Saturday, November 7, 2015

Heart of a Lion

There are moments in living in this world that are so astoundingly beautiful, you cannot believe they are happening.  The moment becomes a part of your personal narrative, one that alters and shapes your perceptions, even in the tiniest of ways.  You know yourself to be lucky beyond measure to have born witness to the moment.
On Thursday, Pax lost a tooth.  This is still a relatively new occurrence for him, and he was so excited for the Tooth Fairy to arrive.  But the poor Tooth Fairy was beyond exhausted that night, spent and weary and beat.  She may have fallen asleep seconds after the last child was tucked into bed and kissed goodnight.

Friday morning, I was in the shower when Pax came into the bathroom.  "Mom," he said to me in a wavering voice.  "The Tooth Fairy did not come.  She did not take my tooth or leave me any money."  Instantly, my heart sank to my feet.  "Oh, honey, I am so sorry!" I said in my best unconcerned voice.  "You know, I have heard that this happens sometimes with the Tooth Fairy, that she gets so busy with collecting teeth that sometimes she doesn't make it to all the teeth in one night.  Let's talk about it when I am out of the shower."  Pax left, and I could see through the steamed glass that his little shoulders were slumped over. 

As I was putting on my robe, Pax came back into the bathroom.  "Mom!" he said in a voice that was part joyful, part wondering.  "The Tooth Fairy got confused!  Guess what?  She DID come, but she got confused and left two dollars for me under Leo's pillow instead of mine!"  My voice caught in my throat, in disbelief.  "I'll be right in to your room, Pax."

Leo was sitting up in his bed when I walked in the room behind Pax.  I caught his eye, and immediately saw the twinkle there.  "Mom," Leo began.  "I don't know how this happened, but the Tooth Fairy left money for Pax underneath MY pillow instead of his! Maybe it's because he sleeps in my bed so much!  My wallet is waaaay over there, but there was money under my pillow for Pax!" 

I gazed at my son, feeling the weight of his love and heft of his kindness, absorbing this moment in time that is indelible, defining for us both...

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Unconditional: Defined.

I will return to this space, fully and weekly, in time.  

Until then--

I thought I knew unconditional love.  I've always known God's unconditional love for me, the way God shows up for me, speaks to me, shines light on me.  God shows up in sunrises that catch me by surprise, in moonlight that bursts through clouds, in light that fights through the darkness.   Admittedly, my relationship with God right now is complicated, and my time with God is awfully quiet these days.  But never do I doubt God's presence, God's love for me.  Wholly and completely, unconditional.  But unconditional goes far beyond God's love...

Unconditional, defined:  It begins with two important men in my life.

The relationship I have with my father is different - and better - now than it has ever been in my life. That is to say, I have never felt closer or more loved or more supported by him than I do today.  It is in the little ways he cares for me:  delivering fresh flowers to me every week; getting my car inspected; fixing broken sinks and scouring my bathroom tubs and installing new appliances.  Sharing breakfast with each of my sons, individually, on a three week rotation.  Washing dinner dishes after putting my kids to bed, while I am tutoring.  Buying me beer, pouring me a drink. The list goes on and on... and yet the simplest thing he said to me, recently, is the moment I keep coming back to, again and again.  In a moment of angst and stress over my financial mess, my father shared with me, "When we moved to Virginia, we were really 240 hours from being bankrupt.  My dad said 'Paul, it is only paper.'  The next day we got a cash sale on the house and closed with 48 hours to spare.  But my dad was right either way - it was only paper."  

For years, my father has counseled me with those same words - "Money is just paper."  But I used to scoff and blow him off, because let's face it - he always has more paper than I do.  Everything changed with that text from him to me.  I understood, in new light, what was being shared.  The wisdom of his words were being passed down through generations.  Knowing that his father had counseled him in the same way made me understand the value of the words.  Suddenly, I was connected not only to my father, but to my grandfather as well - a man I loved dearly, and admired deeply.  He was well-read, an accomplished organist, a fine chef, and a good, good man who demonstrated unconditional love in real and significant ways, particularly for the time period in which he lived.  He raised up an even better son, who reads occasionally, is tone-deaf, and whose culinary skills (outside of the grill) are decent at best.  But the values my grand/father instilled, the man (men) he helped/is helping to shape, the wisdom each imparted, the actions that support the words spoken define unconditional love.

My brother Adam spent the better part of a week here this summer, and among many other chores he did, he mowed and weed whacked the lawn.  It has never looked better - and I know that I'm not the only one with this opinion, because my neighbor admired the lawn, then asked, "Is he your hired help?"  I guffawed (hired help?  Really?) before responding, "No.  He's my brother."  Unconditional.

Adam is among the most emotionally literate men I know, and I dream of raising sons who are as emotionally connected, affirming, and tender as Adam is to me.  Adam's ability to connect to what I am feeling and validate me, again and again is breathtaking.  He takes what I say to him without judgement, contextualizes it, normalizes it, then reflects it back to me.  Each phone call ends the same way: first a pause, then "I love, you, Annie."  Unconditional.

Yet there is nothing that defines unconditional more completely than the love of my mother.  Mine has demonstrated her love to me, timelessly and tirelessly.  My mother is my cheerleader, my coach, my rally-er, my sympathetic ear.  For many months now, she does the kids' laundry, cleans out closets, organizes massive heaps of stuff, tidies rooms, loves on my kids, takes me out for dinner and treats me to new clothes, invites us over for dinner, plants my garden, runs my errands.  That's a small handful of what she does for me. Recently, a song popped into my head that was a choir anthem many years ago.  Aidan was about 4 years old, and was captivated by it; he requested it many nights in a row after he heard it for the first time that Sunday morning.  "When I fall down you pick me up, when I am dry you fill my cup..."  That was the part that Aidan liked best.  Finally, I asked him what made that song so special to him.  "Because, Mommy, when I fall down, you always pick me up."  And when that song popped into my head again for the first time in many years, I instantly knew why.  Because I have been falling down.  Again and again and again.  And my mom, she's been picking me up.  Again and again and again.... 

Unconditional: defined.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A(nother) reader in da house!

So this is happening:

!!!!!!!!!!!!!  So, so exciting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There is something uniquely awesome about watching a child discovering the joy of reading something all by himself.  I am smitten with this newest reader and his amazing capabilities!  Look out, Library, you're soon to be DEVOURED!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sweet P

"Catch up on blog" remains at the top of my to-do list.  Life keeps getting in the way of my to do's.

But I do not want to forget to savor these two recent snippets, the finding-beauty-in-every-day moments that are what sustain me these days....

In addition to sharing the good part and bad part of our days at the dinner table, we've added a third element.  Each of us shares something beautiful that we've encountered that day, for even on hard days, sad days, angry days, or dreary days, there is still something beautiful to be found, recognized, enjoyed.  Sometimes, the most beautiful part of my day is when I hear what Aidan, Leo, and Pax share.  Like on this recent evening:
Me: "What was the beautiful part of your day?"

Pax:  "I know.  Making wishes in the fountain.  With Mommy.  That made it moooooore beautiful."


Most of my grocery shopping happens now while Pax is at school.  But this week, thrown off a day by a field trip with Aidan, I had to shop on Friday morning with Pax in tow.  On the one hand, it was nice to have his company.  On the other hand, we predictably ended up with more in the cart than I'd intended.  By the last aisle, I was weary of saying no to treats, abundant in every aisle, negotiating trades in the cart (if you want to get the sprinkles for ice cream, then we need to put back the chocolate chips), and of simply being in the grocery store, still.  As his voice took on a whiney pitch as he lobbied for two kinds of popsicles, I said to him,

"Pax!  We already have special things in this cart for you.  Do you see any treats in this cart for ME?"

He stared at me.  Grinned.  "Yes," he replied, hanging off the edge of the handle.  
"ME.  I am your treat!"  

Perspective. Restored.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Personal Best

 Soon, I hope to back fill some of the time and space that is so absent from this place.  I hope to catalog some Christmas photos, recount the celebration of Leo's 8th birthday, showcase a cooking challenge we took on in February, and remember and record some of the good moments of these past few hard, challenging, and dark months.

But I needed a place to start, today.  

I ran the Charlottesville 10 Miler this past weekend, the 6th time I've done this race.  I was excited to run this year with a friend from church, but... we didn't have a good plan in place on the morning of the race for meeting up, and we could not find each other.  Though I had been looking forward to having a partner to run with again, I did not mind in the least the challenge of running, solo.  I knew I could do it.  

My goal each year is the same:  beat my time from last year.  Given the obstacles I've faced this training season, including lots of snow, ice, and frigid temperatures, I wasn't confident I could beat my 1:23:49 time from 2014.

I killed it.  I ran this year's race in 1:19:44, shaving 4 minutes off my time, running sub-8's the entire way, and placing 13th in my age range,  and 328th (out of 1,715) overall.  

Perhaps best of all, just when I was feeling a little bit like I was dragging in mile 9, I spotted my buddy Tony up ahead and was able to catch up to him.  We finished the race together, and he gave me the encouragement I needed at the very end to finish so strong.  

Here's to personal bests.