Friday, August 26, 2016

Breaking Surface

Today in my black shorts and loud running tank and shoes, I started out in the overcast weather for an easy peasy run.  One of my favorite songs belted into my ears and my initial mistake was getting lost in the music and going out too fast…at least for the pace that I’m used to enduring mile over mile. 

Frustrated, I slowed to a jog and then finally, gave in to a walk.

Ugh, I thought, I’m getting slower and slower.  This is such bull shit.

Hitting a stretch of road demarcated by two towering trees, I decided, fuck this.  I’m kicking up my legs, feeling my quads burn, sprinting the shit out of this path, because there is an end point in sight and I have nothing to lose.

Picturing myself as Allyson Felix, the Olympic athlete in the women’s 400 meter relay, I gave it everything I had, pretending that someone was depending upon me to finish strong.  And then I stopped.  Huffing and puffing, sweat stinging my eyes, chest leaping out of my body, I stopped to look up and smiled. Jesus Christ…that felt good.

I used the remaining three miles to do the exact same work…sprinting as hard as I could for a designated distance, regaining strength and then repeating, all the way home.  It felt foreign and beautiful and a meaningful accomplishment.

Instead of negotiating whether I was a legitimate runner or not, I stopped thinking and starting running…I gave up on giving credence to the noun and decided to imperfectly be the verb.  I didn’t give myself a chance to follow-through on my credentials, I just deemed myself worthy for 30 minutes and did the work.  And it hurt, and it felt good and it was messy and uncharted and new and beautiful.

And when I arrived home, I reminded myself of this transformative Mark Nepo poem…

Breaking Surface

Let no one keep you from your journey,
no rabbi or priest, no mother
who wants you to dig for treasures
she misplaced, no father
who won't let one life be enough,
no lover who measures their worth
by what you might give up,
no voice that tells you in the night
it can't be done.

Let nothing dissuade you
from seeing what you see
or feeling the winds that make you
want to dance alone
or go where no one
has yet to go.

You are the only explorer.
Your heart, the unreadable compass.
Your soul, the shore of a promise
too great to be ignored.

We are all great explorers navigating the tricky and ordinary waters of our lives, searching, celebrating, grieving, yearning, proclaiming, hoping against all hope that it means something.

Today, for me, it was a brief glimpse into a fraction of what I’m capable of.

Sometimes, two trees, a stretch of road and bright running kicks are a nice reminder.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Joy as the Metric

The past two days have brought about alarm clocks that go off at times we haven't seen in months; peanut butter sandwiches adorned with heart notes that say, "Hope you're having a great day! I love you to pieces!"; butterflies in stomachs as we assess new teachers who have different methods, specific expectations and routines that are still foreign and largely outside of our comfort zones.

This, coupled with really strong coffee, brand new shoes, painted nails and a mama who has taken a part-time job and wants to do her best for everyone...

has made for well, a little fear and wonderment about what it means to be successful.

This morning, after the kids bounded down the stairs with their backpacks and sparkly school shoes, blowing kisses, I walked into the bathroom to wash my face, brush my teeth and ask myself, what do I want from today...what am I hopeful for in this new season?

And the truth is, I want joy.

Plain and simple.

I'm not afraid to work hard, or to juggle commitments or to fall asleep-dead up from the feet up, but when I say my prayers, I want to give thanks for the only barometer that really matters and that is joy in my heart, happiness in my being.

It's too easy to get sucked into how much money we're making or we could be making, or how many really good working years we have left, or where we could have been, if we'd just sucked it up and kept doing the soul-numbing stuff...but when everyone is gone and you're standing over the sink, splashing cold water onto your face, welcoming in an average, ordinary, Wednesday in the middle of feels really good to use joy as your metric for success instead of your bank account.

Rounding the bend to refill my coffee cup, I found these on the corner of the table and they made me smile and tear up.

The first is a picture of Claire in her new school uniform on the first day with the sun shining, by the swings during recess.  The second is a picture of me with the reminder from Claire to not be sad, since I'll be alone during the day, now that everyone is in school full-time.

This is joy.

It's not much, but it's also everything.

And so, I beg of you.  Don't be miserable.  Don't use your neighbor's metrics for success.  Don't project the life of your co-worker onto your own.

Be present.  Right now.  Consumed fully in what you know to be true, to be real, to be the sure thing.

Find it, cling to it, nurture it...and more often than not, bask in it.

That's where the magic lies.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Shifting of the Tide

This is officially the last Friday of summer.

The count down is on...we have three days left before the madness begins.  Between late nights watching the Olympics and later mornings meandering out of their bedrooms, I have no idea how all three will be out the door by 7:45am on Monday morning.

But alas...

This week has brought about a bit of a shift for all of us.

At the last minute, I made the decision to take a very part-time gig.

I'm going to be working two days a week as a teacher assistant in the classroom across the hall from my soon-to-be kindergartner.

Tuesdays and Thursdays, I'll be with second graders helping them to learn to read and write, grading papers and blowing whistles at recess as they giggle and run (at least that's the image I have in my mind).

Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays, I'll be running, writing, jewelry selling, grocery shopping, laundrying and in general, soaking up lots of time by myself.

I've been waiting many moons for this window and now that Open House/Meet Your Teacher night is behind us, fresh bottles of glue and boxes of Crayola crayons are waiting at their desks, brand new sparkly school shoes are laid out alongside crisp uniforms and backpacks that say, Sam, Kate and Claire...I feel this crazy mix of sadness and joy.

I hope I can do it...enter into this new life stage with grace and love.  I pray that I can be diligent and mindful about really crafting time to write and that you will all be recipients of that work.  I stare at my running shoes and pray for hard runs in cool October weather that make me feel alive and grateful for this new place.  And I hope that my children will flourish all day long with teachers who stretch and love them.

And mostly, I just want to grab ahold of this time and say, thank you, after nine years, I made it...we made one died, everyone still really likes each other and looks forward to sixth grade, fourth grade, kindergarten, part-time work and new beginnings.  Here's to stumbling, screaming, working it out, jumping for joy and remembering that all good things eventually come to an end, but are often replaced by what we could have never imagined...a new normal, a shifting of the tide, a promise, a belief in you and in me that all will be better than well.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


Envision me

feverishly typing this out

while headphones are blaring noise into my ears

that is far preferable to the sound of my children

incessantly fighting over the "right way" to create balloon ninja balls filled with flour and water...

a Pinterest project gone semi-wrong.


It really started out as such a beautiful Tuesday.  I awoke to my alarm with no need for snoozing.  Grabbed my running shoes.  Clocked a strong run.  Came home to even stronger coffee and hope for the day.

And then, boom, the fates descended.

My husband broke the news that we needed to put a new starter in our beloved Honda.  Okay, that's fair.  It's been good to us for many, many years.

While making my way to the shower, my five-year old decided to slam the door on her sister and broke off the door knob saying, "How did that happen?"

And then, a quick trip to Target for a few minor things that turned into two bags bag of which I apparently left with the cashier that had the two things I really needed.  Fuck me.

No energy to go back, I warned all three of my children to (in no uncertain terms), please knock it the fuck off, only to discover that one of them threw a "flour ninja ball" at the other, exploding pasty shit in my living room while smooshing a macaroni noodle into my couch, as the third screamed, "Don't hit me!!!!" and the middle one said, "It wasn't super hard.  Stop being annoying and a little tattle tale."

I am hiding in the corner for the remainder of the day.

Not because I question whether I can handle it....but because sometimes, moms need really long, enduring time-outs too.

The truth is that we're tired of doing the right thing.  We're exhausted by saying the same things over and over again only to be pre-meditatingly ignored by the very beings we sacrifice our all for and well, we just don't have it in us anymore...and yes, we're well aware that it's only Tuesday.

And so, my music blares while I bake brownies that I will eat with a fork by myself in the kitchen and not share (until someone discovers them and eventually, I feel guilty enough) and I will hug them and they will hug me and we will forget that this shit was an issue.

We just need a reboot.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

June Cleaver

Two weeks from tomorrow, summer ends.

It's a bittersweet feeling for certain.

Our summer has been chock-full of traveling, swimming, garden tending, free library making,  ice cream inhaling, Lego building, sleeping way lating, sibling fighting, mama yelling, friend laughing, beautiful, chaotic, good times.

Two weeks ago, I took my brood along with my niece and nephew on an epic 1500+mile road trip by my lonesome, and so this weekend, my better half returned the favor and took the crazies on a dad's and kids camping trip.

I was elated to have the space and coveted breathing room.  I ran, cranked up the music, shaved my legs, drank too much wine and coffee, stayed in my pajamas until I felt compelled to change into yoga pants, spent time with friends and then made my way into my office.

Above my desk...I have these three mantras:

And while I was organizing Sam, Kate and Claire's school supplies into neatly arranged bags and bags within bags and labeling them with a sharpie marker and making notes to not forget socks for Claire's uniform or a ruler for Sam's pencil bag or Kate's rosary, I started to cry.

This is it.

Nine years of this full-time, stay-at-home thing is winding down.

And really, how did I get here?

My undergraduate degree is in philosophy from a liberal arts institution, my graduate degree is in conflict resolution from an even more liberal arts entity, I practically make my children wear tattoos on their arms that say, "Love is love is love is love."  I was hoping against all hope that Bernie would rise with the collective and have a fighting chance to earn the nomination.  I am incessantly advocating for the underdog.  My heart is alive and happy when inclusion and love are present for all and I'd give nothing more than to live in a world without guns (even the Nerf ones).

And so, the idea that I left my career as a mediator nearly a decade ago to make macaroni and cheese and read "Good Night Moon" and then Junie B Jones and then Harry Potter and sent my kiddos to Catholic school and carved smiles into the peanut butter sandwiches and cried at every preschool recital and religiously asked them at the breakfast table about their dreams and if they were happy in their hearts...feels like a far cry from my mantra, "Take the Risk."

As I look back, I guess I'm more like June Cleaver than Gloria Steinem...which I can promise you, I never thought would be the case.

But as the tears were flowing down my face looking at the Crayola markers lined up and the composition notebooks in a row, this was sticking out of a stack of papers wobbling on a book shelf.

It's a haiku that my son, Sam wrote many a moon ago:

It's hard to read but it says:

A Haiku for you

Mom you are so great

You get me through

Ups and downs

I love you so much!

And in that moment, I knew.  I did take a risk.  Even though I wasn't aware year over year of exactly what I was doing, I was hopeful that my 'why' mattered enough to keep trying.  And after countless tears and I'm sorry's and prayers and girl chats over wine and half marathons, I realized that I was living by design and indeed, via osmosis, I was choosing joy of a different kind.  It's the kind of joy that emerges slowly, steadily, ordinarily, quietly and now, nearly a decade later, I can say enduringly.

But it's still hard, there are days when I want to be entrenched in a protest that has nothing to do with battling my five-year old to brush her teeth or go the fuck to bed.  There are moments, when I see movements or career paths that seem exhillarating and I think, yes, I'll get my PhD in THAT and then, I quickly realize that for now, tuition dollars belong to my children.  And, that's okay.

I have a feeling that life is going to crack wide-open very soon and with it, I will too.  Finally, able to breathe and process where I am, which is a strange amalgamation of June Cleaver and Gloria Steinem wrapped in one woman, who takes unconventional risks, seeks to live by design and in spite of herself, chooses joy.