The Woman in the Mirror

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Clark and I recently attended a bandmate’s wedding. It was a beautiful sunset celebration and in many ways a musical reunion. We bumped into people we haven’t played a note with in years with whom we experienced late night recordings, long lay-overs, and impromptu song writing sessions. That was long before any of us had spouses, kids, or even a warm-bodied date to a fancy wedding. We struck up casual conversation with an old friend who’s wife is expecting their first child. Before we could edit our verbal commentary, we became that couple– the Consummate Parental Spoilers who say things like, “Get ready. You thought marriage was tough. That was nuthin’. Just wait until you have that baby. Hardest thing we ever done.” Picture Willie Robertson slapping an acquaintance twice removed on the back of the shoulder while offering unsolicited parenting advice. That was me in Aldo stilettos. Even as the words were coming out of my mouth, I could see the color draining from his childless face. All I could think was, “I’m a moron. Someone stuff a spring roll in my mouth before I say something else royally stupid.”

What IS the matter with me?

The truth is that in the early days of marriage, Clark and I wanted a lot of kids. Four. Maybe five. That was before we knew first-hand how hard child-rearing could actually be. A friend of mine with two grown children recently said, “This parenting stuff… it ain’t going to tickle”. He’s right. It already feels more like my heart has undergone the emotional equivalent of an Indian burn than anything remotely tickling.  And I’m only just getting started. This morning at breakfast, a cheerio rolled under the refrigerator sending Salem into orbit just as the school bus pulled into the driveway. While he was desperately trying to retrieve his orphaned breakfast, I was yelling at him to hurry up because God-forbid he be late to preschool and risk his chances of being accepted into the Ivy League.

I yelled at my son for trying to save a lost cheerio.

The guilt of sending him to school with my booming voice still ringing in his little ears sent me crawling back to bed while pulling the covers over my head. Not only did I underestimate the identity-splitting nature of parenting– that I no longer hold the rights to my body, my schedule, my interests, or even my thoughts, but I grossly overlooked the emotional stamina required to shoulder the weight of worrying about another human life.  Nothing about motherhood has turned out to be quite what I thought it would be. In many ways, it is worlds better. In others ways, it it the reason why I will soon be gray beyond a bottle job.

Last night, I was falling asleep to Paradise Valley’s track, Dear Marie {insert shameless John Mayer fan plug here} when I got stuck on the lyric, “Dear Marie… Well, I got my dream, but you got yourself a family”. Family… kids… sticky fingers, board books, scrapes and bandaids, lisps and animal crackers…. this is one {single} man’s observation of An Ultimate Success Story. I do believe with every sane corner of my shrunken brain that raising these two kids is {and will be} my life’s greatest endeavor, and yet, I can’t shake the feeling like I stepped off of a cliff, and I am caught in a never ending free fall. Oh, how I wish it was a more graceful dive. But the truth is…

…I sometimes go weeks without locking eyes with my husband.
…I am afraid of waking up 20 years from now and no longer recognizing the woman staring back at me in the mirror.
…I yell at my kid before he goes to school.

And the stress of it all has me tangled up between thoughts of “Aw heck, let’s give the Duggars a run for their money” and “I don’t even remember how to spell the word B-A-L-U-N-S-S-E much less maintain it with my quiver full ‘o two.”  But these are common thoughts of common struggles, right? {Please, tell me I’m right.}

But here’s what I hope: I hope that the woman staring back at me in the mirror 20 years from now has few{er} regrets of how she raised her children. I hope she is less of a control freak than she was when her kids had sticky fingers. And for the love of all that is holy and just, I hope she has more social decency than to bully a former bandmate at a wedding who has no idea what he is in for. Some things are better left to figure out on one’s own, {right Joe?}

How has parenting turned out to be different than what you expected?

{Image via Casa Sugar}

Woody’s Greatest Hits

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Salem is telling stories.

The communication barrier is still pretty thick, but in the past 15 months, Salem has progressed from using echoed and scripted speech to answering simple “yes” and “no” questions to actual role-playing with his sister. Lately, he has been telling stories– nothing elaborate, but I will catch him narrating an original scene in limited detail. When he’s tired, he will get stuck on a loop and repeat the same phrase over and over and over again. When this happens, Clark and I say, “The record is skipping.” For instance, the other night, we were laying in my bed well past his bedtime, and with much passion and conviction, Salem observed, “Mommy, Woody is a big man… and Woody is a big man. And then… Woody… {long pause}… is a big man.” After a while, the repeated white noise lulled us both to sleep.

Woody’s Greatest Hits has made one more crack in the wall between us, and that is reason to celebrate.

Twenty Five Lessons I’ve Learned From My Three-Year-Old Daughter

Mia 4th

1. Redheads really do have more fun.

2. What’s mine is yours and what’s mine usually ends up underneath the bed, the sofa, and the car seat.

3. Helium balloons are a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

4. The definition of prudence is sleeping with one’s purse.

Mia and Clark

5. A dad is a girl’s first love.

6. “Miss Daddy” is a term of endearment.

7. Skeletor has feelings too.

8. “Dear Jesus… Amen” is a perfectly acceptable prayer.

Mia haircut

9. Always steer clear of strange dogs.

10. Always steer clear of strange men in cow suits.

11. Sing-arella, The Lion Came, and Awesome in Numberland are arguably better than the original Disney classics.

12. Nakedness is one of life’s greatest gifts.

13. Food is a worthy passion.

ice cream

14. It is always time for ice cream.

15. There is an appropriate time and place for waving to truck drivers.

16. A round mid-section is nothing to be ashamed of.

17. People do not die from exposure to public restroom floors.

18. Wrestling is not gender exclusive.

19. It is a mother’s duty to instill in her daughter a healthy fear of frogs, roaches, and strange men in cow suits.

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20. If at first you don’t sing in tune, sing louder.

21. Singing loudly out of tune is the coup de gras of sibling rivalry {when your brother is Salem Beasley}.

22. Bandaids cover over a multitude of sins.

23. Losing Princess Jasmine is a fate worse than Bedtime.

24. Bakers, bank-tellers, and librarians are all named Oscar. {Mommy: “Ask her for a lollipop.” Mia: “Miss Oscar, may I have a lollipop?”}

25. Being together is all that really matters.

Happy 3rd Birthday, Mia Girl. You are magical in every way.

Paralyzed Without a Chute

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I can remember feeling this way only one other time in my life.

It was six weeks from my wedding date and all I had was a ring, a dress, and a groom to prove it. Not a single flower had been ordered, invitation had been sent, or bridesmaid had been squeezed into overpriced satin. See, I was not your typical bride that had envisioned her wedding from the age of 6. The truth is, I never really gave my wedding much thought before I actually agreed to get married.

No vision + No money= Planless-ly paralyzed bride-to-be.

Instead of looking forward to my wedding day, it felt as though I was 6 weeks away from jumping out of a plane without a chute.

… which is exactly how I feel presently.

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you might assume we’ve taken up relocating as a new hobby. Last month, I announced that we would be moving for the FOURTH time in three years. Well, we are exactly three weeks from said move–

… and all I have is a few cardboard boxes to prove it.

I spent the latter part of May scouring the countryside for rental properties. We’re a bit high-er maintenance this time around now that Salem is getting his speech and occupational therapies through the county school system, and we’ve limited our search to three top elementary districts. Not to mention, if you’ve spent any time on the streets of Atlanta, you know that unless you live within a 15 minute radius of where you work, you will die a slow and premature death from the stress of the rush hour commute. So, we mapped our 5-ish mile radius and Mia and I drove our real estate route every morning after we dropped Salem off at school. It became so much of a routine that Mia would ask to, “go see da pwitty houses” before I could even find my car keys. I tried to keep my chin up about it, but you know what I realized pretty quickly?

There are a lot of DUMPS for rent out there.

After we completed our Curbside Drive-by Tour each morning, I wanted to jump out of the van and kiss the pavement of our current residence. It has nothing to do with size or luxury or comfort or status. It has all to do with spending 95% of my waking hours raising small children under one roof. I want to feel safe. I want to feel at rest. I want to pull up the drive and enjoy that feeling of “Ahhh– we’re home.” Not to romanticize brick and mortar too much, but I want to feel even mildly inspired within my immediate four walls.

Girls, you get this. I know you do.

With each passing day, I would return home more discouraged. With the Moving Day Skydive fast approaching, I was nearing the edge of panic. And then one morning, I was running through a neighborhood and I stumbled on a quaint little cul de sac with a home for sale. Fast forward: Quaint Little Cul de Sac House is being sold, flipped, rented out for a decent rate AND it is in a great school district, AND it is 6 minutes from Clark’s work, AND the next door neighbor doesn’t have a garden gnome in his yard holding a sign that says, “TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT ON SIGHT’ {which is more than I can say for some rentals we considered}. Problem solved, right?

No, problem not solved.

There’s a catch. There’s always a catch. The buying investor has yet to close on the property which means the home is still technically unavailable. We technically have to be out of our current residence in 3 weeks which means I’m technically contemplating voluntary admission under the Baker Act..

Plane. No chute.

I feel like I’ve turned back the clock 8 years and I am reliving my Planless-ly Paralyzing engagement. In wedded hindsight, I wish I would have had a more matured sense of adventure– perhaps a white mini dress and sneakers, a tandem bike and the downtown JOP with a black bean burger reception following at the Vortex in Little Five Points. It might have made for a great story and even better pictures. But the sheer gravity of making the single most important decision of my adult life had me thinking my wedding day ought to be a bit more sacred than sporty. S-a-c-r-e-d for us was spelled 30 people, a three-day weekend, and a vow-exchange on the side of a mountain. It was spontaneous and intimate and “us” and I wouldn’t change a thing. I loved my wedding. And I am sure that I will love our next address, but in the Land of the Uncertain, I’m beginning to worry we might become a family of couch surfers– party of four.

So, I’m calling in for a little perspective reinforcement. You don’t have to come physically pack up my underwear drawer or anything. What do I need here? A greater sense of adventure? A back up plan? A motorhome perhaps?

In the meantime, I am off to look at some more pwitty houses.

 {Image via Beyond the Screen Door}

{Guest Post} with Ashleigh from Ungrind

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I asked my friend Ashleigh to share some thoughts on a rather personal and painful topic. Having never lived through the pain of experiencing a miscarriage myself, I have only been able to sympathize with many of my friends who have endured such a tragic ordeal. I have read this story many times in preparation to share it with you, yet I am still struck by the honesty, the courage, and the vulnerability of my dear friend who has allowed us a glimpse into her family’s past and how they have grieved in the wake of great loss. It is through tears that I invite you to relive the memory with her.

Colorado Springs. It’s the place I birthed two of my five babies and buried one.

The one we buried, we named her Noah.

News of her death came at my 10-week OB appointment. I woke up that fateful Wednesday to the thought, “Today your life is going to change.” Two hours later, it did. A doppler failed to detect a heartbeat; an ultrasound revealed a body much smaller than my due date required. The doctor estimated she had stopped growing at five weeks gestation.

For five weeks — 35 days — I was unaware that I was a walking tomb. I avoided caffeine, exercised with care, and jotted down lists of potential baby names, not knowing her tiny body had ceased to grow within mine.

A week after my D&C, a friend asked my husband Ted, “How’s Ashleigh doing? Is she getting over it?”

I wasn’t.

Life felt as if it played out in a bad dream; a nightmare from which I longed to wake up. I wept, paced, and had to force myself to climb out of bed and to eat. At times, anger overwhelmed me.

And then I hit resigned.

Resigned was worse than numbness; worse than a pillow wet with tears. It was the acceptance that this was just the way it was and there was nothing I could do to change it. It was realizing that we wouldn’t have a baby on or near my husband Ted’s birthday, and that when Christmas came, one smiling kid would be missing from our card. It was a place where the comfort of weeping came to me less often.

Less than a year after, we packed our belongings into a long, yellow truck. We buckled our kids into their car seats and said goodbye to Colorado.

But today, I find myself back to visit family. To be – if only for a couple weeks — in the place I lived and joyed and mourned. And there’s one spot I find myself reluctant to venture: the cemetery.

Noah's grave

Many babies who die through miscarriage aren’t given a physical resting place on earth. We were fortunate that the hospital I had my D&C at holds firmly to the sanctity of life. As a result, we were given options on what would happen to Noah’s body after my D&C. We chose to have her tiny frame buried in a community memorial alongside other preborn babies who have died. This service was offered to us at no charge; a gift from a local Catholic diocese.

I’ve never been one to run from grief. But three years later, I feel the want – or perhaps even the need — to avoid it. Not to engage the pain that sometimes still feels so fresh.

Perhaps my first visits haunt me more than I realize.

It was marked by deep sorrow, tears, and the longing to lay my body prostrate on the fresh dirt and weep. I mourned the physical body I’d never get to nurture.

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It was a surreal experience. One that left me reluctant then to leave. As a mom I’d been taught to never leave my babies alone. I felt like I was abandoning her, in the ground, unprotected and left to the elements. It went against everything my mother’s heart felt was right. Ted had to remind me, “She’s not really there, Ashleigh. She’s not there. It’s OK to leave.”

Yet as I remind myself that I’ll regret not visiting once I’m back in Hotlanta, I think back to my second visit. I determined it would be different.

As the sun emerged and the grayness of the day lifted, we approached the grave marker. There, Ted read Psalm 34. We both cried as he spoke aloud the words in verse 8, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Through my tears, I whispered, “Yes, Lord, You are good.”

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My tears of sorrow intermingled with exclamations of praise to the One who promises that, though memory of Noah may fade for many, He will never forget. Her spirit is alive and well in the presence of a strong, tender, compassionate Savior. While my arms may not hold her, His do.

Colorado Springs. It’s the place I birthed two of my five babies and buried one.

The one we buried, we named her Noah.

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You can connect with Ashleigh on her blog or at Ungrind. You can also follow her on Twitter @ashslater.

Seoul, Korea: Let’s Try That Again

Clark and I call it a “do-over”. Can I have one please?

Last night at dinner, I told him that I had spent some time thinking about Seoul, and that I even wrote about it. {The following is why I love and loathe marriage}. He said, “I know. I read it.” And I could tell that look on his face and the sound of his tone that what he was really saying was, “You can do better than that.” And he’s right. My hearing test results in Korean would have been a more riveting read, and I knew it when I hit “Publish”. I applied myself to the facts, but I did not tap into the emotion of what really happened six years ago today. The truth is, I love our ongoing conversation here, but sometimes I feel this unspoken pressure to tie a pretty bow on a thought or a subject in 800 words or less, and Heaven-forbid there aren’t any pictures! There are two problems with this:

1. I am a woman and therefore I can’t order at the drive-thru in 800 words or less.

2. I am thirty-two years old, and much like my two-year-old, I still only like to look at the pictures.

So, forgive me for underestimating you.

I spent a few quiet moments this morning thinking about what would have happened if I had sailed through the event in Korea and on to Manila, Hong Kong, and Tokyo as was originally planned. Most people cross the Pacific and end up with indigestion. I end up going deaf. I would be attaching 6-inch ribbon curls on the situation if I said that I didn’t feel utterly cheated out of the opportunity of a lifetime. Who knows if one like that will ever come knocking again. But before my chronic optimism flares up and I start digging the pearl out of a lousy situation a-gain, can I keep it human for 300 words, please?

Let’s start with the fears…

Prior to my Asian excursion, there were three of them to be exact {with a myriad of bloodsucking fears attached to those fears}. Normal people fear things like death, terrorists, or taxes. I was filled with an array of irrational fears before I ever even stepped foot on that airplane. I guess you could say, I was paralyzed before I ever went deaf. For those of you that knew me then, why, I ask you, didn’t you have me committed?

Where was I? Oh yes, the Big Three.

Fear #1. Losing my voice
It couldn’t have been an abscess tooth or an ingrown toenail. But it had to be my hearing, right? The tinnitus that came with the hearing loss sounded like a fax machine going off inside my head at. all. times. {Pause for a listen… Yep. Still faxing.} I am so used to it now, but back then, it was the end of my music-loving world as I knew it. You don’t have to be a music major to know that the ability to hear is sort of a prerequisite for the production of vocal music or any music for that matter. Singing was my passion, my career, and I’m sorry to admit, more of my identity than it should have been. What am I if not a singer? How do I qualify my own existence if I don’t make music? Those were the questions that kept me up at night before Seoul. It turns out that living in the fear of not being able to sing anymore or having an a-musical and therefore “unqualified” existence {or so I thought} was worse than the 5% likelihood of medical recovery I had after Seoul. In other words, I am living proof that there is life after deafness.

There I go snipping it by the yard… moving on.

Fear #2. Medications, additives, and pretty much chemicals of any kind {I told you these fears were irrational.}
It was during the Organic Boom when the use of preservatives, dyes, or artificial ingredients of any kind in foods and household products were considered a fate worse than death. If I couldn’t pronounce the ingredient or if it ended in -ates or –ites, it did not enter our home. One time, I bought some all-natural peppermint body soap. I could hear Clark from the back of the house yelling from the shower, “Babe, I am willing to try all of this natural stuff you buy us, but my whole body feels like an Altoid right now!” That’s when I knew I may be taking the whole chemical-free thing a bit too far.

WARNING! WARNING! We are now exceeding 800 words. Are you still tracking with me?

My chemi-phobia extended to medications, both prescriptions and over-the-counter. I would not so much as take Tylenol for a case of cramps. Therefore, when upon admittance into a Korean hospital I was pumped full of pills {12-14 in a single does} and injected with steroids, you can imagine my panic. Due to the language barrier, I couldn’t even ask the nurse what each drug was called much less the inevitable side effects. And yet, I survived without going blind or experiencing any unwanted hair growth. Again, proof that there is life after acetaminophen.

Fear #3. Clark leaving me
Most couples don’t see a therapist before they are married. We weren’t even engaged when I dragged Clark to my counselor’s office because I thought he needed to have his head examined for wanting to marry me. I tried letting him off the hook a thousand different ways {including Altoid soap}. After every failed attempt, he would look me in the eye and say, “I am not going anywhere”. But surely now that I blew our career and cost us our entire month’s earnings not to mention future income and I am laid up on my side drooling while the Korean ENT is injecting steroid through my eardrum, surely that would be the precise moment when Clark says, “This is not what I signed up for”. I half expected for him to tell me he had to run out for yet some more sushi and then skip town. He had the ultimate head start at that point as I was not even medically cleared for air-travel. But instead, he stroked my hair and read me Psalms and lied to me and said that he thought drool was sexy. He didn’t lose patience with me after 12 days of sleeping in the same twin bed, and he let me choose what to watch on television {even though the only English-speaking TV channel was the Armed Forces Network}. We had been married for more than a year, but for the first time, I actually started to believe him that he wasn’t going anywhere. I think he would agree that those two weeks did more for our marriage than dating, engagement, and our honeymoon combined. Now, eight years later, we like to reminisce as if to say, “We’ll always have Seoul”.

Today, on this six-year-anniversary of the Survival of the Big Three, I am walking hand-in-hand with my baby girl down our neighborhood street. While, my son is dragging Woody by the boot just 20-feet ahead of us, and both of them are whining because they are too hot, thirsty, tired, wah wah wah, I would like to take this opportunity to say that there are two certainties in this world of which I am living proof:

1. You will survive.

2. I’m not going anywhere.

… wait for it… waaiittt for it!

big bowIt was killing me, and I just couldn’t help it. How’s that for tying a bow on it?

{Image via Delphine Chanet. Click the source and then you can say, “Irony”.}

Places I’ve Been: Seoul, Korea

Throughout this month of “memories”, I thought it might be fun to journey through some of the places that I have traveled to and some of the unexpected events that took place there. This week marks a rather significant anniversary in my marriage. The setting is not our wedding day but rather a hospital room half-way around the world.

On the morning of May 8, 2007, I laced up my running shoes, plugged in my headphones, and ventured from my high rise hotel out into the city streets. I was immediately infused with the energy of the early morning rush hour. People scurrying in and out sky scraper buildings, men in tailored suits with leather brief cases on their cell phones, and high heeled fashionistas gracefully slipping in and out of taxi cabs. It was much like a scene in Manhattan, except the air smelled of kimchi rather than warm bagels.

downtown seoul

This was Seoul, Korea, and I was further from home than I had ever been before. I noticed a crowd of uniformed school children unashamedly staring at me as they passed by, whispering to each other, no doubt about the “silly American” who stood a head taller than everyone else. The truth is, I was a silly American– positively beside herself excited to be on the other side of the globe witnessing the wonder that, for everyone else, was just another Tuesday.

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Little did I know that this would not be an ordinary Tuesday. Clark and I were on our first stop of a 10-day Asian tour. On the first night of the event at the Olympic stadium in Seoul, I walked on stage for sound check, wired up my in-ear monitors, and began calling volume adjustments through a translator at the monitor board. Nothing too out of the ordinary. No sooner than rehearsal was over, I walked off the stage and immediately noticed that I felt uncommonly dizzy, and the world around me suddenly didn’t quite sound the same.

Fast forward 12 hours later– I am in a university hospital in Seoul with a diagnosis of Sudden Deafness.

For most of my 20’s, I played host to some pretty irrational {and outright bizarre} fears. Ironically enough, one of them was being hospitalized in a foreign country. The first three days of a two-week hospital stay was nothing short of terrifying. Hold a pillow to your ear and that was the sound filter through which I heard everything. Doctors could not account for the sudden hearing loss with any ultimate certainty, but the general consensus was that a viral infection combined with the cruising altitude of the 15 hour flight from Atlanta to Seoul wreaked havoc in my middle ear. At one point, the medical staff suggested that if I resumed air travel, there was a remote possibility that I could lose what little was left of my hearing. Clark and I were actually researching passenger ships from Seoul, Korea to the United States.

At this point, we had only been married for just over a year, and many of our collective thoughts about settling down or having children had gone conveniently unspoken. We were perfectly content {or so we thought} to remain in a blurry fantasy of travel and exciting musical pursuits and to ride the wave for as long as we could. When our fast pace came to a screeching halt, we we suddenly began to reevaluate whether singing and touring and sushi and Shiatsu was the ultimate goal for our lives.

If we weren’t overhauling our priorities or contemplating an upcoming ocean excursion, we were coming up with clever ways to amuse ourselves.

Hospital 1
Hospital 2
Hospital 3
Hospital 4
Hospital 5

After two weeks of sharing a twin hospital bed and being each other’s only English-speaking entertainment, Clark and I were cleared for take-off. However, we were not the same couple we were when we first arrived in Seoul. The Clark and Salina that arrived were laser focussed in their pursuits. By the time we left, we both agreed that perhaps for the first time, we were thinking clearly about the future.

Seoul 2

What started out as a terrifying experience eventually cured me of several of my fears and anxieties {having survived many of them during those two weeks}. More importantly, it marked a turning point in our infant marriage that {in hindsight} better prepared us for the tospy-turvy journey of children, career change, and a more stationary existence in the years that followed.

I am forever grateful for our adventures in Seoul!

{Downtown Seoul image via Camino’s Photostream}

Here We Move Again

Peter Hall

There are days that take your breath away. And then there are days that knock the wind out of you.

Yesterday was the latter. I will tell you why.

I don’t have a makeup drawer… nor do I have a medicine cabinet where I keep my everyday soaps, lotions, and personal items. I have stored everything from my toothpaste to my face wash in the same toiletry bag for the past 6 years. It only occurred to me last night while I was getting ready for bed that Clark doesn’t have a personal drawer or cabinet either. He too keeps all of his everyday items in a travel-size tote– the very same that he used to throw into his carry-on luggage from our professional traveling days. We have no less than seven bathroom cabinets between us that remain empty as everything we need fits within airline regulations.

How does empty cabinet space qualify as a personal crisis?

The unused space is a glaring reminder of our tenancy. We’ve been renters for the last three years and while that too isn’t the end of the world, our lack of home ownership has resulted in three moves in three years. As of today, it appears we are staring down the barrel of the fourth. Our landlords just informed us of their plans to sell our current address. Wouldn’t you know it– I just unpacked our last box 3 weeks ago. The news has once again thrust me into excessive planning mode– cleaning out the unused household items and clothes for Goodwill and making a list of things to sell. I know that “rent” means “temporary”. I knew we wouldn’t be here forever. But we just got here, and now we’re about to box it all up again. I feel like a military family without the G. I. benefits.

CSIS is foiling terrorist plots in the Toronto transit system, and Chinese rescue crews are still working to recover from last week’s 6.6 earthquake. And, I am complaining about caboodles.

But the fact that I haven’t unpacked my toothbrush in SIX YEARS since the last time I flew around the world has to mean something, right? Six years ago, I preferred mobility. Six years ago, I fantasized about having little gypsie children in tow as Clark and I traipsed the globe from one musical pursuit to another. Six years ago, the idea of suburban settlement was worse than banishment into exile. And now, my first-grade maternal instincts say, “keep the nest from rocking as little as possible”. I worry what rearranging Mia’s bedroom furniture might do to her little psyche. Salem is barely old enough to remember the last three addresses, and yet I fear he is going to require long-term therapy to recover from all of the transition.

And yet, here comes the sway.

I know me, and you know me. Next week I will be posting color schemes and layout for the new space. But as for today, I want stay somewhere long enough for the Sarna bottle to expire underneath the bathroom sink.

How about you? Do you find moving daunting or exciting or a little bit of both?

Embrace Your Pace

0ec12310abd27d23c4db6f9304cb4f08{Image via Francesca Fazio’s Pinterest page}

Yesterday, I listened to a radio podcast entitled “At the Pace of What’s Real” by writer, Grace Bonney. In light of a recent stress-induced health scare, Bonney discusses the importance of finding personal balance by being “present”, or as I like to call it, “embracing your pace”. I am faster-paced by nature. I like activity and busy-ness. Like most women, I thrive in multi-tasking, but often at the cost of being fully present in the moment at hand. I find myself checking emails while I should be reading to one of my kids or working on a project at night during the precious few hours I have alone with Clark. Grace specifically challenges small business owners to hone the present by engaging in the current task in order to maintain productive and focussed work. But I think her message applies to women whether they are in the work force and/or stay at home. The full podcast is a worthy listen, but here are a few notes that I found particularly insightful. Grace says, “If we are not 100% present… our work suffers.” So, how do we stay engaged in the present routine of building a successful career or a successful family? Here’s what she suggests:

  • Imagine being “new” at your work. What were some of the emotions you felt as a new employee? a new wife? a new mother? Enthusiasm, willingness, creativity, gratitude, vision… The wonder of a new assignment so easily fades over time, but if you can access that “newness” once again, let it be a reminder that you are getting to do what you love.

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  • Make room for spontaneity. What inspires you? Books, documentaries, outdoor sports, hobbies, art, music….So often I have to pull the plug on a plan for the day in order to take time to re-inspire myself. If I am better connected with the parts of myself that are living fully, I will have a better chance of staying engaged in present tasks and opportunities.

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  • Be curious. Remain a student of your spouse, your kids, your craft… yourSELF.
  • Appreciate the small stuff. Engaging in the most tedious of work-related tasks {admin., maintenance, planning, etc.} gives you a holistic awareness of your work, therefore, don’t resent it.

Can I take some artistic liberty to add one of my own?

  • Embrace your limitations.  This one is personally the hardest for me. Staying present requires saying “no”… a lot. Personal interests and opportunities, even some really great ones, come knocking at my door everyday, and I find myself wanting to do it all. But, I am learning to accept that the race can do with one less runner. The stage can do with one less singer. Twitter can do with one less tweet. But my kids only get one Mommy. My husband only gets one wife.  The sooner I can accept that, the better chance I will have of living fully in my current circumstances. Everything else will just have to wait. 

This awareness has been extremely eye-opening for me. I’m still chewing on it actually, and I was hoping that we could help each other to really get this. How do you maintain a healthy balance by being “present”?

{Images via Rebecca Zeller Photography}

Everything is Copy

I stayed up way past my bedtime last night nearly moved to tears as I read a recent New York Times article entitled Nora Ephron’s Final Act. It was written by her son Jacob Bernstein– a reflection of her life, her work, and her final years battling with cancer. He describes that she lived her life according to the belief that “Everything is copy… so take notes”. As a writer, this gives me fresh inspiration to put things in black and white for all those who, like me, need help to see the blurry scenes of life a bit more clearly. Thank you, Jacob. And of course, thank you, Nora.

NYmag Nora Ephron

“Writing has the power to turn the bad things that happen to you into art”
Jacob Bernstein

{Image by Hilary Mchone via nymag.com}

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