the things we keep

isn’t it interesting,
I ask myself,
standing in the middle of my
closet
looking for hangers
and containers to
“contain” all this stuff,

that of all the things we keep,
the things we hang on to
and refuse to let go of–
in spite of the clutter
and general disarray it brings

isn’t it interesting
that of all those,
the things that we keep
in our hearts
are the ones that have the potential
to disrupt our homes the most

clothes hangers

By Misslager (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

where it hurts

when my children were little
I could ask them
“where does it hurt?”
and they would point or nod
or tell me
and I would doctor it up,
cleaning it,
putting on the ever-magical
bandaid

and kiss it all better

which would usually end in giggles and
all would be fixed

but now, as they grow,
when they come to me with
pain in their eyes
and hearts on their sleeves,
sadness weighing them down,
and I ask where it hurts
it breaks my heart when they shrug

unable to pinpoint the source

of the aching pain
that has them curled up in a ball
forlorn, in tears,
and lost

no amount of bandaids or kisses
can fix some of the hurts
of goodbyes or harsh words
or not knowing

and so I sit and clench my fists,
angry that there is so much broken in our world
and that little ones, young and old
have to feel all the things
that are hard

I hope for comfort and peace
when all I can do is tell them to breathe
and rest
and hang in there

and gently rub their backs

because there’s no bandaid big enough
to cover
where it hurts now

Bandaids_closeup

By DedeBandaid (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

a long time gone

the thing about special days now
is that they will never be the same
without hearing your voice
and that phone call at exactly
the same time every single year

the sound of your voice echoes
in the silence
that inevitably comes
and the moment passes, another year
and still
my heart misses yours

as though it were only yesterday
and you were not a long time gone
from this world
released from the pains
and worries from before
that day that took you away

as the day draws to a close
the darkness suits, doesn’t it
to think of this life without you
from here on out

doesn’t seem like something I’m going to be able to do

and yet I will
of course
and most days I can
but when that phone doesn’t ring
and I don’t hear your voice
at all
on the day you never once let pass
by
without showing your love
or teasing me about getting old

it is almost too much to bear

I don’t have you to call and tell
how much this hurts anymore–
that might be the hardest of all

my friend, part of my heart, is apart
from me
and this life will never be the same again

gone is a complete sentence
to which there is no reply

Parenting with Ambiguity, Or I Might Have Messed Up Today–Still Not Sure

Despite this week having a lot of hard bits in it, we had a major win for the Zoo Crew.  Cooter, who two years ago was in first grade and barely able to read Old Hat, New Hat, finished the fourth Harry Potter book.  All 752 pages.  He’s been working away at it for a while, but has really been intent on finishing it for the past ten days or so.  To the point where I find him curled up with the book on a couch or bed or floor when he should be doing his math or spelling or science, and I can’t find him.

He was so excited when he finished the last chapter yesterday.

So was I.

Just typing that he read that whole book brought the realization home–he really has learned to read.  And read well.

I am so thankful I cannot even fully express it in words.

Not all the day to dailies of parenting are like that though.  A clear-cut win or failure.  So many of my parenting moments are cloudy–I’m not sure where they fall until much later, if ever.

Like today.

One of our deals about Cooter reading the Harry Potter books has been that once he reads the book he can watch the corresponding movie.  That has gone well until this one, which is the first one rated PG-13.

Still, I was open to trying it with the crew.  Our Princess has read all of the books multiple times, and she has been waiting patiently to watch the movies after her brother finishes the books.  She has been a great encourager and cheerleader for her brother.  I am proud of her for that.  She so could have put on the pressure and made it a miserable experience for him.

I told my littles this morning that if they helped get the house in order, they could watch the movie this evening with their big sister home from college.  They were excited and eager to do so.

Until they forgot.

I was out running errands, having left them with instructions of what I expected them to do.  I even went so far as to say no electronics (aka “Minecraft”) until after I got back and approved the jobs they’d done.

Ahem.

So imagine my surprise (read: disappointment) when I came in and discovered that not only had they not finished their tasks, they were on their devices, having misinformed their sister of what their instructions had been.

Not cool.  Not cool at all.

So I now share my room with two devices which won’t see the light of day or my littles’ hands anytime soon.

Off they went.  Before lunch was ready and after–picking up, putting away, sorting, and tidying up.  Their “messes” had grown legs and traveled into more rooms than their own, so they had quite a bit to do.

From time to time or twelve, they lost their focus and started playing Legos or trying to put together their Halloween costumes or re-read the favorite parts of a book or two.

*sigh*  The struggle is real.  Focus is a lost art.

Mid-afternoon one of our Princess’ friends came over and asked if she could play.  This sweet friend came to the door with her infectious smile and bubbling over with stories from her day.  She is adorable and pretty much an answer to prayers.  She is a good friend to my middle child, and I’m thankful for her.  Princess came rushing to the door and begging me first with her eyes and then her words, “Please.  PLEASE?”

The weather here has been a mess the past several days.  Rainy, misty, and finally a little cooler to go with it yesterday and today.  It seemed rather nice, if not still a little damp out, this afternoon.  I KNOW my children need to run around and play outside and get fresh air, something they haven’t really been able to do the past few days.  Still, I wondered what kind of precedent I was setting by letting her go play when all of her picking up wasn’t done.

I let her go.

And I let Cooter go out and play too.

Their smiles and the laughter and the sounds of children’s imaginations coming up with all kinds of storylines to play out was music to my ears.  Which was good because what my eyes saw that was undone in this house was not making me very happy.

I called my two back in at supper.  I knew we were about to board the struggle bus, as I was going to have to dole out the consequences.  No movie tonight.  They hadn’t upheld their part of the bargain.  Instead of focusing and getting the odd jobs and picking up that I’d given them to do before watching the movie, they had dilly-dallied much of the day.  And then this afternoon and evening, they chose to continue playing outside instead of finishing their work.  I had even reminded them of the consequences if they kept playing.

But here’s where my heart was torn. They had chosen to PLAY OUTSIDE with their friends instead of coming in and doing what they needed to do to be able to watch the movie.

I have to say, that despite the untidy house, I’m kind of pleased that they chose outside and relationships over watching a movie.  Not happy about the house, but definitely pleased that they chose as they did.

Which doesn’t even make much sense, does it?

Well, the mess will still be here tomorrow, and I will supervise a little closer so they will stay focused.  I hope.  Together we will get it done.  And one day, probably not tomorrow, they will get to watch the movie.  And it will be spectacular.  But tonight what I’m celebrating is my children’s priorities.  Skewed as this may sound, I give thanks that they chose their friends over a movie.

And you know what else?  They didn’t really sound off much when I laid down the law and said “no” to the movie.  After the initial thirty-second pout by Cooter, they ate their supper talking about what they’d been playing with their friends and who said what, and it was wonderful.

Relationships.  People.  Every single time.

(and the house–I know.  But we will get to that tomorrow.)

I know that today wasn’t my shining moment as a parent, because I’m still confused if I handled things as I should have.  Perhaps I should have kept them locked inside until all the chores were done.  I don’t know.  Somehow it just felt wrong in that moment.

And goodness knows they sure fell asleep fast and well tonight, from all that playing and adventuring.

I might never know if any of my decisions were right, wrong, or otherwise.  All I can do, in the words of my Mama, “is the best I can with what I have in that moment.”

And that was today.

May we all choose people over the other stuff in this life.  Every single time.

Love to all.

the winter people

as the sun paints the leaves a lighter color
in anticipation for the changing of the season,
laying out the fancy fall foliage,
waiting for the summer crowds to head on home

a pot of soup waits on the stove
and in the woods, beneath the fallen logs
and inside the hollowed out trees
await the winter people

those who love the frigid temperatures,
dancing in the air as the snowflakes drift down
to cover the gold and red and brown carpet
that Fall left behind

the winter people politely wait their turn
sending messages that they will be arriving soon
their sentiments echoed in the smoke breathed out into the air
and in the frozen dew crunching beneath steady steps

they bring with them evergreens and white
and berries not for the tasting
and memories made wrapped in warm blankets
created all those years ago by a great-aunt or grandmother

the winter people smell like peppermint
or ginger and cloves
and they delight in mugs of hot chocolate
or apple cider

and roaring fires in the hearth

and at night just before closing their eyes
the winter people tease their hosts with stories of
seasons gone by
and memories of warmth and bare feet and
bright-colored flowers

they come with a jovial spirit
and settle in quite nicely
closing shop early, making the evenings longer
asking us all to slow down and be

together

in the glow of the fire
their hearts are reflected
and the strength of those who can bear the cold
is breathtaking

they have a special gift
these souls who thrive in the coldest of times
they bring peace and comfort
and warm the souls for whom the cold

is daunting
and for those who think they might never survive

the winter people are there
to say
“yes you can,
I’m here,
we can do this,
together”

"Las Golczewski zima" by Radosław Drożdżewski (Zwiadowca21) - Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Las_Golczewski_zima.jpg#/media/File:Las_Golczewski_zima.jpg

“Las Golczewski zima” by Radosław Drożdżewski (Zwiadowca21) – Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons 

home by morning

hours after the sun goes down
she settles into her bed
her head on the pillow
and her eyes gently close

and she quietly slips out the door

to fight the darkest of shadows
the kind that break hearts and families
and to travel along the greatest of paths
behind courageous thinkers and dreamers
and those who made things happen

once again she sees and talks with the ones she loves
who are no longer here to hug
she sings on stage
and dances in the rain
and has the conversations she always meant to have
sometimes yelling at the one who brought all the bad to be

she protects the weak and feeds the hungry
and rides a horse along the beach
then swims as though she has the tail of a mermaid
for miles and miles

she hears the music she long forgot
and picks the fruit from the trees at places
she can no longer call her own
and she tastes it, every nuance of flavor just as she remembered

she accepts the blame she should have long ago
and makes things right from times before
she cooks fabulous meals and burns the biscuits
and sits for hours laughing around the table
where all the stories she’s lost are told again

she wears fabulous ball gowns
staring up at the midnight sky from the deck of a ship
and walks into a room of her peers
in only her underwear
cringing in fear of being noticed
and worrying over the test
she never studied for

she laughs over a joke she cannot remember
and speaks to the embassy
and holds the hand of the one she loved

with every moment she moves quickly
from one thing to the next
seemingly seamlessly

until finally
she is home by morning

where she is meant to be
tucking her dreams away
until night comes again

By GlacierNPS [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By GlacierNPS [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

frog music, part 2

the point is not to hear them one night
and realize that they are back
and marvel at their harmony
wondering where they were all winter,
the ones who laid the eggs
which became tadpoles
who then grew into these talented musicians

the point is not to appreciate and move on
to the next thing
or moment

instead it is to sit and listen
each and every night
hearing the different nuances in the notes
from one evening to the next

finding delight in the beauty anew
and feeling the magic
again and again
holding the same hand for all these years

it is not to forget what “at first sight”
or “first listen”
felt like

but instead to hear and see and fall in love
time
after time
each
and
every sunset

By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters (Okefenokee Sunset  Uploaded by Dolovis) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters (Okefenokee Sunset Uploaded by Dolovis) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons