The Same Story

Mothering is a prolonged goodbye. For many it lasts 18 years. Others have an abrupt ending at 5 years or 23.

trying to avoid group photos


trying to avoid group photos

My grandma called me a child when I was maybe 22. I defensively retorted I was not a baby. Grandma, in her wisdom, shared what I would learn to be true—7 or 72, I would always be her child.

laughing too hard to run away


laughing too hard to run away

I have a grand selection of fine friends who forgive me my dislike of this day. They forgive my bland vanilla wishes. My mother grieves along with me.

And a little girl who believes mommies are the gift, brings a rose to me for reasons she can’t yet grasp. A mama’s thin smile is all the conversation needed, one that is whispered above the child’s head.

This is my third attempt to fulfill a request to tell a story. Usually I can give it a day to breathe; ruminate a bit. Come at the theme sideways, talking low in an attempt not to startle my memory or the subject matter.

 This is as good as it gets with this crew.


This is as good as it gets with this crew.

Not this time.

I cannot tell a lie, especially not today. Today is not the day to disappoint my mother. So I can’t tell you what it is like to be a mother in extreme poverty. My heart won’t let me walk that road.

Fifteen years ago, I put a tiny baby back in her bassinet and walked out the door of the Missionaries of Charity in Chennai. I called my mother from the deck of the Universe Explorer and I cried. She told me I couldn’t leave the ship and fly home with a baby. She was right.

On that day, I was no more ready to raise a child alone in the US than I would have been to stay in India to serve at the orphanage. Though I wanted both.

I’d share with you the photo of me and baby M., but the snapshot, like most of my life is buried in a storage unit across town. First world problem.

I can’t paint a picture of life as a mother in Uganda or Guatemala, and I can’t tell you what Mother’s Day means to me. I’ll have to believe that my own mother will forgive my failing an assignment and these three will forgive me for not understanding their world.

Jospeh, Uganda

Silvana, Guatemala

Nelson, Ecuador

Lessons From the Pool

I’m humming it but I don’t want to write it.

The truth is, there is a lot that can happen, that needs to happen, between the edge of the pool and Dory’s mesmerizing ditty.

What I hear this morning above the swirl of lyrics is you can’t swim away, or walk away while still holding onto the railing.

I see the child in the pool screaming. Holding onto my neck, or the railing by the steps. Refusing to let go because he knows letting go means going under. Unknown. It requires effort opposite to all of the life he has known.

Before today, before a lesson in swimming or life, breathing wasn’t a thought. Now it is something to consider, to control. You don’t have to say to the child that inhaling under water causes death. He knows.

Image

A Cry Stolen from the portfolio: Show You Yours

Now, on the edge of the pool, you have been asked to stop what you know keeps you alive. This is a lot to ask of a child, regardless of age.

I love being in the water.

I am not good at holding my breath. Which probably says a lot about me.

Holding your breath is one part control, one part letting go. It is knowing that you can’t live holding onto the railing. It is suspending one belief for a deeper knowing.

Today I want to find a way to be in the water. To believe that letting go of the railing will mean I get to do one of my favorite things–be held by strong arms that spin me around like a 4 year old princess.

Because you can’t laugh and feel fear at the same time.

Bread and Wine, or Bread and Bread

Dates stuffed with herbed goat cheese and almonds.

Dates stuffed with herbed goat cheese and almonds.

Shauna says Mel is always early.

We know differently.

They can’t imagine life without a table between them after only 3 years.

We count starting at a decade mark and move forward. There is rarely an actual table between us. Kitchen islands, yes. Coffee tables, sure.

What matters is that one of the ways we grow up is by declaring what we love.

There was a table once. The final goodbye at a first home was spent around a table with pizza boxes piled in the middle. We sat, booster seats moved to the floor, in the middle of four cherished walls. I think I have one or two photos from that night. I can’t find them now in the disorganization of my digital life (which, as you may guess can be a clear reflection of my in real life life.) The images are silly little snapshots that could easily be deleted–bad lighting, someone with their mouth open, a kid photo bombing before anyone knew what photo bombing was and we knew it as a kid being a kid.

ya-yas

From years ago, an attempt at a group photo complete with kids.

It is appropriate that this book, Bread and Wine, arrived in the mailbox of a girlfriend before I made it into town. The stories about life around a table came when I was returning to live life in the place where I have practiced life around the table the most.

The table is where we return to stitch our hearts back together after the breaking.

The group has evolved from always brownies and episodes of Friends and ER to a tribe of littles and a schedule that has to be more flexible. As Bread and Wine recounts, whether there are tears or candles, life continues around the table.

These girls obliged me and my slight alterations of Shauna’s Dark Chocolate Salted Toffee, even on a night they usually devote to portion control and braving the bathroom scale. These images are my real life expression of the book Bread and Wine. I suggest you put your hands on a copy soon, but call the ones you love first and get a date on the calendar for a meal together because that will be your drive once you open the cover.

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A little off center, like most of us. But as close as we are, we can hold each other up.

Learn, little by little, meal by meal, to feed yourself and the people you love, because food is one of the ways we love each other and the table is one of the most sacred places we gather.

**As always the photos and words are mine. Indented and italicized text are quotes from the book. The publisher sent me a book to read and this post is what happened. If, however, any of you want to claim some of the calories consumed on this night, email me and I’ll arrange to have some thigh dimples shipped to your door. Links to the book are affiliate links.**

Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes

Encouragement for a Fellow Peace Seeker

I have lived in your house. Grown up to build a replica of the first. Walls dripping with the sweat of anticipation like a house in the south before air conditioning. Carpets of lies always underfoot—worn through from all the pacing, as if that would spin truth out of the wool of deceit.

Little did I know that long ago I had hired Love as the gardener outside my home. Love pulls out the saplings of bitterness before they take root. Love grows on the outside, whether I look out the window or not.

Perhaps Elder Thaddeus would encourage you to seek the Gardener.

**Written to encourage Tonia to leave the Truth on the page, so that there is no reason to turn from it.***

Blog-i-versary

One year ago this week, life got crazy. The tiny square of a carpet I occupied was ripped out from underneath me, like the table cloth trick. Only the porcelain and silver fared better.

I was determined to move forward. Every.day.move. Inches did seem like miles but I wanted them. I am sure it looked less like progress and more like chaos–me amassing and gluing together each inch; making a mile of my life.

The need for control, manifested differently in two separate individuals within 24 hours, left me without that carpet square and squarely on my bum. Two outlets for healing unplugged.

One plug puller resulted in this. This blog came out of that struggle for control. For once, it wasn’t me trying to control a situation. I hoped this meant progress.

The other, well, it meant more work on the healing journey. Hike up, then back down, only to return to the upward path. The ups and backs providing more opportunity to learn, to entrench myself in health.

On this anniversary week, life has flip-flopped again. Yesterday felt like a belly flop, if I were to be transparent.

Maybe my mile down the road truly is an inch when measured. And maybe when you see me out and about and the whole front side of me is stinging red flesh today, you will think , “What a mess!”

Me and my bag full of inches will simply reply, “You shoulda seen me last year.”

 

My Year of Drinking

I have spent a large chunk of time this year drinking away my time, my bad thoughts, my troubles.

There have been honey vanilla lattes, a hive or two, more mochas than I can count, some french press with coconut milk enjoyed with a pen in hand. And longings for another peanut butter mocha.

I have explored more signature drinks at local coffee houses than I thought was possible on my budget. Lattes may not be a necessity, but they are cheaper than therapy.

We look like sisters, right?

If I were honest though, the caffeine and chocolate didn’t soothe the cracking dried life. The drink didn’t heal the walking desert that I had become. I needed more than an triple shot of espresso to shed this layer of dead skin.

These women who sat across the tables and on couches and on stools were the true elixirs.

my super glue, cheerleading, loan me those cute shoes girls

They were reflections that reminded me of what was true. They were the flashlight when I wanted to hide under the blanket. They were calm and they were strong and they were sweet.

They reminded me they were on my side, and when I couldn’t remember what my side was all about, they could tell me. They could describe my world with such detail–the result of years of observation.

When I wasn’t sure how to connect one dot to the next, they picked me up and drove me to the next spot. They paid when I couldn’t.

*this photo belongs to the girl with the pretty blue eyes*

They hugged me tight. If I needed a distraction, there they were. Dinner, come on over.

Stephen Arteburn was right, healing needs community.

They could be the keeper of my boundaries–the electrical fence of my mind. Gently but effectively reminding when I had wandered too far from safety–from my center.

Je ne me souviens pas comment dire quoi que ce soit en français.

So I’m raising my mug to all of you lovelies who were the duct tape, white out, comfy pants of my year. Ladies, you more gracious than dim lighting in a dressing room when bathing suit shopping. Cheers to you all.

(And for those of you not pictured above, I apologize. Post some photos on Facebook already! Or remind me to take my camera on our next coffee date…oh coffee, who’s coming and where are we going next?)

19th Ave & Now

I had no idea back then how close I would live to that spot. All I knew was how very far the hospital was from my dorm room. How many miles of 19th Avenue my mother would have to drive without much help from me. How a dorm room and the top bunk weren’t on my list of top recuperating choices in 1997.

I and my nauseated cut open stomach just wanted the drive over. Wanted the hospital to live as far away as it literally was from where I would sleep that afternoon and night and well into the next day.

In 1997 there was no movie theater across from the front doors of John C Lincoln. Entering into the hospital, I had no daydreams of buying school supplies at that Office Max, or summer clothes at that Target. No reason to believe that I would drive past the hospital daily on my first job of the day, 5 days a week in 2010.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suffering from nostalgia over a hospital, or Target. I’m just in awe that once again something so removed from my daily life became the absolutely mundane and not noticed part of my daily life a decade later.

And I’m hoping, (In this year of declared Hope.) this silly little story is just a nudge. A wee reminder that I don’t see all. I can’t even wish for all. I couldn’t and wouldn’t have wished for the situation that had me driving past the hospital on a daily basis. Both the hospital and later living near it were both blessings. I mean who doesn’t want photos of their ovaries, right? Maybe not.

Seriously, though, I am clueless about tomorrow. Which is fine because the dreamer-upper of my tomorrow happens to have fabulous taste and killer timing.

Now who is up for seeing the image where my liver photo bombed my ovary’s close-up?

More than 1 in a 1000

1000 Moms Project

Join in the chorus of gratitude? This post touched me the first time I read it, and I can’t stop thinking of all that was surrounding me that day as I read. Click and read?

Looking ahead this week, waiting for Sunday, I thought over and over about my mother. I realized that I don’t remember spilling anything growing up, or being scolded for doing so. There are treasures of memories to keep close. However, this year, memory lane didn’t feel like the trip I needed to take. Here is some of what I have been considering this week as I wait my turn to call my mom.

I don’t particularly care for this holiday. The disliking is more about a sense of inadequacy than anything else. Why do we thank our mothers on one day, buy them flowers on one day? Tell them not to do the dishes on just .one.day? And how is that we run through the first part of the year, get to spring and suddenly realize, ah yes, thank you, mom. I’m as guilty as anyone.

Once you get old enough to notice that Mother’s Day isn’t just a another art class project or greeting card gimmick, you may see that you are eons behind in thanking the woman who raised you.

For my mother.

You survived us. 3 girls. Dad’s wish granted for no boys…or at least that is the story he tells after the 3rd girl came and no more.

Forget the platitudes and greeting card sniffle inducing words. You. Survived. Us. Us in all of our antics–pinching, hair pulling and biting–none of us will forget the biting story. Our shrill girl screaming and hormonal tidal waves. You made it through.

From the child’s point of view, we think we live through all the rules and restrictions you foist upon us. When you get to the other side, you know. You know it is the parent that survives the raising of a child.

There isn’t a greeting card large enough to say thank you like it should be said. Going back and giving a retro active thank you for putting up with my teenage sullen, stubborn, moody self doesn’t really cut it either. I know you needed the thank you then. Probably a few hundred apologies too.

I suppose I could pay you back for the orthodontist, and the neurologist. The money won’t buy back the hours you worked so my teeth would be straight and my head would, well, we had hopes those docs could put it on straight, but well one out of two ain’t bad right? I know what is like to convert hours of your breathing life into medicine to make someone feel better. Hours of sleep to watch a thermometer with hopes of the mercury sliding back towards to the bulb at the bottom.

Mom, I don’t know how you don’t have a hole in your head where your ear is. How many hours of your life have you held a phone to one ear or another to listen to one of your three daughters? Us chewing away at your ear, your time, surely your sanity. But listen you did. Still do. From the back hallway at the store, to the cordless that sometimes beeped and cut out, to the phone with the long cord in your bedroom, you have listened.

You are the best sticky popcorn, cinnamon roll, cozy jammie making mama, or drahma or banana I know.

And if I got it all wrong, you can just say I learned it from the lady in the coral top in this photo (that’s a post for another day). Yes, I know. Photos like this make you so proud to be my mama.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Love always,

the middle one