Climbing Mountains … Avoiding Hills

I posted recently on facebook that my 8-year-old left a note hidden in my purse before she went to school. It told me she’d miss me, that she loved me, to have fun hanging out with Dad (’cause you know, that’s what we do all day when they’re at school — laze around together) … and to run 3 miles.

This, presumably, is because when I pick them up at school, of late, I typically ask how their day was and then I tell them about mine. It goes something like this, Me: “So, how was your day?” Them: “Good.” Me: “How was lunch/recess/gym/whatever?” Them: “Fine.” <pause> Me: “Well, you know what *I* did today?! I ran! My total distance was blah-blah-blah, and, of that, I only walked blah-blah, and ran blah-blah! And that’s 3 tenths of a mile more than I ran on Monday!”

They’re really good encouragers. Not that they I give them much choice, of course … but that’s beside the point. The point really is this. I’ve been “trying to run” for more than two years now. (If you’ve read my blog before you might remember that I chronicled the beginning days.) It’s been a sloooow and not-at-all-steady process. For the longest time, when I ran it was around our little neighborhood. The circumference is 1 mile, which was normally the extent of my run. Sometimes I would loop around a little and go a little farther, but that was it. A mile and a half, tops. I might mention that there are some hills that made it more of a challenge, which made me less likely to expand my horizons, as far as running went. (I hate running on hills.)

Well, then one day as I was driving, I happened to see one of my neighbors running about a mile from our neighborhood. She looked like she’d been going for a while, and was on her way back. This caused a series of thoughts to meander through my 46-year-old brain. Wow. I wonder where Mandie’s been on her run. I wonder how far she runs. Well, she’s a Real Runner, I couldn’t do that. … Wouldn’t it be interesting, though, to run someplace outside of the neighborhood? … Noooooo … I’m not a Real Runner. Only Real Runners do that. … But, I wonder how far I could run if I were to run somewhere ELSE. And wouldn’t it be more interesting to see something other than the same stuff, over and over again, when I run? (Pedantic, isn’t it? But that’s really what you’d have heard if you could’ve listened to the little voice inside my head that day.)

The seed was planted and gradually it grew. Until one day, a week or so after that fateful moment, I actually did it. I ran (and walked) about a mile and a half. It was not the most thrilling route, but the important thing was that I was out of my comfort zone because it was outside of my neighborhood. And that was huge! Since then, I’ve been finding more appealing places to run. Honestly, when I looked at the areas surrounding our house, I found roads and neighborhoods I’d rarely seen. And they’re beautiful. This has made a distinct difference in how I look at running. I still avoid hilly runs as much as I can, and long, straightaways that feel endless. Those kill me. But I’m increasing my stamina almost daily and that feels good.

And this is why Katey is cheering me on. Because she knows it makes my day to go further than I’ve gone before. Maybe they even like hearing me enthuse about the newest mountain I’ve climbed (figuratively speaking, of course). Maybe. Or perhaps they’re just being nice. Either way, it adds up to a win for me. I’m making progress and challenging myself to top that mountain, day by day. And I know my girls are watching and waiting for me to take just a few more steps each time. That’s all I’m looking for.

A Whole New Thing

Well, yesterday’s post chronicled our change from school-at-home to school-at-, well, school. Today, we’re going to talk a little about what my life looks like these days.

To begin … I had shoulder surgery four days before school began. It was only arthroscopic, so I found myself knocked for a loop by the anesthesia and the delightful prescription meds I got to take in the early days. I can truly and thankfully say that the biggest impact on me was just the medications, and trying to get the anesthesia out of my system! The pain was negligible, really. But the beginning of the school year is something of a blur, truth be told. When you think about it, that’s another good thing about the girls being back in school. I’d have been next to useless in the teaching department in those early days of the school year.

And then there’s the physical therapy, which, for the sake of time and ease, I’ll refer to as PT. I had the surgery on Thursday and had my first PT session on Friday. And from that time on, it’s been three days a week, almost an hour and a half at a shot. Over time I had developed one extremely frozen shoulder. No, that’s actually what it’s called. Meaning that in my case, I’ve had very limited use of my right shoulder and arm for more than two years. There had never been an injury. When my doctor went in he found that there was a protrusion of one of the bones in the joint that was pinching the rotator cuff, causing discomfort, and therefore causing me to use the shoulder less and less. All that to say, it’s of utmost importance if I want to regain the use of my arm that I work it and stretch it multiple times a day.

And so, that’s one of the things that I’m spending time doing for now, PT and recovering. I told some friends that I was going to write a blog post and call it Naps, Narcotics and Netflix — all about my first several weeks of school! But really, there doesn’t seem to be much point. The narcotics induced many lovely naps, during which I slept through several series of coveted British mysteries. (One day, I’m really going to go back and actually watch them again when my brain isn’t sedated and diffused.) Suffice it to say, it was a lovely haze of three weeks or so, which helped immensely in getting me used to having my young sidekicks elsewhere for the school days.

One thing I’ve intended to do now is begin again to run. I’m just not an early morning runner. I’m not much of an early morning anything-er, quite frankly. And by evening, my desire to exercise is not strong enough to get me out of the house. Or even into my running shoes. So, I realized this would be a great opportunity for me to start slowly again. It’s how I began in the first place, running while the girls were at school. And last week I did it. I put on those running shoes and got to it. So, that’s one thing to check off my list. I just have to keep it going. One step at a time.

And of course, the next thing I thought of when initially I wondered how I would spend my time, was that I could get back to writing my blog! That was also something I began when I had afternoons freed by kids in school. I’ve tried on a number of occasions to keep it going, even while knee-deep in home school, but that never really took off, on any kind of regular basis. So, I’m glad to be able to come back to this medium. I enjoy writing about my life and loves.

Aaaaand there’s still that school room/office to finish up. <Sigh>

So, there’s a glimpse into the new thing God is doing in my life. I’m excited about what he has laid in my path, albeit simple stuff. I’m happy to start small. My days still include plenty of mothering — it just looks different now.

Of School Rooms and Happy Times

Tonight I’m avoiding the completion a task I’ve been putting off for almost a month. Finally tonight I began it, but now I’m out of ideas and I’m tired. And I just want to quit. So … here I sit.

Let’s back up to about the second week of August, when I began suddenly to feel a panicky feeling in the pit of my stomach when I looked ahead to the beginning of our third year of schooling the girls via a cyber-charter school. That was the first inkling I had that God was trying to get my attention. There were a number of things weighing heavily on my mind regarding school. One of them was that I had been pretty much ignoring the art and music curriculum in an attempt to get the other, more important subjects finished, which we did, for the most part, with flying colors. I just could not, for the life of me, figure out how to finish our school day by 3 o’clock-ish and get it all done.

So, after one day of pondering this and praying about it, my 8-year-old came to wake me up and crawled into bed with me. One topic led to another, and before I knew it, she had steered the conversation to talk very specifically — and happily — about many of the art projects she had done when she was in kindergarten in our public school system. I tell you the truth, she had no way of knowing where my mind and prayers had led me, and how I’d been struggling over this very thing — what they’d been missing out on over the past two years at home with me. I took this to be a confirmation from the Lord that he was indeed trying to get my attention and he wanted me to listen.

So, over the next few days I prayed about it, and to be frank, cried about it an awful lot. I just couldn’t escape the feeling that God wanted me to put the girls back into school.

Now, this is not to say that I feel we were wrong to bring them home and teach them for those two years. I truly feel that the Lord led us to do that. I get teary thinking about the times we spent on each of the subjects. I wholeheartedly miss the one-on-two time with two of my favorite people in the world.

And here I come to the point in my story where I explain the job I’ve avoided — cleaning out, rearranging and re-purposing the school room. Now, I do get excited about reorganizing spaces in my house. But, this was going to be a toughie. I chose to tackle it this evening, when everyone was home and happily doing other things. I thought that would be easier than going through all of last years binders and school materials that would need to be boxed up and put into the basement when I had the house to myself. In a way it was. But it was still a rough job. With every book report, or history paper I piled up, I felt as if I was ripping the bandage from a wound that was not even close to being healed. And though my girls have been in school for a number of weeks already, it was as if this, tonight, truly brought the past two (in many ways) glorious years to an official end.

There were many things I loved about teaching my girls. But that doesn’t mean it was easy. Nor was it always fun. It was without a doubt the most challenging time I’ve spent since I had two toddlers in the house. But I do miss it.

What I don’t miss is the pressure that I felt, being the one responsible for the completion of each subject. Now I know that there’s an art teacher who’s the one dealing with that whole mess — not me! There’s a classroom teacher getting math, language arts and social studies in order! These are no longer on me. (Don’t talk to me about the science experiments. Just … nope.)

I have friends and family who artfully and dutifully teach their children, year after year, and do a beautiful job! I wonder sometimes why I couldn’t be like those moms, whom I so admire.

But then I’m reminded of the two years we did have! And I’m reminded of the peace I’ve experienced since we decided to put the girls back in school. Despite the times of weeping and regrets, God has been clearly reassuring me that he is directing this. They are, after all, his children even more than they are mine. And he has chosen our path, and I have chosen to follow. And I trust my girls to his care and pray for them and sit with them as they toil over their homework. I listen as they tell me about what went badly in their day and what went well. I pray with them as we drive to school. And I know that God is far more capable than I am of supplying their needs.

If only this erstwhile School Room would finish up on its own! But I suppose that’s what tomorrow is for.


You Say Noise, I Say Cacophony

This post is about noise. Let’s be clear about what I mean when I use that word in this context. There’s Sound. And then there’s Noise. The “noises” my babies made when they were happy, well, we’ll call them Sounds. For this post, Noise is synonymous with loudness and cacophony. Now that we have the ground rules established, let’s move on.

One of the things my husband and I enjoy doing together in the evenings is watching TV. But once we became parents, I wanted the volume turned waaaaay down. This was primarily to avoid waking up the babies. I did not want to share this part of my evening with my sweet little cherubs. Not even a little. As soon as bedtime rolled around, it was my sincere desire to be off duty. Granted, there was always going to be the chance that one or both of them would wake up and I would be back on the clock. But I didn’t want to be in any way responsible for increasing those odds. All this to say, I was happy with the volume turned waaaaay down. My husband, however, was not. He likes to feel as though he’s sitting in a movie theater. Now, I have no problem with that if we’re actually in a theater — with my sleeping offspring several towns away. But, when they’re just upstairs, I get a little uncomfortable with my husband trying to recreate the movie theater experience right there, one floor away from those little threats to my night off. I don’t care how darn cute they are!

That, I always felt, was reasonable. I had a perfectly good reason on those occasions for my Aversion to Noise. But then we come to the next step in this, my descent into frustration. At this point in time, our children are seven and eight years old. They’re not so fragile. They can get themselves back to sleep now all by themselves. (Most of the time.) What I find disruptive to my peace of mind these days is that when commercials come on they’re at least three times as loud as the show we’re watching. What’s with that? If we’re trying to talk about anything more meaningful than, say, “Pass the chips,” I have to ask him to mute the blasted thing. I’m not able to concentrate on what he’s saying. Normal? He says No. Resoundingly.

Today when we were getting lunch, the girls wanted to listen to some Britt Nicole songs. We were getting our sandwiches ready; I was doing simple tasks that I do all the time, but after the third song I had to turn it off. I don’t mind her music. It’s Christian pop, it’s catchy. It’s all good. But I couldn’t think! As soon as I turned it off there was a wonderful feeling of peace. It was … QUIET. And I smiled as I soaked it in. (And I’m pretty sure there were eyes rolling a little off to my right. Seven and eight year old eyes, to be specific. But that’s not important now.) We all know the saying, If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t noooobody happy! Therein lies my point.

Now, my husband can listen to any kind of music while he’s doing just about anything, it seems. He can carry on a conversation just fine even if he’s surrounded by what seems to me to be chaos and disorder. I, on the other hand, can’t. Sadly, it’s really that simple.

So, I have to wonder — have I always been this sensitive to noise? IS it normal for at least females of our species to feel this way? Or am I getting curmudgeonly in my old age? At 45 I start to wonder if I’ll soon be shushing young-uns who are causing such a dadburn ruckus! Holy smokes, I hope not. Maybe I’ll get used to it –all this discordance, and Noise. Perhaps.

But probably not. Sadly, you’ll likely see me in coming years, with a pained, pinched look to my face. Old and, yep, curmudgeonly; grumpy and shushing.

For My Girls

I sit here wondering what to say. What do I have to say that is of any importance? Why should I tap out words on the laptop tonight? I have the time, and I have the desire, but I think about what to put down. And I realize that what’s really on my mind tonight, like most nights, is my girls. There are things I’d like them to know, be it now, or in days to come. So, Allyson and Katey, this is for you.

Before you left yesterday, to go to the cabin with Daddy, you each wrote a note for me. You wanted to surprise me, so I told you I wouldn’t watch you. Once you left I went and looked for your notes. Kate, I found yours on the front door, and I found yours, Allyson, tucked beneath the stapler on my desk. They were simple notes, written hurriedly, but the message was clear. I look at them this weekend as I spend time by myself, and I know that somewhere, up north in Sullivan County, are two girls who love me. And, as much as I’m enjoying this time to myself, I cannot wait for you to come home.

When you both are grown and have children of your own, you’ll no doubt begin to understand how nice it is for a mom occasionally to squirrel away time to herself. And something else you’ll find is that, no matter how reviving and renewing that time may be, when it’s done you’ll be happy to see your kids, because once you’re a mom, your life will never be just yours again. I gave away large pieces of my heart when I met you and we began our journey together. So, when you’re somewhere else I wonder how you are and I think about you and hope you’re learning and laughing and growing. It’s a mom-thing.

Earlier this week when we were in the car I asked you what you were looking forward to about being a mom. There was a long pause and one of you said, “… Having kids.” I had to laugh. You must have thought it was an incredibly stupid question. It was my way of beginning a conversation about being a mom. But even before you’re ready for motherhood, I look forward to seeing you become young ladies; learn to drive (though it may cause more than one anxiety attack for your parents); grow in your relationship with Christ; make new friends; discover new things you love to do. There are so many things to look forward to! I can’t wait to see who you’ll each become.

You both are so much fun to be around. I smile often when I overhear your conversations from another room because you’re smart and funny and talented. Sometimes when I listen I’m amazed by the maturity I hear in your voices. Other times I chuckle because you sound just like you did when you were tiny, playing together and being silly. I watch you play with smaller children — friends and cousins — and I know that you’ve been paying attention to the things we’ve told you. You have a gentleness and genuine care for others that thrills me to see. When we pray together I’m often amazed by your understanding. Wasn’t it yesterday that I held you and prayed with you? You couldn’t understand my words but I knew that before long you’d be hearing and learning — learning to pray, and to understand God and his “never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.”

I pray that you will continue to grow and to love and to enjoy life. You are God’s greatest gifts to me and I look forward to watching you grow.

And I look forward to having you home again on Monday!

What If I Don’t Wanna Retire!

When Jeff and I were going through premarital counseling, our pastor said something that stuck with me. He said that the purpose of raising children is to enable them to be independent and go on without you; that, while we raise our kids to spread their wings and leave the nest, the purpose of marriage is to make it strong enough, with work and attention, to go on — on past the time the kids have left the house.

Back then I thought that sounded like a great idea. But then I had kids … and the thing I realized as soon as the first baby was born was this — I had a new, fantastic purpose in life. I suddenly had a job like no other. I don’t know whether I’d have felt differently if I had a profession I worked hard to cultivate, but as of that moment, all else paled in comparison to my newfound calling and the overwhelming love I had for my child.

And in recent years I’ve begun to realize that as soon as Katey is off to college (or whatnot) I’ll be forced to retire from this job I love so, so much. I know I’ll always be a mom. I hear what you’re saying. And I know what people say about being a grandparent, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

Our daughters are 14 months apart. I love that span and the closeness it engenders. But by the time Allyson is spreading her wings, Katey will be right behind her. And I’ll be right smack in middle of that dreaded empty-nest business by the time my oldest is all of nineteen. And right now that seems downright depressing.

What if I don’t feel like retiring when I’m 55?! Well, since my only recourse is to lock them up and throw away the key, it looks like I’ll be retiring within ten years whether I like it or not. Sigh …

Loss and Healing

In my last post I talked about things that have kept me from blogging as I once did, with joy and enthusiasm. Teaching my girls at home is a pretty hefty contributing factor, as I mentioned. But I’ve recently begun to suspect that there’s more.

Last year, on April 16th, I learned I was pregnant. And exactly one month later, it was over. I had lost the baby. I’d lost something else, too. Gradually, I’ve come to realize that some of life’s joy, its charm, has somehow been dimmed, tarnished. I hope it’ll be back. I’m working to deal with the feeling of loss that sometimes seems endless. … And the numbness. I know it’s a process. What I don’t know is what to do about it. I’m told that talking about it is helpful, though I really can’t imagine why. While I’m not one to avoid talking, even about this, I can’t believe that anything will really help ease the emptiness. Will conversation really make any difference in how I feel? I find that hard to believe.

And this, I think, has more to do with my absence here than anything else. What I loved to do was to write about whatever I felt like. Sometimes it was serious stuff (within reason, of course), but more often than not I was in the mood for tongue-in-cheek goofy-ness, or a happy narration about my life. That became the sticking point: I liked the tone I’d set in my blogging voice, yet I’ve felt less and less capable of sustaining it.

I want, once again, to make time to write; to enjoy the process of putting down stuff I’m thinking about, be it serious or silly. Because I miss it. I want to enjoy the creative process and feel satisfied when I click the “publish” button. I miss that outlet. So, I’m making an effort to get back into the practice of blogging. In hopes that what was a favorite pastime will be again. And perhaps it’ll be therapeutic, as well.

Remember Me?

I used to have a blog here. … It’s been a long time since I’ve stopped by. I feel a little sad about that, truth be told. It brought me a lot of joy in the beginning days to sit down and write about whatever was on my mind. There’s a been so much going on, though, in recent days that I’ve not had much time to dedicate to writing.

Just what has been taking up my time, you might ask? Well, to a large degree it’s this thing called cyber/charter school. This school year we have chosen to try it. Previous to this, the girls were in our local public school, which was a great experience. But I’d been wondering whether we’d benefit from, and just plain enjoy, a stab at teaching them at home. And it’s been an amazing adventure. There has been much excitement and some gnashing of teeth. The gnashing of teeth mostly surrounds math. But that’s okay. We’re getting through it. And enjoying many of the other subjects.

There’s no doubt that I relish the time spent with my girls. And the flexibility it has afforded, time-wise, has been refreshing. I’ve also learned that there’s much I’ve forgotten since my days in elementary school, many … many years ago. And there’s much I’m sure I never learned to begin with. My knowledge of world history, for instance, had sizeable gaps that I’m beginning to fill. How cool is it that I get the chance to do that at my age. For free! They’ve come up with fantastic ways to teach math. Did you know? Strategies that no one had ever told me existed are here for the taking!

But it’s time-consuming — holy cow! Our days can last till 4 or 5 in the afternoon. There have been days that school ends as early as 2. But more often than not, we’re finishing closer to dinner time. It’s a stringent curriculum. What can I say?

And this, largely, is why I’ve been somewhat absent from this, my beloved blog. But I hope to return to my blogging duties at something of a more regular rhythm. I make no guarantees, but I’m hopeful.

The Clutter Conspiracy

I’ve been trying to get my house in order. Not big news to you moms out there — it is our never-ending job, to be sure. Nor is it surprising to those of you who have seen my house recently — it certainly needs to have order imposed on it in a very big way.

And so, with the help of one particular, very organized friend, I’ve set out to conquer the piles of paper, mail and stuff in general that has been threatening to take over the place. Now, I have to say, I’m not bad at throwing things away when I put my mind to it. Just ask my kids who regularly complain that I’m getting rid of their “favorite” happymeal toy, for example, from six years ago that they never play with any more, but that they just might need one of these days. I can be merciless. When I get into the mode of clearing things out, I can do major damage, and happily be rid of the volume. I tend to do this, mostly, when my children and my husband are either asleep or several counties away, so as to avoid the annoying conversations that tend to crop up at times like these. But, given that my husband works from home, and the kids are homeschooled … well, you no doubt see my dilemma.

But papers and mail, and confusing things like children’s “jewelry” that gets worn from time to time, but that is constantly under foot, for instance … these things seem to overwhelm me. Because they gang up on me. One day I have a clear dining room table and I’m feeling happy and successful — all’s right with the world. The next, I’m facing a pile that is pushing us to eat dinner on the picnic blanket outside. It’s a conspiracy — I just know it. And I fold under the pressure, often as not.

Oh, and the bags of hand-me-down kids’ clothes that I receive (very gratefully), and put in a hallway, or in the family room, just till I get the chance to go through them. But then I realize I really should go through what’s in their closets first … And so it happens that because I know they’re there, and I will go through them soon … that’s where they stay, because after about a week I just don’t see them anymore. Strange phenomenon, I think, this hiding things in plain sight. That “works” only until someone comes over to the house, because then, I not only see them, I go crazy trying to deal with them because, far be it from me to let someone outside my nuclear family see how we actually live!

All this to say, I’ve been working — slowly but surely — on the Clothing Situation, the Mail-and-Random-Paper Disaster and the basics of Organizing my house. And I’ve been feeling progressively happier and happier about being in my home. (That’s really nice, as we’re homeschooling and spend a good deal of our lives there.) Now I notice another interesting phenomenon. And it is this: After I’ve successfully tackled one room, organizationally speaking, I have an overwhelming desire to take on another room that needs my intervention! Not immediately, perhaps. I might take a day (or six) off to revel in the glory that is the family room, but it does happen. The other day, I had a few moments when the kids were working on schoolwork and didn’t need me to be there. I actually began washing our windows. And — get this — no one was coming over to visit! I just picked up the windex and paper towels and cleaned those darn windows. Because I felt like it. Crazy, I know, but true. My kids have recently even stopped asking who’s coming over when they see me cleaning.

Could it be that we’re entering a new era in our household? One where clutter will not reign supreme and I will not kowtow to its dictatorial demands? We have only to wait and see. And if you’d like to know sooner than my next related post (because who knows when that could be!), please feel free to stop over and see for yourself. If I’m out of breath, and it’s taken longer than normal for me to answer the door, chances are we’ve had a relapse. But maybe I’ll be the victor for a while.



Bad Dreams

Early this morning I awoke from a doozy of a dream. It was one of those dreams you wake from and have to really think for a moment to be sure it wasn’t real. I don’t often have dreams. At least as far as I remember. But I remember this one.

I was walking with my girls. We were outside somewhere — you know how things like surroundings can change from one part of a dream to another, without reason. Anyway, less than a block from where we were a very large, old tree started coming down. It seemed the moment before this the girls were with me, but now, at this moment, for some reason, they were not and I became immediately convinced of the need to get to them. There was a voice in my head telling me I didn’t need to worry, they’d be fine. (Could be that was my husband and not my brain. Hard to be sure.) Another, much louder voice was screaming that I had to find them. (There’s no doubt this one was mine. I’m that sure because I hear it relatively frequently.)

Anyhow, this tree looked to be hundreds of years old, it was that big. And the effect on the surrounding area was drastic. When it fell, buildings were reduced to rubble, sidewalks were torn up; all around me was chaos. And I still didn’t have my children. I don’t know how long it took — dreams have a funny way of warping the passage of time, not to mention the effects a fallen tree can have — but eventually, I saw a friend with Katey. They were okay, and I asked if she had seen Allyson. She told me that another friend was with her. So I began running around looking for them. But regardless of how long I searched, I couldn’t find them. Couldn’t find her.

Finally, I looked near what seemed to be ground-zero, a place that was a heap of tree-pieces and upended sidewalk. There, I found the body of a child, and I couldn’t tell if this was my child. I spent the remainder of the dream trying to find my child alive, denying the possibility that she wasn’t.

This is when I woke up. And for the next hour I was haunted by the question of whether, in my dream, it was my child that had been killed by the falling tree, or whether I’d have found her unharmed if I’d looked a little longer. Silly, I know. I kept telling myself that as I went over it again. And again.

 Let’s just say that when I first surfaced I was relieved that it was time to see that the girls were getting out of bed. Oh well … (sigh) if I must, I must! I’m pretty sure I hugged Allyson a little tighter than normal. I casually mentioned that I’d had a bad dream. Katey told me that she’d had one, too, but she didn’t want to talk about it. That, presumably, reminded her of a bad dream she had when she was 3. Seems she dreamed that I wouldn’t let her eat waffles. Ever again. In her life! I said I thought that sounded sad. Her reply was, “It was really scary. I cried.” (She was utterly serious.)

I’m not always told just what it is they dream about when one of them comes into our room in the middle of the night, wanting to be comforted after a nightmare. But I sure hope it’s more like the life-without-waffles-kind of dream than the kind I had this morning. Please, Lord.