Security

We live under a false illusion that we are safe.  We put cameras on our doorbells.  Locks on our doors.  Bars on our windows.  But as my wise old man says, “All locks do is keep honest folks honest.”

It turns out that thieves sometimes manage to find a way in despite our best efforts to be safe.

We were recently returning from a few weeks in the Redwoods when we received a phone call from our security company that our alarm had been triggered.  Despite opposing reports from police and neighbors, we returned home in the middle of the night to discover that we had, in fact, been broken into.

The garage and the office were a mess.  Torn apart.  Items of value were gone.  Things were broken, carelessly tossed about in the rush to search every inch of our space.  It looked as if a whirlwind had come in through the window and left through the door leaving destruction in its wake.

We marveled at how much could be taken in such a brief period before the alarm was triggered.  We laughed at how disappointing it must have been to break into our house (we have a lot of books and Legos…not a lot of electronics or valuables…things of value to us maybe, but not to the market of thieves).  We puzzled over how they’d gotten in and how they’d chosen us.   We were surprised that someone could come into our house in the middle of the afternoon and manage to walk out with guns, a dirtbike, and so much more.

We felt angry, sad, confused, scared.

Because it was our space.  And now it wasn’t quite feeling like our space anymore.

Somehow our precious space had become a community hot-spot for a group of worthless thieves for but a moment.  It doesn’t matter how brief that moment was, though, because that intrusion has forever changed the way I see our home.

My illusion of feeling safe has been shattered.

Normally I spend the first few days after traveling processing our trip, unpacking and slowly folding ourselves back into the daily grind.  But this <inconvenience> robbed me of that transition.

Instead, the days following the break-in were annoyingly spent fixing what the thieves had broken, stolen and destroyed.  We invested hundreds of dollars in cameras and doorbells and extra security.  We closed bank accounts, rekeyed every access point, put fraud alerts on our credit reports, filled out police reports, fixed broken shelves.   We talked to neighbors with the hope that someone had seen something.  We spent far more time making reparations than what they took in destroying our home.

The reality is that at the end of the day what really matters are the ones we love.  The people in our lives.  It’s not the stuff we’ve accumulated.  It’s not the things we collect along this journey.

I know that.  I get that.  But still I feel violated.  As if my once safe haven is no longer safe or a haven.  And that’s a terrible feeling to have.

I suppose I should be thankful that we weren’t home when it happened.  That would have made a scary situation much scarier.  I should be thankful that the alarm worked as intended and scared the intruders away.  I should be glad that in the end they only got away with a small fraction of valuable things.  I should be grateful that each of my people are safe and accounted for and, that in the grand scheme of things, everything is going to be okay.

Except that I don’t feel thankful, glad, or grateful.  I feel violated.  I feel mistrusting.  I feel hurt and angry.  I imagine someday my home will once again feel like a comforting place to walk into, not a prison to lock myself into.  I know that one day I won’t be suspicious of every car that drives down my street.  I trust that one day I will feel safe and my dreams won’t reflect the fears in my heart.

But in the meantime, I walk into a store and I look into each person’s eyes that I pass and I wonder how broken they are and I wonder how desperate they’ve ever been and I wonder if they’ve ever crossed that imaginary line that exists that keeps the world relatively good.  And, of course, I can’t help but wonder if they were in my home just days ago.

I know this feeling will pass.  I know that.  And I know that the world is mostly good.  That people are mostly good.  And I know that one day I’ll look back at this without a seething anger.  But for now I’m basking in my anger.  I’ve let go of the notion of ever finding these petty criminals and I’ve accepted the idea that bad exists even in this beautiful city of mine.  I’m trying my best not to sound bitter, but it’s hard.  My view of the world through rose-colored glasses has been shattered and I’m over here trying to put those glasses back together, the best I can.  In the meantime, please take note that my doors and windows are locked and clamped, the videos are rolling and the lights are motion triggered.

**I began this post back in September immediately after the event occurred.  It’s taken me a few months to re-write it so facetious anger isn’t dripping out of every sentence.  Being a bit more removed from the event, I can say that life has gone on, as it should, but I am still haunted by the idea that safety is such a fragile feeling that can be shattered so easily.  Please be smart and cautious.  Be conscious that while we hope for a safe and sheltered life, the reality is that evil exists.  Tend to the ones you love, protect the things you’ve worked for, trust in the goodness that exists, but remember to lock your doors, turn on your alarms and be a nosy neighbor.  Samantha’s neighbor in Bewitched, Mrs. Kravitz, probably prevented many break-ins.**

 

Puppy Love

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Sometimes we just need to feel loved.

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With a non-judgemental love.

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With a love that tickles us all the way from our hearts down to our toes.

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With a love that feels completely mutual and requited.

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With a love that accepts and understands and makes us feel like everything is just right.

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Sometimes we lose perspective and the day-to-day worries of life threaten to weigh us down.  We forget how loved we are.  We forget how important we are.  We forget we matter.

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Sometimes we have to take all that anxiety and worry and forget about it for some blissful space of time.

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Sometimes that blissful space comes in the form of romp with a furry friend.

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Or wet hands making a difference in one little friend’s world.

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Sometimes anxiety melts away when we’re free to feel loved.  Even the anxiety that weighs us down day after day.  It all just disappears.

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Because sometimes spending our precious time with someone who completely depends on us  enables us to remember that we are each important.

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Sometimes we just need to be reminded that we matter.

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Because we do.

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And sometimes it takes a tiny critter to remind us how very important we each are and how very loved we are.

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A furry little critter who adores us just because.  No actual reason.  Just because.

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We could all benefit from love like that.

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*These photos were taken while volunteering at The Puppy House, an amazing non-profit foster home tucked into a little corner of South Texas.  The Puppy House is a refuge for pregnant mama dogs and their puppies until they reach an age where they can be fostered out or adopted.  You can contact Jennifer Turner at thepuppyhouse@yahoo.com or message The Puppy House at m.me/PuppyHouseTX for more information or to donate to her very worthy cause.

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The Year We Signed Up…For Everything

Recently I posted this quote from Sammiches & Psych Meds on my Facebook page.

Image may contain: text that says 'Other People: Just enrolled our kids in basketball, cheerleading, piano lessons, invention camp, mathletics, and French on the weekends. Me: Oh, fun. Yeah, our kids are enrolled in "Go Outside and Don't Come Back in Unless Someone's Bleeding. Meets every day. SammichespsychMeds.com'

For the first 9 years of having kids, I operated from the second perspective.  Then beginning a year and a half ago, I felt some pressure to enroll my kids in a few extra-curricular activities.  It started out innocently enough.  A ballet class over the summer for Katie to try it out.  A few piano lessons to guide the big boys in their music abilities.  A private strings lesson every now and then for Joseph and Andrew so they’d feel comfortable when orchestra started in the fall.  Everyone else was doing it.  Why not us?

Summer ended and all had gone well.  Katie loved ballet.  Joseph and William loved piano.  Strings lessons were lovely.  So now we began to add things to the schedule in true passionate style.  If we were already going to be at orchestra for strings and guitar lessons, why not enroll in choir as well?  Ballet once a week…no, let’s make it twice!  And, of course, we had our CM co-op that we had joined the previous year, with Shakespeare class first followed by all the riches (nature study, composer and artist study, folk songs).  I continued meeting with my book club and my herb group and my mom’s group, all of which met once a month.

In the fall, we piled on the Nature Challenge and couldn’t resist committing ourselves to completing as many as possible.  Then midwinter, we added in Youth Odyssey for Joseph.  Spring brought the Handicraft fair and nature study days with the CM group.

It didn’t seem like that much.  And ALL of it was good.  Maybe not great, but good.

But a funny thing happened when we committed ourselves to so many good things.  Seeing as how our time didn’t multiply, other things had to be cut.  We kissed days of lazily lounging in the sun with a good book good-bye.  Play dates (the kind where us moms sit and chat while the kids run wild and free) were cut…and I rationalized that with all the activities, they had plenty of social time.  Both of my blogs took direct hits.  Even my evenings out with other moms began to feel more like work than play.

Suddenly every.little.thing began to feel like work.  I needed downtime.  Not time in the car toting us to the next activity.  Not time shoved in a waiting room making small talk with other moms while waiting for the kids to finish up.  Not time stuck in the car trying to manage tired kids and their unruly behavior while waiting for the other siblings to finish their activity.

We all began to suffer.

Andrew was the first to descend with a downward dive.  By Christmas, his enthusiasm for orchestra waned (which was a multi-fold situation…the private lessons he took over the summer put him ahead and he found himself bored; his ADHD tendencies reared their ugly head when he was forced to sit quietly and bored through a 50 minute class every week) and he quickly lost steam.  Co-op became a method of torture for him as he had to sit quietly first through an hour of Shakespeare (in which he was too young to participate) and then another two hours of co-op time in which his little mind wandered and he obsessed about being quiet to the point that he took nothing away from the lessons except hatred, the byproduct of being forced to sit and be quiet for so long.  I suffered watching him.  The joy of nature lessons left.  The joy of playing an instrument was gone.  The joy of playing joyfully with other children was a distant memory.  In one fell swoop, I had managed to forget that he isn’t me; nor is he Joseph or William or Katie.  I had forgotten that my little ADHD introvert didn’t operate in this world the same as us.  (I did pull Andrew out of orchestra by March in an effort to not completely kill a love for music; I strongly feel that music should be an outlet for stress, not a cause for stress.)

Then William began complaining of headaches every Monday during his orchestra lessons.  Then he began complaining of headaches every time we met for co-op.  He did fine at his private lessons.  He did fine during his school lessons.  He did fine at play dates.  My only guess is that the whole group setting was causing a little stress.  The bigger the group, the more I noticed his stress level went up (I totally get him…big groups have always stressed me out, too).

But I am not one to quit.  Nor do I want to send the message to my kids that quitting is okay.  We were so close to the finish line so we dug in and plowed through.  By April, I found myself burnt out, not even responding to text messages in a timely manner.  I almost forgot what my dear mother’s voice sounded like.

At the end of the year, I looked back and I saw what our toil had reaped.  I had two boys that could play piano as well as a strings instrument.  Katie knew the proper name for many different ballet positions and danced beautifully in front of hundreds of people at her spring recital.  Joseph made friends of his own, apart from the rest of us, in Youth Odyssey and had kayaked with his group to a little island, proving to himself that he can do amazing things without me. The kids had been exposed to beautiful art and folk songs through co-op, learned a multitude of nature related things and had succeeded in falling in love with two more of Shakespeare’s plays.  Oh and all of my children had lovingly set their hearts to making beautiful handicrafts for the fair.

I, on the other hand, had spent my year talking.  Between the moms at ballet in the waiting room and the moms suffering through long hours at orchestra with me to the moms in the front yard of the piano teacher’s home, I managed to expel a lot of words out of my desperate extroverted soul.  But even I got tired of talking.  I missed reading.  I missed blogging.  I missed the sound of my kids just playing.

I collapsed into June with the promise to never make so many commitments again.  While I saw all the beauty of our commitments, I greatly grieved for the time we sacrificed to make those things happen.  I really, really missed inviting Jessica and the boys over to just play while Jessica and I chatted.  I really, really missed long afternoons in the spring sunshine clacking away at a blog while my kids ran about and discovered lovely little spring bloomings.  I really, really missed long conversations with Lori and Leslie and Mom.  I really, really missed elaborate sidewalk sketchings and walks through our neighborhood.  I really missed that Masterly Inactivity that Charlotte Mason implores each of us to offer to our children.

Of course, August soon came around and I re-evaluated.  A break from co-op was in order.  No more orchestra.  We dropped Youth Odyssey.  I let go of my book club and changed my herb meetings to quarterly (but I still clung desperately to the monthly mom’s group for the support).

The fall came and we tentatively stepped back into our routines, preserving two days a week to have free afternoons with absolutely NO COMMITMENTS.  The children still play music (all four are now in piano), Katie still takes ballet, Joseph now sings with the Youth Choir and for a brief bit of the fall, William took an adventure in baseball (that’s a whole different story that was drastically altered by heavy amounts of rain). I started a small group for PE one afternoon a week.  All of it feels good.  And fruitful.  But not too filling.

It’s hard to learn to say no to the good to make room for the great, but it must be done.  It must be done to preserve our children’s childhoods, to give them time to run and play and be bored.  It must be done to preserve our own sanity as mamas because we, too, need downtime.  It must be done because we are all only human and there is only so much time in our days…we must learn to carve a space for the great, leave time for the necessary, and relish the time in between…we don’t get a second chance at this.

 

The Little Things

I’ve noticed that as my kids have gotten older, I’ve forgotten some of the little things.

I don’t mean phone numbers or where I put the keys.  

Nor do I mean specific memories or special dates (although I have been known to forget both of those).  

I mean, I literally forget the little things.  

You see, when my oldest was five, I got really good at understanding five, but then he turned six and I had to understand that.  Now he’s 11 and I’m over here trying to work out an 11 year old’s brain inside mine but I’ve forgotten about the glory of being five.

I forgot how being five is a time of great growth and development.

And how being five is as simple as fingerpaints and slick paper.

How being five is as simple as the delight of a cookie.  Or a snuggle in the middle of the day.  Or rocking to sleep in the big blue chair.

I almost forgot that being five doesn’t require running around from activity to activity…sometimes it just requires paying attention.  Listening.  Trying to understand.  

Being five and saying “Mommy, watch me,” “Mommy, let’s play together” isn’t an invitation to put it off because one of these days she won’t be five and she won’t be begging me to pay attention.  This is my chance.  Right now.  

I’m glad I was sleep deprived when I ordered school supplies this year and dumped an entire kindergarten artpack in my cart.  Because now I remember that fingerpaints at five is a serious highlight of the day.  I’m so glad this moment didn’t pass us by.

Here’s to 2018: May It Be Filled with Extra-Ordinary Moments

There are moments that stick with us forever.  Fleeting glimpses of what really matters.  And then, of course, there are the moments in between those prophetic moments.  The daily, ordinary moments that end up defining our lives.

I remember once, when I was about 14 years old, I came home from school and headed straight for the hammock in our backyard.  I dramatically threw myself in, thankful the drama of the day was over and I could just bask in my book.  There was nothing unusual about this…this was a completely ordinary moment for me.  But that afternoon, I laid my book across my chest and just soaked up the moment.  I stared up into the tree above me and I intentionally took note of just how perfect the moment was.  The weather that day was lovely…an odd combination of low humidity and a crisp autumn breeze.  Leaves were falling around me and I could smell one of Grandma’s pies through the open windows.  I had left the phone inside and, of course, this was pre-texting and pre-Internet days.  So it was literally just me and my book and this moment.  I thought if I could bottle this weather and this moment of content, I would.  And I’d live in this moment forever.

In hindsight, I realize that the only reason I could appreciate the beauty of that particular afternoon (and probably the only reason I remember it) was because it was a moment different from all the daily moments.  And not because there was something extra special about that particular moment.  On the contrary, I took an ordinary moment and made it extra-ordinary just by paying attention to all its details.

Sometimes we need to make our ordinary moments extra-ordinary to help us see the beauty of our everyday lives. 

2017 has been a year filled with the ordinary moments: work, school lessons, family meals, laundry, ballet, piano and strings lessons, playtime, sibling rivalry, and all the joy of milestones in between like birthdays and lost teeth and learning to read and camping trips.

But 2017 has also had its share of noticed extra-ordinary moments which have helped us appreciate the beauty of our daily moments.

In the spring the kids and I spent a week homeschooling in the woods.  It was a week to recapture some of the things we had lost in the busy shuffle of school lessons.  We remembered how much we loved to read together and tell stories and watercolor paint in our nature notebooks.  We spent the week uninterrupted by text messages, phone calls and Facebook notifications and we reveled in the small discoveries we made…a rock in the shape of a heart, the idea that we could hike over four miles with small children, the joy of singing folksongs over a campfire we had built ourselves.  We came back with a new appreciation for our family culture and our ordinary homeschooling days.

In the fall we trekked out, as a family, to West Texas for ten days and developed a whole new appreciation for the suburbs and the convenience of civilization.  But those ten days?  Full of extra-ordinary moments.  We rediscovered our joy at playing games together and conversations by the fire lit sparks in our souls as we connected and grew together.  We spent hours hiking and exploring and reveling in the beautiful simplicity of nature.  We delighted in the break from the ordinary and then we returned to the ordinary with eyes wide open.

But not all of our extra-ordinary moments were moments when we were away from the dailiness of life.  Sometimes finding extra-ordinary moments meant stopping long enough to see the ordinary moments with new eyes.  In a culture where everything is rushed, sometimes this takes major effort.  But each ordinary moment deserves respect…after all, these ordinary moments add up to define us.  I catch a glimpse of beautiful little Katie, who begged for a bike with a basket for her fourth birthday, and I watch her as she now goes up and down the sidewalk without her training wheels.  It’s extra-ordinary: for her, it’s the joy of feeling the wind in her hair; for me it’s this realization that she’s growing up.  SHE is extra-ordinary.  All of my children are.  I look over at long, lanky Joseph (who now has a preference to be called Joey) and I stop and listen to that beautiful melody that he’s tapping out on the piano.  That’s a culmination of ordinary moments: piano lessons, hours of practice and a love for music.  Or how about William?  I sit at the top of the stairs in my parents’ house and I listen to him have a conversation with my dad.  A conversation about engineering and chemistry and physics.  And I realize that somehow this 8 year old has turned into a conversationalist, who asks wise questions and attempts to argue his way through life logically.  And then sweet Andrew.  Every day for the past five months, there has been an ordinary moment trying to teach him to read.  And now he does it.  I don’t even remember the day when he could do it, but as I listen, I hear his sweet voice sound out each blend, each consonant and I marvel that so many ordinary moments could add up to this extra-ordinary moment.

Unlike generations past, we don’t live in a period of time where survival is a constant threat.  We don’t live on rationed food.  When we worry about a loved one, they’re typically just a text away…we don’t have to wait weeks wondering whether everything is okay.  We don’t live in a time where we are reminded daily of how precious this life is.  But this life is precious and these moments, even the daily ones, are extra-ordinary.  It’s up to us to stop long enough to breathe in the delight of our daily moments.  Because while the extra-ordinary moments help us keep things in focus, the ordinary moments are the ones that define us.  Which leaves me wondering…what do my ordinary moments say about me?

As a new year approaches, I am reminded that all of our lives are one year shorter as another year has passed us by.  Our time is limited in this precious life, so I implore you to let 2018 be the year that your daily moments define you in the way you want to be remembered.

Let every ordinary moment be extra-ordinary in this new year. 

A String of Choices

Our lives are just one long string of choices.

This ability to make choices rules us.  It starts the minute our feet hit the floor in the morning and it continues until we drift off to sleep each night.

Every decision defines us.  It shapes our souls and breathes life into our priorities.

Some choices are easier to make.  Some are so difficult we find ourselves on our knees asking for guidance.

Some are permanent.  Others allow forgiveness and a second chance.

Some are thoughtless.  Some are habit driven.  Ingrained in our heads to the point where we don’t even really think that we’re making a choice.

Some of them we make not realizing their effect on us until it’s too late to choose otherwise.

The word choice by definition means “an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities” which means there’s always something we’re NOT choosing when we make a choice

The choice to work a little later rather than bow out a bit early to watch the sun set.  The choice to check our phone again rather than engage in a conversation with the people sitting right there in front of us.  The choice to multi-task rather than focusing on this moment…this conversation…this person.  The choice to commit to too much rather than choosing one thing and soaking up all its glory.  The choice to do rather than to be.  The choice to worry about the future rather than to live in this moment.

I think of all the choices I’ve made.  All the moments I’ve chosen things over people.  All the moments I’ve chosen complex over simple.  All the moments I’ve chosen not to listen, not to do, not to accept.  All the moments I’ve chosen worry over contentment.  And I know that those choices haven’t necessarily been the difficult ones nor have they all been the permanent ones.  Instead I like to think they’ve become my teaching ones.  The choices that make me feel empty or scared or sad or overwhelmed…those are the choices that give me a glimpse of what I don’t want my life to feel like.

And so I choose to make each decision a little more consciously.  It’s about making life-affirming, people-loving, simple-living, world-appreciating choices.  And it’s done with gratitude and openness and intention.  Because when we choose with intention, we choose consciously.  We choose what we want our life to say.

So today I choose to live with every intention.  I choose the people right here with me.  I choose joy and gratitude.  I choose simple.  I choose contentment.  I choose glory in the beauty that comes naturally.

And you?  Whatever you choose, let your choices reflect your intentions.

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A Chance Encounter

Our paths crossed ever so briefly.

She was sitting on the beach, her feet in the water, down by the lake near our campsite.  A phone in her hands, she looked up and smiled at the kids as they ran past her splashing in the water.  We exchanged pleasantries and discovered we were camping neighbors.  Hers was the lone tent we had seen set off in the distance, flanked by a solitary chair.  We teased her that she had come looking for peace and quiet and we were the farthest thing from peace and quiet.  She smiled and said she wasn’t bothered.

I laid out our beach blanket and settled down to watch the kids splash about through the eye of my camera.  Several times I thought about going over and talking to her.  I was curious about her story.  Everyone has one.  We once met a woman well into her 60s who was biking across the states, living in a tent smaller than my kids’ school table.  Another time we met a dad who had taken his daughter out camping for the first time and happened to be traveling to our hometown to visit his mother.  I wondered what her story was.  A young lady with a beautiful smile and an easy laugh, alone in the woods.

But something wasn’t quite right.

By her side was a red tumbler.  I remember noticing it because it reminded me of my grandma and her Tupperware tumbler that she filled with alcohol every evening.

The kids laughed and splashed about and soon the young woman rose, unsteadily, to her feet.  She wavered into the water and made a shallow dive to submerge herself.  I remember thinking how cold that must have been.

We watched intently, voicing our fears that perhaps she wouldn’t resurface.  She did.  She attempted to climb up upon the pier and lost her balance, falling backwards into the water.  She tried again and this time she managed to make it up to the top of the pier.  She walked out to the middle of the platform and took a drunken, swaying dive into the water.  We held our breath until she resurfaced.

She swam back to the shore, picked up her phone and immediately began using it again.

We all let out an audible sigh of relief.  She was out of the water.  Safe.

Later when we were drying the kids off and loading up the car to return to our campsite, she left the beach and came up to her car.  Thinking I’d see her later, I did nothing more than smile her way.  She refilled her drink and then got into her car.  We never heard the car start nor did we see her drive away, but we loaded up the kids and drove back to our site, assuming she was safely on shore.

We occasionally glanced her way, towards the lone tent, expecting to see her car at any moment, but the minutes passed and she didn’t return.

She was, for all intent, a stranger.  And as a stranger, there were invisible boundaries I did not know existed.  Boundaries I only feel now with hindsight being twenty-twenty.

I went to bed uneasy.  Where was her car?  Why hadn’t she returned to her campsite?  I wondered if I should be more concerned.  Should I be looking for her?  But what could I do?  She was an adult.  When I had last seen her she had been safely out of the lake, far from the water.  For all I knew she had driven into town and was drinking away the night at a local bar.  Maybe she had met a friend in town for dinner.  Maybe she had gone wandering down the trails to walk off the effects of the alcohol.

They found her the next morning, further downstream.  Her death was declared an accidental drowning.

There are a lot of unsaid should-haves here.  A lot of unrest and regret.  I should have made sure she got back safely to her campsite.  I should have alerted a park ranger.  I should have talked to her there on the shore.  I should have listened to that unease in the bottom of my stomach.  I should have gone looking for her back at the lake.

But that would be a bit arrogant, wouldn’t it?  To assume that somehow I could have twisted the hands of her fate?

Of course I don’t know her.  And that makes the whole thing just seem unfair.  How was it that we were given the task of being the last to see her, the last to talk to her?  I have the last photograph of her trapped on my camera.  Shouldn’t that mean something more than what it does?  Which is essentially a tale of strangers crossing paths.

I didn’t save her.  I didn’t even know she needed saving.  I hardly talked to her.  And maybe she needed someone to talk to.  I didn’t check on her.  Clearly she needed someone to check on her.  I didn’t invite her over to roast s’mores and sit around the campfire.  Maybe she needed to feel invited.  I didn’t stop her from drinking or driving or swimming.  And she needed someone to stop her.

But again, all of that assumes arrogance.  To assume that one brief conversation, one invitation, one moment could change the course of fate.  To assume that even if I had tried to stop her or save her or check on her that I could have done something.

I don’t accept responsibility for what happened.  Any sane person could reason that I did nothing wrong.  She was a grown woman, aware of the risks of drinking and swimming.  Although, truth be told, it’s just as easy to reason that I did do something wrong.  How could I leave a drunk woman near a body of water?  How could I not do something when her car was still missing?  How could I think she was any better off getting in her car?  How did I allow her being out of the water to alleviate my responsibility?

Because.  Because if nothing had happened, if she had shown back up late that night or even the next morning with a massive hangover and clothes still damp with lake water, I wouldn’t have thought twice about my choices the previous afternoon.

But that thought?  It doesn’t make it settle any easier in my soul.

There was a reason that we were the last ones to see her.  The last ones to talk, however briefly, to her.  And oh how I wish I knew that reason. Not to alleviate me of some heavy guilt or to free me of my part in her last day, but to make her death make sense.  To give an untimely death to a vibrant young woman a purpose.

I have to believe though that there is a reason buried somewhere in the confines of a terrible situation.  A reason that it all happened exactly as it did.  That’s faith interwoven desperately with hope.

I want to believe it’s about me.  I’m desperately trying to figure out why I hesitated and didn’t go over to talk to her.  I want to know why three times I felt something tugging at me to let her be.  I want to know why I ignored that unsettled feeling when she didn’t return that night.  I want to know why her smile still haunts me.

But this one isn’t about me.  There was something greater at work than I can imagine.  There’s a purpose there, something tucked away in that memory I now have of a stranger that will always be a part of me.

Perhaps it’s a lesson of intentionality.

A lesson to be present in this moment right now because there is no guarantee that there will be another moment after this one.  A lesson to tell the ones we love that we love them right now because there might not be another moment to tell them. A lesson to talk to the lonely stranger on the beach right now because I might not get a chance to hear her story tomorrow.

This might be the only moment I get.

We were the last to see her.  The last to speak to her.  The last to witness some of her final moments.  That can’t be an accident nor can it be forgotten and I owe it to this stranger to not let that chance meeting be in vain.

So I  go on.  I spend my days believing that her death had a reason.  A reason I will probably never fully understand, but I trust that our paths crossed exactly as they did exactly when they did because they were meant to.

And I hope those last memories…the kids splashing and laughing, the sun shining on the lake, the breeze rustling the leaves, I hope those were the lovely thoughts she had as she passed from this life to the next.

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Chihuahua Syndrome

You know that whole idea that little dogs that hang out with big dogs think they’re big dogs because they look at the other dogs and just assume they’re the same size?  We call that the Chihuahua Syndrome over here.  And Katie has it.

She hangs out with the boys all week long and while (luckily!) she doesn’t think she’s a boy, she does think she’s much bigger and much more capable than she is.  Case in point:  A few months ago the boys climbed up on top of the air conditioning unit and were jumping off with wild abandon.  Katie followed, thinking she was quite capable of the same dangerous feat and ended up spraining her wrist in the process.

Sometimes it works to her benefit.  She learned to swim at two, well and without fear, because her 4, 6 and 8 year old brothers were doing it.  She “does” school and eagerly “writes” letters alongside the boys.  She’s quite capable of self-care, never realizing that she’s got a two year gap between herself and the next brother.  She demands equality, telling us that she can stay up as late as the boys, she can go on that ride at the fun park.  Doggone it, she can DO whatever the boys can do.  And it’s not about gender to her.  It’s about a fuzzy view of self.

She looks at them as if it’s a mirror that reflects her while completely avoiding the fact that she is, in essence, nothing like them.  She’s her own unique little being and she’s not meant to live her life as a reflection of someone else.

One day recently we were out bike riding and I was explaining to William about Katie and her chihuahua syndrome and, while the essence of the topic completely escaped Katie’s thoughts, it did manage to kick her imagination into gear and she said to me, “I’m the baby chihuahua and you’re the mama chihuahua.”  After which she completely dissolved in a fit of giggles and “arfs.”

But her casual thought got me thinking.  “…you’re the mama chihuahua.”

It’s true.  So true.

I look at other moms and I treat them as a reflection of me and I begin to think that I must do what they do because, after all, I need to keep up with the big dogs.  I click from Pinterest project to Pinterest project and scan beautiful blogs with beautiful stories and I actually allow myself to see me reflected in them.  I meet a mom at playgroup and I see how calm and together she is and I think that’s what I should look like.  I gather with friends and I am sure that their ideas are the answer to everything wrong in my life and I must do things just as they do.  I allow myself to actually think that I must do whatever they do because, doggone it, even if it kills me, I must keep up with them.

I see the perfect cupcakes, the clean house, the adorably dressed children, the impeccable yard and I just keep trying to keep up.

But this is wrong.  All wrong.

Because I am bound to fall and sprain my wrist if I continue to try to keep up with the big dogs.

How can I possibly read that beautiful post that reflects the journey of that family and allow myself to think that perhaps my journey is meant to look just like that?  How can I see those Pinterest projects and think that doing something like that defines me as a mom?  How can I continue to fall into the comparison trap knowing that I’ll always find myself lacking?  How can I keep trying my best to be a big dog when I’m really just a little dog with my own little puppies?

I can try and try all I want but I’m NOT that mom.  I’m me.

See my little family over here.  We’re completely different than that family over there.  Our house looks different.  Our schooling looks different.  Our meals look different.  Our conversations sound different.  Our journey is different.

I am my own unique little being and I’m not meant to live my life as a reflection of someone else.

 

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One Chance: Appreciating Each Moment

I am having one of those nights.  You know the kind.  The kind where you waste precious moments wishing you could press rewind and re-do the last scene (or two).

It all actually started last night.  I went on a delightful shopping trip out to our new outlet shopping center, a mere 25 minutes away (19.7 miles, an estimated $1.64 worth of gas according to MapQuest). I window shopped for the first part of the excursion but then I got sucked into the sales.  Oh the glorious sales.

I tried on a lovely pair of shorts and while I was waiting in line, I thought ‘why one pair of lovely shorts?  I’ll get two,’ and so I grabbed another pair of the exact same shorts in the exact same size but in a different color.  I left the store on a euphoric high…I had shorts that fit in my bag.  Shorts that didn’t squeeze my mommy tummy out of the top; shorts that didn’t show off my pathetically sagging backside.  Life seemed so, well, lovely.

Morning arrived.  I gleefully pulled my new shorts out of the bag, ripped off their tags, tossed the tags into the trash and the new clothes into the washing machine.  (Just a random note, but I NEVER throw away tags until I have washed the clothes…until today.)  Hours later I tried on the shorts just to be sure I had not dreamed all their loveliness.  The khaki shorts were just as lovely as I remembered.

But the gray shorts?  The ones that were the exact same size, exact same shorts…yeah, there is clearly nothing exact about them.  They are tight in all the wrong places, or in our house they would lovingly be referred to as shorts with VPL: code name for Visible Panty Line (as coded by my father for the times when we needed a fashion adjustment).  Something a mama in her mid-thirties should definitely not be wearing.

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Yesterday’s clerk’s face swam in front of my eyes as I remembered him specifically saying, “You may return anything for 90 days as long as the tags are still on.”  The tags.  Oh those precious tags were definitely no longer attached but maybe if I could find them, I could still attempt a return.  I quickly dug through the kitchen trash can.  And then I remembered that Dax took the trash out this morning after my de-tagging moment.

So I headed out in the cold drizzle and yanked this morning’s trash bag out of the trashcan.  I pulled it over to the single bulb by the backdoor and began digging.  But there was so much trash in there.  And it was so cold outside.  And every time I adjusted the bag so I could see better, I just ended up with the run-off from the roof dripping in my eyes.  Frustrated I tossed it back in the trash can and vowed I’d search tomorrow.

I walked back into the house grumpy.  I barked at Daxson, who, with good intentions, asked why I hadn’t tried on the shorts.  I barked at William who was bouncing around.  And then I barked at Andrew.

Andrew had walked out into the kitchen as I was washing the grime off my hands (and arms) and said, “You know what Mommy?”  And I snapped, “Not now.”  But he didn’t miss a beat.  “Mommy. it’s just 90 more years til my birthday,” and then he realized his mistake and grinned that great big grin with those missing teeth and my heart softened just a bit, but not fast enough because the next words out of my mouth were, “Andrew, not now.”

Still he persisted.  “I mean 90 more MONTHS til my birthday.”  And then he crumpled into giggles as he realized again that somehow that wasn’t right either.  I paused my inner drama queen and turned to face him.  “Mommy, it’s 90 more something til my birthday.”  “90 more days?” I asked.  He wrapped his little arms around me and said, “Yes!  You got it right!  90 more days.  I know because,” and here he leaned in close and beckoned me with his little hand, whispering “I counted each day on the calendar.”  And then unfazed by my mood he turned and skipped off to the bedroom to tell his brothers that in 90 days it would be his birthday (which, just for the record, is a bit off).

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And I stood there, alone in the kitchen and I thought about those moments.  I thought about how I had set a terrible example, letting my anger get the best of me as I needlessly barked at everyone as if the blame were to be found somewhere outside of myself.  I thought about how I snapped at Andrew not once but twice and had he not been so persistent in his joy, I probably would have snapped a third time.  I thought about how he wasn’t even fazed by my grumpiness…he didn’t let my mood affect him and I thought how lucky that was because in my grumpiness I had the power to ruin so many moods tonight.

But there was at least one little mood I didn’t ruin.  Andrew’s.  And in his joy, I found my anger dissolve.  I found myself sucked into his excitement about 90 whatevers til his birthday and suddenly my drama over a pair of shorts didn’t seem nearly so important.

I wanted to press rewind.  I really did.  Because I didn’t want to snap at that excited little face.  I wanted to go back and look into his eyes the first time he tried to get my attention.  I wanted to cup his little face into my hands and celebrate the excitement over an upcoming birthday with all the attention it deserved.  But I can’t.

I just get one chance.  One chance to live each moment.  One chance to celebrate each moment with proper attention.  I have to be careful not to lose myself in the drama of superficiality.  I am learning to immerse myself in the beauty of each precious moment.  Because I just get one chance.

A Salve for my Soul: Intentional Reading

This is the third post in my Intentional Reading series as I tackle pinning down my intentions for the coming year as far as the information I put into my brain.  You might remember that I’ve broken my intentional reading list up into three areas: Mind, Body, and Spirit.  This list focuses on books meant to soothe my soul and lift my spirit.

When I sat down to think of what would nourish my soul, I was so excited about the possibilities.  My list quickly filled up and I had to do some serious paring down so as not to have the opposite effect on my soul.  In a year of intentional living, my goal is to nurture my soul and respect my time constraints, not overwhelm myself.

My criteria for this list were quite simple…the books that I chose had to be filled with beauty, truth and goodness.  They had to, in some way, nourish my soul and lift my spirit.

Some are more intense than others.

Some are just for fun because light and fun often lifts my spirits.

Some are in preparation for assigning them to my own little flock…by pre-reading them, I’m able to build the foundation upon which great conversations can take place.  It’s hard to discuss ideas and characters and dilemmas when I haven’t personally engaged with the reading and as my learners grow and branch out more on their own to read more independently and less as a family, I want to be sure that our conversations have the chance to continue.

The only books for my soul  that aren’t listed here are the ones listed on my post about my book club.  Those books, coupled with my book club conversations, feed and nourish my soul in a way that nothing else does, so be sure to pop over there to see which books we’re tackling this year.

Alright, here we go…

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Books for My Soul:

  • The Quiet Light:  I am a huge fan of de Wohl, his favorite of mine being The Living Wood.
  • Hindfeet in High Places:  This one came highly recommended and it gets such amazing reviews…I’m very excited!
  • With God in Russia:  This has been on my list for quite some time and I’m glad it made my intentional list for this year.
  • The Broken Way:  Leslie and I are working through this one together.  We’re going nice and slowly so that we can really soak in all the depth here.
  • *The C.S. Lewis Bible:  This has been my go-to bible for the last few years.  I love the reflections from Lewis and I haven’t made it all the way through.  I’ll pick this up from time to time and soak in The Word.  It’s a delightful salve for my weary soul.

Books for Fun to Lift My Spirit:

Books In Preparation for Great Conversations:

Please leave a comment and let me know what you’re using this year to nurture your soul and lift your spirits!