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wonderstruck

Jan

03

Posted by on Jan 3, 2016 | 2 comments

Red sky at morning

 

I was sitting in my kitchen, reading and alone. In the peace of Christmas Eve’s morning, I sensed something different, a change in atmosphere. There are a lot of windows in our small house; two entire sides of it are practically all glass. Streaming – practically screaming – through all of them was an eerie rosy glow, so peculiar it lured me outside to see if someone was shining a giant rose-colored light. No one was there, of course, but the old saying whispered–

Red sky at morning, sailor take warning…

And I wondered just what the day would bring.

If I wouldn’t be enjoying a white Christmas – unseasonable temperatures breaking record highs – a pink one was just fine by me.

Matching my delight in this magical sky was anticipation for the day to get on with itself. By suppertime all my children would be gathered ’round our table, a rarity anymore. Good food is secondary; it is these moments I savor.

Right now I’m a little in the dark. It’s an odd spot for me, someone who typically lives with an expectancy of good things, God things. I’ve prayed for direction for this new year, but I’ve felt more like a wanderer.

The sky felt like an omen.

I don’t mom on a daily basis anymore, not the way I’ve done for the past two decades or so. I’m thankful for good and challenging work, because it fills time and space, but I can’t help but question its significance. What does it really matter, you know?

But then in a stroke of divine timing, I stumble across a writer new to me: Rachel Naomi Remen. I don’t know anything (yet) of her faith persuasion, but she says some pretty wise things, the kind of things I needed to hear. In her words I remember that my life has meaning and significance, to remember what I already know.

And then it occurred to me how often God uses the sky to speak to me, today, yes, but a few weeks ago, a few years ago, and problem a zillion other times I didn’t bother to record in writing.

My babies were all out at 1:30 that afternoon when the warnings began. A tornado in December? What the heck?

Red sky at morning, sailor take warning….

It was surreal when the weatherman said the rotation was heading straight to us and I seriously wondered what it would sound like if our little stick-built house splintered. I was sitting in our only interior room with no windows, a powder room off our kitchen, toilet on one side and sink on the other, phone in hand, and wondering if a bike helmet ever saved anyone’s life in a tornado (the weatherman had said to go to your safe place and put on a helmet…). It was comical, but even my husband was on edge.

Soon enough the warnings passed and that swirling mass of air never touched the ground. No damage, no death, no splintered houses this time.

We’re into this new year now and I’m still on a Wander.

But the old year ended in wonder, and with a challenge to see anew.

A perfect place to end and begin again, don’t you think?

 

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Christmas Tree Toppers – Does Yours Come With a Story? (Angel, Star, Bow – DO Tell!)

Dec

18

Posted by on Dec 18, 2015 | 11 comments

Madame Alexander Christmas Angel

I waited a long, long while to find her, but the moment I saw her, I knew she was the one.

There was never any question about what I wanted to top our Christmas tree; not a bow or a star or but an angel. That decision was forged by the time I was five, my mother’s DNA pressed into me from the outside in, a small but lasting impression of what you’re supposed to do when you’re grown up.
 

So much of who we become is seeded in early memory, the things we remember, of course, but also the things we don’t even realize we remember.

 

Mama topped our tree with an angel, so, of course, that’s what you were supposed to do.

But I was picky. I couldn’t find an angel I liked. For years I settled for a big, colorful bow. Then one day I walked into Belks and I saw her, and the heavens opened amid a chorus of glorious hallelujahs.

Or maybe something a little less dramatic. And more quiet.

She was pricey. You are not going to get a Tuesday Morning deal on a Madam Alexander doll at Belks. I thought twice…three times. Probably four. But…

her red hair…

those green eyes…

her crooked wings…

She was absolutely, positively imperfectly perfect. 

 

Madame Alexander Angel Tree Topper

 

I know I know, she’s as far removed from a Biblical description of an angel as possible, but she represents the one who brought good news 2000 years ago. She’s visual reminder of a spiritual reality.

 

One thing that makes her more special today than when I found her +/- 20 years ago is I cannot find any Madame Alexander angel toppers today. When I searched images (and Amazon), I couldn’t even find another version of her (though, admittedly, I didn’t scroll beyond the first few screens of images).

 

It’s been forever since I’ve hosted any kind of a link-up, and I know it’s a busy time of year where I hope you’re offline more than on, but I’d love to see what tops your tree, and if there’s a story behind it, I hope you’ll share (either by way of a blog comment or even write about it and link a post below. You can also link a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter image).

Christmas Tree Topper - Link-up


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One of the Most Important Things I’ve Learned About My Kids Leaving Home

Oct

16

Posted by on Oct 16, 2015 | 15 comments

2015 - a milestone kind of year

Rarely has there been a year when our family has celebrated so many milestones and major events–

Our oldest (and only daughter) graduating from college and accepting an incredible two-year fellows position 1,500 miles from home.

Our youngest graduating from high school and going away to college.

Our middle son turning 21. Something about – everything about – that age means so much.

My husband and I becoming official empty nesters.

Not to mention the intricacies of life no one needs to know about; because even in this culture where there’s a bizarre compulsion to tweet, gram, scope or stream Too Much Information on a regular basis, some things are better served and reserved as Personal Matters. Sometimes what happens in a person’s life is none of my or your business. I think we forget that, what with all the opportunities for oversharing.

It takes one to know one, yes?

Anyway, what most of you precious blog readers of mine can’t possibly know is I’ve had a job for a few years with a company called GO GROUND. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it in this space or even as a social share. GO GROUND, a ground transportation logistics manager, is a young company beginning its fifth year as I begin my third. My role for the first two years was solely related to collegiate travel during the championships for fall, winter and spring sports. It has been short-term and seasonal, lasting about 6-8 weeks during each championship. An intense 6-8 weeks.

I’m proud to say I’ve worked with several national champions for Division 1, 2 and 3 schools, in mens and womens’ sports ranging from lacrosse to softball, volleyball to basketball. It’s fast and furious, and I’ve learned that March Madness is, indeed, a road to insanity.

In addition to serving as the NCAA’s exclusive ground transportation travel partner, GO GROUND also manages special events. We’ve just concluded work with the World Meeting of Families, which might not mean ring a bell to those who aren’t Catholic, but pretty much everyone will know who brought its closing remarks: Pope Francis. The World Meeting of Families is what brought the Pontiff to Philadelphia.

GO GROUND handled logistics primarily for those traveling by chartered bus to Philadelphia for the Papal visit. Mine was a dual role for the event: account coordinator working with bus operators and groups attending the event, and director of communications to the motor coach industry.

The Department of Homeland Security designated the WMOF as a “national special security event.” As such, extensive measures were put into place to assure the safety of all pilgrims and officials in attendance. Until you work with an event of this historic magnitude, you cannot imagine the intricate detail and planning that must take place. In addition to WMOF officials, GO GROUND worked with Homeland Security, the Secret Service, local and state law enforcement, local and regional transit authorities, departments of transportation in the tri-state area, and others.

My role began in June, the Papal weekend in Philly took place September 26th and 27th, and I’m still tying up a few loose ends before we close the World Meeting of Families book for good.

Did you notice the timing? I started working on this event within the month after my daughter graduating college and my son graduating high school. What began, by design, as a part-time position in June, had morphed into 30+ hours/week by August – right about the time we took my youngest to college. By Labor Day, I was at full-time hours, which happened to be the weekend we drove cross country to move my daughter into her new apartment, where she was to begin her fellowship.

Three weeks out, I worked almost 80 hours/week, and by the last week and week of the event, I was clocking around 100 hours/week.

Pope Francis and me

Never have I been more thankful to be busy.

I simply didn’t have time to dwell on my children’s absence.

 

I tell you all that for the sake of sharing this: I learned an invaluable lesson through my experience that will serve those of you younger than me. Tuck this away until you need it:

Plan s o m e t h i n g that occupies space and time when you’re facing empty nest.

I wish I could claim the wisdom of intentionally throwing myself into an all-encompassing work role, but the reality is it fell in my lap. Regardless, I see its great value.

Writing is a wonderful, creative, and sometimes therapeutic outlet. But it’s done in isolation and I’m given too much time to live in my head. For me, that can be defeating and sometimes dangerous. My job with GO GROUND has been the perfect compliment to my skill set, flexible enough to allow me to continue writing (except the past few months…!), but busy when I needed it to be.

Even though I didn’t realize the need.

I’m beginning to see more clearly the value of simply living a lot of years.

Experience provides insight you can’t possibly understand until you live it.

No substitute for experience quote

It’s incumbent on me – of all of “us” a few years farther along the way than “you” – to share what we’ve learned.

It’s up to you whether or not you’re listening.

 

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The Bookmark Thief

Sep

01

Posted by on Sep 1, 2015 | 4 comments

There were no greater treasures than her books - Robin Dance

It was likely birthed as a gentle correction to my inconsiderate transgression: I had dared to turn down the corner of a page in one of her books.

For one so young, she took good care of her special possessions, and there were no greater treasures than her books. These were no papery trophies staged on a shelf. They were stirrers of imagination, journeys of escape, introductions to new friends. It wasn’t hard to figure out those she loved most, loose bindings or passages lined and noted told on her.

You could read this child by studying her bookshelf, and even more so if you opened some of those books. For a season, she carefully applied Wite-Out to profanities, a discovery that made me shake my head in wonder and admiration. We were intentional parents who did our best to train a child in the way she should go, but this was beyond expectation. She was so much better than I ever hoped to be. In case you didn’t realize, “bad” words do show up in children’s books sometimes.

If memory serves me rightly, I was annoyed when she scolded me for folding a page corner to mark my place. She was making a mountain out of a molehill. I was disrespecting her property. Neither of us was particularly impressed with the other’s point of view.

I don’t think I fully understood the gravity of this breach to her until she handed me a present a few days later, a hand-stitched bookmark. Certainly, it served both of us, but it was no doubt a love offering. She paid for it with humanity’s most valuable currency – time – and to me it was priceless.

I was heartbroken years later when it was no where to be found.

 * * *

But this is a story with a happy ending, the kind punctuated with tears, heart-wrung but binding joy to sadness in the presence of good but hard things.

 

She found the bookmark she had sewn for me half her life ago.

She was in the process of turning her room into mountains, piles to sell, piles to give away, piles to throw away, piles to keep. The yuckiest pile was the one marked undecided; it held sentimental attachment but no practical good. Every thing was a symbol of something more, a memory or season worth holding onto. It wasn’t about the thing itself but the everything else of it that made these things so hard to get rid of. If you’ve got an old tee shirt in your drawer you haven’t worn in decades but won’t throw away, you know exactly what I mean.

Somewhere in the sorting and pile-making, she found my bookmark. Neither of us know why it was in her room but who cares? She found a treasured possession.

When I look at this bookmark, I see her then. I can sense her indignation over my scarring her precious book, and her satisfaction in figuring out a brilliant solution.

Uneven stitches…ragged edges…skewed alignment–the casual observer might see a mess of imperfection, but all I see is something perfectly beautiful.

 

The same could be said of all of us, I suppose.

* * *

When you’re raising your children it feels like it will last forever, doesn’t it?  The fridge is a revolving gallery, measuring time in footprints and thumbprints and handprints. Crooked letters and misspelled words. Construction paper and tissue paper, glitter and glue and gumption.

We save every masterpiece…

because we don’t quite know when the last one will be The Last One.

But make no mistake my friends, there is a Last One.

* * *

I find her sitting on the floor in her room surrounded by piles of things wanted and not, an undoing of the life she’s constructed for more than a dozen years. It will be the place she’ll remember as “home” when she’s grown and away, the house dreams about her childhood will travel back to.

The bookmark is on the floor next to her –  “The bookmark you made me…!” “Yeah, I’m not sure why it’s in here….” – and the sight of it slays me happy. It’s a prodigal, an old friend, treasure found, and surely it’s a good sign of some sort. The edges are a bit frayed and the ink escaped her lines, but those things only endear me further.

Sometimes you can love a thing so much it becomes an idol, but sometimes that thing is a just a placeholder for something else, and there’s no sin or shame in those affections.

 

Memories roll in like thunder. So do thoughts of her future.

In four days we’ll pack up the piles she decided to take and drive 1400 miles to go confidently in the direction of her dreams, to begin living the life she’s imagined.

The bookmark stays with me.

 

 

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Don’t I look different…? {Part II, a series on motherhood & empty nest}

Aug

18

Posted by on Aug 18, 2015 | 4 comments

Sometimes endings and beginnings are one in the same

ii

There’s this scene in the 1980s version of About Last Night where Demi Moore’s character, Debbie, is rebuffing her former lover’s (and boss’s) advances. Steve’s a persistent one, not believing her first “no” and reminding her of what they once shared. Her response is angry…indignant, not so much at his uninvited gesture but because he can’t see “it,” her feelings for her current boyfriend.

Debbie: There’s somebody else now.

Steve: I don’t see a ring.

Debbie: I don’t need a ring…. Look at me. Don’t I look different? I’m in love, can’t you tell? This has never happened to me before. I want to have ten kids with this guy…doesn’t it show?

The scene strongly resonates with me though under different circumstances. I’ve felt a similar emotional tension, markers of something significant.

After I got married…

After giving birth to my first child…

The shock of learning I was post-menopausal when my body told a very different story

And now.

When we’re young, we think there’s a point at which we’re grown. What I’ve come to realize is as long as we’re alive, we never stop growing, at least not in the ways that matter most.  In the beginning, we celebrate a series of Firsts. Somewhere beyond the crest of the Hill we celebrate lasts.

Sometimes endings and beginnings are one in the same, the point of view and beauty therein lies in their beholder.

 

My youngest and I shared a dual ending/beginning, and it hit me he’s not the only one coming of age. So am I.

His departure ushers in a new season for me and I find myself wanting to scream

Look at me! Don’t I look different? This has never happened to me before!

I didn’t expect to feel different, but I do. Nothing has changed and yet everything has changed.

Everything that happens
    has happened before,
and all that will be
    has already been—
God does everything
    over and over again.

~ Ecclesiastes 3:15 CEV

Sometimes all I need to talk me off the ledge are Ancient Words.

* * * * *

PLEASE check back as I continue this series, as I process this new and precious life season. Though I feel it deeply, and at times, painfully so, there is too much good about it I don’t want you to miss!   It’s easy to subscribe for free, so if you haven’t yet, consider this my personal invitation.  (Also, if you haven’t yet, please read the first post in this series.)

Robin Heart Signature - Green

 

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Facing giants {a series on motherhood & empty nest}

Aug

17

Posted by on Aug 17, 2015 | 13 comments

A good thing to file away about empty nest

i.

I’ve been pulling this Band-aid off for so long, I’ve become accustomed to the sting. It still hurts but the pain is a dull one just below the surface.

Until it isn’t.

But then once it’s off, that means the healing has taken place and the wound is restored to health.

Isn’t that the way it goes?

Last Wednesday we took our youngest to college, to the big university that happens also to be in my hometown. Athens, Georgia was a wonderful place to grow up in the 60s and 70s – living in Five Points was a citified Mayberry – but I went away to school and never returned except to visit. Reasons are many, mostly tied to job, but I’ve arrived at a definitive peace with my hometown, and it feels so good to be there now, like all the unpredictability, challenge, and change over the last four years was leading to this: setting the stage for my baby to go to college in a familiar-to-me place.

Home. Through him, in an odd sense, I’m able to be at home when I go home. Family is still there – family has always been there – but I think I appreciate being closer in proximity in a way I haven’t in a long, long time.

So we moved my boy in to the 9th floor of a 960-student high-rise, and we left him and a chunk of my heart right there on Baxter Drive, 1.4 miles from the apartment we were living in when Mama died, down the road from my high school and middle school and around the corner from Barrow Elementary….within a few minutes and miles of where I spent my entire first 18 years.

It’s easy to drift into memories – they’re a flood – but I’m anchoring myself to today.

We came home to begin a new season, and lordy, our house was screaming quiet.

And here’s the thing, a good thing for you to file away if you’re years from where I am: 

You can “prepare” for Empty Nest all you want, you can steady your heart for the letting go, and you can even believe it’s good, well done, that this is what your parenting goal has been; but that doesn’t insulate you from the impact of this major change. 

So…I’ve given myself permission to feel it.

 

Thursday, my husband went to work like normal, and I went to work like normal. No, not normal, I threw myself into my work and barely stopped all day. Not to eat or use the bathroom, just go go go so I wouldn’t have to listen to the damned silence.

But then late in the day I had a conversation with a work colleague and she asked about taking Stephen to UGA the day before…and I stopped in my tracks. I couldn’t speak. And she spoke simple, liberating words over me, He’s your baby. This IS a big deal. It’s okay to be sad.

Which of course made me cry, which of course made me feel better.

Sometimes tears are a means of escape for all the feelings pounding your heart.

 

I AM a half-full glass girl. I DO see silver linings in stormy clouds. But sometimes it’s fine, even better, and certainly more honest, to absorb the impact of life and to recoil; eventually you’ll spring back.

If you don’t, you need to get help.

Two things are helpful, important and maybe even necessary when you’re approaching or in the season of Empty Nesting.

 

1. Give yourself permission to grieve. Your identity has been wrapped up in being a mother for a lot of years; while that will never change, your role will. Transitions can be tricky…. Remember that while there may be loss of young humans under your roof, their departure is one measure of success as a parent. You’ve been raising children to be independent young adults, not grown children who need you to survive. Their leaving might not be your only end-goal but it certainly should be one of them.

2. Collect friends in this same stage of life, and even a few years ahead of you. When you’re a new mother, it’s vital to be in community with other young moms; whether to encourage or advise or just listen, having others going through this same life stage is sanity-saving. It’s equally important, if not more so, to have women who can speak life and experience into this new season of Empty Nesting. What you’ll learn soon enough is, at this age, it’s not one thing going on (kids all leaving), it’s many things (aging parents, health issues, sickness among friends, marriages falling apart, career issues, financial pressures, etc. etc. ETC.) and you NEED others who understand from living it that you CAN get through it. It makes a huge difference and I’m so thankful for those in my life who continue to encourage, champion and challenge me…and even let me be sad.

To be continued…this is at all what I intended to write about when I started. Oh, the mind of my fingers sometimes… 🙂 

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