May 25, 2014

"Happy" Memorial Day??

While I’m no stranger to opinions, there’s a difference between opinions and OPINIONS. And OPINIONS are a little scary and shaming sometimes, and I’m not a big fan of shaming. It’s become kind of a bummer to me as I have noticed the seasons and cycles of shaming as they correlate to the seasons and cycles of life. For every holiday, event, or opinion, someone will find a way to throw some shame around, and I think that’s a bummer because holidays are to be felt by each one individually, and if it brings pain, well, we certainly don’t need it amplified by OPINIONS on the internet.

Therefore I particularly enjoyed my friend Mark’s take on Memorial day. You should go read his stuff here; it’s really good. And a big debt of gratitude to those who have died so that we can enjoy our time together with love and freedom.
Tomorrow, Memorial Day, is never about sales of T-shirts, ball games, a day off work, or coupons. Yet, it’s about all those things.

It is a day of deep deep love. A day when a group of people, most by their own choosing, stood up and said, "Send me." Then, in that choice, they wrote their epitaph. Today, if asked, they would not have it any other way, because they know. They know what they bought for the rest of us.

So, enjoy what you have. Enjoy the weather, the barbecue, the laughter, the sleeping in. It was purchased by a few, a happy few, a band of brothers and sisters, who now simply smile at their check writing skills.

May 23, 2014

Gummy Bear?

There's a saying that goes around in the moms-of-young-kids crowd. Something to the effect of "the days are long but the weeks are short," or "the days are long but the years are short," or something like that.  Obviously this is a nice way of imploring parents to look up for a moment and be aware of where they are, and take it in, even the gross/difficult/painful/maddening/eyeball-poking parts, because way too soon it will be memories. I talk with moms of grown kids often and without exception they say it flies by.

I just want to go on record and say that my days are not long, and it is all flying by. Every single day.  Now I assume this doesn't feel true for everyone, but I also know I'm not the only one. Perhaps it is some sort of supernatural mercy from God because he knows there is only a certain amount of poo I can handle in a single day, and if my days were any longer there would be a serious breach of the poo quota, and the household would dissolve into poo anarchy or something; I dunno.  He also sees how we handle the witching hour, and I think maybe he knows that once the children start screaming the only answer is to bathe them and send them to bed, so I would be gratefully unsurprised if he were shaving a few minutes off somewhere in there, because from 3 pm on it is a break-neck pace around the Skerrib house.

Every week I sit with my calendar for a few minutes and write down the major activities of each day. This is to avoid missing appointments and such, and is about 80% effective (but not foolproof, as I've found a few times). Sunday evenings I will look toward Friday and think it is Sooooo far away, but like 10 minutes later here I am late Thursday evening wondering where the week went.

I mean, I know where it went--I can break each day into 1-2 hour blocks and tell you pretty much what I was doing during each one, and which ones I used to preserve mental health instead of tackling another task.  Which ones I did what I planned or at least "should have done," and which ones went a little wonky due to outside forces (poo or otherwise).

This is all to say, I know. I see it. My crazies are shooting up out of the ground like little dandelions, way too fast. His Highness is getting all leggy and moving toward bigger boy-ness, and the Littler One scales shelves like Spiderman. As for Tiny E, somehow she picked up complete sentences from her brothers and enjoys informing me how things are going to be: "No mom, I wanna sit here," and so on.

I find myself thinking about Ferris Bueller's advice--"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it," and I think he was definitely onto something, even (or maybe especially) for those of us in the young kids season.

Heck, who am I kidding. Just because I deal with poo more than average doesn't give me some sort of special life standing or unique insight (except for the poo itself--I really do have a lot of knowledge and experience with it).  Ferris's advice is good for everyone, at any stage.

It's Friday, kids. Take a look around and see where you are. Make note of it. Then go forth and do something (or maybe nothing? On purpose?) to mark it somehow...

May 14, 2014

So Many Things, So Little Time...

In the past, oh, 6 months or so I’ve been loosely following Shauna Niequist. Daughter of Bill & Lynne Hybels, and a contributor to Donald Miller’s Storyline blog, she’s talked a lot of late about passion, and squeezing in passion amid even the busy young childhood years.  This really speaks to me as I continue to sort out life, and kids, and family, and such.

Well, today she posted here about how one goes about finding passion. While I have baggage about the word 'passion,' I think the process she wrote about is a really good idea, because while there are lots of things I enjoy dabbling in, I am acutely aware that each day has a limited time, and if I go chase rabbit trails it’s much harder than in the pre-kid years to go back and make up the missed things later. So some of what I’ve been mulling over lately is what are the things that I really love and really don’t want to do without, and what are the rabbit trails that can be put away, even if only for a while. And right away, I crossed off Jesus, which sounds horrible and anti-Christian, but it’s like asking people what books they would take on a desert island, and having everyone answer “Bible.” Yes, it’s probably the truth, but it doesn’t necessarily speak into the finer points of one’s personality.

So, to be clear: I love Jesus the most, and count on him for all things identity, salvation, and overall guidance in life and beyond. And thankfully he (or at least the Holy Spirit; I’m not fully clear on the mechanics of the Trinity) is with me no matter what I’m doing, so we’ll leave him as a very important assumed priority. Good? Good. 

Beyond that? Elizabeth Gilbert gave a really cool little TED talk, which made me think back to a conversation I had with my friend Weezer a few years ago, when she asked me what was the one thing in life that made me feel most alive and like myself (everyone should have a friend like Weezer who asks questions like that). And like I said, there are lots of things I enjoy dabbling in. I have a bit of a fear of missing out, so I’ll try most anything at least once, and I usually find something skillful or enjoyable about most things (among notable exceptions for me are knitting and sales; trust me on this, the entire world is better off when Skerrib is doing most anything other than those things). 

But as I said before, my list of “musts” has been whittled away over the years. I don’t read much grown-up fiction these days; not necessarily because I don’t enjoy it, but because when forced to choose I prefer non-fiction for myself, and I adore exploring kid-lit of all types with my crazies. Check. Music is really important to me, but outside of practicing for drumming, I don’t do much new cultivation of my listening repertoire (which makes me a little sad, but thankfully I can live somewhat vicariously through the Cat Daddy’s musical wanderings). Check.

Drumming itself has stayed on the list, as has writing, even though the frequency is greatly diminished. And back in the conversation with Weezer, I very nearly said “drumming” as my number one thing. But I didn’t, because there is one thing that edges out drumming (and writing), and that is running.

In the talk above, Gilbert talks about the one thing you would do, no matter what. No matter if anyone was watching, or even knew that you did it. And just to clarify, I love drumming and writing almost as much as running. Depending on the day it really can be a tough call. But when I think about bad days, where I am getting a lot of guff from my minions and am maybe even in a little pain from my back stuff, and probably overall just feeling like poo, nothing makes it better like pounding out a few miles. And on good days, nothing makes me a ball of cheesy grinning goo more than a good run. Writing is awesome for getting my thoughts out, but running helps me form the thoughts into something comprehensible; otherwise I'd sit down to write and come up with one word sentences and a lot of unfocused whining. So I guess running helps me whine with purpose. Or something.

Anyway, you likely already knew that about me and the running. So as it turns out, without meaning to, I've kind of followed Shauna's process for fitting it in, so perhaps I get a gold star or something. It seems like many of my thoughts these days are simply the sifting through things I know are already true, and deepening them somehow. Or rather maybe seeing my same old life expressed in new ways, or even just realizing that professionals like Donald Miller and Shauna Niequist are regular people too, trying to find their way and live a good story (TOTALLY swiped that from Donald Miller).

I suppose my encouragement to you today is to look at what is already in your life, and see what you are fitting in without necessarily realizing it.  There is SO MUCH I want to do and try, but when I look around and take stock a little, I see those things I've managed to squeeze in, and it both reassures me and helps me be deliberate about the things and people I love. 

And when in doubt, the pace isn't important. Just put one foot in front of the other and go...

May 9, 2014

Confessional Snippets on Thursday (but really Friday) (#CST)...

I've been seeing a lot of something called Throwback Thursday (#TBT) on Facebook. This is of course where people post old photographs with a short description, and friends reply with comments like "OMG, that was the best time I can't remember!" and "Dude, you had hair!" and other nostalgia-stirring sentiments.  From what I've seen the timeframe is deliberately arbitrary; that is, "old" can mean last week, last year, last decade, last century, etc.

As much as I enjoy it, I haven't jumped on the #TBT bandwagon yet. This is mostly due to pure laziness on my part. I keep thinking "I should do that." Someday this will lead to my digging out an old photo and posting it. In this case, "someday" is about as precise as "old."

Instead I have been mulling over some areas in life where I've come to some realizations. Some are more serious than others, but regardless I felt it would be good to share in the spirit of full disclosure, shared humanity, and all such things.

--After nearly 3 years since this post, I came to the conclusion that it was time to go back on the meds. It was a good run with the help of St John's Wort and healthy habits, but I finally got to the point where I was triple-duple Exhausted and wanting to cry at the injustices of things like being responsible for small children and needing to bathe/groom each day, so that was my signal to ask for help.  I started out thinking I would find a counselor but when even that proved overwhelming, I went to the doc, reasoning I could pick her brain and go from there. Well, long story short, I walked out with the meds, resigned and mildly sad because I hate needing help, but also relieved because I knew I'd be feeling better soon. These days I'm more closely resembling Awesome Skerrib and while I have a little lingering reservation and baggage about it, boy do I feel better.

I mulled over whether I would share this part because of the stigma still associated with meds and depression/anxiety in some circles, but I've found over time that as I share my own experiences, it seems to encourage others who might have dealt with similar things. Addie also shared a great post, and said it better than I can, so I encourage you to pop over there if you are so inclined...

--I think I may be at a point in life where I have ceased (or at least significantly decreased) my struggle with fashion sense. That is not so much to say I have become more stylish, but rather that I am making peace with where I stand with regard to the world of fashion. Mostly that I like wearing classic cotton fashions (i.e., jeans and funny tees) and staying vaguely up to date, but I don't have the inclination to put the energy into a lot of accessorizing, or synthetic fabrics, or fashion feng shui, or anything like that.

Not that there's anything wrong with those things. I know some lovely and well-groomed people, and they are fantastic. It just goes with the whole idea that there are so many things in life, and everyone chooses the things which are important to them, and it may be easier and more honest to admit that my fashion and style effort quota is somewhere around a 4 out of 10, where 10 is "makes a magazine photo-quality ensemble--including heels--out of fish bones, a ripped grocery bag, and twine," and 1 is "wears only a ripped grocery bag and faded fuchsia Polo out of intense disdain for all things visual."

All that said, it could be that this is merely a season, and things will change, or at least evolve over the years. Like when all the kids are in school full time and I go back into a working-outside-of-the-house setting (or not), or some such cause for putting on makeup on days other than Easter or date nights.

Just kidding. I don't wear makeup on most date nights either...

--I know parents are important and all that, but in recent years I've come to ponder nature (as opposed to nurture) for a variety of reasons. One of these reasons is those occasions where, despite our mostly-civilized familial standards, I find my kids acting like complete and total ruffians.  I like to think we have a pretty balanced approach to most things. For example we eat fairly healthy for the most part, but still keep around a little bit of junk food, and of course the kids are inundated with opportunities for treats anytime we set foot outside the house. Sort of along the line of "don't give it to them every meal, but don't completely deprive them either, and it won't be a big deal."

While I like to think I'm pretty laid back about this approach, somehow it has resulted in three children who act like starving, obsessed creatures anytime they sense they are within a 15 foot radius of junk food. I buy dessert treats for His Highness's lunchbox, but he hardly ever gets to eat them because the Littler One will sneak downstairs, sometimes in the middle of the night, climb the pantry shelves, and gorge himself on the hidden desserts. And this is after he has already had his portion of the package. So we talk a lot about not hogging stuff, sharing with the family, community property, and such (e.g. "Were you raised by wolves??"), but I am still bewildered by their ragamuffin ways sometimes.

Of course, then we have moments like tonight. Tiny E was munching on a graham cracker and set it aside in favor of something much more interesting. I assumed (and we all know what happens when one assumes things) she was finished, and helped myself rather than let it go to waste. Well, I'd gotten it down to one and a half of the little rectangle segments when she came back in looking for her graham cracker, and she was entirely disappointed with her remaining portion. I was very honest with her, as I am with the boys when I tell them "Hey when Mom gives you food, you'd better eat it, because if I find it lying around I'll take it for myself." Like a starving, obsessed creature...

--I was introduced to TED talks a while back, and though I would love to take approximately 9 continuous months and watch them ALL, I have to do things like feed my family and myself, so it's more like a few talks per week in spurts.  I've been struck lately by how much there is to know in the world, and how rich any given topic can be once one starts to dig in and learn a little about it. I mean, I watched a talk the other day about a man who designed typeface fonts for a living, and it was amazing to learn some of the bits & pieces he had to consider in his work. In our internet age we like to think we know a lot, but most of the time we know teeny snippets of things; nowhere near the whole story. I like TED talks because folks have dug in deeper to something, and then share some of what they know with the rest of us. They keep it short so it's still snippets...but somehow I come away with a greater awareness that there is only time for snippets (because otherwise our brains would explode), which therefore makes me all the more aware of the deeper story, which I know little to nothing about of course, but it makes me thankful for the snippets...

--My nerd-/dork-status has been firmly cemented for years, and I feel like overall I have embraced it well for some time now, but every so often I'll catch myself realizing just how eclectic/nerdy/different/dorky something is that I'm doing or reading or whatever, and I'll have to have the same talk with myself about owning it, and that after high school nerd-dom seems to increase as we grow into our roles and passions and realize that really, the vast majority of us have something that we love that is different or otherwise out of the mainstream.

I think it's kind of funny that I keep having to remind myself of that, as if somewhere along the line I have managed to (intentionally or not) fool folks into believing that I am something other than a nerd/dork (see fashion comments above) and now have to go break the news that I really like some oddball stuff, and don't like some of the more popular pleasures in life (e.g. wine. Very popular with the men and ladies in NoVA and other places. Not so much with me). As if I'm going to say, "I have something to confess. I know I seem all hip and cool, but really I am secretly a big dork." And as if they would reply, "Oh, we had no idea. We can't be friends anymore."

Which is ludicrous. Not because my friends would instead say, "Oh how wonderful, we love you just the same!" because they wouldn't say that. They would actually say something along the lines of, "Um, did you think that was a secret? Because it's pretty obvious. This is why we're friends to begin with."

That's right folks, I would like to confess that I run in circles of dorks. But you probably already knew that...