Thursday, January 27, 2011

what works

my friend jeanni, who is often in my thoughts, used to tell me we all had to do our work. i spend a lot of time thinking about my work...doing my work. i spend a lot of time talking to my friend lana as we plan out how to accomplish and balance our work...our successes, our failures, our feelings of being overwhelmed or under appreciated, our moments of humility and empowerment, being tired or feeling frighteningly capable. my work for the last number of years has been managing a family while my spouse goes to medical school and completes a residency. i have homeschooled our four when we started and now five children. i have moved to two different houses. i have started a homeschooling co-op, run two half marathons, worked with high schoolers at my new church, helped out and coached robotics teams, paid bills, hosted birthday parties, managed doctor appointments, attended dinners, funerals, weddings, birthday parties, taken the car in when it needed, bought all or most of the christmas gifts, tried to stay within my budget, made arrangements for when i didn't, joined a book club, sent out christmas cards, transported a high schooler to and from a technical college for a semester, made that high schooler a transcript and gotten him into high school when he was ready, taught many different classes at the co-op i started, made it through the first year with a new baby, made it to park days and play dates and other social functions for my kids...i have done a lot. yet somehow, i manage to feel, on most days, like i haven't gotten much of anything accomplished. this is something i am determined to work on...because yesterday, i ran across one of my many notebooks i use for list making. and as i looked through this notebook, i realized...i had, indeed, accomplished almost everything on those lists. and i realized that while i try to manage my life, i am often looking at what i need to do, and rarely at what i have done. and so i carry around that feeling of not getting much done and rarely the feeling of satisfaction at what i have done.

tonight, i went to book club. it was the first time in many months that i had actually read the book. and we discussed it. and talked. and visited. and it occurred to me tonight that i have been a part of this book club, a part of this group of women, for almost four years. i realized when i got home that i have spent four years getting to know these women, sharing space and life with them. i still go to book club feeling like the newbie...and i am still the newest person there. but i have been there for four years! i don't know why that surprised me so much. but maybe, after typing the first paragraph, i'm starting to understand it.

my spouse finishes his residency in five months. five more months, and then he begins a job. a job that doesn't require us to move. a job that will allow us to begin paying off the considerable debt we've acquired on this leg of the trip. a job that will give him regular hours, allowing us to begin to settle into a routine. not that we haven't had routines in the last number of years. we've had dozens of dozens of routines. we've been flexible and adaptable and, more often than not, accepting and maybe even positive. but we've always been looking to the next step of it, preparing for the next move, open to the next round of interviews and opportunities and situations.

so tonight, i am learning to take what works. accept it. let it be. do it. it doesn't sound nearly as monumentally relieving as it surrender a bit. but it was. at night, i usually make plans for what i need to get done the next day. last night, i prepared myself for dropping off the high schooler and then taking our seven year old to the eye doctor. i worked through my anxieties...or acknowledged them at least...and mentally prepared myself for what i needed to get done, my appointments and what they required for me, and made note of the time frame i needed to work in. we made it there. we made it through. lana and my sister were there for me to work through the information from the eye doctor, the plans to be made for the next steps, treatments, my feelings, etc. i am forever grateful to them for their patience and love. tonight though, when i began to make my plans for tomorrow, i made plans i have not made, consciously, in what feels like a really long time. tomorrow, i am going to spend time with my kids. my thirteen year old has some stuff to do for co-op. my other guys, i'll play with and maybe even read to. i don't know. it's open. but i will spend time with my kids. these beautiful people who have traveled along this very intense time with me. who have taught me to keep loving, forgiving, and enjoying the good moments as they come. i can't even describe how right it feels. this doing what works. i am grateful.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

the race

"For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance."

2Timothy 4:6-8

my aunt asked me to do a reading at my grandfather's funeral tuesday. i said i would, but i had a lot of anxiety about it for some reason, and really didn't want to do it. i knew i would. i knew i probably wouldn't stumble. but i just had some hesitation...a lot of it. not enough to say no, but enough to make me regret saying yes. anyway...this is the reading i did. this also happens to be the reading the minister chose to speak of at my friend jeanni's memorial service, just a few weeks ago. it was one of those world-quieting, god-magic moments when i realized i was being asked to do this very reading that made it feel like jeanni was there at her own memorial though she'd picked that reading. but then maybe it also appealed to me so much because i run. and jeanni ran. so it just seemed so very relevant and appropriate and right.

one other thing i want to write about...even though it feels weird. the week i knew jeanni had gone on hospice, there was a night...a night that i had a little time or whatever, and so the whole "my friend is on hospice" kind of washed over me. i went outside for a bit so i could cry. jeanni taught me that crying is a great way to release energy. so i did. i cried really hard. because i knew she'd die. but most of all, i knew she knew. and that just did me in far more than any idea i might have on my own in the matter. and i knew that it would all be alright, but it just sucked so profoundly....all i could do was bawl. and then i felt jeanni standing right next to me. it was like i could see her through my tightly crying eyes, looking at me, almost smiling...and it really kind of freaked me out. she put her hand on my shoulder and said "it's going to be ok." to which i replied, in my head, "i know...but it sucks." and she just kept kind of smiling...and i felt weird to feel her so close to me. i worried that maybe she'd already died or something...but she told me again, "it's going to be ok. don't cry." to which i responded, again in my head, "i know it's going to be ok, but it's just really fucking sad right now, so can it on the 'don't cry' shit." she smiled for real and hugged me. and it was over.

at jeanni's memorial service, her sister shared that jeanni told her toward the end of her life that however things went, she was ok with it. and that things would be ok. and it felt really right to hear that. like i already knew, but it was still a gift to hear that story.

and i know it will be ok. there are a lot of times already that it is ok. but there are still times that it is not ok. and also times that it is deeply, deeply not ok. but i suppose, in the end, that is ok, too. i am getting a lot of practice at not judging things. i often think "i'm good" or "i'm not good" or "i'm tired" or "i'm whatever fill in the blank..." lately, i've just been thinking "i am." and that feels so true.

my friend jeanni taught me a lot of things that have helped me work through her death. and probably one of the most powerful things is just to let what i'm feeling work on me...not to fight it, not to avoid it, not to dull it...just to let it be, get through it, let it teach me what i need to know. it doesn't make her absence any less painful. but it does call me to be present and not hide from or in that pain. and i admit, some days i don't feel like being accountable for the light she shared. but i do the best i's all i can do.


Thursday, January 13, 2011


i used to have this shirt that said "play" in rainbow stripes on it. i don't know what i did with it. it was a really cool shirt.

today i played with my two youngest kids. oldest is in school now (i know, haven't written about that either). two middle guys were at robotics and a field trip. so the youngest boy and baby girl and i played. we laced things. i laced in my typical "whip stitch" fashion. my son admired it, but then showed me his favorite way to do things, and i must admit, it was cooler. so i tried that out. baby girl was a little peeved at first to not be the center of it all, but i think after awhile, even she felt the benefit of a better balance. we also read books. "i love you, stinky face" was a hit. he smiled in that way that makes you promise you're going to do this more often and you know you're going to keep that promise. it was good. very good.

my house is trashed tonight. so. totally. trashed. laundry to be folded. floor to be swept/mopped/vacuumed/pick your poison. cupcakes to be made...four dozen of them. dishes to be done. and can we just not even talk about christmas decorations? (at least i unplugged the lights today...i think the neighbors were grateful.) i need to say that it feels totally different to have a trashed house after a day of playing. like "well, sorry it's a mess, but i had important things to do...priorities, you know?" i only wish i felt like i had the energy to take care of all the stuff that needs to be done...but i'll get there. you take a step in the right direction and that gets you closer, right? although if the journey is the destination, i guess i should rethink this. i've got a number of things to rethink lately. but not this play thing. i'm pretty sure i'm right on with that.


Monday, January 10, 2011

my papa

my grandfather died today. my friend jeanni died less than a month ago. i haven't been able to write about jeanni. yet. and i don't exactly know what to say about papa. my mom loved him so much...said she always wanted to marry him when she was a little girl. i always thought that was really special. i loved papa, too. i was proud that he had been a policeman for 32 years, although i don't ever remember him in a uniform. my mom actually has a picture of him shaking hands with jfk. i guess i really knew him best during his retirement years. he made candle holders out of blocks of wood. he loved camping. he was kind. he seemed really gentle. i felt safe with him. i always felt like he was one of the good guys, and there were times in my younger years that i didn't feel like there were many good guys out there. he was pretty religious in his older years. he taught me how to use a concordance in a bible. he was proud when i went on retreat. he was proud of my family. then he developed dementia, and he faded. he'd grip his coffee mug almost as though he knew he'd lost his mind and just couldn't remember where he'd left it. i remember a time before he was fading where we all went to my uncle's for the fourth of july. i had three kids then. our WHOLE family was it was amazing. and papa (and yang-yang...yes, this is what we called my's ok, you can laugh) just sat there smiling and proud of the whole crazy lot of us. (and while i realize all families are crazy, i can't help but feel like my own is a special brand of crazy...) the last time he was at my house, my parents and sister brought both of my grandparents. they stopped here on the way to my uncle's. i fed them lunch. my grandmother introduced me to her husband, as though he wasn't my grandfather. really, it was cute. but my grandfather drank coffee with a tight grip. he couldn't remember my name. and he seemed kind of tense about it. like he should. like he should remember a lot of things he didn't. i played a song on my blog after that visit...the one by the dixie chicks...silent house...about a grandmother with alzheimer's, which my grandmother had. but tonight, i'll play a song my mother has always played for her father. rest in peace, papa. see you on the other side.