Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Come What May

These days the words ruminate in my head and are rarely written down. There are hopes and there are fears. There are worries and there are moments of acceptance and peace. One thing I know for certain is there is so much I do not know.

Learning to let go has been one of the major journeys in my life, and it's brought me to a place I like. A foggy future once terrified me and now when those terrors try to creep their way in, I get to remind myself that uncertainty is good; it keeps me open to possibility; it keeps me patient and occasionally optimistic. Things tend to work out.

And so I sit here on a Wednesday afternoon finally updating the blog that I've been meaning to update for many months. I am behind on many things. My new yard is not beautifully landscaped like I had hoped, my kitchen cabinets and much of the woodwork in my house is only partially painted, I haven't written my daughter's 9-year birthday letter, I still have grubby carpet, and that sweater I've been knitting for three years? Well, at least the end is in sight.

I sit here with my belly literally large in the 3rd trimester of what was the biggest-surprise-ever pregnancy and my teaching career momentarily resting on a shelf. My daughter is at school, the windows are wide open, there are traces of fall in the air, and the air is so still. The only noise I hear is the clicking of my fingers on the keyboard. I feel as still as the air around me. I feel, in this moment with all the worldly uncertainty that surrounds me, that this family is in a good place. Come what may.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

There was beauty in the stillness

I've spent a number of years in search of a feeling and I never, ever thought I'd find it in a quiet suburban home in the town of my youth. I've been a bit aimless. I've been wandering through life trying to be important and tall. I've been feeling critical, skeptical. I've made judgments and I've been judged a lot.

My family moved this summer. We bought a house. We fulfilled the permanence part of my Poetry & Permanence plans for 2014. If my count is accurate, we have had 8 addresses in our 13 years of marriage and my daughter has had 5 addresses in her 8 years of life. When I add to that just how much we've changed, learned, unlearned, grown, and outgrown, it's sort of a miracle we are all still in one piece.

But, perhaps we are not in one piece? Perhaps we have left pieces of ourselves in every place we've been.

So we moved this summer and it was the catalyst to another whirlwind in the whirlwind of life. We settled on a house that needed some good old-fashioned love, we rode our bikes, played with our friends, went swimming, and enjoyed the summer as best we could before we settled into new schools (a new district for the child and a new teaching job for me). It felt a bit like sprinting. We were forgetting things, we got tired, the house was - and is - a perpetual mess. And then it was Christmas.

Christmas this year was low-drama and high-excitement. Our new house is so much closer to our family and friends that I felt giddy about the prospect of spending so little of my days in the car and so much more of my days being present. I felt joyful about my home and the memories we will make in it. On Christmas Eve, I am certain that I was more excited about Santa's impending arrival than any of the children in my presence.

And then it was Christmas morning.

I woke up first. (This is the exact opposite of my normal modus operandi.) I tip-toed downstairs and brewed a fresh cup of coffee, took care of the heat and the Christmas tree lights, found myself a blanket, and cozied up in the stillness. And realized at that moment that I got my feeling.

There aren't words. I won't even try to be poetic about it. I gazed at the colorful lights in the quiet house on Christmas morning, I ruminated over the truth and the untruths about all this incredible holiday represents, and I realized I have it. That something that I've been looking for.

I'm sure I'll leave more pieces of myself inside and outside of this place. I believe in acknowledging the messes and facing them head-on. I'm sure it won't always be coming up roses (and even in this current moment, there are so many weeds). But, today, where there has been so much skepticism, I have hope. Where there has been much despair, I have joy. Where nothing - absolutely nothing - has turned out like I had planned, I have laughter and thankfulness. Where I have wanted to slam the door on years past, I would like to give this one a big hug and kiss.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Happy Birthday, 8 Years Old

Happy birthday, Rosemary. 

Today is your 8th birthday and you are currently standing with one foot on the coffee table and one foot on the couch, talking on the phone with your friends Winter and River. The way you move and communicate is remarkable. You almost never sit still. In the time you got on the phone, you’ve been in the kitchen, the bathroom, the family room; and in the time I wrote these sentences, you moved from the couch to the basement door which you are now swinging open and closed, open, closed. Don’t you ever get tired?

This year, of course, you’ve grown a lot. You’ve grown more compassionate and giving. You’ve grown more loving and independent. You’ve grown more sassy and strong-willed. You’ve grown … well, you get the idea.

Some things this year have been hard. We are facing a move out of the house we’ve been renting for the past 3 years and the uncertainty has been a bit much for you (truth be told, it’s been a lot for all of us to face). We’ve noticed in your life that you tend to get some really nervous habits (or as we’ve been trying to call it “extra energy”). Things like consistently clucking your tongue, clearing your throat, going to the bathroom, and chewing on your hair (and pencils, crayons, clothes …) have had an on-again/off-again place in your life. It’s always been that one habit stands out during a particularly stressful time of life - the end or the beginning of a school year, for example. Usually when we’re facing change. Currently all of these habits have come to the limelight at once, because of our impending move and the uncertainty of where that will be.

We’ve been talking with a counselor, reading books, and doing what we can to help you learn to appropriately channel all this extra energy and learn how to best deal with your worries. In the process, your dad and I have learned a lot about ourselves and see that you have managed to get some of those traits from us (surprise, surprise).

Your dad used to gnaw pencils down to the lead and I remember my parents constantly on my case for chewing on my hair. I’m learning that I also get pretty overwhelmed in the face of stress and have a habit of feeding my worries. And your dad, oh your dad, really likes routine. So we try to be the best parents we can. At times, we find that we are either lacking the ability to help you, or more often, that we don’t have much patience in spite of ourselves. It’s hard to stay cool when I notice that you chewed holes in your clothes; but it’s even more difficult to know how big your worries feel and know that, in a lot of ways, I’m powerless to help you feel better. 

I believe that you are a strong, happy, loving, silly, confident girl and that you will continue to grow into all these traits, and even more. Perhaps in some ways it will be because of our parenting and in other ways it will be in spite of it. For now, all I know to say - and I say it over and over again - is that I am so proud of you. I’m proud of you for the things you do - like skiing, reading, playing, singing, and writing. But even more, I’m simply proud of you for who you are. Inside and out.

Your dad and I will never stop trying to do all that we can to give you love, guidance, and support. We will never stop praying for you, and never stop trying to get out of the way and allow you to become who you were meant to become. We will continue to have our good parenting moments and an occasional step or two (or three) into the “bad parenting” section. Because we’re human and it’s the way God made us. 

For now, I’m thankful you’re still holding my hand. I’m thankful you still cuddle with me on the couch and want me to comfort you when you’re sad. I’m thankful for your honesty, thankful you tell me so much and are comfortable with it. You are exactly the person I want you to be. Keep doing such a great job!

Love you forever, *Mom

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Everyone Should Read

I've been meaning to do a book review post for ... are you ready for it? ... the last year and a half. There is simply no way I can write about every book I've read in the last year and a half, so we'll go with some favorites.


Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

This book was a Christmas present to my daughter from a very dear friend. Little did she know that we're big fans of Kate DiCamillo, an author who also hails from Minnesota, and who wrote other greats such as The Tale of Despereaux and Because of Winn-Dixie. Flora & Ulysses is the story of a young girl named Flora who is obsessed with comic books, much to her mother's dismay (you see, her mother writes romance novels). Flora happens upon a squirrel who nearly gets killed by an out-of-control vacuum, but emerges a superhero - which is something only Flora recognizes because of her deep affection for the comic book. 

In general, it is a story of true friendship, of having a cynical heart but opening up to the love around you, of dealing with divorce and also with parents who are deeply focused on their own issues, and feeling like your mom actually loves a lamp more than you. Near the end of the book, Flora's mother is overcome with emotion at having found her baby, and it takes Flora a few moments to realize "her baby" is Flora and not the lamp.

This book had our whole family laughing, and I enjoyed seeing all the sub-plots work their ways into our days and our imaginations. At one point I told Rosemary, "I know sometimes you think I'm mean, but I promise I will never, EVER try to kill your superhero squirrel;" and I was pleased to have the opportunity to say such a ridiculous sentence. 

I highly recommend this book, and hope to see more adventure of Flora & Ulysses in the future.

Orphan Train

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Book club chose this book and I wasn't sure I was going to read it (so much to read, so little time), but for some reason the cover pulled me in. This work of historical fiction focuses on the mind-boggling concept of the Orphan Train. A train that took orphans west from New York on a train. The trains would stop in certain cities where hoards of people would be waiting to choose an orphan. The adopters had to promise they would raise the children well and send them to school ... and that was it. The orphans were handed off to their new parents without a background check and with rare follow-ups. As you can imagine, a few children were lucky and others were incredibly unlucky. 

This book was not as good as I wanted it to be. It bounces back and forth between the stories of an older child whose parents died in a fire and a modern child who is stuck in the foster care system. The first child eventually found herself on an orphan train and was bounced around from place to place until she finally found a family who treated her well, and the modern child had a sad story of being in a home where the foster parents were just in it for the money. 

Historical fiction is my favorite genre, and it's worth the read for the history. The author clearly does better with historical fiction than plain old fiction because the modern parts seemed trite and poorly thought out. However, I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the fascinating phenomenon of the orphan trains and think the idea of two hardened orphans finding peace and comfort in each others stories was, at least, a good idea.


The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski

Bonaventure Arrow was "conceived in love and possibility" and he brings healing and wholeness to those in his life who are open to it. It seems futile to write a review of this book. There is so much depth to it that I don't want to minimize any of it. It's one of those stories that makes me marvel at the author's ability to weave so much together with such craft. The many characters were real to me as I read them. I laughed, loved, hated, hurt, and cried with them all.

Read this book.


Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Another book club read, Wonder is The story of a boy named August Pullman who was born with a rare genetic condition that leaves his face misshapen. He's had so many surgeries in his life that his parents have chosen to home-school him until the 5th grade. In reading this book, we get to experience Auggie's reluctance to begin school and journey with him all the way through the last day. The book is told from Auggie's perspective, but also switches to the perspectives of his friends and family. It's truly an eye-opening story that will give many young adult readers a beneficial perspective of what it must be like to be so different. 

I read this book to my 9th grade reading students and appreciated the empathy and compassion that exuded out of them. 


Well, there are 4 books I've read lately. You can rest-assured there have been many more and hopefully I'll sprinkle in some more reviews here and there. This year I've had to take a bit of a break from book club. A phrase I keep saying is "so many books, so little time." You see, by the end of April I will have finished my 3rd semester class in the past year. Add that to teaching, parenting, and the rest of life and sometimes the good books get put on the back burner.

These days I'm reading books, books about the books, books about teaching the books ... and sometimes I don't have the energy to read another book just for fun. I'm currently reading the following books: 100 Essential Modern Poems compiled by Joseph Paris, Saved by a Poem by Kim Rosen (in my future, there is a blog post about what a joy it has been to teach poetry this year), The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events #1) by Lemony Snicket, and Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown.

There was a time when I was a 1 book at a time kind of reader ... I can barely remember what that was like. 

What are you reading these days?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Gluten Free, Paleo Curious, And All That Jazz

I am a pretty healthy eater. Two years ago, I made the decision to go gluten-free in an effort to combat debilitating stomach aches, headaches, as well as the negative effects in my life that have been attributed to endometriosis. The stomach aches went away immediately.

Many of the rest of the problems remained, even though they were definitely less severe. So a little over a year ago, I made an appointment with a Doctor of Naturopathy and came up with a plan to remain gluten-free, have my amalgam (Mercury) fillings removed, and embark on a regimen of detoxifying the corresponding lead-poisoning from my system. What happened was stellar. Infrequent headaches, simple (aka normal and regular) monthly periods, and an overall feeling of goodness and health.

As most of us do when we're feeling good, I started to get a little lazy. I remained [mostly] gluten-free, but I got busy and started exercising less, eating a little more sugar, etc. etc. And what do you know? I began feeling less than stellar - still better than before, but nowhere near what had become my new normal.

After the holidays, both my husband and I were feeling bogged down by the cold weather, the insane amounts of sugar, and junk ... and when my husband suggested a 10-day detox followed by the Paleo Whole 30 plan, I knew it was time. He is an adventurous eater, a great cook, and quite open-minded to all my healthy-eating adventures ... but until now, he has mostly looked at it as that thing I do and that thing he will do when we're together.

We did a 10-day detox as advised by a trusted friend, professor, and chiropractor. We have followed it up with the Whole 30 lifestyle (mostly thanks to the excellent cookbooks Well Fed and Well Fed 2) and we are 3 days from the end of the 30. We are still talking and discussing what our eating habits will be when the 30 days are over. Our main feeling is that we should follow the guidelines of eating extremely well 80% of the time and living a little 20% of the time.

The thing is, thanks to those cookbooks and a whole bunch of great friends who eat well and know how to cook, I have been eating some of the best food I've ever had! My breakfast this morning consisted of bacon, sweet potato hash, 2 fried eggs, and a glorious cup of coffee.

I can't say I don't miss things, of course. That would be crazy. This being the Polar-Vortex Winter of our Discontent, I really miss wine. Though if I choose to look at the bright side, a 30-day no-alcohol policy may have prevented me from drinking this winter into an oblivion and thus becoming a raging alcoholic. My husband really misses bread. And I would love a dinner of buckwheat pancakes with local maple syrup (Gasp! Doesn't that relatively good-for-me meal sound like a delicacy?).

So that's where we are. And that's what we're eating. What are you eating these days?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Poetry & Permanence

A dear friend of mine* chooses words for her years. Like you and I and the rest of the world set goals and make resolutions for a new year, she chooses a set of words to guide her through each day. Each year I have watched in admiration, and this year I am going to join in. Poetry and Permanence are my 2014 words.

Poetry was a younger passion of mine, and is something that has floated away with responsibilities, speed, and age. As time flies, poetry took a back shelf and then a tightly sealed box. In the past few months, I've been unpacking that box and would like more of it in my life. Literally, I would like to read more poems, remember more poetry, and put more words into writing. Figuratively, I would like to recognize the poetry around me, breathe it in, and let it be a part of my life.

Permanence is a word that I have chosen because there is a restlessness in my heart which I would like to settle this year. I have moved, I have changed, I have moved some more, and I have changed some more. I may be moving and changing throughout my life. I see glimmers of hope when it comes to placing deep and lasting roots, but nothing is yet certain. I want a feeling of permanence deep within my soul, peace that will likely come from prayer and simply getting out of my own head. 

These two words for me are so deeply entwined, and help to fill me with joy and anticipation for what the future has to offer. Ready or not 2014, here I come!

*Believe it or not, I have never met this friend in real life, but I have known her since high school when I decided to embrace the way the Internet was going to connect the world. Imagine how many kindred spirits our parents and grand-parents were unable to meet without the Internet!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Happy Birthday, 7 years old

Dear Rosemary,

Today you are 7-years-old. As is my normal custom around your birthday, I've been reminiscing about life since you came into it. I've been looking at pictures, remembering stories, drowning in admiration for the personality God gave to you. Let me take this birthday moment to dote: your mom thinks you are a remarkable human being.

I won't be so over-the-top to say there aren't days when I am frustrated, aggravated, exhausted, and so on. There was that day last week when both your dad and I refused to cut your pancakes for you and you ended up eating extremely cold and soggy pancakes after weeping over the travesty. There are those mornings - so many mornings when instead of getting ready for school you are hanging upside down off my bed, singing into the mirror, or just generally disappearing into that oblivion of whatever goes on inside Rosemary-land. There was that brief experiment with the "F" word. And of course all the moments that you want things to be fair for you; yet you want the best of everything.

(Notably, all of these things are so not-funny in the moment, and hilarious in hindsight.)

And then there are those moments. Those other moments. Like all our summer bike rides to the community garden last summer where that grassy hill beat you, and you would climb down from your bike to walk the rest of the way up. It was without whining or complaint; just a silent resolution that walking was the way it had to be done. Until that one sunny day in late June where I turned around to wait for you at the top and noticed you peddling with sheer determination - all the while whispering, "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can." And you did.

You conquered that hill. It was the first of many hills for you to conquer this year. About a month before school started up again, you began to have restless nights, stomach aches, and constant worries about first grade. Things were going so well toward the end of the year in kindergarten, but a summer break allowed your fears to grow and you were begging to move, to be home-schooled, to do anything except go back. Until that moment where you decided you "would give it a try." And as much as I knew this wasn't ultimately your decision, feeling like it was your decision made a huge difference. First grade has been such a great experience. You were given the teacher you absolutely needed to nurture you and expect great things from you. She even put me into tears at times with her sensitivity to you and your amazing spirit.

With this newfound confidence in yourself and conquering your fears, you have really taken off. You convinced us you needed glasses for reading and writing, you worked really hard to improve your handwriting, you determined to work your way into the highest reading group - and you did.

That's not to say you are a perfectionist or "super driven." You definitely make the best of a situation and are often (sometimes to my chagrin) completely satisfied with good enough. Occasionally we will give you a "punishment" of no TV or spending time in your room, and you will respond with something like, "That's okay. I was hoping to draw this afternoon, anyway." Or, "I was feeling like I hadn't been spending enough time in my cozy bed lately, anyhow." I am sure that attitude will help you greatly in life ... as soon as you learn to keep the thoughts to yourself.

You learned to downhill ski this year, and I think the stress of that experience gave me my first grey hairs. You did great, but it wasn't without a few horrifying moments. Most notably the one where you forgot to slow down at the bottom and the other one where you forgot to get off the lift at the top. I didn't expect you to get so good so quickly, but you were skiing down black diamonds by the end of the season.

You remain one of the sweetest, most sensitive kids on the planet. While we were doodling together one evening, I drew a picture of a kitten that happened to look a little sad and you burst into tears. Your great-grandma Elayne passed away this past fall, and you were deeply concerned about being strong and not crying through the funeral. You had so many questions, but handled it like a champ - despite my explanation that it is perfectly okay to cry and it's not a sign of strength or weakness if you do or don't. You were very proud of yourself about the whole thing, and then a couple days later, you burst into tears because the picture of a panda on a cereal box was "just so cute."

So while your love of animals is fantastic, we may have to work on humanity ... I won't even go into your confusion surrounding cremation and the fact that during the funeral you asked, "When will we see her body go into flames?" Thank God we knew Elayne was looking down on us with love and laughter.

These days, as you are growing older, losing so many teeth (6 as of today) and looking more and more like a jack-o-lantern (er, I mean an adult), I am ever-conscious of how fleeting these days are. It occurred to me this morning that you will probably spend more birthdays of your life waking up in your own home than you will in mine. It makes me a little sad that I can't hold you close and keep you with me forever; but it also makes me so excited to think about who you will become and what you will do with your life.

You are funny, clever, smart, artistic, creative, energetic, sarcastic, compassionate, cuddly, edgy ... and you are only going to grow into a more awesome human being. I am so excited to watch that develop, and so hopeful that I will always get to be a part of it. As you grow increasingly self-aware, and the word "embarrassing" pops out of your mouth more and more, I hold onto your hand a little tighter each time you grab it. I know it's possible that those moments may grow fewer and further between. I hope that you never think you have to "go it alone," but know that you always have someone to hold your hand. In whatever way, shape, or form that will take, I will always be there to guide you - and sometimes to follow as you guide me. You are a part of my heart and my soul and I love you to the moon and back.

Love, your mommy forever.