Sunday, November 16, 2014

Giving up on balance

A couple of weeks ago, my son asked me why I bring my geraniums inside and not just let them go with the other annuals.

Because there are mornings like this when winter arrives like an unexpected guest and the coral blossoms warm up the room.

The first snowfall of the season and my neighbor men have been dutifully out blowing away the good two inches of snow since 7:30 a.m. Yes, it's just two inches and I get that they enjoy using their toys.

I have read a couple of articles this week with similar threads. Our Mommy Problem from the NY Times, November 9, 2014 and this in the Huffington Post, The Word Elizabeth Gilbert Says Women Use as a Weapon Against Themselves.

To me, both speak volumes about the truly unrealistic expectations we can place on ourselves as women, regardless of whether or not we have children. It can be hard to say no when we are asked to do something we think is important or something that we would just have fun doing, but simply do not know how to wedge it into our already overscheduled lives.

So, we feel guilty. We feel guilty and we feel like our lives are not enough or way too much as we currently live them. We seek to find "balance" because we are told to take care of ourselves. And our children. And our relationships. And our family. And our jobs. And our homes. And our churches, faith communities, PTAs, civic groups.  Work-life balance. Mind-body-spirit balance. The yin and yang of marriage to see one's partner as more than a roommate and someone who shares the housework and bills.

The thing is, it is all a construct of our own making, and that of popular American culture. You do have a choice. You've been choosing this life you have all along. And if you find that this one you are living is more about what you think you should be doing (should is another word to get rid of, imho) because it's what others expect, then by all means ask yourself what is important to you. Not what is important to what others expect of you. Only you know who those people are in your life who matter most. They love you enough to be true to yourself.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

I touched it

In June of 1982, I touched it.

Today, 25 years later, we remember when it fell in 1989.

As a 17 year old girl, freshly graduated from Red Oak Community High School, I went on a trip with other Iowa teenagers from United Church of Christ congregations. We were learning about the heritage of our denomination by going to the source.

I remember the train ride leaving a modern and somewhat familiar West German countryside and entering East Germany. Armed soldiers boarded the train to check our passports and it was an experience unlike any other we tender and sheltered rural Iowans had ever known before.

West Berlin was an island of western culture and freedom, until you reached the edges of the city. Until you saw the white crosses of remembrance with dates past and very recent along the fence that lined the river Spree.

Until you saw the imposing concrete slab of division.

Until you saw the concertina wire.

Until you saw the strip known as No Man's Land where any intruder would be immediately shot.

No, we knew none of this in anything we had ever experienced before.

We traveled into East Berlin and were required to exchange our West German pfennig coins with heft and weight in the palm of our hands for East German coins made of aluminum or tin. Their value equally light. We were required to spend the entire sum, which was a little hard to as I recall. I bought a small calendar and some postcards to carry with me back to Iowa.

East Berlin was exquisite in its beauty. The Soviets wanted the stunning architecture that survived the wars for themselves. Whereas West Berlin had been rebuilt from the devastation of bombs, the Wall carefully claimed the amazing churches and cathedrals that withstood the war.

Until you saw the piles of rubble around the corner that had not been moved in 40 years.

I remember that morning in 1989, waking up to see revelers standing on the wall, standing within the Brandenburg Gate. I remembered how only seven years before, the wall was as permanent as the mountains. I remember crying in my shock and surprise.

I am so grateful for that time in Berlin at an age where extraordinary experiences have lifelong implications. And grateful that it was as close as I have ever been to war.

Monday, November 3, 2014

And there was a little girl with blonde curls

Few things will sober a parent more than a morning spent in a pediatric specialty clinic at a major university hospital. I am most grateful that we were there for allergy testing, nothing serious at all. Many other children and their families were there for more involved and serious medical issues.

And there was a little girl, with blonde curls, maybe three years old. She appeared in the doorway of the lab where my son was having blood drawn. She wore a pair of black tights and nothing else save the two cotton balls taped to the inside of each elbow. Alone, she quietly scootched her way past the door, her parents a few slow steps behind her. 

I thought of them and felt guilty for my gratitude, hoping that perhaps her visit was not for something serious. A few minutes later, we moved on to another exam room, and down the hall, I saw her scootch by again, alone. And then later her parents. She seemed more at home in the clinic than I wanted her to be, this girl with a head full of blonde curls.