Big, yet simple

Trying to live big. Trying to live simply. Can we do it? For us, this is what it looks like the past few days. Me with a warm cup of creamy coffee. Jason with a glass of nice dry wine. Emma with a Gatorade, Glacier Freeze. Blankets and pillows loaded up. We drive west a few miles. It doesn’t take long until we find wide, open spaces. There’s no trees. No buildings to block our view. Just a vast expanse of blue sky at dusk. We park, facing west and watch the sunset. Good music coming from the speakers and we just be. We just are. We just observe.

Afterward, EK drives sitting in my lap. It takes a lot of convincing from us. She doesn’t dance near the fire. Mostly, she stands back and watches the flames. But she trusts us and we convince her that she will not be doing it alone. We are right here. We will always be right here. There is nothing to fear. The sunroof is open. Above us, a black abyss of stars. She’s a good driver and keeps us on the road. Music wafts upward and outward and inward to our souls. And we drive on dirt roads in the dark. Living big. Living simply.

Another day instead of blankets, pillows and drinks it’s two very excited wagging, panting dogs we load up. We drive East, it doesn’t take long until we find a small pond. The day is cool. We are wearing jeans and hoodies. The wind is strong and cold. The dogs are panting. Their tongues loll about. We stroll around the water. Ducks swim undisturbed. Clouds sail across the sky. Cows in the next field are curious. They come to the fence. They’re excited. The dogs are excited. Even J-Dub is excited. He walks right to the fence and sits with them reaching through the barbed wire. Their nostrils flare trying to get a better scent of him. They crowd into one another. The dogs whimper and prance wanting to take chase, but knowing better. Every creature is curious of the others. For a little while.

The dogs walk the water’s edge. Dipping their tongue as the walk. Their paws are muddy. Their legs are wet. They venture out further. Then without warning they sink up to their shoulders. EK finds it hilarious. So we all do. Laughter is contagious. We walk a bit more. It is quiet. It is just us. We are still, yet moving.

Afterwards, we have two tired, still panting, sopping wet, and now very smelly dogs to load back up until their next adventure. Everyone likes to go every once in a while. Living big. Living simply.

I sit on my patio in the morning. My coffee is full and hot. The sun is full and hot. It beats down on my face, legs, and arms. Spring is bursting. I only need to look around and observe. Cycles of life continue. The world has not stopped just because the people have. How little we are in control of. The sun does not rise at our command. The birds build nests, not because we say so, but because they know that’s what they were put here to do. The spider weaves his web every day, knowing he’ll have to make repairs. The flowers bloom. The cows calve. The gigantic pink full moon casts its healing light on our planet. We cannot stop it. We can not force it or make it cease. We think we have so much power, we think we are in control. We must only open our eyes to see how foolish we are.

I close mine. I breathe deeply. I feel my body relax. My thoughts slow. I am still. I just be. I just am. I hear the words come to me.

I am right here. I am always right here. There is nothing to fear. I smile. Is God a poet? Of course He is. He is in all things. He is all things. Big. So Big. Yet, so simple.

Finding Gratitude in Challenging Times

Many years ago, back when I had cable TV and I liked Oprah Winfrey, she had a guest on her show who first introduced me to the idea of a gratitude journal. I can’t remember why I jumped onboard with that, probably the guest said it would change my life and it did. I quickly found a nice little hardbound journal that was given to me as a college graduation gift (I did say it was many years ago) which remained blank, so I began each day to write down 3-5 things I was grateful for. My gratitude journal has been such a meaningful part of my sanity, growth, and getting me through difficult times, that I feel that the practice may benefit you as well.

We are certainly going through difficult times as humankind right now, and if you are feeling any amount of anxiety, worry, fear, or stress, I honestly believe getting a nice journal to begin this process of appreciation will help you get through it. And we will get through it. We ARE getting through it.

I have attempted to keep a gratitude journal throughout my life. Of course, my energy towards it wanes and surges, but I use it as one of my coping methods in the very hard times. I have filled up a few journals with basically lists of goodness in my life.

What has this accomplished for me?
1. It has forced me to look for the silver lining in the midst of the storms of life.
2. It makes me feel better. Instantly my mood improves. We cannot think of two things at once. We are either thinking of something good or something bad, but not both at the same time. Try it. You can only focus on one or the other.
3. It is a blessing to look back over the years and see how far I’ve come, and to remember special times and people.
4. It gets my mind off things I have no control over and helps me revisit how blessed I am.

When you first begin, it’s super easy. We all start with the  big things we can think of. Our family, our health, our religion, etc. And that’s fine. The more days you do it, it forces you to dig deep. You begin to live in a posture of appreciating.  Instead of thinking of general ideas, you begin to get very specific and will find that all day long,  you are appreciating your experiences and the people you are surrounded by.

When I look back over my old journals, I find a menagerie of things. For example, I am grateful that I am in control of my own feelings and thoughts. Or, I am grateful to have the ability to put together a meal without a recipe. For Ashlynn improving in her driving. When I look back into my very first Gratitude Journal in 1998, it says things like I am grateful for $50 my mom gave me to clean the house. Or, the job I applied for today. It is humbling and refreshing to read them all. For being able to visit my 6th grade Sunday school kids. In 2009, I wrote I am grateful for getting the bathroom redone. Free time to read and relax. Having money to tithe.

There are pages and pages filled and I could get lost retracing the steps of my life. But automatically I feel better. I mean right now. Finding those examples for you has caused me to realize how very blessed I am.

I encourage you to try this for yourself. Get yourself a nice journal, something that makes you smile. Journals always make me smile, anyone else? Set aside a time each day that you will write down 3-5 things to appreciate in your life. Do it for 30 days. Watch your life change!

In Philipians 4:8, we are told to think on the good things, y’all.  I would bet it is taught in all religions/spiritual circles in some form or fashion. What better way than to do so in a gratitude journal everyday? So go count your blessings, name them one by one. Leave me a comment if you plan on doing it or already do this. I would love to hear from you.

Here’s my 5 today if you need a tee off:
I am grateful:

  • For sitting outside and feeling the sun on my face and hearing the birdsong.
  • For healthy meals I can prepare and the abundance of food
  • For the promise of new beginnings as I watch spring unfold before my eyes
  • For the ability to work remotely.
  • For the bond of human connection.

 

 

A Letter to My Daughter on Her 8th Birthday

My Dearest Emma Kate,

Another year has come and gone and it’s all I can do to to keep my head from spinning. I can’t help but realize that we only have 10 more to go before you strap on your wings and soar.

I read one of the most profound statements that said something along the lines of, “the greatest tragedy of motherhood is for her to love her children so much, that she must teach them to not need her.” That wasn’t it exactly, but it was very close, albeit, expressed much better than that. But in essence, that’s what we’re doing, you and I. I am trying my best to allow you to grow independent of me. I want that very much for you and at the same time, I don’t want that at all. What a paradox it is.

For eight years you have been the light of my life, the sun my world revolves around. “They”, you know who they are…..the so called experts…..say it isn’t healthy to make your child the center of your universe, but I can’t see how knowing you are the Big Kahuna in my life could be bad for you. You are my greatest work. Like Charlotte when she referred to her egg sac, My Magnum Opus. You, quite possibly, could be my purpose on this earth. When I think of my purpose, I imagine I should do something outstanding. Something that could impact mankind. It’s very possible that you are my something outstanding. You are to me, anyway.

I often remember our past. The last few years that have gone by in a blink. It is fun to watch videos of us and see photos and remember the feelings of fun and curiosity and growth that enveloped that time.

I often think of our future together. The trips we’ll take and the experiences we are to share. I hope we always have a strong relationship and that you can come to me for anything knowing I will always love you, no matter what.

I try very hard to just be present in our present. This is all we have. I find myself getting through “tasks” just to move on to the next “task”, when I should be relishing our moments.

At eight years old, here’s how you are: you are nice to be around, simply put. You have a great wit to you.  You are generally always in a good mood. You are not demanding or pouty in any way. You are curious beyond anything I’ve ever known and I have been exposed to more random, useless facts because of you. Your dad and I call you Cliff Clavin (look it up) and just shake our heads with your sudden announcements of “Did you know………”. You love learning, like you always have, and you are very interested in maps and places, as well as science. As long as the science doesn’t involve the body. Anything bodily gives you the willies and causes some sort of physical discomfort for you to read or hear about it.  You must get it from your Grandy, who can’t stand anything gross. Or maybe from me a little bit too, as I’ve nearly fainted at the sight of blood before. It’s actually quite hilarious how just reading The Magic School Bus Inside the Body makes your hips hurt. I’ve known all along that you weren’t possibly cut out for a career in medicine, when as a toddler you used to gag at the smell of your own poop!

You are mostly quiet still– unless you’re around your parents–an observer of people and things, who doesn’t like the spotlight or to be the center of attention. You still enjoy dance and gymnastics, but you’re not afraid to stay at home and do nothing either. You are fiercely independent, but never rude. You are truly the greatest kid. Your dad and I say it often. “She’s such a great kid.” I’m super proud of you and always will be. May you be surrounded by goodness and love and guidance all the days, my dear sweet child. You are loved.

Love,

Mama
XOXO

 

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Ordinary, yet precious


Life is made of moments. Many are magical. Most are merely mundane.

Ordinary life. But within every second of mundane and ordinary, lies the power. The power to be present. The power to choose your words carefully. The opportunity to connect with others. The opportunity to love, show love, and be love. All we really have is this moment.

Life is made of moments. Some day, the moments will only be memories. Time is precious and people are precious and that’s really all we need to know. Treat both as such.

Cheers to 7 Years

My Dearest Emma Kate,

Happy 7th birthday, my precious darling child! When you were born, I got a lot of advice.  I didn’t ask for it, by the way, but sometimes people just like to give it. One of the most common things I heard was “Don’t blink. They grow up so fast.” I’m sure I’ve already given this advice out to new moms and if I haven’t, I’m sure I will. It is the God honest truth. There is nothing truer in this world than how fast time flies. How in the world has seven years passed already?

It makes me sad sometimes. You’re infancy, toddlerhood, and now half of your childhood is just a memory. Well cherished.  You are a ray of sunshine everyday to me. Rod Stewart (I know you’ve never heard of him, and I should change that) says, “You fill my heart with gladness. You take aways all my sadness. You ease my troubles, that’s what you do).

This birthday, you asked for a glitter water bottle, pink hair extensions, a doll from Hobby Lobby named Emma “who looks just like me!” and a Rubix cube. You lost your third tooth this week. It’s a top one and you look so funny. Sorry kid, but you do. You were so excited to lose it before you turned seven. And your toothless grin makes me smile! You are a little prankster and you love to trick me and your dad. Of course, we never fall for it, but we act like we do. You’ll get this someday when you’re playing dumb for your kids, too. You love to play games. You give the best squeezes. Right now you are over the moon about llamas! You want everything llama themed, from your toothbrush to your bedroom.  So naturally, we had a llama birthday party! You wanted to go to the Plaza and have them sing happy birthday, so we managed that too! You truly don’t ask for much, and you are just happy and content no matter what.

51223912_10219215884014754_175594532396597248_nYou love your family and gymnastics so much! You really are passionate about that. You set goals for yourself, and you are hoping to get first place at one of your gymnastics meets. I’m proud of you for striving, but please always know it is not what you do that matters. You matter, already. No matter what you do or don’t do. You are loved, you are adored, you are worthy, you are deserving. You don’t ever, ever, ever have to earn love. You are loved. You are love. We will always love you. I know you’re going to grow so fast. I cherish the days I have with you. I try to see the world through your eyes. It’s hard, because grown ups have lost that childlike joy, imagination, and wonder. But you keep it alive in our house. Even when we’re tired and don’t want to play or imagine, you make us and it’s good for us. You love to wrestle with your dad and you love to snuggle with your mom. You are our gift. I mean that. I don’t know where we would be without you, but it would never be as grand and wonderful as where we are today. May you always know how much you’re loved and may you love life, always!

I love you more than you can ever understand,

XOXO
Mama

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Late Bloomers

I love how nature speaks to me. I received a great lesson today, and I wanted to share it with you.

At the beginning of summer I planted a garden. Granted, I may have been a tad tardy with my planting, but my garden has been a flop. I attempted a new method this year, hoping to avoid weeding, avoid tilling, and freshen up the soil. Instead of planting directly into the ground, I planted a pallet garden.

If you’re unfamiliar with this technique, it’s a simple concept. At least for me, which may have been the reason for my poor results. I basically tossed a pallet on the ground, filled it with soil, and sewed my seed in the rows of pallets.

My garden took off……..in the beginning. It sprouted. It blossomed. It flourished.  I was so excited, eagerly awaiting the results. The delicious food that I could bless my family with. But it never produced fruit. While others posted pictures of their bounty all summer long on social media, I chalked my garden up to a big ol’ dud. The plants were large. The leaves were green, the blossoms were oh so many. But no veggies were to be had.

J-Dub and I assessed the situation and decided that perhaps it was a little too crowded in that pallet. No, I didn’t thin the little saplings like the seed packet told me to….I just can’t stand to pull up potential. Each of those seeds has within it the potential to provide life nourishing food. I just figure I’d probably pull up the wrong one, that every little seed deserves a chance, and that the strong would win out. Wasn’t true. There crowded conditions kept any of them from producing. Anyway, we continued to water, it continued to grow, but when I realized my mistake, I decided what I’ll do differently next year. More room, less plants.

Today is Sept. 13. Here it is on the cusp of fall, and I got the surprise of the day when I discovered little bitty baby veggies growing in my garden. I laughed out loud, bending down to move the big leaves to see what else was hiding underneath. Quite a few little babies were there. Yes they are tiny. Yes they may not make it full grown, but they are there just the same.

 

“You’re just a late bloomer, aren’t you?” I spoke to my lovely little garden. “Just like me.”

I realized then and there, it’s okay. How often are we constantly comparing our lives to others who are posting their bounty on social media? How often do we think we should already have accomplished, achieved, experienced so much in our life by now?

We are so much like this little pallet garden of mine. We have within us so much potential. We are the seeds, full of possibility to give life nourishing fruit to others. But we sometimes get crowded out. Others outshine us. We may even look at the ones around us and believe that they have it all and there’s no way we can bear our fruit. Maybe we even believe it’s too hard, or there’s not enough to go around and those other guys already got it all. It’s never a good feeling when we feel like we are competing with the ones next to us.

We should never give up. Yes, it’s the oldest cliche’ in the world, but it’s more than a cliche’. It’s truth.  Just as I didn’t give up on this little garden. Even when we thought it might be a dud, we didn’t abandon it. We kept on watering it. There was always a little glimmer of hope that it might become what it was intended to. That is exactly why I checked on it today. In the hope that the fruit would be there. Same as us. We all have our dreams inside of us. Don’t give up on them. Don’t give up on yourself. You aren’t a dud. Keep your hope alive.

When I saw those little baby veggies, it brought me joy, and I quickly got the hose to give it more of what it needed. And like you and like me, our small baby fruits, that we think don’t make a difference, do bring others joy. Give yourself what you need. Whatever that may be. You are important and your needs shouldn’t go unmet. Take some time to reflect on what you need, and love yourself enough to tend your own garden.

My takeaways from this lesson in nature:

1) You have great potential and possibility inside you.

2) You may not be planted in the optimal place, but you can still bear fruit.

3) Don’t let others crowd you out. Stop comparing your bounty to everyone else’s. They have weeds too, you just aren’t seeing them.

4) Blossom in your own time, even if it seems too late. It is never too late.

5) You and your gifts bring others joy. Keep on. You never know when you are affecting another.

XOXO,

Angel

 

Love in My Lap

IMG_2849.JPGThe clock is a kill-joy on mornings like today. Mornings when my baby girl is so warm and snuggled up against me, her breathing heavy and full, a half-snore.

Mornings come so early for us, and bedtimes don’t always come easily. It’s hard to rub the sleepies from our eyes some days, and this morning was no exception.

I am on the countdown to summer break, for both of us. Well for all of us. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit to find our cat marking X’s on the calendar, if she only had opposable thumbs. I think she’s on the countdown too. She knows that soon we can sit like this all morning if we want to. We probably will. I love her soothing purrs and EK’s half snores.

It’s no secret that my baby isn’t a baby anymore. But I will carry her from her bed to the recliner as long as she reaches her arms around my neck and snuggles her face into my neck each sleepy morning. I will carry her as long as I have strength to do so. I will hold her in my lap as long as she curls up in it. I will breathe in the smell of her hair and kiss her little head for as many days as possible.

I believe that the gift of being an older mom is knowing in my heart how fleeting the days are. I may not be young and hip. I may occasionally get mistaken for her grandmother. I may be old-fashioned and a bit of a stick in the mud. I may get tired soon after playing shadow tag, but I am sure of one thing. I am not foolish enough to believe that these moments will last.

When you get to a certain age, you start looking back. Here I am, halfway through life (not positive, but realistically yes, but gosh that’s hard to think about) and it went by in a blink. Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes. I remember a younger time when it felt like days dragged on and waiting for something to come seemed to take an eternity. Like graduation or a wedding day. Even summer breaks felt long when I was a youngster. I remember a younger me full of goals and dreams, rushing through days, not living in the present but taking every day for granted, the next would come and I would wash and repeat. Can you relate?

Not anymore. Now me and J-Dub look at the clock in the evenings and can’t believe it’s 8 pm already. Where does all the time go? It flies. That’s the truth.

The clock that hangs on my wall was a gift from my dad. I remember my 25th birthday when he gave it to me. I remember the 25 year old who was cute and hip and took everyday for granted. She could probably play shadow tag for hours. The clock chimes on the hour. I try to have EK ready before 7 bells each day, but today we sat a little longer. I relished the seconds that passed. I attempted to slow down time. I did not want them to end. I felt such joy and love. But the clock chimed our reminder that time is passing; slowly for some, much more quickly for others.

I nudged her awake, stirred the cat, and began the day with a heart of pure gratitude for the love I hold in my lap each morning.

 

Mother’s Day #5

I’m a bit of a creature of habit. Just a bit. Not too much. Only when I want to be, really. But I do have a little tradition of blogging on certain celebratory occasions. My daughter’s b-day and Mother’s Day are the only 2 I really think of right now. Most of the time, this little blog is a ball of random. When the whim hits. Which hasn’t been hitting much lately.

Sunday past was Mother’s Day. My fifth one.  I’m not sure words can describe motherhood. There have been many people who have tried to put the words down, including myself. I think one of the best I’ve ever read is: #motherhood:

How true.

Motherhood is complete sacrifice, even when you adore pie.
Motherhood is seeing the tiniest, most minuscule, grain-of-sand-sized love God has for us.
Motherhood is a heart that is both broken and full to bursting often at the same time.
Motherhood is worry.
Motherhood is joy.
Motherhood is an exhaustion beyond what you ever thought possible.
Motherhood is sticky fingers and sweet kisses.
Motherhood is a million “I love yous” and a few teenage “I hate yous”.
Motherhood is handmade cards.
Motherhood is lots of laughs and plenty of tears from all parties involved.
Motherhood is eating lots of spaghetti.
Motherhood is late nights and early mornings and feet in your ribs when sleep does come.
Motherhood is thankless mostly, but worth every moment.

This Mother’s Day I was showered with little gifts. Gifts that will be put away in the bin with the other sweet gifts I’ve been given and the ones hopefully to come.

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18447353_10213478050932513_4614352799574924184_nEach moment is a true gift. A treasure to hold. Time passes so quickly. For some, motherhood never happens or sadly ends too soon.

My little daughter came into my life unexpectedly and the emotions I went through were paramount.  We are tight. This girl and I. We have a bond right now that I hope will outlast all the growing pains we still have to endure. The past five years have flown by, and I know the next 13 will zip past. And then she’ll soar on the wings that her dad and I have hopefully helped give her. So for now, I cherish every Eskimo kiss, every hug, every stick figure drawing stuck to the fridge, and even every melt down.

Every beautiful moment of motherhood for the past five years I have tried to store away, either in my memories or in this blog. I have been given such a remarkable little girl and I am so honored to be her mom.

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A Daughter’s Love

Last night, way past a normal bedtime for a 5 year old, my little EK and I were snuggling in. Saying our prayers and our I love yous. When suddenly she said, “I’m probably going to forget you when I grow up.” Why, I asked. Why would you forget me? She answered because she would be all grown up. I tried to explain to her that girls don’t forget their mothers, while believing this with all my heart, but also hopefully convincing her that she wouldn’t forget me, that she couldn’t forget me. My momma heart felt a moment of fear and heartache at the thought that my time with her was limited, that some day it would end. Which of course it will, but not by forgetting. Never by forgetting.

In my convincing, I tried to explain in the best way I could that I’m all grown up and I haven’t forgotten my mom and even my mom hasn’t forgotten her mom. And I desperately explained how when she was all grown up we would talk on the phone and visit one another if she moved away. That we could text on cell phones and take trips together. My mind was a flurry of all the grown up things we will do. In my vision, I was hanging on to her grown up self by a thread, knowing that it could so easily snap in an instant with her own life, her husband, her family, her busyness.

We were lying on our sides in an embrace, our noses practically touching. She said if she lived next door, I could just come over and visit. That thought gave me some relief. Yes, next door. That sounds wonderful. Then I said what all mom’s say at some time to their sweet preschoolers, yet to become tumultuous, unruly teenagers. “And you don’t ever have to move out, anyway. You can live with me forever.” I’m sure some day I will try to cram these words back down my throat, claiming I’ve never uttered them. But for now, the thought of her leaving, even to live next door is more than I can handle.

Then that sweet girl, with her big brown eyes, and her little mind that works all the time said. “And when you die, I’ll bury you in my front yard, so I can visit you all the time.”

I didn’t even know how to react to this. It is at the same time both very loving and yet bizarrely disturbing. So we said our good nights and our I love yous and I realized once again how immense love is.

 

When Motherhood Becomes a Battle…….the Side I Choose


We danced in the rain, arms outstretched, face upwards.

We water-colored and crayon colored.

We cooked and sang.

We kicked a soccer ball and practiced writing the letter S.

We read books and looked for hidden objects in the pictures.

There are a million things my mind tells me I should be doing. Like packing to move 400? miles away. And cleaning the house. And fulfilling commitments that I promised I would do. I should be doing laundry and keeping a more daily skin regimen and I should not be eating icing from the can with a spoon.

I sneak in my “Me” moments, (which are not “Me” moments at all, but just the stuff you have to do to keep life running) at times when I can. I try so hard to balance the attention I give her with the other things that need my attention. Am I harming her more than helping, I can’t help but wonder. Will she turn into one of those entitled, selfish brats that I read so many articles about because of my “overparenting”?

Those are the things my mind tells me. And my heart tells me that sticky fingers do indeed wash and wearing the same jeans two days in a row is not the end of the world. That knowing she is loved and cared for is truly more important, isn’t it?  Isn’t it the most important? My heart tells me this time with my daughter is short; shorter than I realize. I have friends posting graduation pictures of their children on social media, and I count the years remaining. Fifteen. I actually count those years more often than I should. Fifteen years until I can have an uninterrupted conversation with my husband. Fifteen years until I can sleep late again. Fifteen years until I can go to the bathroom without someone barging in. Actually, I have way less than fifteen, I know.

Motherhood is such a battle at times. Your heart battles your mind. Your shoulds battle your should nots. Your selfishness battles your self-sacrifice.

Some days I wish it were easier. I wish that I could be assured that everything I’m doing is right and good and that this little person is going to grow up with fond memories of family and fun and me. That she will possess responsibility, integrity, morals, and high standards. That she will grow up self-sufficient and independent, yet never act arrogant nor pretentious. That she will grow up and know love, and be able to show love to others. I choose to give her my time and my attention. I choose to help her know she is important and she matters. Only time will tell if I’m doing it all wrong.

We picked a fluffy dandelion and she asked me what I wish for. I looked into her deep brown eyes and said I already have everything I could ever need. I wish for her wishes to come true. She looked around the yard and saw her purple chair and said she wishes for a purple chair.

Perhaps we both already have everything we need.

That’s what I hope.
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