Allowing What Is Already In You To Swell Up

The other day my Facebook memories reminded me that it had been a year since I took the girls to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade. The photo is of us bundled up, huddled together in the freezing cold. Elle is leaning over a cup of hot cocoa, too cold to hold it herself.

The caption reads, “We did it! It was cold, there were tears. But I brought a thermos of hot cocoa and we marched with our community. We talked about the work Martin Luther King Jr did and the work that still needs to be done. On the drive home, after we warmed up a bit, I asked if they’d do it again. Elle said no, she’d rather go to a park. But Bea gave an enthusiastic green light, check, yes! I’m remembering that raising activists takes time and that hot cocoa makes the coldest moments bearable.”

The memory was well timed because just a couple days earlier, Bea had asked when the Martin Luther King Jr Day Parade was happening again – she cannot wait to create a tradition. (I haven’t heard the same questions from Elle. Maybe she’s sticking to her park plan…) It doesn’t take much for Bea to create an annual event – she loves planning and traditions but it still made me glad that this is one she looked back on with fondness and hope for reprisal.

As we’ve settled back into our routine and I’ve had a little more space in my days to reflect, I’ve been thinking that it’s been two months since I returned from the RubyWoo Pilgrimage. That first month was filled with thoughts and ideas and hopeful next steps, even if those were a ways away. But now, with more time and more routine between me and that journey I started to feel a little discouraged. What have I done in those two months? It doesn’t feel like much.

I’m reminded of a paragraph from one of my favorite childhood books, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. It’s at the end of the story after a great mystery has been solved. Mrs. Frankweiler says,

I think you should learn, of course, and some days you must learn a great deal. But you should also have days when you allow what is already in you to swell up inside of you until it touches everything. And you can feel it inside of you. If you never take time out to let that happen, then you just accumulate facts, and they begin to rattle around inside of you. You can make noise with them, but never really feel anything with them. It’s hollow.

E.L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing enough to create young activists. Shouldn’t we be going to more marches, reading more books, digging deeper into the injustices around us? Yes… and, we need to let these experiences swell up and touch our lives. I love knowing that Bea still holds the memory of her first march dear – that she wants to continue this tradition. Who knows? Maybe we’ll expand to more. Maybe this will spark an interest in justice down the road.

For now, I’m remembering to give life time. To choose the activities that make sense for our family in this moment on the journey and to trust the process. I want to be careful as I raise my girls – that they will want to continue this new narrative as they grow older, without burning out at a young age.

I want to remember this for myself, too. That I’ve been given a whole lot of new information in these past two months. I’ve continued to read books, to dig deeper, and to question more. But I also need to let things sift and settle, to create time and space to allow all I’ve learned to swell and grow.

On Monday, we’ll likely join the march again as we start to set down roots and traditions in activism. And like last year, my biggest goal will be to stay warm and have fun. There will be plenty of time for deep conversations and grappling with reasons it’s so important to show up and march. For now, we’re gathering information and letting it grow.

What are some ways you are leaning into facts and ideas you’ve accumulated? How are you holding space for them to swell?

When The Original Plan is the Best Plan

We spent the month of June doing some house renovations. As the girls grow and play differently, our playroom also changed. Housed in the formal dining room, the playroom sat at the center of our home for over three years. I could read on the couch and watch the girls play or make dinner and peak in on them from the kitchen. It was an ideal spot for creativity and imagination.

It was also always a mess and a source of stress as I tried to find a space of peace in our home. Play, by nature, isn’t tidy or organized but it felt like an overwhelming task to keep it presentable. We knew that one day we wanted to finish a large and mostly unused storage room in the basement but that was in the future. Until a friend asked, Why not just make the unfinished space into the playroom?

IMG_9066I won’t go into all the details, but that’s just what we did. We cut a hole in the basement wall, opening the space to the finished part. My dad painted a bright and welcoming mural on the concrete wall. We covered the floor in mats and moved all the toys downstairs. It’s still an overflowing mess but it’s out of sight and feels more contained. IMG_9655

We changed the playroom into a library/study. I love that the center of our home is filled with books. We kept the legos and blocks upstairs and it’s still clearly a home with kids – an entire bookshelf is devoted to their books. But it’s also much more reflective of the grownups who live here, too.

I had a vision for the paint color for this new study for more than nine months. This was a hope and vision and I kept that color swatch taped to the wall to remind me that one day, the playroom would be reclaimed.

IMG_9703We went to Lowe’s and I told the woman behind the paint counter exactly what I wanted: One gallon of light yellow and one gallon of that same yellow, mixed 50% lighter. She looked at the swatch and said, That’s too complicated. You’d better choose a darker color. What about this? She pulled a swatch from right above mine and suggested using the lightest color on that as our contrast. Quickly convinced that my vision wouldn’t work, I agreed, we went home, and painted a light orange under the chair rail and my envisioned yellow above it.

Immediately, I knew this wasn’t what I had imagined. It looked like an orange and yellow wall rather than a yellow and slightly lighter yellow wall. I thought maybe I just needed to live with this new color scheme and I’d fall in love. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about it; I had my parents come and we held artwork against the new color. I knew I couldn’t live with it.

So, we went back, bought the paint I originally wanted. (This time, I talked with a woman who said, Yep! We can do this!) Frank spent another day painting and immediately, I loved the color. I saw my vision appear on the wall and knew I would love spending time in this room.

As I rearranged furniture, hung pictures, and finally settled into a chair to read a book in this space, I knew I had made the right choice in repainting.

Sometimes, we do need to live with something unexpected and it turns out better. This happened with the paint color in our bedroom and I love the unexpected color so much more than the one I had thought I wanted. Sometimes, in life things go unexpectedly and, in hindsight, those switches in plans are so much better and richer.

But sometimes, we need to fight for our original vision. Sometimes, when we’ve thought and planned for months, that path is confirmed and set. And it’s ok to go back and readjust to make sure we’re on that right path.

As a planner, I need to learn to hold plans loosely, to let the journey take me to unexpected places, and to remember that I am not in control of every single detail of my life.

I also need to remember to trust my own instinct and to remember that I am an intentional person. That I rarely make quick or spontaneous decisions and so, when things don’t go as planned, I need to pause to really evaluate if it is a good new direction or if I need to recalibrate.

I love our new spaces. Right now, the girls are busy in their playroom while I write. The other day, I read while Bea spent an hour building a castle in the study. Our house feels more calm and intentional. And I learned that I can trust my well-planned vision.

How do you balance holding your plans loosely and trusting your instinct? Has there been a time when you’ve needed to recalibrate back to the original path?

Pausing to Enjoy the Summit

When I moved back to Colorado after college, my dad and I would spend summers hiking the 14,000-foot mountains around Colorado. We’d wake up before dawn so that we could be stepping foot on the trail at sunrise. We’d hike all morning, eat an early lunch at the 10418255_10152599208242938_297764949818653760_nsummit, and then hike down before the afternoon thunderstorms rolled in. I loved having lunch at the peak. It was a reward for hard work and it gave us time to pause and really enjoy the scenery. What’s the point of “bagging a peak” if you don’t stop to enjoy the view?

We were sitting in a circle at MOPS, talking about having one foot in the toddler world and another toe dipping into The Next Phase. Some of the women are firmly entrenched in the baby and toddler years but a group of us are starting to emerge. We’re not as sleep deprived; our kids are a bit more independent; school is on the horizon. What’s next?

It’s an interesting place to be – on the cusp. I don’t really know how long I’ll be at this summit, overlooking new ideas and opportunities. Part of me wants to just dive in and leave this last season behind. But reality means recognizing that being on the cusp is a slow journey.

I’m watching others take these next steps. They’re starting practices, taking classes, writing books, and pursuing dreams, all with kids the same age as ours. I compare myself and think that I should be ready for this next journey.

I’m remembering to stop at the peak, to eat my lunch, and to enjoy the scenery. I don’t know how long this will take – it could be a shorter pause than I’m anticipating. Or it could be a few more years until this next phase actually happens. I’m remembering to cheer for my friends, to work hard at my own goals, and am learning to savor this particular time in life.

How are you remembering to pause and enjoy the scenery? How do you balance living fully in the moment while pursuing dreams?

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

A Gradual Journey of Activism

I’m honored to be over at SheLoves Magazine today, thinking about activism and what a long journey it is toward doing it well. I’m learning to look ahead at those who are doing it well and remembering to look back and help others along their path. Here’s an excerpt and I hope you’ll head over to SheLoves to join the conversation!

annie-rim-a-gradual-release-3In sixth grade, we had to create a “mousetrap vehicle.” As I remember, we were given very little instruction beyond the requirement that our creation was propelled solely by the snap of a mousetrap for a certain distance. In the days before YouTube, I still remember struggling at home with my parents, trying to figure out how to engineer this incredible feat. I finally was able to make mine snap and move just enough to get a passing grade, all the while amazed at my classmates whose parents had engineering degrees and had been able to make their mousetraps do tricks while gaining momentum.

Maybe my teacher had done a whole unit on propulsion but I just didn’t retain any of it. All I remember is the feeling of overwhelming frustration and defeat as I tried without resources to engineer a small vehicle across a masking tape line.

Years later and armed with a degree featuring new educational methodologies, when presenting new content to my second grade students, I would first model a lesson to my students, showing my thinking process using large chart paper. Then, they would practice it in small groups with me so that I could offer immediate feedback. Next, we’d do a guided practice as an entire class. And finally, my students would be able to implement the concept independently into their own learning. It’s essentially an intentional way of holding the hands of my students as they mastered a new idea.

Sometimes this would take a week or a month. Some concepts took the entire year, like learning to write a multi-paragraph essay. But we would keep working at it. The release didn’t always go in order. Sometimes, we’d have to go back a step or two until a student was ready to move on. Some kids got some concepts quickly while others took more time and guidance. It was rarely a linear process.

I’ve been thinking about this lately as I’ve dipped my toes into the world of activism. I love following activist parents on Instagram and Twitter. These families may have kids who are a bit older than my own, so I can learn from their journey. They often are farther along in their own awareness of activism and practices of inclusion than I am. Read the rest over at SheLoves and join in the conversation!

What about you? Who do you look to for guidance and inspiration on your journey?

Toasting Each Season

One of my favorite Parisian celebrations is the anticipation of le Beaujolais Nouveau every November. Shops paint their windows declaring, Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé! At midnight, trucks unload the new wine and everyone became a connoisseur. In college, I had no idea what to look for in this new batch of wine, but the communal aspect of an entire city coming together to celebrate in the grayness of late-fall remains a favorite memory.

 

beaujolais-nouveau-2015
Source

Because of its release in mid-November and the light, new flavor, this wine goes well with heavy Thanksgiving foods. So, every year we buy a half case to enjoy throughout the season. I’m sure we could find better Thanksgiving wines but the Beaujolais is good and filled with memories. I still look forward to joining in the celebrations, even from afar.

 

Last week, I found a forgotten bottle and we had it with some ratatouille. It was ok. This is not a wine to save – it’s meant to be tasted right away. We drank it and agreed that a certain je ne sais quoi was missing from a late-February experience. It just wasn’t as good.

Life is a little like Beaujolais Nouveau, isn’t it? A lot of experiences and opportunities are perfect for a certain season or moment. Letting them sit too long can make a good thing just ok.

I’ve been grappling a bit with this idea. Recently, some opportunities presented themselves that made me consider some next steps. I really struggled with timing and direction. I was confronted with my own feelings of contentment and an idea of scarcity in making decisions.

I’m still not sure the direction the next few months or years will take. I’m always surprised at where this life leads – it’s never what my plans really look like. But I’m learning to be picky. I think a lot of paths and directions will lead to good things but I want to be sure that I’m not missing out on a great path in place of something that is ok.

Sometimes choices remind me of a Beaujolais Nouveau. They are good and fun in a specific season but in the long-term, they’re just ok. I’m remembering that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ll always love drinking new wine in November and December. There are opportunities and paths that are perfect for a short season.

But I’m learning to hold those loosely and not to forget my bigger goals and dreams in the midst of all this. I’m remembering to be patient and discerning while also allowing myself to be excited and dream.

I’ll be ready to declare la Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé again in November but in the meantime, we’ve stocked up again on slightly aged Cabernets and Pinots with a couple rosés thrown in for those warm springtime days. I’m toasting to this particular season and remembering to appreciate these moments.

What are your favorite seasonal beverages? Have you ever taken a path that was good for a season but not great long-term?

Caution Leads to Independence

On New Year’s Day, we bundled up and went for an icy hike in Rocky Mountain National Park. Our winter here has been incredibly dry with very little snow but that week of Christmas was cold. When we got to the trailhead, old snow had iced over and we carefully set out for our mile “hike” around Bear Lake.

IMG_8042Adventurous Bea ran down the trail, sliding down any incline on her stomach, penguin-style. She spun, rolled, and dove through the snowy path, shedding her coat because she had worked up so much heat.

Cautious Elle rode atop Frank’s shoulders, taking in the view. Suddenly, Frank hit an icy patch and they fell into a snow bank. I don’t know how he did it, but Frank managed to fall and catch Elle all in one motion. She came away unscathed but startled.

When Bea falls and is surprised, we’ve learned to acknowledge her accident, give her a quick hug, and get her back on the bike or trail as quickly as possible. Once she’s back to the activity, she’s usually fine. Elle takes a bit more work. She needs to snuggle in and really observe her environment again.

After the tumble, we came to a hill at the edge of the lake. Someone had built a little snowman on top and Bea began sliding down. Elle watched for a while as we invited her again and again to join the fun. Finally, Frank took her in his arms and held her in his lap as they slid down the small hill. After that one experience, all Elle wanted to do was ride down that hill in our laps.

This experience reminded me of what we call “gradual release of responsibility” in teaching. When someone is learning something new, you can’t just throw them in the deep end. You model how to do it, then you sit beside them doing it together, then you have them do it on their own knowing you are close by to support until eventually, they can do it independently.

It’s a reminder that caution leads to independence. That, until we feel safe in a situation, we can’t take risks. Until Elle felt safe and secure with us by her side, she wasn’t able to slide down that hill alone.

When I was picking lean in to define my year, a friend reminded me of the importance of leaning into our community for support. It’s a reminder that asking for help and support is what makes us stronger and allows us to take greater risks.

As I look at this year and what it holds, I know that I’ll need my community to help me along the way. In big ways and small, the comfort and rooted knowledge that my friends and family are here to support me give me courage and strength to lean into new responsibilities and adventure. They also give me the courage to lean into those small, daily tasks that would feel overwhelming without their encouragement.

I know that leaning into what God has planned would come to nothing if I didn’t lean into the people God has placed in my life to help me along this journey.

How do you depend on your community? In what ways does leaning on others for help give you the ability to take greater risks?

 

Dwelling in the Mysteries of This Journey

We’re in a season of neediness. Bea needs me to walk her to school, to pick her up, to sit beside her as she does homework. Elle needs me to read with her, to get her dressed, to make her lunch, to put her to bed.

IMG_5757These are needy times and it’s easy to imagine life when they can make their own lunches and do their own homework. (Does that ever happen?) But even in the midst of this intense time, the patronizing voice of moms farther along can be grating: Just hang in there. It gets better! Don’t worry moms of littles, this terrible season doesn’t last!

While I’m eagerly anticipating independence, I don’t think this is a terrible season. I know I’ll miss the days of neediness. Of snuggling on the couch and holding hands as we walk home from school. I’ll miss the ease in which secrets are shared and words of comfort are accepted.

I was reading Jan L. Richardson’s In the Sanctuary of Women this morning and she offers this blessing:

That you may have
the wisdom to know the story
to which God calls you,
the power to pursue it,
the courage to abide in its mysteries,
and love in every step.

This blessing can be applied to so much of my life right now, but today I’m choosing to frame it in this season of motherhood. That I may be wise to this story of raising small humans and that I may remember to love every step of this mysterious journey.

How does this blessing speak to your particular season? How are you learning to dwell in the mysteries and love every step of this journey?

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