Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Brave in September

Remember when I talked about wishing out loud? Well, here goes...Jack is graduating from college in May.  That's right, clearly, I was a child bride, and my oldest is now old enough to be darn close to a college graduate.  
That means that I've been thinking and wondering and pondering about the many, many wonderful gifts of congratulations I could give him.

I got nothing.

And then it came to me...I will give him my words.

For the next ten months, I'm going to write one blog post a month, just to him. And then at the end, in May, I will find a way to publish just those ten posts.  It can't be that hard,right?
How cool would it be to give him an actual book?
So, I'm wishing out loud.
right here.right now.

Physical book to wrap up and hand over.in May.


Dear Jack,

So, do you remember way back in 2011, when things were very very unclear and you were going down to Los Angeles but we weren't sure what that would look like and we weren't sure how that first semester was going to go and it was all confusing and cloudy and funky?

I do.

It was then, at that point, that one day I was walking down B Street with Caroline -- her tiny five year old hand in mine, when we began a conversation about all of the changes going on in her life.
One of her favorite people on the planet was leaving her world -- hint: you -- and she was beginning kindergarten and she was scheduled to go to the dentist for the very first time and that was the one biggie we were talking about.

And she kept walking and sort of mumbled, 
"I don't want to go to the dentist.  I'll be brave in September."

I stopped and was shocked at the beauty of that.

Brave in September.

Her five year old self figured out that human of all traits: 
postpoing the hard stuff.
Yep.  She wanted to avoid.

I got it.
I really did.

In fact, I was in the aovid-at-all-costs mode right then too.
I didn't want to think about my family changing.
Didn't want to contemplate you being out of my daily life.
Didn't want to deal with my dirty house.
My back-logged work.
All of the many things I'd been avoiding for a long long time.

But when Caroline said that it made me contemplate my avoidance techniques.

I needed a due date.


September became synonymous with pausing the big old freight train of life and checking out what I had shuffled under the rug.
In September I would face it.

Caroline never knew she gave me that gift...but ever since, I've used September as my get-it-done month.  
I've tried to be brave in September.

Maybe it was Patrick who made me brave...
it was his heart surgery that made me want to run for the hills.
I remember nursing him just two days after open heart surgery and looking right in his eyes and saying, 
"You are making me brave, Patrick. I can't believe I'm doing this."

All those Septembers ago I just didn't think I could do it...
but I had no choice.
And I got through it.

As you get older, you tend to put off more and more things.
You don't travel to the places you think about because the time never seems right or you don't have the money or you should be more responsible and use your time or money some other way.
You don't go after the job you think you should...or the education that you need...
or the _____________ . (insert dream here)
You have lots of reasons and most of them are very mature.
Other adults nod and understand because they are putting stuff off too...
or just not dreaming anymore.

So that's where you come in.

I am so proud of you.
Immensely proud of the man you have become.
As far as I can tell, you don't put things off.
You seize the opportunity.
You find a way.
You gut though.

Just like you did in that crazy, awkward, kind-of-in-kind-of-not first semester at college.

I guess I just want to encourage you to always live like that.

Don't let adulthood be the excuse for not trying something.
Don't let "real life" bog you down.
Please, please, please continue to dream and reach and fight back when you get shot down.

Cause it's gonna happen.
Life has a way of wearing you down.

Stop right now.
Listen to your heart.
What are your wild and precious hopes?
List them all.
Even if they seem crazy -- especially if they seem crazy.
Those are usually the best ones.

Promise yourself to be Brave in September and set a due date.
Go for it.

Most of all, know that you can do the hard things...
you can make the miracles happen...
you will find your way.

It doesn't have to be perfect 
or sane
or what I think is right.

It just has to be yours.
Hold it close...use the flint...blow on it...and light that fire.

It's gonna be amazing.

That hero is YOU!

Monday, September 22, 2014

I Know She Can Do It...But, Why Do I Have To?

courtesy of Katie Daisy Art

One day after I came home from dropping her back off at college to begin her sophomore year,
I steeled myself for the pain of the fridge.

Like the ice bucket challenge, I knew it was going to take my breath away, make me cringe, force me to do something I really didn't want to do at all.
I was going to have to deal with the ingredients...
her ingredients.

You see, my little chickadee likes to bake.
She bakes when she's bored.
She bakes when she's nervous or stressed-out.
She bakes for no reason...just to get a nice smell in the house.

Someday, she is going to make her own family very very happy.

Now, you understand my thickening middle.
When you next see me, just smile with understanding and kindness...please?

In that fridge, I found ricotta.
(For the record, never, in my adult life have I purchased ricotta.
Mary Kate has purchased more in her teen life than most non-Italians have in their whole life.)
For Ina Garten's Ricotta Orange Pound Cake...or maybe that's Giada's recipe?
I found chocolate frosting...left over from Patrick's Heart Day cake.
I found a whole tray of Lonna's insane pumpkin bars only partially eaten.

We are human after all -- our stomachs are finite.

What's a mom to do?

I lingered over the ingredients but knew they needed to go.

She's not going to be back until Thanksgiving...and by then it will just be gross.
Better to dive in right now, peel off the band-aid and face the truth.
She's gone -- for awhile.

Four plates at our table, not five.
No more blaring country music when I start my car.
No more moments of friction for dirty dishes, underwear lounging in places it shouldn't or endless TV marathons.

Dang it.

I know.  I know.
It's what you want and hope and pray for.
This is a very good problem to have.
She's happy.
She's found her spot.

It's just that I'm not in it.

My girlie and I go round and round.
Ours is not the companionable, mellow, obedient, docile relationship that some mothers and daughters seem (from the outside) to have.
Mary Kate and I have contentious, fractious moments.
But she trusts me with her confidences.
She shares herself.
She makes room for me...and if that isn't the biggest gift ever for a mom,
well then I can't think what it could be.

We just want a tiny, little bit of room.
A text.
A funny phone call.
A silly facebook inbox.
A tweet.
A shout out.
An Instagram shot, tagged with a hilarious hashtag.
Any tiny morsel.

Cause you know why?
You've got the whole kit and caboodle from us over here.
You have our whole heart.
Our full attention.
Our breath inhales and exhales with thoughts of you.
All the time.
Even when you think we aren't looking...
we are.

So baby girl, while I know you are flying high.
Send a feather or two to your ground crew.
We already miss you and it's been two days.

Dang it.

Be careful.
Be safe.
Be noble.
Be great.
Be smart.
Be funny -- that's a for sure.
Be honest.
Be gentle -- to others AND yourself.

But don't forget to just be.

Just sit in that wonderful quiet and know yourself.

You're pretty great.

Go show the world.

Your fan club awaits.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Egg and The Thank You

So a few weeks ago I was on the phone with my husband at midnight and I heard a loud knock on the door.
I asked my husband to wait and I went to the door.
My dog was growling -- a low, guttural sound that he rarely makes.
The dog is freaked out.

I opened the door, stepped outside and saw nothing out of the ordinary.
I asked into the darkness if anyone was there.
It was quiet.

Buddy was still not quite right and about 20 minutes later I opened the door again to prove to him things were okay.
He sniffed around, marked his territory and settled back into his nighttime sleepy fluffball position.

I didn't think about it until the next day.
I went upstairs to open up the windows to let in the cool morning air before the heat of summer pressed in...
and I saw it.

An egg smashed on my window.

I opened the window and looked around.
Suddenly I'm Sherlock.

I search every other window in my house.
I patrol outside.
I'm convinced I've been egged by haters.

But why?

What's controversial?
What have I done that would need an egg punishment?

I thought perhaps Mary Kate had said something at her work.
Could Patrick have bothered someone?

Who throws an egg at someone's house?

I know it sounds silly, but I spent my day obsessing on the egg.
I felt bruised.

Like I had done something wrong.
Like someone I loved had done something to deserve it.

John blew it off as a kid-thing.
He's so much better at being drama-free.

It was a summer day -- and the school-is-happening-soon clock was ticking.
I knew I needed to break out of my funk.
I did the take-the-dog-for-a-walk-and-ignore-it thing...
this tactic is very effective.
Until you get home...and see bits of egg shell mocking you on your roof.

I couldn't shake it.

Through lunch, grocery shopping, normal summer fun with the kids and even through dinner.
I had egg on my face.

Finally, it was time to walk Buddy again.
I asked Caroline to come along (to cheer me up) 
and with a dog on a leash and a kid holding my hand I was ready to face the mean old world.
I had my armor on after all.

I got to the end of my walkway and stopped.
Someone, a stranger, had taken the time to draw three chalk flowers next to Caroline's big flower on the sidewalk and next to those three flowers the words: thank you.

I was floored.
Who could that be?
I hadn't revealed my egg shame to anyone.
No one was around.
Those flowers weren't there this morning.
Where had they come from?

It actually didn't matter.
It was my chance to exhale...for the first time all day.
I just stared at those flowers and smiled...a really big, goofy smile.

A tiny act of kindness.
The tiniest.
Three flowers and a thanks washed away that gooey egg -- a sprinkle of goodness 
straight from the universe.

So tonight I'm grateful for the smallest of things, the "everyday deeds of ordinary folk"...
they do, indeed, keep the darkness at bay.

Your job tomorrow: do a small thing.
One simple act of kindness and love.
It's so fun to consider...so many options.

Go ahead.
I double dog dare you.
Sprinkle the world with some love.
We all need it.
You never know what you might wash away.