Yesterday…

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Yesterday… I held my first child in my arms—all six pounds of him—as he wiggled his feet and studied my face, searching for recognition and committing my features to his brand new memory.

Yesterday, my first-born said good-bye to his childhood, adulthood dawning the next morning despite the fact that his birthday wouldn’t be official until late in the day.

Yesterday… I held my fingers out for two chubby hands to grasp, and I bent over to toddler level to “walk” him up and down, up and down, up and down the hall while he smiled his gleeful smile.

Yesterday, I stood on tippy toes to hug my son good-bye before school. The morning good-byes are now bittersweet, and I (at least) am holding on to each and every precious one.

Yesterday… I sat with my son at preschool because he didn’t want me to leave him behind. I sat in the classroom for several of the first few days, quietly watching, until he grew comfortable with the idea of me leaving.

Yesterday, my son walked out the door—too rushed for a decent breakfast—in his need to pick up his girlfriend and consult with this friend and that group adviser before the school day was underway.

Yesterday… my son spent hours at the kitchen table with paper, scissors, glue, stickers, ribbon, clay, etc. crafting some of the most impressive art projects seen in the past few decades. His eyes would be bright with ideas and possibilities as paper shards scattered across the floor where they would stay until the vacuum came through to gobble them up.

Yesterday, my son finished assembling the high school literary magazine. As with his projects of old, he was excited to watch it come together. To move from individual pieces of writing and artwork to a finished compilation, bound into a single, cohesive whole that will be distributed to the student body.

Yesterday… my son graduated from kindergarten. It was a warm, sunny day, and the room was sticky from little kid use. When the ceremony was over, we celebrated with ice cream sundaes, pictures with the teacher, and some playtime on the playground before we left the tiny “campus” to move on to a bigger school and a full day program.

Yesterday, my son’s graduation announcements arrived in the mail. The paper was stiff and fresh and official and embossed with the school seal and His. Full. Name. He promptly reported that his name was misspelled, compelling me look more closely. The glint in his eye and his sense of fun have not changed or faded over time.

Yesterday, when I was talking to my daughter about her brother’s birthday, I accidentally referenced it as his 13th birthday rather than his 18th birthday. Because in my mind, he will always be some combination of ages that is far less than his actual years. And because…

Time. It’s like that. It bends and warps and does crazy things to our brains, making us think that moments have stood still when years have passed.

Yesterday. So many yesterdays.

 

*Image is a photo taken yesterday by my talented daughter and used with her very gracious permission

Emotions

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I have always been the type of person to cry at things that I find particularly moving, movies mostly—happy, sad, it doesn’t matter. I will cry. When I was pregnant with my children, I was particularly prone to crying at any little thing. I figured it was the hormones.

This past weekend, I was driving my daughter to a sports competition two hours from home. She was in the seat beside me dozing off. Despite her presence in the passenger seat, essentially I was on this drive alone with my thoughts.

Spring has landed with full force here in New England, and the hills are fluffed with an intense range of spring greens—pale green, bright green, pinkish green, yellow green. Even some flowering trees are sprinkled in, as well. As I drove, I was struck by the beauty, and my heart was full; I started tearing up.

Wait, what? I am crying at the vibrant spring greenery on the hillsides? Who cries at that??

Admittedly, it is an emotional time. The previous night, my son went off to the prom, and we are preparing for high school graduation. The emotions that I feel are in some ways exactly what I expected, and in some ways so much more intense than I could have imagined. On any given day, I will cycle from nostalgic to proud mom to happy to sad. I will run through years’ worth of memories all the way through now and to the future.

For now, it seems, I am once again particularly prone to crying. Apparently, those times come and go. This bout will stick with me, at least through the next month. Perhaps, I will keep my sunglasses handy—a good way to hide my tearing eyes—and pray for lots of sunny days so I can wear them without question.

Then again, does anyone really care if I let my emotions show?

Online Journaling Workshop!

This is a journaling workshop run by my amazing friend, Kate. I can’t wait to take part in this workshop. Check it out!

Kate Johnson, Heartwork

Soul ReclamationComing up on June 3,4 &5  (or download to do when you wish)– I’m excited to be offering a guided journaling workshop!

This is about reclaiming parts of ourselves, long misplaced, buried, forgotten.
This is about inviting ourselves to feel more whole.
This is about mindfulness and presence, awareness, and forgiveness and shame-release.
This is about letting go, even a little, of our fierce grip on some of what keeps us from being able to move forward into who we are becoming.

DETAILS
** 5 guided journaling exercises posted on a private page on my website over the course of 3 days.
** Each exercise could take as little as 10-minutes
** “ Journaling“ could mean writing or not, art or not, but something “external”, not inside your head, usually works best.
** Participate in real time or download for later.
** A totally optional private, temporary, Facebook group…

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Working from Home

I am just finishing up my work at the job I hold during the school year, and I am shifting to a ramped up schedule in my second job, which consists of online work. It is a hectic time of wrapping up projects in one area and beginning new projects in another.

I enjoy the flexibility of working online during the summer because it allows me to be available for a more relaxed activity schedule and occasional day trips with my kids. I have been working in this position in one capacity or another for the past nine years, so my children were quite young when I started, and they have grown up watching me work from the kitchen table. However, this work is not without its challenges.

Last night, I was in my jammies, one of the perks of online work. I was on a training call with an instructor I will be supervising for the summer. Despite the fact that my children were in and out of the kitchen, preparing for bed and for the following day, the call was going relatively smoothly with few distractions. Over the years, the kids have become more accustomed to these calls that can sometimes stretch onward to two hours, as last night’s call did, and they are quiet (enough).

Midway through the conversation, the cat decided to jump onto a cabinet to make her way onto the refrigerator. Just as her little feet left the floor, my 18 year old coughed, completely throwing the cat off her planned trajectory. She touched the cabinet for only a split second—just long enough to scatter a few items onto the floor. The noise of these items scattering only served to frighten her further, and she bolted from the room. My son burst out laughing, and I could not stifle my own laughter.

Keep in mind, I had never met nor spoken with the woman on the other end of the phone before that conversation. So as not to seem rude, I explained why I was laughing. Meanwhile, her dog began barking for her to play with him.

Ah, the joys (and challenges) of online work. Of course, the flexibility and the pajama factor balance it all out.

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[A photo of the cat in question]

Cow Shirt

Last week, the students in the high school theater department had an unofficial “spirit week” to celebrate the upcoming performance—their last production of the year. Wednesday was ‘mismatch patterns’ day.

Tuesday night, there was a flurry of activity in my house. J was texting her friends, discussing what they would wear, sharing hideous combinations via FaceTime. I threw some even more hideous ideas her way, but when she rejected them, I left her to her own devices.

Finally, she came downstairs in her proposed outfit, but she had already decided it was too much. “Abort mission! Abort mission!” she commented as she modeled her dreadful get up.

She had two different socks—one striped, one with skeleton leg bones. Her pants were short and patterned with an elephant print, and she had layered a plaid flannel over a striped tank. The outfit was completed with what she would later refer to as a “gross green floral scarf.” She was a sight to behold.

“I… don’t know if I want to do this,” she expressed her thoughts aloud.

“You’re not the only one participating,” I told her. “I saw the combination your friend was putting together.”

“I don’t know…” she said as she disappeared back up to her room. She came down a while later to work on her homework. She was quiet for a few minutes as she worked. Then, out of the blue she looked at me, excited. “Your cow shirt, Mom! Do you still have your cow shirt?” The shirt was one I had picked up in cowboy country years ago and had actually worn at one point in my life. Since then, J had used it once before as part of a costume for a school event.

“I’m not sure. If I did, it would be hanging on the closet door,” I told her. She ran upstairs. “Is it there?”

“Got it!” she announced, retreating to her room.

I’m not sure what it was about my cow shirt that made the crazy outfit more tolerable than a plaid flannel. It certainly made it crazier. And I can pretty much guarantee that no one else had a cow shirt to (mis)match their outfit!

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[image is a photo of my crazy cow shirt that definitely does not match much else in this life]

Editorial

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“I don’t know how to write an editorial,” W told me when I arrive home from work one day this week. “And I need to write one for language arts.”

I was rushing around to get dinner started before I had to run out again to pick up J from theater practice. “Why don’t you Google it, look at a couple examples, and I can help you when I get back from picking up your sister?” I acknowledged his statement, though I didn’t completely register what he was saying.

When I returned, he tried again. “I have to write an editorial from the point of view of a character in our book, and it has to be ‘historically accurate.’ Can you help me?”

“What do you need help with?” I asked.

“I don’t know how to write one.”

“Didn’t your teacher go over it in class? She must have given you some examples,” I queried, hoping he would think back to the class and remember what he was supposed to do.

“Not really. She never told us how to do it.”

“I’ll bet she did, but you shut off,” I stated, probably more bluntly than I should have.

“What?” he asked, unsure of my meaning.

“You shut off,” I repeated. “Your teacher was talking about it, and you decided it was information you would never need. So you shut off.” A smirk of recognition crept across his face.

“She never talked about it. She gave us newspapers, but she never said we’d need to know it.” Imagine that!

I stifled a groan, and I hoped he couldn’t hear my eyes rolling….

Lyme Awareness #2

When I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, I was thrust into a world that was far from the medical world I was used to—the one in which doctors listen to patients and generally have at least a marginal degree of respect for the patient’s symptoms. This new world seemed completely upside-down. Before long, I started to think I was in the twilight zone of some alternate reality.

In those early days, I read and researched and learned as much about Lyme as I could. I contacted friends who had fought this battle, and I met with a Lyme patient advocate. Through my research, I realized what I was up against. Lyme and its treatment are very controversial, and the mainstream medical community will wash its hands of you in a mere 28 days, saying they have done their job. The problem lies in the fact that many cases of Lyme do not respond to the 28-day cycle of antibiotics recommended and approved by the CDC.

Halfway through my 28 days, I knew I still had symptoms of Lyme. I was fairly certain that this relatively short course of antibiotics wouldn’t do the trick to cure my Lyme and whatever coinfections lurked, as yet undiagnosed, in my body. By the time I met with my doctor again, several days after my antibiotics were gone, I still had fatigue, brain-fog, and a host of other symptoms. I remember asking, “What do we do now?”

“We wait,” she responded. “Hopefully, you are fine. If not, you have what’s called post Lyme syndrome.”

I’m sorry, post Lyme syndrome? Are you kidding?

True story: if something doesn’t go away and it’s still present, it’s not post- anything. I immediately started my search for a Lyme literate practitioner. I booked her first available appointment—in five months! Luckily, I was able to get in on a cancellation after only two. At that point, my blood tests were still positive for active Lyme.

If you are struggling with this disease, you are not alone. Together, we will get through this. Through our struggles, we will improve the way Lyme is diagnosed and treated.

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[Image is a Lyme awareness bracelet from Bravelets. They will donate $10 from the sale of each bracelet to the cause of your choice.]

Tag

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“Tag! You’re it!” J taunted as she tossed a yellow feather on my bed. As much as one can “toss” a feather.

“Ugh!” I groaned as I plucked the feather from my comforter. It was the gazillionth feather I had picked up that day. They were in my kitchen, in my car, on my clothes, in J’s laundry bin. The cats were in heaven, certain there must be a bird in the house somewhere.

I had made the mistake of buying two yellow feather boas at the craft store, so J could fashion her costume for the school play. All we had to do was pull the boas out of the bag on the first day, and the feathers scattered. It reminded me of the days when dance costumes shed glitter, sequins, and feathers all over my house. I would find the remnants scattered around my house for weeks after the final recital.

I placed the yellow feather on the counter in my bathroom. In my head, I was already plotting, thinking it might find its way back to her one day when I think she needs a laugh.

If my kid is going to turn a flood of feathers into a game of tag, I’m happy to shift it back on her. A good game of tag deserves another turn

Surprise Memory

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I was cleaning a drawer today, on a crazed hunt to find matches for the socks that had become separated from their mates months ago. Sometimes, the matches reappear in a future batch of laundry, and the individual socks linger in the drawer, one buried and the other floating near the surface. Once in awhile, I am motivated enough by the mess that results from my daily “stirring” of the drawer’s contents that I take the time to sit and straighten things out.

This morning in my straightening, I came across a pair of socks that I put in the drawer for safe-keeping, a pair that I frequently forget I have saved. It is a pair of teeny tiny baby socks that I received before C was born, 18 or so years ago. Each time I come across them, they catch me by surprise. The socks are so tiny that it’s difficult to believe he actually wore them in his first months. But he did.

Each time I stumble across these socks, I am reminded how quickly time passes. I finger the soft material as I mentally measure the passage of time in the exponential growth of my children. I click through each of their stages, from infancy to now.

I see smiles and a hint of mischief in their eyes, feel the warmth of their tiny hands in mine, remember random moments like how each of them would lick soap off their hands when I washed them after supper. I can hear their little voices, their footsteps, their cries. The socks bring back images and memories of so many of the things that have happened in our lives: the funny things they said and did, the experiences we had, the life struggles we faced. All of these things we did together.

Each new rediscovery of these socks is a gift. I find the socks, Itake a walk down memory lane, and then I place them back in the drawer where I can find them again in a month, a year, or two. Perhaps when I discover these socks again in six months or a year, when C is off at college, the walk down memory lane will be even more bittersweet.

 

[Image is a photo of the socks in the hand of the child who once wore them.]

Teens and Hints of Adulthood

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Twice in the past week, I have heard about a teen who has been kicked out of his or her home at 16 or 17 years old, essentially (in the parents’ mind) “aging out” of the need to be sheltered, nurtured, and—no doubt—financed. In one case, the individual came home from school on his sixteenth birthday to find his belongings outside the house, the locks changed, and a note on the door saying, “You’re 16. Get your own d**n place.” Happy birthday. In the other case, the mother decided she needed space for her newest project, so she told her daughter, “You need to leave as soon as possible.”

In both cases, the understandable response of the teen in question was to cry. No doubt, these tears originated from an array of emotions: grief for the loss of a “parent,” sadness and self-doubt at the depth of such rejection, fear and anxiety over the completely overwhelming thoughts involved in, what happens next? And in both cases, even though I do not know either of these individuals, my heart breaks for the young adults who are not yet ready to fly, but are being pushed out of the nest.

I have worked with teenagers for thirty years [which definitely makes me sound old…]. I have worked with teens in classrooms, in dormitories, on the playing field; I have worked with teens in large groups, small groups, and one-on-one. I have been a teacher, a coach, an advisor, a dorm parent, and a parent. From my [somewhat extensive] experience, I will say, it is a rare kid who—at 16, 17, or even 18—is ready to be self-sufficient. It is an even rarer kid who can pick him or herself up from such devastating total parental rejection and move forward unscathed.

As I look at my children, I can see the hints of adulthood emerging from their more-adult-than-child physical selves. I see responsibility coming through in more areas of their lives each day. I see them beginning to take the lead in situations in which they might have been followers in the past. I see glimpses of the adults they are becoming.

But their “formative years” are not over just because they are teens or they reach the age of majority. As they begin to navigate some of the biggest decisions of their lives to date, the groundwork may have been laid early in their lives, but the direction, the guidance… these things are such an important part of the parenting process. Guidance in these big decisions will help my children to learn to be better decision makers as they proceed through their lives. My willingness to be available as a shoulder, an ear, a sounding board will help my teens to grow their self-confidence and learn how to consider all sides of an issue. And it will let them know that they are not alone. If they stumble, I will be here as a safety net.

Leave my kids to their own devices and kick them out of the house? No friends, my job here is far from done. I only hope there is someone to pick up the pieces left by the parents who are done.

 

[Image is a picture drawn by my daughter and used with her gracious permission.]