Five Minute Friday: Tree

November 15, 2013 by 6 Comments

Linking up with Lisa-Jo for Five Minute Friday!  Gobs of women, all writing for 5 minutes, on the same prompt. No extreme editing. Just 5 minutes of whateverflows from our finger tips. 

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The branches bent low and wept with me. They held my secrets  and my sadness.

The limbs reached out, strong enough to bear my weight, and the weight of my very best friends forever. In the summer, we climbed down from our perches and instead spread a blanket out beneath the curtain of willow leaves. The roses from the little garden outside my bedroom window were near enough to fill our noses and we laughed for hours.

In the Spring a neighbor dug a grave at the base of my tree for the pup who saved us all. The ginger colored friend who brought us together in a way that had never before existed. She made us laugh, with her underwear collecting ways, with her insistence on sharing mom’s pillow every night. One morning she thought I’d left for the bus and she ran out to watch me go, a pick up slammed her out of our life. She died as my mom sobbed and drove her to a vet she couldn’t afford to pay anyway.

We buried her, and we cried. I sat perched on my willow tree limb looking down into her grave. We huddled together in mom’s bed, and my forever friends put tufts of her fur in my locket. I was 13.

My dad had been gone for a year and a half.

I cried more over that dog than the night he drove away in his black Toyota.

Up in the arms of my willow tree.

31 Days of Making Room: To Belong

October 10, 2013 by No Comments

31 Days 2013

I don’t know what I expected. To be swept away by the hum in the air, I think. The buzz of traffic, the electricity of the greatest city in the world. In the last months, I’ve convinced myself that I belong somewhere like this. Somewhere big and bold, quirky and with the ability to be dark, but the refusal to do so. I love the idea of anonymity, of a swarm of people flying around the city on the subway, simultaneously and separately.

And I love it. I love it because it’s my best friend’s dream come true. I love it because it’s accomplished so much, because the spirit of New York is apparently unbreakable. I love that it houses the creative geniuses alongside the business tycoons, that they both fully belong. I love that the hum of conversations happen in every language, every face looking so much the same because they are all so different.

And yet.

I’m a guest. Fully the recipient of the generosity of the big and beautiful Big Apple, and still, so far from home. I’m not homesick, not really. I’m just mad about my family. Absolutely crazy over them. I didn’t see that coming. I expected a creative awakening,clarity on making space for this writing thing I’m doing, and instead I’m finding my way home, to my babies, my husband, my little desk crammed into a corner of my bedroom.

There’s a freedom here. And in that freedom, I am finding that my lump of boys are the best place in the world. They are my great adventure.

I’m remembering how deeply I love my husband, how intimately we’ve entwined ourselves, and how kind we’ve been to each other over the years. It’s been such a hard season, I’d some how lost sight of the whole of it all. Our love is sincerely the best thing I can imagine on this earth. It’s been big and wide and soft. It’s been hot and deep and hard. It’s been safe and quiet and faithful.

I’m here another few days. And I am so glad, because a part of me belongs here too. A part of me belongs with this friend, this girl who has walked along my life and who pushes me to become the woman she sees beyond the kids, the suburbia, the marriage. The woman that existed in me before that all came along, and who can, very realistically exist in the midst of it all. I’m glad it’s not time to board my plane yet, because I belong here, hearing about her books and her writing and her life. I belong here, helping her sort things that need sorting and complimenting her on her beautiful apartment and making her buy pants that make her ass look great. I belong where I can take a breath and have time to blow it out before someone needs one more thing. I belong where I can sit with my friend and sip a margarita, and joke about her carrying me home. I belong where she’ll do my eye make-up since I really never learned how. I belong where she’ll encourage me to take a power nap if I need one. And if money were no object, I’d belong here a few times a year, loving her city, her home with her, celebrating her spot on this planet, being refreshed by her simple presence in my life.

But in a few days I’ll board that plane and wish I had a sleeping pill so I could make the hours on that plane pass in a blink, because my boys are on the other end of a days’ travels. My boys. My man. My home.

Because that’s where I belong. Folding laundry and soothing hurts from the day. Making eyes at my husband and eating sushi in bed after the kids are asleep. I belong where my life is poured out and into my family and where I experience the great satisfaction of making my kids smile. I belong where my ambitions collide with my kids’ needs and my husband’s goals. Where we sort it all out. I belong where I’ve crammed a writing desk into the corner of my bedroom, where I’m stealing hours to punch the keys, where every word is a bit of a victory. Where nothing is perfect and everything is a little thrown together. Where I have spaghetti sauce on every white shirt and where my husband kisses my neck. Where my kids thrown tantrums and I throw them too. Where we all forgive, over and over again.

Where I’m becoming something. Some big mishmash of all the places I belong, of all the people I belong to, and who belong to me.

I belong where the buildings scrape the sky, where a hole in the ground reminds me of how desperately hard this world is. I belong where the freeway crawls along the smoggy valley floor and I’m driving my kids to school, where real live heroes are teaching them to live in this desperately hard world. I belong in the preschool class, delivering the donuts on a birthday. I belong in this coffee shop among the brownstones and the artists.

I belong, walking in this world.

 

31 Days of Making Room: For Him

October 8, 2013 by 4 Comments

31 Days 2013

I put the babies to bed by myself on Sunday night. You should know, I hate putting them to bed by myself. Not only is it crazy getting four little guys down at the same time, in the same room, but it’s just sad.

They miss their Daddy.

He has the wonderful advantage of patience at the end of the day, having been at work and missing them all day. He isn’t immune to the crazy that happens at bedtime, and he can be pushed to the edge by the up and down, going potty, need a drink routine, but it takes him longer to get there than it does me. And so, he is king of bedtime stories and he faithfully answers all the calls for snuggles.

When he’s out for the evening, I am on. And however worn and frayed I am, I believe every child ought to be sent to dreamland with a story and a snuggle and so I muster my old high school drama skills and read a chapter out of whatever book we’re on with as much feeling as possible, and then I hunker into each little bed for a few minutes, whispering how much they are loved, every one. And I give a billion kisses. And I love that time, I really do.

But, the truth is, it’s Daddy’s domain and I am just fine letting him have that space in their day. They’re used to having their Dad all to themselves at that hour, and no matter how animated I am during reading time, or how many kisses I give, they want him.

And so, he’s not gone very often. It’s pretty rare, a fact that I am so thankful for.

But Sunday night, we ate our dinner in a hurry so he could help me with showers and jammies, and then he was out the door. And I didn’t complain once.

Because I’m making room for him.

If you haven’t done the math, I had four babies in five years. Actually, it was 4 years and 364 days. And if you think I’m some sort of Super Woman, you’re sadly mistaken. The only reason I have survived the last seven years is because I have been given a very wide net by my husband. The years haven’t been perfect. And our marriage hasn’t always been the kindest place, but there has been a lot of grace for each other. Mostly for me. Never once in these hard years has he come home and surveyed the disaster of a house and said a single word. If dinner wasn’t on the table, he asked what he could pick up. He did his own laundry. He let me sleep in every single Saturday. He never made me feel like I was failing, though I’ve felt it plenty anyway. It’s as if he was blind to my mess, and just walked along beside me, imperfect and wonderful.

And, in as much as it’s my turn to make some room for some things in my life, it’s his turn too.

And the thing he wanted to make room for was a once a month stint at the local Rescue Mission, playing the piano for a Sunday night service.

I think we can make room for that. We need to make room for that.

You see, my husband does not swear, as a rule. In our house, I’m the one with the mouth, the one with a pinch too much in the way of opinions and outrage.  I talk and I talk and I talk, throwing out more colorful words to show I really mean it. Which is why it stopped me in my tracks when just a few weeks ago, words poured out of his heart and they were seasoned with just a little bit of profanity. This was obviously not some ordinary conversation or conviction.

After ten years of marriage, you’d think we know what we’re doing. We have four gorgeous and hilarious sons, and a mortgage. We go to church and do other church things. I make dinner in the crock pot and he does bath time and stories before bed. We’re good folks who lead worship and make meals for families with new babies. In the early days, I threw out ideas like San Francisco, Seattle! He smiled and dug his roots a bit deeper into this place, this middle of the state valley like spot. I wasn’t right and he wasn’t wrong, but there are things we’ve missed along the way.

It’s tricky business, this American Evangelical Middle Class Family thing. We have so much access, so much to process, so many telling us what to think, how to read, how to interpret, who to believe, who to be wary of. Any time I have my own little thought in my own little head, I begin to feel guilty because who on earth am I? And who agrees with me? Do I have a right to think I could be part of this or of that?

And he’s tired of it. He’s worn down by the us vs, them, the sitting, the listening.  The bullshit. It’s time to move, to make some room in our lives for something other than the status quo. We never wanted that life anyway.

“What would our purpose be?” I asked, as we pondered a little seed that was planted, and replanted, and replanted again.

“People,” he answered.

Yes, we can make room for people.

None of it is without cost. I don’t love when my sons go to sleep with Daddy snuggles and stories, but once in a while, it might just be okay to teach them to make a little room. Give a small corner of their territory. It’s so tempting to never ask them to give up anything, to have them grow believing they have full access to us, to every bit of our lives. I believe they need to know that of course they do. Everything we have is theirs. There is nothing we wouldn’t do for them. And I think knowing that, they are more able to release a bit of their claim.

Once in a while, as we all learn to make a little room.

 

31 Days of Making Room: For A Clean Face

October 5, 2013 by No Comments

31 Days 2013

I stand at the stove, stirring, flipping, chopping. The fan above the stove doesn’t work correctly, so the steam and smoke blow right into my face. I feel my pores open, and I think, “Skin care? Check.”

***

I remember his hands running on my back, his murmurs of how smooth, how soft.

***

I walk down the aisle filled with soaps and solutions, an answer for every skin woe. I hold tightly to the list in one hand, the calculator in the other. I’ve filled my cart, all these kiddos have made the list of “needs” a bit longer than it once was. My eyes scan til I see it, the cleanser I used for more than a decade, the only stuff my sensitive skin can take. My eyes fall on the price.

Nope, not this time.

I push my cart out of the aisle, a twinge of disappointment gets pushed down. It’s just skin. Soap and water is fine.

***

Who am I kidding? I might splash water on my face. Soap is a luxury I just don’t care about.

***

I’m 16, braces and clearance rack clothes. Frizzy hair, and a large backside. I’m a little bigger than my tiny waisted friend, a lot flatter than that dancer/student council/homecoming queen girl we all wish we were. But, I’m smooth and clear. My face is fresh and clean. I take that to the bank.

***

I look tired. I look blotchy. My nose is red. I just turned 30, and I feel worn. And I look it. I buy expensive make-up instead of slightly expensive soap.

***

I push my cart down that aisle. It’s been a few years now, and we have even more kiddos commandeering our budget. Still. I find the face wash and I don’t look at the price. Okay, I glance back at it as I push my cart out of the aisle, cleanser thrown defiantly inside. I hurry over to the kids’ section and put back the two pairs of jeans that were marked down 60%. They have a million pairs. They’ll be fine. I check out.

***

I shouldn’t care. It’s pure vanity, right? But, it’s something I can do, something that makes me feel a little more like a woman. And with four kids rubbing  their dripping noses on my pants, and asking me to wipe them and all the other menial tasks, there aren’t a lot of moments I feel like a woman. And I am a woman. I should probably feel like one.

***

Well, I don’t look 16 anymore. Not even after a few months of nightly skin care. But when I put my cheek down on my pillow at night, I don’t feel the sledge of the day’s make-up, mixed with the sweat of mopping the kitchen, and the tears of frustration over another temper tantrum, and the steam from the stove, and the smog of our valley town. The pillow case feels cool and clean and fresh.

***

I mention my clearer skin, because well, he hasn’t.

“Oh, yeah. I guess.”

And then like he always does, he looks at me, like that. I realize he loved my smooth skin back then, because it was mine. Just like my dimples and stretch marks and blotchy nose are mine now. I may feel invisible, but he sees me. I smile at him, like that.

And then a child cries. Because they know. They always know.

***

It’s just a small practice. And it turns out, I can’t go back to the days when my clear skin kept me from sinking under waves of teen self-loathing. I can’t go back to those early days of us, when smooth skin was a new discovery. But it feels nice to scrub the day off, to do what I can to face the world, clean and fresh.

Five Minute Friday: Write

October 4, 2013 by 9 Comments

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Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday! Gobs of women, all writing for 5 minutes, on the same prompt. No extreme editing. Just 5 minutes of whatever flows from our finger tips. 

Write.

You might as well say, Fly!

That’s how impossible it has felt. To write from my gut, to put it out there and not tie it up with a big, pink Jesus bow. To let my voice speak, with it’s cracks and warbles, and too soft whispers.

Project! I can hear my drama teacher from high school. “From your diaphragm! Project!”

Well, okay.

This blog, where I’m writing is me, projecting with all I’ve got.

Write.

Hash it out, bring them in, speak a message. One of life from here, of hope for the next minute.

If it’s true, write it. Maybe don’t publish it… but for heaven’s sake, write it. Then filter it through a strain of decency, of kindness, of respect.

Edit.

What freedom to know good writing is mostly good editing. Because my words rarely say that thing that’s rattling around in my head the first time around. Blessed editing.

Then hit publish.

Share. Because all you can do is show up. All you can do is tell the truth and hope it really is the truth. And maybe, someone else will nod along.