[Quiet Thoughts] Room at the Table

Photo: Yeaaaah…. there is nothing better than waking up at 8:30, rolling out of bed, having awesome coffee and popping some cinnamon rolls in the oven. Not just cinnamon rolls… cinnamon rolls made with Kerrygold or, as we call it, “the good butter.” Unbelievably awesome, totally best way to start Thanksgiving!

 

My neighbor came over at 10:30 yesterday morning all dressed proper and ready to go. We were… in our pajamas… shameless, really. Thanksgiving is about the four of us, the Macy’s Parade, awesome duck and no cares. Certainly no formal clothes. Thanksgiving is absolutely for pajamas.

“We were wondering if you would join us for dinner. We’d really love to have you,” my neighbor offered.

Uh…

Welp, there went that.

We love our neighbors. These first years of homeownership would have been impossible without them. We had to say yes…

It was our first time having Thanksgiving with other people since Major was born. We made our duck, I made Parker House rolls for the occasion (I was going to do that anyway), we made the Chinese-style pancakes and cut up scallions and traversed the lawn between our place and theirs.

The mansion we sat in was built sometime soon after the Revolutionary war and has been standing ever since (despite fires, blizzards, at least 2 hurricanes, and all sorts of other calamities). I couldn’t help but think about all the Thanksgivings it has witnessed. I wonder how many times a child had thrown-up at the table in the middle of the festivities (thanks, Major!) or simply decided to hold out until dessert after barely nibbling at the stuff on his plate (thanks, Minor!). Of course, I wondered how many times had that exquisite dining room had played host to intense political discussion. Even among friends, all on the same team, there was much disagreement about the details, the direction we should take as individuals and as a group.

I won’t get into it here. I feel like I’ve written enough about this. My Quiet Thoughts, however, are honed in on how warming it was to sit at that table and be welcome. Thanksgiving has always been that annoying holiday to get out of the way before the pleasure of going home and enjoying Christmas in Maryland with family. Especially since moving here to Massachusetts, being here for Thanksgiving meant retreating to the only family The Husband and I have up here: each other, and now the boys. We’re a little island of sanity in an ocean of crazy New Englanders, we’ve told ourselves. Ten years of the two of us against the world. Er.. region…

This was our tenth Massachusetts Thanksgiving and we spent it with family. We spent it at another table, with people who we love and care about, we enjoyed ourselves and our children were happy. It was a special day, a delightful surprise. A much-needed break from the troubles that have followed us for months and months.

There were other tables we could have pulled up to yesterday, as well. Church friends, old colleagues, new friends made from school… we have grown a network of people, some becoming very close and dear, who have made this place just as home as Maryland. No longer do we feel perilously far away from the people who love us. Suddenly we have people to call upon, doors that are always open to us, people we look forward to seeing and who we trust implicitly. I can’t tell you the when or how of this happening. I’m deeply grateful, nonetheless.

Walking back across the lawns in the dark, I thanked my neighbor again and again. “What a special treat,” I said, sincerely. “That was certainly a wonderful way to spend the day.”

“Well, hopefully we can make a tradition of this,” she offered.

I chuckled, half hoping she was kidding. Introversion immediately kicked in, the dread of giving up what used to be an easy day of good food bubbling up within. But then my heart warmed. What a lovely thought, spending the holiday with our Northern family again next year. My oh my, how we grow and change, Dear Reader!

So, I can only guess what you’re thinking: “You got that good camera, so… where are the photos of the feast!?”

Well, my neighbor derailed all of my awesome plans. I was going to take pictures of the step-by-step and write out a recipe for a new page on the blog. It was going to be glorious! Oh well, there will be plenty of opportunities to do that in the future. My apologies. Won’t you please accept this other awesome photo of baked goodness?

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This Friday after Thanksgiving, I give thanks for you and your continued readership. Thank you for choosing my blog, thank you for your comments and your care, thank you to the many of you who answered my 5 quick survey questions. Because of you, I feel confident enough to share and am always looking forward to telling my next story. As always, I have wishes for you. First, I wish you rest. Lots of it. At least one morning of being able to sleep until you don’t want to anymore. I wish you the glorious luxury of being able to be lazy,  taking the time you need to recuperate as you need to. Feed that rest with leftovers sumptuously reimagined.  While you’re at it, I wish you a most excellent book to fall into for a few days. It’s ok to take the time to escape, to recharge. When you’re ready, resurface and take up the fight again. Be sure to get in touch with familiar voices, taking the time to say hello and tell someone you love them. As many of us begin the mad dash to fill up boxes and bags with trinkets and do-dads, I ask you: what’s one irreplicable gift you can give this holiday season? Is there something you can create, with your presence, your hands, your expertise, that would brighten someone’s holiday this year? I wish you the time to think about that, warm and cozy, staring up at the milky November sky.

I only ask because, as I remind you every week: you are loved and admired, and what you do in this world matters. You bring joy to someone in this world in a way that no one else can. Don’t forget that. Especially right now.

Until Monday, Dear Reader, stay warm and take care.

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[Quiet Thoughts] Light Against the Darkness

Non-photo: It just wasn’t a week to take pictures, Dear Reader. But stay tuned next week. I’ve got a little surprise for you…

 

I had a moment in my car. I find that grief comes most acutely in the silent moments, alone and in my head. I was parked in front of my house, the breeze was going through the trees. It was so quiet, so beautiful, the sun shining down and warming a calm world.

I wondered, out loud: Don’t you hear us praying? We’re asking you to deliver us, to not let us suffer simply because we exist and others hate us for it. Are you really going to leave us here like this?

I realized how purely impious I was being in that moment, failing a fairly fundamental test of Christian faith. I felt guilty, ashamed. I thought about Grandy, how disappointed she would be at my indiscretion, how much wisdom she would give to me in that moment. She would have admonished in her first breath, taught with her second. It would have made everything better. The world would have such clarity.

So, in my pain and in my low state, I asked my next question: How could you leave me here when I need your advice now more than ever?

And the tears came.

I have had moments of grace, I have had moments of terror, and I’ve had moments of the most intense sort of grief. Grief compounded and compounded as all of this terrible year seems to fold in on itself. Introduce fear into it and it’s a cocktail for absolute disaster. Where grief is a viscous air that chokes and weakens, fear is a sharp, piercing poison that rips and then grips tightly before spreading throughout the body.

It has felt like too much. How the hell to move forward? Do I have the strength to take the advice that I’ve been so freely given to like-minded friends all week?

And can I do it with my faith intact?

I have learned two lessons this autumn that I will always keep with me:

The first I have shared with you before, and I think it still applies beautifully:

In the face of death, bring life with you.

The second is something that is counter to my usually introverted personality:

In moments of crisis, I’m at my best when I’m reaching out.

Each of us (those who are feeling anxious and fearful about the next 4 years) will have to create for ourselves a toolkit for survival. I wrote last week about becoming a “patron” to two local causes that are dear to me, and that’s because I’m programmed to think about others before I think about myself. But this week, my brain has clicked over to self-preservation. How to combat the poison trying to make its way through my system? How can I resist the onslaught myself so that way I’ll be strong enough to aid in the larger resistance to come?

This is what I wrote in my notebook this week:

  1. Intellectualism will be under attack. Therefore, I will read widely and ferociously.
  2. Art will be under attack. Therefore, I will create with purpose, intensity, and frequency.
  3. Journalism will be under attack. Therefore, I will read it with increased scrutiny (and pay for it).
  4. Non-Violent Radicalism will be under attack. Therefore, I will seek radical thought and apply it appropriately.
  5. History will be under attack. Therefore, I will read it, preserve it and teach it to my children with integrity.
  6. Color will be under attack. Therefore, I will be beautiful, graceful and conspicuous with my presence.

To be honest, these are things that I’ve done for my whole life (maybe not always number 4. I’m pretty square and I prefer rules over chaos). There is nothing new here. But to write them down, to reaffirm and recommit, is very powerful. It’s the perfect antidote to the fear, the perfect hit of oxygen to stop the choking. Rearticulating my values, the core of myself and how I exist in this world, is going to get me through this. My truth will be the light I bring to guard against the darkness that is coming. Stating and restating the purpose of my life and what it means will be the perfect rod and staff to comfort me in this 4-year journey through the valley.

And I will reach out my hand time and again. In moments of crisis, when I don’t think I can take anymore, then I will reach out: in service or for help. When I chose to reach out, I feel better.

I write these Quiet Thoughts because this defeat is hard, because the world feels out of sorts, and because the sun keeps managing to rise each morning. It has only been a week, and there is an unbearable nature to how this is going. The waiting is actually worse than the shock, as we are reminded with each appointment, each misstep he is already making, just how much we’ve lost and just how much more we still stand to lose. Resistance is what has been called for, but resistance requires multiple levels and types of strength. The Resistance must be made up of many, many strong individuals. This kind of strength training takes hard work. Take your time and do it well, Dear Reader. We need you.

It is a mild Friday night, Dear Reader. The last little tease of warmth before the first flurries threaten to fly this season. The farmhouse is warm, the children are sleeping, there is plenty of work to do and so little time to get it all done. I don’t know a lot of things, Dear Reader. I don’t know what’s in store for us, for sure. But here is what I do know: I’m grateful for your presence, so thankful for your readership. Thank you for spending a little bit of your time here with me each week. I wish you restful sleep this weekend, deep and healing, the kind with dreams that stir the soul. I wish you food the fills, warms, and nourishes. The kind that takes hours to slowly prepare, complex and layered with flavor, best enjoyed in the company of others and with a good, dark beer. I wish you the lingering embrace of a person you love, holding on for a breath longer than usual, letting their warmth and scent soak in for a moment. I wish you the wise words of an elder, comforting and resolved. I wish you the sweet words of a cherished one, heartwarming and intimate. Finally, I wish you a little time to look yourself in the mirror and remind yourself of how beautiful and important you are. You can be the solution to one of the world’s problems, Dear Reader. You are someone’s light against the darkness.

Until Monday, take care of yourself, Dear Reader.

 

[Quiet Thoughts] Where I Landed

Photo: A friend of mine came over this morning with three bottles of (really good) wine and this bouquet of flowers. “I am just in so much grief,” she said to me. “but I have been thinking of you.” I’m grateful beyond words for the kindness, and for the pop of color in my home. In in-laws are here and will be here until Sunday. The “liquid grace” will help make that a bit easier, and these flowers will be a lovely visible reminder that this, too, shall pass.

 

I didn’t write on Wednesday because I was baking bread. I was exhausted, I was grieving, I was terrified, but I’d made a promise, so I did it. A loaf of oatmeal molasses bread was baked and didn’t actually come out of my oven until 10pm. I set it to cool while I slept on the couch for about 45 minutes, then I wrapped it up and put myself to bed. My husband asked me why I was baking it, who was it for?

Thanksgiving. Not for the outcome of the election, but simply because the sun had risen. I placed that loaf and a small prayer on my church alter. I recognize that I had no control over Tuesday’s outcome , but I have control over how I deal with the news.

My grief took on many forms on Tuesday night and into Wednesday. Pure and simple terror kept me from sleeping. Anguish and disbelief made me snippy in the morning, downright depressed in the afternoon. Other people’s sorrow seeped in as I went through my day. I ended up being Oprah for many on Wednesday: giving people hugs, rubbing their backs and holding their hands, telling them to take things slowly, to let the panic subside and replace it with action. It was hard to take my own advice. There were moments when I had it together, others when the cold grip of unshackled fear would break loose and cause me to physically shake. I kept dropping my keys, dropped my coffee on my lawn, could not get proper footing on the sidewalk while running an errand. I joined the chorus of fright on Facebook, expressing my concerns and calling people to action, but then buried myself in life and what needed to be done instead of being the person I was telling everyone else to be. I prayed, then I baked bread as I promised I would.

Clarity came to me on Thursday morning, having emerged from the shock. As I thought about the darkness to come, watching the Republicans systematically dismantle my president’s legacy, my brain went to fundraising and giving to the watchdog organizations who have the infrastructure to put up a decent fight. But that got me thinking about the smaller organizations that are going to be left behind as we all decide to retreat to our partisan corners and throw money at our favorite big-picture nonprofits. The local food banks, the small but potent charities and service groups, the real community-based organizations that do real work for local people are going to be left behind if we don’t champion them over the next four years. The new economy is already showing that it’s going to be all about nourishing the already rich and it’s absolutely going to leave behind the poor. I can’t save every person, I can’t take up every mantle, but I decided that I do have the power to take thoughtful and meaningful actions in the following ways:

I’ve decided to be a “patron” of two local organizations that I love. The first is First Teacher, a nonprofit parent education and advocacy group in Boston that provides families with support groups to help their children gain important pre-literacy skills as early as infancy, greatly improving their chance to succeed in school and in adult life. It is founded by a good friend of mine, it is proven to be successful, and every new family who walks through their doors is given a brand new book for their kids. I’ve decided to champion their cause, speak about them with my local friends, and donate to them regularly (2-3 times a year) and as significantly as I am able. The second is the Discovery Museums, a beautiful children’s science museum in a local MetroWest town that serves the children of the region with in-school science and engineering projects, free Friday programs, special days for children on the spectrum to enjoy the facilities in accessible ways, and generous discounts for families who cannot afford their admission fees.

I really encourage you to take similar actions, Dear Reader. If you have the means to give, I urge you to choose one or two local organizations in your community to champion over the next 4 years. Become their patron through regular donations as well as advocacy on their behalf. Nourish them with meaningful gifts from your own coffers, but also through pulling your friends in as well. The little guys need you, Dear Reader. Give if you can. Donate your time if you can’t donate your treasure. By reaching out right now, you are strengthening yourself.

I will not pretend to tell you that I’m ok and that everything else will be ok. I would not lie to you like that, Dear Reader. However, in my uncertainty and despair, I’ve decided that I will not crumble, nor will I hide. I’m going to use this as an opportunity to exhibit some grace, to find ways to sustainably practice my faith to the benefit of others, and to step up and take a more leadership role in these communities that I belong to. In other words, it’s time to be a damn adult.

It is night, Dear Reader. The night is for stillness. It is ok to be still right now, Dear Reader, and to process everything that has happened. When you are ready to emerge and start moving again, please do so thoughtfully, understanding that the world needs you now more than ever. We need your brain, we need your good health, we need your strong hands, we need your clear voice. Without you, the fight for change and growth will have little resonance or urgency. How you see the world and what you bring to it matters.

Therefore, I wish you peace this Friday, Dear Reader. Let it fill you up and calm you down. Let it illuminate the way forward for all of us.

Until Monday, stay safe and take care.

 

[Quiet Thoughts] Truth Cuts Through Noise

Photo: Things are going more slowly than I’d like, but I’m enjoying how the design is turning out.

 

I woke up this morning with my stomach in knots. The Husband and I voted last week, but that hasn’t eased any of my ill feelings. On top of everything else, everything else, the underlying feeling of dread and anxiety is causing me physical illness.

From corner to corner of my little suburban world, I’ve been huddling close with trusted people to lament about the tension. So many whispers of sickening dread, so many sighs, so many crossed arms. We keep giving each other the same instructions: keep the faith, engage in the positive, preach when possible, absolutely vote and urge others to do the same.

I confided to a friend that I’d asked The Husband to consider moving out of the country. I even floated the idea that I’d be ok with being a royal subject (yes, friends. I’m that panicked!).

My friend said something so utterly wise that I have to share:

“But nothing is going to change. Not the day-to-day, the people we see, the people we love. We’re still going to all be together, we’re still all going to be here working it out.”

Sure, we wouldn’t like what was happening around us, but at least we’d still be here, connected to the people we love and value, working together, doing the things that must be done.

As I have written in previous posts: every generation before us has thought they were living in the end times. Yet still, they carried on. Together. When the sun didn’t fall out of the sky, they kept doing what it takes to make the world go ’round. They did so with their neighbors, for better and for worse.

I’m going to get up on Wednesday morning and bake bread, because people will still be here and the people I love will be hungry. We’ll all be here together, no matter the outcome.

My Quiet Thoughts come from the glorious wisdom of the utterances said between friends. As we all look on in disgust at the wider state of things, seeing a big picture that scares us, even wakes us up at night, sometimes the focus on the beautifully mundane, the complex and yet intimate, can yield profound wisdom, even a little bit of hope.

My Quiet Thoughts also come from a truth that has been forgotten in all of this but hasn’t gone away, and is the single most important thing to remember: when the lawn signs go away, the commercial breaks back to blessed materialism, the landline no longer ringing with robocalls, and the vestiges of power peacefully passed from one person to another, we’ll all still be neighbors.We’ll be people working under the same sun and same flag. We’ll be neither angels nor demons, as we were never those things to begin with. We will go back to the people we’ve always been.

We are better than what we’ve convinced ourselves we are.

We’re better than this.

I’m not sure I’m going to sleep any better tonight. I’m exhausted, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be sleeping any better. But, I’m grateful for my friend and her words. I know that she didn’t know what she was doing when she said them. If we’re lucky, our teachers come from unexpected places, our best lessons at unexpected times.

Everyone keeps saying it’s just a few more days until it’s all over. That’s true, but it will feel like an eternity. Keep breathing, Dear Reader. Keep marching forward. And, in your debating and your terse conversations, remember who you’re speaking to: neither an angel, nor a demon, but your neighbor.

It is a Friday night in November, chilly and with extended darkness, sweetened by the smell of burning wood, noisy with the crunch of leaves falling and being tread upon. The farmhouse is warm, with the occasional breeze coming through ancient drafty windows. It smells of jerk chicken and pesto meatballs, all sent out of this house for a boy scouts meeting/potluck. It’s a time to take up a book or, for me, needle and thread, and let the world fall away for a time. It’ll all be there for you tomorrow, Dear Reader. We all will.

My first wish for you comes from the sweet intimacy of a silent room: nothing on, nothing beeping, nothing notifying you of anything. I wish you time with yourself and nothing else, listening to nothing more than your breath, your movement, the beating of your own beautiful heart. Take a little time to think your thoughts in peace, to wander in a place only you know and where only you can go. In your stillness, Dear Reader, I wish you peace. We all need a little bit of it right now. I wish you broth, savory and warm, full of goodness that nourishes. Bonus if you make it yourself this weekend. May I suggest one of these vegetarian options? I wish you the opportunity to make something with your hands. If you’re as anxious as I am, or if you’ve been hunched over words/computers/paper all week, let your creative energy come out in some sort of tangible way. When was the last time you took out an instrument to play? Or doodled? Or made something out of clay? Maybe collect some of the falling leaves and press them between some wax papers like when you were a kid. Finally, I wish you the opportunity to do something kind for someone else. Tell someone important that you love them. Hold the door for the person behind you. Sincerely ask someone how they are, how their day is going. Put into the world what you are yearning for–a little bit of warmth, softness, calm.

You are loved, respected and admired, Dear Reader. What you contribute to the world matters. Never forget that, even in the tense times.

Until Monday, Dear Reader, stay safe out there and take care.

 

[Quiet Thoughts] Prepare the Way

Photo: Holiday crafting is in full effect, ya’ll! Thanks to my sister’s supreme talent, I was able to get a few drawings of the boys in fun action poses. Graphite transfer paper is a blessing and a curse: it fades over time. I didn’t realize that when I transferred the full design to the fabric. *sigh* so I’ve had to reinforce a few times already! I’m rushing to get all the outlining work done so I can color without worry of fading!

 

The farmers of MetroWest are preparing their fields for winter. No matter which way we go, what errand the boys and I run to, there is a field along the way. We’ve marveled at the quick harvest, looked closely for the veggies left behind and, of course, the boys have really enjoyed the heavy machinery that has come out to turn over the soil. While some fields are sort of gray and depleted, others are rich and dark, seemingly ready for another planting right away. Geese passing through on their way to warmer destinations can be seen pecking away at the dregs, delighting in a free meal without worry. While I have enjoyed the intellectual exercise of carefully observing the process, discovering things that I have not before (and continually growing a healthy respect for the people who grow our food for a living), I have a sense of sadness–here we are, the cold season. The longest, most miserable time of the year. Gone are the long days and the sunshine and the warmth. I’m not ready. I’m never ready.

It’s been cold this week, too. I broke out my favorite peacoat, took out the boys’ puffy coats, mittens, and hats. Had to preheat the van one morning (and set it to 85 degrees with glee!), had to go digging for long-sleeved shirts. The marigolds survived the first hard freeze of the season (down to the twenties), while the rest of the garden was decimated. I broke out the rakes after school one afternoon and made four huge piles of leaves. There is plenty of yard left to cover.

I found myself relishing it, actually; the preparation for the change. I don’t want winter, but I’m delighted to be busy with it. The getting ready is fun, the logistics of change strangely bring me joy.  Maybe because, while working with my hands and body to change the house over to things, my mind has been free to do it’s thinking, it’s concluding.

I decided I’m not going to do NaNo next month.

I decided I might not write at all this winter.

Like the fields all around me, I’m going to rest. I’m going to feed my brain with books, and a few webinars about blogging and writing, and I’m joining a Mastermind ground and I’m searching for a local writing group. But I’m not going to force myself to produce. Not for a season. I’m going to let my mind lay fallow.

Because I don’t have the bandwidth and I’ve hit a space where I need to do some learning before I can do any improving.

I contemplated stepping away from the blog, too.

“Are you getting a little depressed or are you honestly rerouting your energy and focus?” The Husband asked me when I spoke to him about this. He asks excellent questions.

The urge to stop blogging is the tug of depression. It would be so easy to turn this computer off, so easy to leave the words behind, to disrupt the routine, to have no obligations to myself at all. Lord, how lovely it would be to surrender to it. It paws at me every single morning and keeps me in bed 40 minutes longer than I should. I haven’t gotten up before 6:30 any day since Grandy passed. It takes an incredible effort to get my two feet on the floor. Once they’re there, I’m fine… but those moments between my waking and my moving are the most exhausting of my day.

Before you start to worry, I’m not giving up and I’m not walking away from the blog. Thanks to freelancing, I was able to purchase some really great resources to help me learn and grow, and I’m sure that there will be some experimenting happening in this space over the winter months. The Husband has taken on the responsibility of holding me to the promise: not to give up, to publish my two complete manuscripts, to learn and grow, to emerge in the Spring ready to produce.

But, in order to do that, I’ve got to prepare the way. I have to rediscover the purpose of the pursuit. I may even need to rediscover what I’m pursuing to begin with.

It’s good to let go, and a little scary. Doubt loves to tease: “Are you kidding yourself? This is what quitting looks like!”

I’m not listening. I know better.

There is nothing wrong with resting, breathing, replenishing. I have to do it. I have actually, finally, reached my capacity.

My dear, Dear Reader, it’s Friday. Another rainy one, actually, with a cold wind that cuts through the flimsy stuff made for the 60 degree days. Halloween (and all that must be done) looms large over my weekend but, tomorrow at least, I don’t have to think about it. Like so many Fridays that have come before, I have wishes for you. I wish you a first evening under your good blanket. You know the one: the one you break out for the real cold, to keep out the real chill of the long season. I wish you that pleasure of taking it out of the closet, shaking it out, giving it a good smell, wrapping it around you and feeling its loving warmth. I hope that you break open a new book to mark the occasion, wrapping yourself up and falling away. Far, far away. I wish you the joy of some good tomato basil soup, extra bonus points if you make it yourself, which you totally can. Bonus points if you have an excellent grilled cheese sandwich to dip in it. I wish you the crackle of a fire or the tapping of the rain on your window, any excuse to stop and listen, to enjoy and relax. I wish for you the permission you need to stop and breathe, Dear Reader. It’s a gift. Finally, as ever, I wish you a loving embrace and the wonderful feeling that comes when someone tells you they love you with full heart and sincerity. A lover, a relative, a friend… those words are powerful, they matter, and they should be said. Be sure to say the words out loud this weekend: to yourself (first) and to someone else.

I’m grateful for your presence, Dear Reader. Thank you for another great week.

Until Monday, take care.

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[Quiet Thoughts] We’re All “Somebody”

Photo: This wasn’t a week for lots of photo opportunities. This is the yard in the sunshine yesterday. Or was it Wednesday? I don’t know. I can’t keep up with everything.

 

Ursa Major got off the bus today and took my hand the way he does every day. I asked him how his day was. He said he liked it, but he said it was also a sad day. He poked out his little lip, fighting back tears.

“What in the world?” I asked, alarmed. “What happened, baby?”

“[One of his classmates] is leaving [kindergarten]. He’s moving away. To a new town. He won’t be in my class anymore.”

Tears came down, his little heart breaking.

There are some things that Mommy can’t fix. I squeezed his hand, told him I was sorry. I wanted to cry, too, feeling a bit of heaviness in my chest in reaction to his sincere and sweet tears.

“And he’s going to get a new bus and everything,” he went on to say. All of the elements of kindergarten are still mystical and personal for Major. He owns his school experience. To think that someone is leaving it, getting new things, is a mind-blowing concept to him.

I told him we’d bought cupcakes at Wegmans. That cheered him up a bit. I told him that his brother was waiting for him. That seemed to help, too.

When we got in the house, he bounced over to Minor and gave him a hug. But then the mood went somber again as he told his little brother about his friend.

Minor asked an interesting question: “Well, was he your friend?”

Major gave an even more interesting answer: “No. But he was somebody.”

I really love this exchange. I’m not sure that I can articulate it, but I will do my best.

The loss I feel when thinking about Grandy is still quite raw. While I’ve had to nod and smile through the condolences of people who I know and see, I’ve still also had to keep my feelings tucked away. To show my tears would be an act of intimacy that I can only reserve for the absolute closest of confidants here (also, I’m not big on crying in public). I’ve put on a lot of masks this week. I haven’t been my full self in order to keep putting my feet on the floor in the morning and get through the day.

But I have wondered a few times this week about whether or not my masking my feelings is actually a good lesson to teach my boys. Frankly, I’ve wondered if my compartmentalizing is actually a sign that something is wrong with me. Maybe I should talk to somebody. Maybe I should be more sad, more weepy, than I am. I said on Wednesday that I’m ashamed of how functional I’ve been. I still am. I know I don’t need to lose it, but I just wonder why I’m not more sensitive, tender. This couples with a sort of odd mom-guilt: I don’t want to teach them that the loss of a family member is something you “just deal with” and “move on” from. I want them to know it’s a process. I want them to know it’s ok to be sad, and that their feelings matter.

So for Major to get off the bus with tears in his eyes, having “lost” a classmate to the journey of life… it made me feel a little better. No bad lessons were taught this week. Breathe. Breathe, Woman. Breathe!

I think I’m grateful for Major’s answer because I love that he recognizes other kids, sees himself a connected to them, understands that he shares a class and a culture with them. The fact that this classmate (who he named) is a “somebody.” Not a stranger, not just some “other.” He recognized this classmate as a member of a body he belongs to and values, thus he values him as well. Wow… there is just so much power in that emotional growth.

Anyway, Dear Reader. I simply cannot believe that it’s Friday. I’m bewildered by it.Where there was nothing here last week, I do have wishes for you this week, Dear Reader. Thank you again for your patience with me.

On this rainy Friday, I wish you quiet. I wish open windows and natural sounds coming through. A brisk autumn breeze, the rain beating down on the sidewalk, the clatter and patter of the leaves falling to the ground. I hope the world offers a soothing feeling this Friday evening, Dear Reader. I hope it carries you away to peaceful places. I wish you a bit of intimacy this weekend: the private smile of your favorite person, an inside joke only one other person shares with you, a kiss the surprising that allures, the touch of a hand that lights a spark of joy. I wish you an excellently told story from an unexpected source that surprises and inspires you. I wish you your first warm, savory broth, preferably filled with freshly harvested veggies. I wish you two beautiful leaves found on a meandering walk, a peek at the moon, still gorgeous if you know where to look… and most of all, I wish you the warming words of someone you love, and the affirmation that you are, indeed, loved profoundly. Near and far, there are people in this world who love you beyond measure, who miss you when you’re not near. And please, learn a lesson from me: call someone this weekend and tell them you love them. Invest your time in the people you love and admire, let them feed you and nourish you with their stories. You never know when they won’t be available to you anymore.

I’m so grateful to you, Dear Reader. I’m grateful that you care about my story, and I’m beyond grateful that you sometimes choose to share your stories with me. Thank you.

Until Monday, take care.

[Quiet Thoughts] The Way He Walks

Photo: Major learned E Chord today for no other reason than his teacher thinking he’s cool. He was supposed to learn G7 chord this week, which is did, but that was after having fun and learning E. Sharing this picture because there is so much love in the child’s eyes, a reverence for this thing that he loves so much. Damn it’s expensive… but I am so glad we did this. Of course, the boy is asking for a blue one for Christmas…

 

I dropped off Major at school on Tuesday and stopped right at the sidewalk as his teacher waved for him. “He can walk the rest of the way! He knows where he’s going!” She called as she waved. Major went bounding forward, stopped short, then came running back to give me a hug. Just like a commercial! I gave him a hug and a kiss, told him he was going to have a great day, (“I know. It’s going to be so great.”) and then watched him traverse the space between me and his teacher.

My Quiet Thoughts were born by watching him walk away. His head was held high, but his steps moving forward were uneven. His backpack is bigger than he is, he’s so small compared to the older children who were making their way to the building, yet he’s so big compared to his classmates… so much bigger than his brother. Unlike his preschool, which was small and cozy (he’d walk up to the building and it didn’t seem to loom so large), standing there, watching him move forward, that’s all I could see: how so very big the building is, how so very small my son is in comparison. He’ll grow into the space. We all will. We’ll grow into this new life. Yet still, standing on that sidewalk, watching my son walk away from me, there was raw understanding of just how far we’ve come, and yet how very far we have to go.  I had to remind myself that this is the first month of the first year at the first school. Stay focused.

There was affirmation in that moment, however: I saw that my son was comfortable and confident in his movement. There wasn’t dread or trepidation in his steps. He moved forward with the energy of a child who felt safe and loved, who felt secure in himself and his surroundings.

In a big wide world, expanding by the day, my son walks forward, with a keen eye, a confident spirit, and an open heart.

There is faith in that. There is hope in that.

This is the beauty of childhood, for sure. And a childhood of privilege, no less. I understand that this will be lost and relearned multiple times as we progress through the grades, moving upward and outward toward other challenges. Yet, when you get the chance to see it what full faith and self-confidence look like when on display, you can’t help but stop and marvel. You  try to dig deep to find it in yourself again, remembering what it was like to know that you are going to be ok, without a doubt, because the world is good and you are free to be yourself and make mistakes.

While I’m not convinced that it’s possible to fully return to that space as an adult, I think that it is possible to capture it and rekindle it in temporary bursts. That we can, in order to propel ourselves to the next great step in our lives, return to a place of faith and full trust in ourself and all that we know to be true about ourself. In knowing that, if nothing else, we are capable of walking forward in a big wide world, and that we’ll make it to the other side of whatever challenge presents itself.

Or maybe I’m an optimistic fool. Maybe this is the best I can do in a mean world.

This week felt damn close to normal. Maybe this is normal now. There is still a lot to smooth out, so much still unsettled. Yet, I sucked less this week. I did everything I had to do, even most of the things I wanted to do. I still feel behind. I still feel like I should have accomplished more.

I attended that PTA meeting on Tuesday and decided it’s not for me. Fundraising sucks, even if it’s important. I will say, though, that the principal of the school specifically greeted me during the meeting, expressing his happiness for my being there (I was one of two women of color at the table). And people there were friendly and certainly care a lot about the school. But the meeting ran way too long and, more importantly, it was boring beyond measure. I just… don’t care… about pizza nights and wrapping paper. At all. But, I did learn a lot about the workings of the school and its philosophy. I love being in the know… you know? But, is it worth being bored out of my skull once a month?

Lordy. I messed up the Quiet Thoughts with petty laziness, didn’t I? Well, Dear Reader, I never said I was perfect. 😉

There is rain falling outside of the farmhouse windows for the second time this week. A welcome wonder in drought-stricken MetroWest Massachusetts. The smell of it is intoxicating, the sound of it is mesmerizing. I look forward to  drifting off to sleep while listening to it, and enjoying the green that will result from it. We all could use a little nourishment, Dear Reader. We all could use a bit of refreshment, a bit of help raining down from high places. A little peace, a little mercy, a little joyful love. These are among the things I wish for you this Friday, Dear Reader. I wish you warmth from the sun’s rays and from the smile of someone dear. I wish you a tight squeeze from a sweet embrace, the snug feel of your favorite jacket, the electric awesomeness you can only feel when you put on your favorite Fall boots. I wish you brunch, a little sweet, a little savory, served with a side of laughter and storytelling. I wish you stillness and comfort, an easing of pain, an easing of a mind darting and racing. I wish you calming hands on your shoulders, on your neck, on your cheeks, in your hair. May they heal a bit, comfort a lot.

In a world that feels dark and anxious, I wish you a protective spirit to surround you, but I also wish for the culture to change. Where all beings, of all shades and colors (and shapes and sizes, etc etc) are protected, respected, and welcomed. If it’s true that thoughts are born of intention, and actions are born from our thoughts, then may our intention be to cultivate this. (Special thanks to a wonderful reader who sent me this  powerful wish.)

 

Until Monday, stand strong, be kind, love fearlessly, laugh loudly, and take care.