Tag: Friendship

3Aug

Prioritizing for Mummies

Our kitchen sink is piled like the discount bin in a store at which only desperate masochists or alley rats would shop. We have mismatched coffee mugs, pasta bowls stuck together with parmesan, cutting boards clinging to last night’s watermelon seeds, empty olive oil bottles, take your pick! Although I could swear I had it spotless at this time yesterday, the only proof that civilized folks occupy our kitchen is the vase of freshly-picked African daisies… sitting cheerfully in a pile of crumbs.

Shall we move on to the living room? Here, you can find the ruins of several Lego empires, dismantled by four children in the space of an hour and arranged strategically so as to be tread on by bare feet when least expected. While removing plastic palm branches from your soles, you can observe my mending pile which is second only to my ironing pile, the abstract art that is our formerly beige rug*, and what’s that? You need a tissue? We have one in every nook and cranny of the room for your convenience, and most of them are only slightly used!

* For the record, beige rugs were never meant for use by children, dinner party guests, or people with feet.

Bolts and nails and who knows what else is scattered on the floor around our bulimic tool box in the utility room—the same room that mysteriously accumulates bird poop and produces spiders the exact size of my fleeing dignity. Every single toy with the ability to hold water or to stir water or to be dunked in water without electrocuting anyone is drip-drying above the tub in our bathroom. Papers waiting to be sorted into overcrowded filing cabinets are covering every sit-able surface in our bedroom. Dust bunnies are shacking up with cobwebs anywhere they think they can get away with it (which is pretty much everywhere these days).  I’m trying not to think about it.

Of course, trying to block out the din of Messes, Messes Everywhere only makes them squall louder.  The ever-annoying shoulds like to join in too: You should be scrubbing the dishes! In fact, you should have done it already! We shouldn’t even be having this conversation! I’ve always found the shoulds both logical and persuasive (in their ever-annoying way), but I can’t give in to them this afternoon, and here’s why:

My children are napping.

Did that sentence read with the weight of a divine decree? If not, try reading it again. Slower this time, maybe in Morgan Freeman’s voice.

My children are napping. In about half an hour, they will wake up and ask me to snuggle the sleep away and then clamor for shows or snacks while I say no, no, and bluster around getting supper together and changing for work and getting the girls presentable and fed and all three of us out the door on time to pick up their dad so I can hand over parenting duties and win a little bread myself and return home to kiss sweet faces goodnight and then plop down on the nearest available surface. And as the day’s energy slowly ebbs out of my toes, it won’t matter to me whether or not the kitchen is pristine; the dishes will likely survive until morning. I won’t care that our living room has been taken over by Legos; it’s instant playtime for the girls tomorrow. The feral utility room won’t even register; who needs to do laundry anyway?

I’m discovering that at the end of each day, my delusional drive to be June Cleaver evaporates, and the only thing left is a pulsing, present need to be me
a mama who treasures her daughters’ imaginations and sleep-drenched hugs
a wife who loves undistracted time with her husband more than just about anything
a friend who can’t wait to write back, call back, come over
a soul-searcher who meets the sacred in unexpected ways
and
a writer who feels ridiculous even considering the title but who begins shriveling as a mama, a wife, a friend, and a soul-searcher when she doesn’t allow herself the gift of words—
which is why our kitchen will have to live in a squalor for a little while longer.

My children are napping.

 

 

2Nov

NaNoWriMo – Day 2

On one hand, it might not be the most logical decision to invite a houseful of guests over to play games and watch movies late into the night on the first of thirty days in which one is trying to write a book. On the other hand, logic is often overrated. Dan and I agreed going into this that we could sacrifice the housekeeping for a month but not our close friendships, and I’m glad I’m still irresponsible enough to settle Catan some nights when I should be sleeping.

Of course, two coffees, an energy drink, and a French press full of green tea infused with freshly picked mint only got me 500 new words today that may or may not be intelligible. I’ll have to re-read them tomorrow… after I sleep at least fourteen consecutive hours, padlock the game cabinet, and mail the key to Santa Claus.

19Aug

I’ll Even Pay For Shipping

I’ve had a heavy couple of days. Friends of ours who have been together as long as Dan and I just ended their relationship, and a small but sharply-elbowed portion of their pain has crammed itself under my rib cage. They weren’t married, but they had made a home together, and they had both been thinking in forever terms. The break is jagged. We have offered the guest bedroom and listening ears, but these feel as useful as a cup of tea trying to put out a fire. What I really want to offer is a solution.

The man, A, told us candidly about his reasons for initiating the break-up. He loved E, loves her still, has wanted to give her the sparkly ring and the commitment and the curly-headed babies she’s longed for… but he can’t do that until she checks back into her own life. Dan and I see it too, how she’s been drifting along aimless and emotionless. She loathes her job, halfheartedly subscribes to a religion she doesn’t believe, no longer recognizes her desires by name, and has forgotten how to love. She’s floated so far away from her own heart that apathy is towing her down without the slightest opposition. E wouldn’t even acknowledge her partner in a life raft with his hand outstretched, and A couldn’t continue to build a life with a drowning woman. His decision was necessary and heartrending.

E still isn’t talking, and I wish I knew what was happening in her—if this pain that not even apathy can immunize against is sparking recognition in her again or if she is simply counting on the anesthesia to kick in soon. I want to shake her until her eyes refocus. I want to show her the warm, gentle man who made a brave decision in hopes that she will come back to him with motivation all her own. I want to remind her of the lively and radiant woman she is beneath the lethargy. I want her to take stock of her priorities and realize that a life with love and fulfillment is worth too much to float by listlessly. Wake up! I think from the pressure center under my rib cage. Wake up! Wake up!

I hope, however foolishly, that my brain waves make their way to hers and that the heaviness knotted inside my chest will somehow translate to a happy ending for my friends. I believe this is exactly the kind of situation in which miracles thrive. I just wish I could insure that their miracle comes with overnight shipping… and maybe an extra-loud alarm clock. The one in our guest room really isn’t up to the task.

4May

Fwd: Crusade

Three of the contacts in my e-mail address book have yet to realize that the Age of Forwards is dead. All three are relatives, and they tend to take some strong political stances that I don’t share, so for the sake of staying on good terms with my family at large, I usually delete these forwards without a glance. Today, however, two of them sent the same e-mail, and I made the mistake of reading it:

“Saturday, May 8, 2010 is WALK NAKED IN AMERICA DAY!
If a Muslim male looks upon a naked woman, other than his wife, he must commit suicide. In an effort to help weed out neighborhood terrorists, all women in America are asked to walk out of their house at 1:00pm, completely naked, and circle their neighborhood block for one hour.”

I felt sick, perhaps even more than I did a few weeks ago when that Facebook status was making the rounds. You probably saw some variation of it: “Dear God, I noticed you’ve been taking my favorite celebrities, and I just wanted you to know that Obama is my favorite president.”

But this isn’t a post about politics. This is about death.

~~~

Yesterday, a woman I had never met passed away. Her husband was one of my university classmates, but I hadn’t kept up with his life until last week when their story spread among my circle of acquaintances. She was six months pregnant with their fourth child when she had to undergo an emergency operation to remove cancerous spots from her lungs. She went into cardiac arrest. The baby was delivered healthy, albeit extremely premature, but my schoolmate’s wife slipped away after a few days of desperate attempts to save her life.

I did not know this woman personally, and from what I’ve heard about her, we would not have had a lot in common. However, I joined the thousands of friends and supporters hoping, praying for a miracle, and I now grieve her death along with them. Her children will grow up without her goodnight kisses. Her husband will face the difficult decisions ahead alone. Everyone who loved her, everyone who would have come to love her, every person she would have touched along the corridors of a full-term life is now bereft. Nothing about this is remotely funny.

I think of our next door neighbors in the States, a married couple with a young son and a taxi business. We swapped power tools, shared watermelon in the backyard, and tried together to help a neighborhood boy caught in a tragic situation. They gave us Natalie’s first bicycle. The husband mowed our lawn along with his. They also happened to be devout Muslims. If we categorized them as terrorists for their belief in Allah, we would deserve to be categorized as Crusaders for our belief in God. However, prejudice is probably a reality they have learned to put up with a long time ago.

But to joke about forcing our next-door neighbor to commit suicide? To turn the idea of leaving his son fatherless, his wife widowed, and his friends brokenhearted into some kind of patriotic comedy? To quip about tricking God into offing the president? To slap an animated gif onto a death wish and call it funny? It makes me see stars. That professed Christians can be not simply callous but malicious about other people’s lives shocks, saddens, and enrages me all at once, and I have to say… sentiments like that help me understand where a terrorist might find motivation in the first place.

12Jan

Bandwagon

We’ve been back nearly a week in a house with wireless internet connection and more computers than human beings, yet my Google Reader is still shouting at me in bold type: 109 unread posts! Now it’s 110! Alert! Social prospects dwindling! (My computer is often as dramatic as I am, coincidentally.) I’ve been working my way back to the blogging bandwagon a few minutes at a time and spending the rest of each day on activities that don’t come with touch pads or hyperlinks… but even as I’ve left my computer to pine away at my desk, the internet community has been a significant part of the last two weeks.

For instance, one side of our guest room is now stacked with bags of clothes—scratchy wool sweaters that look great but make me want to claw my own skin off, favorite outfits from the Stone Age college, and good quality undershirts that resolutely refuse to stay tucked in. As I bagged up a chunk of my closet for charity, I kept in mind the revolutionary (to me) insights picked up over the past year from Reachel at Cardigan Empire. She contends that clothes should work to flatter us, not the other way around, and that a sparse collection of outfits that make us feel truly fabulous is better than a closet bursting with “nothing to wear!” items. Who knew? I applied the principle to the girls’ overflowing and rarely-touched bin(s) of toys as well, and now everyone feels a little lighter. In a very good way.

I’ve been holing up in the kitchen as well with my favorite Starbucks apron (technically it’s Dan’s, but until a good fairy brings me one of these, I’ve claimed it as my own) and inspiring new flavors on the brain. It’s hard to believe that when we got married, my cooking skills were limited to microwave chicken nuggets and canned corn. For the leaps and bounds my culinary ability has taken, I am forever indebted to food bloggers like Pioneer Woman, Bakerella, Molly from Orangette, and Deb at Smitten Kitchen. They taught me how to dice onions and braise pork roasts and decorate cupcakes and melt chocolate, how to make everyday cooking an art, and how to find pure joy on the stovetop. I even like vegetables now; this is no small feat.

In the midst of weeding through clothes and cooking up heart-warming meals and climbing (and sliding back down) the ever-growing slopes of Mount Laundry and busying myself with the million little tasks of a mother, the gentle gratefulness of NieNie and Kindness Girl and Royal Buffet’s Mollie Greene have pulled my attention back to my treasure of a family. I’ve had invaluable moments with my husband and girls over the last few weeks, plopping down on the rug to build Legos, whooping Bowser’s spiky green butt with our Wiimotes, and working out together. Too often, I let busyness get in the way of togetherness, and I’m so grateful for the reminders to love our quirky little household intentionally.

In honor of the fresh-faced new year, I wrote down a handful of happy challenges in lieu of resolutions—a habit I’ve picked up from Andrea of Superhero Journal who suggested putting a positive, uplifting spin on goals. Peaceful sleep is on my agenda for 2010, as are creative financial saving and properly-applied eye makeup. (That one’s already checked off with the help of an eye shadow quad and a short video tutorial; can someone please explain why this took me so many years to try?) Megsie and Elizabeth of Bluepoppy fame have written about the yes factor as well, and I’m in good company as I set off into an inspiring new year.

I took Color Me Katie’s philosophy to heart when faced with the drab task of de-Christmasing the house and made a party of it. I rearranged the girls’ room with concepts picked up from interior design sites like Ohdeedoh and friends like Lizardek to open up more focused playspace. I’ve stolen away from the housework to write my monthly letters to the girls, an oh-so-wonderful tradition that I first learned about from Dooce (and have often regretted not thinking up myself back when Natalie was a baby). Inspired by the ability of bloggers like CJane, Christina from MyTopography, and Nina at The Whole Self to distill daily life to its most beautiful components, I’ve been making a list of the loveliest moment in each day of 2010 to look back on this time next year. I’ve also been picking up The Message and searching through its pages for the kind of open-hearted, un-sermonized spirituality that I so admire in Rachelle of Magpie Girl, Rae from Journey Mama, and Sam, the Sunday School Rebel herself.

Perhaps this only emphasizes how much I need to work on real-life socialization, but I feel so fortunate to be part of the “giant pool of wisdom” as Rachelle calls it, the collection of kindred spirits and talented writers who indirectly share their lives with me. So thank you, dear blogosphere… and please keep in mind that my being away from the computer busy with living and loving is most definitely your fault.

7Oct

Desperate Intentions

Another one of my friends just announced her divorce. That makes two in the last month, and I am suddenly out of breathable air.

I have no judgement for all my friends whose marriages have ripped in two… only a desperate sadness that applies as much to me as it does to them. I guess in my mind, we’ve always been in this together. Not just Dan and I, but every person who’s taken the brave step into lifelong commitment. Love strong enough to inspire vows is a marvel, and I adore the thought that at least one person treasures each of my married friends even more than I do. Other couples’ contentment is an airborne love potion for me. It sharpens my focus on my own marriage, on the immense value my husband holds, and I find myself snuggling deeper into security by association. If they can hold tightly to their bond over the years, so can we.

This is why, when yet another Facebook status changes to “single,” I feel like someone has shoved the word into my throat. I taste the tears, the painful timbre of shouted words, and the flat gray of hopelessness. As absurd and egotistical as it may seem, I feel as though I have been divorced as well, at least to a tiny extent. The solidity of my marriage is dependent on no one else’s; this, I know. Yet when another couple’s faith crumbles… it plants the suspicion that I’m wrong about committed love, its adaptability, its storehouse of second chances for happiness. Maybe love truly can grow brittle enough to be unmanageable.

I do my best to pluck these thoughts out the moment they sprout. Logic helps — the sturdy facts that I am myself, Dan is himself, and our marriage is simply ours. No one else’s handwritten vows. No one else’s wedding picture hanging above our bed. No one else’s arguments to slog through. No one else holding me as I fall asleep each night. Besides this, we have the strong relationships of our parents and grandparents to lean into when the wind picks up, as well as the support of so many dear friends. I am grateful beyond words for the trust that pulses every day through our clasped hands. Even if that cannot immunize me against the pain of others’ separation, it is enough to turn that heartache inward and use it to cling even more intentionally to my own brave and hopeful promise.

24Aug

By the Spoonful

Car Lingus – Part 1

It caught me by surprise every day of our crazy vacation. Slipping up behind me like boys in college used to do, covering my eyes and whispering, “Guess who?”, the realization that we’re seeing the world startled me into an aching kind of gladness. It’s the same ache that grips my chest at concerts and symphonies, while reading a perfect novel, during twilight Mass at the Notre Dame—when a trickle of fulfillment finds its way into my deep, deep need for beauty.

A sunrise getaway

This was a trip for slurping beauty by the spoonful from the moment we drove off into the sunrise three weekends ago. That first day brought us through the Dolomites (“Elephant hills!” exclaimed Natalie in a fit of Hemingway) to the Austrian Alps—a fairytale panorama of glittering green mountainsides frosted in clouds. “The hilllllllllls are aliiiiiiiiiive!” I didn’t sing, though the untamed nun in me was quite tempted. Even more enchanting than the mountains were the cozy valley villages with their honey-and-cream houses, traditional red steeples, and flowers—flowers bursting from every window box, flowers spilling out of every garden gate, flowers brightening the woodwork on every balcony, flowers bringing extravagant glory to every street corner. Not even the downpour that evening could dilute the splashes of color.

Prettiest firehouse ever

I would have been content spending the rest of our vacation (and/or lives) eating Edelweiss cheese in a Hansel and Gretel cottage, but thankfully my husband convinced me to get back in the car. Our second day brought us through Pennsylvania fields a very familiar-looking stretch of Germany to the old world sophistication of Munich. Dear friends (hi, Heike!) walked us through downtown where beautiful buildings towered overhead and at least three H&Ms were always in sight. We had the distinction of being refused service at the Hofbräuhaus by a grumpy waitress in a dirndl, but Munich redeemed itself by offering river surfers, stark naked frisbee players (octogenarians all, unfortunately for our eyes), and pretzels and pints at a welcoming beer garden to end the day. Honestly, the city’s natural beauty paled in comparison to the loveliness of spending a day with people we adore… but that’s how it should be, isn’t it?

New Town Hall 2

Our next destination was Folkestone, England, which we reached after driving through the farmlands of no less than five different countries in one day. (I like to think this makes us half superhuman, or quarter at the very least). The long, oh so very long trip in the car was worth every minute when we pulled into our campsite and looked out at this:

The famous white cliffs

With the sunset rolling in across the Channel, Dover’s famous white cliffs gleamed like wild candles. We forgot about supper and walked along the shore, our hair waltzing with the wind, and befriended snails in every tide pool. On the four-year-old’s imperative, we pretended there were pirates in the water—an imagining colored in the next day by finding out there had been pirates only a week before. From then on, it was pirates as we browsed the shopping district and pirates as we explored a leery-eyed graveyard, and two very small pirates nearly burst with “Aarrrr”s when we found a sunken ship playground near the beach. Mutinous Mommy even found treasure by accidentally discovering Charles Dickens’ house during an uncharted ramble.

Natalie and Daddy forging their way through solid rock

The next leg of our journey took us on a ferry cutting through the wide swath of deep blue water between Great Britain and Ireland. My first impression of the Emerald Isle was traffic, ack!, followed by brr, followed by brrrrrrrrrrr, followed by why didn’t we pack the winter coats?, followed by thank God our tent is so small that we HAVE to share body heat all night long. Sophie woke up in a pool of rainwater one morning, I routinely lost feeling in several extremities (including my head), and we may have resorted to ramen noodles for supper… but the silhouette of cloud banks over impossibly green grass was a beauty worth shivering for. (Plus, there was Smithwick’s on tap.)

Irish hills beyond the Shannon

On Day 13, we finally boarded the return ferry to start our long trip back home, little knowing that the most soul-thrilling beauty was still ahead…

(On to Part 2…)

© Copyright 2015, all rights reserved.
Site powered by Training Lot.
Password Reset
Please enter your e-mail address. You will receive a new password via e-mail.