Friday, April 23, 2010

Dancing Savvy

When my little girl is no longer little
and more woman than girl
she will know how to dance in a man's arms.

She will know to be graceful,
to allow herself to be lead,
and to allow herself to live in just that space.

She will know that she is meant to be
and valued
as something completely unique and indispensable.

All of these things she will know because right now
when she is tiny and yet mostly unmolded
her father puts his hand on her waist
holds her other hand in his, and shows her how to dance:
how to be graceful, how to be lead, how to live in the moment;
shows her what it means to be cherished, protected, and valued--
because each one of us is somebody completely unique and indispensable.

So that when she is grown and fully self-directed,
she will have reference in her mind, this reminder:
This is how you are to be treated, my girl.
This is the safe place from which every good thing comes.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Letters to Myself

Back in the day, before my little Savanna was even born, when she was still just hanging out waiting to make her entrance, I wrote a message to myself. A list. A letter. I wrote it when I was calm and clear-minded, knowing it would come in handy at times when I was feeling less than calm and less than clear-minded.

Here it is.

Now, I feel moved to write a similar list, one that I hope will be of use to anyone who needs it, whenever they need it, but most especially for my own reference--just like that pre-third-baby list.

Instead of a Postpartum Reminder, though, this will be an Absence Reminder, for when Phill is gone--and to you others out there, for when your husband is gone for whatever reason. (For us, it's usually for Army reasons, obviously)

[Phill is right now in San Antonio until the 21st of May, and that has prompted me to write this.]

You are strong and capable. Don't allow anything to make you feel otherwise.

Focus on the things that will enhance those qualities of strength and capability. This is not a time to let spiritual strengthening, exercise, and healthy eating habits fall off the map.

Consider the practices that bring peace to your home. Grasp these things tightly and don't let go.

When you feel grumpy, sad, or frustrated, go to work. That is to say, do something. Go outside. Clean. Cuddle your children. Read a book you love. Pray. No wallowing. It's completely useless. (Trust me....I know. I've tried it. Lotsa times. Doesn't work.)

Plan something to look forward to at according times throughout your husband's absence. For me, this means planning time with friends after my kids are in bed (usually we just sit in my living room and laugh, cry, and talk into the night), planning fun activities with the kids (we love to go to the mall for pretzel bites and the quarter games), or planning simple projects (finishing Savvy's dresser so y'all can FINALLY see pictures!). If you feel bored, go about becoming UNbored. It's up to you.

Give some allowance to your children. That is, allowance for some increased emotions, some increased outright naughtiness, some increased energy and some increased needs. This is definitely a time to practice forgiveness.

Forget yourself. This applies more to those whose husbands are gone for long periods of time. But "a long time" can mean different things for everyone. A night, a week, a month, a year--no comparison is helpful, just know that when he is gone for that Long Time, depression is a real possibility. My dad sent me an email not too long ago.

Dear Rachel,

I was thinking about you this morning and feel to share a perfect, works every time, sure fire, honest to gosh, no kidding method to fight off
Prayerfully find someone who is worse off than you or has some challenge to live with that you don't. When you find that person you go out of your way to improve their day by some act of service. It could be a note, a candy bar, holding a door for that person or something they will never know you did. (according to the Navajo that is the only real gift, a gift given in secret).
After you do that, then measure how you feel about yourself. If no improvement, then do it again for someone else. These actions won't take long to change your entire outlook. Mothers have the perfect opportunity since their little ones are so naturally needy.

Love, Dad

P.S. That's how I kept perspective on long deployments to the "not-so-touristy" places in the world or after hearing that I was not promotable to the next higher rank. There was always someone to serve.

If you need to cry, cry. If you feel as if you can't do anything right, it's okay. It is okay. There is no need to achieve perfection--only a need to continue putting in an effort. Cry, pull out most of your hair, eat a pound of chocolate, or find yourself quietly singing some creepy random lullaby as you wash dish detergent out of the cat's hair--but just DO NOT GIVE UP.

Last of all, and probably most important:
From a neighbor, a friend, your husband (yes, he can help over the phone), and very especially those who have offered to help. It is okay to need help. Let's say it all together: IT IS OKAY TO NEED HELP. (My sweet sister Abby will probably remind me of this one when I call her blubbering at 4:00p.m., the craziest part of our day.)

It is okay to fall to pieces. Just don't lose hope that you can be put together again.

It's all about the bounce-back.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Story for Christine

{And anyone else who shares our particular brand of burglar-anxiety}

I met my dear friend, Christine, in Heidelberg, Germany. She and my other dear friend, Emily, were instantly welcoming to me and made me feel comfortable enough that we were talking in-depth about boys within the first two minutes.

Christine and I share a trait that has thankfully only bonded us over the years, and most especially through those first crucial years of our friendship.

We are worry-warts. Nervous Nellies. Whatever you want to call it, we worry. We wonder. We become anxious. And at our worst, paranoid.

When our powers of paranoia were combined, we were an unholy force to be reckoned with.

"What if someone attacked us?"
"You could scream as loud as possible while I go for the groin."
"Yeah, and I can stomp on the top of his foot with the heel of my high-heeled shoe while you bring your elbow down on his nose."
"Wait. Do you wear high heels?"
"No....oh, no. I need to go buy some high heels!"
"You can borrow mine. We'll both wear a pair of mine EVERY time we go out alone together, okay?"
"They'd be messing with the wrong girls."

Thankfully, if one of us was calm while the other was in the throes of anxiety, one could calm the other down, usually. I don't know what happened when both of us were truly afraid-for-our-lives anxious. I don't know that that ever happened, thankfully. Can you imagine? Oh, the horror....

Anyway, with lives that lightly parallel one another {we are both moms, both of us have two boys, both of us have super-cool kick-butt husbands.... :) }, we share at least one common fear {please don't ask me to make a complete list} : That someone will break into our home.

We cope in similar ways--that is, with copious amounts of delicious desserts while watching girly TV shows until we simply can't hold our eyelids open.

But I'm sure Christine has never done this, and would laugh until tears rolled down her cheeks if this had happened to me with her along for the ride (I must admit I my plans of defense. And it was usually just hilarious.)

One windy stormy night, when Phill was far away in San Antonio doing Army things, the children lay sleeping peacefully in their beds. I had just finished cleaning the house in an attempt to calm my jumpy nerves, and was about to relax on the couch with a load of laundry to fold.

Then I heard it.

Thump. Thump. THUMP.

It sounded very close from where I stood in the pantry--close enough to be in the garage, which is connected to the pantry.

I stood there, shaking all over, trying to think what it could be. (Well, trying not to jump to conclusions.)

An animal that got stuck in my garage?
Something that fell off a shelf?
And then of course, I couldn't help it--
Someone trying to open the side door?

Thump. Thump THUMP THUMP.

It was very loud that time, and then I was terrified.

Someone trying to lift up the garage door?!
How stupid! But of course that's what it is! OF COURSE SOMEONE IS TRYING TO GET INTO MY HOUSE FROM THE GARAGE! They must KNOW that I'm home! Alone! AND paranoid!

So what did I do? I stood there in the pantry, opened the door to the garage, and shouted into the nothingness, "I HAVE A GUN!"

I know. I'm laughing too, now.

Then I went into the kitchen and methodically opened the knife drawer, took out the largest, sharpest knife we have, and walked back to the pantry, standing there, shaking, and telling myself that I was being ridiculous. And also mentally checking that my cell phone was within reach, then actually going and picking it up.


I dialed 9-1 on my phone and held it in the other hand. (You know, the one NOT with the kitchen knife in it.)


And then I got mad. Just plain angry. How dare someone try to get in my house? How DARE they? So I walked around to my front door, fully intending to go OUTSIDE to the garage door and chase off whoever was DARING to try to break into my house. (Wow. Fear really makes me logical, doesn't it?!)

I got to the front door and had my cell-phone-hand on the handle when I glimpsed out the window (which is to the side of the door). I saw the trees blowing in the wind....the wind....and it dawned on me, with almost hysterical relief, that as this wind blew, I heard the thumping.

The thumping of the garage door, being violently shaken by--no, not a violent burglar rapist--but by the wind.

The wind.

I was going to call 9-1-1 and report the wind, and maybe kill it in self-defense, too.

*This is certainly not to make light of anxiety, and certainly not meant to say that we ought not be aware and alert. I do believe it is good to have a certain level of awareness, and to be on guard at all times. However, I do try not to live in paranoia, and unless you have plans for pressing charges against the wind, I don't recommend it. :)

**And just for the record....any burglar guys out there....I am well-rehearsed. You'd be messing with the wrong girl. Heels on.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Down to Earth

-OR- {Pardon the Wait While We Were Growing}

*I will include pictures in the post below this. Too many to include in this already-arduous post!
Recently our lives have been less predictable than usual. We have had a couple of interruptions, blips on the radar, so to speak, that have added some curves to our winding road.

There was my sinus surgery, which knocked me off my feet for two weeks, and then dampened my spirit for another month afterward. I felt the chaos of this interruption and tried to fight back, but didn't try very hard.

Just when I got my feet planted again, Phill needed surgery for his torn miniscus. Well, that makes it sound like it just popped out of didn't. We had a month's warning. But again, our "typical" lives were interrupted (just for a short time, this time), and I found myself feeling (again) like I was simply floating around in the debris.

Several times throughout the last few weeks, my resolve to bring more Balance to my life has caused me to cry hysterically or laugh. (Sometimes at the same time.) But slowly, this has blown over, and in its place, something new.

We have become more clear about what we want. More brave in going after it. More calm in the knowledge that no matter how much our lives seem to spin out of our controlling scope, it is always our Savior who keeps us rooted to the ground, safe and at peace.

Often, while our children sleep, Phill and I lay in bed and talk about our dreams. Usually, we dream simply. The things that make us glow with hope aren't usually extravagant.

We would love a big backyard, fenced in, where we can run and play and sit quietly as the summer sun sets and the crickets sing the day down.

We would love a large garden, full of flowers and food, where our children can dig and water and harvest the direct results of their hard work.

We would love a chicken coop, where a couple of chickens provide fresh eggs for our breakfast.

We would love a dog, one that follows the kids around adoringly; one that we can count on to protect me when Phill has to go out of town. The kind of dog you grow up with.

We would love a cat--the kind that has personality, the kind that sleeps on your bed at night, the kind that becomes a fixture of the house.

When we lay in bed at night, imagining these simple happy things, it is not so much them that we want. It's what they represent. Stability. Closeness. Tradition. Roots. The simplicity of plant-and-grow, nurture-and-reap.

For a long time, even these simple things have seemed faraway, and we have had to make do with doing our best to create peace in our home. But recently we experienced something intangible, something that has seemed to propel us in the direction of these things.

We looked at our tiny backyard, our sliver of land, and we saw the possibilities. We finally saw where a little bit of our dream could fit.

And we planted a garden.

6x11, I think, $25, and took us 4.5 hours on Conference Saturday. Small, but adequate. Small, but still the realizing of one part of our dream! A row each of cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, sweet corn, banana peppers, tomatoes, a strawberry plant and some dahlias. Inside the house in a little yellow pot grows mint; minuscule seedlings are sprouting all over. They look like tiny green hairs. And yesterday while Phill watered the garden, he shouted from outside to me, "Rae! We have lettuce!" I ran outside (yes, I ran--don't you know gardening is exciting?) and nearly cried when I saw the row of perfect little green clusters. So small you wouldn't spot them if you weren't looking.

But there.

Oddly enough, other aspects of our "Grand Dream" are falling into place, almost by accident. Reed's class hatched chicks, and we were able to enjoy two of them for a few days before we took them to a friend with a coop.

A friend's Boxer had puppies, and we have taken the plunge! We will get our sweet Boxer, Penny Lane, at the end of May. We held her a couple of weeks ago and she felt like ours, like home. Familiar and warm. While I have many fears about training/raising a puppy/dog, I feel deep within that we are on the right track. That this was the direction we meant to go all along.

A short time after we heard about Penny, we saw Jude. A friend emailed us and told us that he knew someone giving away kittens. We picked up our creamsicle-colored kitten yesterday. He played on the couch with me for a long time, and slept on Phill's pillow. He is curious, playful, and affectionate. He belongs.

I am aware that a garden, a puppy, and a kitten ALL require WORK. And that is precisely why I think we are finding some peace. We are back to the basics. The cause-and-effect, err-and-learn, change-and-grow up-and-down that is the best stuff of life.

When I was a very new mom and feeling unsure of how to live my new life in conjunction with everything I wanted to do outside the home, I wrote a plaintive email to my free-spirited and beautiful-spirited brother, Isaac. His gentle response was to say that when he feels unsatisfied or un-anchored, he returns to Mother Earth. (Literally and figuratively) Then he said something that has stayed with me, and propelled me through my spare stretches: "Rae, the grass isn't's blue."

It isn't better over there. It's just different. And it's all grass.
We choose our happiness. We make our peace. We decide whether to find a way to make it work.
I--we--can choose to grow, even in the smallest of spaces.

Did you think that your feet had been bound
By what gravity brings to the ground?
Did you feel you were tricked
By the future you picked?
Well, come on down

All those rules don’t apply
When you’re high in the sky
So, come on down
Come on down

We’re coming down to the ground
There’s no better place to go
We’ve got snow up on the mountains
We’ve got rivers down below

We’re coming down to the ground
We hear the birds sing in the trees
And the land will be looked after
We send the seeds out in the breeze

Did you think you’d escaped from routine
By changing the script and the scene?
Despite all you made of it
You’re always afraid
Of the change

You’ve got a lot on your chest
Well, you can come as my guest
So come on down
Come on down

We’re coming down to the ground
There’s no better place to go
We’ve got snow up on the mountains
We’ve got rivers down below

We’re coming down to the ground
We hear the birds sing in the trees
And the land will be looked after
We send the seeds out in the breeze

Like the fish in the ocean
We felt at home in the sea
We learned to live off the good land
Learned to climb up a tree
Then we got up on two legs
But we wanted to fly
When we messed up our homeland
We set sail for the sky

We’re coming down to the ground
There’s no better place to go
We’ve got snow up on the mountains
We’ve got rivers down below

We’re coming down to the ground
We hear the birds sing in the trees
And the land will be looked after
We send the seeds out in the breeze

We’re coming down
Coming down to Earth
Like babies at birth
Coming down to Earth
We’re gonna find new priorities
These are extraordinary qualities

We’re coming down to the ground
There’s no better place to go
We’ve got snow up on the mountains
We’ve got rivers down below

We’re coming down to the ground
We hear the birds sing in the trees
And the land will be looked after
We send the seeds out in the breeze

We’re coming down to the ground
There’s no better place to go
We’ve got snow up on the mountains
We’ve got rivers down below

We’re coming down to the ground
We hear the birds sing in the trees
And the land will be looked after
We send the seeds out in the breeze

We’re gonna find new priorities
These are extraordinary qualities

--Down to Earth, Peter Gabriel

Down to Earth: The Photos

Monday, April 5, 2010

My new favorite

After a really sweet experience with Reed and this song, and after having had two recent chances to sing it and closely examine the lyrics, I Know That My Redeemer Lives is safely my favorite hymn.

It fixes me.

It reaches into my soul and heals all the little broken parts, and I feel peace start from the top of my head to the bottom of my toes.

How couldn't I feel that way, with lyrics like this?

I know that my redeemer lives
What comfort this sweet sentence gives
He lives! He lives who once was dead
He lives! my ever-living friend

He lives! To bless me with his love
He lives! To plead for me above
He lives! My hungry soul to feed
He lives! To bless in time of need

He lives! To grant me
He lives! To guide me with his light
He lives! To comfort me went faint
He lives! To hear my soul's complaint

He lives! To silence all my fears
He lives! To wipe away my tears
He lives! To calm my troubled heart
He lives! With blessings to impart

He lives to calm my troubled heart--that is His purpose, all those things listed in every verse.
He literally lives for us.

A meme: Picture This

I have been tagged by Kathy! Good thing, because as you can see, I've been a bit at a loss for things to blog about. (Actually, there's lots I could blog about....just hard to narrow my focus and decide.)

Here is how this meme goes. It is called Picture This.
Here are the instructions:
1. Go to my Pictures.
2. Open the first folder.
3. Post the tenth picture and tell the picture about it.
4. Tag 4 people.

Here's the photo:This picture represents my pseudo-June-Cleaver side! I had my dear friend over for the weekend, and we were chopping, microwaving, and pureeing vegetables for use in Deceptively Delicious recipes, and laughing at how domestic we were (for the moment).

I tag:
Qaptain Mommypants
MAG GAB [whenever you have time, Marie! No rush...]
It's A Beautiful Life