Monthly Archives: August 2013

#blogelul 24: End

This is it. This weekend is the end of our residency in our current home. Last night was the last dinner prepared in the kitchen, as most of our dishes and cookware are now packed away in boxes. This morning was the last time my kids grabbed their backpacks from the hooks in the laundry room and their lunches from the refrigerator. Also, hopefully, the last time the refrigerator water dispenser spilled all over as I tried to fill up a water bottle. Tonight will be the last time we sleep in these rooms. But I haven’t been particularly sad. Maybe I’ve just been too busy purging things and packing to dwell on it. And I think Semisonic was right: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

And so I choose not to be stuck in the end, but to move forward into a new beginning.

#blogelul 23: Love

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

The movies have it all wrong. Love is not in the grand gestures, the guy holding up the boom box playing a Peter Gabriel song outside the window of the girl, or any other awesome cinematic moment.

Love is the quiet moments, like when you are walking to school and your seven year old slips his hand in yours and keeps it there. That is love.

#blogelul 22: Dare

I dare you.

I dare you to think of the most difficult thing you are facing in your life right now.

And then I dare you to put it in perspective.

I watched on the news the other night as Ann Curry interviewed a seven-year-old Syrian boy, whose world had literally blown up around him, who had witnessed his friends and neighbors die only an arms’ length away while he was playing outside his home.

And then they moved on to his mother, who was entirely hidden beneath her burqa – except for her eyes. And that was all you really needed to see – this window into her soul, her heartbroken soul that spilled out through her tears as she spoke of the horror her children endured, their three day walk to a refugee camp, and the fear that she will never again see her husband, who stayed behind to fight as a rebel.

And I cried with this mother, whose name I do not know. I cried for her children, who have witnessed things in recent days that no one should have to in their entire lives. I cried that somehow, out of sheer luck of the randomness of the universe, MY seven-year-old boys live in a part of the world where they do not have to even imagine the grown-up realities of chemical warfare, where they have enough food and clothing and shelter and they can play on myriad electronics and then whine that “it’s not fair” when they are told that it is time to put them away.

They are right. The world is not fair.

I dare you to recognize how unfair it is, and to acknowledge that in all likelihood, if you are able to read this right now, you are the beneficiary of such unfairness.

I dare you to be like my friends, Phyllis and Michael, who sat by the side of their seven-year-old son last night as he received a bone marrow transfusion. I dare you to look that kind of adversity in the eye and handle it with the grace and humility and humor and love that the Sommer family has demonstrated since Sam was first diagnosed over a year ago. Perhaps in their quieter moments, they lament “why us?” But publicly, they have only shown gratitude for the worldwide support that has come their way, the organizations who have helped them, the medical technology that gives them hope for the future, and the anonymous donor who has given them the greatest gift of all.*

So I dare you, as we approach this new year, to stop the Facebook Whine about your hard day at work (be thankful you are able to work and have a job to go to every day), the traffic (be thankful you have reliable transportation and are healthy enough to drive), how much housework you have (be thankful you have a home to keep clean), and especially your children (be thankful for their existence, every day, even though they drive you batty – they are kids and that is their job). I dare you to put it in perspective, and then see if it’s really so bad.

*if you would like to read more about Superman Sam vs. the Ninja Leukemia, you can do so here.

#blogelul 21: Change

“Mom, what is change?”

“It’s when you get something back.”

This question and answer were in reference to financial change. But really, doesn’t that define change in general? Don’t we get something back when we make an honest, concerted effort to change something in our lives?

#blogelul 20: Judge

This is a tough one. Even those of us who consider ourselves to be open-minded – aren’t we judgmental, maybe especially toward those who we perceive to be less enlightened than we think we are? And don’t we feel like everyone is judging us all the time, and so we act in ways that might allow us to be judged favorably – whether in the way we dress, the neighborhood in which we reside, the friends we keep, or the way in which we parent our children publicly?

The reality is that we are the harshest judges toward ourselves. If this were not true, we would not care what others think, or even what others do, because we would be confident enough in ourselves to not pay attention to those around us.

So perhaps the best thing I can do for myself in the coming year is to learn to judge myself less and love myself more. Perhaps that is setting the bar high. It may take more than a year. But I’m willing to try. Who will join me on this journey?

#blogelul 19: Ask

In the process of moving, we have had to ask ourselves over and over again, “Keep or toss?” There are of course things we do not NEED. Yet we hesitate in answering the question, because we are really asking ourselves if we need the momento to remember the event, the person, whatever that is attached to that thing. By and large, the answer is NO. But we continue to ask the question anyway.

This is not something, by the way, that only pertains to moving. Isn’t this something we do all the time? Evaluate what we need to keep in our lives, and what to get rid of? We are constantly asking ourselves this question, even though we generally know the answer before we ask.

And when it comes to relationships?

(Because whenever possible, I like to throw in a Broadway lyrical reference. Though I am sincere in its meaning.)

“Love me – that’s all I ask of you.”

#blogelul 17/18: Awaken/Pray

Perhaps ironically, I did get to yesterday’s topic of “Awaken” because by the time I could have attended to writing, I was falling asleep.

But it seems fitting that I “catch up” by combining this with the topic of “Pray,” as they are very much linked.

When I pray – really pray, as opposed to going through the motions – something always awakens within me. A sense of what is truly important in my life, while the rest just fades away, at least for a moment. A sense that there is something out there that is bigger than myself, and because of that, everything in my life will somehow fall into place because it is part of a larger picture. A sense that through faith, my prayers will be answered, even if it does not look exactly how I picture it before it happens.

Yesterday, I got to meet the 10 day old son of my very dear friends. Holding a brand new life awakens you to all the possibilities this world can offer. In fact, i have several friends who have had babies in recent weeks. For all of them, I pray that life is just challenging enough that they learn to cope with the realities of the world, yet easy enough that they do not need to use those skills too often. I pray that they are full of health and happiness throughout their lives. And I pray that they find plenty of reasons to laugh each day.

Nothing awakens my knowledge of the miracles of the world quite like the welcome of new life and all the possibilities it holds.

#blogelul 16: Change

Change is difficult for even the most adaptable people. How we handle change is what makes all the difference. As a social worker, I was trained to be a “change agent,” which is ironic in a way when you consider that it was some type of significant change that often led to the state of crisis that required one to need a social worker. It may also be why outwardly, I generally appear to handle change calmly and without getting too ruffled, though the reality is that most of the time, I am a total mess on the inside. How my blood pressure remains low is a consistent source of amazement.

Our family is in the midst of a significant change. We have been renting a lovely home in a great neighborhood for the past four years. We now have to move. And so at the end of next week, we will say goodbye to our home. Although we never owned it, it was definitely ours. This is the longest our children have ever resided in one house due to previous relocations in recent years. It has been a difficult but necessary pill to swallow as the reality of moving day has drawn ever nearer.

Our priority from the beginning of this very long process has been to keep our kids in the same school. They have voiced this desire very strongly and clearly and consistently, and we vowed to do what we could to ensure this would happen. Unfortunately, the rental market in our town is much different today than it was when we arrived here four years ago, and our pickings were initially slim… And then none. And of course, everyone had an opinion about why we should just move elsewhere. Here is the reality – not all kids are super resilient. We decided that if we had the ability to minimize the amount of change in our lives, why wouldn’t we do that for the sake of our kids’ well-being? (And quite frankly, for mine as well. I know how our school works and the teachers and front office staff and other parents – I don’t really want to start all over with that again, either!)

So after searching the non-existent listings and considering all kinds of crazy options that I won’t elaborate on here – we decided to rent an apartment. We are really excited about this change – we will be living right in the heart of the downtown area of our suburb, which means we can walk to many places that we frequent. We will even be closer to school – the kids declared that they can walk without me, which means I don’t have to sit in front of the school every day idling while I wait for them, wasting both time and fuel. (If it’s pouring rain, I’ll still pick them up. I’m not that mean!) And I am really looking forward to simplifying and not having so much STUFF just because we can. I am honestly a little disgusted by how many belongings we have acquired and kept over the years – just because we could.

As part of this downsizing project, we have been selling much of our furniture and will use the money to buy new items that will fit better in a smaller space. We currently have nowhere to sit in our living room, which has been a fun experiment. Our huge stand mixer with a million attachments that we got as a wedding shower gift that I never used, despite everyone’s sworn oath that once I had kids I would use it all the time? Gone. But there are some bittersweet moments in all of this purging. My father-in-law’s (z”l) piano, which we have dragged around with us from move to move, even though none of us play. The comfy rocker where I held and fed and cuddled all my babies. Our swingset, which the kids hardly used but the presence of which somehow made me feel like we had a “real” suburban family. I keep reminding myself that these are just things, that the memories remain, and that our family being together supersedes any items we might own. But it’s still change. We will have to learn the comfortable spot on a new couch, and navigate the channel numbers on a new TV provider (since we will not be able to keep our satellite provider), and figure out new routines that play out better in our new physical space. And we will get there with all of it. But it will take some time to adjust to the change. How much time is anyone’s guess.

#blogelul 15: Learn

My children started a new school year today. I wish for them a year filled with learning that they find engaging, important, an relevant.

Being that this was a half day, I was not sure how much academic learning would occur. An email from the principal indicated that during an all-school assembly, the students learned the new school motto: “Have fun. Work hard. Be kind.”

Sounds like words we can all learn to live by.

#blogelul 14: Remember

Memory is a funny thing. How is it that I can’t remember what I had for lunch, but I hear a song from 1984 and recall every single word? Yes, I know the science (sort of) of brain functioning and the storing of some information into long-term memory, yada yada yada. (A classic episode of Seinfeld, of course. See, I remember that, too!) I just think it’s funny (in a “that’s interesting”, not a “ha ha” kind of way) that this is how it works.

I feel like my life is full of having to remember things in order to move everyone else’s lives forward. I have a million things to remember to do in order to get my youth education year started. I need to remember all the things my kids need to start their school year – and according to them, I apparently also need to remember where each of their belongings might be locates at any given time. I have to keep all the schedules and food preferences and backpack/lunchbox ownerships straight, and it can be exhausting and overwhelming to remember all of this stuff, all the time. Seriously, how did we DO all of this without calendars right in our phones to keep us organized? If I don’t write down a date for an activity – mine or another household member’s – the moment it is scheduled, then forget it – I probably won’t remember.

I wasn’t always like this. Before I had children, I remembered EVERYTHING. I guess it was easier when I only had myself (and my husband) to keep track of. Maybe you get to a certain point in your life – which is probably different for everyone, and that is not dependent on having children – where you unconsciously decide to remember, first and foremost, what is most important in life, and you choose to forget all the minutiae that can otherwise hold you up. At least, that is the theory I will opt to remember.