On coming out of hiding

June 24, 2013 by No Comments

The smudges on my living room window are staring me down. From my perch at the kitchen table, I am making a valiant effort at tuning out the world, Mumford pumping through ear buds, all my children sufficiently occupied. Only, my attempts at sufficiently occupying them don’t seem to be sufficient at all, and so the threats have begun.

“Go have your quiet time, or else…” I growl. And then 3 minutes later, the fact that my kids aren’t the least bit scared of me is confirmed with yet another display of amnesia.

“I forget, what’s quiet time? Can I have a snack at quiet time? Is quiet time over?”

Such is the life of a mother/writer.

It’s not their fault and I know that. I know they are used to the version of myself that I’ve shown them. Since they joined up with us, I’ve lived but to serve. I’ve never worked out of the house, and I’ve had precious little social life. Hobbies have been of the reading and more reading persuasion, usually on the couch amidst the chaos of family life. I’ve never been unable to set aside whatever I’m doing to jump when they call, get the drink, fix the toy, play outside.

Their response is normal because they don’t know any more than I do how this will all work. That, and they’re kids. Three minutes feels so much longer in their world.

But, I’m trying. I’m trying because today I made the discovery that there has been a file titled “Writing” on every computer I’ve owned since 2001, the year I bought my first computer. Minus a short stint at a blog, I’ve never shared those files and documents with anyone. I’ve been writing consistently, obviously harboring a secret “writer” persona for 12 years. And that is just too long to keep such a secret.

So today, I’m ignoring the smudges, despite the fact that any other day of any of the last 12 years, I would have set aside this silly writing thing and hurried to clean those haughty and taunting smudges and streaks. Today, I’m doing the thing I’ve been doing in secret for over a decade. And I’m doing it outl oud.

And these, these are the days to remember. Because they hurt, they’re a breaking of the skin that I’ve worn for so long. And the truth is, I’m not at all certain that I’m doing the right thing, but I know I’m doing the thing that I believe is the right thing. I’m doing the honest thing, the thing that tells my kids that the world is big and wide and there is much to do.

We all have work to do. And I never want them to think their particular work should be designated to some secret file tucked away. I want them to live honestly, richly, out loud. I want them to believe that what they have to offer the world is absolutely vital. And I want to see them work hard to develop it, to honor the trust that has been placed in them, to offer their work humbly to those who need it.

I want to remember these days so that I can see where we came from, how the words grew and I stopped hiding.

I want to tell a different story, a story that changes their story all the days of their life.

Turn right

May 25, 2013 by 2 Comments

Sitting at Starbucks I eavesdrop on the two young women sitting just feet from the table I’ve chosen to write at today. I’d say I don’t mean to do it, but that wouldn’t be true at all. Eavesdropping is one of my guilty pleasures. They talk about everything from school to summer plans and I gather that they are students at our local Christian University.

Everything about them is familiar to me, from their mannerisms to their lingo to their attempts at honesty while so obviously waiting on the cues from their friend to see if they really can say that thing they want to say.

It seems like not all that long ago that I was right there. Right there. I hear the questions hidden underneath as they talk about their boyfriends. I see the anger bubbling behind the smiles as they commiserate on difficulties of still living at home. They’re trying so hard to figure it all out, to just get out and get on with it, whatever it is. And they’re pretty sure they’re close, they’re on the right road. After all, college and serious boyfriends and part time jobs, that’s how you get where you’re going, isn’t it?

And I want to tell them, maybe. Maybe it will all be just like that.

But then I want to tell them about how I ran through my college campus with my final tucked into my rain jacket, having finished it only ten minutes earlier. How then I went home and watched Friends for two weeks straight. How I wrote for the school newspaper and how my Old Testament professor almost made me miss my great-grandmother’s funeral. How I would have taken the F, if he really wanted to play that game. I want to tell them how the girls down the hall prayed for me and how it made me spend even more time with that boy at the state college down the road. I want to tell them that I learned something just this year that made me laugh until I cried. I found out that the Jewish men bless their wives with Proverbs 31, singing it over them at Sabbath meal. It’s not some standard or check list. It’s just a song, a thanks for being you melody.

I want to tell them that I wish I’d pushed back even more. I’d say how happy I am I married that boy from the state college when I was 20 years old even though it cost me my perfect reputation. How I sort of wish we’d turned right when we saw the sign leading to Vegas, and that I’d been 18 or 19 on my wedding day instead. How it cost us. How that first year was hard, not just because we were young, but because we were tired. We were depleted, having tried so hard to make everyone a little less worried and frustrated with us. And it wasn’t worth it.

I’d tell them, I’m not saying get married or quit school or run away from your families. I’m just saying that I know there’s something you’re not doing. Something you think you don’t mind sacrificing. Something that’s going to sneak up on you again someday. So just do it, or try it anyway. And then keep trying, and watch who sticks with you.

I’m thinking now about my boys. My precious sons. And I know that right now I just want them stop jumping off the furniture and keep their seat belts buckled, because, hello?? Head injuries! But I know the truth is, some day they’ll have something they’re not doing too. They’ll look at me and their dad and wonder if it’s worth disappointing us. And I realize that I hope they feel that way. I hope they sense that tension, because it means they know how much we love them, and it means that even in their teenage angst, they love us. But then I hope they do it. I hope they find that little bed of security that says, you’re loved, you’re loved, you’re loved, and I hope they jump.

I glance back at those girls. I want to pay for their coffees, and I want to tell them to take a drive. And then, I’ll say, when you see that sign for Vegas, turn right.

Butterpillars and The Baby Thing

May 21, 2013 by 2 Comments

He chased a moth across the front lawn and then ran inside, all high excitement and tumbling exclamations.

“Mommy! I almost caught that butterpillar!”

And I died a thousand deaths, because how on earth can I ever beat that? There just isn’t anything else that steam rolls me like the silly, mixed-up phrases of my babies. Each time another one bursts from their baby fine lips, I scramble to immortalize the moment, the phrase, the bright eyes and floppy hair. I post it on facebook, scribble it in a notebook, I play the scene over and over in my head, committing it to memory.

I used to do the same thing when I nursed them as infants. As they suckled, I clasped the smoothness of their feet in my palm and pushed my thumb between each toe, ran it along the sole. I focused with concentration of a NASA analyst and told myself I’d never forget this  baby, this  foot.

But the truth is, it’s all just kind of blurry now. I know I did these things, nursed my babies endlessly, lived in the precious moments of their helplessness, tried desperately to memorize the sensations of each minute of their lives. But, when the minutes piled up like they have, the distinct nature of each one sank into the big gap of time I now call “The Baby Thing”.

As in, we’ve done The Baby Thing.

And, we’re not all that interested in doing it again.

We’re so close to being done with The Baby Thing. My fourth son turns two next month, so he’s teetering on the edge of babydom and full-blown toddlerhood. After a really long fall/winter/early spring of one virus/cold/croup/asthma/fever episode after another slamming our family, my baby found that his already beat mama had no energy to fight him and his triumph has culminated in his relocation to our bed at some point every.single.night. It’s not a pretty situation and his feet in my face all night are pushing me ever closer to the edge of my sanity.

I put my foot down last night and informed my husband that he  would be dealing with “that child” because “that child” knows he has me completely conquered and I wasn’t in the mood. To his credit, not a word of disagreement came from my husband’s mouth. Instead, when that little guy called out at 11 PM, he dealt with it. Repeat at 1 AM. And then I woke up at 6:45, in my bed with only my all-of-a-sudden extremely hot husband by my side. My hero.

The world seems a little more loving today.

It’s all true. The holding, the memorizing, the cherishing, the desperate attempts to freeze time, to never, ever take these moments for granted. And also, the exhaustion, the DONE, the end of the rope. Somehow these two states of being are coexisting. I wish I could say it was a peaceful coexistence, but in the interest of honesty, it’s more like a constant state of self-induced whiplash. I push so hard into one emotion, I never see the other one coming. And then it hits me full force and I’m left waiting for my eyeballs to refocus in my head and struggling to find my balance.

They both take me breath away.

When the “butterpillar” moments materialize in the middle of an otherwise ordinary day, the beauty of the sweetness and purity of their innocence rocks me, but it’s the little ache that comes with knowing these minutes are fleeing as fast as these boys are growing that sucks my breath from my body.

And that blessed rope end that I find myself at far too frequently, there’s a little satisfaction to be found there too. Even as the guilt for my lack of patience and nurturing response fills my mind, there’s this bit of sanity I feel returning. This deep knowledge that says, you feel insane because you can see it, what it’s like to be a person. A person whose life is happily full of children, but also full of things like waking up in her own bed with only her husband sharing that space, dinner out with a friend, writing. For the last, well never mind how long, I’ve been filling so many needs, rarely allowing room to feel anything but the next maternal response. But from this edge of The Baby Thing, I can see that little light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, starting to glimmer just a bit.

A new season is coming. One in which the DONE feeling leads to some new crevices of joy and purpose. One where sleep leads to energy. One where my growing boys watch their mama become a woman who , every now and then, tells them their special  butterpillar stories and then writes her own while they play in the next room.

One where The Baby Thing was the best thing that ever happened to me, and one where I’m just fine moving on.