motherhood, single parenthood

the hum and rush

Something is brewing in the air here in Georgia, everywhere it seems. Our neighbors to the south and the east are prepping for Hurricane Irma, and we are prepping for whatever is left of her when she makes her way a few miles northwest to us. It’s always hard to know exactly how anxious we should be in situations like this. Truth be told, we never really know what’s coming.

Against this backdrop of potential disaster, we are doing the everyday things required of us. My school year is in full swing. I know many of their names and faces by now, and the first set of essays will come pouring in this week. The kids have settled into their routines as well. Wednesdays have us going straight from school to ballet to the soccer field with no time in between.

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I pack snacks and water and rely on the slow cooker to have dinner ready for us when we walk in at 7pm. It’s so hard to find that balance between being sure they are enriched and active and pursuing what they want yet not overbooking us to the point of exhaustion. I rely on little things to set the pace and give us routine in the chaos – dinner at the table and nightly routines and leisurely walks to the bus stop in the mornings. But I think I need to just accept that some seasons are busy. Late November will slow us back down when soccer games are behind us and chill is in the air with earlier sunsets and soup on the table.

A longtime friend of mine created an online retreat with seven days of journals and meditations, and I have been making my way through it this month in the early morning quiet hours before the rest of the house is up. It’s structured around 7 women who made history turning their own struggles to something beautiful for the rest of us, and day 6 focuses on Anna Julia Cooper. I wasn’t all that familiar with Cooper before, but she published a book in the nineteenth century that characterized her idea of God as a “Singing Something” and a divine spark in each of us. This idea resonated with me so much – that song we can all hear if we are paying attention. I even wrote about this before in the last days with my grandmother, how it can sometimes feel like there are two tracks playing in our lives, the everyday tasks and the real melody that creates the whole dance to begin with.

It’s harder to hear in seasons of relative ease and routine, but disaster of any kind – whether it is personal or global – tends to wake us up to that song. It’s also Anna Julia Cooper who tells us “One needs occasionally to stand aside from the hum and rush of human interests and passions to hear the voice of God.” That hum and rush is loud sometimes isn’t it though? I’m realizing that I need to carve that space of silence in my days somehow or it’s not going to happen. It’s been two weeks since I’ve written here for that very reason.

I’m looking ahead at the season in front of me as a challenge to listen beyond that hum and rush of the everyday, determined to find pockets of silence in my day to write or read or think. Or maybe just listen to that Singing Something that always steadies us with the vastness of the whole perspective over the busy tasks of everyday life. There’s always something bigger when we listen.

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Jude, Life and Randomness

scribble a note and hope

I packed my lunch this morning and placed it on the counter as I poured my coffee. And apparently I left it there as I drove away, my mind galloping elsewhere from one idea to another. I cannot seem to focus lately.

Field trip forms and speech therapy appointments. Wash the ballet tights before Tuesday, and sign the reading log on the first of the month. Make time for grading the essays that come in next week, and respond to that email that’s been sitting too long in the inbox. Make dinner, wash the dishes. Listen to the news, turn it off. Read about Washington, feel sick, turn it off.

I’m getting good at compartmentalizing, and I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not. A coping mechanism perhaps. Come Friday evening, I turn it all off. I push it away beneath where it can bother me, and I try to recenter in the best ways I know how. But sometimes it’s hard to turn off the frenzy.

It’s weird how life can hand you good and bad at the same time, isn’t it? I have these moments that are so perfect and so sweet in their passing speed, never to happen again in that same way. But I have a thousand worries at the same time. And it used to feel heavy enough when those worries were only what was in my own home, but the weight of national politics is throwing me off center in a way I didn’t expect.

One thing at a time. Inhale, exhale. Repeat.

Jude lost a tooth at school today. It fell out as he was eating lunch, and then it fell on the ground later and he couldn’t find it. This happened last year, too. Last time his teacher wrote a tiny note on a Post-It explaining to the Tooth Fairy what happened. Today, as we exited the school parking lot and he explained it to me, he insisted the Tooth Fairy surely won’t believe him since it’s now happened twice. I assured him she likely would, and when we got home, he found the school nurse’s hall pass in his backpack explaining he was in the clinic at precisely 11:35am to deal with a lost tooth.

He scribbled on the back of the nurse’s note with his first grade spelling, “Tooth Fairy – I lost my tooth dubble times. Sorry. But this note prooves it.” He slipped it under his pillow tonight, hoping for the best. He’s sleeping soundly as  I type this, and I just tiptoed in his room to exchange the note for a few dollar bills.

Lately, that’s all I feel like I can do, too. Scribble a note and hope it will work. Say a prayer and hope for the best. Smile at a stranger. Help a student with a little extra understanding and patience. Play with my kids and ignore the growing clutter on the kitchen counter. Write when I can, which is not as often as I’d like these days. Try something new every now and then. Quit waiting on the other shoe to drop and just enjoy what’s here now, in spite of all my questions.

An Instagram account I follow was commenting on activism today and reminded us that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. That’s true about all of it, isn’t it? I forget that a lot and try to sprint to whatever goal is within view, but I need to pace myself. This month, I’m giving into the ebb and flow of whatever is here right now. Sometimes that means I’m frenzied and barely hanging on in the busy pace of what has to be done. But sometimes I just sink in to find a comfortable spot to focus on and forget the rest, just for a minute. The good and the bad, the easy and the hard. It all comes eventually anyhow. Here and now is what I know.

Life and Randomness, single parenthood

stolen moments

Life is so incredibly busy these days. I already look at summer’s lazy pace and miss it so much. Everyday is full of things I need to do and things I don’t quite get finished. Planning for class and grading piles of papers. Putting out fires with overwhelmed students in conferences everyday. November is a rush in academics. … Then afternoons and evenings are a blur. Tuesday afternoon ballet. Wednesday speech therapy. Friday afternoon soccer practice. Saturday soccer games. It just never stops.

I try to shield any feelings of chaos from my kids. I might be thinking ahead to what I’m making for dinner and how many minutes it will take or how bad my car needs cleaning or how I’m going to pay that bill. But I don’t want them to feel it. It’s getting to that time of the semester for all of us though, made worse by the early darkness of fall time change. They are tired by the end of the day, too. We are all ready for a break.

UntitledAnd we will get one soon enough. The holidays are around the corner. But then that calls for a little fret and worry and effort on my part as well. I’m hoping to be completely done with Christmas shopping by December 1st so that I can slow down and enjoy the season. But right now, that’s another thing weighing on my daily thoughts.

I miss writing. I miss knitting. I miss reading. I miss leisurely evenings. I miss sweaty miles at the gym. I miss (I admit it) television. I watched a movie last weekend when the kids were gone, and I realized that the last time I watched anything at all was July, and I am not at all kidding or exaggerating. It so rarely happens anymore. I miss moments of mindlessness, moments of doing my own thing and recharging. And then I wonder, to be totally honest, how I will ever find the time to fit someone else in this life when I feel ready for it, how I will ever even find the time to meet someone to begin with, when this is my pace.

I stumbled on this essay by Anne Lamott a few days ago as I was compiling a few things for my composition students. She asks, “what manic or compulsive hours will they give up in trade for the equivalent time to write, or meander? Time is not free—that’s why it’s so precious and worth fighting for. […] I’ve heard it said that every day you need half an hour of quiet time for yourself, or your Self, unless you’re incredibly busy and stressed, in which case you need an hour. I promise you, it is there. Fight tooth and nail to find time, to make it. It is our true wealth, this moment, this hour, this day.” I’m trying hard to find that hour, but in a house with two little kids, a dog, and one adult with a full-time job, it is not an easy thing to find. I manage to have the house quiet (most nights) and the dishes clean by 9:15 or so, but I am so incredibly spent at that time that I can’t give the best of me to whatever I am working on.

I don’t know where I am going with this except to say that I am committed to finding some pocket of time, some stolen moment in my day. I need that time and space to create or think or accomplish something that is only for me. Writing it aloud here holds me accountable. I am determined to find that time and use it well. I’m an introvert in the truest sense, and I have lived long enough in this skin to know that about myself. I need time alone to recharge or I sink quickly. I feel like I am always chasing that moment in my day to exhale and recalibrate. It doesn’t always appear the way I’d like it to.   Untitled

I try to let the little passing moments pierce me with their stillness, even if it’s only for a second. Norah skipping across campus to her classroom. Jude’s intent focus as he draws. A warm bowl of homemade soup eaten among the chaos of a messy kitchen. The flop of my dog’s ear as he rolls from one side to the other in his laziness. But these little glimpses, even strung together, cannot give me the peace or satisfaction of a full hour to myself. I’m determined to find it, wherever it may be hiding.

Moms, (or any other readers who have a full plate everyday) what are your secrets for stealing time? Where does it hide for you? I’m all ears.