Friday, July 29, 2011


: the act or experience of one that learns (gains knowledge or understanding of or skill in by study, instruction, or experience)

One day this week as I drove A to her ballet class, we were sitting at a traffic light, each lost in thought.  Then A spoke, "You know, most kids hate it when school starts, but I can't wait."   It was interesting that she was thinking about school because my own thoughts had been on learning and how it makes me feel.  I told her where my thoughts had been and said that the best way I'd come up with to describe it was that learning felt like seeing a beautifully wrapped package - one with thick, patterned paper, ribbons criss-crossing it and an elaborate bow on top - and getting to open it and see what's inside.  The learning is in the unwrapping of the pack and the gift inside is the knowledge - but that kind of learning really only came to me later in my life - probably high school or college.

The other metaphor that I've long held in my mind about learning is that it was like having someone pull back a curtain so that I could see what was there.  I'd nod and remember it.  I say "remember" even though I hadn't learned it before.  This is how learning felt in elementary, middle and most of high school.  I felt like the knowledge was already there inside me, I just needed someone to show me it by teaching me.  This kind of learning felt more passive than opening the gift - but there was a similar thrill in seeing what was behind the curtain and what's in the gift box.

After sharing my thoughts with her, A immediately jumped in.  "I think of it more like a video game."  A video game? I thought.  But then she continued, "What I learn gets me to the next level.  So every thing I learn gets me a point and I move from level to level."  That was interesting.  A plays on the computer and the Wii less than her sisters, so her game metaphor surprised me a bit, but I thought it gave me some insight into how she feels and experiences learning.

Later that same day, I asked B about it.  I told her my metaphors and asked whether she wanted to hear A's first or tell me her own.  "You can tell me A's."  She listened and with no hesitation offered her own metaphor, "I feel more like I'm at an excavation, digging down and finding more and more things. I keep digging so that I keep finding things."

I loved hearing my daughters' thoughts on learning, in part because they each knew exactly how to describe it.  There was no searching for words, no stopping to think.  There was instant response and immediate recognition of what learning feels like to them.  Their metaphors show their natural bent toward learning - A's approach is a bit more utilitarian, B's a bit more exploratory.

As he often does, J surprised and challenged me a bit when I asked him about it.  He didn't really want to discuss this at first, since I brought it up as we were climbing into bed for the night.  Yet he took the time to explain that, for him, learning is both internal and external.  It's about what he's taking in, but also about how it makes the person sharing the information feel.  He talked about seeing someone become more animated and passionate as they talked about something they know.  In short, learning is a way to connect with other people.

What does learning feel like for you?  Is it like slogging through a wet snow with your feet getting heavier with each step?  Or like laying in the grass and feeling the sun on your face?  Or like making your way into a deep cave, shining your flashlight and seeing the ceiling adorned with the most beautiful gems and jewels?  (A friend's metaphor, that last one.)

I sometimes miss college.  I don't miss the social aspects - the pressure to dress just right, the parties, the living in close proximity to large numbers of people.   But I do miss opening those gifts of learning.  For me, this is part of the blessing of homeschooling.  I get to be a part of seeing A earn her points and B excavate her treasures.  And I get to open a few packages of my own that I missed along my own path of learning.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


: the number of years of marriage we celebrate today

Fifteen years ago, I was excited, not nervous.

Fifteen years ago, my husband drove to Mississippi on his way to the wedding (this was a fairly significant detour).

For fifteen years, we've read together - recommending the best books to each other - and accepting over time that while we both love to read, we love different books.

For fifteen years, J's been the one I call with good news, bad news, scary news.  He's listened, advised and laughed.

For fifteen years, we've negotiated household duties.  We're not neat freaks and both dislike cleaning.  A match made in heaven?  Not quite.  Someone does have to do it.  Housework has been the source of the biggest fights we've had.  I figure we're not too bad off if housework is our biggest issue.

For fifteen years, we've slept side by side, switching sides with the seasons.  I want to be near the air conditioner.  He doesn't like the fan blowing on his face.  I don't want to sleep near the bedroom door.  Ahhh, the millions of minor negotiations and compromises that go into a good marriage.

For fifteen years, I've studied this man's face, its nooks and crannies, its curves and stubble.  His face has changed over time, but not much.  He'll always be a baby face and I'll always be glad to see that face as he comes through the door to our home.

In fifteen years, we've watched hundreds of football games, two world cups, dozens of baseball games (can you tell which sport I prefer?) and more ballet performances than either of us could have imagined.

Over fifteen years, we've changed.  We've changed homes, jobs, diapers.  We've grown up together and stayed remarkably in-sync over a decade and a half.

Truth be told, we've had our ups and downs over the last fifteen years.  But a flat line of a marriage sounds like a death toll.  I'm thankful to be in a marriage where the peaks more than make up for the valleys.

I wouldn't trade a day of the last fifteen years.

Monday, July 25, 2011


1 a : a female child from birth to adulthood

I spent last weekend in a one bedroom, one bath condo with six other women.  Sound unappealing?  It wasn't.  Not one bit.

After my high school reunion, my friend J decided we should do our own mini-reunion and gather our girlfriends together for a weekend.  Having enjoyed catching up, I was game.  We settled on a weekend.  I booked a one way flight so that I could ride back to Nashville with another friend who happened to be heading this way.  Other friends made similar efforts and in the end, seven out of eight of our close friends gathered in Destin.  I hadn't seen some of these women since graduation, yet they all helped me get there - M and S met me partway between the airport and the condo - C and A took me back - J shared her condo with all of us.

Friday night, my friend S cooked dinner for all of us while we sat around looking at high school pictures, reading old notes, laughing and drinking.  My friend J found some fourth grade love letters that she had torn up in anger at her 10 year old beau.  We pieced them together to read, laughingly recalling paint pens and elementary school crushes.

As we ate dinner, talk drifted to the past - to secrets held for years by this cadre of women.  Some of the secrets I knew, others were a surprise after all these years.  We admitted details that made us blush to retell and recall.  We compared high school experiences and current day experiences.  We laughed until our sides hurt.

Friday Night: S, A, M, J, T and Me (C is behind the camera)

At 11, we decided to head to a bar.  You read that right - we started our night out at 11 - something I haven't done since college.  We paid a $10 cover charge ("It won't be the last $10 I waste in my life," my friend A confessed to me), entered a smoky bar and grabbed a table.  Five of our crew headed for the dance floor as I sat with C.  We attempted some conversation, but gave up before too long, the smoke and our yelling providing a shortcut to sore throats.  As I sat there at that table watching my friends dance, I thought to myself, "Why are these women even friends with me?  I'm so boring and they so clearly are not."

Eventually, A and T joined C and I at an outdoor table and we talked about what we do, what we used to do and more.  Near 1 AM, we collected J, M and S and headed home.  As we settled in for the night - on blow up mattresses, pull out sofas and one bed - the answer to my question from the bar surfaced in my mind.  "These women are my friends simply because they've been my friends for so long.  There's no need to question it.  It's as simple as that."  They are my friends and with a bit of work, some luck and continued blessing, they always will be.

I've known all of these women for at least 24 years, some for more than that.  A's family attended the same church, so I've pretty much known her my entire life.  J and I became friends in fourth grade - over the word "hamburger" mouthed across the room during a spelling test, amongst other things.  I met T in sixth grade and by eighth grade or so, the friendships enjoyed by the eight in our group were sealed.  We had sleepovers, watched football games, dated the same boys, made many of the same mistakes and grew up together, making the transition from girls to women without even realizing it.

As we fell asleep Friday night, I said to my friends, "You are the only six women in the world that I would share a one bedroom condo with. I have some great friends back in Nashville, but I would only do this with all of you."  There's something to be said for shared history.

I wonder whether my own daughters will have this.  They don't have the continuity in their lives that small town life provides.  And while I wouldn't trade the benefits of living in a city for the community that is available (and forced upon you) in a small town, I do wonder what my daughters would choose if it were up to them.  My daughters are the ages I was when I met these women who saw me through the introduction of bras, the arrival of periods, first kisses, first heartbreaks and more.  They taught me what being a friend looks like.  I learned first from them that friends are great blessings, but that those closest to you can also hurt you the most.  (Aren't teenaged girls experts at hurting and being hurt?)  I've never been good at artifice, so these women saw the best and worst of me all along the way.  Yet they chose to be friends with me. 

Saturday as we floated in the Gulf, M found a sand dollar with her toes.  She pulled it up and J immediately said, "A sand dollar!  Give it to Shannon for her girls!"  There was no hesitation, no thought even given to it.  They all live near the water.  Their children are mostly older than my own and, without exception, they've seen sand dollars.  My land-locked Tennessean girls were excited to see these creatures and have their very own. 

While alternately relaxing in the water and keeping a lookout for sharks, I decided to ask my friends a parenting question, "What do you do when your child has a friend and you can't stand the parent?"  Of course, they pressed for details, wanting to know what made me ask.  As I explained, they jumped to my defense.  They've never met this woman, but they took my side without question - and gave me advice in the process.  I left that salty water feeling like these women have my back - if only from afar.

We aren't as close as we used to be.  We scattered to different colleges after high school, seeing each other only intermittently, if at all.  Yet this weekend reminded me of some things and taught me others.  It reminded me that there's a group that I was once a part of.  A group that I am still a part of, in a way.  I can laugh with them, reminisce with them, just be with them and, for a few hours or days, be the girl I once was.

A, C, J, Me, M, T and S

Thursday, July 21, 2011


1 : one that serves as a pattern to be imitated or not to be imitated

Yesterday, we went straight from ballet to the pool at the YMCA.  In order to do this, we had to pack swimsuits, towels and snacks before leaving home at 11:30.  I squeezed in a workout after about an hour of reading, leaving us with not much time for last minute packing.  (The mornings certainly go by quickly when your children let you sleep until 8 AM.)  Before hopping in the shower, I gave the girls their instructions:

"B, please pack snacks for the pool."
"A, get your ballet clothes on and have your ballet bag ready to go."
"K, put your swimsuit in the pool bag."

I came downstairs to find K in her swimsuit.  Not exactly following my instructions since we were going to the Parthenon before the pool and a swimsuit wasn't appropriate. So I told her to put clothes on and put her swimsuit in the bag.  In a few minutes we were off and on our way, the girls having downed Easy Mac for lunch and A's hair fastened in a bun.

The Parthenon was an interesting visit and a good way to kill some time during a session of ballet.  We talked about the Elgin marbles, attempted to identify Greek gods and goddesses by their weaponry and chose our favorite pediment sculpture.  All while we walked around in an air-conditioned building - a good choice for a day when the heat index was well above 100.

Upon arriving at the pool (after a detour to the ice cream shop), I reached into the bag and started pulling out towels.  I found my swim suit and B's swimsuit.  A had her swimsuit on, having changed after ballet.  K's swim suit?  Not. In. The. Bag.  I froze and looked up at K, "Did you put your swimsuit in the bag?"  Stricken, she replied, "I don't think so."

I gave the girls two choices: we could either go home and stay home or stay at the pool.  It was hot.  It was mid-afternoon.  I wasn't going to make a trip home and then lug everyone back to the pool.  We all agreed to stay and B and I headed inside to change.  As we walked into the locker room, B said to me, "Do you even feel bad for K?  Because you're not acting like you do."  Ouch.  This kid does not mince words.

I explained that I did, in fact, feel bad for K, but that I also thought she would learn to listen to instructions if she had to live with consequences for forgetting things.  B shrugged and put her suit on.  We emerged to find A in the pool and K sitting in a chair in the shade.  I sat down with her, offered her a snack and told her I was really sorry she had forgotten her suit.  And then the most amazing hour and a half ensued.

K sat with me, ate some cherries and chatted.  But she did not complain.  She did not whine.  She did not pout.  When A and B went to the indoor pool to swim, K asked if she could go and watch them.  Other than that, she sat with me while I read and told me some stories and suffered her consequence with great grace.  The only thing she said, about an hour into pool time, was, "Can we leave at the next swim break?"  I assured her that we could and told her she was doing a great job.

She did such a great job that when we got home K was allowed to choose and watch a television show all alone.  (A great treat in our house.)  I explained that she was getting this reward for her amazing behavior.  I complimented her on the way she didn't let her anger or sadness get the best of her.  She and I have talked a lot lately about controlling her emotions instead of letting her emotions control her.  This was a great example of K being in control.  A and B agreed that K did a great job and both admitted they probably wouldn't have been able to behave as well as she did.

K is not my most self-controlled child.  She feels deeply and doesn't work very hard to filter her feelings in a way that makes it easy for others.  She's also the youngest of three and has her fair of enabling - from everyone in our family.  Given all of this, I think it's noteworthy for K to be setting an example for the rest of us.

How do I react when I forget something?  When I misinterpret, misunderstand or flat-out forget the instructions?  How would I feel sitting at the pool in 100 degree heat without my swim suit?  I'll tell you what I do.  I beat myself up.  I shame myself.  I probably suffer more silently than most seven year olds, but inside I am yelling at myself.  I am pouting.  I am whining.  None of us get through life - or even a week - without making a mistake.  Some mistakes are more visible than others.  Some have bigger, broader consequences.  I hope the next time I slip up, I'll remember K sitting in the shade at the Y in her dress, not complaining, just accepting.  I can certainly learn from her example.

Monday, July 18, 2011


1 a : one that receives or entertains guests socially, commercially, or officially

Leaving a friend's house today, B remarked, "Well, that was more fun than I thought it would be."  B is never one to mince words, but it was still a bit funny to hear her admit she hadn't thought she'd enjoy her time.  It was an impromptu visit.  My friend offered cucumbers from her garden on Facebook and I replied.  We would be near her neighborhood mid-day during A's dance lesson, so I could easily swing by and grab some to go in our dinner salad.  She offered lunch and hang out time during ballet.  And it was as easy as that.

As we headed back to pick A up from dance, B admitted that she hadn't thought she'd have fun because these friends have two boys.  We're definitely to the age with our girls where they prefer same gender friends.  But we talked about how easy it is to be with this family.  They make you feel right at home from the moment you walk into their home.  And no matter girl or boy, they are inclusive, a far more important trait in a good host than a certain gender.  There are girls who aren't nearly as welcoming and kind as these boys were today.  And their inclusive, easy-going play left B, K and I all three refreshed.

Yesterday we hosted a group from our church for lunch.  Most of the people live in our neighborhood and many of them have children.  It was a full house, with adults and children scattered here, there and everywhere.  Seats at the dining room table were filled, spots on the couch and at the bar were occupied - even the living room floor was packed with picnicking children.  It was great.

Near the end of our gathering, a friend said to me, "This went so well.  I kept thinking how much easier this was at your house than it would have been at mine.  The children just spread out into different rooms and let us all talk."  I thanked my friend for her comment and admitted that I sometimes long for the large open spaces of a suburban home, if only I could get it in my urban neighborhood.  Our home isn't particularly designed for entertaining.  The rooms aren't large and their size and layout doesn't make it easy to offer lots of seating.  But everyone in our family loves to have parties, big or small. 

My experience today at my friend's house reminded me all over again that your home doesn't have to be perfect for people to be comfortable there.  In fact, I think it's a bit easier to be comfortable in a space that isn't arranged "just so."  The friend we visited today has a lovely home - decorated with pictures of friends and family, artwork by her children and color everywhere - but it won't be making the cover of House Beautiful anytime soon.  Nor will my own home.

But I hope our family makes others feel included, welcome and at home when they're here.  Because what's the use of having a home if you don't throw the doors wide open and welcome people in?

Friday, July 15, 2011


1 : the quality or state of being the same : identity, similarity
2 : monotony, uniformity

Have you read The Giver?  If you haven't, I humbly suggest you do and I'll warn you that this blog post will probably reveal far too much of the plot of the book to you.  So you might want to stop reading this and go read it right now.  If you have read The Giver, were you as struck as I by the similarities to our own world?  Or is it just my life?

You see, in this book an entire community has been devoted to sameness.  People wear the same clothes, children wear their hair the same way and everyone sees everything in literally black and white.  It's the ability to see the color red that makes Jonas different, that makes him The Receiver.  Jonas is chosen to receive, hold and bear the collective memories of the community for generations back.  It's only in these memories that things like sunshine, color, war, animals and pain live on.  Because those things don't exist in Jonas' world.

Shortly after Jonas begins receiving memories, he learns about color and asks The Giver, "Why did colors disappear?"
The Giver shrugged.  "Our people made that choice, the choice to go to Sameness.  Before my time, before the previous time, back and back and back.  We relinquished that when we relinquished sunshine and did away with differences."  He thought for a moment.  "We gained control of many things.  But we had to let go of others."
What things do we give up in our own lives in order to have control of other things?  I'm sure none of us go so far as to not see color - the very idea horrifies me.  But have I tried so hard to control my emotions that I feel nothing?  Yes and I am trying to let go and feel.  It's a very hard and painful process to allow my emotions to surface, to actually feel them.  Yet it's an essential tool in the battle to fight sameness.

I've had occasion lately to realize how quickly I can bottle up my feelings, especially when they are strong or threaten to overwhelm.  J's recent promotion has elicited a lot of fear.  Fear about a variety of things, but with an underlying theme of the fear of change.  I feel like telling God, "Enough with change already.  Let me just be for a while!"  But that's not happening and one small but significant change is that I am letting myself feel my fear.  I am listing my fears aloud and in my mind and sometimes even crying over them.  I'd rather do this than not feel at all.

Several years ago, the girls and I listened to the audio book of A Wrinkle in Time.  I remember the scene where the children have arrived on another world and they sense that something is wrong here, but can't place it at first.  Then they realize that all of the children are bouncing their balls in unison, each ball striking the ground and arcing back up at exactly the same time, all down the street.  I was so struck by the fact that we are not all meant to be the same.  That's completely counter to what God intended.  He meant - and means - for us to be gloriously different.  He means for us to see the colors, feel the sunshine - and experience the pain or fear.

I don't even think God wants sameness within an individual.  We are meant to grow, to change, to be different at 38 than we were at 18 or 28.  Because life's experiences change us - or they should, if we're really experiencing them.

Do you fight sameness in yourself?  Do you embrace the ways you are more of one thing, less of another?  Do you fight sameness in others or encourage?  Do you surround yourself with those who think and feel differently?  I have a dear friend who recently told me she had a difficult time with an hour or so of silence at a workshop.  Given my penchant for and love of silence, I smiled at her admission.  But I'm so thankful that she is different than me.  Because she sees things about me that I can't even see and she names them for me.  I don't want you to be like me - or anyone else.  Nor do I want to be like you.  I just want to be more like me. A little more every day.

Monday, July 11, 2011


1 a: one attached to another by affection or esteem

I had two very different Facebook friend experiences last week.  First I got a request from a high school acquaintance.  Upon seeing the name on my phone screen, my first thought was, "What? Why would that person want to be my Facebook friend?" This was someone (whom I'll call T) I knew for the last few years of high school, but we were never close and I always felt there was a competitive tension underlying our friendship.  I unintentionally hurt T at once point and tried to make amends a time or two.  But my recollection of our final interaction was a sense that this "friend" wanted to get back at me - so I left it at that, hoping T felt I had been bested to their satisfaction.  It's been nearly twenty years since I heard T's name.

When I first joined Facebook, I was unsure of the etiquette - should I say yes to every friend who asked me?  Surely the term "friend" is used lightly.  I don't have 400+ friends, at least not by my definition of the word.  Even the use of the word friend to describe my FB network gave me some ambivalence.  I'm not someone who uses the term friend quickly and easily.  Frankly, I have to know and trust you to consider you my friend - I have to feel like I can be myself around you.  There are lots of people I know and even enjoy, but wouldn't label as a friend (at least in my heart).  But to de-friend or ignore a friend request requires a certain confidence.  Will I hurt their feelings?  Am I being inconsistent in saying Yes to one acquaintance and No to another?  What should my standards for friendship be - on FB and in life?

A few days after this friend request from T came through, I had an exchange with a friend I've never met in person - but whom I love nevertheless.  I can picture us passing books back and forth and chatting over tea, if only we lived in the same city.  I know her only through her blog, but I love her words and her heart.  She was running in a race last Saturday and I left her a comment saying I would pray for her.  And I did pray for her.  In fact, praying for her was a great delight - a more grace-filled experience than I can ever remember when praying for someone else.  The first day when I prayed for her, it felt like sunshine on my face.  And as I continued to pray, I realized that the "sunshine on my face" feeling was God's delight in her.  This was so energizing, encouraging and revelatory that I prayed for her a great deal leading up to her race.  I hope it blessed her because it certainly blessed me.

As a part of our interchanges about the race, this lovely woman asked about being my FB friend.  And my reaction was totally different than seeing T's name appear on my screen.  Instead of wondering why she might want to be my friend, my heart said, "Yes!  That would be lovely!"  So now we're friends - on Facebook and in cyberspace.

That friend request from T?  I clicked on the little "ignore" button.  I am slowly but surely learning to trust one way that my heart speaks to me.  And I am learning that I do not have to be friends - Facebook or otherwise - with someone who makes me feel bad about myself.  This may sound self-evident, but surely there's at least one person reading this who is a people-pleaser or recovering people-pleaser like me.  (By the way, there's another way that I speak to myself that I'm learning to ignore or talk back to - it's the voice of shame and it usually starts sentences with the phrase, "I must be the only one who..."  That voice is not worth listening to.  It needs silencing.)

I've been comparing and contrasting these Facebook friend experiences for several days, but finally felt prompted to write about it after reading this post about having a team you can trust to speak into your life.  I'm not in crisis and don't need an official team of people to help me navigate my current life circumstances.  But don't we all need a team of some sort? 

Don't we all need real, true friends who can listen to our hearts and not turn away from us? 

Friends who can know you and still like you? 

Friends who help you and allow themselves to be helped? 

I want friends like this.  And I want to be a friend like this.  Because if being a true friend means getting to experience what I experienced as I prayed for my friend who ran on Saturday, I'm in.  It was life-changing to realize how much God delighted in her.  And to think that He feels the same way about me... We all need friends and I'm not talking about the Facebook kind.

Friday, July 8, 2011


: one that is treated or regarded with special favor or liking

A Grown-Up's Toy Box

I'm not Oprah, so I'll not be handing out my favorite things to hundreds of strangers.  But I keep thinking that there are some things that make summer just a bit sweeter than other seasons of the year.  This summer, these are some of my favorite things:

So You Think You Can Dance: It's rare for my family to find a show that we all enjoy and can all watch together, but this show fits the bill.  A loves the dancing, B loves the music, K loves the spectacle, J loves the Broadway numbers and I love it all, most especially the way everyone in my family loves it.

Hemingway: I read Hemingway back in middle and high school, but haven't had much to do with him since.  But at the start of this summer, I reread The Old Man and the Sea and loved it.  Every word counted, each one mattered, not one extra thrown in there.  Now I'm reading The Paris Wife for one book club and about to follow it up with A Moveable Feast for another book club.  I don't necessarily love Hemingway the man, but I can see how the words inside him longed to get out and I see how hard he worked to get them out.  And I do love that.

Non-Fiction: In a shocking turn of events, I've read two entire non-fiction books in the span of less than a month.  The Art of Family affirmed me, encouraged me and inspired me while I Thought It Was Just Me made me feel sane, understood and better armed to live the life I want to live.

Mint Chocolate: I love chocolate of all kinds, but this summer I've developed a particular fondness for mint chocolate.  I love the little Ghirardelli squares, I love(d) the truffle ones J and K gave me for mother's day, I love the Breyers mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Yogurt: I've developed a steadfast affection for Trader Joe's European Style Plain Whole Milk Yogurt.  It's not sweetened at all.  In fact, that's exactly what I love about it.  It's sharp.  It's tangy.  It's like Pinkberry, but not frozen and topped with mango and chocolate.  My only complaint?  I have a tough time eating an entire 32 oz. container before it goes bad.  Yet I keep buying it.

A Relaxed Schedule: I love letting my daughters stay up until 8:30 or 9:00, then staying up until 11:00 myself. I can't do this during the school year.  In order to have everyone up and dressed for school, I must be in bed by 10:00.  I'm a girl who needs her sleep.  But this summer I've been able to stay in bed until nearly 8:00, which means I can stay up later.

Reading in Bed: Sure, I always read in bed at night, but the height of luxury (in my opinion) is to read in bed before starting my day.  Those lovely late nights for my girls are yielding a quiet house in the mornings, so I can roll over at 7:30, grab my book and read a chapter or two before emerging from the comfy coziness of my bed.

Sweet Treat Fridays: I inaugurated these in an attempt to limit and direct our eating out this summer.  Each Friday, we have a frozen treat from somewhere - Bobbie's Dairy Dip, Pinkberry, Marble Slab Creamery, you get the idea.  My hope was that by treating ourselves on Fridays, we would pack lunches or eat at home the other days. This has mostly held true and we've all enjoyed sampling various treats from spots around the city.  Next up?  Tasti D-Lite (I'll forgive the atrocious spelling of their name only if their treats taste good.)

What have you fallen in love with this summer?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


1: a journey of a pilgrim; especially : one to a shrine or a sacred place
2: the course of life on earth

In Celtic Daily Prayer, the July Aidan readings are on the subject of pilgrimage.  Here's how the concept is introduced:

This month's notes are on the subject of pilgrimage, a journeying to a particular place, in the expectation that such a journey will have deep significance.  It may be to a place with personal memories, or to a holy place where for generations people have prayed and sought God.  Everyone's starting point and journey is different, inside - and outwardly...

All kinds of people go on pilgrimage of one sort or another, not all of them believers; it is a chance for things to move, to change, perhaps even for God to break into their lives.

I first read these words six days ago and have been pondering them ever since.  Where am I going?  Am I giving things a chance to move and change?  Am I willing to let God break into my neatly ordered life?  Or am I saying, "No, thanks, God.  That's quite enough change over here.  I'll just coast for a while if you don't mind too much."  You see, change was my word for 2010.  I had kind of hoped that 2011 would see less change, more stability, more growth, less fear.  Halfway through the year, I'm wondering whether growth and unfurling can occur with stability and without fear.  Would I prefer stability and stasis to freedom and unfurling?  Some days I might.

Four months ago, J interviewed for a new job at work.  It was a position outside of his department, outside of his direct experience, outside of his comfort zone.  As the days, weeks and months went on, he and I began to doubt he'd get the job.  I'd had some ambivalence all along.  In large part, my ambivalence boiled down to the same question J asked me when we considered homeschooling, "Can you do this job and be nice to the rest of us?"  For me, this was linked to my need for a certain amount of physical and mental solitude.  For J, the question is whether the emotional drain of managing a bigger team will leave him with the time, attention and emotional capacity to parent three daughters.  (Have you tried parenting a pre-teen daughter?  It has to be one of the most emotionally taxing jobs on the planet.  Yet surpassed by parenting a teenage daughter, I fear.)

You might be able to imagine our surprise - and my slight dismay - to find that J had gotten the job.  This is a big deal for him.  It's great affirmation of all he's done in his current and previous positions and it's definitely the beginning of a pilgrimage of sorts for him.  I fully believe he's ready for the challenges and we're doing all we can from the outset to establish expectations for the girls about the time commitment this will require.  There will be fewer Saturday morning trips to Sweet 16th, Bagel Face and The Hermitage Diner.  But that's just part of the journey.

As with any marriage, J's pilgrimage directly impacts my own.  My reaction to the news of his promotion was shock and a bit of fear.  What will this mean for us?  What will it mean for me?  Can I handle more of the parenting when he's the one who's a better listener?  Can I do it?  Will this change us?  I like who we are right now - both separately and together.

As the news has settled, I've been able to see the silver lining in what seems to be a foreboding cloud.  I've also prayed - a lot.  And one result of these prayers has been a very clear sense that J is ready for this - and perhaps I am, too.  On the face of it, my husband's job change impacts me far less than him.  But my feelings are valid, if only because I feel them.  I will have to navigate some parenting waters alone.  I will have to make on the spot decisions alone.  I may be more tired, stretched a bit more thin - which will require that I take better care of myself so that I am ready for the tasks ahead.  I don't mean to imply that I will have to do it all alone, but I will be stretched.  Unfurled, perhaps.

I'm not going on an actual physical pilgrimage this summer.  But I am journeying to a place I've never been - a place with a more physically absent parenting partner, where I homeschool two children and learn to support J in his new role.  May I do it in a way that allows God to break into my life and break down the walls I've erected for myself.