Yes, you. Always you.

Posted on March 28, 2015

Sometimes it surprises me to realize that we have started traditions, little things that “we always do,” the girls and I. One of my favorites is to smile at the girls until we laugh, in my head my smile is communicating how much I love them, that it is literally spilling out of me in the form of a smile. I don’t know if that’s what they feel now, I hope that they do one day.

 

I posted a picture of Finley on Instagram the other day. It was taken a few years ago as we watched big, puffy snowflakes fall outside the cabin we’d rented in Lake Placid. She was entranced, smiling and making faces at the dancing snow. I couldn’t look away.

 

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That’s been a bit of a theme in motherhood for me. Not to say that I don’t do other things, I go to work, hit the gym, spend time writing, but there is a watching them that I do that is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It feels selfish and selfless at the same time; understanding I would lay down my life for them, but also wanting to devour and possess every moment I can with them. I am torn between wanting to be inside of their circle and wanting to stand guard outside of it.

Morning

 

Yesterday we were headed for a retreat in Brant Lake, but on the way to school Finley got sick. We weren’t sure what to do—cancel the trip or take her with us. She blinked with glassy eyes and pale skin, “Please bring me with you. I can do it.”

 

We listened to her and I climbed in the backseat with her. We held hands and rubbed shoulders. I kissed her forehead and showered her with “You oks?” She would nod each time, then, as the day wore on, she perked up and scampered around the lake house.

 

I found myself watching her, a weight against my chest at how fragile everything is—our plans, our lives, the ability to fix or forecast. All we can do is move to the rhythm of the days.

 

Brim

 

 

Today I was thanking her for being Finley. “Thank you for being Finley? What does that mean?” She asked laughing.

 

“It means that you are so exactly yourself that you make me smile until I laugh and love until I pop.”

 

“You pop? And smiling at me can make you laugh?” her eyes danced.

 

“Well, it’s not you that makes me laugh, it’s the feelings inside of me. You too.”

 

“Me too what?” she asked expectantly.

 

“You too laughing,” I said.

 

“Show me.”

 

I did. We laughed and loved and popped from the feeling of being us.

 

 

 

Squeeze

 

Go smile at someone ’til you pop, or allow yourself to be smiled at in that way.

Friday for the Heart

Posted on March 26, 2015

I am driving north tomorrow for a retreat with my business partners. A man I admire once said that he liked to call them “advances” rather than retreats, as they are intended to move you forward. Either way, it’s a day when we’ll talk about what’s working, where we want to be, how we want to get there, and why we are grateful to be on this adventure together.

 

It feels odd to take a foot off the pedal in order to move ahead, but we all need that. Whether we own a business, have a family, or just wake up in the morning, we all need little bits of time when we aren’t actively marching forward. We need to take inventory of where we are and where to go next.

 

My business is more than a decade old, as is my time blogging. The other day I was going back and forth with someone on Twitter and I was reminded of a post I read years ago. It was a beautiful essay on a daughter that never was. I happily offered up the memory, before I knew it the author, a woman I care for a great deal, was with us, agreeing to republish the beautiful post. I want to share Sarah’s post, along with others, because sometimes I think that opening ourselves up to the stories of others allows us to better understand our own.

 

Maybe something here will touch you or make you think, “So, it’s not just me after all.” I hope so.

 

Wendy is a newish friend for me. Her writing slices through me, sometimes there is a candor that makes me blush, other times there is a lack of apology that make me feel a deep roar and a kind of defensiveness on her behalf. “She’s living here people, give her some space,” I think-snarl protectively.

 

This post on the Washington Post is classic Wendy. Nothing about it is simple, and yet she gives so much to us in her story. We can learn and maybe, just maybe, we can expand our compassion.

 

That post I mentioned earlier, the post from Sarah, it’s here. I’d encourage you to go through her archives. She has a gift, a lyricism to her writing, but also a mind that makes you want to read more and do better.

 

I don’t remember how I found this one, but it cemented for me the idea that we all have ridiculous battles we face. Maybe it’s an unreasonable client, maybe it’s a trollish reader, could even be our own voice of doubt, but the point is we aren’t alone in it and when you think about it, your merits far outshine the ridiculous attacks on you.

 

This is something that Devon Corneal turned me onto. It isn’t light, it may not be black and white, but it does raise a very good point about how we protect and, in my opinion, how our protection of those we feel need protecting, sometimes actually protects those whose ridiculousness needs to be heard. Read it, I may make more sense then, or maybe not ;)

 

Kristin is someone who people often said to me, “Do you read her? You two are very similar.” I was curious and a bit nervous. Turns out, she is, as Anne Shirley would say, a kindred spirit. Her writing never comes with packaging that you have to undo, no plastic, no twisty-ties, just straight up honesty. This post will show you.

 

Another Kristen, this one I found when I first started blogging. I admired her so much, still do. Her latest post echoed within me. Like the best kind of writing, it isn’t exactly me, but it is enough me that as I read her words, she left space for my own emotions. I trailed off and then back. I felt no shame, no confusion, I love being a mom, love my kids, love Sean, but life does change. There is a part of you that is no longer line leader. I love the permission she offers, it’s important that our kids, spouse, families, or/and ourselves see the person we were before, because it/she/I am still there.

 

Angela wrote a post about a backpack. Simple, ordinary, and yet this little slice of time heralds a passage to new autonomy, a “do it myself” that tis more silent and more final than those that have come before. It is so lovely.

 

I saw so many links to this next post, but for some reason I didn’t click and didn’t click. When I finally read it I was so grateful. It is the flame of not following the “do parenting this way” cheer. It’s showing kids we struggle, demonstrating that after blowing up, we can still go on. I think that it’s really a generous lesson about life.

 

Punctuality. I have never had it, not as a kid, not as a single person, not as a parent. You can judge me for it. I also don’t know which way the toilet paper roll goes. Frankly, in our house it usually never makes it to the room, instead sitting on the counter and bloating with the water spilled over the edges of the sink…which is why this post felt like a back rub coupled with a “you’re beautiful sash.” If you are ever late, read it. Thank you, Kim!

 

What makes you happy? Why don’t we think about this more?

 

I got so much advice about how time would fly as a mom, I never stopped to consider how it would fly for me. Time, like life is for all of us—parents, spouses, individuals. Thank you, Allison, for reminding us of that.

 

While I’m out of the office tomorrow, Will is in charge. He’s a pretty cool cat.

 

It’s Thursday as I publish this, I hope your Friday is fan*ckingtastic.

 

I hope some morsel here helps you tweak things ever so slightly toward joy.

Not Yet

Posted on March 24, 2015

“Mom, it’s wiggling again, like seriously wiggling.” She had her finger wedged in the side of her mouth as she said it. Her head was in my lap, the clock read 8:20. All of us girls were cuddled up tight on the couch, pjs on, teeth brushed, watching The Voice.

Sean and I had talked in the kitchen earlier in the night. “They all have their homework done and Briar was amazing helping me this afternoon,” I whispered. We were standing close, sweet reward for a full night’s sleep and a day that went unexpectedly smoothly. “I say we get them fed and washed up for bed. I’ll read a chapter of the book and then we can let them watch The Voice.”

He nodded, “You know it’s only on at 8, no On Demand.”

“I know, it’ll be ok. It’s just one night and we all slept well last night.” We’re in an odd space related to sleep. The big girls press to stay up later, Fin too sometimes, but their growth spurts and the weight of certain days of homework have them shuffling their feet and rubbing their eyes. We stretch toward older kid bedtimes and then sling shot back with weepy mornings or grouchy evenings.

I looked down at Finley’s face, her brow was bunched up and her finger had stopped moving. “You ok? You want me to get you a tissue to hold it? We can pull on it softly,” I said. She looked up at me eyes pooling, “Yes, please on tissue. No thank you on pulling. I don’t want it to come out just yet.”

I slipped off the couch and into the bathroom for a few squares of toilet paper. I cam back and handed it to her softly. She wrapped the white paper around her finger and slowly poked her finger back in her mouth. She pressed her head into my side and I traced my fingers along her temple.

Briar and Avery were rapt, their eyes scanning the screen, fingers pointing to the performers, “Oh, that one, it’s totally going to be that one. Don’t you think?”

I smiled and wiggled my toes, they tickled Briar’s tailbone and she wrapped her arms around my foot and squeezed twice. “Love you, Ave,” I whispered across the couch. She stretched a hand out and rubbed my leg, “You too.”

After a few minutes Finley took the tissue, crumpled it in her hand and leaned into me. “I’m going to ask you a question and it’s ok if it’s no. Would you want to go upstairs with me and read a few books?”

I tried to read her face. “Do you mean after this show?”

“No, I mean, the girls can tell me what happens, who wins, you know. I just wondered if you would want to go away with me now to read.”

I beamed. “Of course.”

She grabbed my hand and we darted upstairs, me whispering to Sean where we were going as we flew out of the room.

Upstairs she raced down the hallway and called to me, “You get in my bed, I’ll bring the books.”

I nestled under the covers, part of the blanket had slipped between the bed and the wall. I pulled it back up and found it had been resting on the heat register, I pressed the warm fleece to my face. It smelled like conditioner. I looked around the room, the map decals on the wall conjured the squeals of the girls from nights past, “Which states have no in them?” Sean would call like a game announcer.

“No-rth Carolina!” Ave screams.

“No-rth Dakota!” Briar shots.

“Illinois,” Finley squeals.

“Good job, Fin,” Sean calls with admiration.

“Vermont and Montana have it backwards.” Laughter.

She bounded into the room. “I have Pirate Girl and Despereaux.” Her mouth still struggles with making an r sound, so Pirate came out like a growl. She smiled at me and I looked at the gap on the top side of her mouth. A stubborn tooth, still hiding, leaving the space from the last tooth to fall out wide open.

“How’s your tooth?” I asked.

“It’s ok, mom. I just sometimes don’t want the things to happen so fast. I’m not afraid of my tooth coming out, I’m just not wanting all my teeth to be done coming out.” Her hand was in mine. I squeezed it.

“You are a gift Finley, always have been, from the day I found out you were in my tummy to the day we brought you home.”

We read the books slowly, there between the warm fleece and the bright colored states. We traced our fingers over the pictures, reading together, and flipping back to check things on pages we’d already read.

There are days when it feels as if the color around us is fading in real time, like a vintage filter being applied to the moments we are living. I bat and flail to keep things crisp and vibrant. Other times it feels as if we are characters in a book, just like Pirate Girl, our colors staying bright and rich, and the letters and sounds of this time perfectly preserved upon each page.

FinleyHike

 

 

Expectations: Yours, Mine, and Ours

Posted on March 19, 2015

Potentially the most tedious thing about this post is that it is such a tired, damn argument. I’m not the first to write about it, nor will I be the last. I was trucking along, chatting with friends on twitter while I surfed in another window to the side. It was a perfectly lovely time, until an alert came through for a new email. I checked it on my phone.

 

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Presumably the email was sent to make me feel as if the sender and I were tight. Good friends. Real friends.

Why?

Because together we were going to celebrate a better, truer, more real kind of woman. We were going to feel better by emphasizing one body or lifestyle type as more authentic than another. Roar.

We are women, real women.

I get it, I really do.

Shapely women can feel better for being told rail thin women are less real.

Angular women can feel better for being told that voluptuous women aren’t really healthy.

Stay at home moms are more real for focusing 100% on their kids.

Working outside the home moms are more real for working and parenting.

Single moms, divorced moms, gay moms, straight moms, we can all be the more real woman.

Short women, tall women, straight haired women, curly haired women. Black women, white women, religious women, atheist women, let’s divide ‘em and judge ‘em.

How exactly is one more real than another? As far as I can tell, it isn’t Barbie’s measurements that make her unreal, as much as it is the fact that, you know, she isn’t living.

I had these photos, snapped on a pass through the mall, ready for a ranty post about the prissification of working out, but then I called bullshit on myself, because liking pink or motivating yourself by fitting into a pair of jeans doesn’t make your desire to workout any less than that of a woman who hates pink and wants a larger bicep from her workout, rather than a smaller waist.

Working out is working out, right? Or do certain beads of sweat count more for their intention?

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I have three girls at home. Last night we pored over the 5 Stages of Development listed in the American Girl book about young girls’ bodies. Ave gave me her take on which stage she thought she and Briar were in and how they differed. I explained that one girl’s stage 2 would be different than another’s and that, in fact, some women may always look like the shape of the 3rd stage. Our conversation was largely related to breast size.

I told them, inspired by this guy who I found through the fabulously real (heh) Jenni Chiu, that boobs are like noses. They looked at me strangely and I explained, “Everyone has a nose, but they are all different sizes and shapes. They all work and are awesome! You’d never expect your nose to be just like someone else’s or like a picture, would you?” They laughed at me.

Lately they have been tumbling in their room as they pretend to be gymnasts. I bought them each a sports bra and workout pants combination outfit. They love them. I love watching them, all built so differently, flipping and darting about.

 

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The thought that they might be on the receiving end of an email one day that basically says, “Hey, come look at this. Your sister is totally not as real as you. Let me show you a hundred ways that you are beautiful and she is not.”

Fuck that.

We have got to give up this ghost. There is no real and there is no one day, there is who we are and embracing that, loving it, and comparing it to goals meant for each of us, not other people.

Power walking to marathons, pilates to power naps, you define your movement and what works.

Botox? Have at it! Avoid it. Up to you.

Surgery? Yes! Or Never. Or wait and see.

Face cream? Yes. Or no. Drug store or mail order.

Acceptance? Mm-hmm, of the natural, the enhanced, the healed, the broken, the on-the-way, and the finally. It’s all real, because it is us, not because it fits within a certain definition.

As much as I want to pin all the blame on some well-defined villain, it’s a surge we’ve all contributed to and one that we need to address in the way that works for us. Remember Tracy Morrison and the Nordstrom beauty sleep pillow? Did you hate the Dove Beauty campaign? Maybe you loved it.

I clicked that email about real women and unsubscribed from the service (it was a photography site), then I unfollowed them on Twitter, then I called them out on it. That was for me, you don’t have to do that, but I do think that you, we, they, all of us need to stop using the word real as a way of describing only certain living people.

 

It’s dead wrong.

No Shortage of Cruelty, Add Kindness

Posted on March 12, 2015

We got a call a few weeks ago from the cable company offering to hook up cable. I explained that we had cut it because it was an unnecessary expense and an unwelcome time suck. The woman chuckled and tried to mention stations that might pique my interest. Having been without cable for a few years, I could honestly say that I wasn’t interested in any of them.

Then she mentioned sports. The only time we have ever complained about the absence of cable has been a laundry lament, Sean saying that he wished we could have Sunday games on in the background as we folded laundry or cleaned the house.

“How much? I asked her. After some keyboard clicking and a few minutes on hold she came back, “About 8 dollars.”

“8 dollars a month? That’s it?” I asked.

She laughed, “Yup.” Between her tone, the price, and the way she interacted with me about the girls in the background, “Are they really being quiet now? You wanna come over and get my kids to do that?” she said. I told her to sign us up for the cable.

We’ve had it a few weeks now and the truth is we rarely use it. The things on television are largely lop sided coverage of events related to politics or dead children. I don’t like to stick my head in the sand, but there comes a point when I don’t want to have the tone of my day set by the horror of the day before.

Instead I talk to Briar in the morning about race and feminism. We talk about the pressures of work and the satisfaction that we work toward. They ask us questions about things they hear. Sean plays tag with the girls after dinner. Yes, we watch Blacklist and Justified, but we shy away from too much news.

Twitter has been heartbreaking lately reading about puppy slaughter, teen slaughter, female student attacks, fury over this side not hearing that side. I gather the hurt in my feed, reading the words and thinking things, but sometimes not saying them for fear that I don’t know enough about a subject or that my words might not matter.

I’m rambling, but I had to get to this small pearl. We are keeping in the good. We aren’t telling the person in line at the store that we like their shoes. We aren’t saying good morning to the man who walks his two terriers each day. I think the space between rage and grief, and celebration and gossip is becoming silent. I’ll stop saying we and use I.

I don’t speak up when it isn’t dire.

I don’t speak up when I am afraid.

I don’t speak up if it feels weird.

I don’t speak up when I’m nervous.

So yesterday I told the woman at the dealership that she had pretty hair.

I told Briar thank you for choosing to spend time with me.

I thanked Sean for trying not to be angry during the work day.

I told the damn dog he was cute.

I went to bed when I was sleepy and I wore a sparkly shirt because I felt like it.

I just want to do my part to say that every sentence doesn’t have to be “important” and we don’t have to take part in every fight. What we can do, all of us, is start saying out loud those little things that if they were said to us would feel good.

 

Consider

Because no matter how divided we are by politics, race, gender, finances, whatever, deep down we all still started out as little people who loved having fun and who responded with delight to praise. We can add a bit of that back into the mix, can’t we?

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