The Little Things

Today was a typical Tuesday. We had breakfast. We played. We made art with colored pencils and stickers. We made music by “playing” Grandma’s guitar and banging on various household objects. We had lunch followed by a nap (everyone but Grandma, who probably needed the nap more than anyone, but opted to clean up the lunch mess instead). Throughout our day’s activities, I redirected when necessary, and everyone was happy. We had fun and maybe even learned a little. It was a good day.

Our usual nap time made me smile. I turned off the lights, closed the blinds, and opened the meditation app on my phone. I chose a sleep hypnosis selection and watched my grandchildren willingly and rapidly drift off to sleep. The gentle snore from my grandson’s enlarged adenoids accompanied the ambient music as I loaded the dishwasher by the surface light of the range hood. My granddaughter chose to sleep on Grandma’s bed, while my grandson crashed on the couch. After a couple of hours of peace and quiet, I was happy to see my granddaughter’s groggy smile as she slowly came out of her slumber. She remembered that I had promised to take her to see “Sissy” (her aunt, my daughter), so she quietly got out of bed and began looking for her rain boots. (She is learning to whisper when her brother is asleep, instead of talking louder than when he is awake — probably because she is bored and wants a playmate.) I ended up carrying my sleeping grandson to the car.

The day flew.

I own multiple businesses and volunteer for a number of organizations. I sing and write lyrics, coordinate events, and frequently take classes on spirituality. I always have some new endeavor in the works. I have an exciting life. But the highlight of my week is Tuesday. Many have heard me refer to it as “baby day.” I let time slow down and enjoy the little things: filing my granddaughter’s fingernails, putting my grandson on the potty (even though he has no intention of using it), and drinking hot chocolate out of champagne glasses. (I have to confess, I was a little jealous when I heard “Pop Pop” has tea parties.)

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Photo Courtesy of: G & B Creative Photography

Cookie’s Ride Home

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The old girl’s ride home after her “Senior Check-up.”

After an exhausting morning of bloodwork, other invasive testing (if you catch my drift), and getting her nails clipped, my pooch initially would not let me get in the driver’s seat. After I explained that she needed a driver’s license, she begrudgingly moved into the passenger’s seat.

And here she is now that we are home.

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Letting Go

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As I was dusting the furniture in my bedroom the other day, I decided it was time to let go of the white roses I had been holding onto since my dad’s memorial service. I was thinking about how the preacher that officiated over that service has passed away, as well as the florist who provided the flowers that my siblings and I had placed on the altar table. They both lived shorter lives than my dad.

I thought back on a story I wrote for a newsletter once. I had recently divorced, for the second time, and I had decided I needed to clear the clutter from my life. Although some of the clutter was in the form of trinkets, much of it was paper — old bills, legal documents, addresses from corners of envelopes, greeting cards and letters, and school work (my kids’ and my own).

As I moved to my first house as a single parent of four children, I decided I would tackle the clutter once and for all. I had a friend support me through the process and he was relentless. I agreed that I would not take anything into my new rental without first determining whether it served a purpose or not. So I moved in the furniture and appliances, as well as clothing, kitchenware and bathroom items. When I had all the basics moved into the house, I placed all of the boxes full of “stuff” on the covered patio. It was stacked floor to ceiling with boxes from the outside wall of the house to the driveway on the larger side.

I was teaching at the time and part of the way through this process was my spring break. So my friend encouraged me to take the week to finish the job I had started. I immediately went into all the reasons I couldn’t do it. I had things I wanted to do during the break. It wasn’t fair to my kids. There’s no way I could complete the task in one week. And besides, I had agreed to finish it by the end of the month. Did I mention my friend was relentless?

He argued that I might as well take the time now, then I would be finished. Yes, I might miss out on spring break, and how good would it feel to have this job complete? No matter my argument he had a logical, compelling rebuttal. Disgruntled, I agreed to do it. I would go through every box left by the end of spring break.

Initially it went well. Although I was angry, the progress I made early on provided momentum and gave me hope. And midweek I saw a light at the end of the tunnel.  As the week came to a close, however, I began to feel tired and stuck. It seemed like it was taking longer to go through the boxes. Decisions about little things seemed harder to make. I was losing steam.

As Sunday rolled around, I realized I did not want my whole spring break to be wasted on a goal I did not achieve. So I committed to complete the task, no matter what it took. On a chilly March evening, I sat on the patio in the dark, sorting through the last few boxes. I decided what would be donated, what would go to the dump, and what would go into the house (and where it would go if it did make it inside). By 10:30PM, I had broken down the last cardboard box, thrown the last few items of clothing into the Goodwill box, and tied up the last bag of trash. It felt incredible to have this gargantuan task off my back.

I went back to school with a sense of accomplishment, and to this day do not regret using up my time off in this way. But the real reward came later. During the following week, I made trips to drop off the items that were still too good to trash and then I took everything else to the local solid waste facility. I had never been to a dump before, so I didn’t quite know what to expect.

My son loaned me his pickup truck, which I filled with cardboard boxes. When I checked in at the facility, the attendant informed me that I must empty the boxes first and then break them down and deposit them in the cardboard bin. So I backed the teal S-10 up to the rim of the dumpster I was told to use. I got out and put down the tailgate. I stepped into the bed of the truck, which was level with the top of the immense container. For a brief moment, I didn’t know where to start. Then I simply chose the box closest to me and I opened it.

At first, I felt a pang of guilt for throwing anything away. Then I lifted the box and began pouring out its contents. I noticed that it looked like a waterfall. As I watched the contents of the box cascade into the giant metal box, I felt the box lighten. And I noticed I felt lighter too. I folded the empty box and set it aside so I could empty the next. As I watched its contents flow into the river of garbage, I felt freer than I had felt in a long time — free of two failed marriages, free of past mistakes, free of people who had hurt me, things I didn’t feel good about, and things that didn’t serve me anymore.  Free.

I realized in that moment that nobody had been holding me back. The person that had kept me in bondage was me. I was free now, not because I had broken through chains of oppression, or because I had run away from some evil, but because I had let go. Simply let go. A trip to the dump opened my eyes to the fact that I had been holding onto my past so tightly that there wasn’t room for anything new – anything better – to enter into my experience.

Today, I still struggle with clutter and letting go, but now I am aware. When I notice I am letting the mail pile up on the kitchen table, I consciously choose to mindfully attend to the issue. I recently made an agreement with some friends to clear off my kitchen table when I am finished working for the day, and they held me accountable. Letting go is a skill I am continually practicing.

When I am hanging onto an object like dead, dry roses, I ask myself, “How long are you going to hang onto this? Is it useful to hang onto it? What will happen if I let it go? Is there some other way I can hang onto it?” In the case of the roses, they were crumbling and I couldn’t imagine keeping them much longer; They weren’t useful in any real way; If I let them go, I would be losing a reminder of my dad’s memorial service; I could hang onto them by taking a photograph of them… and by writing this blog post. So I reverently threw them into the trash, feeling a touch of sadness followed by a sense of relief.

My father’s memorial was a tiny sliver in the scheme of what I want to hold onto regarding him. By letting go of the memory jogging roses, I am able to focus on other memories – the times he made me laugh, the times he let me cry, and his unconditional love. I remember him chastising me once for paying for a storage unit. (I am almost ashamed to admit I had two units at that time.) He said with what I was paying for storage, I could buy all new things. He was right. There is no point in holding onto “stuff,” whether it’s physical, mental, emotional. Save the storage fee and get new stuff!

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Babies…

Babies are such a nice way to start people.

~Don Herold

 

I spent this morning with my granddaughter.  She is 17 months old and so much fun.  Hope your Wisdom Wednesday was as happy as mine.      

Date Night Marathon

Yesterday’s post, Date Night, was the result of me being exhausted and losing all the text I had typed… and being too tired to rewrite it.  In the lost text I shared that my husband and I had gone to dinner, after seeing a movie. (By the way, we saw Guardians of the Galaxy, which was great!)  In the restaurant, the wall next to the booth was made of chalkboard and there was chalk available so you could write on the wall.  My husband drew the heart with our initials in it.  

In the post that disappeared I also mentioned that my husband had been working 7 days a week and we hadn’t seen much of each other.  Saturday night, I did not expect him home until late, so I cooked dinner and was eating when he called.  He wanted to know if I wanted to go see another movie.  I said, “Of course!”  I explained that I had cooked dinner, so he could eat when he came home and then we would head out to the show.  (This time we saw Lucy… another great movie!) 

I’m glad we’ve been able to spend some time together, in spite of my husband’s hectic schedule.  He is working again today, but we have a Sunday night ritual consisting of Falling Skies and popcorn.  I sent him this photo, telling him I was “All ready for tonight!”  

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Incidentally, hubby’s name is Kelly.

I’m happy to say this weekend has been a “Date Night Marathon.”  

Back to School Part 2

Today we went to the wave pool (probably for the last time this year). I picked up some things at the grocery store so I could pack my son’s lunch and I bought him a pair of shoes. We began packing his backpack for tomorrow. He showered and got into bed early. I set my alarm clock. Our summer is over.

Ten Things on Tuesday from Twelve-Year-Old Taylor

Today, my son and I were driving down the road, listening to “Hippie Radio” when a song came on that I had never heard. Part of the tune was whistled. Taylor, who is twelve, said, “I like songs that have whistling in them.” I’m not sure why, but that made my whole body smile. (Do you know that feeling?) So today, I am going to share some things for which my twelve-year-old is grateful.

1. Songs with whistling in them

2. The Beatles

3. the British Invasion

4. chicken

5. Dr. Who

6. contact lenses

7. making friends

8. Mrs. Haberman (his 5th grade teacher)

9. having learned to read

10. when people accept him the way he is

My Brother, My Encouragement

These pictures were taken a few years ago but they capture my brother’s personality, so I am posting them today on his 48th birthday.  A kid at heart, my brother is always in for having a good time.  He loves his nieces and nephews, and has always encouraged me.  

There was a particular incident for which I will always be grateful to him.  I had always wanted to sing, yet I struggled with extreme performance anxiety.  My brother knew this more than anybody.  One day, he called me on the phone and said, “I’m on my way over with some music for you to learn.  You have two hours, then we are going into the studio to record it.”  Although I was excited, I was also terrified.  I had never sung in a studio, much less a song I didn’t even know.  Shock was my overriding emotion, yet I was secretly grateful my brother was pushing me in this way.  I knew he wasn’t going to take no for an answer, so I learned the song.  

Panic set in when we arrived at the studio.  When it was time for me to lay down a vocal track, I froze.  As I looked at the engineer through the glass, my vocal chords constricted, my breathing became shallow, and my body began to tremor.  My brother was determined not to let the fear stop me from doing what he knew I really wanted to do.  He stepped into the vocal booth, grabbed my face and turned it away from the glass so I could look directly at him.  He told me to look at him and nothing else.  He said to watch him,  and do what he did.  

To somebody who doesn’t experience performance anxiety to this degree, it might have seemed like overkill, but it was just what I needed.  I blocked everything else out and was able to get through the first song.  By the time we completed the CD, I was actually having fun in the studio.  I owe my ability to cope with my performance anxiety to my brother.  I still struggle with it, yet I am willing to do it.  If he had not insisted I go into the studio that day, I may have never stepped out into doing open mic nights, singing in coffee houses and churches, and simply doing something I love.  

Happy Birthday to my brother!  What a gift he’s been to me!      

Summer Solstice

Today’s Summer Solstice, the first day of summer and the longest day of the year, will be a little longer for some.   Today my sister-in-law buried her oldest son.  What should have been a day to celebrate the beginning of summer, instead was a day of mourning.

At the graveside service, the officiant quoted from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes.  This version is from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE).

3  For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

2  a time to be born, and a time to die;
    a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3  a time to kill, and a time to heal;
    a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4  a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
    a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5  a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
    a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6  a time to seek, and a time to lose;
    a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7  a time to tear, and a time to sew;
    a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8  a time to love, and a time to hate;
    a time for war, and a time for peace.

While there may be some wisdom in these words, the loss of a child upsets the order of things.  For everything there is a season… a time to die for us all.  Parents want that time to be before our children.  Time will bring acceptance and healing.  Until then, we allow ourselves to grieve the untimely passing of Zachary Rausch, gone too soon.