Love, Grow, & Overflow

My cup overflows. My laundry does too.

Month: January 2012

Conquering

Today has been a bad day.

Dear husband (and I use that phrase with no sarcasm) and I got into a fight last night.  We tend to be very peaceable creatures.  Every now and then we have a disagreement that involves lots of sighing and lots of sulking and lots of long silent stretches.  And once or twice a year we have a “real” fight with raised voices and wanting-to-punch-walls and sitting up way to late trying to fix things.  We wake up exhausted and baggy-eyed with our conversations full of all these “Are you OK? Are we OK?” undertones.  We are OK.  Sometimes this happens.  I’ve learned, on these days, to give myself a little extra grace.

My children have not yet learned that extra-grace-for-mom bit.  They see great opportunity.  They find the tiniest cracks in my walls and jab their sticky little fingers into them, chipping away until my resolve lies in heaps.  Then they stomp around on the rubble, feasting on Cheerios by the handful.

Today, for example, my son managed to climb up on a chair and dump an entire box of crackers on the floor – and tantrum when he couldn’t eat it.  He also grabbed a pair of scissors by the blade and tried to suck on a battery.  I feel like they are filming a low-budget babyproof-your-house public service announcement and I have been cast as “mom-not-to-be.”

This morning when I was all full of “We’re OK and it’s going to be a great, productive day” cheeries, I looked at our back room and decided I would conquer it.  Then I decided I would tidy it.  Then I decided that I would put away the new, fancy food processor we got for Christmas that has spent the last thirteen days sitting boxed in the corner.  So I got out our old, not-so-fancy food processor and began gathering all the parts and cleaning off the little crevices and nooks so it would be ready for whenever it makes its debut at our someday-garage-sale.  Thirty minutes, three almost-catastrophes and two time outs later, it was boxed up.  The new one is still in the corner.

So… extra grace for myself today.  Some days are about conquering.  Some days are about hiding the scissors and watching Dance Moms at nap time.  Sometimes this happens.  And we’re OK.

Bryan

 

I miss my friend.

Bryan died a few months ago.  He was young, brilliant, and healthy.  He was not the die-young type, if there is one.  I expected him to spend years and years jousting with political adversaries in online discussion boards.  I thought someday he’d be the well-dressed old man at the coffee shop who caught people off-guard with his witty banter.  And I wouldn’t have been surprised to find his name linked with some piece of legislature that made our town beautiful or greener or more progressive.

I did not think that, today, I’d be resting my fingers on his name etched in glass on his niche of the columbarium wall.  The temperature-control in this room is not working.  It is hot and terribly smothering, and I am thankful for something measurable, something external to blame. The church basement is only half-underground, and the narrow window high on the wall pours light into the room like grace, like life.  I suck it in.

When I leave, I call my brother and tell him I have closure.  My brother doesn’t believe in closure, he says.  He believes in time.

Weeks later, I’m at home playing with my kids.  Or I’m on the computer, or I’m taking a walk.  And I’m caught off-guard by sudden memories of my friend, like crumbs in places I’m sure I’ve swept.  I try to brush them all up, to gather them together with the rhythm of a broom.  Sometimes, I have a beautiful story.  And sometimes, all I have are crumbs.  Ashes.  Dust.

“His oath, his covenant, his blood sustain me in the whelming flood…”

I think of the window and it’s grace-light pouring in.

Maybe that’s enough.

Running

I sometimes dream of running away. Here’s what I have so far: I find myself stressed out and overwhelmed, so I fling open the front door and take off at lightning pace. After about twenty feet, the details get all fuzzy. It isn’t the most well-thought-out dream, I admit. And, really, my endurance for running is only about two minutes long. But still, running away is one of my favorite dreams.

Truth is, I don’t really like running. I have bad knees, foot issues, and I hate the way my throat gets all dry. So I’ve surprised myself with my affinity for the treadmill.  Before I was a parent, hopping on a treadmill was a boring alternative to going outside in winter (and if there’s one thing I dislike more than running, it’s outdoor winter activities). But not anymore.

Now, it’s so appealing that I feel a little guilty when I head out the door and go to the Y.  I finish entire thoughts. (I forgot I had entire thoughts.) My heart rate rises for good reasons. The loud crashing sounds are infrequent and are not my responsibility anyway. Everyone cleans up after themselves – usually, quietly. They wait their turns. They maintain appropriate personal space. No one tries to climb up my leg or pokes me in the face while shouting “Eye! Ear!” And when I decide to stay for thirty or forty-five minutes, I’m usually finished exactly thirty or forty-five minutes later. It’s very grown-up and blissful and a little miraculous.

Ultimately, I don’t think escape is what I need. I think it’s rhythm. Space. Time to pray, and search out the foggy parts of my dreams. Time to engage my heart and muscles and brain all at once and let them take off together like unleashed pups. And when I’m done, I get to come home to my three-year-old and one-year-old, freshly bathed with hair that smells like strawberries, running little circles in footie pajamas because mom is home.

And that, I realize, is the perfect ending to my dream.

Sugar

I went to the grocery store last night. After a snowstorm. In January. I’ve always heard that the worst time to shop is when you’re hungry, but shopping at night in the middle of winter trumps hunger. My body is ready to hibernate. I fill my cart with anything I may want or need in the next three months. And last night, I found a real gem: sugarcane.

No, I don’t actually need sugarcane. It is not healthy. It is not local, sustainable agriculture. But it’s rare around here, and it brought back a memory I’d forgotten. I spend a lot of time searching for items I’ve lost, so getting one back so freely makes me grateful.

In second grade, our teacher arranged for us to be pen pals with a school in Hawaii. We’d write out tedious letters on dotted gray paper talking about our families and life in suburban Ohio. My pen pal told me that her state produced sugar cane. I wrote back that sugar cane sounded interesting, but I’d never tried it. This might have been a travesty to the little second grade class far across the Pacific, because our class’s next batch of letters came with a box of sugar cane for us to try. That was magical.

I used to feel that often – the idea that life may, at any given moment, burst into bloom with some fascinating new experience. One year, a teacher had a handmade reward puzzle in the room. Every time our whole class was being good, we got a puzzle piece, and when the puzzle was complete it spelled out “Free Time.” Magic. My cousins once took us to a park with hill after hill to roll down. That was magic, too. And once, when my parents were redoing the dining room, they let us draw on the old walls with crayon before taking the wallpaper off. Absolute magic.

So, after lunch today, I surprised my daughter with sugar cane. (And, actually, it came with two amazing components – the sugary taste, and permission to spit the remaining chunks out without being scolded.) I hope she stores up these little moments like a squirrel in winter. And someday when she’s older, I want her to remember what this sweetness tastes like. I hope she reminds herself that life is sometimes long and sometimes cold, but even so, it is blooming with magic.

A Little Bit Brave

I joined the gym.

Actually, I joined the YMCA. Besides having a contract that doesn’t involve the life of my firstborn child, it also has a fun theme song. The people there are friendly, too, which is important. I need all the grace I can get when it comes to athletics.

The first time there, I didn’t bring a lock. I ended up hanging my jacket on a hook near the front-desk staff. The next time, I showed up with lock in hand and went into the locker room, only to have a bunch of ten-year-olds in swimsuits grow silent and cast sidelong glances my direction. Turns out the Y has a girls’ locker room and a separate women’s locker room.

Today, after locking my possessions up in the grown-up locker room, I found a treadmill in between a runner and a very petite, toned lady who was tearing it up on the stair machine. I always want to run on treadmills, but I have a tough time staying upright when the ground is standing still. So, I put on my headphones, started playing some David Crowder, and began my brisk walk.

About twenty minutes into my walk, I was feeling great – heart rate up, muscles engaged, spirit buoyed. The music was a little quiet, so I turned it up. It still seemed quiet, so I tried to adjust my ear bud. That’s when I realized that the headphones were not plugged in all the way. The stair machine lady and the runner had been listening to my music whether they wanted to or not. I apologized. The stair machine lady complemented me on my music choices. Grace.

After the runner and the stair machine lady finished their workouts, I was still walking. My program on the treadmill ended, and I started it up again and kept going. I thought of my mom who just started college after graduating from high school forty three years ago. She’s brave, my mom. So I figured I could be a little bit brave too. And I ran. I watched myself in the mirrors on the walls, and actually I didn’t look very clunky or cow-like. If someone blurred there eyes a little, I could even pass for an actual runner.

I was graceful. I was fierce. I was brave.

After the workout, I went into the hallway and got a cup of water. My hand bumped into the tank as I raised the cup, and water spilled all over the hallway. So my fierce, brave self got to go back into the room for paper towels. And then return for more paper towels. And a third time. The others in the room were polite enough not to stare. Grace.

I am learning that it’s OK to be vulnerable and a little unsure at times. Being vulnerable means being honest, and it gives me a chance to grow braver in big and small ways. It also gives me a chance to practice grace with myself and to savor it from others. I’ve learned there is a big difference between gracefulness and grace. I don’t have a lot of gracefulness, but I am surrounded by grace.

Wind and Wonder

My daughter’s preschool is very close to our house. Each school day, my husband walks her there on his way to work.

Yesterday morning we had one of the first real days of winter around here. We got her all bundled up with her hot pink fur-lined boots and her fleece ball-topped hat and her princess scarf. She and her dad headed up the driveway hand-in-hand. As soon as they reached the front of the house, the wind whipped fiercely at them. My snow-loving daughter tried really hard not to cry… and my husband scooped her up and carried her. It was a sweet moment to watch – my husband high-stepping through drifts on unplowed sidewalks, her face pressed against his chest, his arms holding her tightly and her fur-lined boots swinging a little on her dangling legs. I would’ve taken a photo but that meant pulling my nose away from its spot pressed against the front window, and I didn’t want to miss a second of it.

My husband shows my daughter love like this all the time. We tell her and we shower her with kisses and tickles and we are audiences to some very off-key but earnest singing and dancing performances around here. But these walk-to-school moments are the ones that catch my throat. Here’s why:

I think someday my beautiful little girl is going to meet a boy who tells her he loves her when he doesn’t. He may be lying. Or he may think he loves her. And I think that, even if my daughter desperately wants to believe his words, she will have all these little memories that have defined real love for her written on her heart like little post-it notes. So when she meets a guy who says “Hey baby, I love you” but doesn’t live up to his words, the little red post-it flags in her heart will start waving and she will know that he doesn’t really love her. I know she will want him to and I know she may even convince herself on the surface that he does. It may take a few broken hearts to really figure it out.

But she will know.

And then, someday, my beautiful little girl is going to meet someone who really does love her. And he is going to be an imperfect person but a good person, a moral person and a loving person. They are going to laugh. A lot. And then one day they are going to step out into the world and be knocked almost off their feet by whatever fierce winds fly at them. In that moment when her eyes well up from the stinging cold, he is going to brace his back against that wind and pull her to his chest, and even though he has never done that before, it will feel familiar.

And she will know.

Careening

I live in the wintery north.  No matter how many winters I weather, it’s still scary to hit a patch of ice when driving.  I’m always afraid that I will lose all control and careen down the road, the houses flying by while I turn my steering wheel and pump the brakes in vain until I crash into something large, damaging and expense-incurring.

Parenting feels like that.  Sometimes I am enjoying a relaxing drive, and other days the world is flying past my windows at frightening speed and I am just trying to stop for a moment and get some traction.

This blog is traction.  It’s my chance to chronicle the pauses and hang on to some moments that are flying by far too quickly.  It’s my opportunity to take my hands off the wheel and stop controlling, at least for a moment.  And breathe.  And write.  And laugh a little.  And it’s a chance to look back at the tracks my wheels have left and to realize that the journey so far has been pretty great.

And then…. I pump the gas pedal, hit some ice, and careen some more.