Monday, October 27, 2014

5 of 642...

I spend a lot of time dreaming… of the grass on the other side.

I'm an optimist by nature. I try to always see the bright side of things. To make the best of any situation. And I am glad that I am able to do that. I can't imagine how sad and dark life must be for the truly pessimistic, those people that always seem to find fault and are never satisfied.

But I do find myself dreaming of a better life more than I like which is sad really because I have a pretty wonderful life.

When I think though of the perfect day, it is never an ordinary day in my life. It is full of the unfulfilled dreams, the adventures I have not taken. The perfect day involves me wandering New York or sitting in a cafe in London. I dream of sleeping in and waking to an empty house and a pile of my favorite  movies to watch or spending the day laughing with friends while soaking up the sun while sipping coffee outside.

Not because these are truly the perfect days but because these are the unattainable. These are the grass is greener. The things I cannot do right now at this point in my life, but oh how I miss these possibilities.

And then there are the dreams I wish I had for my perfect day. The person I wish I was that wanted to hike deep into a forest and spend the night or who was training with my friends for a marathon. The mom whose perfect day involved carving pumpkins and creating elaborate holiday memories for my boys. The risk taker who changes the lives of those in need around them. But I am not that person.

The truth is I cannot describe the perfect day. Not one perfect day.

I can tell you how I love to spend a bright fall Saturday morning watching College Gameday while drinking coffee in my flannel pajamas. I can write about the joy I get watching my boys do something they love, especially when they are doing it so well that day and you know they will be proud of themselves. The conversation that happens at Bible study that makes me feel alive or the walk amongst the changing fall leaves with a friend that centers me in the here and now. Smelling the salt air and hearing the crashing waves. The dinner out with my husband, slow courses, a good glass of wine, a delicious meal, and time standing still. The day when all of my boys come off the school bus with smiles and funny stories to tell. The day spent reading a good book that you can’t put down. The adventure of taking my kids on a subway ride into the city and wandering around drinking warm hot chocolates on the cold day.

For me, there is no one perfect day. At least not one that can be encased in twenty four hours of time.

And maybe that is a good thing.

Maybe I have found a way to make the little things, the glimpses of joy in my days, into my own green grass.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dear Boys,

I don’t know if you remember your very first ice skating lesson. You each did take that first step on the ice at some point, a helmet atop your head and knit gloves covering your fingers. You were each so cute. And so determined.

Interesting fact about ice skating - the very first thing you learn is how to fall down. Because no matter how good of a skater you become, falling down is part of learning to skate. That’s why we put those helmets on your heads.

When the skating instructor gathered her beginners, before you ever stepped on the ice, she took you off to the side and taught you how to fall down. She made sure you knew to let it happen. To not fight. To lean into the fear of falling.

Failure is inevitable. Falling will happen no matter how much you try to avoid it.
So before you learn to skate, you learn to fall. But the instructor didn’t leave you there. She taught you how to get up the right way. How to protect your fingers from the skate blades and to step up with confidence one foot at a time. She taught you to get back up and try again.

Then she had you practice falling a few more times.

And each time you got back up.

She may have taught you the most important lesson you ever needed to learn.

You cannot skate without falling down. Nor can you build a video game that delights you without making a few mistakes along the way. That is just part of the process of getting good at something. It is a scary, scary thing. I know this all too well. I wish I had taken more chances in my life, risked more, and even failed more because at least that meant I was trying something new, something challenging. I wonder how many great moments I missed in life because I was too scared to make a mistake.

I recently heard Sarah Lewis, a cultural historian and Du Bois Fellow at Harvard University, speak about the importance of failure. She said, “There are blame worthy failures and praise worthy failures.” Can you imagine? Sure, sometimes you will mess up but was it while trying to do something great? Or was it while avoiding the good, the better, the scary, the risky?

I’m sure you’ve seen the inspirational photos with the saying, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” I’ve always liked the idea of this, except I am beginning to realize that the destination informs the journey and creates the path you will travel. The destination matters. Shoot for the moon. Seek the destination that leads you on the most amazing journey you can imagine and then see where it leads. Take chances. Make mistakes. Fail. Because you cannot get where you want to go, without falling.

You cannot dream without closing your eyes.

You cannot find love without opening yourself up to pain.

You cannot succeed without first learning how to fall down.

And then getting back up. One step at a time.

Honestly, maybe this letter is really more for me than for you. I have watched each you take risks and I have seen the smile on your face, the pride in your accomplishment, when you moved past the possibility of failure and succeeded at something that was hard at first. I have witnessed your perseverance as you stumbled, made mistakes, brushed yourself off, and then took another step.

So maybe it wasn’t the ice skating instructor that taught us this lesson as much as it was watching each of you.

Thank you for inspiring me with your dreams.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

To My White Boys

This is an awkward letter to write. And one I hope is totally out of date and unnecessary by the time you read it. But it needs to be said. You are white. You are male. And that makes life easier for you.

Many want to say we live in a post racial world. But we don’t. You may not see color. I hope you don’t. We have tried to encourage an appreciation of different cultures in our family. We have tried to expose you to a diverse world. But the truth is you don’t have to see color in others because of your whiteness. That is the privilege you enjoy.

I do not worry when I send you out into the world that you might not come home. When I talk to you about what to do if you are stopped by a police officer or even arrested, I have told you to be respectful but I don’t worry that any move you make, any word you speak might create enough fear in the officer to cause them to feel a need to protect themselves and shoot you.

I watch you walk out the door in your hoodies and baggy clothes, I tell you to speak up. Advocate for yourself. Be you. This is my privilege as a white mother. But it is not the case for black moms across America.

Read this - listen to these moms tell their stories. 
“The Rev. Traci Blackmon is pastor of Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant. She has a daughter and two sons…. ‘Every policeman is not bad,” she added. “But if it is your child, you can’t take that risk. You have to have ‘the talk,’ because they have to stay alive.’”
Credit Provided by Missouri History Museum

I also wish that we lived in a post misogyny world, a world where what I can do is not determined by my vagina. Where I didn’t have to worry about what time my train will arrive back at the station and is that too late to walk by myself across a parking lot. Where I didn’t have to wait to see whether my gender interfered with someone wanting to hear what I had to say.

But we don’t.

You know me. You know I’m strong. I am smart and thoughtful and well informed. I speak my mind. I have gifts to share with the world and yet there are places, even within the church, where I am disqualified simply because of my being a woman.

You my sons, my white boys, will walk into a room and belong there simply because you want to be there. You will speak and people will give your words more weight at first because of your white privilege. Unless of course you say something stupid. Or unkind. Or demeaning of others. But that would be based on your actions, your actual words, and not on your ethnicity or gender.

There are programs in place to encourage diversity, both racial and gender, in schools, careers, etc. And you may lose a spot, not be given an opportunity, because of this. Some will say it’s not fair. But the truth is every day life isn’t fair.

You are white boys.

And that opens doors, gains respect, and protects you in ways you will never understand.

Listen to those not like you. Hear their stories. Take in the mistreatment, the disrespect, the limitations, the otherness.

And then use that white privilege to change things. Even if, and most likely it will mean, you have to give up your privilege.

Lay down your rights and raise up those whose voices should be heard but are not yet.

Because the world you could create will be so much better.

I love you.

Your White Mother

Monday, October 13, 2014

4 of 642

I am a planner, to the extreme, though I am not necessarily a detail person. I like to know what is happening next, and in an hour, next week, and next year. I like to dream about the possibilities, all of them, or at least all of the good ones. 

I also de-stress by planning for possible bad outcomes. Husband traveling overseas has me figuring out what I would do if he died or was seriously hurt? How would I get him home? Who could I call to watch the kids? Or what if he dies here in Wisconsin? Where would the funeral be? Buried or cremated (this is actually an ongoing debate in our home)? 

So when asked to write a Facebook update for 2017, that’s easy. I imagine that my life will look pretty similar to today. It is only three more years. I’m sure my updates then will look a lot like now. Hockey, sick kids, holiday pictures, Middle Man’s latest adventure. Though there will be some changes that year. My oldest will be in high school, though at this moment I cannot imagine that ever happening. And Little One, he’ll be a sixth grader, the age his biggest brother is now. 

But when I look backwards, I see how much can really change in three years. It was just over three years ago that we left Oregon, the place where each of my boys was born and the house that was perfect because it was two blocks from the high school. It was just over two years ago that we bought a condo in California because it was all we could afford and we knew it was time to put down roots there. It was just over a year ago that we boarded a plane to move to Wisconsin, a place a first saw on our house hunting trip the month before we moved. 

A lot can change in three years. 

And yet, our lives today look very similar to the lives we had before we ever left Oregon. My husband goes to work. The kids go to school. They come home and do homework, bicker, and head off to sports and music lessons.  And I spend my days doing the things that have to happen around our house all while trying to figure out how to have purpose and value beyond the day to day stay at home mother role I fill. On the weekends, we go to church, we go to hockey, baseball or swim meets, we watch sports on tv and monitor video game time. We try to create family memories and include some adventures along the way. We spend time with friends, we build relationships with those around us. We connect. 

Our surroundings have changed. The faces have changed. But the key part of me is still my family and so far, we move together. 

Someday, those little boys are going to become big and head off to college or the great big world. I can picture their lives, or at least possible versions of their future. I can see their dreams coming true. 

But for my life, I see the every day. 

We will go to work, go to church, try to find purpose in our lives. We will connect with those around us. We will go on adventures and create memories. 

And I will continue to post random updates from my life on Facebook and Twitter. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

To My Boys, Each of You

I love you.

Each of you.

Differently and yet all the same.

I learned what love is because of you. First with you, my eldest. You opened my heart up in ways I did not know were possible. I could never have imagined being happy to be woken up in the middle of the night be a crying baby, but there was something truly amazing about being able to fix things simply by being there, oh and feeding you. It was you that gave me the confidence to be a mom, to trust that we knew what we were doing together. It was you that smiled at me like I was the sun which in turn filled me with the joy the size of a harvest moon, all big and bright and surprising.

I learned to love you each separately when you, our middle son arrived, actually even before that when I was put on bedrest and we had to figure out how to best care of each of our two boys. It wasn’t day 1 but it was pretty quickly that we learned how different two boys can be. Middle Man, I learned how to love not just my child but how to love each of my children from you. You, who were so very much your own, taught me to love you. Not my son, but you.

Ahh and then Little One came along. I had no idea when I first started writing about my youngest as Little One how very wrong that name would be. You may be our youngest but there is nothing little about you. You live big. You love big. You were the final piece of the puzzle we didn’t even know we were missing.

I love each of you. First, because you are my sons and I am your mother. There is something amazingly safe about loving each of you because I am your mommy. At least for now. Someday you will each walk away and not come back. You will visit. You will call, or more likely text. You better. But you will move away, move on, and while that is sad, there will still be a part of you that will call me home. And there is a part of my heart that you will take with you wherever you go.

But I also love each of you because of who you are - the pieces of you that make you different from your brothers, the threads that are your own color added to our family tapestry.

That is the lesson. You love your children first because they are your children but over time, you learn to love them for the people they are. Unique and all their own. And part of loving each of you, is protecting your right to be your own person, nurturing those parts of you that are yours alone, and standing with you in those that run through our family’s DNA.

There it is my sons. Lesson number 2.

I love you.

All of you.

And each of you.


Your Mom

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Dear Sons,

I have never wanted to write a parenting book because as we all know that’s the kiss of death. Once you claim to be the expert on something, anything, you end up eating your own words. Not to mention, there are so many privacy issues involved. There was a time when you could write about your kids in a book and they would never find out. Their friends wouldn’t read the story of the little boy that wouldn’t potty train until they were all well into adulthood and only if they picked up the parenting book themselves to help them as they parent their own kids. But in today’s world, every word published ends up in a google matrix of some kind and with just a simple click, your entire childhood could be read by your classmates while sitting next to you in class as you are working on your laptops. 

And you, my boys, are way to precious to me to expose to that kind of ridicule. 

I have written about you. I told cute stories of missing shoes and harder stories of school struggles. I felt okay with it because you didn’t have internet access and I used cute nicknames. But today, you all use laptops in your classrooms and you have access to the internet at home. I can’t imagine you are reading what I write on this blog of mine. I worry that you might find this one day soon. But then I realize that you might want to know me better than I have let you. You may someday want to know who your mom is besides your mom. You might not, and that is okay. But if you do, feel free to read this blog. 

With that in mind, I thought it might be good to write down the words I will want to share with you when you have your own kids. If you are anything like your dad and I, you will want to pave your own way. And we really, really do want you to be your own type of parent. If we have learned anything along this parenting journey it is simply this - you are each your own. But I thought someday, you might google what to do when _______. You might want to ask your mom how I handled something without worrying about judgment or my getting upset if you completely disregard my advice. So I am going to write down what I want to share with you. And I am going to post it here on my blog for you to find when you need my words. I could print up letters like they do in the movies or make a video but then I would have to remember where I put them and you would have to find them and most likely they would be lost until the estate sales people clean out all our old papers after your dad and I have both died. 

So here is the essence of letter number 1. The very first lesson I want to share with you. I am here for you. However you need me to be.  And I am happy to share what I have learned along the way, if you want me to, but I know also that you have to travel your own path, that each of you will manage things your own way. And I am okay with that. All I ask is that you be honest with yourself and be your honest self. You are each your own. You are each so uniquely you. And that is a good thing. 

Be you! 


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thing 3...

You know that scene in Bull Durham, the one where they all meet up at the pitcher's mound? If not, here it is… though be careful when viewing because the language is not for the faint of heart or small children. 

The best of intentions, I had them. I was going to write every day. Not necessarily post every day but the plan was to sit at my desk and work when my kids headed off to school at the start of September.

But then life happened. Some of it good - spending a day celebrating a friend's birthday. Some of it out of my control, as in the toilet doesn't stop filling the bowl one night and while I hear the faint sounds of water dripping, I assume it is the water softener which makes a similar noise from our basement whenever my husband is out of town. I used to panic and check every faucet and water source but learned soon enough that it is just the water softener. Until the time that it isn't and the next thing I hear is my son asking, "Why am I standing in water?" (Yes, I know that assuming makes an ass out of u and me. I grew up with brothers.)

And after many, many soaking wet towels and a call to the water mitigation company and days of loud, loud blowers and dryers, we were dry but now begins the process of repair. Thankfully there was only a minimal amount of damage but it still involves estimates and insurance agents and contractors.

So in the words of Crash Davis (Kevin Costner for the Bull Durham uninitiated), we have been dealing with a lot of shit around here lately.

And that is on top of the usual back to school adjustment period that has kids coming home exhausted and cranky and then having to get snack and homework done before rushing off to practice for one of the three if not all of the three boys.

I have a lot of distractions both necessary and some that could be rescheduled but why when having coffee with a friend is salve for my soul.

But the game must go on and thing 3 needs to be written, even if I have no words of encouragement for the houseplant dying in the corner. Seriously plant, die or don't die. That is up to you. Heck, I'm surprised you lived this long in my house because I have no interest in house plants. I do not need another thing that needs me to take care of it on any consistent basis in my life right now.

This blog post may not make any sense but it is done. And I have addressed Thing 3 from the book 642 Things to Write About.

Fine, little houseplant, I'll give it a go. You need to live. You like growing and being green and releasing blooms sporadically. You bring beauty and life to the room. You remind me of nature and the things outside that I should go see. You staying alive means I am doing something right.

And that my friends is me getting back into the game. 

As weird as it is. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

2 of 642 Things…

When you are young, you only know life in your own family. Everything your family does you assume, as a kid, every other family does as well. Which is actually pretty true when it comes to babies. 

All babies need basically the same care. Clean diapers, food on demand, lots of sleep. For longer than we as parents like, our lives revolve around the basic care and feeding of this child that uses various tones and volumes to their cries to communicate their needs. As toddlers, most parents agree they need to learn to use the toilet and feed themselves. We all try to read to our kids and take them outside to play. We try our best to keep the scary world at bay just a little longer. 

But there comes a point on the playground or in the hallways at the school, that both the child and the parents realize that their family might be doing things just a little bit differently from the person next to them. It might be video game rules or word acceptability, it might be watching the news with the kids or letting them drink soda, or it could be whether your family has a Christmas tree or not in December. Somewhere in the raising of our children, we stopped focusing on the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs and started thinking about what kind of adults we want our children to become. What values, traditions, life lessons we wanted to pass on to our kids while we could. And this is where many of our parenting decisions start to diverge. 

It’s hard to see at times. Mostly because it is hard to believe that someone would think there was a better way to raise their kids than the way we are. We are so often blinded by trying to figure out what works for our family that we cannot begin to imagine there is even another way, or lots of different ways to raise kids. But beyond that there is the belief that our family is great, our traditions the best, and that we need to protect our home and way of life. 

Remember those discussions about where to spend the holidays when you first got married. His family, her family? Both/or? You wanted to support your spouse but you also wanted to enjoy your holidays eating your families seven layer salad which is made with swiss cheese and mayonnaise and not the hideous combination his family puts together with miracle whip and cheddar. One tastes like home, like Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled into one. And the other is an abomination and a direct assault on you, your childhood, and your family. Doesn’t he understand that? 

Family and all that it means is so personal, at the base of all that we are… or at least all that we were. 

And when someone does things differently, it feels like a personal attack. 

When maybe it is just them doing what works for them and you doing what works for you.

But I still prefer mayonnaise and swiss cheese. 

And don't even get me started on jello salads. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

1 of 642 Things

As I mentioned in my post last week, I have been struggling with being disciplined in my writing. A friend showed me the book 642 Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writer's Grotto and in a last ditch attempt to keep going, I bought the book.

The list is an eclectic selection of writing prompts from "Something you've always regretted saying" to "The Thoughts of the first man to eat an oyster." Out of respect for their work and copyright, I won't be including the actual prompts each time. But if you like to write or think outside the box, I would recommend the book. Also, who knows where the prompt might lead my mind and the two may not seem to be connected by the time I am ready to hit publish.

Today though, I start with Thing 1 - "What can happen in a second"

I was killing it on Thursday. Seriously. My butt was in my chair a la Anne Lamott. I was actually writing and feeling good about both the words on the page and the time spent working. And then the email arrived. It wasn't anything big or important or life changing. Just one of those awkward emails you occasionally get that make you unsure of what happened or where you stand with the writer. One second…

I was sitting at home, watching tv while my kids napped when I received a telephone from a pastor at our church. My friend had been in a life changing car accident while on her way to the library with her kids. Her daughter was instantaneously with Jesus in heaven and my friend was fighting for her life. One second…

I was laying in bed one evening, overwhelmed by nothing and everything. Tired of listening to my kids whine about dinner and exhausted after a long week of taxiing and monitoring and feeding and clothing and grey days. Little One came in to say goodnight. His eyes, his smile, his kisses changed it all. One second…

I was standing before my groom. Dressed in white, our friends and family surrounding us, though all I could see was his side, my friends behind me. The pastor, a friend of mine from work, asked a simple question. There I stood, single on one side and forever tied on the other side of the words I do. One second…

The last second goal that changes the outcome of a game. The first snow flake you see knowing the rest are coming. The last text you send before putting your phone in airplane mode. The moment the characters in the story shift and your perspective is forever altered. The forgotten lunch. The quick stop to fill up the gas tank. The smile given across the grocery store aisle.

Life changes in one second.

One second we often don't see coming.

And yet so much of my life has felt like biding time. At least since I had kids, or maybe more accurately when we started trying for kids. Or was it earlier than that, when we were working toward the next move, the next job. Or even earlier still when we were waiting to get married or waiting to get engaged or waiting to be in the same time zone. Or did the biding start when I was waiting to meet the man I would marry. Or waiting to graduate and get a grown up job. Or waiting to get into college and start my own life.

When did the biding my time start?

One second.

Added together.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Letter to a Friend - To My Cheerleaders

The ones that read this blog. The ones that call me a writer. The ones that cheer me on. The ones that check on me when I haven't posted anything in a while.

I want to say thank you.

I want to thank you for believing in me even when I didn't, when I don't. It is your belief in me that often keeps me going.

I want to thank you for inspiring me, for talking with me over coffee, for sharing your stories and listening to mine, for wanting more of my characters and wanting more from me.

You have been my cheerleaders. (And as a former cheerleader myself, I know that role well.)

You encourage me with comments, with likes, with emails.

You push me to work harder, to go deeper.

You challenge me to make my dreams a priority and a reality.

You keep me honest.

I write for me. But I also write knowing that you are reading my words. Thank you for that!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Writing - a verb and a noun

Writing can be a dark, dark place. At least for me lately it has been.

I know the word writing is technically a verb but for those of us that call ourselves writers, it is so much more. It is a noun - a place where we go to do our work or where we avoid going because we have nothing to say. It is an action word, something I am engaged in right now. It can be a measure of mood - a canary in the coal mines of sorts.

Two school starts ago, I sat down to finish the novel I had started in bits and pieces while my youngest was in kindergarten. That August, with all three boys finally in full day school, I was going to write the story I had been dreaming about for over a year. I was committed to sitting at my desk each day and writing. And it felt great!

And the feeling of finishing a whole novel was amazing. Mostly because, it wasn't easy. Not only putting the words on the page but actually sitting myself down at my desk on those days when that was the last place I wanted to be. But I did it. I was disciplined. I followed through and I accomplished my goal.

Last fall when school started, I had plans to write again. My husband and I had torn down old wallpaper in my new office. We designed and painted and had contractors in to make the office exactly what I envisioned when I saw the space in our new home in Wisconsin. I had the space. I had the time with my kids off to school again. But suddenly writing was a dark place for me. A place where I was a failure. Where I had nothing worth saying. Where my self-confidence had run away and left me with insecurities. I procrastinated. I watched way too much Gilmore Girls. I felt guilty and I wrote blog posts about how I was procrastinating.

I blamed the move. And I stand by that blame to a point. It is hard to leave your support system. It is hard to keep writing when the people who used to shoo you out of the coffee shop to go home and write aren't here. It is hard to write when your mind is lost at sea, when the waves of depression and failure wash over you to the point that you hold on to the only life jacket you can find, even if it is using television as a mood alterer as I once heard Anne Lamott say.

I lost any sense that this is what I am meant to do. Still as I write this, as I sit down and make a plan to write every day, I feel the darkness rising up in my bright green and white office. How arrogant to think you have something to say. No one will read this. And don't even get me started on what a crap novelist I am.

But then my friends remind me of the joy they saw in me when I would walk into the coffee shop and tell them about a scene I had just written.

And my husband says, "I want to read the next book."

And as we wander the cute shops on our girls weekend, my girlfriend shows me a book - 642 Things to Write About by The San Francisco Writers' Grotto.

And I remember that when I write, I am my most real self. The one that isn't avoiding thinking about things that hurt but pushes into them. The one that writes because it feels good when I am done.

Sitting at the desk each day is hard. According to all the writer tweets I have read, I think this is universally true.

But it makes me…. Me.

I bought that book 642 Things to Write About.

And I am sitting at my desk.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Summer Vacation

Maybe it's the teacher in me. Or having the kids home. Or just my lack of thoughts.

But I am declaring myself on vacation for the summer.

I realize this is a late announcement. Summer has been going on for six weeks. But better late than never?

I had the best of intentions to write this summer.

And then summer happened.

I will be back after Labor Day.

I promise.

I am not ready to give up on this writing thing, even if the only writing work I have been doing is Twitter.

See you in September!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

End of the Year Gauntlet

Life got incredibly busy here in the last couple of weeks. Between hockey tournaments, swim meets, lacrosse games, end of the year school events, end of the year school meetings, end of the year…fill in the blank, life has gotten crazy. It feels like this every year, and every year I forget the gauntlet that the last couple of weeks becomes full of extra events and extra obstacles.

Goodbyes to families moving away, summer plans needing to be organized, all the papers and pencils and random school supplies coming home and piling on every counter available, library books missing, end of the year reviews letting you know you need to be concerned about your kid's future - all of it individually is taxing but together in one or two weeks is overwhelming.

I feel like I am treading water in the deep end and I am not that good a swimmer.

And the worst part is the resentment than can build. All of this activity centered on my kids takes me away from me. And while most of the time I love being home for them, at this time of year, it feels leechy. (That's not a word I know but that is what happens to my brain when I have to keep all these plates spinning.) I just want my time back. My empty days. My margin.

And yet, summer is coming. Days of no plans and no structure that we all dream of now, will soon be exhausting in their time without end quality. When the exploring and adventure taking becomes trying not to scream at the kids whining about having to have fun.  When the kids boredom mimics your own because days can be long and it's really hot outside and we've been creative and done all those things on the picture shared over and over again on Facebook. When the screen time rules go out the door in exchange for some sanity and some peace and quiet.

But maybe, just maybe in the midst of it all, there will be one perfect night of firefly catching and s'more making. One afternoon at the beach with friends, running in the waves and digging the world's biggest hole. One morning with a couch full of boys in pajamas reading books side by side. One night watching the fireworks over the lake at the grandparents house that makes the drive and the mosquito bites worth it.

Maybe, just maybe my kids will actually get to rest and rejuvenate after a long year of new schools, new friends, new sports, new challenges.

Maybe, just maybe…

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Swimming in the deep side of the pool

Recently my middle son has joined a beginner swim team. He loves the pool, always has.

I on the other hand have not always been a fan of the pool, at least not since becoming a parent. One of the first homes we rented when we moved to California had a pool, and I had three small children under five. We tested the extra tall gate, we gave the pool safety talk, we locked the backdoor, we did everything we could to keep our tiny ones safe and even then we knew that bad things happen in the world.

When the baby was sleeping, I would take the older two boys for a swim. Our pool was deep, so I put life jackets on them and held onto the younger one the entire time we were in the pool. I was always right there, watching them, experiencing the water with them.

As the boys grew, I signed them up for swim lessons. I hated swim lessons. I hated getting ready for the pool, I hated how hot and sticky the room felt as we sat off to the side, and I really, really hated helping the kids get dressed after they had finished their lessons. Three tired boys, needing showers and dry clothes which somehow always ended up just a little damp.

Once the boys could swim, I was able to sit farther away from them in the community pool. No longer arms reach, they were venturing further and further from me. When we went to a friend's house with a pool, I could sit in a chair nearby, talking with friends while keeping a casual eye on the pool - mostly to keep them from too much rough housing.

And now I have a boy who I can drop off at swim team practices. A boy who goes in by himself when I have to rush off to get another boy to hockey. A boy who packs his own bag, works hard at his practice, and then heads off to the locker room all by himself.

Isn't this so like parenting. The constant care and worry and precaution taking, slowly replaced by baby steps and feeding themselves, to heading off on their own to school or practice or the real world. My son no longer needs me to be there.

He does still need a ride.

So I'm not done parenting yet.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Job Description: Motherhood

Remember that video that went viral last month. The one with the job applicants being interviewed for the hardest job in the world. The one where the candidate is bewildered by the insane expectations of the job. And then at the end the applicant is told that someone already does that job.

Motherhood is the hardest job in the world, they say.

I hate that description and I supposedly have that job.

Except that motherhood is not a job. Motherhood is a relationship. Yet we keep hearing that motherhood is the hardest job, the best job, the most important job. The penultimate of all jobs.

Do you want to know what happens when you tell a generation of women who left their professions to stay home with their kids that motherhood is a job? We treat it as a job. We take all of our job skills, our training, our professionalism, our goal setting, our hopes for advancement and approval, our need to be productive and contributing members of society and we put all of that on our children. We turn our role as mother into the title CEO of our homes. We turn our birthday parties into corporate event planning. We take our kids' homework as a group assignment that needs to be done right. We become professional volunteers at our kid's school unless of course we are becoming full time teachers at our home school.

These are not bad things in and of themselves.

But when we treat motherhood as a job, we treat our kids as our product, our client, our boss, our subordinate.

Motherhood is not a job.

It is a relationship.

Where did we get the idea that motherhood is a job?

Child care is a job. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, party planning, teaching, bill paying, gardening, chauffeuring, tutoring... These are all jobs. These are things we can do ourselves or hire out. These are jobs. So is being a coal miner or a fire fighter, an emergency room nurse or a combat troop, except I would argue that those are actually harder jobs because let's be honest, no one is sacrificing to be a stay at home coal miner.

Motherhood is a relationship.

It is why I get up with my little guy in the middle of the night when he's had a nightmare.

It is why I may spend hours looking for the right Pokemon character to put on the top of my son's birthday cake.

It is why I say no sometimes and why I made my kids learn how to make their own breakfast and lunch.

It is why I ask about my kid's day when we are driving to hockey practice or before bed.

It is why I pray with my kids at the end of the day before I tuck them in for the night.

It is why my heart breaks when my kids fail or get hurt.

It is why we care so very, very much about these little people in our lives.

Motherhood is not a job.

Motherhood is a relationship.

We do hard things for people we love. We stay up too late, get up too early, give up vacations for summer camp fees, and new purses for new school backpacks. Love is why we do whatever we can to help our kids become the best they can be, not a job description.

And maybe if we stop seeing it as a job, we can let go of our performance driven parenting. We can stop seeing our children as our performance review and go back to loving our kids for who they are and helping them be awesome.

And then maybe we can also remember that we are not just mothers. We are also friends, sisters, daughters, wives, and we are ourselves.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

To The Sunday School Teachers

Dear Mrs. Wybenga,

It was third grade. That was a tough year for me. That was the year my mom spent time in a mental hospital after attempting suicide. I was 8.

That was alto the year that you were my Sunday School teacher. I honestly don’t remember much about the actual class. It was a Baptist church so I am imagining we heard Bible stories and did little crafts while our parents sat in big church. I can’t remember the particulars but the love I felt, that struck deep.

And you showed up week after week. Do you know how much that meant to a girl whose own mother left unexpectedly one morning in an ambulance and then stayed away for more than a month? You showed up week after week.

I remember going to your house once or twice for a special activity with the other girls in our class. It was a small group of third graders. Again, I don’t remember the activity, it didn’t matter really. You had invited us into your home. You made time outside of the Sunday morning commitment you had made. You had time, for me.

I remember your home was quiet. So unlike the chaos of my house filled to the brim with my two brothers and the six teenage foster girls that lived with us. At any moment, my house could erupt with a shouting match, name calling, swearing that would make a sailor blush. I heard stories that an eight year old should never hear, stories of sex and abuse. Your house felt calm and peaceful, which is how I felt whenever I was with you.

Oh how I needed that respite, that quiet space. It often felt like my whole childhood was defined by the drama. Everyone knew our family, if not for the group home kids that lived with us, than for my mom’s mental health issues. You though saw me, little me. And you told me that Jesus loved me, little me.

People, after hearing my story, often ask how I turned out so normal. My answer always points back to God and the people that showed me God’s love.

Many, many years ago, you gave up your Sunday mornings to sit with a group of third and fourth grade girls. You told us stories about God’s love, His protection, His provision. You listened to us and made our silly ideas and random prayer requests seem like the most important thing in the world. Because they were. Because I was important to you, I believed I was important to God. And that belief was deeply planted, the roots holding me tight when I sometimes forgot myself.

So thank you. Thank you for all those Sundays. Thank you for the prayers I now know as an adult that you prayed for me. Thank you for sharing your life, your home, your time, your Jesus with me. You made a difference in my life.

For all the girls,

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Nice Game of Chess

I spend a lot of time thinking. It is just what my brain does. It thinks, it processes, it turns over information and tries to see other options. It obsesses and replays and cycles back around again. The brain is made to process information and it is good at its job.

We are all processing, thinking, planning, plotting, examining, reviewing, decision making, second guessing, changing our minds, regretting our choices... all day long and often in the middle of the night.

For some of us our brain works for us, but for others, me, my brain can turn on me if I allow it to run itself.

I don't know if you ever saw the movie War Games with Matthew Broderick. It's the story of a high school computer hacker (back before there was even the term hacker) who broke into a government computer and started playing a game that simulated World War 3 between Russia and the US. Except it turns out it wasn't a game and somehow this super computer began to play for real. (Spoiler alert) Part of the plot has the computer searching through all the possible outcomes until the computer comes to the realization that the only way to win that game is to not play.

I am coming to find that may be true with my brain as well.

I love to think about ideas and to ponder the possible. I like to read and discover new things and I love that my mind turns things over and over rubbing off the sharp edges until I have a beautifully polished nugget. But I don't like the obsessing, the time spent rethinking, the second guessing a decision made or something that has already happened.

I think about the time wasted thinking over and over and over and over about something that really did not need that much analysis. I think about the insecurity that creeps in when I live in past conversations and past deeds that have been resolved or at least that we have moved past. I think about the stress I cause by letting simple decisions become a three ring circus of information gathering and listening to so many voices that my own is lost.

My brain is going to process. It is going to do its job and I want that. But I am tired of getting bogged down with obsessive thoughts, with holding onto a topic long past its expiration date. I am tired of feeling like every decision is life or death. And I am tired of being driven by thoughts and intrigues that are not even where I want to spend my time but I do.

I am going to try to retrain my mind. There are things I do want to think about. Books I do want to read. Words I do want to write. But these are all pushed out when I spend my days thinking about the trivial, the unchangeable, the out of my control, or the already well thought through.

It is time to think on something and then move on.

It is time to choose to ponder the better for me.

It is time to for my brain to learn that sometimes it is better to play a different game.

How about a nice game of chess? - Joshua, the computer, from War Games

Thursday, May 1, 2014

To The One I Didn't Like

To My Polar Opposite,

It was years ago when we first sat across from one another on those old couches in the church basement. We had been assigned to the same Bible study small group, some would say by chance. I don’t remember what study we were doing that session, possibly a Beth Moore one with lots of homework and plenty of things to discuss. I don’t remember what question prompted your comment. It was election season, a Presidential election at that, and you said that if one candidate lost you didn’t know what you would do, as if all hope would be lost. My mind jumped at those words, and I was quick to respond that I wouldn’t know what to do if your candidate won. I was always quick to respond in those days, young and brash and knowing more than I do now.

That was not the last time we disagreed I am sure. We were polar opposites in many ways. You were much older, me much younger. You were conservative, I leaned liberal. You saw things one way, I another.

But you listened to me. And you kept listening, even when I contradicted much of what you believed. You did not insist on being right and so neither did I. I started listening to the person behind the words, to the heart behind the beliefs. I started asking more questions, trying to learn more of your story.

I knew you only as the person before me in that moment, but people are not just the here and now. They are the make up of their history. Childhood traumas and young adult regrets, things unseen and stories no longer told.

By listening, I learned that your husband was your second, a divorce decades earlier in a time when I imagine divorce still carried a heavy weight of shame. I heard the trials of trying to find your place in a merged family when you mentioned your shared children.  I saw a daughter who deeply loved her father as she worked to care for him in his final painful years. Watching you, I saw a steadfastness that this wandering soul needed to know.

The next fall when groups were mixed, we were once again put together, and I was so thankful. And when I had another baby, you were there with a meal. When I was asked to lead, you stood in my corner. I knew you were on my team. And when I moved away, your hug, your words, brought tears to my eyes.

I think we are living proof that it is Jesus that binds our ties. That when we are willing to let stop being right and start seeing the child of God in front of us, we experience the love that God commands. We chose to stop being about the day to day and to sit and read and study the Bible together. We shared prayer requests in our groups and checked back in a few weeks later. When the groups were again mixed up and we were no longer together, I missed sitting across the circle from you. But you were still there, with a smile across the sanctuary or an encouraging comment after I taught one Wednesday morning.

I am sure we still cancel out each others votes on election day, not that it matters. We chose the better together.

Thank you for giving me grace,

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Dear Athletic Trainer

To the One that Taped Up My Shin Splints Each Day,

Do you remember that bright sunny autumn day when we were walking across the fields from the athletic training room to the soccer fields? Probably not. I was one of many kids that you taped up each day as fall athletes endured two a days.

I had never had shin splints before but when I when I went to see you about the pain in my legs, you knew right away what the problem was. You explained it to me and then you taped me up and sent me on my way to run all those miles while my muscles built up enough to stop hurting. Twice a day, I came in to get taped. The tables often full of kids waiting their turn for your magic. And each time you stood at the foot of the table and worked on my legs, you saw me. Not just my physical pains, but me.

That day so, so many years ago, we were walking across the field. We knew each other well enough by then. You knew I was a church kid and you had invited me to club, young life club that is. We were enjoying the sun, the warmth that make early fall days in Oregon so special. Our conversation was interrupted by another student asking if the training room was open. You responded, “Just for you,” and kept walking along. Just for you. Those words caught me. I asked you why you would say it was just for him, when you had left the room open for a whole group of kids. I had seen a few in there as we left together. I am sure that part of my consternation was that you had said it to a football player, who probably did believe that the room was left open just for him. (These same football players would not let us lowly soccer players use their field even when they were not using it so my resentment was justified.)

You said something along the lines that whether ten kids, fifty kids or just that one kid used the room, it was there just for them. It didn’t matter how many walked through the door, the room was there for each one. “Just like Jesus. He died just for you. Whether thousands of others are saved also, or just one, he died just for you.”

I think that was the first time I thought about Christ’s death on the cross as personal, as just for me. I could never think of myself as having enough value, enough worth to have someone, anyone do something just for me.

Just for me.

How my faith changed that day and in the weeks to come when it sunk that Jesus was there just for me. Not for me as part of a group. Not for me as a member of my family. But just for me.

I am writing letters to a number of people, but it was you that taught me that the number doesn’t matter. That no matter how big a number is, the one matters.

Jesus died just for me.

Thank you for sharing your faith with me so unabashedly. For taking a simple moment and making it profound.

This freshman girl on the soccer team

Friday, April 18, 2014

We Are Easter People

We are a Sunday people living in a Friday world they say. I am not sure who first said it. I tried googling it but just ran into a list of other people writing blogs and articles about the same theme.

We (Christians) are an Easter Sunday people living in a Good Friday world.

I understand why we write this, why the phrase is oft repeated at this time of year.

Our world feels so broken at times. So full of pain and heartache and illness and true cruelty. A broken world full of broken people. A Good Friday world where people would rather crucify the leader of a religious rebellion, a leader that claims to be God incarnate, a man that heals and teaches us to love our neighbors and turn the other cheek, than allow his sedition to continue.

And as fixers, people who want to know how to make things better, we often will focus on this part of the story. The pain on the cross. The death of Jesus to atone for the sins of mankind, the sins of me. It helps sometimes to know that a price was paid, even if it was by someone else, than to believe that we are worthy just because.

It is easier to focus on the price paid than to live in the grace received.

Sinners saved by grace we say, always focused on who we were before the cross.

I thought the cross was meant to change that. It is finished, Jesus said. Finished. Done. Past. No longer.

This is Christ's body broken for you. This is his blood shed for you. 

These words, these communion words.

Do this in remembrance of me, he said.

We remember his broken body, the blood spilled out.

But we forget the why. We forget that all of this is so we can have the resurrection. The He Is Risen.

It is good to remember this day, Good Friday. But we don't live here.

We live in the Resurrection.

He is Risen. He is Risen Indeed.

Monday, March 31, 2014

To Hell In A Handbasket

I keep hearing that the world is getting worse, morally speaking. That with each generation we are become more and more degenerate. That we are losing our moral compass and our country, our works are delving deeper into relative truth and amoral living.

I think this is a sign that I am getting old - that the people I am listening to and talking with are becoming a bit nostalgic. I get that to some, the world seems darker and scarier than when they were young. I think that comes with aging. A negative view of the following generation, seems to sprout up right alongside the grey hairs and wrinkles.

I wonder when I hear this trope if the people saying it paid any attention in their history classes.

I taught history once upon a time so when I am told that life was better when we had segregation laws and lynchings, when children were pulled out of school and sent to work in factories, when I as a woman was considered property, when everyone knew politicians were philanderers and priests who molested children were moved around by the powers that be, I wonder how was that better?

And that is just in the last one hundred years. I taught European history and we could talk for days about the pre-Reformation church selling indulgences to guarantee entry into heaven all while burning "heretics" at the stake. Or the scientists that challenged God by claiming the earth was round or the sun, not the earth was the center of the universe. Or human beings being kidnapped from their homes and put on ships heading toward the new world and a life of slavery.

It is beyond naive to say that the world was a better place in the time of Leave it to Beaver. Sure maybe for some it seemed more idyllic. For people that look like me, the pale white me, life may have been sweeter and more rose colored. But there were cheaters and liars and crooks and abusers and the morally destitute back then too, along with a system of injustice that held too many down and left the power in the hands of too few.

Maybe it wasn't talked about and maybe television shows still had two beds in the parents room but that doesn't mean it was a more moral time. Just ask those who walked in the marches and sat at the lunch counters. Ask the women who stayed with abusive husbands because they had no way out. Ask those living in other parts of the world, parts of the world that were being used as pawns in a ideological war that they had no interest in.

I think that while many more may be comfortable with the legalization of marijuana and the use of contraception now does not mean that we are morally bankrupt. I think it may be more a statement of a generation that wants to be honest at all costs. A generation that is tired of the lies and the shame and the manipulation of a righteous culture. A generation that does not hide any longer but lives in the open.  A generation that seeks truth instead of niceties.

While I might be willing to trade places with my counterpart from 50 years ago, so many would not.

So let's stop telling the lie that life was better, more moral, even more Christ like back when.

Seriously, can a generation that fought the Vietnam War, or dodged the draft and protested those soldiers that did, a generation that lived on processed cheese and latch keys, a generation that did cocaine socially and then threw their keys in a bowl, a generation that allowed the government to take on such incredible amounts of debt instead of paying more in taxes, a generation that refused to let their precious white children go to school with the poor dark kids across town, a generation that used God as a token really say that this new generation is more morally bankrupt?

Morality does change over time if you use specific behaviors as a standard. But being honest, being kind, loving others, caring for the poor, protecting the innocent, standing up to injustice, showing mercy and grace, these are what really measures a societies moral fiber.

We need to stop looking at a list of dos and don'ts and start looking at the hearts of people.

Let's stop the rhetoric and start telling the stories that make us better people.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Love Or Respect?

Anniversaries are a good time to think about the past, the stories that got you to where you are today. We celebrated our wedding anniversary recently. I don't write about marriage often. It is part of a deal I made with my rather private husband many, many years ago, that I wouldn't use our stories in a talk or on the blog while we were still in the midst of whatever growing opportunity we might be facing. Once we are on the other side of the challenge, and if someone could benefit from what we have learned, then he is okay with me sharing with the world. But this blog is often what is on my mind in the moment and by the time we are on the other side of this or that fight, I don't really think about writing about because it is processed in private with him.

I have to admit that it is actually a good rule.

But it does mean that I don't really write about marriage because this blog is where I process what I am learning, struggling with, or just thinking about at that moment.

With our recent anniversary though I have been thinking about marriage, mine in particular, but also marriage as a whole. And I'm not the only one. I keep reading blog posts and seeing church's posting about upcoming marriage seminars. It seems that the world cannot discuss gender roles without making a declaration about what marriage should be.

What I have been hearing a lot lately is that men need respect from their wives and women need love from their husbands.

And all I can think is how are these separate? How can one love their spouse if they do not respect them and how can you love someone if you don't respect them?

I am beginning to wonder if part of our marriage problems are because we are separating these two words and then gender assigning them? And not just these words, but many others as well. He's visual, she's emotional. He's a provider, she needs protection. She has 10,000 words, he needs downtime. he needs physical connection, she emotional. He... She...

Whatever happened to us.

I thought that was the point. Two becoming one.

We need respect.

We need to be heard.

We need to be protected.

We need to provide and give to others.

We need patience and mercy.

We need love.

One of the ways I know my husband loves me is because he respects me. He respects my ideas, my feelings, my work. I know what I bring to the table has value to him because he treats my contributions, whatever they are, with respect. Because he loves me, he respects my dreams, my plans, my purpose.

After 17 years of marriage, I am ever more thankful that I married the man I did.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I Need To Think Before I Say Yes

I accidentally agreed to be held accountable for my writing this week. Accidentally as in, I was sitting with another woman at church next week chatting and I mentioned that I haven't been disciplined about  writing. More accurately, I haven't even sat at my desk in my office and attempted to write. Not consistently anyway. So she challenged me to take the walk down the hallway into my office and sit down to work at least three times during the week and she would check in with me next Sunday. I accepted because at the time, it seemed like a good idea.

Now on Wednesday, after two days of coffees, errands, procrastination and anything but coming down the hall, I am running out of days. 

There is a part of me, a big part, that hates to fail. Hates to agree to something and not follow through. 

And so I sit here and I write. 

A blog post about how I am just doing this to get credit for having done it. (I learned this technique from my son who has been known to write about not knowing what to write for a school assignment.)

The truth is there was a time when I was disciplined about my writing. When I dropped the kids off at school, made a cup of coffee, and then put my butt in the chair (thanks Anne Lamott) and wrote. Or at least attempted to write. 

I finished a whole novel that way. I wrote consistently on my blog that way. Butt in chair.

But now I have trouble just getting into my office and it is a beautiful office. 

I have trouble wanting to write because honestly I don't see a point any more. There was a time when I was still dreaming of my blog being read by more and more people. Friends loving something I wrote and sharing it with a friend. Someone on Twitter being touched by something and retweeting a post and gaining more follows. I have watched many writers' careers grow over the last few years, going from a simple at home blogger, to being internet famous, to having a book contract, to being in real life known.  I still had hope that people would want to read my words, would want to hear me speak, would want to buy my book. 

I lost that hope along the way. Too many discouraging rejections mixed with losing my in real life support system and a lack of viralness to my work has made me question the value of my work. 

And then yesterday I heard myself ask a friend, "If you died just as you finished your degree, would it still be worth having done it?" 

If I died just after hitting publish, would these words have value? Would they be worth the time I spent writing them? 

It's an interesting question. One I have been skirting the edges of for the last couple of weeks. What is the value in my writing? 

The thing I, I feel compelled to write. I feel my most authentic self when I think of myself as a writer. I feel most alive when I am working. I also feel my most vulnerable, my most flawed, my most unworthy when I try to be a writer. 

Rejection hurts. So stop submitting. 

But then why write? 

Why do anything that may result in failure? 

But if we don't risk we don't live. We just exist. 

I've been existing this year. 

But I want to live. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Breaking My Heart

"I just want him to fit in with the rest of the class," she said.

She broke my heart. 

Not because he didn't fit in. That wasn't new information for me. I have been his mother a long time. I was at the park and the story times when he was content to do his own thing. I watched him not being understood by his play group friends. I was in the meetings about speech and wondering if he was on the spectrum (he is not). I have watched my kid "not fit in" with the rest of the group. 

No, what broke my heart was the belief that he needed to fit in, that I had to remind this very caring teacher, that my son needs to be himself. He needs to be his brilliant, creative, quirky self. He needs to be kind and respectful of his teacher, his peers, and their learning environment. But he does not need to change who he is to fit in. 

I know she meant well. But all I saw was a classroom environment that prioritized group over self. A teacher that has possibly been sending my precious boy messages of needing to be like everyone else, needing to conform, to "fit in" with her words to him, her body language, and what she says to the whole class.

And that breaks my heart. 

My son is a wonderful boy. He is loving and caring. He just doesn't show it in the way you would expect. He is not effusive, he was never cuddly. He honestly is not very rewarding if you are looking for him to give you kudos and love to fill you up. 

If your relationship with him is about you, you will be disappointed. If it is about getting him to toe the line, fit in, be like everyone else, you will be aggravated. 

But if you, like so many people have, let him be who he is. If you are observant, engaging him where he is. If you move slowly and don't make any quick movements. If you smile and say hi but don't get your feelings hurt when he doesn't reciprocate. If you take the time to get to know him first before making demands of him…

Oh you will be rewarded. 

He will smile. He will give you a shy wave. He will sit next to you on the bench. He will lean into your body on the couch. He will say the words, "I love you." You will know him. 

My son does not need to fit in. Neither does any other child. 

The world is a big place and it needs all our kids to be who they are, to bring their talents and passions to the table, to fill the unique role they were designed to fill. 

So when the teacher said, "I just want him to fit in with the rest of the class," my reply was simple.

I want him to be him. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Win or Lose

Why do we organize our lives around the sports calendar? Why do we spend so much money on gear and fees? Why do we freeze in the rink and sweat at the ballpark? Why do we drive them to and from practices and games, help out with their teams, plan meals around practice times? Because win or lose, they love to play. And we love watching them do what they love.

My son's hockey team has had a tough season if you look at their win-loss record. But he doesn't play for the win. He plays for the game - the shift to shift battles on the ice, the feeling he gets when he skates, the camaraderie with his teammates. He plays because he enjoys the actual playing of the game.

This weekend he had two hard fought games that both ended in losses for his team but he was not discouraged. He was happy that he had played two good games, that he had worked hard and won some of the battles on the ice. He was satisfied with his effort and his performance.

Would he have preferred to win? Sure. But knowing he had worked hard and played well were enough for him to be happy with the games.

I need to remember this for myself.

I get so disappointed when my efforts don't equal results, when things don't go my way. I get frustrated and I want to give up.

My son just wants to go back out there and play some more because for him the hard work is the fun part. It is what makes him happy.

Friday, January 3, 2014

My Favorite Books of 2013

I love Twitter for book recommendations. I rush over to my Amazon wish list and add new titles that keep popping up in my feed. I then click over to my local library's website and request the books I want to read because at the rate I read I cannot afford to keep buying books, at least not without giving up something else important... like Starbucks.

I saw that Modern Mrs. Darcy was doing a link up of favorite books for 2013 and decided to add my list to the pile. 

If you like great characters...

This year I discovered Rainbow Rowell, author of the critically acclaimed Eleanor and Park. I loved that book. While it is the story of two high schoolers and categorized as young adult, it is so beautifully written that it reminded me of White Oleander from years ago. The characters are sweet and messed up in all the ways that real life is. I read all of her books this year and enjoyed each in its own way. Rainbow Rowell's characters are richly drawn and are all people I would want to get to know better in real life.

If you like young adult reads...

I also discovered Gayle Forman this year and fell in love with her books. I read If I Stay first and that one has stayed with me ever since. With the book based in Portland, I felt an immediate kinship. The author's fluid movement between present and past amazed me. I fell in love with Mia, as did Adam,  and felt for her as she made a painful choice. Gayle Forman followed this book up with Where She Went, a sequel told from Adam's point of view.

If you liked Hunger Games...

by Veronica Roth

This book has many of the elements we loved in Hunger Games. A strong female character. A love interest. A dystopian world that teaches us about our own. Fast paced and with two more books to follow.

If you like historical fiction...

Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein

This book follows the story of two young women during World War II. They are separated when one of them is on board a flight that is shot down over France and is taken captive by the Nazis. This book does not shy away from the horrors of war or the trueness of friendship. It kept me reading to find out what happened next.

If you want to read a classic...

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn 
by Betty Smith

To be honest, I only picked this one up at the library because it was my book club's pick for November but I am so glad I did. I loved Francie Nolan and the family and cast of characters that surrounded her. Betty Smith painted life in Brooklyn during the early 1900s with such vivid detail with only her words that I often felt I was there. The stories at times were rough but the hope and resilience of the Nolan family were inspiring. I really loved this book and did not want it to end.

My list is almost exclusively fiction, partly because that is what I love to read but also because I often start nonfiction books I love but never finish and it is hard to recommend a book you have not finished because what if it takes some hideous turn. I want to get better about that in 2014 and have a stack of books I am planning to read. 

Here are a few in the stack to be read:

Product Details
by Nadia Bolz-Weber  

If you love Anne Lamott, I think you will enjoy this book. I started following the author @sarcasticluther on Twitter this year. I love her heart for people and her authenticity. I am only a few chapters in but I have already been touched to tears. 

On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft
by Stephen King

This book is always on the list of books writers must read. I have never read a Stephen King novel but in just the few short chapters I have read so far, I can see why people love his writing. It is vivid and graphic and all those things that make for great writing. It is interesting to see into his childhood. I love books that inform me as well as entertain me.

Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women 
by Sarah Bessey

@sarahbessey was one of the first people I started following on Twitter. The grace with which she writes opens the door to the bigger conversations. I enjoy her writing style and the way she hits the deeper truths without hitting you over the head. 

What were some of your favorite reads of 2013?  What is on your list for 2014?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Goodbye 2013

I was not a fan of 2013.

For me, it was a year of letting go of dreams, or at least of being disappointed that the dreams I had were not going to come true in the time and format I wanted.

2012... that was a great year. We bought a place in the town we loved in California. I finished my first novel. I was teaching again and getting lots of encouraging feedback. It felt like my year, our year. But it ended with disappointing news from my husband's company - news that derailed our 2013 and changed the course of our lives.

2013 came with rejections and unemployment checks. It started with so many scary unknowns and ended with being unknown. Not that it was all bad. But it was hard to live through. It was hard to say goodbye. It was hard being so discouraged about my writing. It was hard being new. It was hard feeling alone, feeling lost, feeling like a failure.

I want to be one of the hopeful ones, the ones that claim the new year will be positive, full of promise. And truth is that I am an optimist. I know that moving and creating a new life and new friendships takes time. I know that I am really am blessed beyond measure. But I get scared too. I worry that maybe this time it won't happen. Maybe this time will be different and not in a good way. I worry that maybe things are turning darker, that maybe I am growing more distant, more isolated, more alone. I worry that I used up all my energy to get here, that I don't have much positivity left.

Today though, I am going to hope on new things because the alternative is too much. I am not ready to give up being an optimist yet.

So 2014 I have high hopes for you. Or at least I have hope for you.