Friday, May 17, 2013

The Day

Several years ago, I noticed that May 17 was an important day in my life.

31 years ago today, I graduated from high school and then got to spend four weeks in Europe on a church trip that made the transition from high school teenager to college freshman. I'm still in touch with many of the others who also made that trip. In fact, one of them is now my banker and we had a great conversation in his bank just yesterday.

Four years later, I graduated from the University of Iowa, like my uncle and grandfather before me. I sat at graduation with Jay, a friend I met on my very first day on campus.

I went on a first date on May 17 with the guy I married. Vietnamese food and a walk around the Old Market. Five years later, we had our wedding rehearsal dinner on May 17.

Seventeen years ago tomorrow, I got married. A hot day with armloads of peonies. Lots of promise for a long and happy life.

And then there was the May 17 when I was overwhelmed at Ron's funeral. He will always be 35. In the midst of that grief, my toddler son took his first steps across Grandma's deck.

So, here I am at May 17 again.

In my wildest dreams, I could never have envisioned where I would be today and what my life would look like.

I had an amazing time catching up last June with the class of 1982. I will see my college roommate in just a few short weeks in California. And no one gets married thinking that they are going to be the couple that doesn't beat the odds and ends up divorced.

In 1996, I could not have known that I'd be working at an incredible job that is rarely the same everyday, with extraordinary people I truly love. I would have been shocked that I would find myself a single mom doing double duty with two amazing kids. So many of my friends in Grinnell are people I've only known since I moved here seven years ago and my life is so much richer for it.  The new people in my life, those I have reconnected with, and solid friends who have been hugely important to me all along are my foundation.

May 17 is now known as The Day. I feel a little like Caesar on March 15, visited by spirits and whispers of, "Beware!" All the memories of The Day surround me and it's always good. Today, I will honor The Day with self care and a 60 minute end-of-the-day massage, a lot of reflection, maybe a little crystal ball gazing, all most certainly with complete gratitude.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Sunday in May

I'm not a big fan of Mother's Day. I'm not all that excited about baseball, either. I do like apple pie.

Yeah, born and bred American.

Last year, I finally came out with my thoughts on Mother's Day. It was risky. I mean, who doesn't like Mother's Day? Who could possibly find fault with something that honors mothers? Seriously?

I wrote, "A Little Rant for Mother's Day" last year. Still pretty much my feelings about the holiday. And then this week, one of my pastors posted this: "A Non-Mom Speaks About Mother's Day" and I found a kindred spirit. In addition to my mom, I have a stepmom, and several who have been heart moms, modeling mothering for me. I'm pretty lucky.

And when it comes to being a mother myself, there is no one else I'd rather be than mom to John and Emily.

I'm having a Mother's Day weekend with my kids, my mother and stepdad. It's a lovely spring weekend and there is much to celebrate. There'll be a strawberry rhubarb cobbler for tomorrow night's dessert and my son will grill burgers for us. And I am grateful.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Everyday humanity

letting go...The past month has been a rather intense stretch of time. It's not often, mercifully, that all areas of my life require much more than their usual fair share of attention at the same time. It felt a little like trying to cook a holiday meal with a hot plate. The recent events were all big, and big enough that I couldn't multi-task my way through. They each needed my undivided time. And, that's exactly how it happened. One event completed, an ever-so-brief moment of feet-up, and the next situation appeared.

In the midst of difficult and challenging situations, some pretty amazing things happened. I found myself engaging with people who needed to pour themselves out. I just happened to be the one who made the invitation to be a listener.

Recently, Donna Schaper posted a quote from poet Greg Kumera, who wrote, "The world needs your cargo as much as you need to lose it."Schaper is a writer for the UCC Daily Devotional. You can read her full post here. Schaper's words seem to illustrate what's been going on in my life lately. People need to talk, to share, to dump their cargo, leave past hurts and disappointments behind.

And while I'm listening and being present, I'm also receiving. Not their baggage, but their respect. They have honored me with their trust. What an amazing thing it is to trust another and what a gift to give as well. Trust in someone else seems to be a difficult thing to earn these days. To be willing to be human, to open up, and to share.

It's also a big task to be the listener. To hold someone's feelings, memories, and stories in a way that honors them and keeps it about them. It's tempting to want to fix and make things right or to take on their story. That's not what this is about. This is about listening and being present for them. It's not an easy task and I found myself thinking of all the "professional listeners" in my life. I have a deeper appreciation for their ability to be fully present, yet remain detached. There's a lot of hurt in these conversations.

I invite you to take a chance. Find someone you can trust and open up.And by all means, if you are honored to be chosen a listener, take it seriously. Be human about it all. Allow yourself to feel what it's really like. And  then do it again.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Yes, it's going to be alright

I hadn't heard the sump pump kick on after days of rain and I was starting to wonder if it was dead. I visited with a dear friend who knows about stuff like this and he told me how to troubleshoot the situation. After I had Googled "sump pump won't start," I felt a little less intimidated about it all.

But last night, I needed to actually get down there and check on it. When I got down to the basement, I saw water pouring in through the basement window from the torrential downpour we were having. I did all the right things - the wet/dry vac, moved things out of the way, made sure the dehumidifier was on full steam, opened the lid on the sump. I was handling the situation. I Was On It.

But I had this naggling feeling that I wasn't. I had this sense of indictment.

"This is all your fault. If you had just cleaned out those gutters like you knew you were supposed to do, this wouldn't be happening. What do you spend all your time doing anyway? This is going to end up costing you
 a lot of money and you could have prevented it. Way. To. Go."

Arrgh. Truth is, the whole situation could have been much worse. It was really pretty well contained and I was taking care of it. It did require a troubleshooting phone call to my personal MacGuyver who talked me down off the ledge and in a very clear and matter of fact way walked me through the steps of dealing with the sump, which did pump after all. He reassured me that everything was going to be okay and giving me that  reassurance was just as important as the "how-to."

But that crazy voice in my head. Not long ago, that voice played in my head a lot. I'll bet you have that same tape, too. It's a best-seller, unfortunately. We can knock ourselves down so easily and so well that we often don't even realize that we are doing it. I haven't heard that indicting voice for a long time, so when I do it is startling, self-abusive, and scary.

Take a moment to listen to the tapes in your head. Do they build you up more than they tear you down? Would you talk to someone you love like that? Of course not. So why do we talk that way to ourselves?

Habits, voices from our past, unrealistic expectations of ourselves, and more contribute to this self-deprecating soundtrack in our minds. And what's worse, we believe it! What does this negative self-talk actually do for us anyway? It tells us that we can't do it right, we are to blame, we are not enough as we are, blah, blah, blah.

That serves no one. Not ourselves and certainly not the people who love us. The next time you hear that tape in your head, know that without a doubt, you have the power to stop it. Take a breath and tell yourself that you are doing it right, there is no blame to be assigned, and that yes, you are most certainly enough.

The basement is still slightly damp, but it's going to be fine. I know now how to check out the sump pump and what to do if its not working properly. I know that if I don't clean out the gutter when the sun is shining, I may be cleaning it out in the pouring rain. And most importantly, I know that I am strong and yet willing to admit I need reassurance once in a while that everything is going to be okay.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Is the grass really greener over there?

I found this on one of the best blogs I have ever read in my life. If you need a little inspiration, please check it out. Just click on the picture!My family and I are planning a trip to San Francisco in a few weeks. The stars and planets are lining up and I do feel like I have won the lottery. It's a unique and glorious situation that's making this happen. We're traveling with one of our Grinnell grandmas to see other close friends who live there. I'll also get to see one of my college roommates and her husband who live in the area. Whenever we talk or she visits me in Iowa, she often adds the line, "You'll want to move here. You will." I've never been interested in living far from Iowa, but it does intrigue me from time to time, especially as I grow older. And as my children grow and move into their own lives, it holds a certain kind of pull for me.If I were to move to another part of the country I'd never been to before, I think it would serve to make me appreciate Iowa even more. It's not because I see the grass as somehow greener or opportunities better or that by starting over once again would somehow finally make life right. I would go because I was curious, not to escape. 
In my life, I've been in places where I have had to start over. If I didn't, I'd continue to live life in a waking coma. Just going through the motions. Instead of packing up and moving on, which I could not do even if I wanted to, I actually had to face the issues. Where I needed to go, was inside. And I learned that that is a much more demanding journey than to find a new place to live. Truth is, had I just decided that I'd be happier living somewhere else, I would never find that place. The issues, the past hurts, the disappointments and brokenness would also be coming with me along with my furniture and boxes of household stuff. No matter where I'd end up, I'd still be feeling unfulfilled and left wanting. 

I have a lot of living to do in the next several years with my kids at home and getting them on their way in the world. Considering what comes next in my life is as intriguing as seeing what my kids consider what's next for them. What I do know is that these days, I'm traveling a lot lighter from the inside. I've shed a lot of my cargo and I am living more authentically than I ever have. I know that wherever life takes me, I'm healthy and well, ready to continue on the journey. 

Is the grass greener on the other side of the fence? Or is it that they've taken better care of their lawn?