Thursday, September 29, 2016

School Pictures!

School pictures are always so fun, and I have always been really happy with how they turn out.  That's a relief, I don't think I could be trusted to remember a second picture day if we ever need retakes.

My big third grade Hallie:

And my big first grade Hanna:

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

This is Home

Home has always been a bit of a tricky concept for me.  Where is it?  What does it feel like, to have a home that is a location and not a group of people?  When people make small talk and ask, "Where are you from?" I always stumble and struggle knowing how to answer.

We have lived here in Nebraska six and a half years now, easily the longest place I have stayed anywhere my whole life.  I actually just calculated it and until Nebraska, the average length of time I stayed anywhere was just over 2 years.

Nebraska is not a place I would have chosen for myself.  So far West, so far away from family, so far from trees.  There are so many places that pull on my heart, places that, were I on my own I might try to make home.  Upstate New York, Michigan, Indiana, even Brasil or the Netherlands.  I only lived in some of those places a short time, and some of them only when I was very young, but they claimed my heart and they will always own pieces of it.

(At the park just down the street from us.)

This is where my Mister is, and all my life I have associated the word "home" not with a location, but with the people I love.  I will follow him wherever he goes, wherever he hangs his hat will be my home.  The longer I live here, the more I think that the idea of staying here forever isn't too appalling.  Nebraska is not known for riveting beauty or stunning landscapes.  But sometimes I find myself thinking all the same - this is a beautiful place to call home.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Strawberries and Sunshine

It was deep in the midst of strawberry season, let's call it the second week of June.  On a bright Saturday morning, or perhaps a partly cloudy Tuesday afternoon, or sometime like that on a day in the second week of June, I was picking my strawberries.  I was picking them in the usual way, that is to say my usual way, which is to say I would pick strawberries from one section, and then scoot myself over and begin picking a new section.  Is this the usual way?  I assume so.

I had just picked one section entirely bare of strawberries, and so took the next step in the process: scooting myself over.  I had scarcely done so, when upon looking down again I realized that there had been, all along, hiding delicately underneath carefully poised leaves, more strawberries than I had been able to see from my previous position.

A bounty of strawberries in what I had naively assumed to be a completely picked over and now barren section of plant.  What fool I, to think that from one position I could see all, and know all, there was to know about that plant.  Only to discover, upon shifting my view just an inch, a whole new crop waiting to be plucked.

This morning in the car on the way to school the sunshine was particularly bright and gruesome to the eyes.  Hazel in particular was suffering.  "It's bright! It's too bright, mama!" Her pleas for some assistance pierced my heart but what could I do? Her sunglasses had been left, forlorn and forgotten, at home.  "I cannot move the sun, baby" I tell her, and then advise her to close her eyes.  This is our daily routine.

Quite suddenly, from the back there arose a new development to the age old conversation, one that I have been having with every single one of my children since Hallie was first old enough to express the sentiment verbally, "It's bright! It's too bright mama!" - comforting and familiar this scheduled talk is, and the new development started off innocently enough.

"The sun is shining right through Hazel's window!" Hallie said, from her seat in the van next to Hazel.

Then in the third row back, Hanna chimed in. "No! I can see the sun, coming in right through Heather's window!"

Tension added now to their voices, I can tell this has already begun to escalate.  "No! Hazel's!" "No, Heather's!"

No one likes to be wrong.  In my best "I am the mother" voice, I said, "You are looking at the sun from different perspectives.  You are both right."  End of discussion. Silence.  They absorb this new information as best they can.

Then, "what is perspective, mom?"

I'm not going to pontificate on the lessons I learned from these two experiences, I will let you draw your own conclusions.  Or, perhaps to you they are nothing more than a story about an incompetent berry picker, and a mother who tries to stall fights.

Either way, I hope you have a very nice day.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

My Own Grief

Today started off like any other day, waking up to the noiseless commotion of Devin slipping out at 4:30 to go work out.  Then my alarm at 5:00, snooze, snooze, snooze, even though I am awake and have been since Devin left.  I like to lie there in the dark, soaking up the last few peaceful moments of my day before it all gets so crowded and noisy and my head fills up with a million thoughts pulling me to do a million things and then the guilt that rides me all day long and keeps me up too late at night of only accomplishing four of them.

5:30 am and I know my time is up, the luxury of rest has passed and so I rise.  Dress myself and make last minute preparations for my four high school students to come.  Unlock the door, turn on the porch light; it is still so dark outside.

Now the rush and flurry of life begins.  Students come, students go, breakfast, shoes, backpacks, out the door.  Then to the ymca where I will drop the girls off to play and I will work out for two hours, lifting weights and punching and kicking my way through stress and anxiety, all the fears that I cannot get done all the things I want to get done, and that I am not perfect enough yet.  Why aren't I perfect yet?

Pulling into a parking spot at the gym I hear the birdcall sound of a text on my phone.  It is my brother, in the family group text, with pictures of my niece Emily getting on the bus for her first day of kindergarten.  Smiles and happy feelings, I love this big family of mine.  Then a mention, someone remembers.  Today would have been Tabitha's first day of kindergarten, right?

Sometimes I feel guilty for the grief I still feel.  As if there is a finite amount of grief in the world and by experiencing some of it still myself I am stealing it from someone else, who more rightly deserves to be feeling it.  But this morning as the sadness of missing that beautiful baby who would have now been, who would she have been?  (A kindergartner running to the school, backpack bouncing, pigtails flying, or the one in the corner, clinging tightly to mom's hand, don't let go, don't let go, not ready Mom.)  I decided firmly that grief has no limits, no boundaries, and in my own experience with my personal griefs the bitterness is alleviated somewhat by having someone to share it with, to bear up under the weight of it, to hear the unspoken words, you are not alone.

That decision made, I let myself feel it.  Even as the music was pumping and people were lifting, bicep curls, upright rows, one more set, again, you can do it, my heart was filled with Tabitha.

Dear Tabitha, I don't know exactly where heaven is, but I know that's where you are.  I don't know exactly what you are doing, but I know you are happy.  I don't know exactly when my time on earth will be up, and I will see you again, but I know it will come someday.  I only got to see you a few times while you were here on earth, but there have been moments since you have been gone when I have felt you near me, and I think you know me.  I look forward to knowing you, listening to the perspective you had on the experiences you watched us all have.  I know I am "just" your aunt, and I only got to be your aunt for six months, but you are always in my heart.  Here's to someday, Tabitha.

I love you.