Grief 2019

Grief. It’s individual to each one of us, yet it is a shared emotion. We try to walk the path it leads us down with strength I suppose. Never really knowing what will be waiting around the next bend, what will knock us back on our ass or who might help us up. I am no expert on grief, but I have walked in it’s darkness. I have fallen back and prayed for someone to come along to help me take even one small step forward. When I have wandered with grief by my side I’ve found that even that one small step is a step toward the light, though it may only be a glimmer, and far off down the path.

I’ve struggled to decide whether or not I should share this story…right now I’m sitting with “don’t”, while trying to decide if putting the words out there would help anyone or if they would help me to get them out of my head.

This is it for me. The week of my deepest sadness, the days of my most difficult memories, the hours leading up to the harshest ache. Can I share that publicly? Should I? Aside from all of the stupid shit I’ve done that has hurt people, hurt me. Aside from all of the times when my heart has broken or when my mind has fractured to contain the insanity I must deal with, this next string of days contains the most difficult choices I’ve ever made.

Nah, I won’t publish this one. As I sit and think back at the days, the tears come free and easy. There is no soundtrack to these days, only a great silence, a hurried press that seems to crush the air right out of me. There are flashes of memory that I can see so clearly even through my years-later-tears, that my breath catches in my chest . Moments where my heart literally pounds so hard that it makes my head ache. In these days leading to my personal moment of greatest grief my heart and mind seemingly shatter, and yet, as happened all of those years ago, the world screams to say; “carry on”.

There is no stopping. There is no chance to get off and sit on a bench while you catch your breath. When time immortal decided to stop for me I found that everyone else just kept on going. Perhaps you’ve learned this too. The worst has happened, your heart has broken, your world has seemingly ended…yet you walk outside and the sun is still shining, the wind is still blowing, the snow is still falling. Worse yet? Cars are still flying down the freeway! Bills still need to be paid! Pipes still burst! Had I been then the woman I am now I would have stood at the graveside and screamed. I would have cried out so loudly it would have stopped this damned world from it’s spinning. Just a moment in the still quiet air to inhale the fresh scent of pine. Maybe a day to sit in the snow and the slush at the graveside, not feeling as the frostbite settles in. Perhaps a week or two to ease in to the new way of the world’s spinning. Why is there no reintroduction period after deepest loss?


Yet there it is, isn’t it? I said it, in that last paragraph, did you catch it? “If I had been the woman then that I am now…”. Could I be the woman I am now if I hadn’t gone through the world’s ending? If I hadn’t seen time stop and pick up again on a different timeline would I be here, tapping out on these keys? Would I have ever have found the strength buried inside of me to leave the dark emptiness and the brokenness in my first marriage if I hadn’t known that time will stop again for me? Would I have ever had the courage to suggest we move away from the place I detest but the people I love if I had not already felt the deepest loss I will ever feel?

I know with aching certainty that I would not be here.

There is no possible way a person does not change who they are when faced with deepest loss. Or rather; there is no way a person does not find out who they fundamentally are when faced with deepest loss. It simply is not possible. In looking back I know that I would have made the same impossible decisions. I would have held my mother up as her strongest child and I would have not broken down with weeping until one of the strongest men I ever knew walked into the church that morning. I also see the shift in myself begin to take hold at this time.

True, it began a year or more before, but the heart change came with this loss. Knowing at that moment that I did not want to live a life where every day was like the one before, filled with belittling and maltreatment and fear. Or worse, filled with nothing; no passion, no excitement, no greatness. Knowing that while many people choose to never make a change, to stay where and who they are for safety’s sake, I could not be one of those people for even one more day. I began seeking a chance.

Because of this loss I know that I parent a little differently. I know that I “human” a little differently. I have this boy in the back of my mind at all times laughing and joy-filled… and then not. I know how quickly it can all be taken away. I know how quickly the joy can be pulled away. While I have been through it myself I still feel it is a pain I can not even fathom. If I focus too closely on the emotion I can not breathe. If I sit too still in the ache, the sobbing begins and I fear I may not be able to make it stop. The heartbreak of it is still raw and intense and now it comes at me from so many new angles.

I was a “sister” then, though I felt much like his mother for a lot of years. Now I am a mother and I can’t even let my mind go there for I fear I would not be able to come back with my sanity intact. I also have an oldest daughter who has a little brother and when I think of how the ache would feel for her my soul seems to split in two pieces. I am a wife, well I was then too, but I’m better at it now I think, at least I am a healthier one. I see how the loss would affect the man who struggled to be a good father to him. The man who struggled to be a father at all to him. Being the me I am now, makes all of the understanding quite overwhelming. It does not help me to know how I would feel in all of these different roles, it only breaks my heart in myriad new ways.

I am always wondering at the reasons I run, or the reasons I have run. I know it goes deeper than this string of days from thirteen years ago. I know it is rooted in how my childhood unfolded. I know that my choices in my early adulthood set me on my way. But this, the week I enter into every year on this day, this is more profound than any other single moment in my life. Even without the messed-up-edness that is my life experience, even with all of the situations you could look upon and say, “yep, that’s a big part of her why…”. The loss of my baby brother is the catalyst for change in me. It is my “No longer will I be afraid. No longer will I be ashamed. No longer will I be silent.”. It is also the deepest ache in my entire being and I wish to the heavens that it could be taken away.

Mint

Feeling a little like this wild mint today. It’s ready to grow…as long as it has some cover. Ready to send shoots up as long as the warm sun bounces off the house. Mint is always early at my house. Cropping up between driveway cracks and near the sidewalk. Anything growing yet where you are today?

It is Time.. .

It is time my friends.

Time for roaming to begin again.

Time for paths to be wandered.

Time for trails to be followed.

Time for roads to be rambled.

Spring is here and I am lost to the sunshine.

The ache of my heart is being stilled on bike rides and long ranging walks with my loves.

The longing of my soul is refreshed on the breezes of March. The wind blows and my mind clears out the cobwebs.

The season of adventures is upon me and I simply must go.

Get outside my friends. Light a fire, gaze after the moon, squish boots into the mud, breathe deep the clean air of a fresh season. Your very soul will thank you.

Surviving

the sun shines in my soul

the fire burns in the peace

The rum quiets the world

Today’s joy turned up in 27 degree weather while children were let back in the front door and I stood, eyes closed, face turned toward the light near a fire that will get me through the week.

Praying peace over y’all as I send this out…

The Seeking of Quiet in the Midst of Loud

Quiet is important to me. Having my own space to be alone so that I can think, holds value to me. I also really love being surrounded by my people. Having them near me, in the same room, while they do their own thing helps me feel the love we have for each other. As I was making dinner last night it struck me how independent my kids are, yet how much they want to be together. These three are still young. I know their desire for space and privacy will increase in the coming years, but I am very grateful for how much time we spend together.

The two of them, always right here.
Ignoring the world.
What we do while momma reads aloud.

If you’re new here you should know that we unschool our youngest three kids; this means that I spend every waking hour (and a lot of the ones when we should be sleeping too) with my kids. I read this stat recently that sort of blew my mind. In the article I’ve linked from the Washington Post they are discussing how quality time with your kids is better than the quantity of time spent with your kids. The fact that jumped out at me though was that the average mother spends 13.7 hours per week with her child. That’s not even two hours per day!

I know that some of you who read here don’t homeschool your kids and I know that the opinions I throw out here randomly have a tendency to irritate. This is just one chart after all, is there any truth behind it? A simple Google search will answer that question for you, probably in the exact way that you’d like the question answered too. The data field is filled with so much information that it is overwhelming. I am certain that there are a lot of parents who work outside of the home and who traditionally school their children who spend more than two hours per day with their kids. I’m not here judging any individual, rather America as a whole. Why is raising up children in the way they should go so seemingly, unimportant? Do we simply believe that someone else can do a better job growing our kids? Do we lack trust in ourselves? This is such a mystery to me.

The number got me wondering though. My kids are home, in my care all of the time. So I tried to add it all up and here’s my number of hours spent with at least one of my children per day: 13.5 . While I didn’t subtract out the occasional Sunday afternoon where I sneak out to write or read a book in complete,utter, and blessed silence. Or the hour I get on Monday mornings when I head over to pick up my girl. I also didn’t add in the multiple middle of the night wakings, the mornings when my teeny is awake at five AM or the evenings when I read to my kids until 9:30. So in case you didn’t see that number, I spend the average American mother’s weekly amount of time caring for her children in one day. That means I spend 94.5 hours with my kids every week.

As my boy used to say, Holy Maca-Roni!

I would argue that stat again here, stating that there is no way that the amount of time I spend with my kids does not influence them at least as much as the quality of our time together. When you give all of your waking hours to your little people there are going to be great, enriching, educational times. They are going to learn who they are and who they want to grow into. They will learn your values, morals, standards and decide if they want to internalize those same ideals or not simply because they are in your presence. They will also be bored. They will feel that things are not fair. They will always want more even when you believe you have poured out every, single last drop from your own pitcher.

Even now, before six AM, my teeny has come to snuggle in next to me. Stealing my time with her sweet little wants and needs. Of course, you’d be right in arguing that all of those 94 hours are not spent specifically on the caring-for of children. At least you’d not be entirely wrong. I have a friend who says; “It doesn’t matter that the kids are off playing on their own and I’m washing the dishes. I’m still “on”, still listening to them play, noticing the cues, realizing they’ll want a snack soon…”. I would describe my mothering as exactly this; giving my kids the freedom to seek God’s will for their lives while I am “on” at a distance. I’m here, all of the times they need or want me, but I send them out to be themselves as much as possible. It’s important to me to note that I have also spent a lot of hours guiding my kids in being independent, or, maybe, allowing independence to be the result of our activities, is a better way of putting it.

In this intense amount of time that I spend with my kids I have worked hard to teach them to be quiet. Not just for my own sanity, but for theirs. I feel like so many kids in this time really have no idea how to be alone with their own thoughts, how to sit with their own boredom and search out their own hearts. I spent a lot of mornings teaching my little boy that first thing in the morning we grab a blanket and a water bottle and snuggle into a chair with a good book. Now he does this throughout the day as he recognizes his own need for a little down time. I am grateful for the time I sacrificed to teach him this skill.

My oldest little frequently slips headphones over her ears and tears through the pages of a novel. She has discovered the need of silence on her own. Living in the middle of bigs and littles I suppose one should expect that. Now that my teeny is four I have been working to lead her to the want of quiet. She is currently resisting in a way only she can. She starts talking three minutes after she wakes and she is loud and opinionated for all of the minutes after that, right up until falls asleep next to me. If she is not vocally loud, she is desiring of all of my attention in other ways that cause me to be constantly aware of her presence. This is not a quiet child. Not yet.

I will continue to coax her toward her own space, her own time. I will invest in this because I see the value of it. When my older kids sit down alone with books or games or Legos in the afternoon, I know they are resetting for the rest of the day. They are giving themselves a bit of peace in a world that has devalued this. We try not to use the quiet time up with screens, though it does happen occasionally, because the nearly 100 awake hours in our week offer up plenty of time for that. I try to remind myself that in teaching them to be still and quiet I am giving them a gift to carry with them always. Because we practice this regularly, I trust that they will feel the value of silence even after they have followed their own paths away from me. They will seek it out, fight for it.

There are times I feel like my house is so loud. That I must escape the constant clamoring for my attention. When I am aware though, and not completely overwhelmed, I see each of them sit quietly for a few minutes throughout the day. I see the peace wash over them as they do this. I am able to soak a little of that peace up myself and I am glad. For them and for me. After all, let’s be honest here; Momma’s really do just need the quiet.

Peace to each of you this day. May you seek it out. May it make it’s home in you.

Growing Up

I’ve been watching my little girl become more grown up lately. She is moving at least as fast as I did, maybe even edging toward “grown” a little quicker. This has brought a lot of emotion from both of us. Really what has brought the emotion are the hormonal flares we have both been prone to these past months. Is it fair to her that I expect her to control her emotions when her hormones are pushing her into this strange and uncomfortable place…no. No it’s not. It seems my mantra over her has been something like “feel all of the feelings, but, to the best of your ability, be in control of them.”. This is a hard lesson to learn at age ten. It is a hard lesson to practice a couple of decades later as well.

I see me in her, I wonder if she does too?

I try, every damn day to let her grow into who she was created to be. My jaw cracks sometimes from all of the clenching of it I’ve done as I’ve bit my tongue and swallowed words, and prayed for the correct ones to come out. It is a fine line to walk when you know the mistakes that lay in wait for your child. A harder walk to take when you parent a “stubborn” child, one who wants to learn all of the things in the most experiential way allowed that she can create for herself. I have done my very best to not over-protect her from her young life, some would be justified in saying that I’ve really thrust her into a few hard things myself. When I look at this girl I see the fire burning behind a thin film of uncertainty.

Do all parents feel this for or about their kids?

When you have a smart kid, a girl who knows enough to know that life is going to be hard, at ten years old, but still chooses to see all of the joy? This is a gift. I’ve often wondered over how quickly children can forgive and forget, but for her to see my continued failings, to see my mistakes, my short-comings and for her to still count her life as joy? That is not from me to be sure. I have to work every day to find the joy, I write it down in my notebook, numbering the little things that make me smile. Sometimes listing things that simply didn’t make me scream or cry. She has it in her. That notebook is in her head, and she seems to instantly count off the good, good gifts that she is given each day. I admire this in her so much. I pray that she holds this inside of her heart as she grows, that this gift isn’t pushed out by all that life will try to fill her with.

When this same girl puts herself out there again and again, when she is bold and quiet, silly and sweet, peace and the storm…It is good to sit and reflect over her childhood as she moves, almost visibly, into the next phase of life. I have no rose-colored glasses over how her early teens will proceed. I feel like I only just exited this stage of life, I remember all too well how hard I was for my own mother. I am cautiously optimistic that I will give her the freedom she needs to grow into who she is while keeping any really negative things from falling in her path. I have no actual idea as to how I will do this, I’m sure I’ll mess it up a few times.

What she really needs though?

I think I know what she really needs. I know because I know what I lacked, what I had in abundance, and what I deeply wanted. While her needs and her life are (quite) different from mine I don’t doubt a bit that I know what I need to do for her. The question is if I will be able to do what needs doing. In providing stability and security and safety I hope to create in her a sense of trust. Trust in her own ability, in me always being there for her, in the circle she creates for herself. In allowing her to make choices for her own future I hope she sees that I trust her as well and that she will grow more confident because of that feeling.

In homeschooling this child I can see that I have given her more of what she needs. With the blended up family we have there have been hard days, difficult siblings, sadnesses that she really shouldn’t have had to deal with. By keeping her home and doing life with her every day-or at least most of them- I feel like we are able to manage all of these things together. We have worked to grow our community of people who love her, people who help her learn and deal with it all and become herself. We spend less time apart so we know each other well, we don’t have too many secrets and I hope that continues to be the case as she gets herself into more and more situations that she may want to hold close.

I did not intend to write about my girl today.

Some days when the weight of all that I let pile on my momma shoulders is just too much, I suppose it is natural to think back to where it began, or rather at who started me on this mothering journey. She is not the cause of my stress, don’t misunderstand, rather she is the reason I so willingly endure it. The tiny girl who surprised me with early signing, early walking, early talking, she taught me that I was absolutely not in control of what would come next or when it would come. When I look back I see that I have learned more from her about who I am and who I want to be than I have probably taught her so far. Perhaps in her teens that will shift and I can actually teach her a little about life…I have a feeling not though. She continues to teach me about how I parent and about what is good, and right, and holy.

I am lighter as I reach this final paragraph. My heart has been overfull with mothering the past few weeks, and it has been good to reflect a little here. It is good to stop and remember your “why” from time to time I suppose. She is my first “why”, I’ve been given four more since her, I do not take that responsibility lightly. I also don’t take my importance in this too seriously. She (they) will all do just what she needs to do in this life. After all they were not created in my image, but God’s, His path for them isn’t lit all the way to the end, there are plenty of twists and turns ahead. Places she (they) will stumble, valleys where I can stoop low and hold out an experienced hand. Darknesses where I can murmur that I’ve been there or simply sit with them in that place of uncertainty. My life, my place in her life is simple; I will walk beside, as quietly as I can be, supporting and guiding as she needs or allows. The roots of the tree of her.

And that? That is just enough.

I am hopeful that you got just what you needed from the rambling today. It seems those of you who need it usually do. Peace in where you are today.

I’ve Done it Again

So, I’ve done it again. Waited too long to take a step back. I felt it building today as I tried to convince a teeny to eat some teensy bit of good food.

I lost it with her and we laid down for a nap together instead of carrying on.

I got out this afternoon, thanks to God and a sweet husband. What this means to all of you dear people who continue to follow my ramblings is that there should be a bit of my story in your inbox tomorrow morning.

I’ll be thinking of each of you and the story I continue to tell each time I get to sit with my laptop and cuppa. That it’ll reach you, that it means something, that you know who’s you are.

Heading back home able to breathe a little easier, with less weight on my shoulders. I hope this same feeling for all y’all this night as well.

A Deeper Sense of Community

I write about community quite often. About how children can not thrive without a group of supportive people, how each of us needs a tribe to call our own. Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed how much the women in my own circle have grown closer. I feel like I am a little on the outside because we are off adventuring so much, and while this makes me a teensy bit sad, I can still feel the shift and it brings me so much joy. Some of us need it more than we would even care to admit.

I have frequently felt like the group of women that I’ve come to call mine through homeschooling is special, we are not a bunch of moms who get together regularly so that our kids have normal-ish friendships and educational opportunities. Well, we are that. More than that though the women I homeschool with are friends, helpers, sisters…some of them are like silly aunties to my kids. Others are trusted adults who can be relied upon in difficult circumstances. To me though, the women in this group are simply what keep me going on days when it’s hard to do so.

Over the few years that I’ve known them, these friends of mine have gone through a lot. There has been so much life lived and when one (or more) of these women has struggled, I’ve seen them lifted up again and again. As a group we have cleaned each others houses, we have sat with tears, we have pulled weeds, we have welcomed babies, we have brought meals and watched each others kids. Most of the time these things have been done without anyone asking, for some reason I am surrounded by this group of women who simply want to do life together. They are such an answer to prayer.

Recently I was feeling like I couldn’t do this thing-that-needed-doing in my life. In the past I would have talked to God, talked to my husband, probably not have done the thing. This time though, I did something else. I still brought it to God first. My husband and I did talk it over and he encouraged me to move forward, I was still afraid. I was afraid of angry words coming back to me, of a harshly worded “no”. So, I reached out to my circle. I told a few friends what I needed to do and what my fear was and they all spoke words of support and encouragement to me. I did the thing-that-needed-doing and the answer that I received was not nearly as scary as I had anticipated it being. There is still a road to walk there, but my point is that I would not have confidently taken that first step if not for these wonderful friends.

In reaching out a couple of other things happened too, other needs were exposed. Other hurts touched on. Conversations were had that maybe otherwise wouldn’t have happened. In other circles of women we worry. We worry about being judged. We worry that we are not enough and that we are too much and that we can never, ever, in a million years live up to the invisible standard of the group. I am blessed by the opposite of that. I’m not exactly sure how I came to know these moms, these teachers, these women, but I am oh-so-glad that I have them in my life.

I wonder how I will give this to my kids. I wonder if I even can give it to them. Will they hold tight to the friends that they have now? Growing together in their friendships as they grow in size. Will I instill in them a deep need to not do life alone, will they feel it in the very soul of themselves and seek out this same sort of circle as they move out into the world? I hope so. I want it for them, not only because I don’t want them to be lonely, but because life is so much better lived in this community! It is so freeing to know that I don’t have to keep all of the plates spinning, that I have friends who will come along and give one a spin if it starts to wobble. Better? When a plate falls they’ll be there to help me clean it up, help me to realize that I’m still me without that one. I want my littles to know this, now and as they interact more with the wider world.

This morning I went back and forth with a few friends, it’s funny how much we all struggle the same as mommas. Same frustrations over kids not listening and then our own yelling. Same doubt; whether over a mom we feel does this gig better than us or if our schooling choice is the right one. Same worry; sometimes our kids are hard to understand or we don’t feel like we’re good enough to parent them. This is normal, I have these conversations often. More than these though, in this circle of mine we go deep.

There have been conversations over death. Broken hearts and broken marriages. Sickness. Jobs lost and gained. Our inability to do this SAHM life for one more minute without a change….More even than this these women don’t just talk about these things together we have silently made the pact that we will walk these struggles together. We will be there when the times are good and when they really couldn’t get much worse.

I suppose all that I am really saying here is “Thank you.”.

And so I will take a moment and a paragraph of your time to thank the women who have accepted me in spite of all of my flaws.

Friends, this group is something I have prayed for since I was in my early twenties. I have wanted to have friends who felt like sisters since I moved away from my actual sisters. Thank you for welcoming me in and making me one of yours. Thank you for bringing out the best in me over and over again. Thank you for listening to my worry, for talking through schooling options and sensory concerns and hearing me when the anxiety has gotten the best of my heart. Thank you for opening up your homes and your hearts and for sharing your deepest, truest selves. I love you all and I am so thankful to have you to do this life with. Thank you for never letting me feel judged in any way. I was once afraid to share details of my previous life, I know now that there is very little I could do or say to cause you women to leave my side. You are a blessing to me, a gift, an anchor when the seas get high. Thank you seems not enough, but it is what I have, and so I will say it again, “Thank you”.

If you do not have a group of women who welcome you into safe, uplifting, life-giving relationships please let me know. I will pray with you over your circle, you are not meant to walk this life alone. If you’re in my circle and you don’t feel this way, please reach out. I want little more than for you to know the peace and joy that is this type of friendship.

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One Good Day

Today was a good day. It was actually one of an overwhelming many. This Summer has been blissful. We have gone places I haven’t been in twenty years (am I old enough to say that? What the hell happened?!). We have gone places I’ve never been. It has been a season of awesome and I am in love with it.

I know that I’ve been MIA lately. I haven’t really known what I want to share and what I want to let soak in deep. I deliberately haven’t kept my phone on this Summer because I wanted so badly to just “be” with my people in the moments. I’ve questioned that a few different times, but mostly I’ve really loved not worrying about catching the perfect shot and simply noticing the minuscule details instead. I’ve enjoyed not jumping on Facebook to share something with people who probably don’t care and also probably don’t need anything else to compare their own lives against.

The wandering has gotten deeper and slower and free-er (just go with it) I’d say. Today I took my littles to a state park that we hadn’t yet seen. We ran up and rolled down. We splashed and sloshed. We looked for the tiny things and we were repeatedly rewarded.

As I watched my three littles run on ahead of me I was struck by how much this is life. I walked, at different times today, holding the hand of each of these children. Each one walked beside me, held my attention and my gaze for a few moments at a time. All three though, took off boldly over rises, darted down steep hills, ran ahead on smooth, grassy paths.

That’s what we do as mommas, isn’t it? Hold their hands for just a little while…mine become more independent by the day. Then they run off, unafraid of the world, certain that they can take on anything that comes their way. Running back from time to time for a squeeze or to show off a treasure. Needing to be picked up once or twice as they stumble over roots and their own feet. Mostly just moving, climbing, leaning, looking ever forward.

I want this for them. As they grow and change I want them to deeply know that they’ve the ability to do all of the things. That I’ll be here when they mess up, with a tight hug but not with harsh judgement. To trust that I will still pick them up, brush off the dirt, dry their eyes and send them onward into the big world. Know that I will be genuinely excited over the things they bring back to me, the rocks, the sticks- that-become-wands will change I’m sure. Morph into complexities I can’t yet foretell. I will always want to see, always share the wonder.

They will do more than I can do in this life. They will do it better. This makes me cry a little to know that it’s true, but…to know that they’ll be their truest selves so much sooner than I was, to know that because of my own wildness they’ll be stronger, smarter, more real…well, it gives a Momma peace about her own small space to fill.

It helps me to stay quiet for now too. Storing up these treasures in my heart like Mary did (Luke 2:19). Today I am full of peace and I am so very grateful to be here.