Friday, August 22, 2014

late summer musings

The stirring is within me again. Perhaps it is the late summer mornings, so similar to fall, yet without the color or enduring chill. They cause me to both look back on the current season and look forward toward that which comes soon. My itch to write, though it has been there all these long months, has lain dormant.  The writing happens in my head and in my heart. Yet, busy schedules, technology troubles, sleepy mornings, lazy evenings, and a certain lack of ability to focus, or "mental spinning" that comes with the parenting of young children, has prevented me from settling down to simply express my thoughts in tranquility.

I wonder of this - how many blog posts will remain forever in my my heart, never to be known by anyone? Perhaps someday I will strike at some of them I have wanted to share. I will reach into the recesses of the deep and share. Share with whom, you ask? This is always an interesting thought.  Who, exactly, am I writing to?  I'm not even sure I quite understand this myself. Many have thanked me for sharing my thoughts publicly, a humbling reflection to be sure. As I am not necessarily writing for the purpose of climbing up on a soap box, it is somewhat embarrassing to then post to social media, or an email group, these thoughts of my inmost being. Yet, I am frequently prompted to by that same inner voice that guides me in the big decisions of life....the voice of the One who knit me together in my mother's womb, and who is also well aware of the purposes for which He made me. I suppose He knows if I am to write and when I am to share.

So back to the "for whom" do I write.  In my own heart, I always hope that my words will provide a light to my children and grandchildren.  Though they may not find help or wisdom in my thoughts just yet, perhaps some year far from now, they will be walking along the same well trodden path as I, not knowing that they are not alone.  Thinking, perhaps, that they are blazing a trail that has never yet been traversed.  Yet, truly, it is only overgrowth that they are cutting back. I, too, have traveled that trail.....and many unknowns before me.

Lately, I have become awakened to a new dimension of my late Grandmother's life. My Grandma Blickenstaff passed away when I was sixteen years old. I had a good stretch of knowing her, and I am grateful for that.  Yet, I knew her as a Grandma......a kind little old lady who was my Grandma. Being born when she was eighty, and having lost her before I had the chance to experience life as an adult, I missed the chance to really know who she was. She was so much more than an old lady. And, it's not that her life wasn't still vibrant and active as such....I just couldn't perceive it.

This summer, I began researching our ancestry.  In the process, I dug into the cardboard box of forgotten old photos, unorganized and dumped in moments of convenience over time. What I discovered as I looked through those pictures was a treasure.  I brought them out at family reunion and was transported back in time as I heard the stories of various people in the photo, told to me by the remnants of that elder generation, the nieces and nephews of my own grandmother.  I learned of her siblings and their stories.  The stories and lives they lived during the time they were my age.  Looking into their faces was like looking into my own.  Time seemed irrelevant.  I heard of their love stories, their losses, their great blessings, and their family. I began to see the beauty of a family with fourteen children that year after year came together to reunite siblings and cousins.  And we still do.  How many years has it been since those early reunions back in North Dakota?  Seventy? Eighty? Ninety? My own grandmother would be one hundred and seventeen years old, were she alive today.  And still, our family comes together each year.....the off spring of a great generation. Will my generation know the importance of this?  Will we continue to gather as family? Do we know each other well enough to care?

I began to see my Grandma B for the woman she was:  I saw a courageous pioneer who went to nursing school in a time when women immediately married and stayed in the home. I saw a woman who loved photography and captured many adventures with friends, traveling, hiking, and seeing the great United States around her. I saw a fashionable socialite, but only in the best sense of the term.  I saw a committed friend. I saw a daring adventurer who moved to the wilds of Alaska to work as a nurse in an orphanage and was the only medical provider in the Eskimo village.  I saw a woman who met the love of her life on this grand adventure, my grandfather. I saw a handsome young couple, who now knowing the type of individuals they were made me respect them all the more. I saw a first time mother who kept three baby books for her first born, who recorded every bite he ate and every trip outside the home  (Is that unlike any first time mom?) I saw their growing family through the years. I saw their dreams, both fulfilled and those set aside. I met a woman who had deep, lasting friendships....and I saw her friend's children.....and I saw them grow up. I saw the great depression and a failing farm....a family who started a nursing home in their own living space to make ends meet. I learned of the heartache of a troubled home life of a mentally challenged first son and the pains his siblings had to endure....something his parents surely never imagined when their sweet baby was born.  I saw the lined faces of stress, anxiety, and premature aging. Yet, lines of laughter and joy were there too, for beneath the mask of the other - the joy and kindness could not be erased, though it may have been silenced for a season. I saw the smiles of vacation, of picnics, of pets, of meals around the table.  I saw laughter.   I met the faces of my grandparents as they gazed at each other with a deep connection that I share with my own husband. I saw love. I saw beauty. I saw LIFE.

And these were all things I stitched together from pictures, from baby books, and from the stories of others. And, so I wonder. Will my words help others to know me? Will they look into my eyes from pictures yet know my heart from my own words?  I would have loved to have heard the heart of my Grandma B. I would have loved her thoughts on life, heard the voice of her struggles.  I would have loved to have heard the result and the lessons she learned along the way, the wisdom gained. When she was alive, I wasn't wise or seasoned enough to have listened and understood, even had she told me the stories in person. I didn't know to ask, nor did I have the maturity to truly hear.

As I gazed into the eyes of my Grandmother, I saw myself. I look a lot like my Grandmother in my adult years.  Now, I am no longer ashamed of that as I was as a youth. Somehow in those early teen years, that comment made me angry. "I don't want to look like my Grandma!" I'd think. Yet, now, it is a badge I wear with pride. To be compared with such a great woman is an honor. I've never once heard someone say anything other than kind things about what an amazing Grandmother I had. I guess, even years past her death, I am getting to know my Grandmother. I am seeing her life in hindsight, knowing the end and the results of things as the face in the picture as of that moment did not know. Their life together, their years, their struggles, their joys, they are but a memory now. The only piece of them that lives on is their legacy, their children, and their pictures and memories.Yet, I am part of this next chapter of the story they began!

These words may sound melancholy. The length of life is but a breath. Yet, it is real and enduring while we live it. And so I go, off to embrace the day, to soak it in! Carpe diem!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

the words of my heart and how my perfectionism keeps them in...

It's been a while since I have written.  Really it has.  A couple of years now, really, since I have sat down to capture more than just the monthly changes of Gracie or a few thoughts here and there.  And, I ask myself....."Why is that?"  Easily one could say, "Well, it's time, of course! You're a busy mother of four small children!" I tell myself that occasionally.

There is another reason though that haunts me.  I'm a perfectionist.  While it's wonderfully freeing to me to pour out my heart's thoughts in words, there's a part of me that can't let go of making sure I've captured every last one of the details. For whom?  I don't even know!  For me, perhaps?  In the future so that I don't forget a single moment or joy of life?

Say, for instance, Gracie's two year old blog.  I just posted that last week, eight months past her birthday - well headed towards age three. At the time I didn't post it, I was needing to find the "perfect picture" of Grace, oh, and add a few more details I didn't want to forget.  So, here it is July, and I forced myself to post without those bits of perfection.  I believe I still need to post Caleb's five year old blog.  Can't remember if I did that one, but I hesitated for the same reasons. He'll be nine in the fall.

My obsession in those things, however, lead to me not blogging about anything......missing scores of details and memories I would have liked to have jotted down for future smiles, well, because I hadn't finished what I was working on.  And do I need them all?  No!  But a few funny stories now and then would be nice. Or even just an ability to speak my heart, captured for future reflections, or for the generation ahead as they work through similar struggles in the future.  Words of wisdom for the way.  A light ahead, perhaps?

Now, truly.  Must I capture all of the details of life? All of the memories? The precious moments? What if I don't ever capture how Gracie says "nah-er one" for "another one" (phew - captured that one!)?  What of the stages of  my three other precious children that I missed while focusing on capturing a month by month picture of the first two years for Gracie, so that I could always remember what the first two years of having a precious little one were like? Am I focusing on the wrong thing? What is it about me that can't live and enjoy the moments as they come, then let go and move on to live and enjoy the next?

There's a balance that's to be had in this whole experience called life. My first year of homeschooling taught me much about that.  A story for another day.  However, I was really forced to look at myself, my faults, and my internal motivations.  It made me ask the question: "Why do I ask what I do of myself and others? Is what I'm asking of them (or myself) really important or even necessary? MUST a child, for instance, finish all 26 letter projects from Kindergarten just to have them for the year end notebook? Even if he already knows them?  What goal does that meet other than perpetuating perfectionism.  I'm certainly a proponent of doing your best and finishing what you started, but sometimes, we cut our losses and move on. Not EVERY hill is worth dying upon, or even fighting for.

I'm still learning. I have a long ways to go.  I am encouraged, however, that I do see a light - even if it's a ways in the distance.

I am reminded:  "The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Little Time Lapses

Three days ago, Gracie became extremely articulate. Don't get the idea that she hasn't been verbose.
She has been. Since birth.

However, if I've noticed anything over the course of my parenting toddlers, it's that new developments often happen quite minute they don't do something - the next minute they do, with gusto.

So, I picked Gracie up, and with great expression and many words, she told me all about her troubles.  I stood there, holding her, and thinking...."It just happened again. Before my very eyes. Wow."

Later that day, and increasingly again, I heard her again and again explaining herself to people. Childhood is simply amazing.  I'm so blessed to be a mom.

Gracie: 2 years and change.....Exuberance defined...

Sweet Gracie.  You are nearly 2 months past your 2nd birthday.  And, wow - have you changed!!! Since your second birthday, your words have been tumbling forth at an ever increasing rate. Now you are forming complete thoughts, pretending, engaging, and.....of course, not to be missed my many a 2 year old, throwing tantrums as a point of holding firm on your position. And hold firm you do!

You are exuberance defined. You bubble. You giggle. You belly laugh. You dimple. You smile.  You rage (but not mostly). You entertain. You cuddle.  You love. You create.

You are everything we could have hoped for, and more than we ever dreamed for our 4th and final child.  You bring us all together in peals of laughter...much to your delight.

And, did I mention how  you are?  Oh, yes.  You are quite busy. For all of the things you are, there are equally as many as you do......

 - Coloring on yourself (and objects such as your clothing, furniture, walls, and floors....frequently
 - Playing in the toilet
 - Carrying the dog dish FULL of water....and spilling it
 - Opening the refrigerator and helping yourself to anything messy....
 - Eating sugar by the handful, straight from the container
 - Eating whole packs of gum (by spitting each piece out after a couple of chews)
 - Carrying tangerines to the garbage, one by one, and tossing them in
 - Eating chap stick
 - Swallowing pennies
 - Wearing Mama's makeup
 - Pushing around carts full of dollies
 - Playing in your kitchen and bringing me things to "eat" and "drink"

And all of the words
 - Going potty "Bee Guhl" (Big Girl), and telling Mama to "Sit down!" as I wait for you. (And this sometimes is a fruitful exercise, and sometimes it is simply to angle for a piece of chocolate (your reward), I'm sure....
 - Scawy Monstoh coming!!!
 - Oh! [insert any word]??? (This is the cutest thing ever! Every word is preceded by an "Oh!" when you are repeating something back to us.
 - Sometimes you just confirm something to yourself in a very resolute voice. "Oh! Papa coming?" "Yes, Gracie - Papa is coming home soon."  "Oh. Papa coming home soon." 
 - "No! Me do it!" (This is very popular at present. :-)
 - Couds (clouds)
 - Singing, singing, singing.....especially Jesus Loves Me...