Life and Randomness, work

widening circles

The house is quiet in these early morning hours. My final grades are in, commencement ceremonies are over, and I can feel the slow pace of summer around the bend even among May’s madness. Its been 6 weeks since I’ve written here, and such a shift has happened for me in that time.

Six years ago, I had a crawling baby and a preschooler and no real desire to go back to work just yet, but a former contact from a decade prior reached out to me and nudged me to apply for my current position at the university. I’d been a stay-at-home-mom for three years, and there were a million pieces of me that were terrified of that leap, but also there was something else beneath the fear that felt like a solid yes, so I jumped and applied. I got the job. Fifteen months after I went back to work, I found myself as a single parent, a development I never saw coming. I have thought about that chain of events many times —  the way that the entire universe seemed to be moving to line things up for the next chapter even though I wasn’t aware of it. The way that one thing leads to another and another. It was a God-Send in the truest way. It saved me. Not just that I had an income but that I had colleagues and community and a purpose outside of my home when my life was blown apart.

The kids and I are in a new season now. One mom and two active kids and school schedules and extra curriculars, and though my core group of friends has remained unchanged for 20 years, our family is also deeply rooted in a different community than we were a few years ago — a natural result of kids at these ages. Jude commented this weekend that “it seems like all moms know each other” when I was chatting with someone else, and it made me laugh but also it seems to be true at this stage of parenting when we are orbiting the same small universes.

Anyway, among all this growth and changing shape, I began to see that there were things about my current position that just weren’t working for me anymore. The long (very long) commute, first and foremost, but other things as well. I could feel that desire for change simmering beneath the surface, but I wasn’t sure what to do with it.

This is making a very long story very short, but essentially I reconnected with a colleague from 14 years ago who is an administrator at a school here in our own community, and it began with lots of questions over coffee, then a tour and a class observation, then meeting others there, and now here I am with a new job and a new classroom welcoming me in August.

Nearly everything about my life has changed in the past 5 years, but my place of work was the one thing that didn’t change. I think I hadn’t really considered that stagnation, hadn’t recognized what a security blanket it was for me, until this last few weeks as I’ve come to the decision to close that door and begin something new in another place. Regardless of how sure I am that this is the right decision, it still means leaving my comfort zone behind. This last month has brought a lot of sleepless nights and that slight internal tremor that always comes with the territory of immense change.

There are a million other things I could say about all of this but won’t say it here — Career moves are always sensitive and personal and particular to one person. But I will say that the way this all unfolded and the way I responded illustrated so much growth for me, and I even surprised my own self. I advocated for myself in ways I haven’t before, and it felt natural rather than terrifying. Maybe here I finally am at 38 seeing my own value clearly. It takes courage to look at something that was once perfect and see that it just isn’t working for you anymore — whether that is a relationship or a job or a place you live or anything at all. Cutting that cord is never easy but always the right thing to do.

It’s strange how a life circles back on its own self, isn’t it? The way we revisit old problems and reconnect with old friends and are given a chance to approach the same problem with new eyes and a more solid backbone than we had before. I keep thinking of that widening circles Rilke verse lately. My circles are ever-widening and always moving but still circles nonetheless.

My friend Chyla (another circular connection as I met her years ago at Jen Pastiloff’s Atlanta workshop and we’ve remained friends) has an online group that I’ve been supported by this spring as I laid the groundwork for this transition. The whole workshop has been built around that one big yes that lives inside of each of us. We all have it, and it can change with the seasons. But Chyla prompted us to consider what it is for us today. What is that flame burning inside and wanting to grow to something bigger? What is that dream you cannot shake? What is it that you want to see come to fruition in your life right now?

Mine was simply to follow my own bliss to create a bigger life. I don’t mean bigger as in notoriety or success in the world’s terms perhaps, but just bigger and bolder for me. I want to listen to my own calling and be braver with my choices and lean into what creates joy for me, knowing that it always lights the way to what you are meant to do next, that next widening circle.

In our last session together, Chyla led us in a guided meditation and we journaled a bit. We had to write in answer to the prompt “I pledge to the most high in me…” (that highest form in each of us, that one who holds all the potential and possibility).  The first thing that emerged for me was that I pledge to always keep moving, always evolving, to trust the flow of widening circles. In this season, I’m trusting that if I leap and do the hard thing, the road will rise to meet me. The right people, the right timing, the right experiences are here. As Rilke says about his widening circles, I don’t have to know where it’s going and where it ends, but I give myself to it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Life and Randomness, single parenthood, writing

the dirt in the corner

I turned 36 this week. I am not sure how that happened. I was just 33, I thought. And before that just 29. Then 27. I am doing that thing where I double-check my age by glancing at the calendar and then doing the math from the year I was born. I can remember hearing adults do that when I was a kid and thinking, how do you not remember your age? And here I am. But somehow the second digit gets fuzzy when the years fly by quickly. I am 30-something and nearing closer to 40, I suppose. That is specific enough.

I went to a funeral the week before. My great aunt passed, and the service was in the same chapel where I sat almost 9 months ago to sing hymns at my grandmother’s goodbye. Time is a weird thing, sometimes dragging slower than we thought possible and sometimes rushing and sometimes doing something in between that still somehow surprises you.

As I sat in my seat adjacent to the wall, I could lean a little as I listened to the eulogies and the pastor’s message. He spoke a bit about her last years and how difficult they were and what a testament her husband’s love and attention was. I think he quoted I Peter 4:12 which reminds us “do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

Hardship somehow feels like a surprise though, doesn’t it? Is that an American thing? A modern thing? A middle class thing? A human thing? I don’t know. But even now, after all the lessons I have learned, I am still sometimes surprised and exhausted at mishaps and trials of any kind.

A couple weeks ago I was off on midterm break while public schools were still in session. Jude woke first that morning and headed downstairs before I did. As I fumbled out of bed to make coffee, he came racing back up the stairs, Mama! There’s water dripping!

After what happened 5 months ago, I am ridiculously paranoid and react with almost PTSD panic about any water issues, so my heart jumped and I ran downstairs in emergency mode. As it turns out, the one bathroom that was not touched in the renovation had a leaking supply line. It was only a trickle, but it left a water spot below and a slow drip in the living room. I turned the water off at the main valve in the house, then at the street, then calmly called my plumber.

He came later that day and replaced it quickly and inexpensively, but in that process, we discovered that my hot water heater was slowly leaking a bit and on its last leg – which probably explains why my bath could only get half full these days before turning lukewarm. I took a deep breath. Here we are again. Two days later, I was $1700 poorer but have hot water and new valves throughout the house in every single sink and toilet.

It’s just life. This house is almost 12 years old, and it’s simply time for some wear and tear to be replaced. But it’s so easy to get frustrated with what Peter called the fiery ordeals, the flies in the ointment, the salt on the melon. Anne Lamott writes in Small Victories that “Life can just be so lifey. Life on life’s terms, which I don’t remember agreeing to.” Amen to that. Me either.

But at 36, I’m learning to change my expectations a bit. Leaks will happen, and funerals will too. Hot water heaters will break. Siblings will squabble. Laundry piles will grow more quickly than you want them to while bank accounts grow more slowly.

But we still have sunsets, thank God for that. And chocolate cake and music. And snoring dogs, laughing children, hot coffee, soft sheets. And occasionally I have mornings like this one where I am alone in a quiet house with a minute to be here without demands and expectations. I read Elizabeth Alexander’s “Ars Poetica #100: I Believe” with my students this week. She claims “Poetry is what you find in the dirt in the corner, overhear on the bus, God in the details, the only way to get from here to there.” I think if we are being honest with ourselves, all of life might be what you find in the dirt in the corner. Those little bits of time are the only way I ever get from here to there, the only way I put it all together.

Untitled

I have so many hopes for my 36th year. Big ones, like a book proposal. But lately, I just keep swimming as best I can, and these goals are pushed to the back burner. I woke up at 5:15am on my birthday and set my intention with a yoga session before I began my day. I’ve got to carve time somehow to sift the treasure from the dirt. Books don’t write themselves.

Spring is here in Georgia. Ripe strawberries are making their way to grocery stores, and birds chirp at us in the rush of our morning routines. I’m trying hard to squeeze out every ounce of energy spring offers me. God is in the details, no doubt. And life is in the tiny pieces of time we carve away from the bigger picture.

gratitude, Life and Randomness

home

I don’t know what it is about January that makes me want to stay home all the time. Maybe the cleaning frenzy that always accompanies the post-holiday time.  Maybe the weather that is less-than-inspiring on most days.  Whatever the cause, I kinda like it.

There’s been lots of baking around here.  Lots of cooking.  Lots of reading, which makes me happy.  Add some coloring and finger painting and homemade playdough, and I am a happy camper.

It’s weird for me because, as much as I’m a homebody, I also get restless on most days.  We usually head out to errands or to the library or the park or at least out for a walk.  Lately though, I am perfectly content at home watching someone play with legos.  So much so, in fact, that I put off trips to the dry cleaner or the grocery store, thinking maybe we should stay home just a little longer.

As lovely as my hermit habits are, I’m also with a toddler who is somehow cutting six teeth at once.  Four molars, actually, and it’s not as terrible as expected, but still leaving me sleep deprived and really tired of changing poopy diapers.  (All that drool has to go somewhere, I guess.)  I was up three times last night.  I’m tired.  My house is a wreck. It’s easy to see things glass-half-empty.

But this afternoon, when he was napping, I slipped in Jude’s room to get his dirty laundry, I saw a sun-dappled sleeping baby.  And I dare you to be angry at the world when you see those sleeping eyelashes.

So messy house or not.  Teething baby or not.  Lazy homebody or not.  I love my life.


Happy weekend, y’all.  I have a knitting class tomorrow I am super excited for.  And more lazy homey-time, I’m sure.

Life and Randomness

the long ones.

There are long days, it seems.  And sometimes they feel really long.  And we get through them obviously, but sometimes you really, really want a do-over.

Thanksgiving was lovely and the day after was perfect and cozy. We put up all the Christmas decorations, and Jude was amazed by it.  It was so sweet watching him discover things.

We bummed around the house all day, and I changed the baby from one set of pj’s to another.  Early in the evening, Scott watched football and hung with Jude, and I headed out to pick up a quick birthday gift for a party we were invited to on Saturday.  There is a pizza place in the area I was headed toward, and family fixin’s are delicious and all, but after 3 days of eating that kind of food, we were ready for a change of pace, so I picked up some pizza and cheese bread and brought it home to my boys.  For whatever reason, my normally hungry baby was not interested, and he didn’t eat much, if anything, before succumbing to fatigue, so I put him down to sleep around 7:30 and curled up with a novel while Scott watched football.  Seriously – a perfect ending to a cozy, perfect day.

Then I awoke at 2:30 and OHMYGAWD I was so sick. I will spare you the details, but I felt confident at one point I might not live to see morning.  I told Scott I obviously had a bug or something and he would have to take care of the baby (who slept through the whole night, might I add!!).  Scott mumbled no problem.  I left to be miserable in another room, and at 6:30, something terrible happened. Scott got it too. We were both completely incapacitated and this.close to wanting to die.  I called family for help with Jude, and crawled in to bed where I stayed – minus frequent sprints to the bathroom – for hours.  I don’t know if it was food poisoning or a virus, but does it matter the affliction when you are that miserable?  Any situation which requires a puke bowl is Hell. I don’t care what you call it.

So you can imagine (or don’t, it’s gross) what it was like with both of us battling the same awful affliction simultaneously for most of the day on Saturday.  Marriage counselors should detail scenarios like this one and ask young couples if they really want to commit to this.  It was not the shining example of romance in our history. Not at all.

The tortellini soup I am eating right now is the closest thing to solids that I have digested in the past 3 days.  Luckily, I could stand up that afternoon, so Jude was back home and able to sleep in his bed without interruption or really understanding what was going on, but it is a day I never want to re-live. Never.  Ever.  Ever.

And long story short, Scott was still not totally better this morning and had to change travel arrangements at the last minute and race off without much notice to make the rescheduled flight.  Jude had a scary, bizarre, not-from-nature diaper last night that had me convinced he’s catching it, and every time he burps or gasps, I brace myself.  So far, we are good, but he is super whiny so maybe he has a milder case or something.  Who knows?

And have I mentioned that it is 40 degrees and rainy outside as I write this?  Or did I mention this week is slammed and ridiculously busy with a task I volunteered for ages ago before I knew the near-death plague would strike my home?  And might I mention that my husband embarks TO PARIS on business next week without me.  Only my favorite city ever.  [We considered tagging along by the way, but it didn’t make sense with his schedule and location.]  And I will be here.  Probably moping, but at least trying not to mope.

But as always, there is beauty if I look for it.

I just might need a little help this week looking past the ugly.

gratitude

weekending. and lazy-ing. and rambling.

It’s C-O-L-D here in Atlanta, like 28 degrees outside this morning kind of cold.  I think it was something like 2 weeks ago that our afternoon temperatures hovered near 80, so it feels strange to have a need for a coat so suddenly.  In fact, when I went out both Friday and Saturday, I seemingly forgot how to dress for the weather, and part of my to-do list this week is digging up my winter coats that are buried in some closet in this house, I hope.  There’s nothing like a frosty morning and the onset of a crappy cold to remind you winter is on its way sooner rather than later.

But every season has its merit, and in a way, it feels so great to bunker down inside with blankets and fires and soup and winter-like things. [I typically hate cold weather with a passion, so I will look back at this entry in February and wonder why I ever wrote that sentence, but there you have it.]  This lazy weekend has been perfect in a cozy kind of way though, and I’m trying to make the most of the cold snap, simply lazing around and nursing my scratchy throat for most of it.

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On Friday evening, I had a great girls’ night out with friends I adore and don’t see nearly enough.  It was a perfect time for a ladies’ night because last week was a little long, and I needed a boost.  Not a long week in terms of anything catastrophic or anything I should even be complaining about, just little things.  Because as great as this mom gig is at times, there are long days too.

Tuesday night, I had a baby who didn’t like sleep much the first half of the evening and a terrier who refused to come inside but barked incessantly outside my window to torture me instead.  I also chased her around my yard at 4am in the rain to try to get her back inside, so I think my total number of hours of sleep that night added up to maybe three.  Maybe.  I grumbled when my 6:30 alarm went off but got out of bed anyhow because these days it’s shower pre-dawn before the baby gets up or no shower at all.  I cherish that quiet morning time actually; it’s just the rolling out of bed that’s the hard part.

Then I had to leave my favorite coffee shop on Wednesday when I tried to indulge in THIRTY WHOLE MINUTES of conversation with a grad school friend, but Jude was not in the mood.  I left the coffee place claiming the title of That Woman with the Screaming Child, so I can cross that one off the list.  First time Jude embarrassed me in public?  Check. It was not pleasant.

Scott was in Toronto all week as well, and I do just fine on my own all day and then 3:30 rolls around, and the day suddenly feels so long. That’s always the time we break out the library trips or the snack we aren’t really hungry for or my Giada / Ina combination that I’m so grateful for on Food Network when I need an adult voice in the house.  I’ve given up on the idea of family dinners when it’s just Jude and I here alone, so I resort to making his portion of something that will pass as dinner and then putting him to bed about 30 minutes earlier than usual (yes, I just admitted that) and then making my way back downstairs to create a one-person portion of something.  His newfound mobility also adds some newfound dangers, and I swear I feel like this kid gets a bump or bruise or scrape at least five times a day.  Occupational hazards, I suppose.  So I had a moment on Thursday when I wondered if I would ever pee alone again, and why didn’t anyone tell me about that aspect of motherhood and ohmygod I am so tired can my husband just come home so I can pee alone please, but then I remembered that Friday evening included a dinner at one of my favorite restaurants and a charity art auction with some of my favorite girls and wheeeeeeee!  It improved my outlook considerably.

It was a great night, even if I did only take one photo and that one contains some closed eyelids.

A fun night with money raised for a great cause is always a good thing.  And as a side note, never underestimate the value of girl time to reinstate any sanity that has been lost that week. Chatting and laughing refueled me, ladies.  Thank you.

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Saturday found Scott in Athens all day for a football game, and I opened Jude’s drawers to dress him that morning and attempted some semblance of an acceptable ensemble, but in the end, all I found was a Ghostbusters t-shirt, a mismatched sweater, sweatpants, and socks that were too small. So I bundled up my fashion-impaired baby and headed out to Target to hopefully find something that would qualify as socially acceptable clothing.  Boys clothing is really hit-or-miss in big box stores, so I was excited and relieved that we had some luck.  Somehow my consignment shopping resulted in a million shirts and sweaters with no pants or socks, so we luckily fixed that problem.

By the time we arrived back home, Jude was tired so I fed him lunch and laid him down for a nap and turbo-cleaned the downstairs so I could see tabletops again.  I threw soup in the crockpot and threw myself on the sofa to indulge in my November magazines and a pumpkin spice candle and some mint tea.  Oh, fall magazine covers, I love you!

The rest of the weekend has been mostly laziness and nursing this head cold which isn’t all that bad but feels worse since it’s the first sickness since last winter.  What is it about burning a fire and seeing chubby little arms in pajamas that makes you warm all over?  It’s a sweater on the inside. Between those sights and the roasted sweet potatoes I made for Jude today, my little house, messy as it is, feels pretty perfect and I’m just fine staying here for the rest of the day.  In fact, when I finish the warm milk and oatmeal cookie I’m working on now, I might head up to change into pajamas.  At 2:30 in the afternoon.

Because that’s how I like it this time of year. Call it lazy or not, home is sometimes so yummy.  Happy cozy weekend-ing to you as well.  I hope you’ve rested and refueled for the week ahead.

 

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The light is what guides you home, the warmth is what keeps you there.  ~Ellie Rodriguez

gratitude

Speaking of Carpe Diem-isms……

I feel like I have been posting a lot lately on this desire to pay attention and appreciate things.  I guess that’s what happens when you start writing things down – you realize how fast it’s all changing and maybe how special it really is.

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Jude turned 11 months old yesterday, y’all.  I am feeling quite weepy about this.  After weeks of excited party planning and looking forward to his birthday celebration, now I almost dread it.

I know this will pass and I’ll be happy to celebrate his milestone, but his monthly photo yesterday just has him looking like such a little man.

I can’t take it.

Ouch.  My heart hurts.

I spent some time after he went to bed last night working a little on the scrapbook which means I am looking through his old photos, and can someone please explain who this baby is?  I think I hardly remember it.

Weeping, I tell you.  I weeped like a fool yesterday.  But isn’t that the joy of happy?  That you can’t make it stand still.  We want to, but we can’t – which makes it all the more precious I guess.

Coffee is brewing.  I’m off to have a second cup before someone wakes up.

Have a happy day.

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“This moment contains all moments.”  – CS Lewis

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gratitude

On the Bright Side

What a week it’s been.  In truth, there is much complaining I could do at the moment, but in an effort to be a bit more optimistic, I’m taking a look at the things that have brought a smile this week.

  • As of tomorrow at 4:00, it’s the last week before spring break!  I have (count ’em) FIVE days of school until we get a week off, and my only plans consist of playing with Jude, unwinding from an insane semester, and getting a much-needed pedicure and haircut.
  • Spring break approaching means it’s soon to be the end of the school year. This means I have (count ’em) THIRTY-FIVE school days until I am a full-time mama.  Words cannot express how excited I am or how blessed I feel about this opportunity to give more of myself to little Jude.
  • Wednesday brought a less-than-fun massive faculty meeting about the cuts in funding and “reductions in force” that are part of the plan for my school district and many others in the coming months.  That state of public education in this state is quite dismal, folks.  Politics of public education can drive a sane man crazy, and I left that meeting feeling so discouraged.  I did, however, find this little gem lovingly sketched on my dry-erase board the same afternoon.
In case you were wondering, this is me. (illustration by one of my ninth graders)

Moments like this are why teaching might be lots of things, but it’s never ever boring.  Even when we have to deal with the ridiculous and discouraging outside our classrooms, we can always shut the door to remember why we teach in the first place.   They might be crazy.  They might be annoying.  But kids are funny.  (And can I point out that I’m skinny and I’m obviously a very smart person who likes to read large books?  I’ll take it as a compliment, I guess.)

  • It was Free Pastry Day at Starbucks on Tuesday.  Woot woot!  Somehow the Cinnamon Chip Scone tastes even better when you didn’t pay for it.
  • Jude is finally rolling over! I mean if you had to lug that massive head and big belly around all day, you’d find it difficult too.  He’s been reaching and even sitting up unassisted for some time now, and my pediatrician assures me he’s just fine, but at almost 6 months, I was growing tired of the “is he rolling all over the place?’ questions and subsequent feelings of oh-my-god-i-think-my-baby-is-broken.
  • I received my FREE Bumgenius AIO this week in the mail!  I am a cloth diaper addict, and AIOs are pricey.  Free diaper in the mail = exciting.
  • Hang on for this one, there’s a spark of gratitude eventually.  I received the horrible news about the passing of a college friend’s husband this week. I grieve for her so much, and there really are no words to describe what it feels like to think of someone who is so kind and giving living a nightmare like this.  While her situation is tragic, it’s times like these that I’m grateful for my experience at a small college where classmates and community become family. Seeing the outpouring of love for Melissa from her former classmates, professors, university officials, and other alums makes me so grateful that I have this second family.  That said, the shock and grief right now is unimaginable.  She is in my every thought; please pray for her healing in this difficult time.  This is a reminder to love hard and live out loud.  Nothing is guaranteed.
  • I passed a church sign on the way to work this week that says, “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” (C.S. Lewis)  Sometimes it’s the little things that can be a BIG reminder that you need.
  • Lastly, Atlanta has had some beautiful spring weather this week, and trees are in bloom.  Sunny barefoot porch times are on their way!