Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Five Minute Friday:Tender (On Tuesday)

We spent the weekend dancing in Georgia and I was too busy running the Grace Girl from competition to convention classes to do anything else. Yesterday was make-up schooling and extra loads of laundry I never fathomed this many loads of dark hand wash only as well as bathing the dog because she'd been at the kennel for a few days eewwwww.  So, here it comes, a Five Minute Friday: Tender (On Tuesday)


Five minute Friday is here...five minutes where I'll write without editing, backtracking, or second guessing.  Five minutes to write because I love it, because it frees me, if only for five minutes...
Today's topic?  Tender

Ready...Set...Go!

Tender  is how my heart gets when I watch them and don't realize it. Dreaming their dreams and telling each other secrets in hushed whispers  as  the occasional giggle slips out.

Tender  is how she's always approached her big sister, the one who shows her the ropes and gives her the most grief.  Her little hands wrap around one that is looking surprisingly like mine these days and I see the tendency for my eldest to act big, to not willing grasp those ballet pink painted fingers and I cry out in my heart, "Please, keep her tender, Lord...soften her."

In the moments where I am able to really see them, to watch them grow and change and  adjust in our world, I seek the tender

To be soft with them in times I am tired and out of patience

For my words and my tone to match when I am about to answer in haste

In the giving of my time when it seems there is none left in our hurried day

With words of their favorite stories and lullabies as I am granted the privilege of snuggling them before bed


I want to be a mother that displays the tender and passes it on, so they might too


STOP

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Seeing the Gray

It all goes back to elementary school and diagramming sentences...

(Taken from  the Grace Girl's book) 
I was the girl who loved English class. Every single part of it. From spelling to word definitions to parts of speech, I was smitten. I even was taken with the lost of art of sentence diagramming. Yep. That's me. I was a geek.

There are moments in life where I wonder if I should have studied the sciences and not the arts. If becoming an experimentalist would perhaps have given me a different view on the world. If, in being a researcher, I would see things less in black and white...

.and more in gray

Being a yes or no not a maybe girl is fantastic in some areas of my life. I make decisions quickly. I carry through on agreements. I throw myself into relationships wholeheartedly. I enjoy order. I value those who stick to their word. I have high expectations of myself. 

I have high expectations of others

I want people to work as hard at things as I do. I have hopes of the professor coming home and switching back "on" to family and turning off his work brain, which at this point in his career is probably too much to ask. I keep telling him I understand how busy he is, how many hours he works, and that this is what it takes for him to get where he's going. I tell him I understand. I kind of lie. I desire for family  to grasp what our life is really like...how much time and work go into homeschooling well,what living with a chronic disease is like,  how difficult it is to do it the driving and shopping and cleaning and bill paying and all the rest of it solo.

High expectations make things lonely

Life isn't set up like a sentence diagram. Not everything rests on straight (or slanted) lines joined and blocked into neat, set, spaces. It can't all be labeled, classified, and then scripted.  

I'm working on seeing things less on a line and more as part of a picture. People don't fall into tight spaces. They deserve room and space to grow...

It's not all black and white.

Maybe, just maybe, I'm starting to see a little gray after all.






Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mending a Crack


In the little moments, I need to remember she's not trying to break my heart.

Her sweetness emanates from her in a way unmatched by other children...

She's never known me as a physical force like her sister has; as she grows she won't recall how I used to change furniture around because I was bored with the look of the room. She hasn't done those quick trips to the hardware store in search of the perfect paint color to change up the walls. I used to do that. Often.

She'll never remember that I was able to easily push her for what seemed like forever on the swing, her wispy curls blowing in the breeze as she called out, "MORE, Mama, MORE!" in that baby voice I can still hear in memories...lost to her will be the pictures in her head of me following her up the steps of a slide like I did with her big sis.

Her recollections won't include me running after her as she took those baby steps from tentative to full speed. She doesn't recall back that far and it hurts in a place that no bandage will ever heal.


Today, the weather was perfect. Sixty-three degrees with sunshine touching our hair and warming our backs. The day called us to come outside and enjoy this respite from winter gray. She asked, hopefully this morn, if we might go outside and play once we finished our schooling. I replied in the affirmative and said a quick prayer that her sister would school quickly, for the Grace Girl is now the source of outside joys.  With a Mama who doesn't always move well and has to be careful with sunlight, my eldest has taken over the dream keeping, games of tag and sidewalk chalk and all of the festivities that I used to enjoy with her.

One more crack in my heart. A girl sometimes asked to do things she need not because a disease limits my ability.


My big did not finish early. In fact, we schooled down to the wire and then did a quick twenty minutes of choreography revamping for an upcoming solo before heading across town for hours of lessons.

On our way home, my Little Joy asked if perhaps heading outside was still in the cards...

She started it with, "Boy, Mama, it's so sunny I have to put on sunglasses...."

I knew where this was headed, and started to smirk


"Do you think, maybe, well, we could play soccer?" Then answering her own question, she continued,"Wait, you can't run. We can't play soccer.I've not been able to do that in a long time."..."How about basketball? Can you play basketball with me?" My heart cracked again as I replied, "Angel, you know my hands and wrists are bad. I'd love to play with you but I can't. Maybe I can watch you play?"  "No Mama, I want to do it with you..." Disappointment filled her voice. Disappointment filled my heart.


I deal with these autoimmune diseases of mine. I don't wish for what is not part of my life. I don't lament what could be. I am thankful instead for what is.  But, sometimes, what is hurts. The girls learn all sorts of things about empathy, compassion, patience, gratitude. I'm thankful for this. I love that we have more time to snuggle and read stories and learn languages. I adore that I can be a part of their dance and studio time and every competition, convention, audition and practice. I am in awe of the wonder of them and the beauty that is their growing up. I am speechless with gratitude. It could all be very different; I know this and I seize every single opportunity to be with them.

But today? Today my heart aches with the wanting to do things with her that she'll remember outside of me not being able to, if that makes sense...

Then, a quiet honey-filled voice from the backseat breaks the silence


"Mama, how about I ride my scooter? We don't have to go far, but maybe we could go past that first turn? Perhaps that will work? I don't want to hurt your hip too much, but I do want to be with you...May we do that? Please Mama...you don't have to take the dog, I know she'll pull too much...."
.  .  .  .  .
So, that was precisely what we did on this light-filled Tuesday afternoon. We secured her helmet and off we went, making long shadows on the grass and slow progress in our distance. She'd dart ahead and then wait for me to catch up. We enjoyed easy conversation on big subjects, like the fact that she never plans on leaving me, even when she grows up. "You are my favorite person," she tells me, "I love you more than anyone else in the world. Ever. Except for God.You are perfect for me." My Little Bit. The child we prayed would be extraordinary not ordinary. Our girl who's name means "God has answered"...In her I see the One who made her and I give thanks.



That fracture in my heart begins to mend itself together just a bit. 


All of the "what-if's" related to my physical are left in the dust today. She sees my heart. Loves me as I am. Accepts all of it and doesn't mourn for what she's never known. As she grows, she may have to adjust her perspective on my normal. The Grace Girl has. For these hours, though, we're playing outside with the sun kissing our cheeks. Smiling. Together.




I am beyond thankful for her little heart. Mothering her is an honor. A blessing. 


A GIFT

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sometimes we get wild and crazy around the nest.

We cook.

Confession: I can cook and in cook I mean put lots of ingredients together from scratch and make something delectable and I used to do a great deal of it. My kitchen was permeated with the smells of chicken, soups, chili, roast...the list is endless. I would lovingly prepare foods that my husband enjoyed and my children tolerated. The chicks are not meat (any color) and potatoes gals most of the time. They eat, like, well, chicks. They go for fruits and veggies, salads and whole grains. They love lentils. The prof often shakes his head in amazement. It's not that they don't enjoy the occasional carnivorousness meal, it's that when given a choice between a grass fed burger and a bowl of lentils with peppers. It's lentils. Every. Time.


Dinners are healthy. Nutrient packed. Full of protein, minerals and vitamins, carbs and enough fat to keep little bodies growing. Food is usually natural and rarely processed. We do not often eat out to save money ... money that goes to keeping dance studios in business. Healthy but simple...Lentils and rice, hummus and pita, whole grain bread with peanut butter, pasta and fresh tomato sauce, soup and lots of it, gluten-free mac and cheese. We live on the wild side.

When my Daddy-O sent me a bean cooker shortly before Christmas, I laughed. OUT LOUD. Beans are his thing...he's into food marketing and sales and knows all sorts of things no one else does about that little protein and fiber packed food. Our family started eating a ton more of them since he took over this specialty; we've even grown quite fond of them. My Dad? He's amazing at soaking and sorting and spicing them so that they taste like the ones that come out of a can. I cheat. I don't use dry. I want my lentils ready-to-go. Poor dad...I must be such a disappointment to him.

I could've taken the gift one of two ways:

(1.) My father had given up on my ability to cook and was trying to show me the light
(2.) My father loved me and wanted to make my life easier and save my wrists from a can opener.

I went with the second option.


It took awhile with the crazy that was November and December, but Little Bit and I finally got our cook on this past weekend. It was the easiest thing I've ever done. Seriously. I decided on step two that if this bean cooker ever quit on me I'd promptly purchase a new one. I liked their page on fb (yes, it has twelve whole fans) and felt incredibly geekish. Friends, I've got to tell you...I'm never going back.

Not only did the entire process take less than an hour, it is healthful. There are no preservatives. It's so easy even a child can do it. I can make rice, soups, and a variety of other good things in it easily.

I'm in food love.


Little Bit and I sorted and rinsed and laughed. We spent an hour in the kitchen on a wet Saturday and made memories she'll treasure forever.  My wrists didn't ache from a can opener and we have dinner for three different nights next week.






I'm thankful.


My Dad texted me the following after I messaged him pictures of my girl cooking and the beans we made:

After writing this...I'm wondering which of his girls is "getting so grown up"...his daughter or his middle grandchild.

Counting gifts:
-For a dad who loves me enough to send me a "just because present"
-For time in the kitchen without winces
-For dinner ready for a week to come




*Disclaimer: In no way was I compensated for my opinions or pictures of the EZ Bean Cooker. Yes, that's it name. Seriously. I am just a girl who received a gift and fell head over heels. No kickbacks for this whatsoever...





Friday, January 20, 2012

Five Minute Friday:Vivid


Five minute Friday is here...five minutes where I'll write without editing, backtracking, or second guessing.  Five minutes to write because I love it, because it frees me, if only for five minutes...
Today's topic?  Vivid

Ready...Set...Go!
Vivid

In my mind I see all the colors of her...

purple for that hair color that went awry

Irish green for those sparkling eyes

creamy smooth of a face not oft touched by sun

tan spots spattering her cheeks

the blue of her living area which became a bedroom that matched mine

gray Iowa skies on a minus three December's eve

yellow happy returns lilies we placed in her garden

red for the cowl neck she wore

black, a cozy blanket her dad brought the last time he visited

distressed wood on the bedside table

crystal sparkles in the lime slush

a rainbow cascade in her laughter

pure sunshine out of her smile


She was vivid. Vibrant. Beautiful.

It's how I'll always see her in my heart..

Stop.




Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Here

"Lights will guide you home, and ignite your bones, and I will try to fix you..."  -Coldplay

I desire to follow the light. Have it create a fire in my bones for something more...I want to do more, be more, create more. In the little moments, where I'm not just a wife, mother, teacher, dance driver, housekeeper, and chef, my voice cries out from under the place I've hidden it. "I'm here," it says, "YOU'RE HERE. BE VISIBLE. Make me heard."

Has anyone else ever felt the like? 

As women, as wives and mothers and career followers and seekers of word and truth and the often hard of life, perhaps...well, perhaps sometimes we lose our voices. I know we've worked to create them through suffrage and rights and equality laws, but really? In trying to prove that as women we're equal we've squelched our voice. The one inside. The smallish one that could roar if we'd let  it. If we had the courage to be ourselves and not who we think we're supposed to be in order to fit into the mold we've poured for ourselves. 

"How do I make you heard?", I ask, anticipating no answer, "How do I fix this?"

In the stillness, I pour over my heart. I listen. I quiet my body and pay attention. It takes energy I do not possess and searching I fail to anticipate. It goes on for a good portion of a night. Then, He answers. I need to keep the light in focus. I need to use it as more than just a cursory illumination, but a deeper one,  one that will brighten the path and bring peace. I don't need to fix me. I need to let Him in to do it. Opening doors shut to pain and rejection and relationships where I was always less than. Listening for a voice that does not always mimic my own. 

Being me.  Visible. In the dark and in the light. Accepting myself as I am, flawed and broken and in need of fixing. A woman with a voice calling out from a small place, with unchased dreams and dinner on the stove. That's the woman He came to fix. To save. To fill up and make bright with light. 

You are enough. You do enough. You are loved. I see you....Be a light. Reflect ME.

I hear all of these things in the quiet of the night.

He'd tell you the same thing, so I will state it here for your eyes to see and your heart to believe...if not today then someday soon.

YOU are enough. YOU do enough. YOU are loved. YOU are seen. Today and everyday I love you.

"Be still and know that I am God."  Psalm 46:10




Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tied Up Tuesday

Tuesdays around the nest have done a one-eighty this month. It's more than a little bit of crazy that our "off" day  you know the kind, the day where you don't have to leave the house for any outside activity has become perhaps the most filled day of the week. I want to follow that with an UGH  and a drawn our sigh, but the chickadees enjoy flight, so I'll be kind and refrain.

I have, however, come up with some alliterative terms that go with our Tuesday schedule.  They include:

Topsy-Turvy
Turbulent
Tiring

Today has gone from being our long schooling day to one where we start in the darkness. Instead of lunch at the normal hour, I pack the babes into the car and drive to one of the studios where the Grace Girl is putting in the hours to make her dreams a reality. The prof will pick her up when he's done with work roughly five hours after I've dropped her off and tonight she'll head home to finish reading Homer's The Odyssey after she grabs dinner. I'm thankful he's not travelling most weeks, as Little Bit will dance albeit much closer to the nest for an hour and a half this evening as well. Aye-yai-yai.

I've chosen to look for gifts in the crazy otherwise known as Tuesday.  Today I'm counting uninterrupted time with my youngest among the greatest of these...we've laughed, she's read War Horse and has enjoyed two hours at the piano unbroken by her sister's schedule. She's practiced her lessons, composed some originals, and found the Laura Story song Blessings that a friend sent to us for the girls a few months ago. Ever my fearless chick, she's taken to the challenge and is sitting and playing it as I write. She is beautiful...inside and out.






Just like that, my Tuesday is looking up. It's funny how a change of focus, of perspective, can do that for a gal...

...A double strand of pearls might make the difference too...


I'm counting gifts with Ann ... will you join me?

1. Gift that made me laugh? A lovely face who seemed to already know my heart on a Skype call
2. Gift that made me pray?  Hours awake in the stillness of the dark
3. Gift that made me quiet? The remembrance of a sweet friendship


Friday, January 13, 2012

Five Minute Friday : Awake


Five minute Friday is here...five minutes where I'll write without editing, backtracking, or second guessing.  
Today's topic?  AWAKE.

Ready...Set...Go!

                         
Awake

What I do before the sun climbs into the sky so that I am able to exercise and pray and have a few moments of time unblemished by noise and the thoughts of the day.

Awake

It was what I was not today when the alarm went off and I tried to pretend that I didn't hear it's call.

Awake

How I want my heart to be to the world that surrounds me, with all of the messy and beautiful combined.

Awake

The Grace Girl at 1:30 am trying to process all of the "new" around her. New classes, harder curriculum, new friends who have half a decade on her, new dance and new styles. So much new for a heart that is still just waking up... which leads to troubled bedtimes and notice of the passing hands of the clock.

Awake

AND

...grateful to be so.

STOP


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Baby Steps

In the days before Little Bit joined our world, I was the queen of moment capturing, printing, dating and filing. The pre-digital camera days were full of snapping shots on 800 speed film with our 35mm Minolta from every angle.  As soon as the last image was taken I'd rush out to the Exchange we were military during those years and immediately have the film developed. When it returned, I'd promptly pick it up and meticulously caption and date the back of each picture, which would then be lovingly and immediately put into the next slot in the book.  If I had a title for those years, it would be, "I dreamed of scrapping"...mostly because I planned on creating masterpieces with the images as soon as my Grace Girl went to school for a few hours a day.


Ha Ha Ha....this is me laughing at my decade ago self. I had such big dreams.


In late 2003 all of the organizational photo beauty ended. It mimicked those scenes in the movies where the main character allows all of her plants to die, except I was the leading lady and my 4x6 shots were the plants. I was in the middle of a difficult pregnancy with an almost four year old and a husband pursuing his PhD full time while also maintaining one weekend a month in the Reserves to give us extra income. I was proud of myself for simply remembering to capture memories.  I was trilled when I was able to date them accurately it's an odd gift of mine, being able to look at a picture and recall the date down to the day of the week even years later and then get them back in the envelope with their negatives.

With the summer of 2004 came a new babe, an apnea monitor, Synagis shots, and a digital camera. In tears one fall day I told the then-to-be prof I couldn't do it all and the baby was going to grow up without any developed pictures and she'd think she was adopted and we loved her sister more and....and he promptly went to the store and bought me a new camera. A digital one. Sigh. Reason one million and three I love that man...I planned on printing the digital files monthly and putting them straight-away into books. Planned being the operative term; it never happened. For a few months I printed and labeled. Then I went to online dating and labeling. Then just remembering to back them up. By this point Little Bit was almost four and we flew South and took up a new residence. I reveled in the fact that in just a year, both kids would be in school and I could organize my photo disaster. I'd make memory books of their first years...I'd put all of it in books. I'd convert all of the 35mm film negatives to digital to further save precious memories. I was still dreaming the big dreams.


Our first year south was the stuff great tragedies are made of...one child adjusting well and one wanting to go "home". She broke our hearts with her sweet eyes and mournful cry. Schooling here wasn't all it was cracked up to be; the "gifted" program met just once a week for an hour and she was a full year ahead in all subjects even though grade wise nothing had changed. She was bored. Lonely. Frustrated.  In the hope of continuing her adoration of learning I offered to bring her home. Yep. Homeschooling. A new world for all of us. Suddenly, my kids are going to school freedom had vanished. Just. Like.That. I waved goodbye to it with all but one regret...my pictures...my memories.


We jumped headfirst into homeschooling and I tackled it with everything in me. I'm not sure how the kids and I survived that first overly ambitious and stressful year, but that's another story. We also began competitive dance here we'd done it for a year up north previous to the big move and doubled our dance classes. My free time went from caring for a most delightful and easygoing preschooler during the day and having a clean, well-organized home worthy of house beautiful to me crying every Friday night because I couldn't get it all done. I'd always been the girl to do it all myself. My digital files? Just as they came off the camera. Not dated...but backed up. At least they were backed up....


Fast forward to this summer. I purchased a new hard drive to triple back-up the files as well as a scanner to digitally restore the early years shots and save all of the negatives as files. I was feeling ambitious. I vaguely recalled my big dreamer self of yesteryear and she made me smile. Surely during the long days of summer I'd be able to get those photos done once and for all.  I purchased ten new albums to put everything into, as I'd given up the idea of scrapbooking until the kids didn't need me as much. I sorted, labeled, organized by year. It was beautiful. My girl earned a free trip to Nationals for her dance solo...we traveled to NYC for almost two weeks. My photo queen ways crashed. We came home and it was time to schedule curriculum and start dance and do workshops. Summer was over. The scanner sat, unopened, behind my comfy schooling chair. We started Algebra and English and Latin 1 and threw ourselves into academics. We lived. I continued to capture our moments and some of the guilt over the pictures began to wane...it only took a decade. I decided that it was more important to catch the milestones than get them into books...that all of my regret at the not having done was far more detrimental than the not actually doing.  I decided I'd work in baby steps to get things on track. I backed up all of our videos that the man promised he'd edit onto a drive. On a cold, miserable day in October I gathered all of our VHS and 8MM tapes and took them in to be converted by a professional to files I could easily save to the new two terabyte monster I'd purchased to preserve memories.  Baby steps. Two weeks ago I pulled all of the files off of my phone that I'd edited and shared and posted. I sent them in for processing within three months of taking them. Baby steps.


Why am I sharing all of this? Because you can do it too...that thing you think you'll never get under control or that organizational pitfall you look at and then squint your eyes tight at so it seems tiny and maybe like you're imagining it??? You can do it. You CAN.


You can dream big.


Even it it takes a decade to get started.





Monday, January 9, 2012

One Word 2011- ACCEPT

I love the concept of one little word by Ali Edwards

LOVE IT.

I spent a great deal of time at the close of 2010 and beginning of 2011 deciding which word I should choose for the year...

I hemmed

I hawed

I prayed

I desired to choose a word that would remind me, encourage me, challenge me.

In my heart, I knew the term that should be put into practice...I fought it. Tooth and nail. I did not desire to use this word in my every day, in the hard. I'd always prided myself on being a go-with-the-flow gal. This one word? It would show the inner workings of my heart and challenge me to not just say I was okay with things but, rather, BE okay with them.

For. 
Real.

My word?
ACCEPT

Accept. One little word that rocked me to the core in 2011. I thought that my word would relate mostly to my health. That's what I planned on it relating too.  You know, because, um, I'm the one in charge. Wink. 

As I was blogging in my head throughout the last few weeks of 2011 *yes, I realize this is probably an ineffective method of communication with all of you sweet souls who stop by here to see what's going on, and for this I apologize* it hit me that accept was the most perfect word for our year.  Burying it deep in my heart, adding it to each prayer, asking someone who knew me well to challenge me if she didn't see me making it a part of my day. 

When my word chose me otherwise known as when the Lord put a word on my heart I had no idea the roller coasters I would ride emotionally and physically.  He did. 

Through disease progression, loss of mobility, friend's illnesses, monumental changes in schedule, triumphs, tragedies, death... throughout all of it I chose to accept. I didn't realize early on how invaluable making this word part of me would be to my heart. He did.

Because...

He IS.

Once again I'm hemming and hawing. I'm praying. I'm asking for wisdom as I ponder words that float though my brain.  I am being both thoughtful and intentional.

But this year? I'm thinking about choosing a less loaded word. A word like funGrin

That's not really true...I just wish it was...I'm waiting on my heart. 

Do you do something special every year? It could be making a resolution or choosing a word...It could be a list of things you hope to accomplish? If you'd like prayer for it, share it within the comments, and I commit to praying for it and for you daily.  

As for my 2012 word? I'll be sure to let you know...