Daddy didn’t come around when I was a child, but I recall a particular time he brought a small present for each of us. I loved Daddy and presents and didn’t get enough of either in my life.
I opened my box with restrained enthusiasm and caught my breath to see a stationary set. The lined pages were periwinkle, with a row of brown teddy bears across the top of the page and a matching pen. I smiled and said thank you, but inwardly I wrapped my skinny arms around his neck and shouted “I love you!”
Writing was my catharsis. We shared a lot of chatty surface conversation in our family, but didn’t know how to go deep. Most of our emotional pain was expressed physically, through hard work, and anger, instead of verbally. I fleshed out my heart with pen and paper, like wielding an ax to the root of my misplaced emotions. Writing was my alternate universe, a place where I could dream beyond our old frame house and the community that confined me there. I wrote daydreams that would color the cheeks of my demure peers, and released pain through my pen that would have otherwise devoured my soul.
This stationary set was much more than a present. It was really a gift of life.
On blank page
Husband stirs, coughs,
Releases his own gas
Into the atmosphere
Cats scratch hungrily at the door
Dogs want scratched too, by me
Baby calls for mama
Another needs covers
The third isn’t sure
He can go back to sleep
Just like that my quiet space,
My blank page
Is gobbled up
By the humans and animals I love
The words stay stuck
Inside my head
For one more day
An peak into the cadence of our lives.
Why yes, yes there ARE bright pink plastic tablecloths duct taped to my mostly faithful mini van currently parked in the grass of our front yard.
We spent part of the weekend going back and forth to my brother’s camp. After spending a few hours there Saturday, the children and I returned to clean up for my niece’s goodbye party. She left for basic training this weekend to become an Army mechanic.
I was cooking pasta for a salad to contribute to her goodbye meal, when quarter-sized rain drops began to pelt the window. I bolted to the van for the keys I had placed in the cup holder, but alas, they were nowhere to be seen. I remembered the girls lingering briefly in the van when we got home, and our 2-year-old took immediate responsibility for the missing keys. Except that she had no idea where she’d put them!
I pilfered through trash inside and out, scoured the van, rummaged my pocketbook (which deserves it’s own real estate in a blog), all while buckets of rain poured into the open van windows. It’s here I sheepishly admit we only have one set of keys, so we were up the creek if you get my drift.
We missed my niece’s goodbye party. My husband came home from working on our townhouse we are prepping to sell and my mom came to watch the children so we could go get a vehicle from my husband’s car lot to drive in the meantime. As heartbroken as I was to miss the goodbye party, I could only be so frustrated with our adorable little daughter, and I literally laugh out loud every time I see those pink tablecloths on the van. (New keys are on the way today!)
I received a call last week to provide the message for a worship service for the Mid Atlantic Burn Camp’s thirtieth reunion. I was honored to be a small part of this amazing outreach, and once I had confirmed my availability, gave them a yes. But availability for an hour on a Sunday morning, doesn’t factor in preparation, so in between focusing on time with family and other events, I found myself writing the message at midnight Saturday!
Regardless of my personal circumstances demanding attention elsewhere, we had a lovely time together Sunday morning.
A highlight of the Labor Day Weekend was our 7-year-old daughter and I running our first 5K together! I’ve been running all summer. She is bouncy and always active, but hadn’t trained for running. We wanted to participate in this particular event because it was in memory of a young girl who died of cancer and provides scholarships for a summer camp.
As we started running, I encouraged her to pace herself and let me know at any time if she needed to walk. She ran 3.13 miles in 34:32 and placing first in her age group! She would have shaved minutes off her time of she hadn’t stayed behind with me! That time together with my daughter for such a meaningful cause was euphoric.
This weekend also included addressing bullying in various forms, a doctor visit for one of our children, last minute babysitting a toddler overnight, two terrible accidents involving people we care deeply about, “a paint project” by our youngest, and birthday party planning for our son this week, among other things.
Among the general excitement and busyness for the coming months is an incredible opportunity for me to spend a weekend with the lovely Helena Clare Pittman for a memoir writing retreat! I’ve been busy writing and preparing to make the most of this opportunity.
I’m always grateful for your interaction here, even when my posts are sporadic. My writing and readership community are like the friends who, regardless of how much time passes between interactions, we pick right back up where we left off.
We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect. Anais Nin
And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. Sylvia Plath
If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. Toni Morrison
As I child, I noticed mom’s hands
Worn from labors of farming and gardening
I pushed in her blue veins
And laughed as they filled again
They looked so different than my smooth soft hands
Now that I am Mom
My hands too, are worn from labors
I hold my young daughter
She laughs as she manipulates my blue veins
Several times a day she paced back and forth on the concrete basketball court beating her chest, raising her arms, rocking back and forth, wailing for her child.
She didn’t speak English, and her family shared with me that ever since her child died and they had come to the United States, it was if she had locked herself inside. She anguished daily for her child she left behind.
When I first witnessed her grief, I felt pity. In my youth and naivety, I somehow thought I could pray her grief away. How pious. How wrong. How antipathetic.
Today, on the eleventh birthday of my own deceased daughter, I anguished in a fetal position on our front porch couch, unaware and uncaring of witnessing neighbors or passers-by. My new normal has slowly evolved around this pint-sized hole in my heart and while my life is filled with tremendous joy, the ache of her absence is ever-present. Among the many things I’ve learned over the years, is that grief is lonely, even when surrounded by an entire community of love and support.
I weary of explaining to the “young mes” out there, that the Eternal Hope that carries me doesn’t mean I don’t miss her. I pray to not be deeply hurt when the “former Reginas” mistake my life-long loving and missing her as being ungrateful for our other children. I feel judgement from the “pious Reginas” when I succumb to anxiety regarding the health and well-being of our surviving children, especially given our family’s past year’s health situations. And today, I sit on our porch, tears falling like the summer rain dripping off our rooftops, and I remember the bereaved mother to whom I could not relate those many years ago.
If I could go back to this sweet grieving mama, I wouldn’t feel as though we needed to speak the same language verbally, I would wrap my arms around her grief-weary shoulders and cry with her. I would understand that I couldn’t fix it for her, but that I could walk alongside her without my ridiculous ideologies of what it means to parent a deceased child. Instead of trying to pray her grief away, I would pray that she would somehow sense God’s comfort and presence in her grief. Instead of coming to her with tired cliches and empty platitudes, I would tell her that I didn’t know what to say, then I would sit with her in weeping and wailing, in anger, in silence, in laughter, and without judgement.
I’m so grateful for the compassionate people who do the same for me, of which there are many.
P.S. Writing this out helped me gather myself together on this day of remembering. As I hammered out the words on my mobile blogging app, our 6-year-old daughter, whose own health has kept my heart anxious, came out from the screen door with a coffee mug and said, “Mama, I made you some lemonade. I thought you could use something to make you happy.” She wrapped her skinny little arms around my neck and held me as I feel apart. Again.
They know their sister by tear-stained photographs
By a worn-out guestbook from her funeral service
They know her by playing in a cemetery
Around a cold hard tombstone
They know their sister by our “Sadie Rose” friends
By support meetings and remembrance ceremonies
They know their sister by the faraway look in mommy’s eyes
By the silences, the tears, the whispers of her name
They know her by the scent of a flower
By a butterfly’s soft-winged flight
They know their sister by the cloud’s silver lining
And by the stars that light the night
How I wish they could play with her, hold her hand, kiss her goodnight
But they are content knowing her in this way
Always looking for reminders of her presence
And, as only children can, they accept that this is how they know her
And they love her, just as they know her
She handed her shirts to the cashier, and I noticed a theme in the inscriptions of each piece as they were unfurled, scanned, and bagged.
“I’m not listening”
“The less you care, the happier you’ll be.”
(I can’t remember the third one at the moment.)
There are times I think not listening and not caring might relieve some of the weight of life, but as I ruminated, I decided it would also remove the richness.
That’s how my mind works. That’s why my blog description says, “Reflections and Recollections from a Ruminator.”
Sometimes I wish a shirt could just be a shirt, and leaves on the oak tree could just be leaves, and skinned knees and struggling plants could be just that, but my mind always turns them into lessons I’m learning.
Every spring, the new leaves on our pin oak have to literally push the dead ones off. I think how resistant I/we can be to change. How sometimes I find myself clinging to old and dead and former instead of embracing what God is doing right now in my life and what he wants to do going forward.
She cried as I doctored skinned knees this morning, the medicine stung as it chased the “dirty bugs” away. I thought about how wounds hurt, cleansing stings, but untreated uncleaned wounds can literally kill us. I held her as I reassured it wouldn’t sting for long and caring for them would soon help her feel a lot better.
I pondered my one lone house plant, a starter my dad gave me years ago from a plant his mother had before she died. It’s definitely my kind of plant because it needs very little care. The yellow and green leaves remind me of my life, though. The green being times where I’ve nurtured and cared for myself, and the yellow times where I’ve neglected to drink from the fountain of living water. Usually, with enough faithful nurturing, the yellow leaves green again, and the plant plugs along, growing it’s vine and lengthening it’s reach.
Technically screen free week runs through Sunday, but I’ve succumbed to writing this post. Outside of work and school, our family has enjoyed an extraordinary week of planting garden, playing outside, storytelling, cooking together, and playing board and card games.
We inhaled lilacs. The girls and I made a mixed berry pie. (We used whole wheat pie and pastry flour for the crust. It was delicious!
I made chocolate pudding from scratch to serve with the pie, and topped it with whipped cream. Yum!
We lit oil lamps and my husband and I told stories from our childhood.
Most delightfully in my own screen free time, was the discovery this book.
This gem by Tish Harrison Ward is truly transformative. Every single page of my copy is dog-eared and marked up, noted and underlined. I tried to find a few nuggets to share, but choosing was hard because the whole book is a gold mine.
Here’s a quote from page 30.
“We don’t wake up daily and form a way of being-in-the-world from scratch, and we don’t think our way through every action of our day. We move in patterns that we have set over time, day by day. These habits and practices shape our lives, our desires, and ultimately who we are and what we worship.”
Then she references a sign in a New Monastic Christian Community house. “Everyone wants a revolution. No one wants to do the dishes.” Followed by Tish’s own comments that, “You can’t get a revolution without learning to do the dishes. The kind of spiritual life and disciplines needed to sustain the Christian life are quiet, repetitive, and ordinary… It’s in the dailiness of the Christian faith-the making the bed, the doing the dishes, the praying for our enemies, the reading the Bible, the quiet, the small-that God’s transformation takes root and grows.” (Pages 35-36)
This book has been a long cool drink of water to green the yellowed leaves of my sometimes soul-weary dry days. If you long to know that your daily ordinariness matters, and be confronted and challenged to examine what your days are imprinted with and how your habits shape, form, and inform you, please give yourself the gift of this book. (Side note: When initially forming this blog, a strong name in the running was The Ordinarian, because of the focus of my truly ordinary broken beautiful life.)
A gorgeous weekend brimming with love and ordinary to all of you!