sleep can wait

Nights like this are so rare. It’s 70°, the moon is super bright, there’s an incredible breeze blowing through the trees, and the crickets are singing. I know it’s getting late and the sun is going to come before I know it, but I just can’t head to bed. Because, you can’t bottle up hours like this and save them for a more “reasonable” hour. I know the children will be up soon, and there will be all sorts of needs to be met, things to do, places we have to go. But I don’t want this glorious gift of a night to slip away without fully enjoying it. Everything is so alive out there. My daughter came downstairs about 45 minutes ago; she was having trouble falling asleep. And, she was hungry. So, she sat and ate a banana while chatting with me for a few minutes. She headed off to bed, but now I sort of wish she’d stayed to hang with me until the midnight hour. She loves these nights, too, and is such fabulous company. Now there’s a train horn in the distance, and I can hear the tracks, and there’s the sound of an ambulance somewhere else in town. Opportunity to lift someone else up in prayer, because the Lord is ever listening. The world is still turning, and life is always being lived. The cars going by outside my windows carry people to where at this hour? Lives being lived. And tonight they’re lived in bright moonlight and cricket song. And, I wonder how many people passing by — like the person walking by on the sidewalk behind my house — are able to stop and take in the beauty of the night. Beauty in the everyday. Any hour.
I hope wherever you are tonight, if you’re still up, that you’re able to take some time and enjoy the night before you head off to sleep. Because the heavens declare, and it’s autumn. Hopefully, you have a bright half moon where you’re at, too.

 

(*Disclaimer about the photo at the top of this post…it’s not perfectly lovely. This I know. But, it is authentic, it is the view I’m enjoying right now. It is beautiful in its own way, with the myriad of branches and the moon that is always so reluctant to be photographed well with the camera on my phone. Now imagine the train whistle and cricket chorus…)

eight : twenty three

It’s 8:23 p.m. And I am done with the day. It started out lovely enough, but then, parenting. Roughest day we’ve had in a very long while. Lots of frustration, lots of tears, some despairing thoughts that threaten no hope of things getting better. MY GOODNESS, the will can be strong. How does one child have that much argument in them?

… (crickets)

Annnnd…that’s all I’ve got. Thought I might work some more things out in words, but, alas, no. I’ve had some wine. I’ve had (more than) some chocolate. I’ve prayed. Shed some tears. And now, my bed. My big, soft, cushy bed. Here in the eight o’clock hour. I’d love to have it in me to lose myself in a movie, but, nope. Bed. And hope for good sleep and much better hours tomorrow. Certainly, there will be more chocolate. Likely in coffee, first thing, in a few short hours.

And let us not grow weary of doing good. Neither the woman in me who struggles with hope (pray for that woman,) nor the woman in me who knows Who it is that not only brings tomorrow, but is also already there.

night bugs and community

 

I tried to go to bed an hour and a half ago. It didn’t work out.

I will admit to being a woman easily startled in the night. When walking around downstairs whilst the rest of my family sleeps, I can convince myself that I saw something out of the corner of my eye or that the sound of the house creaking/settling was something sinister. I would prefer to not be walking about the house in the middle of the night. But, if I can’t sleep, sometimes I simply have to change my surroundings. So I land downstairs and make my way to my favorite spot chill. It’s where I find myself tonight. I get that the light from the computer screen is counterproductive to my efforts to induce sleepiness. However, some nights, it’s just what it is and I need to write a little something.

It wasn’t a banner evening in the parenting life I live. It was stressful and unsettling, and beautiful and redemptive. All at once. It was one of the bigger conversations we’ve had with one of our children, confessions on both sides that we are works in process and there are big life lessons to be learned from some recent experiences we’ve had both separately and together. Necessary words, thoughts and lessons, growth to be had. And we are so thankful for it all.

But, though I am thankful, I am worn out. And have a little bit of a latent stress reaction to the situation, so, here I sit instead of sleeping in my bed. And I am reflecting on how you might think you’re alone — waiting for the house to creak or the shadow to catch your eye — there are others up at this time of the day (night) too. And they’re looking for loved ones to commune with in the late hours that are filled with big struggles or emotions. I opened Facebook when I got to my chair. And I read recent posts by my friends: there was sleeplessness due to rain, anger at the state of our country, longing for comfort and relief from grief at the loss of a loved one. And mingled in was the post from a mom friend who laid on the floor next to her daughter’s bed when asked at bedtime, and a photo of her daughter’s tiny hand in her own as the little one fell asleep. Life is full and everyone is somewhere tonight living out a story that is all their own, yet shared. And oftentimes it is m e s s y . And sometimes unbearable, or confusing, or threatens to overwhelm. Or, so bittersweet it brings tears. And reading through real-time responses and interactions between dear friends going through the mess of life, navigating their way through the weeds that can sometimes block the path they are looking for, I was reminded that the world is smaller than it can feel. And in sharing in the life struggles of friends — simple fellowship and a few words amongst friends in what can be lonely hours — can lessen my own burdens as I share in their life experiences. We are part of a larger story and there is every hour give and take, ebb and flow.

And there are night bugs. The incredible yard full of crickets. They are the soundtrack tonight. They are the warm reminder that the God of all creation is at work. A vibrant chorus that surrounds me. Voices reaching out to one another in the night, in the dark. Community. And I am glad I gave up my earlier quest for sleep, because sometimes, it can wait.

getting older

 

Our friends get older. This one is, and sometimes it seems like she ages by the hour. We’re not certain how old she actually is, as she is a rescue kitty. But, based on estimations when we got her, she’s at least sixteen. She’s been such a good companion. Tinier than most any grown kitty you’ll meet, and lighter than a feather, she’s gentle, warm, and giving. And, she’s teaching me, in her old age, how to be the best I can for her. The days aren’t always easy, but what a friend she is. Patience, compassion, steadfastness…putting them into practice in new and different ways. I’ll take the refining process, and be ever thankful  that she stays.

dinner, 10:15 p.m.

 

Sometimes, Mom Life looks like this. At 10:15 p.m. When family activities are many, and much is packed into one evening, you get going and don’t feed yourself well, nor at a reasonable hour. Everyone else eats, albeit at different times, (and your husband asks, “You’re going to feed yourself too, right?”) But, you get going with drop offs and pick ups, errands to the likes of Target, grocery shopping, book reading, goodnight hugs & prayers. Feeding the fish. And this — a bowl of boxed, gluten free mac n’ cheese — sounds pretty much perfect on this late summer evening. I mean, it may be boxed, but it’s fresh. It’s not warmed up leftover mac n’ cheese; I made it just now. That has to count for something, right?

sunday plans

I love Sunday dreaming. I’ve been married for over twenty years, and some of my favorite times have been the quiet, dreamy weekend days when my husband and I would talk about the future of our home. Early on, in our apartment-dwelling days, we’d chat about the kind of house we’d like and where we’d like to settle down. After we moved into our first home, and fell in love with the Norman Rockwell-esque neighborhood, we would plan for small revisions — fix the porch steps, closet storage, new paint and lighting. And we stayed as long as we could before outgrowing our beloved cottage. Now that we’re in our second house, and feeling like this is where we’ll stay to raise our children, the plans tend to be larger and feel more permanent — finishing the basement, making the laundry room the office and vice versa, gutting a bathroom to build something new and lovely. So on a day like today, free of places to be and filled with summer sunshine, to sit with the man in my favorite room of the house and plan built-in bookshelves like we used to is wonderful. It reminds me of sweet days gone by, melds memories of so many past Sundays with the happy life we have today, and feeds my soul. My heart is grateful.

sometimes…

 

…sometimes, when I have a few moments of down time, I sit across from the book shelf in the piano room and wonder at the many books I’ve collected. So many I haven’t read. And I wonder when I will have the time to read them. Life is good, and life is full. (I feel like there can’t be a *but* there;  life is good and it is full —*but* would imply that life being full carries with it a negative connotation. I don’t think it does; a full life can be crazy busy, but still wonderfully good.) Taking a few moments to breathe and admire the beautiful mess that is the bookshelf, it causes me to reflect on my hours, my days, and what fills them. I wouldn’t trade the hours I spend with my children for a book, nor the moments I steal to watch and care for the birds in my yard. I wouldn’t trade the time I spend taking photographs, or watching a movie with and laughing beside my husband. I *might* trade the hours of laundry, decluttering, or dishes. But, even those tasks are filled with life and cheer, if I choose to see it. But, back to looking at the colorful bindings of the books in front of me…there’s so much I want to learn from the books, so many people I want to meet. I’m not one of those responsible book readers that respects the fact that dawn will appear bright and early every morning, no matter what time I put down my book. I just keep turning to the next page, then the next, and then suddenly it’s 2:00 a.m. Maybe it’s just the season of life that I’m in, and maybe there will be more hours for books in the years ahead. The shelves are certainly well stocked and waiting. They’ll be there.

summer morning

Summer mornings don’t get much more lovely than this. Well, by my estimation. It’s bright, sunny…the air is warm and getting warmer, but there is an incredible cool breeze. I appreciate cool breezes — warm ones make me dizzy. My children are chasing each other, laughing, through sun-filtered grass. And I am drinking the loveliest Moonlight Jasmine tea that tastes just like the scent of the fields of my childhood summers.

Not every hour in my day will be like this. Soon there will be sibling squabbles, dishes, decluttering, and more laundry. But for now, I will enjoy the summer bliss. Here I go….

a season of photos

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It’s been a very busy few months. Busy sometimes to the point of distraction, but, in general, good busy. There has been the occasional schedule mishap, forgetting something here or there, but nothing we couldn’t get past rather quickly. I’ve come to realize in recent days that I took very few photos this summer. And, in this realization, I’ve come to understand that, for me, taking photos is a form of self care. Self care is a phrase that I have had rolling around in my head this autumn, as I have been following an Instagram friend who regularly uses it as a hashtag. Her self care has included running, trips to the salon, and visiting jazz clubs in the city. I’ve been pondering how photography is an art that I love and an activity I need to be purposeful about doing. It’s everyday life for me to look at something I find beautiful and set up a shot in my mind; it comes naturally. I’m passionate about seeing and capturing the beauty around me. When I get busy, I don’t make time for taking photos, and my life begins to lack something that is important to me. A necessary outlet, a pathway for self expression. Self care. I’m thankful that I noticed the gaping hole in the photo timeline when I was looking through iPhoto earlier this autumn. It helped me realize a few things about myself that I am hoping to remedy going forward. So, this blog post is an album of some of my favorite shots taken this season. No real rhyme or reason, just favorites. I hope you enjoy them.

 

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wings

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I love butterflies. They are one of my favorite things to photograph, because most of the time there is great color to be had not only on the butterfly, but also in what surrounds them in the photo as well. They love color, and so do I. It works out. My daughter was with me when I was photographing these butterflies the other day. We chatted a little about their eating habits, as well as why some of them have frayed wings. Then we found one that had big spots, and we talked about what we remembered learning about them last year in science, and how their spots can be a defense mechanism that scares birds away. They’re so fragile, yet so resilient and remarkable.

Speaking of fragile. In twelve hours, my daughter will be leaving the house for her first-ever sleep away camp experience. She’s been counting down since Day 49. I would often hear her asking Siri how many days were left until July 6th. Sometimes Siri would oblige and help her in her countdown, and sometimes Siri thought she was asking how how many trees we had in our yard, and she would have to do the math on her own. Either way, it was very important to know how much longer she had to wait, and it always seemed like the day was never. going. to. come. It seemed like we had so many days in between then and now. But, it was really all an illusion, because, well, here it is.

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Due to other traveling plans, we had to wait until this very last day before camp to actually pack her things. I did all the laundry before our trip, ordered just the right size bags, bought sheets for camp. I was on top of the things that mattered. Printing and reprinting the packing list, then the revised packing list. She could not wait to get packing this morning. We gathered everything, spread it out on her bed, organized the kits. It was good. She desperately wanted to be the one to cross off the items on the list (maybe told me so three or so times) so I obliged.  <— That may not seem like any sort of a concession to a sane person, but to the List Maker and those that understand the obsession that is list making, it is. It’s an act of love and sacrifice. *ahem* We settled on the larger of the two new bags so she wouldn’t have any trouble repacking when things were no longer folded and were, instead, shoved into the large laundry bag that was, for now, so neatly packed into the pile. I might also add here that it is incredibly challenging for the serial over packer to minimally pack a child for camp. Especially one that has never been out of your care for five whole days before. Thank goodness they changed the snack rule, because I would have been up every night wondering if she was getting enough to eat. Her bag is well stocked. 

We piled the things, check marked the list, zipped the zippers, and moved the bags to the foyer. We felt accomplished. And she has carried on with her day, randomly giving me the countdown now in hours. But, my biggest accomplishment hasn’t come yet. Mine comes tomorrow morning when I hug her goodbye, tell her I love her, and send her off to a camp four hours from her bedroom. Four hours from the kitchen where I prepare her food and chat with her for hours in a day. Four hours from me, for five days. But, deep down, in the more settled recesses of my heart, I know the truth — this is what we do as parents. This is what we prepare them for. We help them grow, send them off on new adventures…we help them spread their wings. But the truth is, this is also me growing. In sending her off to camp, to be in the care of others for days, I am spreading my wings as well. This is new to me, as it is for her. There are fears and concerns and all sorts of “what ifs” rolling around both our heads. In my more insecure moments, I’m tempted to think that my more shaky and sad emotions surrounding this are unreasonable. That I should just listen to friends whose children have gone away to camp in years past, those that say it will all be fine, and it will all be just fine. Reasonably, I know they are right, and it’s true: she will be fine. She will have a lovely time and I will likely look back on this and smile (with a small shake of my head) at my worries. But the thing is, I don’t want to forget this season. I don’t want to forget the countdown these past 49 days and the concerns I’ve had. I don’t want to forget because, someday, dear friends of mine, whose children are younger than my own, will be facing a similar countdown and I do not want to minimize their feelings, minimize the reality of what they are going through. I don’t want to tell them that it will all be fine, because that’s not what many are looking for when they share that they’re stressed about their child going away to camp. The reality is this: Parting ways is hard. Goodbyes are hard. Longer goodbyes are harder still. Letting go is hard. 

There is a letting go when the nursing ends. There is a letting go when the baby is first left in the church nursery. There is a letting go when preschool is upon them and they drive away for those few hours that first day. There is a letting go when they stay at Grandma & Grandpa’s house for a night. And, there is a letting go in this first as well. And I have come to a good place here — a place where it is absolutely okay for me to feel the tears coming as I think about that bus driving her away, her climbing into bed at night in a cabin that is not her home, her taking care of all the things that I have worked so hard to help her learn to take of over the years. She is so ready for the responsibilities. And I have told her so. I wouldn’t have signed her up for such a trip as this if she hadn’t earned it through having gained our trust. I can’t deny her this just because it hurts my heart to let her go.

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There will always be firsts, as there have been since her birth. This is a big one for me. Maybe not for every parent, but it is for me. I will say it without shame or worry that others would think I’m being too sensitive or overreacting. I love caring for her, and she is with me so much. I will miss her company in my hours. But, we have helped her grow wings in this first decade of her life. And it is my prayer that God will protect those wings and expand them even more in this time that she is away. She is graceful in life as these butterflies are. She is vibrant and colorful and joyful. As she heads off into the new and unfamiliar, I pray that we would both remember that God is with her and He goes before her. He will care for her in this first. As He will in this first for me. May our wings prove lovelier and stronger for it. And may they be a shade of comfort for those in our lives whose “firsts” are yet to come. Because, indeed, the struggle is real and necessary and beautiful.

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