Sunday, December 21, 2014

Simple & Complicated Question from Molly Mae

¨Everything is both simpler than we can imagine, and more complicated than we can conceive"-- Goethe

A few weeks ago,  in the car, the girls and I were enjoying the Wicked soundtrack. They like this  and that song and I love ẗhe song ¨For Good.¨ 

I've hear it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are led to those 
who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you.

The lyrics and the way Idinda Menzel and Kristin Chenowith sing it bring me chills every time!
We actually were listening to it on our way to a Wizard of Oz themed birthday party.

  As I'm zoning out to the words, Molly said, "do you have to sing pretty?" When asking her what she meant, she explained, "my teachers in church try to sing pretty but it just isn't like this; do you have to sing pretty?"  I thought it was so deep.

I think it such a great question to which I really don't the answer. I do think there is value in doing something well and I also think there is value in doing something, period.  . . ..which leads us to the balance we struggle to strike in the holiday season. I don't know the answer to that either, but I do know that we can appreciate both the beautiful singing, the songs and those who just sing. 

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Monday, November 17, 2014

All Saints

As I sit here writing, November is almost half way over and, as I've said before here, I feel like Fall is the shortest and most beautiful season. In October, with days in the 80s I still cut fresh hydrangeas yet soon our home will match all the stores, in full swing of the Christmas chaos joy. But before that, we are diving in to Fall.
This season always seems so fleeting to me.  Tonight, I look on my mantle with decorations of Molly's art, I think about how much I love this season of the year a little as a metaphor for this season my life, also fleeting. 

 Fall is busy yet we find some semblance of peace in the routines we've established and squeeze in the traditions and activities.

The first Sunday of November is what this Methodist girl calls "All Saints Day." Baptists don't really call it that, but in between helping Anna Cate do her kiddo program during the service on that first Sunday in November, I noticed there was a time in the service for loved ones to be mentioned aloud.  BJ said someone mentioned his mother's name when I nudged him to say her name aloud. 

I said names in my heart on this holy day,  thinking about those departed on whom I reflect on "All Saints Days" as saints to me.  I thought of my dear Granny. 

In fleeting moments of clarity and peace with the present, I realize I am living the life I treasure about these loved ones who have gone before -- celebrating holidays, creating traditions and finding spaces of joy in the midst of the chaos.  Will my name be mentioned in the hearts of my children and grandchildren? I can assume based on the relationship, not necessarily by my actions, the answer is yes.

  While I'm certainly not a saint, I like to think the life I'm leading is holy because of these experiences I'm sharing with family and  friends. 

The Pumpkin patch:

Anna Cate (and her best friend Leana) wrapped up their first year playing softball. It was a wonderful experience and they had great coaches. 
Nana came for a visit and we enjoyed having her for a game. 

Anna Cate and I got away one Sunday afternoon for a run in my favorite place -- the Chancellorsville battlefield.  She rode her bike as I ran.  As we were "working out"  (doing air squats), we saw a couple coming to the far-off field for pictures, and I thought I'd take a cue and catch the same sunlight a professional used. 
Who needs fancy outfits? I was happy.  The picture above shows this gorgeous dark streak Anna Cate has in her hair. I honestly had never noticed it until a hair stylist pointed it out to me as a birth mark. I think it makes Anna Cate feel special. 

She is such a precious child with a dear heart that I often forget to focus on her beauty. Molly is precious, too, in her own way.  (After I typed that, she came and cuddled up next to me on the couch; I'm a sucker for cuddles)
We celebrated Halloween with the Pences. Molly's costume was centered around Luke's -- he was a bandit and she was a sherriff.
Libby was the most precious Dorothy ever to walk, and I think the whole crew should have been characters from OZ. I tried to talk Anna Cate into being Galinda, but she said, "I'm not that snooty," since I've showed her youtube clips of Wicked. She chose a mummy instead. 

The very next morning, we headed out to a day at Historic Montpelier for the  horse races with some friends. 

It is BJ's favorite day of the year and he pretty much does everything but send out the invites. 

Last weekend, Anna Cate had her first "year round" swim meet and we are so thankful she is having a good experience as well as finding success in the sport. 

Anna Cate's activities absorb a lot of our free time, and often I try to arrange for Molly to have other things to do.  One night this Fall, she spent the evening with her dear Baba.

 But when she does come along, I love watching how Molly makes friends with other children. During the swim meet, these kids built a little fort for crafts and games under the bleachers.

Molly is the youngest of this little crew and they are so sweet to her! I was so touched that Molly found a way to crawl out to cheer during her sissy's races. 

Tonight, the girls and I dipped into the Christmas season a bit as we shopped for shoe-box donations to children in war-torn countries.  While we've done these type things with Molly before, tonight was the first night I think she really "got it." She enthusiastically picked out gifts for an unknown girl, and never asked for something for herself. 
 She carefully crafted a note, asking us how to spell "I hope you enjoy these Christmas presents." She asked us how to spell "from." I think she understands how important it is to give -- to be on the other side of from. 

On the outside of the box, she drew a picture of a little girl and wrote, "I love you," and showed it to me saying, "look how sweet I am, Mommy."  It was really special and she knew how proud of her I was. I told her how we have done things like this before, but this is the first time I can see her giving heart. (When we visited a local church to help give supplies after Sandy two years ago, I remember her saying, "I don't want to give this to Jersey!!!")
These are the moment we will remember, the experiences of ordinary saints.  May I metaphorically say their names aloud in their presence now.  

As I remember those saints of my past, may I honor this circle of life by appreciating who I'm sharing my journey with now. 

All Saints’ Day 
 Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys which thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee.
~From the Common Book of Prayer
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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Milestone, Paths and Journeymen

As we experience the milestones of my children's life, I find myself oscillating between grand sentimental thoughts and "go through the motions" type states of being.  Although my mom was, I am not the mom with a camera at every event and I find myself often reminding myself why whatever we are doing is a big deal, wondering if my response is how I'm supposed to feel.  It is just all so much. . .these little souls whose childhood I'm witnessing as I'm supposed to be feeding, teaching, playing with, feeding at the same time as I'm just going through the motions myself of life.  Come to think of it, I journey through milestones of my life with both a sentimental slob approach or a "go through the motions" outlook.

Last week, Anna Cate received her bible (and hymnal) during a church service.  Many of the songs presented were songs from praise baby, a collection of spiritual praise songs we used to play all the time.  I have lost the dvd set and wish Molly could watch them. Anyway, the praise baby songs elicited some strong sentimental twinges. How has my baby become a little girl and did I do what I was supposed to do along the way for her? Probably not, which is why I'm so thankful we have outside experiences and sources to support her journey. 
As well as friends along the path.

In a completely unrelated event, it was also the weekend of her half birthday so she got her ears pierced. 

In wondering if I'm doing the right thing, I often contemplate how to raise children to be successful in this world but not be of it.  I have always struggled with the same concepts.  Maybe my struggles with parenting just mirror my own struggles.  Rather than my having the answers to pass down,  perhaps, my "lot in life" is to just walk alongside with these girls as they discover their own balance.  

In fact, I didn't really like that expression "lot in life" and when looking up its meaning, I find that it has a biblical reference -- the relative of Abraham, Lot, struggles because he doesn't exactly follow the will of God, according to the story.  You see, I don't really believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible, but I do think it has so much value in our world, so I find deep meaning when Anna Cate's family of faith presents her with their holy scriptures and songs.  Those books, the bible and hymnal, have rich  meanings for this world and in our efforts to find meaning of it all, and I'm just so thankful to be a part of this journey for her.

I wonder if that is the point of this parenting gig. Molly helps remind me constantly that it is up to her to do it herself. And when I stand back, I am continually amazed at all she can do as well understand "on her own." I wish I had more time to let her do more on her own. Last week, I lamented in guilt, "Molly gets schlepped around to all of Anna Cate's activities and I know she just wants to be at home."  Later that day she said, "Mommy, I'm always rushed around, but what does schlep mean?" Sometimes, however, she enjoys her sissy's activities, like the Girl Scout pumpkin patch trip she went on last night. 
To sum up all my disjointed thoughts about how I'm supposed to feel, what I'm supposed to be teaching, I think I know it is my responsibility to teach them how to behave, how to be healthy, and all that jazz.  Yet more importantly, it is my sacred duty to just journey alongside with them, witnessing to them as we go through the motions of life together, both the sentimental and the pragmatic steps. 

The best way I can influence their journey is by letting them know how special their journey is to me, as I pass along lessons I've found to be important in mine: being kind, brave, healthy, trustworthy, reliable, and well-rested. . .to name a few.  It helps to relieve my burden a bit to acknowlege that only by being honest and present in both my love and restraint can I be a suitable traveling companion as we journey together. 

I think they will be ok. 

On Children

 Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts, 
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, 
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, 
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, 
and He bends you with His might 
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable. 

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Reconciling the End of Summer

"The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest."
-  William Blake   

The Figs that we pluck from a tree outside our door are such sweet reminders that joy comes in every season. We've enjoyed the best fig harvest ever this year, and this treat reminds me to love all the seasons, both of the year and of my life.  
A crisp air is replacing the humidity in the air on my evening runs. The laid back mornings with back porch coffee chats, swim team practices and picnic planning have been replaced by the rushed "COME ONs" or "DONT FORGET to brush you hair/teeth," "I love you"  "come give me a quick kiss" and "have a good days."   Afternoon naps and late dinners have been replaced by evening activities, homework and a mad rush to get our girls to bed by 8. (I think sleep is really important; unfortunately it cuts into quality time).  As much as I wish every day could be summer and while I'm sad summer is over, I know I only feel this way because we enjoyed such a fabulous one together. I am such a slacker mom in so many ways, but I really hope Anna Cate and Molly will remember how very hard I focused on providing all the wonderful experiences I can in the summer.  If current attitude is a predictor of future gratitude, let's just say assuaging my own guilt is going to have to be enough.

Summer was filled with pool time, a couple king's dominion trips and a beautiful beach vacation. Our final hooray for the girls and me was our annual trip to Tennessee. We road tripped it "all by ourselves:  and said goodbye to Daddy.

We spent a lovely night with my dear aunt on the way to Nana and Daddy Doug's.
 Anna Cate remembered where Aunt keeps her books and she enjoyed reading a book about King Midas. The guy whose love of gold  messes it all up by wanting everything to become gold was one of my favorites when I visited Aunt as well.

We had a lovely time in Centerville as well. I stayed for almost two weeks and the girls stayed an extra week while I came back and went to work. I was treated to an amazing dinner at Douglas & Becki's home (grilled halibut, sautéed kale, grilled pears with goat cheese, and grilled peaches with cream along with his fabulous wine selections).
I caught up with my friend Dorinda's mom at this authentic cajun restaurant where you get to bring your own wine.
I got lots of time to myself for long runs and workouts. I took the kids to the park and could ignore them while I did burpees and dumbbell exercises. This park even had a pull-up station.

It was a nice relaxing time, almost a calm before the storm that is the beginning of the school year.
The girls enjoyed tea parties and a lot of quality time with their cousin Kitty.

We visited friends and made new ones.

Anna Cate and Molly got the benefits of summer and time with Nana and Daddy Doug. . .along with Nana time.
Molly gets to wear Nana's shoes or carry around her purses to her heart's content. Here she is trying out the look of a clip on earring on her lip.  
Anna Cate's Centerville buddy Liza took her to her first concert. . . ONE DIRECTION!
My favorite part of going home is being in the beauty of Hickman County's landscape and it is so evident here at the creek.

I held this rock in my hand the last evening of my summer vacation as I looked out on my family and this beautiful landscape and said to myself I should just be grateful for what I have rather than sad for what I want more of….time in nature and with my family. 
The beginning of the school year brings new opportunities and things we don't get in the summer. . .everything can't be gold. I know there is joy in this phase of our journey as well, even though we run ourselves so ragged that I know we wouldn't enjoy the serenity of the summer without such a schedule. 
 The girls are both playing a Fall sport and Anna Cate has joined a year round swim team. 

Anna Cate and her bff Leana are on the same softball team, and I have to admit, it is so fun watching them learn and improve. I continually am amazed with gratitude for the parents who give of their time. They have great coaches. 

 Last week, when visiting Anna Cate's school, I read a writing assignment where she described her summer and it warmed my heart to know she made such good memories. I did, too, but I know that the busyness of Fall, which adds stress for me, creates memories and opportunities as well.  With all that we do, I don't have time to get to a gym so I improvise by keeping weights, a quilt, and headphones in the back of the van for work outs in parking lots. I've discovered roads that are beautiful I didn't know existed. I run while Anna Cate swims.

Or I find a corner of a parking lot to do yoga.

 I will run up and down the street waiting on the bus in the afternoons.  

I do crossfit in parking lots.

Ironically, as much as I miss the time to get to a gym or a crossfit "box," I find so much strength in the notion that I'm figuring out a way to make what is important to me happen. I would never dig deep without the pressures and stresses of working. So while I wish I could be a "stay-at-home" mom and have the freedom of summer throughout the year, I know I can seize the opportunities to appreciate life in a different way.  
When I do get the chance to slip off by myself on  a country road, I know that I wouldn't appreciate the scenery if not for the quickie workouts I have to do in parking lots.  Much like my appreciation for summer --  family summers are only made sweeter because of  the business of our school year life. Below I tried to capture the picture of the sun rays and the rain on a recent weekend run in a Civil War battlefield I adore. Running provides such rich metaphors for life. Just as King Midas learned not everything should be gold, there can be beautiful rays of sun shining as rain falls. 

"I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final goodbye."
-  I Wish You Enough, Unity Church  

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I love my family, deep thoughts, pure feelings and a good time making lasting memories with people I love. I procrastinate, but love to plan. I'm insecure about my body but confident about my heart and mind. I grew up in a small town, but feel like I'm a citizen of the world. Being a working mother was not in my life plan, but neither was being poor so I'm using this blog to help me focus on the precious time I do have with my family. My husband is the most competent person I know, and in many ways, he is more motherly to our precious girls than I am, since I have the job of being the disciplinarian, more like my Dad. I love to work out, write, eat, drink wine, entertain, decorate and think.

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