Sunday, May 29, 2016

Grandma Wisdom - Waiting

Finding the lost letters my paternal grandmother sent me in the years after I moved away and throughout college has been a huge comfort. Her letters are descriptive and fused with love. They put me in a trance-like state. After reading a few, I begin thinking of things I need to tell her and remember only then, that she's not here.

Last weekend I got overwhelmed with the emotions these letters drummed up, so I had to walk away from them for the week. Yesterday, I began organizing them by occasion. They are among my most treasured possessions. They would be what I grab in case of fire or natural disaster. When I've re-read and categorized them, I will tie them with ribbon and display them in a special way in my bedroom. I like the idea of pulling out a stack based on the time of year--say Valentine's Day or Easter--and re-reading them.

I especially like the birthday cards and letters because these are the ones she dated with years. She was also particularly thoughtful about what she wrote to me on those special days, recounting who I had been in younger years and who I was becoming in the present moment.

This woman was who I confided my deepest fears and longings. If she was here now, I'd share with her how much I want my writing to be published, to make a difference in the world, to make someone else not feel so alone. I'd share with her my own sense of loneliness and adjustment to the life I didn't plan for and the one that is also providing so much new growth.

She always listened. She never downplayed or dismissed my anxieties, and in so doing, they diminished.

Today's wisdom came from a card she sent around Easter. I was in college and still making my way through the loss of a relationship that had meant the world to me: 

"Our entire family knows no other way loving the Lord and following His way. That's why I know for sure along with the waiting and disappointments that have come your way, Julie, it's all working towards the reward all in T-I-M-E. Good things come to those who wait, and you are a good waiter." [All underlines are hers.]

Twenty-some years later this 41-year-old granddaughter continues to wait, and has not one clue what she's waiting for. It's sobering and adventuresome at once. It seems a bit easier to bear knowing that my grandma considered me good at this very laborious, tedious thing. And that she believed good things were in store for me. I'm going to trust her on that.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Dear Grandma - Volume 1

Dear Grandma,

Somehow my first draft didn't save, so here we meet again!

I found your letters--ones I believed were lost forever--this afternoon, and what a time I have had visiting with you again.  I was crying so hard for awhile that I checked the mirror to see how my mascara was holding up.  Far better than I expected.

There are no words to express how much I miss you and yet, how powerfully I feel your presence in the pages of those letters and cards.

I wish I'd done a better job of believing you when you wrote (repeatedly) about me being a writer. You were right. I am!

I haven't been writing much and it's been weighing on me, but I'm making sense of my life in such new, fresh ways, and I am beginning to understand the benefits of what feels like unproductive times.

I am listening to Patsy Cline's greatest hits as I write to you. We rewound the cassette tape for repeatedly for Crazy and Walking at Midnight. We should have listened to her whole album! She's good.

If you were here, these are the things we'd be discussing these days:
  • how awesome your great-granddaughter is
  • Sarah Bessey's new book Out of Sorts
  • Astrid & Derrick and how to write her breakdown and her rebirth
  • Parks & Recreation and Hamilton - The Musical
  • What I spoke about at church today
  • The colossal mess that is my backyard and what the h@#& I should do with it
  • My improvements in the kitchen
  • My trip to Home Depot and fixing my closet door solo yesterday
  • How grateful I am to have a handy dad (and grandpas) who taught me how to use tools when I was growing up
  • The sycamore tree swing in the backyard at Steeleville 
  • The flag pole at Steeleville too
  • Mathilda
  • Yoga
  • The Washington Post Presidential Podcast
  • Rob Bell
That should tide us over for awhile, don't you think?

I've got to find a frame for this Easter Time card you sent me where you wrote: "Such joy your collection of writing are giving me daily as I re-read them and 'think them thru.' You must always find time to write even though, now that  your every minute is so filled. Tuck your thoughts and ideas in your heart--then at the right time, they'll nudge you to add them to your collection!"

I have to believe that we really are having these conversations in our hearts. That's where you are every single day of my life. I feel your love ooze out of every line you wrote me. Thank you for lavishing me with your grammie-love.

It is an honor and privilege to be your granddaughter.

Love, Love until my next post,


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pleasantly Mistaken

Part of the grief of an unsupportive marriage and the subsequent divorce has been the matter of the lack of regular companionable touch. For awhile I've told myself that the hugs of my then-eight and now-nine-year-old daughter are wonderful, but just not the same as a grown up's and preferably a male's.

A migraine slowly made its presence known this morning as I was waking, showering, and getting ready for the day. I took my prescription medicine and waited while it kicked in.

In the kitchen, I felt the weariness and vulnerability that comes with the pain of migraines. I asked for a hug from my daughter. She wrapped her arms around me, and then heard me begin to cry. When I assured her I wasn't sick and that tears sometimes help relieve the pressure of a headache, I felt her take her role as comforter seriously. She sat on my lap facing me and held on. She held me firmly and alternately placed her hand on my head and rubbed the left side where she knew the pain was concentrated. She moved back, placed her hands on my neck and began giving me a massage.

I let myself sink into this comforting mother-daughter moment. When I patted her bottom, thanked her for her kindness, and told her it was time to drive to school, I felt better and realized it was okay for me to every once in a while, ask her for a hug. I have been pleasantly mistaken that her hugs wouldn't be enough.  Today they are.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A List of Thank yous

Today my divorce has been final for one year. It's strange to observe the day that something important was dissolved. And yet, I celebrate because I am in a better place. I am relieved to be at the one-year mark. It means all the firsts are behind me. I have a baseline for how most co-parenting interactions are likely to go. This brings me peace.

Some other unexpected things have happened. In the swirl of life, these things make me alternately sad, disappointed, tired, scared, and hopeful. That's a lot of emotion to wade through, and so I laid in my bed, covers to my chin, and sobbed them out. I went to sleep.

This morning the sting is still there and I know it will be for awhile. And I am committed to approaching all of the swirl the way Rob Bell addresses it in his book, How To Be Here: "How we respond to what happens to us--especially the painful, excruciating things that we never wanted and we have no control over--is a creative act.

The sun is shining.

Today is a new day, and I am grateful. Today's creative act is to make a list of things I am grateful for, so I keep my attention there rather than on the other places vying for so much head space.

Thank you for my gray, cozy robe.
Thank you for postage stamps.
Thank you for my daughter.
Thank you for Wednesdays when I get to see her again.
Thank you for people who make me laugh.
Thank you for Parks and Recreation binges and laughing out loud with my daughter.
Thank you for her kindnesses.
Thank you for books.
Thank you for words.
Thank you for audiobooks in heavy traffic.
Thank you for random acts of kindness--the giving and the receiving.
Thank you for Coldplay and Avett Brothers.
Thank you for courage.
Thank you for courage to turn off cable.
Thank you for courage to turn off Facebook.
Thank you for courage to take care of myself.
Thank you for boundaries.
Thank you for snail mail.
Thank you for massages.
Thank you for amazing coworkers.
Thank you for lifelong friends.
Thank you for new friends.
Thank you for the way decluttering makes me feel.
Thank you for trips to Aldi that make me forget my sadness even for a few minutes.
Thank you for creative minds that inspire.
Thank you for Rob Bell.
Thank you for Elizabeth Gilbert.
Thank you for Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Thank you for Hamilton-The Musical.
Thank you for faith--even when it's wobbly.
Thank you for Spirit, when it washes over me, and makes me cry.
Thank you for a paycheck.
Thank you for new days.
Thank you for this new day.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Thoughts at the end of a day - Mother's Day 2016

This post has re-written itself since I started working on it a few hours ago. Cadence was with her Dad this weekend. I knew I would see her at some point, but wasn't sure when. I went to church, had lunch with a friend, and scheduled a much-needed massage to help fill the afternoon. My writing was delightfully interrupted when Cadence rang my doorbell. When I greeted her at the door, her hands were full of miscellaneous mother's day gifts: brown paper bags of DQ ice cream, a card, and a canvas.

We hugged and then she showered me with her gifts. “Wait there's more.” Cadence opened her teal purse and presented an opened bag of Jolly Ranchers. “I thought we could share these.” 

Months ago at a friend's birthday party she painted a “camo deer head” on canvas and planned to present it to me today. “I know it's not really your style, but I thought the colors fit in with what you want to paint your bedroom.” She is exactly right.

She wrote the following note in my handpicked card: “Dear Mommy, I love you! Hopefully you like the dairy queen ice cream. Happy Mother's Day! Your the Best Mommy in the whole world. How was church today? The Cardinals game was so fun! You are so supportive! I love you! Have a good day! Xoxo Love, Cadence your daughter PS: your the best!  (I'm a fan of all her exclamation points and her use of the word supportive.)

Today has exceeded my expectations. I am so determined to make the best of situations like today when I didn't know how much time I'd get to spend with Cadence. These days always go better than I anticipate. The lead-up is usually fraught with more angst than the day itself.

Being newly single also reinforces new perspectives like: Mother's and Father's Days can be hard on single parents when their children aren't old enough to initiate gift-giving or some sort of observance. I do not for a minute take for granted that our dual household is functional. We co-parent well. I know this is not the case for many divorced families, and I am grateful that it is for us.

I am a broken record on this blog: I marvel at how much Cadence and I are thriving in this new life. It takes hard work, and some days are harder than others, but it is worth all of the effort. I am one lucky woman.

With my Cady-did

My new artwork - more inspiration for my writing desk

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Where Have I Been?

It's a question I imagine my laptop asking if it had a voice. Astrid and Derrick, my beloved characters, are likely asking the same question. They are alive and well in my imagination. They are showing up to do the work of telling their story.

My answer is that I've needed a break. It has become abundantly clear that the activity of 2015 in celebration of my 40th birthday, while healthy, invigorating, and constructive, also delayed the inevitable: grieving and adjusting to the life change that also occurred in 2015.

Much of what has swirled through my mind in the past few months has not been for public consumption. Not because it was too private or too horrible. Only that it was a little tedious, a little repetitive, a little boring, and mostly just for me to wade through. My journal shows the proof of my current writing production.

Here's a taste test of what's filled those pages:

  • It struck me in the car a few blocks away from Cadence's school that this back and forth between her dad's house and mine is a forever thing. Not that I didn't KNOW that already, but the heart truth of it pierced me. In some ways, I'm getting very accustomed to it and in others, it feels fresh and raw all the time. It's a hard truth to bear understanding that a decision you made that was ultimately best for everyone still comes with the consequences of less time with the single most important person in your life.

  • “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” Lao Tzu's words have resonated deeply in the past few days. I used to be depressed and anxious. I'm making progress because the depression has lifted, but the anxiety remains. I cannot shake the feeling that I NEED TO KNOW WHAT COMES NEXT. It's a damning feeling. A coworker patiently reminds me that no one knows what's coming next no matter the stage of life they're in. So why am I so determined that I need to know?

This morning I was entrenched in the present. I unburied my desk from the mess of life. I spent hours (yes, hours!) blissfully unearthing the paper mess that has weighed down my desk space for the past few months. How can a minimalist possibly accumulate so much stuff?

Incrementally, I have decided what to keep and what to let go to help me feel like my house is my own. It's been a therapeutic exercise, and it's almost complete. What remains are the artifacts of my life that vibrate with life and happy memories and help mark the places I've been geographically and emotionally in life. The less I have, the happier I am.

Now as I type, I hear Chris Martin serenade me. I hear the tinkle of water in a small water fountain I finally pulled out of its box. I hear an airplane overhead and the hum of a neighbor's lawn mower beckoning me to my next chore.

There's a jungle of high grass waiting for me in my backyard. It feels like a privilege to have this plot of ground that's mine alone to maintain, this healthy body that can do the work, and the sunshine to warm me. This Saturday, I am at peace.

In the midst of the mess

Post-Mess: Items dusted and moved, fountain operating, desk clear

Everything that had been leaning against the wall is now nailed down. A great view for my writing pursuits.

Lest I mislead you: what's left to organize. I am a "mood-based' housekeeper. The mood will strike again. Later.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Letter to a Friend

Dear Lois,

We celebrated Cadence's baptism today.

It was a glorious day! My tomboy twirled around in her glittery, white tulle dress and bejeweled sandals.  She eased into the waters of baptism beside her aunt confident and assured of the decision she had made. She sat still and quiet as she listened to June pray words of confirmation.

I've thought a lot about you in the past few months. I've stopped sitting in "our row" at church. I felt your absence too acutely sitting alone after you died, so I have new "pew buddies" on Sundays.

I've thought about how you used to tell me that I was strong. You repeated it again and again. I admit that at the time, I thought it was a hallmark of aging. I appreciated your faith in me then, but not like I do now. You recorded a message on my heart and mind that I could access later when I needed it.

My, have I needed those words in the past year. I have summoned strength I didn't know I had, and then remembered your words. I have thought about where I am today, what it has taken for me to get here, and how much I wish you were here to witness it.

And then...

Cadence's special church buddy, Barb, presented a gift to her and said it was from Lois. I didn't catch the entire conversation, so I was a little behind.  Cadence tore the yellow tissue paper away and held in her hands a ceramic dish with a lid. She lifted the lid and inside there was a note that read, "I am so proud of you. Love, Lois."

Lois, this gift undid me. Cadence loved it, but I took it in like nourishment. To think that you had thought of this day long before it came and that you wouldn't be here to see it.  Thank you for planning ahead.

I wept and wept, and my friends held me and cried with me.  Through this gift you reminded me that loved ones aren't really as far away as it feels when death separates us. I cried as I felt your love in a way I haven't felt since we used to sit and sing harmony together, and tremble with stifled church giggles all those years ago. I knew you loved us then, but oh gosh, that little porcelain dish and note made the love come rushing back.

I think about how much Cadence, the nine-year-old, would delight you. She is wicked funny, whip smart, and has a huge, compassionate heart. She loves life and people. She loves her friends and family with a fierceness that sometimes takes away my breath. She loves Cardinals baseball, playing softball and applying makeup.

Thank you for loving her before you even knew her. And for loving me as I mothered her.

There are no words for how thankful I am for your friendship then and your gift today. Your thoughtfulness made my day.

I love you more than words can express.