Thursday, December 19, 2013

Shutting down

A friend of mine talked to me many months back about shutting down, taking things off her plate, getting ready for a big change.  "How do you know when it's time to pack it all in?" I asked her at the time.

"You just know."

Much like the answer my brother gave me to the question, now decades ago, "How do you know who Mr./Ms. Right is for you?"

"You just know."

He was right.  And my friend is right, too. I find myself in the peculiar place of knowingly ending some things, and readying up, preparing for something. What? I don't know. I just find that some things that need to be said are coming out, sometimes unbidden.  Things that I used to worry about now seem to be answered with "So what?"

The busi(y)ness of this year actually camouflaged an eerie calm. I can see the surface of our lives glass-clear under the sun. But I see red skies on the horizon, and any good sailor knows that you'd better pay attention to those skies in the morning.

I don't know what's ahead; I only know it's time to get things in order.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Perfect Storm

On October 17, we celebrated our 20 year wedding anniversary as a family of four at our favorite restaurant.

Unbeknownst to us, this was the beginning of a two-week tempest that encompassed family emergency with major life milestones. The short list:
  • Wedding anniversary
  • Younger boy's 10th birthday
  • Younger boy's hospitalization for burst appendix
  • Older boy's confirmation and first communion
And the last two happened concurrently.

This past weekend was 10 years since our younger guy was baptized.  Older boy and I head to Kentucky for cross country nationals on Thursday while little man celebrates his third consecutive year as popcorn king in his cub scout pack.

Hubby just returned from visiting his uncle in another state. While he was gone, I hosted a sleepover for the boys, which went extremely well.  Everything gets easier with a little practice.

Life ebbs and flows, and I enjoy the light, sunshine and colors  of this fall. I would not trade this life for anything, nor would I miss a minute of it. Older boy caps it all off with second honors--no grade inflation, this time, I'm sure--just mom nipping at his heels and making sure it all gets done. And turned in.  Such a typical, normal problem to have.

The best thing?  Older boy performing flash fiction with his class. He looked just like any other kid up there.

At long last.

Looking ahead, feeling thankful for so much, and blessed beyond all belief. God is good. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Celebrations Abound

I found out this past week what both my boys are made of. On one hand, I should not be surprised.

But by the same token, I'm floored.

My younger son had an emergency appendectomy almost a week ago. His stoicism got in the way of a quicker diagnosis. but his inner grit guaranteed a pretty quick turnaround. I see 'long game' thinking in the way he's approaching his recovery.

Should I be so surprised that he understood and responded to the blunt honesty of his care-givers?

Not to be outdone, older brother understood the gravity of G's situation and found a new reserve of stoicism of his own. Although we made every effort to keep life as 'normal' as we could, Nic had his own sacrifices to make. The party to celebrate his communion and confirmation needed postponement (since half the family was in hospital); however, I refused to postpone the actual sacraments.  After all, I have worked for years to get Nic to this point, and in my mind, there was no way it was NOT happening.

Minus the party distraction, Nic surpassed all my expectations. He suited up in his jacket, tie and slacks and told me "The hat stays home."  (Yes, that would be his going-out hat--which he never leaves home without), and comported himself with a poise I'd never seen before. Was this my son?

Sure was. And I'd never been so proud.

And he ran his second fastest time at Belmont Plateau that afternoon--despite all the insanity and distraction leading up to it.

Hubby and I celebrated 20 years married this month; Gabriel had his 10th birthday; Nic made his communion and confirmation; and Gabriel is home from the hospital.

We are blessed. There is much to celebrate.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Going National

"Who cares? He's never won anything in his life."~Dylan, Akeela and the Bee

So my older son's newest obsession is Louisville, KY. His elevator friend mentioned it as a destination over the summer (dad cautioning that there's really not much else there). It might have stayed an object of discussion if the CYO National Cross Country Champs weren't held there.

Boom. Set as destination.

Not so fast.  Mostly because elder son is not so fast.  He does not love running, so getting him out during the week is a heroic task, made entertaining by his shouting "I hate you, mom!" while we're out running.

Seriously, he will love me someday for this if he doesn't end up in therapy.

I read through the qualifications, and didn't think he'd be able to make the cut. Apparently, I didn't read them closely enough, because he can qualify as part of a team, and as long as he is part of a team and commits to running, he is going.

I am elated.  Elder boy, not so much. He was expecting a free ride to Louisville. Nevertheless, he will go. He will run. He will do his best.

"Why do you care, you've never won anything!" he growled after his slow showing on Sunday (no running and a soft pretzel and a half pre race bogged him down--he won't do that again).

I laughed inwardly,  because he's right.  As a senior in high school, I traveled to Nationals with my Forensic team as a considered right because I helped, in some way, the rest of the team get there. And I could not on my own.  And I look back on that experience with a chuckle, because there was little for me to do but have a good time and cheer on my teammates. No pressure. And I paid my way in other ways, so I figured this was my due.

But he's right. I never had this opportunity to be national anything. On the other hand, he does.  And he may never get this opportunity again.

Opportunity knocks. I'll make sure he answers the door.

Winning matters not. It's all about the journey.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Life lessons well-learned (while running long distance)

My eighth grader is thrilled. I can see it shining in his eyes from 50 yards as he rounds the bend toward the finish line.

I see he has 15 seconds to meet his goal time this week from the digital time-keeper at the finish line and can't help jumping up and down. "GO NIC! RUN IT IN!"

He's grinning, he's gasping, but he digs in deep and sprints for the finish line--and makes it over just one second shy of his goal for this week.  He falls into my arms gasping, grinning and immensely pleased with himself.

After all, he just ran 4K on one of the toughest cross country courses in the country. He know this, and this pleases him, also.

He will not win any speed records, mind you. He stands to come in last for every race. "And doesn't that bother him?" people whisper to me. "Doesn't that bother you?"

No. And no.

Because for us, it was never about winning. For us, it's about finding out what we can do,

And Nic is tickled pink about being able to run a 4K. And he's motivated to run it faster every week.

When he toed the starting line last week, he admitted to being nervous. "I don't know if I can do this," he said in a moment of candor. Despite that, when the starter pistol went off, so did he with the rest of runners.

And he ran it in his first race, too, his eyes bright with pride. Because he proved to himself that he could finish. And every week, he will compete against himself and challenge himself to do better than he did the week before.

Isn't that what life is all about?  Constantly improving our personal best?

It's never about us versus anyone else--but I think we forget that in the bustle of living.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Down Another Rabbit Hole

I had another meeting last night; I need to learn how to say no. It matters not how I got there, only that I'm there, waiting for the meeting to start.  As I stand in line for dinner, I see some familiar faces and exchange pleasantries and small talk.

I remark on the heat, and one mom says “I know and tomorrow will be hotter, I feel bad for my son running cross country…..”

This gives me pause. I am coaching a team, a team that consists only of my two kids. Then I freeze, realizing that she’s talking about another school’s team. I  blurt out “Really? We have a cross country team here at (our parish).”

“Well, you have to start somewhere!” she said breezily, and moved on.  Leaving me to wonder, start where?  What’s she talking about? I have a team, but my team isn’t good enough for her?  In any case, it feels like a slap in the face. And gets me to wondering, what else have I kept other people from engaging in, simply because my name is attached? Should I quit?  Drop out of teaching because people don’t want me teaching their kids? Drop out of other things because I don’t know what I’m doing?

It’s a rabbit hole, and I’m deep into it quickly.

She’s sitting at the table and trying to catch my eye. I’m looking past her  because I am trying not to cry. The demons don’t waste time when you’re down. I stare into my lap, and will myself to sit tight. The door is behind me, and escape would be easy……

Too easy.   In turn, hurt, anger, wounded pride have their way with me. And I sit. Face cast down. Knowing everything can be seen and willing myself to be still.

In the end, she makes eye contact and beams at me. I have no idea what it—or she—means by it.

So my meditation for the day is :

 How will anyone know that You are pleased with me and with Your people unless You go with us? What else will distinguish me and Your people from all the other people on the face of the earth? (Exodus 33:16)

I need to pray on this question. And listen well for the answer.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

In the moment

In two weeks, we'll be readying for the start of school. Actually, the kids are doing their reading and math packets now, so you can argue that readiness is an ongoing process. We're cleaning out, assessing what supplies we need to get, seeing what we have ready to go.

The materials portion of readiness is always the easy part. It's the intangibles--the soft skills, the social stuff--that always gives me pause.

My older son is psyched and ready for 8th grade. His summer program with the township finished, and he liked it so much he told me he'd rather do that than ESY next year. He had more get-togethers and sleep overs with friends this summer than he's ever had up until now.  One can argue that it hasn't been much; on the other hand, it's been nonexistent til this year.  Progress has been made.

My younger guy, as closed and internal as ever, remains my mystery.  He's had an easier time in his programming, but his social interactions come bundled with big brother's. and why not--everything they do comes bundled, because they are de facto best friends. Hubby worries that their childhoods suffer for their lack of friends; I argue they at the very least have each other. And us.

So, they don't go and hang out at other people's houses. I can't worry about that anymore. We do as much as we can, continue to create as many opportunities as we can for them, and outside of that, we can't make anyone like either of them.

We'll keep on doing what we can. Looking ahead, Big guy makes communion and confirmation together this fall; little man moves into Webelos scouts and starts trombone lessons. We'll see how these things go.

All we can do is keep moving forward. We've come so far, yet have so far to go.