how the story ends

My university closes for Good Friday every year, so I’m off today. Norah is with my mom so that I can volunteer in Jude’s class this afternoon. I rolled out of bed later than usual, and I walked Jude to the bus stop this morning in jeans and a hoodie and came back to write a bit in a quiet house when I’d normally be commuting to work and planning for a full day. Space to breathe and sit in silence is so rare this time of year, but even little bits of time can create the opening I need to regain perspective.

Birds are busy outside as I type this, and I can hear them singing. The grass is greening up. April always feels like a swollen bud that’s about to bust wide open. I felt it so intensely last year as I moved into this new space, and I feel it now again.

Yesterday was Norah’s egg hunt at school. I slipped out of my office for a bit to join her.

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I noticed a few colleagues and university staff stepping out to the front steps to watch the madness. Dozens of kids running as fast as they can to gather what they find. It’s the simplest of ideas, and yet they get so excited.

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She dug right in and ate more candy than I should have agreed to, but indulgence and celebration can do so much to carry us through the mundane, so I gave her no limits. There’s more value in these indulgences the older I get. Life, responsibilities, worries, bills, chores, expectations – it all feels like a lot sometimes. But it fades to the background in these little moments of celebration.

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I clamored into work yesterday with 2 crates of strawberries I’d hurriedly bought on the way in. Norah’s class was having a picnic after the egg hunt, and I volunteered for that item. It was spring picture day as well, and my fervent scrubbing of her St. Patty’s Day tattoo didn’t remove it, so I had to ask her teacher to tilt her in the photo pose so as not to show her right arm. This week, I have also stuffed 96 Easter eggs for 3 different celebrations – each set with its own slightly different instructions. Like “add a few pennies to each egg for a math activity.” “No chocolate, please.” etc etc. Last week, Jude had to make a “leprechaun trap” as a “family project.” And there are at least three different forms sitting on my kitchen counter right now informing me of field day and fundraisers and field trips.

My coworker was laughing along with me yesterday as I unloaded my strawberries in the office kitchen to rinse and cut them for the picnic while lamenting over the everlasting tattoo featured on picture day. Her kids are grown, but she remembers this season and the thousand demands it brings. She dug up a passage from her office bookshelf with a copy of Jenny Offill’s Department of Speculation about the “rememberers” and the “non-rememberers.” I recall a time when I was a rememberer, always on time for everything. But lately I feel like a non-rememberer. A mom who throws supplies on the table as I make dinner so that my son can finish the “family project” assigned 6 days ago that is due tomorrow. My “family project” at the moment is keeping us alive and fed and reasonably happy. That is all I can manage.

I haven’t had much time for dreaming lately, for looking at the big picture or what is ahead. This is good in ways; it keeps me grounded in the present moment because I only have room in my mind for this minute and the next 72 hours or so. Beyond that, I cannot tell you much.

But I’m feeling a tension emerge in that way lately that I haven’t felt in a long time. I sometimes feel a huge opening and such immense gratitude for the open road in front of me. That sense of possibility I’ve written about here before. But I am also surprised, in some less steady moments, to find myself craving a sense of certainty. It’s human nature to do so, but I’ve grown so accustomed to the mystery in my past year that I always find myself surprised when the old discomfort of uncertainty creeps up again. Jenny Offill also says, “You think you want the blue skies, the open road, but really you want the tunnel, you want to know how the story ends.” I think that is true for each and every one of us. It’s human nature to want certainty. But I’ve made so much progress in the past year, become so comfortable with the not-knowing. Anytime I step into new territory though, it’s back again.

I picked up Things Fall Apart again this week to revisit some passages that brought me so much last summer when I read them for the first time. Chodron insists, “As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don’t deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity.”  She’s right. The middle way, the questions, have brought me so much. It’s staying in them after the bulk of the storm passes that is the hard part. To stay here, to be here in the truest way, to not get anxious or itchy or hurry for resolution. That is the difficult work at hand for me right now, but it’s where the magic happens. I don’t have to know how my story ends to know it’s a good one.

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Thanks for sharing your passages on my last post here and over on Facebook! The winning number was 9, so Melissa is our winner! Interestingly, she shared one of my favorite passages I encountered when reading Tiny Beautiful Things:It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.” Congrats, Melissa! And thanks for reading. I will message you soon to ship the gifts to you.

all things new

Happy Easter, friends! I hope you enjoyed some time with your family or friends this weekend, and I hope you are looking forward to all that spring brings.  This year, the holiday has special meaning to me as I celebrate new life in so many ways.

Last week was a blur of moving boxes and a lot of cleaning up at my old house.  By the end of it, I had a truckload of things donated to a local charity and another large truckload of things sent to a junk service.  All abandoned remnants of a shared life. And the English professor in me has to work very hard not to see metaphorical significance in how a few things played out last week, but that is neither here nor there. And I refuse to dwell on the exhausted despair today.  Not now with so much newness greeting me on the road ahead.

I loved that house so much. I loved my neighbors. I loved what it felt like to make dinner in my big beautiful kitchen. We built it from the ground up, and we had so many dreams and plans there. I cried like a baby the February afternoon the for sale sign went up in the yard.

But last Monday, as the kids and I slept on a mattress on the floor surrounded by boxes of my own and items left behind, I had a moment – not of sadness really – but of sweetness. One of those moments you feel heavily like a graduation or a wedding or a birth of a baby. When you know you are standing at a threshold, and it feels like you are outside looking in on your own self, knowing that this is it. The moment that you won’t return to because your life is completely changing. The dividing line you will reference when you see your story in retrospect with all of its “befores” and “afters.” I will have more moments like this in my life, I’m sure. But I will never forget what last Monday felt like, cuddled with my kids on that mattress on the floor in a big dark house that didn’t feel like home anymore. Waiting to close the door on that chapter.

And perhaps it is my brain protecting me a bit, but I was not one bit sad to leave that house when moving day arrived. It felt vast and large and haunted, more like a museum than a home.  Frankly, it felt like a museum of my own grief these past few months. The elbow grease required to get rid of things left behind and fill holes, paint, etc. worked as a way to process the end of that chapter, I think. When the moment came and it was time for me to close that door, it was not bittersweet in the least.  Grief is part of this process.  I have to feel it. I have to cry. I have to push through. But I don’t have to build a monument to it. I was so grateful to leave it behind.

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I moved into my new place on Wednesday, and I really started to unpack this weekend. My garage is full of boxes, and my own closet is a mess of half empty bins, but I am getting there slowly but surely. It is such a perfect space for us, and one that feels like home already. I hope to post photos soon. The kids are loving it, and so do I.  I feel certain that divine intervention landed us here, and the string of unlikely coincidences that put me in this house is a very long list.  I’m right where I’m meant to be. I have no doubt.

We celebrated Easter with my family yesterday afternoon. The kids hunted eggs with cousins, and one little girl was determined to climb a tree, even in her Sunday best.

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These two bring me joy everyday. I have moments where I step outside of myself for a minute, remembering this is real and I am a real grown-up dealing with grown-up matters I never predicted and that I’m forever tied to these two little people who are growing and learning everyday. My only prayer at the moment is that I model what I want them to know – curiosity, kindness, honesty, vulnerability, self-reliance, and a joy that comes from knowing what matters most. A joy that is not reliant on circumstances.

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That last part has been HARD lately as I deal with things that, quite frankly, leave me feeling sad and inferior and even broken at moments. But true joy and peace cannot depend on what changes in the peripheral of my life, what changes outside of myself. It is a lesson I have learned in these past few months in the hardest of ways, and a lesson I am learning still.

To new life and new joys and unforgettable moments that are waiting for me down the road. Celebrating spring this week and all it means, especially this year.

Easter Weekend

We had a cancelled neighborhood party on Saturday which was a little disappointing.  But the weather improved on Sunday, and our little neighborhood shindig was rescheduled for next weekend, so in the end, I guess we just get to stretch it out over two weeks.  It was a fun holiday, and I love this time of year.

 

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haha.  Norah's face! SMILE.

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I hope the holiday brought great things for you and your family!

Easter

I don’t know why spring has taken so long to show her face in Atlanta, but she has.  It has been COLD for much of the past few weeks.  But this weekend, she started to show up a bit and the forecast shows some sunny skies this week.  It feels like I’m coming out from under a heavy rock.  We’ve missed the sun around here.

So Easter was perfectly timed with the fresh weather.  I haven’t downloaded from the real camera yet, but I got a few with my phone, too.  It was Norah’s first Easter!

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And Jude is the perfect age for finding so much joy in these traditions. The Easter Bunny brought him a new book that is perfect for his recent fascination with the word underpants. It cracks him up!

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All in all, I am feeling lucky to have these two and looking forward to a new season with my little family.

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Happy Easter and happy spring to you, too!

Easter Fun

I have approximately ten things I should be doing since I have a quiet house and free hands at nap time.  But I hit the park this morning with some friends and their kids, and I am sadly realizing that 35 weeks pregnant means if I start my days at the park for a few sunny hours, I can’t promise much in the way of energy and productivity later.  So screw the to-do list today, I suppose.

We did have such a great weekend, despite my waning energy level.  I made a great new cake recipe from one of my newer cookbooks.  For once, it looked every bit as yummy as it tasted.

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And we packed in two egg hunts and some fun time with Jude’s cousins.

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Spiderman Egg!

It was a busy weekend but such a great day, and it feels like springtime is moving fast onto summer.  I’ve sort of told myself that I don’t really have to worry much about our new arrival until the weather gets warm, and I’ve even explained it that way to Jude a few times.  Now April is quickly making way for May, and I still feel like I have so much left  to accomplish before she gets here.  My list is growing longer, not shorter, as I think of more things I’d like to do.  Our calendar has been super busy lately as well which isn’t helping matters, but it is making things move along quickly, I guess.  I have a great weekend in store:  dinner with good friends on Friday evening and a college reunion of sorts on Saturday.  Then social commitments halt until my due date about a month later.  All in all, I am feeling excited and not quite ready which sure beats drained and bored and totally ready and just waiting on labor. I’m sure that will happen soon enough as well though.  Ha!

Happy Monday, friends.  Hope your week is a good one and your springtime is happy.

Easter Recap

I hope you had a lovely Easter weekend.  We’re pretty tired from the egg hunting around here, but it’s been so much fun.  I can’t believe last year, I had one of these.

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And this year, everything was so different.  I love that spring is about new life and growth, and I crave those things always but especially this time of year.  What’s even better is that I get to watch one sweet little life discovering so many new things.

examining the goods

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found one!

trying to open it

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Shakespeare says, “April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.”  But I’d argue that motherhood does that even better.  And April + motherhood?  It’s almost too much.  Happy spring, reader.

Easter Goodness

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter.  The weather in Georgia was unusually HOT, even for here.  It was so nice to see the sun shining, though, and it made for a great Easter weekend.  Spring has arrived!

Aside from a bout of thrush that seems to be getting better for Jude and worse for me [OUCH], our Easter was perfection.  We put together Jude’s Easter basket from a variety of things we already had since God knows we don’t need anymore stuff.  While I am sure this probably seems pretty cheap to some of you, he’s six months old; he has no idea what’s going on.  Doing it for the sake of tradition, we didn’t want to purchase random stuffed animals and baby toys when we already have A LOT of things. I’ve been inspired by a number of blogs lately to simplify, simplify, simplify, and this was a good chance to do so.  I did buy some Burt’s Bees Baby Shampoo though.  There’s that.

So after pretending to be surprised and excited about the Easter Bunny while Jude looked the other way, we had lunch with Scott’s family and dinner with mine and all in all had a good day of family fun.  I made a delicious salad for our dinner get-together, and I’ll list the recipe at the bottom of this post.  It was perfect for springtime, and I’ll definitely be making it again.  The only thing yummier  than my spinach-strawberry salad?  Jude in his Easter outfit.

He's a very very serious reader.

Jude also got to hang out with his cousin, Evie, at lunch time.  He has a way of getting your attention when he wants to tell you something important.  He babbles SO MUCH already; I know when the real words start flowing, there will be no shutting him up.

Not that this can compare to that Easter cuteness, but here’s the recipe for the salad as promised.  Happy Easter and yay for spring!

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Spinach-Strawberry Salad


One large bunch of spinach (It’s on the Dirty Dozen, so always buy organic.)

One 16 oz. package of srawberries (also on the Dirty Dozen, buy organic)

Half of a red onion, thinly sliced

Walnuts

Crumbled Goat Cheese

Toss the above ingredients together in a large bowl and pour the vinaigrette over the salad.  (Homemade vinaigrette: 2 parts olive oil, 1 part balsamic vinegar, 1 part red wine vinegar, teaspoon of sugar, poppy seeds if you have them on hand.)

Colorful and delicious!