Mornings

Cool and calm and so very bright.

Summer mornings are full of wonderful smells and sounds that fill my soul so completely.
The chickens create such noise in the backyard that the morning cannot be describe as still and silent as it might be in the cold, dark winter. These chicken rustlings and sounds that mark the waking up of the world create a stillness in my soul that allows the day to begin beautifully. Mornings, where I sit in solitude, sipping hot coffee and shivering slightly in the coolness of a California sunrise, are my very favorite. These mornings allow me to let go of the worries that I know will surround the rest of the day, to relax and ignore the knowledge that questions will descend the stairs along with my children, but at least I have this chance to sit in the unknowing – answer-less, myself silent and still.

We are moving in 2 days.

Yesterday, I received one phone call and two very exuberant texts congratulating us on the purchase of our very own house. Congratulations marked with humor and with relief – this is a crazy process, the buying of a house.  Stressful and scary and not intuitive in the very least.  It’s been a rough month of paperwork and phone calls and more paperwork and So. Many. Signatures.  Scott and I have been trying to make this process run smoothly so as not to stress out the kids – we’ve acknowledged to them that this is a stressful process that requires patience and that requires all of us to work together – but I think in the end, I at least have been attempting to mask all the nervous stress, with excitement – and packing, lots of packing.

After reading the 8th chapter of the 6th Harry Potter book to my kids last night before bed, Katarina, rather than adopting her normal resignation toward bedtime – during which she claims that she never actually does sleep and should just be allowed to stay up, because sleep is useless – the girl broke into tears. This girl has been so excited about moving, about the newness of having her own room for the first time ever, about new places and the possibilities of new friends – this girl. She cried because she is worried about next school year (they’re going to the same school they always have), and how she knows she won’t make friends and no one will want to play with her. She’s worried about a new house and the distance it places between her and said friends. She’s worried about the newness – the unknown – and she’s just a little scared. Oh my Katie.
Why do we bottle things up so long? I know I do it too. Mask the fear and the nerves with excitement and fearless ambition. What is it within us that says -” don’t show fear”,”don’t worry”.
I sat and talked to her about how exciting it is to have her own room, how many of her friends will live just down the street, and how during summertime, our whole lives feel unstable because each day comes with a bit of unknown – our friends are on vacation, at odd times, we do not have a daily schedule.  I also told her that being scared and nervous and worried, is completely normal and that many of the questions she has can’t be answered in this moment – we have to live the answers – find them as we go.  There’s more than that really.  This morning I sit and because it has been a practice since I was 18, I think about Jeremiah 29:11 – and to me, knowing that the plans for my life are known, that they’re meant to prosper and not to harm, gives me comfort in this moment – but I know too, that there have been times when those same words inspire guilt.  Guilt because even if I believe these words, I’m scared.  It is so difficult to sit in the unknown and know that all will be well – and while I, in my 31 years have found the ability to embrace the unknown and the trust I seek, How do I help my kids to trust, without the guilt I’ve often felt?  Again, parenting is hard, but lovely and beautiful too.

So friends – here’s to new things.  The answers we want, and those we don’t especially want will come with the experience of living the questions and trusting that tomorrow is a new day.

Enjoy your morning!

Being a Parent is Hard

Sitting in the cool silence this morning, I find myself already attempting to plan out the day ahead of me.  Attempting to think of ideas that might motivate the kids to play and love and learn.  Being a parent takes so much effort.  It takes constant self-checking, planning, and the recognition that all of this is for the greater good of raising children who will one day be confident and capable adults.  Being a parent is exhausting, often discouraging, and even more often frustrating.katiesand (pictures by cousin Kendra)

Trying to keep the kids active and to somehow encourage their energy in the direction of some sort of creativity and/or imaginative play is much more difficult when I’m focused on packing.  Realistically, the only thing in the world they seem to want this summer is to have the complete freedom to watch TV and play on their computers without silly time boundaries.  I recognize that it would make my own situation so much easier- to just give into these electronically hypnotizing whims and let them sit for hours, but there’s this part of me that absolutely hates all things media driven – Games – computer and console – and especially television programs which seem to just instill in my children the exact ideas about growing up that I had hoped to avoid.

annajump

It seems that in order to counteract these false narratives about gender and growing up, I would need to sit with them while they watch, pause the show constantly and say things like: “No, girls don’t have to wear makeup and glitter and heels, yes, boys can like pink and not be chastised, don’t be prissy – as much as the shows make it out to be, it’s not cute.  Boys do not have to play sports or be “tough” to fit in or prove their masculinity.”  Sitting and constant commentary does not sound at all appealing or productive, so I often choose the harder fight – the fight where I say “no” to computers an T.V. and then they look at me with big doe eyes and whine about the injustice of it all.  I tell them to read a book and sometimes this works – or to go outside and play – or by all means, pack their rooms (this is the lesser chosen option)onthewaves!.

I took a class this past semester in which we discussed the difficulty of gender stereotyping and how the gender stereotypes have so pervaded our culture that they are taken as truth without questioning – even unconsciously – by most of our society.  I sat in that class – Saturdays for 8 hours at a time – recognizing stereotypes which have already begun to work on my children – I sat wondering how in the world to change the influence that stereotypes might have on my kids, while still raising capable, confident children who could stand up for themselves  and their friends, and still fit in.

 

There is no instruction manual for how to do this well.  There is also the constant push back from peers and media and society in general that will teach them that stereotypes are so much easier to just embrace – but I want them to be different.

 

I want them to believe that anything is possible and then to take steps to achieving those possibilities.  Most of all though, I want them to believe in themselves as people perfectly made for the purpose God had in mind for them. Perfect in their imperfections and Beloved beyond all understanding.

 

Monday Musings

This pacing and packing and continued procrastination is not especially productive in the grand scheme of entirely moving our earthly belongings from one address to another, but we’re slowly making progress. As I’m packing, creating this new daily rhythm of “What can I pack today that won’t need to be unpacked in the next couple of weeks?” I think about why it is we keep all of these things. If I can pack something away and not need it for the next two weeks – do I need it at all? It’s an arguable answer – yes, because while I may not need it every day, I may need it a couple of days a year and therefore should keep this thing because I’d rather have it on a shelf than need to find it on the shelf of a store. And then, No – no I don’t need any of it.

Things I’ve learned in the past few days:
– It is cathartic to throw away empty CD cases – they make a lovely sound and free up so much wasted space.

-We have so many books. And really as much as I try, I cannot get rid of them in any substantial way – I think I found new homes for about 20 books, and then filled 7 boxes……I cannot let go of my childhood belief that I would one day have a library in my house – even if I can realistically see that that is not feasible in this new one, anymore than it has been in the last 7 I’ve lived in….Guess I need to keep collecting until I do find that room.

- Kids do not recognize the need to pack, or to rid themselves of anything substantial. When asked to please go through their toys and decide what not to take with them, 3 broken polly pockets and a couple of pokemon cards was not especially what i had in mind.

As I’m packing and trying to plan for the things ahead, this song seems to be running continuously through my head.  I think it’s appropriately hopeful,

So I’m sharing it here:

 

 

 

Have a lovely Monday friends, I’d love to hear your musings too – they would greatly assist my ability to continue to procrastinate.

 

 

The Problem with Perception

Sitting quietly outside the local coffee shop, wrapped in an dingy old sweater, her elbow visible through the thin fabric. She sits unassuming, sipping a large cup of coffee and holding her sweater tight around her – closing off the rest of her body from the cool morning breeze. “Good morning” I say as I walk in to the cafe, and she looks up with gray-blue eyes and returns my good morning with a smile. Calm and serene, enjoying a beautiful morning. This is the same woman who I witnessed just days ago screaming at any passerby – asking why it was okay to be loud and to enjoy the company of friends only if you weren’t homeless. How come she was being removed from an outside table to another cafe (where she had spent money), while equally loud customers continued their chatter – attempting to drown out her plea for equality. When did it become shameful to be homeless? At any given turn in this crazy capitalist society we live in, each one of us might end up sitting in her spot. Holding the worn sleeves of our sweater, attempting to start a new day and forgot the horribly cold night – the unforgivably hard ground, the street lights blinking. When did we start ignoring the signs written, the hands reaching out for help? “Anything Helps”, and we assume “anything” means cash and cash means alcohol and we’re not contributing to that? How am I any more of a person than the man who stood against the median pole at the stop light the other day? He held a sign against his chest that said “Just hungry” -Sunburned, gray before his time, scraggly finger nails and worn jean – and SO sunburned. He stood, back against the pole, sign and face directed toward the midday sun – avoiding the eyes of all of the people in the cars who likewise avoided his eyes – rolled their windows and distracted their children. I ended up parked right next to him and handed him a couple pieces of pizza I had in a bag – commented on his need for shade and then drove on. I immediately regretted not having water to go with the dry pizza and hoped someone else had enough sense to have an extra water bottle in the car. Why avert your eyes? What is their story? These men and women stranded in this place. So many times I’ve complained to someone about the path I’ve followed to end up in this town, and I wonder what their story is. Why Davis? Why come here? Did you come here for school? grow up here? A job that fell through? Train? Why here? Where do you come from? And I wonder if anyone asks. Or if someone were to ask, would they tell? You see, the problem with perception is that it is very self-assuming. We assume our perception is correct, or at least somewhat relevant to the story under the surface….and bias exists in the people we ask as well.  And so the problem with perception becomes our inability to overcome the walls we build between each other and isn’t there a Robert Frost poem about that? “He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’. “ – But are we being good neighbors? On either side of the wall or the fence, the one sitting or the one walking by – the one in the car, or the one horribly sunburned – how do we bridge these walls and fences?

filling in – branching out

Growing up and growing into our skin. Finding places where boundaries should be and building fences that no longer carry the same flexibility of the fences built in the past – recognizing the past as something to grow from and grow out of and learn and love – out of which we can become more.

A friend said that her 30’s felt like a blossoming – like a feeling comfortable in her own skin. And maybe that’s what it is. 31 now, I can feel comfortable in my skin – stop feeling guilty about my skin or nervous that I’ll make a wrong move. I no longer worry (as much) about how my actions will be judged. I understand my own need for boundaries and recognize that those boundaries are sufficient for me but not always understood or shared with others. Being in community and building culture within the boundaries of our individual needs and expectations is hard.  However, being aware that the expectations and boundaries of those around us exist and differ helps each of us understand how to best serve those people and our selves.

I finished a book today. The first non-assigned book I’ve read since graduating – and it was lovely. I started it yesterday while waiting to pick up the kids, and this afternoon was able to pick it up and finish in one sitting. It really was lovely; both the experience and the book. Within the fictional story line, multiple stories are interwoven and explained in a looking back at situations from different perspectives of the people who simultaneously but unknowingly experienced those situations together.  I underlined many things, but one line I think can easily be translated outside of the book’s context and into the lives of each of us:

“No story sits by itself.  Sometimes stories meet at corners and sometimes they cover one another completely, like stones beneath a river.”  from Mitch Albom’s The five people you meet in heaven

Understanding that each of our own lives intersect with so many others, and each of theirs likewise with others, and the idea that all of these interactions somehow affect one another, is beautiful.  It resonates deeply with our mantra of “Everything Matters”.

This summer I’ve been attempting to have a time set apart with my kids to talk and write and learn in ways that I hoped would be productive and helpful and informative to their growing stories – my plan was to find a time daily, but being that they’d like to have me not schedule their summer, it has become a time that I’ve snuck in when they aren’t paying attention, and I think I’ve somewhat painted these moments as art and fun times….that’s how learning is always better achieved anyway.

The plan:

  1. Make and Art/Writing Journal – this we accomplished in a 2 hour sitting which decimated re-purposed a great deal of old knitting magazines and made 4 black and white composition journals beautifully personalized to each of us.
  2. Write on the First page of said Journal the Bible Verse I’m hoping they’ll ingest and memorize throughout the summer – Colossians 3:12-14 – Katie and I completed this step – Anna cut out a typed version and pasted it – her 6 year old writing would have taken too long – and Allen continued making a collage, oblivious to the happenings around him – It’s alright.
  3.  Extract from the Verse the words: Compassion, Kindness, Humility, Gentleness, Patience, Forgiveness, Love – making a page for each individual work on which I had hoped we would first write a definition and then throughout the summer write down or draw things in which we observe these traits…..we’re still working on that.

How is this relevant to boundaries and to interwoven stories?  Well, I’m hoping to build an awareness of our interwoven stories – how our actions – compassion,kindness, etc. all play into understanding our fellow people – how practicing these things – putting them on and playing with them will inform our own understanding and at the same time directly effect how our stories weave into the bigger story of the communities in which we live.

In any case, I thought if I wrote it all down tonight – thoughts and plans, maybe I could begin this journey with a little accountability and understanding – and maybe I’m over thinking all the things.  Either way, thanks for reading and Happy Saturday Friends.

and for good measure:

Colossians 3:12-14

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindess, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with eachother and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on Love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Irony – at its finest

A day of rest.

I sat serenely on a plastic lounge chair under the gigantic canvas awning at our neighborhood community pool this afternoon.  I sat believing that I was enjoying a moment of rest and so I took up my pen and wrote about how my expectations for said moment are always so different from reality.

 This is what I wrote:leaves

“A day of rest always sounds idyllic.  My expectations, however, always seem to outshine my experience and I constantly wish I could will away the expectations which are causing the direct ruin of a restful moment by their intercession that the moment is not good enough.  To feel rested – what does it mean really? For me, this moment is always ridden with guilt at my unproductive self who is happily dismissing the daily grind and so putting myself and possibly my family at risk of becoming laden with further chores later on.  If I could find a restful spot, what would it look like?

This:

Sitting and just listening to the enormous silence of a cool breeze shaking the leaves above me.

The summer sun warming my skin while my toes dig into the hot sand looking for a cooler spot, for water, for life – rooting into the earth.

Almond oil chapstick: sweet and smooth.

Distant laughter and happy screams.

Alone, but not  lonely.

Time standing still – moments to ponder and reflect.  To breathe in the world around me and question without being questioned.  Secure in my inquisitive self and happy to be answer-less.

Floating on the wind that is pushing the clouds along.”

…And then my friends, my small reverie was finished.  Barely a page into my reflection, my darling 6 year old was marched over to me by a lifeguard.  This lifeguard informed me in her 16 year-old “I’m not given any authority until I am here-but at this pool I am God” voice that I had misread the rules.  That my daughter – who is allowed to jump off the high dive into a 13 foot pool- is not allowed to swim outside arms reach of her adult.  In this case – her only adult is me, the girl who did not wear her bathing suit to the pool today because I wanted to sit and be quiet and let my kids just be kids.

Oh rules, why are you made for breaking?

I spent the rest of my time at the pool attempting to entertain my distraught girl who only wanted to play with her sister in the pool; Who did not want to  sit close to the edge in the water where I could reach her.  We played hang man. We played tic-tac-toe. I assured her that the lifeguard is not mean and is really just doing her job.  The lifeguard, after all, did not make the rules and so cannot be held accountable – this is me attempting to teach my children “don’t shoot the messenger” while I internally seethe at the inability of teenagers to be discerning and know that a child who can walk in a pool, who is sitting in the shallow end, not gasping for air, able to swim back and forth, able to jump off a high dive -is at much less risk of drowning in a pool teaming with lifeguards than the 1 year old whose mom is sitting on the side of the pool attached to her freaking cell phone.

This is why I should not let my expectations ruin my moments friends – moments of rest are fleeting and often go unnoticed -as do moments that I get to spend with my little people who still like to play hang-man with made up words.

Cherish your moments -restful and not – and Sleep well.

 photo 2

Haiku in the Evening

Fundamental Truth

Unknown outside this moment

History repeats

 

 

Sprinkler in the night

Life-giving dead summer heat

And the wind blows soft

 

 

Thin mountain air, crisp

Darkness and trees towering

Star studded night world

 

 

Cool summer water

Sunrise upon the lake shore

Memories and tears

 

 

Mirror reflection

The past and present collide

Tomorrow dawns new