Creek Water and Redemption

creek-water-redemptionThere’s just something about a creek…or, if you’re from the South or small town Indiana like my Gramma, a crick.

We had one of these magical places behind my house growing up. It was home to a huge rock, a towering sand cliff, and more horsetail reeds than a kid could possibly make into pretend salads. We hunted frogs, fish, and imaginative respite.

It was my home outside my home. So when, as an adult, I saw a creek meandering behind a beautiful house, my heart fell in love…despite the fact my husband and I were planning to move elsewhere at the time.

Weed clogged and dirty, this creek was basically run-off from all the neighbors’ yards complete with resident frogs and occasional fish. The fact that I was enormously pregnant didn’t stop me from weed-whacking the entire backyard and meticulously laying out newspaper to stop the weeds from coming back up. I still don’t know how I did it. I could barely touch my toes.

In the 8 years since we moved, our creek has filled in a bit and the frogs have moved out. My kids don’t seem quite as interested and I don’t know which came first—the disinterest or my neglect of it.

However I’m beginning to suspect that my decision to not attack the weeds and debris in our creek had a lot to do with the disinterest.

There’s reasons. Good ones. But not good enough ones.

Continue reading “Creek Water and Redemption”

Finding a Foothold When Life Is Slipping

footholdThere’s an enormous rock that thrusts into the creek behind my childhood home. I remember lying on my back, stretching fingers and toes long and not even touching the edges. Above it, the sky hung endless blue with the tips of the trees a dark parenthesis on either side.

The rock was my younger brother and my pretend house when we played castaways, our kitchen table when we played house, and my refuge when I was escaping the terrors held inside my real home.

I’ve always been a collector of stories so I know that my “real” story is better and worse than everyone else’s. It isn’t in me to compare anymore. My past made me who I am.

It isn’t my past that scares me. I’ve moved beyond it…mostly.

I have this random file of character sketches, snippets of scenes. In my file there’s pages and pages of a character I’ve resisted for years now. She scares me because I recognize her. She’s trying to pull back from the edge of insanity and her feet are slipping. The hot breath of evil tickles her neck. She needs a rock, a refuge and I don’t know if she’ll find one in time. And I’m afraid of what that means for me, for my kids, and my marriage. Continue reading “Finding a Foothold When Life Is Slipping”

Just Breathe

BreatheThis summer was a little crazy, and left me feeling a little like a 300-pound gorilla was sitting on my chest. Not quite smashed to death, but gasping for air.

Survival included an increasingly large vat of coffee and an embarrassing amount of sugar. All of which left me irritable, twitchy, and still gasping for air. Not a nice look.

When my joints started hurting enough that I had was limping around the block, I realized my body needed a break.

Enter the dreaded detox (cue the evil music—Dah, dah, dah…).

I’m not sure how I decided that detoxing the first week of school is a good idea. Detoxing means I can’t have caffeine (despite the 5 am alarm) or sugar (despite the afternoon lull), and a huge list of other foods.

I found myself saying to a friend, “I can’t have coffee, but I’ll bring my homemade green tea chai.” As if I pretend really, really hard, it’d be the same thing. Continue reading “Just Breathe”

Life Between the Snapshots

Between SnapshotsThere are a stack beautiful picture books nestled into a tray on my coffee table. They’re my kids favorite books. Probably because the books are actually family albums and full of reminders of the fun times we’ve had together. There’s the rare picture they hate (like the one of my son crying because he’s covered head-to-toe in permanent marker) or prefer the world not to see (like the one with the goofy expression).

Mostly the family albums portray me and my world the way I wish they were–Picture Perfect.

But there’s more to the story. There’s life between the snapshots. Continue reading “Life Between the Snapshots”

Endings . . . What to Do with Them

EndingsWe’re coming up to the end of August, and my kids will soon be joining the ranks of bleary-eyed students returning to school. Summer is ending, and I’m not sure how I feel.

I don’t like endings.

It’s dark.

I can’t quite see what’s coming next.

And my self-preservation kicks in screaming, “Run the other way, idiot!”

But as time ticks steadily down, it’s quite impossible to for us mere mortals sprint back up the time continuum. Unless you’re Dr. Who. And I, dear friends, am not Dr. Who.

There’s a fear, a stress that comes with change. Even good change. My husband switched jobs this summer. Stress. I’m contemplating pruning my commitments. Stress. My daughter is 11. That’s stressful in and of itself but she’s starting soccer for the first time ever. Mama stress.

But my good-stuff stress is nothing. I have a friend a few years older than me getting married for the first time in middle age. Super stress. Another friend completely an adoption from overseas. Mega-stress.

And then there’s the stuff that hits you like a train when you’re just trying to get through an ordinary day. Pop quizzes, broken legs, cancer diagnosis, car accidents,…you see why I don’t like the unknown?

But there is so much possibility in endings.

So much that could come next. Sure school brings early mornings, alarm clocks, and the end of summer. But it also brings routine and a few moments of quiet.

Every sidewalk end, every cliff you step up to leaves you open. The vistas are wide and filled with potentially amazing experiences. You see…

Beginnings can’t happen without an ending.

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So in this season of change, I pray you will find peace. That you will see potential and take it. That even as you mourn what is no longer that you will celebrate what is coming. And that you will give yourself the grace of time to figure it all out.

Calling Mommy Back-Up

Mommy Back-UpA friend of mine emailed me the other day. She’s pregnant, her job is going haywire, her husband is in full-time school, and just that day, her son figured out how to climb out of his crib . . . and forgot how to sleep.

Yeah. One of those times.

And I was her about 5 years ago when my son (then 2-years-old) climbed out of his crib and promptly refused his nap, bedtime, and every other structure we had in place at the time. Did I mention that I work from home? And the only time I had to work was during nap time. Um. Problem.

So I identify with my friend. I emailed her back giving her a few hints, ideas, and thoughts. And she’s been on my mind ever since. I dropped her a line a few days later wondering if there’s something I can do to help—bring a meal, babysit, conjure sanity from thin air.

I hope she takes me up on it. I’d be happy to help, and she could use the Mommy back-up.

But I’m afraid she won’t. Because let’s face it.

When I was there I didn’t want to ask for help. It felt too, well, needy.

In fact I didn’t want to take help or in any way look like I couldn’t handle it. I should be able to do it on my own. Right? Right?! I can still see my hands shaking from too much caffeine and not enough sleep. I was so tired, I literally walked into walls.

While I’m not walking into walls these days, I am overwhelmed. Partly because I stupidly said yes to too many things. And partly because my oldest is entering teenhood, trying to figure out life, and she needs her mom (and I refuse to be anywhere else).

I hope I learned something in the last 5 years–learned to ask for help and receive it when someone offers. I know I’ve shuffled my kids to friend’s houses, ordered pizza, and broken down and let them have more screen time than I’d like. It’s what I need to do for right now. And that’s okay.

What are the things that other people have done for you that have made your life easier? What are things you wish someone would do to give you Mommy Back-Up?

When There Are No Words

No Words

As I writer and editor, my life lives and breathes letters, words, sentences. Pictures, scenes, emotions, flow from my brain, to my fingers, to the page. It’s what I do.

But sometimes…sometimes the river of words runs dry. I’m left without a way to respond to circumstances.

I’ll admit I’m tapped out right now. I have no words. And it’s okay for me. I know I my writing hasn’t been my best, but it’s okay for now. I’m not actively writing a novel…just editing.

My stopped up word-river is even fine for my family for the moment. We’re okay. Really we are (and I’m not just trying to convince myself of that).

My world is surviving without my words, my connection to something bigger…until I got a phone call from a friend who’s always been there for me. Until I didn’t have words for her.

I’m not sure I even followed everything she said through her tears, but I do know this: Her daddy died, and it was hard. She was trudging in the valley of the shadow of death, and I had such paltry words to give. I couldn’t even point her to comfort.

I know that sometimes it’s okay to not say anything. Sometimes it’s better even.

But oh how I long to speak into the dark spot left in her dad’s place.

And so I bring a meal, I pray for her peace, I scour the Internet for funny stories to send, and I might even buy a card with someone else’s words or I might haul out my paints and paint her a picture.

See I may have no words, but she can still hear me…and that’s okay with me. Tweet This

Perhaps it’s here, where our words flee, that we find action. In this wordless place, we set aside our daily tasks, roll up our sleeves, and communicate in a bigger way.

Smooth as Buttercream

There’s Something About Texture

Texture

My boy’s tiny fingers twisted
Through silky dark threads
Knotted, bumpy woven into
Comforting texture.

Enormous flower heads
Delicate as Queen Anne’s lace,
Bobbing approval above narrow cattails
Or dancing radiant under evergreen boughs.

Round, smooth-as-silk berries
Coated intense red,
Tucked safe into thousands of tiny leaves,
And stretched over the rippling water.

Paint trailing under a brush
Light space and dark, starts and stops,
Hiccupping thick layers to mimic reality,

Leaves breathing like velvety buttercream atop
The cricket chirp lays down the ratcheting, rhythm
And a bird’s sharp call jive
Cutting through it all.

Broken Barn Philosophy

Broken Barn PhilosophyThis last week we traveled up and around a million back roads in Northern Michigan. Gentle turning through hills and miles of meadows tucked between towering evergreens and unblemished white sandy beaches.

As we took time to breathe as a family, thoughts and words tumbled out of me like a fountain. Snatches of beauty took up residence in my heart. The snippets I took hold of might just last me weeks.

But one of my favorite sights were the leaning-sideways barns—the ones that were red, but have slowly slid into grey.

What is it about a broken barn, slowly overcome by wildflowers, that’s so beautiful? Or that one fence post nudged over in tall grass that catches our eyes.

We take pictures of the not quite right. But when it comes to our lives, we hide the things that are not what has been deemed good by . . . well, by whom? Continue reading “Broken Barn Philosophy”

Not the Best

Best

We were becoming desperate for rain, and the hot weeks have sucked the flowers dry. But along the highway, a sneaky beauty grew. The grasses glowed golden, backlit by the horizontal sun peeking out from the storm clouds.

Who would have thought that mere dry grass could be beautiful?

And yet it is so. The moment the world is dry and hard, it isn’t the flashy obvious flowers that persevere. It’s the overlooked, underappreciated beauty.

Catching snatched looks at that hidden beauty as I drove, I thought, Good for you…

You don’t have to be THE best to be beautiful.

And my fingers tightened down on the steering wheel as if doing so could lock down my heart and fight back the tears.

As a writer, mom…as a woman, I’ve compared myself to everyone around me. It’s a dangerous pastime where I ALWAYS lose. Either by looking down my nose at someone else, or realizing I don’t measure up.

I’m beautiful in my own right….except when I’m not.

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See the grasses were dry and brown, rather like I am right now. I’m not only not THE best, I’m not even MY best right now. I’m as brittle as the grasses, feeling boring, tired, and taking it out on everyone. I’m up against some physical issues . . . again, which have me channeling a rabbit in both what I put into my body and what’s coming out. And I don’t even care if that’s TMI.

There in the car on the way to the next doctor’s appointment, the light trickled across me, falling on the grasses. Highlighting failures and at the same time beauty.

Not only do I not have to be the best, I don’t even have to be MY best, to be beautiful.

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And neither do you.