Genetics?

August 11th, 2014

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I adore words.  Sometimes I’ll read the same line in a book over and over again because the way the words blend together make even an ugly truth absolutely beautiful.  I hear people complain about eloquence a lot, particularly in regards to public speech, as if using words well undermines the legitimacy of a message.  But you’ll never hear me complain about eloquence.

Between two people, words are our vehicles and our cargo.  We can’t live within another person, but with words, we can get close.  And when those words are beautiful, it just makes us enjoy the ride that much more.

Because of this, I’ve always loved song lyrics.  Songs make words and messages accessible during our waking hours.  When we can’t get lost in a book, we may be able to get lost in a song.  And when you put words to music, it allows the words to sink more deeply into us.

One of the first songs I ever fell in love with was “The Glory of Love.”  This was before I had a tape recorder (I’m dating myself here!) but whenever it would come on the radio, I would just melt.  I was a romantic from the beginning, and I loved the tale of a man defending the honor of his love.

“I am a man who will fight for your honor.  I’ll be the hero you’ve been dreaming of.  We’ll live together, knowing forever that we did it all for the glory of love.”

You can bet that as soon as I got my tape recorder, that was one of the first songs I dubbed off of the radio, and then I recorded it multiple times on the same tape so that I wouldn’t have to bother rewinding to hear it over and over again.

While I still love that song, I’ve pretty much left Peter Cetera in my past.  These days the lyrics that melt me are by James Taylor and Garth Brooks and Willie Nelson.  I no longer have a tape recorder, but you can bet that 99% of my iTunes collection goes unplayed as I repeat the same few songs ad nauseum.  After knowing me for almost fifteen years, TJ has heard the phrase, “listen to the words” probably no fewer than three thousand times.

So this is all background to the moment I experienced a couple of weeks ago.  We had spent the day swimming, and we were driving home.  We had the radio on when “All of Me” by John Legend came on.  All of a sudden, I hear Magoo, scream from the back, “Mom!  Did you hear those words?!”

And as I looked back, I saw her close her eyes as she sang out, “I love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections.”  Every time that lyric would come on, you could almost feel her melting into the lyric.  ”It’s just so beautiful,” she said.

And finally, I thought, I had found another person who truly understands the beauty in a lyric.  I had looked for thirty some years for such a person.  Little did I know that all I had to do was make her.

Please Remember

August 7th, 2014

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Hi girls,

Sometimes I must say I’m sorry.  Today is one of those days.  I want to take you aside and explain things to you and assure you I can do better and promise to do better.  But while you can understand a simple “I’m sorry” at this age, the explanations will soar thankfully over your head.  Because at this age, you don’t have to concern yourself with grown up things.

But one day you will understand, and as such here it is.

I am sorry that some days Mommy gets lost.

Some days the lack of a set schedule makes me feel out of control.

Some days the lack of adult conversation makes me feel like I’m invisible.

And some days the patience required to take proper care of the hearts of three little girls is beyond my reach.

I consider it the privilege of my life to get to spend these years with you.  To know that day in and day out, I will be here with you, the constant in your little lives.  There is not a single thing I would trade my life for.  Watching you grow and change and discover brings me more joy than you could fathom.  And being the one to always be here to wipe the tears and calm the fears is an honor and a privilege and a blessing and a gift.

But despite all of the blessings and the joys, the thing I struggle with the most as a stay at home mom is the big empty room.  To me, each day feels like a big empty, open, structure-less room.  And my job each day is to fill it up.  My job is to help you find your way through the room, to fill it with stimulating activities, to help you find ways to grow, to help you find meaning, and to help you find comfort within the walls.  In the room, there are no clocks.  There are no “must do” lists.  There is no structure and no plan and no starting or finish line.  The room just is.  It’s empty.  And the only thing that can fill it is what we create.

And sometimes that room is thrilling.  It’s liberating to be free from the clocks and expectations of the world.  I love the little life we have created within the room.  It’s my home.

But sometimes those large white walls can suffocate me.  The task of being the structure for you all when I, myself, feel like I’m spinning can seem monumental and impossible.  And sometimes the only way I know to cope can seem like withdrawal.

Some days, the endless hugs might feel a bit limited.  Sometimes the deep conversations can be lacking on my part.  Some days I leave you to fill up the room and to determine the structure and the depth.  Because quite honestly, some days I just don’t have it in me.

One day you will grow up, and you will realize that all people are fallible in very real ways.  And you will learn that one of my struggles is with this — this feeling that the world spins around me way too fast and that when my world is spinning, it gets overwhelming to correctly manage all the spinning worlds that reside within your hearts.

It doesn’t usually last long.  I fight desperately against it.  But every now and then, I fall.  And I pray you retain the patience to wait it out until I stand back up.

So in the barrage of all the memories you will surely have from your childhood, I don’t ask that you forget these moments when I fall down, when I get tired, when my patience seems to have run away.  Those are your memories, and you are entitled to them.  But I ask that please also remember the standing up.  Please remember that though I fell frequently, I kept my eyes set on you three and as such, I was always willing to fight the fight necessary to stand back up.  That’s all any of us can do.

The Good Times

August 6th, 2014

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Before I had kids, the one thing I always looked forward to doing with them was reading.  In those days, I was teaching English to underprepared college kids, and the one thing they all had in common was that they absolutely detested reading.  They hated books and newspapers and magazines and usually even the web.  They wanted absolutely nothing to do with reading, and I vowed then and there that if there was one thing I was going to try to pass on to my kids, it was a love of reading.

The good news is that kids are naturally drawn to books, so my kids, like most, adore reading.  But I think I love reading with them even more.  We have finally gotten our summer reading routine down (two weeks before summer ends,) and I look forward all day to cozying up with the two big girls one by one and reading with them.  (I read with Mae throughout the day as one twenty minute session isn’t quite doable with an 18 month old whose one desire is to be free.)

Right now, Magoo and I are reading one of the Nancy Drew Clue Crew books which are the Nancy Drew books for littler kids.  Normally, Magoo is a fast reader and we can get through a chapter book in two or three days.  This book, however, will probably take us until October because after every.single.sentence she cracks up laughing, falls off the bed, and has to tell a story about whatever happened in that line.  Tonight we read for almost half an hour and got through about four pages.  That’s fine with me though.  Her laughter and our conversation is many times more priceless than the plot line of the story.  Usually she insists on reading to me, and that’s nice.  After a long day, I can lay back, close my eyes, and listen to her sweet voice.

But it’s Goosie who is actually completely impressing me these days.  Magoo started reading about a month younger than Goosie is now, and I just always assumed Goose would read later because her personality is so much different.  Magoo used to always ask me what sounds the letters make.  If I ask Goosie what the letter P says, she’ll say “P!  Magoo, Mommy said pee.  Ewwww.  Mommy pee!”  Yea, I wasn’t expected an early reader there.

But then I introduced her to the Leapfrog letter song a couple of weeks ago, and now she knows most of her consonant and some vowel sounds.  On a whim, I grabbed one of our BOB books (those awesome plot driven books that go along the lines of “Matt sat.  Sam sat.  Matt sat on Sam.) and with some help, she has been able to read them.

This is by far one of my biggest joys.  Magoo learned to read in secret.  I would try to get her to read to me, but she would only do a word or two with me.  I think she was too afraid of getting stuff wrong.  She taught herself with a chapter book that she would just read over and over, and all of a sudden, a month later, she knew how to read.  I still don’t know how she did it.

But with Goose, every sounded out word is cause for a HUGE celebration.  We’ll sound out the word, “Sam,” and then we spend the next five minutes cheering and high fiving and screaming.  Right as she’s about to sound out the word, she looks at me out of the corner of her eye, and through dancing eyes, she’ll scream out the word.  She needs a lot of help, but now that she has started, I don’t think there’s any going back.  She insists on “reading” all of the books to me now.  Which hey — once again, it lets me sit back and listen, and I get to hear her little three year old interpretations of the pictures.

I always feel guilty about the amount I read with my kids.  If I had it my way, I would read with each of them alone for a minimum of thirty minutes a day.  But that’s an hour and a half, and a lot of times, I just can’t find that much time.  I figure it’s okay because they all read (at varying levels) for hours a day.  But still… I always wish I had more to give.

But then nights like tonight happen.  It had been a long day and we had to go grocery shopping after picking TJ up from the train which meant it was a really late dinner.  But then I had these gems.  And I want to wrap all three of them up and keep them this way forever.

Even though Goosie screams at the top of her lungs the entire time we are in the car because there is a fly we can’t get out.

Even though Magoo’s “why”s are no longer requests for information and are now arguments against my decisions.

Even though Mae spends the entire day trying to climb up on my kitchen table to eat our shamrock plant.

Even though it’s exhausting and all-consuming and sometimes lonely,

Even through all of that, there is glory.

Blessed, holy, gentle glory.

Extraordinary Ordinary

August 5th, 2014

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I took a class on Vietnam War lit during one of my last semesters of grad school.  It was a special topics class that I don’t believe was offered all that frequently.  It was taught by an incredibly kind man who had spent time enlisted in Vietnam.  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I signed up for the class, but I surely got more out of it than I ever expected.  Actually, I would say out of 6.5 years of higher education, it was the class that changed my view of the world most dramatically.  It reintroduced me to my ideas of right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust.  It made me questions concepts in new ways.  I still find myself mulling over those questions every time I watch the news or read about world events.

What possibly struck me most was a single phrase often repeated throughout the course, first penned by Tim O’Brien.  ”You don’t have to have been in Nam to be in Nam.”

At the time I wasn’t sure what to make of the phrase.  I was young and innocent, and I had spent my entire life in academia surrounded by people who were pretty much just like me.  I wasn’t without my issues, but I had yet to face any of them.  They were still buried deep.  I didn’t quite know they were there.

But that phrase came back to me when I read this article today by Glennon Melton of Momastery.  You probably remember me mentioning her blog about half a million times.  She is who I want to be when I grow up… even though I believe she’s one or two years younger than me.

Melton writes about a lot on her blog — her faith, her children, her struggles, her past history of bulimia and addiction and alcoholism.  She writes about her abortion.

I’ve never been an alcoholic.  I’ve never been a drug addict.  I’ve never had an unwanted pregnancy or had an abortion.  And yet what she writes speaks directly to my heart.  It validates every struggle I find myself wading through day after day.

And it’s all because you don’t have to have been in Nam to be in Nam.

We all have our struggles.  We all have our demons.  We all have the wales that have swallowed us whole, and we are all screaming to get out of them.  Each of us is different.  We have different histories and circumstances and trials, but what unites us is the battle.

Perhaps we all find happiness is different ways.  We relax differently; we celebrate for different reasons; we soldier on for our own private victories.  And yet our pain hurts the same.  Our struggles all confine us in ways that can unite us.

The hardest posts for me to write are the ones where I speak of struggles.  Actually, the writing is easy.  Those words flow out of me because they aren’t art to me — they are just the inner dialogue of my consciousness.  It’s the sharing that’s hard.  It makes me feel self-obsessed and self-centered.  It makes me feel frivolous for sending my struggles out into the world.  It makes me incredibly self-conscious, and I almost nearly always wish I could immediately unpublish them, but I know that would do no good because they have already been sent out into the world.

But almost without exception, I will get emails back from people who share their struggles with me.  Sometimes the struggles will sound the same and sometimes they will sound different, but they always feel the same.  And it’s because it’s our ordinary, our everyday struggles that become extraordinary when we share them with people.  It’s in the sharing of the stories that connection is made.  It’s where holiness resides.

I still keep a lot to myself.  We all do.  Whether it’s from fear of judgment or condemnation.  Or whether it’s that we fear we are making more of our struggles than we should, we all guard parts of ourselves.  It’s human nature.

But it’s when we are willing to share those stories that they can become something so much more.

I don’t write because I’m good at it.  I don’t particularly believe that I’m good at it.  I write because it’s the only way I know how to make sense of my struggles.  I struggle daily with my issues.  The depression waxes and wanes.  The anxiety doesn’t like to wane so much.  The obsessiveness is always right there whispering in my ear.  Those are my demons.  My cross.  And when I sit here fighting them so incredibly hard, and I feel like I’m losing the battle, I ask God, “why?  why me?”  And the only answer I can come up with is because I can share them.  I can reach out into the world and I can say, “This is me.  These are my struggles.  This is my pain.”  And I can hit send.  And then I can pray that someone out there will hear my words and will feel slightly less alone in this big old world of ours.

And it makes me wonder what your stories are.  What is your Nam?  What is the war you are fighting today?  You have every right to keep it locked safe inside your heart.  But amazing things happen when you share it.  It becomes holy.

School Supplies

August 4th, 2014

Sometimes motherhood is overwhelming.  And I often feel like I’m doing something wrong because of it.

We went shopping for school supplies today.  Magoo had the standard list, and Goosie just needed a back pack.  We went into Walmart and headed for the back to school aisle.  That messy, overcrowded, confusing den of chaos.

It was a surreal experience just like almost every other experience of motherhood.  As soon as we walked in the aisle, I was flooded with flashbacks from my own childhood.  I remembered shopping for backpacks and folders and crayons and pencils.  I remembered how exciting it was to get all of these new tools.  I would sit there staring at them, trying to imagine what the school year would bring.  What would we use the folders for?  What would it be like to be using these pencils?  I was always sure that each new school year would bring me closer and closer to being a big kid.  I was a dreamer.  An imaginer.  And from the moment we purchased the first school supply, those dreams would come flooding to me.

So when we walked into the aisle today and I had all of those vivid memories, I got excited for Magoo.  She’s a lot like me in those ways.  And so I wasn’t surprised at all when she spent half the afternoon counting her folders and organizing them and saying things like, “I wonder what the four colored folders will be used for,” and “I wonder if the binder will be for my journal this year.”  She would then gaze off wistfully, a near replica of what I probably looked like thirty years ago.

For kids, a new school year is awesome.  They get to go back with their friends after a summer off, and they get all new art projects and songs and routines.  Each new school year is a passport to adventure and another notch to mark off on the way to growing up.

And it’s that second part that can be overwhelming for their poor mamas.  Magoo doesn’t realize that as she’s counting folders, I’m counting years since I first held her in my arms.  As she closes her eyes and dreams about new adventures, I’m secretly mourning the ones we have already experienced together.  As my heart bursts with pride at all she has become, it also breaks for all that she was and is no more.  The butterfly doesn’t mourn the caterpillar it once was, but I sure bet its mama does.

And if that’s all that was going on, it would have been emotional and confusing.  But then you add to that the little sisters and the other customers and the specificity with which supply lists are written, and it can become completely overwhelming.

And that’s the part that I hate.  That’s the part that makes me feel guilty.

I believe I should be in that aisle, living the emotional moments, but instead, I’m getting flustered.  I’m getting overwhelmed at the questions and the number of times I have to remind people to get back in the cart.  I’m getting crazy, trying to put all the supplies back that little hands keep grabbing.  I hear myself repeating the same answers to the same questions for the five hundredth time, and I start to feel like I’m spinning away.

Afterwards, I find myself sitting in the car after finally getting all the supplies loaded and the little ones buckled in.  I just sit there for a moment letting everything settle.  All the emotion.  All of the chaos.  And I feel guilt because I fear I’m not fully experiencing the moment because I get caught up in the chaos.

But as I write it now, I start to wonder.  Perhaps the chaos is an integral part of it.  Perhaps the chaos is as much a part of the story as the memories made or the memories recalled are.

And I sit here now reminding myself that motherhood is not a peaceful journey.  It was never billed as one, and I’ve never experienced it as one.  But perhaps it’s the very fact that it is so overwhelming and all-encompassing that makes it all that it is.

If motherhood were easy perhaps it would fade into the background like lesser endeavors.  Perhaps it’s the very fact that we give so much that makes it mean so much.  Perhaps its the loudness of motherhood that constantly draws our ears toward our littles.  And perhaps it’s sometimes the distraction of the chaos that can stop us from totally melting into the magnitude of each moment.

I don’t really know.  I just know there are loud, sobbing tears coming from the kitchen because someone’s nose “hurts really really bad,” and I need to go figure out some way to fix that.

Scary World

July 31st, 2014

I read a lot of blogs and books about really messed up people.  Memoirs about psychologically disturbed people are about the only books I can actually finish these days.  I like reading about alcoholics and drug addicts and people who eat too much or nothing at all.  I like reading about suicide survivors and cutters and people lost in worlds that make no sense to any one but them.

And I guess it’s because those worlds make sense to me.

Because this real world that we all live in is terrifying.  Tragedy strikes seemingly randomly.  We can start out a day full and healthy and loved and happy and end it with nothing.

Those are the big stories.  The headlines.  The situations that make the news.

A lot of the tragedy is a lot quieter.  It doesn’t make waves.  No on else sees it.

It’s the child who silently wonders why no one likes him and finally comes to the conclusion that he is unlikeable.  It’s the twelve year old girl who always feels different and alone, and finally she decides that those feelings would go away if her thighs were smaller.  But unfortunately something in her brain snaps and she no longer can think of anything except disappearing.  It’s the new mom, the normal, everyday, run of the mill lady who all of a sudden finds herself so lost in a sea of misfiring hormones that the only feeling stronger than her hatred of life is her love for her child.

Life happens.  It happens all the time, every day to every one of us.  None of us come out unscathed.  None of us lives in glass castles.  If we do, they are quickly shattered.

And I sit here, watching my three little ones putting tiaras on their rocking horse and building forts out of afghans, and I know without doubt that life will happen to them.  I don’t know if their tragedies will be loud or if they will be silent.  I don’t know if we will all witness them or if they will be hidden deep behind their eyes.

But they will experience them.

And perhaps the only thing that is equally as terrifying as the tragedies is the fact that they will come up with ways to deal with them.  They will devise plans for dealing with the heartbreak and the confusion and the pain that life will throw their way.

And the more I read the books of the broken people, the more I see that they are just like you and I.  Sometimes they are you and I.  Tragedy is what we have in common; the way we cope is what separates us.

And I want to take my girls and whisper in their ears.  I want to tell them that they are good enough.  They are smart enough.  They can handle it.  They don’t need to hide behind coping strategies that will become tragedies in themselves.

But life doesn’t work that way.  My words will fall on closed ears.  The only words that will matter to them are the ones I tell myself.  The ones that prompt my actions, the ones that define the actions they will emulate.

I can’t fix their problems.  I can’t anticipate their challenges.  I can’t approve every action they ever take.

All I can do is love them now.  Hold them.  Tell them they are smart and kind and clever and beautiful.  And pray.  Pray desperately that when the tragedies strike my words can buffer the storms and be the raft they can ride to safety on.

But it may not be enough.  As loud as I try to be, the world might just be louder.

And that is the most terrifying thought of all.

So instead of wallowing in a terror that can never be calmed, I will just hold them in my arms, cuddle them all close, and thank God that today they are little and mine and my kiss can banish their tears.

My Rant

July 30th, 2014

Okay, so ordinarily I like this website to be something authentic.  I write about what I’m feeling, for better or worse, and I usually try to avoid fluff.  But sometimes things in this universe drive me so crazy that’s it’s quite difficult to just keep my mouth shut.

So here we go.  Here is my list of things that just really piss me off these days.

1.  Rude People.  Now I know everyone can be rude every now and again, and sometimes the rudeness is completely justified.  But if someone cuts you off, is it really necessary to wave your middle finger out the window for three minutes for all the little kids in minivans passing by to see?  If you must, honk your horn.  Politely.  But anything more than that and you become the nuisance.

2.  Politicians.  If you want to impeach the president, then impeach the president.  This whole idea of suing him?  That’s dumb.  If we are going to go around suing politicians, then I have some former government officials whom I would like to sue for the pain and suffering I went through listening to them talk down to us for years.

3.  Internet Commenters.  I’m lucky that on this site, the comments I get are thoughtful, and kind, and I very much appreciate them.  But on other websites?  No such luck.  Today Lands End decided they were going to start making science shirts for girls instead of just boys.  ”That’s cool,” I thought.  Apparently, I was the only one in the whole big wide world who thought so.  Everyone who commented appeared to be pissed that some people shop for their daughter’s clothing in the girl’s section as they all said, “They better not be pink.  Why not just shop the boy’s section?”  Really?  Lots of girl like pink.  You want girls to like science.  Make pink science shirts.  Enough said.

4.  STEM people.  I get it.  Science, technology, engineering, and math are important.  No argument there.  I’m all for it.  But you know what?  So are English and literature and art and theater and music.  If we want to become more competitive as a nation in the STEM fields, then we need to improve STEM education.  If we want to become more humane as a nation, we need all the other stuff as well.

5.  Passive Aggression.  If you are pissed, be pissed.  If you are irritated, be irritated.  If you are sad, be sad.  Don’t smile through clenched teeth while sharpening the claws behind your back.  And definitely do not play pretty for the world and then bite in private.

6.  Keeping Up with the Kardashians.  I never liked this show.  I would always shut if off when it would come on.  I couldn’t stand it.  But then I was flipping channels a couple of weeks ago, and it wasn’t as bad as I remembered.  Of course they are a bunch of self-involved, over-priviledged, fluffernutters, and the step-father Jenner guy has something seriously wrong with his lips.  But they also are more interesting than I am.  They are fun to watch.  And I hate that.  I hate that more than I can say.  I do not want to be a person who knows what is going on in the world of the Kardashians.  But I do.  Feel free to judge me.

Well, that’s about all I can think of at the moment.  What about you?  What pisses you off?

Happy Tears

July 27th, 2014

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As usual, we took the girls to church this morning.  They looked adorable.  They had on cute little summer dresses with tulle hair bows in their hair.

They weren’t horrible during mass.  Goosie tried to run away once.  She asked to go to the bathroom around 45 times.  She kept fanning everyone around us with the papers.  Mae was a bit restless.  She kept trying to get away.  I’m not really all that sure what she was annoyed with, but she was fairly annoyed most of the time.  And Magoo was good as usual.

It wasn’t an extraordinary mass.  I won’t remember it for their behavior either way, but by the end, I was exhausted.  My sprained foot kept hurting because people get jumping on it; my stomach hurt because I kept being kicked in it.  And I was just done after an hour of keeping everyone under control and in one pew.

But right after the priest walked out of church, the lady in front of me turned around.  I held my breath, not sure if she was going to tell me she was upset about constantly being knocked around by stray feet and books and hands.

But she took my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “You do a very good job with these girls.  Thank you for bringing them to Mass each week.”

And even now almost twelve hours later, I’m still tearing up writing about it.

I don’t deserve a thank you or a good job or a compliment of any sort.  I’m doing my job as a mom, just like everyone else.  I signed up for this, and I get paid for my troubles in plenty of hugs and kisses.  No one really deserves to be praised for living out their vocation.

But you know what?  It feels really, really nice every now and then.

TJ thought I was silly when he saw me get all emotional in the car when I told him.  He gets compliments when he brings them to the store.  Everyone thinks a big old daddy with three little girls is adorable, and he gets comments about it everywhere he goes.  And I’m glad he does.  He is a very good dad.

But moms are just expected to do all of those things.  And that’s fine.  It’s what I quit my job for.  But still…

It felt awesome!

So I am going to keep that memory and I am going to lock it away in my heart, and I am going to remember those words and I am going to share them with other moms when I see them struggling.  Especially years from now when I’m far removed from the struggles of wiggling toddlers, and I’m apt to look at other young moms with wistful eyes.  I’m going to share those words.  I am gong to pass them on and be generous with them.

Because being a mom is the most rewarding aspect of my life.  I would gladly do it if no one ever saw anything that I do.  But still… it feels really great to be appreciated.

This Funny, Beautiful Life

July 25th, 2014

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Some men find my husband intimidating.  I’ve been told in the past that they wouldn’t want to be put head to head in a fight with him.  I always thought it was funny.  He aways seemed like a big old teddy bear to me.  But no, they insisted.

Then I looked across the dinner table today.  We had pizza, and I saw Goosie, who is only slightly bigger than TJ’s head, goading him on, trying to steal pizza out of his mouth, trying to stick her hands in his mouth, trying to tickle him or poke him or pull his hair.  And there I had my proof.  Teddy bear it is.  At least to the people that matter.

A while later, I was sitting on the couch, and I saw little Mae, tulle in her hair and a monkey on her bottom, running across the room trying to carry a plastic pastry, a pretend sippy cup, a plastic fork, and her baby over to the ottoman to feed her baby.  She was getting frustrated.  She had so much to carry, and she was insistent on carrying it all in one trip.  She takes such good care of that baby.  Unless she’s mad.  Then she’ll throw her across the room or use her to bang her sisters over the head.  I guess it’s good she’s made of plastic and fabric.

I went and sat on the couch and Goosie came running up to me with her white blanky up to her nose, sniffing it, asking me to read her a book.  It has been a long week for Goosie and me.  She had too many “whys” and I had too few answers.   But curled up there next to me, listening to me read the story of Peter Pan, her desperately looking for a nonexistent Jake, she was so peaceful, so intent and content.  How so many different, big emotions can live in one little body is beyond me.

And then there’s Magoo.  She’s all of six, but her maturity often far surpasses that.  She’s my helper.  My right hand.  Her sisters’ best friend and the most holy six year old I know.  One minute she’s curled up next to me, telling me she’s not tired, and the next minute, she’s out like a light, just like the precious little girl I have known her whole life.  And then a little while later she is giggling like a teenager, asking to watch “big girl shows” like Boy Meets World, and secretly whispering to me the name of the boy she wants to marry.  She begs to ride her bike around the block and then panics a little every time she gets more than five feet ahead of me.  She’s so excited to become a first grader and yet part of her is still very much little.  I hope that little part isn’t too quick to part.

And it’s all here in this house.  This crazy, funny, quirky, confusing, beautiful life.  I try to capture it in words.  I trust my camera to remember the details I cannot.  And yet I know nothing could ever quite capture all that this life is.  All its ups and downs and twists and turns.  I don’t even think I could capture all the ups and downs that occur before lunch time.

But I write what I can.  Because one day these days will be gone.  I pray my memory will serve me well and will keep me warm as I sit up waiting for a teenager to get home from a date or a daughter to give birth to her own.  But for the times when the memories fade, I hope these words and these images will provide some solace.

Because these are the times.  I may be too exhausted and overwhelmed to see it all the time, but they are here, and they are now.  In all the world, in all the places, and all the ages, there is no where I would rather be than right here, right now.  These are my glory days.  I pray I serve them well.

My Cowboy

July 24th, 2014

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Just a few months shy of fifteen years ago, I came home from Marquette for Thanksgiving break.  An old friend told me she wanted to set me up with someone, and I was adamantly against it.  No blind date.  No long distance relationship.  No new boy.  Just no.

She told me we were going out to a restaurant/bar and that I should make sure to look nice.  I knew my protestations against the setup were in vain, but I tried to believe her that it would just be a few friends.  No new people.

Of course I was wrong.  I got there and along with my friend and her guy was another gentleman.  He was wearing a plaid shirt and khakis.  He had facial hair.  He seemed nice enough, but I was incredibly uncomfortable, so I did what I knew to do.  I ignored him.

I tried not to blatantly ignore him.  I wasn’t trying to be rude.  I honestly did’t know how to react.  He seemed nice enough and he was cute.  But in an effort to not come across too strong, I would always come off as distant and cold.  I was shy.

Halfway through the evening, my friend took me to the bathroom, and she told me how TJ had been nervous all day.  She said he had called her many times trying to decide what to wear.  She said he had remembered me as a passing acquaintance from months before and he had wanted to meet me.  My cold facade started to melt.  After all, that was really cute.

So we got back to the table, and I managed to figure out a way to open up, and we ended up spending most of that weekend together.  And then we spent most of the weekends over the next few months together.  And then I graduated, moved back home, and we have pretty much spent every day together since.

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At that time, I was a city girl through and through.  I lived in Milwaukee and had plans to move to Chicago.  I never imagined myself ever ending up in a suburb.  I thought it was important to be sophisticated.  So I smoked cigarettes and I dressed in black.  I always had on the black healed boots that were the staple of the late nineties.  I was studying advertising because I wanted to be a creative executive in a big city.  I laughed constantly, I loved Thursday night $3 vodka and lemonades, and I absolutely adored sleeping in.

TJ for his part was rather silly as well.  I won’t spill all of his humorous idiosyncrasies, but typical of a young man his age, his ego was way too big for his already large head, and he spent most of his time playing Dungeons and Dragons.  That is when he wasn’t driving up to Milwaukee to see me.

Yea.  Back then we were young, carefree, and we desperately wanted to spread our wings and fly and see where this world would take us.  I think as all people do in the back of their minds, we believed we were special, and we had great things ahead of us.

I hadn’t thought of those years in a long time.  But this evening, TJ was out back grilling and the girls were running around, chasing each other outside as I watched all of this from our kitchen window.  As I was washing down our counters, the song, “Cowboy Take Me Away” by the Dixie Chicks came on.  And all those years ago, that was our song.  We heard it constantly while dating, and it was the last song played at our wedding.  Then I heard TJ scream to me from the grill, asking me to turn it up.

And it was a strange juxtaposition, basking in the memories that song evokes while watching our very real present running around outside giggling as they fall down.

And I realized what had been created over the last fifteen years.

There was a point when I looked at TJ and I saw the promise of freedom and the hope of excitement.  It was all butterflies in the stomach and huge hugs and held hands.  It was exciting and fresh and new and everything that I had hoped romance would be.

At that time, I would look at TJ, and I would belt out, “Cowboy take me away,” but in the end, what he really did was take me right back home.  And I thank God for that.

I had vague glimpses of what I imagined my sophisticated life would look like, but really I had no idea of what I really wanted.  But I sit here now, on our couch, and I listen to him making sound effects up stairs to the stories he is telling the girls as he puts them to bed, and I realize that my cowboy has taken me away and has taken me right back home.  He has created with me a home and a life and a family and a future.  It’s where I came from and it’s where I want to spend my life. But what I wouldn’t have known back then was that this was the greatest adventure he could have ever taken me on.  After all, what greater adventure is there than creating a life?

TJ wouldn’t make a very good cowboy.  I can’t imagine him ever wanting to ride a horse, and he prides himself on how little manual labor he can get away with.  He wouldn’t make it long in the old West.  But then again, neither would I.  I need my air conditioning too much.

When you wake up and go to bed with the same person every day for over a decade, and when you share chores and responsibilities and a home, when you clean their dirty socks and watch them vomit while sick, it can be hard to see the relationship for what it is.  It just becomes life.  Our normal.

But it’s more than that.  It the tedious every day, in the chores and the bedtimes and the meal making and the cleaning up, there’s a home and a life being made, and there is only one person in the entire world that I get to share that with.

So for better or worse, in messy and clean, during stress and during peace, I will be forever glad that my cowboy has chosen me.  And I’ll always be grateful to by his side whether he is taking me away to lands unseen or taking me right back home where I belong.  As long as we go together, I know I’ll always be where I am meant to be.

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