I usually make long, elaborate lists of goals or resolutions with the dawn of a new year. This year, I have only one.
It’s so easy – in the roles of wife or mother or teacher or whatever your title is – to become consumed with what others want for you, what others ask of you, what makes them happy. Sometimes I neglect to think about what makes me happy, what motivates me to reach for bigger and brighter things. That is my simple one-statement resolution for 2015. Find what makes my heart sing, and do more of it.
On January first, I began a happiness jar, which I already mentioned on Instagram a few weeks ago if you follow me there. The idea is to reflect on your day for a few minutes before bed and decide what the happiest moment of your day was. Then you just write that down and place it in the jar. It’s a daily gratitude practice that serves two purposes for me. It makes me see the good in life, no matter how messy it gets. But it also makes me pause to think of what really makes me happy, what drives me.
So far, the notes I’m scribbling in this exercise really surprise me. Some I knew I loved – cuddles with my kids, a good dinner with old friends. And others are things I forgot I loved so much – a sweaty mile or two at the gym, a new music discovery (like this one or this one I am loving lately), and connected moments in the classroom with engaged students and eager ears.
So that’s it. That’s my resolution. To see what makes me happy, and to do more of it. If it stirs my heart, I’m going to say yes in 2015. If it doesn’t I will say no.
It’s a selfish notion, but self-care can be a radical idea during some seasons of our lives. I can’t wait to listen a little more closely to my own soul, as Anne Sexton says. To fill it up and wash it clean.
Thank you for all the kind words, emails, and texts since my last post. I do hope to be more specific in the months to come, but for now, keep holding me in your thoughts as 2014 comes to a close. I am not certain I’m ready for all the changes 2015 will bring for me.
I’m realizing we had family photos done almost 2 months ago, and I never shared here. I’m sharing a few of my kids for you to see.
It’s so crazy seeing them grow older and change with every passing month. This feeling that time escapes me is something I am getting used to, and it’s something I want to focus on countering in the coming year. I feel like I’ve missed so much with them these past few weeks as I focus on other things. It’s a heaviness that I only feel in retrospect. … Realizing I was not listening to that conversation or question Jude asked me because my mind was elsewhere. Knowing I didn’t hold Norah as closely and as long as I could have because I was ready to move on to the next task on my list. Just the sting of realizing after the moment has passed that you have not been present for it as it deserved. That has happened far too much lately.
And these two? Of all the gifts I have received, the lessons learned, the grace I’ve been rewarded – they are the thing I am most grateful for. In all my life. I sometimes think that absolutely anything – any pain or sacrifice – is worth the reward of knowing and guiding these two. I hope I can treat that role with as much respect and dedication as it deserves in the coming year.
It’s 2 am, and I can’t sleep. Norah is next to me, and her little tummy is moving up and down. In and out. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.
So many times these past few weeks, I have relied on my own breath to get me through a moment.
My mother always tells me a story about when my dad died in an accident and she had a 5 year old and a 2 year old. She couldn’t sleep or eat or imagine what to do the next day. She would repeat Psalm 46:10. Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am God. It’s all I can do in these nighttime hours lately. I repeat it to myself like a chant and drift back to sleep for a moment.
I am not religious in the traditional sense. But I know someone is out there listening to me. I know there is a method to any madness we experience here. I know life is crazy and full of surprises, and something bigger than you carries you through. I know pain is wasted if you don’t evolve. Become bigger and stronger.
Sometimes I feel that presence lately. And sometimes I don’t. It’s so easy to be blinded by fear, doubt, sadness. It’s so easy to forget that there is a master plan involved.
I pray every night that my little life will look just the same in a year as it did two months ago. But I just don’t know. I feel it in my bones that the train is barreling out of the station, and a new destination is there. I don’t want to go, but it’s there for me – whether I choose it or not. But this life? This one has been so perfect in so many ways. It’s hard to see the past few years as anything other than the best of my life. But life doesn’t always ask our permission before moving to a new chapter.
Friends, if you are the praying type, I want to you pray for peace in my heart and in the heart of others. For love to prevail. And forgiveness and hope. And gratitude for the blessings I have.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted, so Halloween feels like old news now. But considering I use this as a journal of sorts… a few pictures of my Minnie Mouse and Luke Skywalker trick-or-treating around campus on Halloween morning.
And then we did it all over again on Halloween night and invited a few cousins to join us. It was unseasonably cold and eventually started drizzling a bit, so I was glad we headed out to the neighborhood earlier rather than later.
Life is settling down, and fall is settling in. The colors are perfect right now, and I finally got around to putting out the last of my pansies yesterday afternoon in the backyard. I had a couple helpers using their own little fingers to get flowers in the dirt.
I walked inside to fill the watering can, and when I returned to the back again, Jude was singing something I didn’t recognize. I asked him what it was and he said a “lullaby for the plants, mama.” It is never still with these two lately, but I do hope I can remember some of their little quirks and sweet comments. This journal helps me to stop and take notice. Jude has a favorite tree, he says. And he loves to study leaves this year.
The kids have been learning all about autumn and the details of the season lately at school, and everyday I drive home with turkey crafts or pumpkins or pilgrim hats. Early sunsets and chilly mornings feel inspiring instead of tiresome right now. Soup is on the menu at least twice a week. I love November.
This time of year is always busy, but this year is crazier than ever. On the one hand, I really want to take advantage of all the fun stuff going on around us, but at the same time, I resent it when life gets so busy you can’t catch your breath. Weekends are flying by faster than weekdays lately. Work is busy among piles of midterm grading, but it almost feels like the few hours I have at my quiet work desk are the only times I can focus and breathe a bit.
Jude started playing soccer this year, so that accounts for some of this. He LOVES it, and the fields are less than two miles from our house, so I obliged. It is cute to watch, and I love seeing him get the hang of a real team sport and cheer on his teammates. But this whole be at practice an hour a week and a game every weekend stage of parenthood is very new for us. It’s like the second you stop potty training and dressing them and waking up at night, you reach a new kind of busy. It’s not easier – or harder. Just different.
In addition to early morning soccer games, we’ve had fall fairs and pumpkin patches to enjoy.
Finally, our craziness is coming to a slower pace after this weekend closed with a preschool fall carnival and a neighborhood festival as well. The amount of face paint, cotton candy, bounce houses, and plastic prizes over the past few weeks might have lost its luster for me, but not for these two.
I’m looking forward the the revelry of Halloween, of course. But I’m most looking forward to the slower pace of November. The season is settling in, and even Georgia weather will resign itself to soup and sweaters in the next few weeks. My favorite vegetables are in season and the calendar is fast approaching Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. I’m hoping I can work on a little more mindfulness in the weeks ahead.
Happy week to you and yours. Fall is in full swing.
Five! I can hardly believe it. So many big things happen at five, and here you are. You are growing and learning, but the changes have slowed down a bit and are not as pronounced and obvious or as quick as they once were. So I have days – weeks even – when I lose track of how much you are learning until you say a reference or make a joke that seems far beyond your grasp of knowledge and humor. Suddenly I am reminded that you are a little boy, a school kid. There is no toddler left.
This has been such a fun year of watching your interests emerge and develop. You are obsessed with Legos as your toy of choice, and superheroes are your favorite subject. You create “projects” all the time – which, truth be told, are just bizarre creations of cut-up paper, glued on textures, and original drawings. But you see such stories and ideas in them, and I love to watch you create. At night you insist that we read three chapters from your books, and you call them “chapper books” instead of using the real word. “Chap” is a transitive verb for you, and you take pleasure in “chapping” the page by folding the corner down to mark your progress. I know I should correct your error, but I can’t. There are so few remnants of the baby inside that I find myself holding on to a few fading mispronunciations and childish assumptions. I know I’ll forget them one day, and that’s part of my reason for composing these letters for you. Most of all, I want you to know a little of what you were at these ages, but I want to remember these moments myself as well.
You are always doing, always thinking, always exploring. Your curiosity about the world around you, all corners of it, has me learning as well. You still don’t have a grasp on what it takes to go somewhere, so you’ll pause while brushing your teeth or putting on shoes to ask if we can go to Japan this weekend or visit Egypt soon. It’s both hilarious and inspiring that you don’t see barriers on this planet for what they really are. It’s a big wide world to you, and you share so much enthusiasm for other people’s landscapes and food and customs. Your curiosity motivates me to keep doing and dreaming and to stay curious myself.
For all of your funny misconceptions and kid-centered assumptions, you have the kindest heart, and everyone around you notices. You are one of the most energetic kids I’ve ever known, and you typically run at full speed – both literally and figuratively – at all hours of the day. But your outrageous energy is matched by such softness and kindness, and the contrast makes it all the sweeter. You consistently look out for your sister to be sure her voice is heard. And when I arrive to pick up the two of you from school, I usually find you both huddled at the fence that separates your two play areas, talking through the cracks and passing rocks and stickers back and forth. I know you might reach an age one day when you are annoyed to have a sister meddling right behind you, but right now you guys are inseparable.
Along with your kindness to Norah, you are still so affectionate to your Dad and me as well. You’ll huddle with him on weekend afternoons to watch a movie. You hold our hands because you want to. You hug like you mean it. You say “I love you, mama” at least once everyday for no reason at all. You won’t do these things forever, and it’s a gift every time.
In these past three weeks, I can’t help but notice that your age mirrors my own last days with my father, and it opens a new perspective for me. I’m here and watching you grow, and the best is yet to come. I feel so lucky just to have my feet hit the floor every morning, to wake up with the tasks of motherhood guiding my day, to have a healthy family and a list of mostly mundane worries. One day you will move on to lots of moments I won’t share with you, and I can’t wait to hear your stories unfold. But for now, you are mine to have for a bit longer.
So here’s to more exploring and laughing, more dreaming and doing. And to more special moments, even the little ones. Happy five years, Jude!
Jude’s birthday is still a few days away, but we managed to snag an October Sunday afternoon at a local farm, so we celebrated a little early. The weather has been up and down and often rainy lately, so I worried a little. But Georgia fall delivered in all its splendor, and it was perfect.
Jude enjoyed the day with cousins and friends, plus lots of wide open spaces and fall fun.
The kids got to enjoy a “corn pit” which was basically a sandbox with dried corn instead of sand. There were also a few bounce houses, playgrounds, and a small petting zoo. It made for such a memorable day. (Make the trip to Warbington Farms if you are in metro Atlanta. They are great!)
The highlight was a tractor ride where the driver had Jude stand up for a birthday serenade and took us on a scenic drive around the farm, stopping to call for and feed the cows.
We followed that up with some birthday cake under the tent and a little more playtime.
It was a perfect fall day to celebrate Jude’s fifth birthday. Five! I can hardly believe it. His actual birthday is another nine days away, so I’m sure the celebrations will continue this month. There’s so much to celebrate this season anyway. Apples, cooler mornings, pumpkin carving, local fairs, and Halloween dress-up around the corner. I am grateful for all of it – and for the people I get to share it with.
Happy October, friends! Thanks for reading.