Thoughts From a Mother’s Heart

 

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Me with my mom, 1974.

 

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My oldest and my youngest, 2014.

I didn’t hand pick my children. They came to me as they were, with imperfections and sweetness and the smell of baby. And I loved them with all of me from the start. This is true of all mothers, I think. It feels built in and huge and primal to love them so completely, even though they aren’t some perfect fine china that I went out and selected. They come as they are.

This is very similar to life. We don’t choose ours, at least not our starting point. We get dropped in with parents in some house or city and life and we don’t know any different. By the time we can really think about it at all, our lives are merely our lives. Normal to us.

On this note, I think often about how privileged I am. I got dropped into a home with heat and running water in the cold Wisconsin landscape in 1974, a privileged time to be born in America. I had clothes and plenty of food and Christmas presents and good schools and parents who loved me. My life has never been perfect and I’ve had my share of hard times, like most of us. But I was set up for thriving in the place and time that I was born.

Again, I did nothing to earn this. Like a lighting strike, all factors came together and I came to be. If there is more to it than that, I have yet to prove it.

I’ve been feeling actually sick about the Syrian refugees. Because like me, they didn’t hand pick their children or their life, but I have to believe they love them with the same ancient old mother’s heart that beats through all women. (Yes, all women, even those that aren’t mothers, because we all have it. We are born from it. )

So I’m thinking of these moms trekking across treacherous landscapes and oceans with their babies. You know, the babies that they love like we love ours? Of course they do.

Only they didn’t get born into white middle class America. Or even poverty level America, which is more sad and terrible than anyone understands but it is still worlds better than what these refugees are going through.

But they aren’t refugees. They are people. They are mom or dad or brother or sister or cousin or friend. They are human beings.

Are there bad ones among them hell bent to cause hurt? Maybe. But there have been 750,000 refugees let into America since 9-11, and not a single one turned out to be a terrorist. This statistic makes me say there’s not a real worry there. We, the people of this once great nation, are causing the problem. We are bathing ourselves in fear and throwing it around. And we are leaving innocent people behind because our fear is more important to us.

And this causes hate. And I’m so freaking tired of this hate. I’m tired of everyone pointing fingers and blame and not doing their part. Really, other than posting memes on Facebook, what are you doing to help this world be a better place? Ask yourself that.

I see people stand behind Jesus like He’s an excuse for bad behavior. Or others who swing poor Jesus around above their heads to swing Him at folks, like He’s some form of punishment. Only that isn’t what Jesus was, and I do know that. I was taught about Jesus since I remember anything, plus for all the rest of my childhood. And the Christianity of today, the one that that fills our media with hate and has everyone pointing to reasons to be unkind, this religion does not remind me of Jesus at all.

I don’t know how to fix anything, but I do know that we’ve got to stop being enemies. All of us. With our Facebook wars and our drama-causing gossip. Especially since we’re standing here on our high horses in our warm homes on this rainy November day. Especially since none of us are aware of what won us the cosmic lottery, allowing us to be safe reading this on the internet while families are bombed out of Syria. Especially since the US sent like 8000 of those bombs. But no one wants to lay claim on that little coincidence.

All this hate in the name of terror. And it’s working. We’re so scared of the enemy that we forget we are not each others enemy. We’ve forgotten that we are all human beings with a responsibility for each other. Isn’t that what our children and our aging parents are here to teach us?

Be a human being today.  Do something nice. No judging, no fighting. No borders and religion. No us versus them.

Be thankful for your life and your privilege. Because this world needs some human kindness.

 

A Syrian refugee hugs her crying baby after arriving on a raft on the Greek island of Lesbos, October 27, 2015. Photo Credit: Giorgos Moutafis / Reuters

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Looking for Light

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Every morning, now that the seasons are changing and the morning brings a crisp bite to the air, Lincoln and I head out looking for light.

We start out with Brice on his bike, half a block ahead of us, soaring down the hills from our house towards his school. I do all I can to not scream at him to be careful. But he is. I’ve taught him and he’s careful. He stops at driveways and long before an intersection. He goes as fast as he can and then slams on the brake and fishtails. He looks back to take in the black mark he created on the sidewalk and then looks at me with a huge smile. He gives me a thumbs up and I give one back. Lincoln waves.

We drop off Brice at school and we visit with a mom or two each morning. It’s a lovely way to start the day. Brice takes off with his friends and then heads into school in a single file line when the bell rings, so Lincoln and I head off, me on foot and him in the jogger.

We used to have a plan, a route I’d take based on the day and how much time I had to walk. We’d head up towards Tahoe Park and walk through the grass, chasing up geese and looking out at the ski ramp before it was brought on land for the winter. We’d head down Haskell past where my cousin Frank and his wife Suzanne used to live, and then over the dam and wind our way through downtown. Some days we headed along the lake through the green manicured lawns of the subdivisions along the water, then up the secret sidewalk and come back home on our own street. It depended on the day, but usually I had it mapped with a clear route.

But these cold mornings leave me wanting to head back home to sit on a warm radiator, so instead, we walk wherever the sunlight hits. At the end of each block, at whatever intersection we find ourselves, we head toward the light. It warms our faces, and hopefully Lincoln’s head and hands, since he throws hats and mittens like baseballs. Instead he holds my hand as I lean over the jogger, and I try to keep them warm.

We wind through town mostly, past tiny little ranches and huge old Victorians and everything in between, the sun on our faces. We walk just as long and just as far probably, but we wander in a zig-zag in search of light and the warmth it provides.

I wouldn’t have done this, had it not been for the chill in the air. I’m a planner, you could say, and I like things in order. I’d have stayed on task and created a specific route.

But what if this is better? To have a goal in mind but not be really picky about the exact path that gets me there?

I’m planning only a block or an hour or a day ahead, because that is where the sun is shining right now. I’ll walk in the shade if we have to, because sometimes that’s all there is. But if I can, I’m choosing the warmest path, the one where the light is shining.

What Keeps Me Away

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I want to blog to you fine people. I do.

But then it goes like this… I make two phone calls that I really need to make when it finally gets quiet. But no one answers when I have time to call so I leave messages and go off to find the baby. This is how I spend a lot of the day, finding the baby in a very big house. He’s in his room with the cat this time, playing with the baby monitor. He smells poopy, so I take him downstairs to change him. He keeps the monitor and I don’t have a free hand to fight him so the cat chases us down the stairs after the cord, because that’s helpful.

While I change the baby and try to get the cat to back off, both phone calls got returned. But now Brice is asking for a snack and our fix it guy is putting in a new sidewalk out front, so his son is here playing. And there is dinner to make and phone calls to try to return from the chaos. I spend the time on the phone bribing children with cookies and a finger in the air, as in, JUST GIVE ME ONE MINUTE PLEASE! Silently, cause I’m the phone.

And this is why I don’t write to you nice folks. Because I can’t really seem to create a total and complete thought much less a complete blog post.

I want it to be perfect and meaningful and have some answer and message. But sometimes, the only message I seem be able to have is the one I live, which is a cycle of all day, every day… feed, water and wash. And wash is really optional depending on the day. So…

I’m going to try to be here more, even if my thoughts are random and not complete. Even if I don’t have all the answers, or any, on some days. But I’m going to do all I can to keep coming back.

Now I’m going to go find my baby.

Also, everyone keeps telling us that Lincoln is not a baby anymore. Obviously a subject for another day.

Brice and the Balance Bike

Brice started kindergarten this fall.

I know, right? I don’t even know how that happened so fast…

So we’ve been taking advantage of the weather and walking to school while Brice rides his balance bike.  He hasn’t quite figured out the pedaling thing, at least not in any way that would enable him to ride a regular bike to school, so we got him a larger balance bike for now. And you know what? That kid can fly!

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He coasts along with his feet out, his bright red Lightning McQueen Crocs splayed out while he intentionally swerves the bike around. His big red helmet on his head. He calls out to people as we walk, thanking cars for stopping at the crosswalk, or yelling good morning to everyone we see, even when it’s afternoon. He makes people smile with his genuine love of life.

It is somewhere around the time that we near school, though, that I start thinking about how Brice isn’t exactly “cool” in the traditional sense. We see a 5th grade boy raising the flag and Brice runs to the kid screaming, “Good morning, Lunch Buddy!”

And the Lunch Buddy smiles and says, “Good morning, Brice.” And every day, Brice gets happy as hell that the Lunch Buddy knows his name.

And every day, I say, “Do you know his name now?”

And Brice says, “His name is Lunch Buddy!”

I worry so much that someone will tell him that he isn’t wonderful the way he is and that he should change so he can be better. Because right now, it hasn’t even occurred to him that he “should” be anyone else. I worry about that seed of doubt being planted in his carefree, loving little heart.

Somewhere along the way, we get shaped and altered and trimmed and changed by our lives. Because of what we want, because of what we don’t. To fit in, to stand out. A tide of people-pleasing that we could coat ourselves in until we don’t know who we are anymore.

He rides his balance bike because he loves it and he doesn’t worry that it isn’t good enough to use. He wears the clothes and shoes he likes and that feels comfortable in. He eats hummus with a spoon for snack because it’s his favorite food. I pray that no one starts telling him those things aren’t right.

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Because those things are him, before anyone told him who to be. And in my mama heart, I pray that if anyone tries to convince him he needs to change, he wouldn’t believe them.

Lincoln the Shrieker

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Lincoln has been shrieking. A stupid loud, high-pitched noise that could make your ears bleed. He lets these rip for 20 seconds at a time, for a variety of reasons. It’s become like a habit. I’m not ashamed to say this to all of you: I HATE it.

I do. It’s like nails on a chalkboard. All the nails in a 2nd grade glass. Like that.

I don’t know when it started. Weeks ago, maybe? A month? A loooong time. And it only gets worse. He’s gotten smarter and he knows how to use what little devices he has in the world. So now the shrieks are a weapon.

In the midst of preparing to have my ears removed to solve this problem, I heard my mom say, “Just ignore him. He’ll knock it off.”

I hear her, in her nonchalant way, because with kids she just knew what to do. And I instantly knew that she was right.

She does that, tells me what I need to hear when I need to hear it. Little things, like how to finish a recipe that I can’t find or how to stop a 5 year old (momentarily, anyway) from being annoying. Or big things, like how to find my way when I feel lost in this roller coaster of life. I am convinced that she is still with me. Convinced in the same way that I know that the sun will go down this evening.

And the best part? As I miss her less, I feel her more. Like she could call out to me anytime from the next room.

And I won’t say the shrieking has stopped, but it’s wayyyy better.

Happy 1st Birthday to Lincoln!

My Lincoln.

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One year old today.

It’s surreal, this fact.

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This is us, one year ago this morning.

7 pounds 6 ounces, my biggest baby by over a pound.

My longest labor by over a mile.

Lincoln felt like a baby horse inside of me rather than a baby human, so I wasn’t surprised to see how strong he was right after birth, lifting his head off my chest while we laid there skin to skin. Eyes open, taking it all in, not even crying. So much like he is today. My mellow fourth baby who got the memo that he is not the center of the universe, just an equal part like the rest of us.

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Lincoln is all smiles. He cuddles with pillows and pets and people. He is a charmer, a sweet, daring little soul who cruises the staircases in this house like a pro. He crawls from room to room, chasing cats and the puppy and dragging trucks along with him, calling for Brice. He thinks I’m the funniest person in the house, which is nice. All my other babies thought someone else was funnier.

I noticed a family of four out on a bike ride in front of our house this week while I was working in the yard. I counted their kids and thought, “Four kids. That’s nuts!” And then I remembered that I, in fact, have four kids and I felt kind of ashamed for judging, not to mention silly for not remembering. My life is just my life and I think that I get caught up in the living of it that I forget to keep track of details. Like how many children I have, apparently.

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I remember when I was leaving Georgia to go to the hospital and deliver Holly, I was just convinced that I could not love this new baby as much as I loved Georgia. How could I? It didn’t seem possible, because we learn a whole new kind of love when we become mothers, don’t we? But when Holly was born, I realized- our love multiplies in direct proportion to how many kids we have, like magic. There is always more than enough. Even with four, there always seems to be at least enough. I may forget how many kids I have, but there is lots of love.

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And though it feels that I am lacking sufficient time for it all, I try to remember that my life is supposed to be full of needs right now. Lincoln will only be a baby so long, and babies fill your days with moments. Messy moments, needy moments, tender moments. A baby fills your life and your arms. There is room for little else. As they grow, they play and explore more on their own. They reach out to the next room and then the yard, to friends’ houses and school and sports and activities, and pretty soon they have moved right out of your house and life. They create a life of their own. It happens in the blink of an eye. I know this.

So I play with the baby and tend to his needs and this fills my life. And I write a paragraph or few pages here and there. The book I’m writing waits more patiently than a hungry kid. Some moments this is easier to take than others. Writing is part of who I am. I miss it when I can’t get there.

But before I know it, the time will be there for me to write without interruption. I have done this whole baby thing enough times to know that the fog and storms of life with small children do eventually lift.

So for now, the computer sits open to Word, waiting for me to finish something. Lots of things. And it will wait. I nurse my baby. I celebrate the gift of his presence in my life. This little everyday miracle that I lug around on my hip. My fourth. Dare I say, my last? Watching him leave babyhood right before my eyes feels nearly bearable, even though it truly feels like it’s time to be done. The tradeoff of no longer having a baby in your arms all the time is that you no longer have a baby in your arms all the time.

Happy first birthday, Lincoln Thomas. I love you with my entire being and you fill my heart with joy.

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I Am Here

I am here.

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I suppose we all have a place that we wanted to get to. A goal we wanted attained or a dream we wanted fulfilled. We have lots of these over our lives, I’m sure. Some come to fruition, some fall by the wayside for something more important. We wander varying paths in our lives, for sure.

But my life, right here, right now? This was my dream.

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An amazing old house with it’s own stories and history. A quarter acre plot of my very own land to plant tomatoes and tulips and sunflowers. A place to raise my children and be safe and warm with those I love the most. To write books and magazine articles and take photos of what I love. And have this be my job. To no longer worry about paying for groceries or rent or basic necessities like I did for so many years.That was my dream.

And I’m here now. When I stop and look around my life for a moment, I realize this and it startles me every time. IT startles me because I get caught up in laundry and dishes and messes and life. I have to pause long enough to see it.

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I stand in my lovely kitchen or to chase the kids around the house or get the sweetest texts or notes from my husband and I feel as though I brought this life here with my own wishing on stars. As if by changing my attention from my fears and worries to my brightest shining dreams, I brought them to life. And here I am, where I dreamed for years that I would be.

And the thing is, there will always be more dreams. To finish my second book. To watch my words flow out into the world and do some good, I hope. To see my kids grow and see their dreams come into fruition. It keeps us dreaming, this wish for more.

But this here and now? Even on the hardest of times with preschooler tantrums and carpets tracked with mud and cheerios, this is my dream come true. I am living in the midst of my very own fairy tale.