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

 

Final Finals

Here I sit, final finals of my undergrad career. My papers are as finished as they ever will be and submitted; I have crammed the greatest amount of information into my brain as possible before today’s finals. Kids are taken care of by Daddy and tonight is the variety show where the middle kiddo will be performing.

Today I will write for four hours. Tomorrow I will have no pending assignments – for the first time in 2 years.

Friday I graduate.

And Life goes on.

I know people graduate all the time, but this feels huge for me – bigger than I believed it would. I have a tendency to downplay momentous events and I keep attempting to minimize how I feel about this, but maybe it is exciting and important.

Another life event that just moves me forward to the next things.

I don’t have much to say today, just that I’m thankful to be here.  Thankful for the support I’ve had from friends and family.  From my husband and my k ids. Thankful for the direction that my life has taken and the path I’ve trudged to get here.  Thinking back on all of the life lived between my graduation from High School and my graduating College is just kind of amazing.

What have I done?

Married my best friend

Gave birth too and continuing laboring through the lives of my 3 children

Attended a slew of classes, some of which I felt were unnecessary to achieving my goal, but I’ve come to appreciate the influence that each class and teacher has had on my life.

I have owned a business

I have learned how to pray and to listen

I have learned that each struggle has a lesson; and I have likewise learned that I will not always like that lesson, think it pertinent to my well being or feel that it has made me stronger, I will often feel that the struggle has instead broken me down – but it’s the breaking down that helps me to recognize my humanity and the reality that each one of us struggles, and breaks and keeps going if we can.  The way we choose to keep going is the only real control we can exert over our ability to overcome these moments.

I have made and remade wonderful friends who sometimes understand me better than I understand myself.

I have a professor this semester who challenged the class not only to do well because it is what you should do to get through college – he actually actively encouraged people to choose a different life path if they were in college just for the certificate – but he challenged us to reflect on our life, our interactions with other people, and whether our life as we practice it and our projected purpose overlap.

I am thankful that for me, I think, they do.  I have learned many interesting things in my college career, including many things which will help me become the fantastic English Teacher I aspire to be, however, in the past 12 years I have learned how to better be aware of how my life effects other people and though I know I still fail constantly, I hope that I will be able to reflect and return the love and support my friends and family and teachers have shown me, back to them….

The same professor mused once on prayer and on love – in similar fashion, so I’m paraphrasing.  He reminded us to treat love like a gift with the awareness that when we give a gift, we do not stand waiting to have a gift given in return, but that we give gifts with the intention of honoring someone else.  Likewise with prayer, he challenged and reminded us to remember that God knows what we need – so don’t ask for things.  In praying, recognize that we are gifting our love through prayerfulness by giving time – which was given to us by God – back to God – a gift.

There are many more thoughts I have to write, and I’m not even sure if the ones I’ve listed make sense, but I guess I’ll leave with this -

I wrote a while back about inspiration and thoughts keep coming back to me about that.  One thing that has been circulating constantly is this:

Inspiration can be defined as a breathing in and we’ve been discussing in the Faith Takes Practice series at our church how the Holy Spirit is the “breath of God” breathing over us….In my practicing being inspired, I’ve been constantly reminded that the inspiration is a mirror reflection: Gods breathing out and our breathing in, and as I move forward from Graduation(and really every other ordinary day), into the abyss of whatever comes next I will continue to attempt to remind myself of this.

Hold me accountable?  Let’s keep breathing together.