicking along the trail by our house. We would take her to puppy school and train her to be The Best Dog – so friendly and welcoming!!

17868_286290712937_7754337_nThe first six months of Daisy’s life were almost that. She was inquisitive, friendly, fluffy and adorable. She loved puppy school and made new friends on her thrice-daily walks.

And then something happened and she remained deeply loyal and snuggly with us. But, us only. Her pack narrowed significantly to Frank and I, my parents, and friends she saw frequently.

Her bark became deep and she became suspicious of strangers in the park. We continued with the classes and she passed all but the barking portion.

554251_10151262307262938_1703121966_nWhen I was pregnant with Bea, Daisy became even more protective, giving a preemptive growl as we walked. When Bea was born, she wasn’t as protective but definitely had a new mission. Her skepticism toward others increased with Elle’s arrival.

My initial response when Daisy barks at the doorbell is to apologize profusely. I want her to be friendly and loving toward everyone. But I’m realizing (especially after she made some salespeople uncomfortable enough to leave with a shortened pitch) that having a protective dog isn’t a bad thing. (Especially during tax season!)

If a dog is your first (or only) child, then the parenting lesson I’ve learned from Daisy is that I can offer lessons and skills to be socially acceptable. I can guide and discipline and parent to the best of my ability. But I also need to recognize Daisy’s innate nature. She is a dog and she is wired to protect her family. That’s what she was made to do.

I’ve grappled with how to raise strong, independent, inquisitive daughters. And I think we’re doing a pretty good job so far. But I’m also learning to recognize and encourage the things they love without me – the princesses and warriors and books and running. I’m learning that whatever my girls are interested in, whatever innate skills they have, my job is to encourage and cultivate and help them do it in a socially appropriate manner.

And maybe, the biggest lesson I’m learning is that we were given three feisty girls to raise. As challenging as that can be, it’s also a pretty cool adventure.

Are you a dog owner? Are your dogs your kids? How does your dog parenting style line up with your human parenting style?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “protect.”

Lazy Summer

After a month in no-schedule summer-mode, Bea’s had a week of morning Vacation Bible School at her preschool. It’s been a fun week – projects, games, seeing some of her teachers, and best of all: Hanging out with teenagers!!

Because our mornings are full again, we haven’t done much else. Both girls need afternoon naps, and I look forward to an afternoon rest as well. (Depending on the day, nap overlap can vary between 10 minutes and a full hour.)

While it’s been a good experience and I’m so glad we signed up for VBS, it’s also been a good reminder of the need to keep summer as summer. No agendas, low-key playdates, swimming, biking, spontaneity.

IMG_1114It’s easy to plan up the rest of the summer. We have a few road trips coming up and some camping with friends. A lot of our friends are signed up for really fun things – fairy ballet camp and art camp and gardening camp. It’s tempting to see if there are spots averrable – how cool would it be to hang out at the Botanic Gardens, going on scavenger hunts all morning?

And then I see Elle absolutely light up and start laughing as we walk home from VBS. She’s missed Bea all morning. It makes me think that school starting in the fall will be hardest on her. I see how much fun it is to lounge and just be together – even on the long days.

And so we sit in this moment and soak it in, remembering that time flies and we won’t have long summers of rest forever. Soon they’ll be filled with other amazing, fun activities and I’ll embrace this new season. For now, I’m glad we are able to slow down and breathe for a bit.

Do you like lazy summers or do you thrive on activities? What’s your ideal way to rest?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “rest.”