Time Marches On…(and The Juggle Struggle Is 9)

I am both happy and sad when people ask me why The Juggle Struggle rarely sees a new post these days. Happy that anyone cares…sad that I am not writing like I used to. The truth is that I have a lot that I want to write, but my focus and discipline have hitched a ride out of town. I haven’t completely given up, though, and I am compelled to write a little now to mark the ninth anniversary of this blog.

On October 18, 2012, I wrote my first post. The ol’ girl’s been around for a while and seen many changes over the years…the blog, me…the world. So much is so very different. But one thing is always constant: There are 24 hours in a day, and the days just keep getting logged into the book of life.

My church is currently studying No Cure for Being Human, by Kate Bowler, and today we discussed the idea of “spending” time–as the currency that it truly is–and what it means about the choices we make. This perspective of time as a finite entity makes me think of something I came across a few years ago via Tim Urban’s Wait But Why site. He does some wonderful things with numbers, and one spin of his really drives home the point about our time on this planet. Below is what a 90-year lifespan looks like in weeks…and the blue line is where I am…

Image courtesy of Tim Urban’s Wait But Why)

…well past the half-way mark…IF I make it to 90. That’s a lot to take in.

And in taking a peek back on this anniversary at some of my previous posts, I remembered the one that I am sharing below. I wrote it when my son was 10–and it speaks to how much time we had left before he turned 18. Well, guess what? That milestone was reached earlier this year. Reading what I wrote then is obviously poignant to me now.

It happened in a mere blink.

What will the next blink bring? How many blinks do I have left?

Time marches on…

So…happy anniversary, The Juggle Struggle! I am grateful to have the words to string together that can sometimes matter to people. And I am grateful for every reader who gives me a few minutes of their precious time to read those words–I appreciate you more than you know!

And now, if you care to read on, I offer you the post that I wrote eight years ago…thinking about the time that I am actually facing now. A blink indeed.


936 and Counting

Originally posted September 30, 2013

Time flies. We all know this. The only case where time does NOT fly is instances like when you’re stuck in a boring workshop where they have the thermostat set so cold it just may crack off a body part and all you can think about is lunch. Then it’s slow. But typically, another week comes and goes and it feels like a blip on the radar.

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Recently, I had a 1-2 punch that was the kind of coincidence that makes me stop and think. I saw a framed graphic at a family member’s house that said something along the lines of “940. The number of Saturdays until your child reaches 18.” Me being me, I checked the math (52×18=936) and wondered why they added the extra month. Googling it, 940 is the number used again and again, but I like the number 936 better than 940 anyway, so I’m sticking with that. (Why the extra four? Can you guess?)

The very next day I was speaking to a friend, and she said her pastor’s message that Sunday was on pretty much the exact same thing. He had a jar of marbles that visually represented how many weeks were left before his daughter turned 18. The emphasis being, of course, that we use our time together wisely. It is fleeting.

So there I was, with two totally different avenues leading me to the same wakeup call: we only have so much time with our children before they are off and running in the world.

Of course, I know this. But when you put a finite number around it, it drives it home even further. Tick…tock…and another week is gone. Another marble leaves the jar.

I have issues with time management. I just do. I aspire to knock the hell out of each day, and before I know it, I’m brushing my teeth before bed.

But the clock of life is wound but once…

My son had his feet resting on my lap the other day, and…they were huge. What happened to the teeny ones that I nibbled on and made him giggle?

He was just sharing with me his fascination with the circulatory system that he’s learning about in science class. Only yesterday he was learning the alphabet.

I tell him—like my dad always told me—there will always be room on my lap for him. But the last time he tried it, we laughed together at how comical we must have looked.

936.

If my math is right, we’ve had 541 Saturdays together…and only 395 left before he turns 18.

395. 3-9-5. Holy crimony.

Thankfully, I am wise enough to know that these days do not need to be chock full and supercharged to be meaningful. I think back to my own childhood, and I realize that while there are some “big” memories of trips and special events—the real things that stick are the small things. The moments. It didn’t have to be anything special—just a time where I felt that I mattered. I don’t even think those thoughts typically cross our minds when they are happening—it’s like they just go into a special reservoir of love, where for some reason, we feel it and cherish it.

So, before I “lose my marbles” with my son, I need to remind myself that the moments count. That just because we may not be able to carve out the better part of a day to do something significant, I can still get out and play touch football with him and his dad.

I can genuinely listen to him catch me up on the first part of the “Full House” episode that I am sitting down to watch the rest of with him.

I can make time for a bike ride on a beautiful fall day, even if deadlines are looming.

I can share in his joy at the occasional 49¢ McDonald’s ice cream cone.

While we still do need to hit the “big” things and make those memories, it’s important to remind myself in the swirl of the day that not all is lost as long as we remember the moments, too.

Because that is what he will remember. The moments.

936 down to 395.

It’s not about us putting more stress on ourselves because who needs more of that? What it is about is keeping the perspective that we do have a finite time with our children, and it does matter—to them and to us—and it is all a blessing of unknown impact and meaning.

So amidst the flurry and chaos of everyday life, I’m going to strive to remember to jump in the leaves. Even if it means we have to rake them all over again.

Blank Canvases

I must admit that, though my mom died well over a year ago, I haven’t fully dealt with all of her belongings yet. I mean…my sister and I have gone through all that we are aware of, but there were times where certain things got the “to be dealt with more fully later” stamp. One group that got that stamp was all of her art supplies.

Many years ago, my mom shared how she wanted to paint…she felt that she might be decent at it. Given that one of my roles with her was lifelong cheerleader, I took that confession as an opportunity to facilitate that desire. Paints…brushes…an apropos French easel…she had her own personal kickstarter campaign.

Relatively early on in the whole process, she painted a lovely winter scene…and got a lot of positive reinforcement for her work. Everyone who saw it was impressed and complimented her. It should have been a great catalyst to continue exploring her creativity.

But while she did paint some…it was more accurate to describe her as someone who wanted to paint rather than a painter. “Are oils too much work? How about acrylics? Watercolor? Maybe pastels or charcoal?” I would bring home all different mediums for her to try, but many remained untouched. I tried hard to understand what was standing in her way.

She was.

Excuse after excuse would always pop up. “If I had that wall shelf installed, then I would be able to set things up like I want…” Shelf installed…no painting. “I just need better lighting…” Special easel light bought…no painting. Even an art class didn’t do more than help her complete the class project. No matter what obstacle was overcome, for the most part, the canvases remained blank.

“Mom…why aren’t you painting?” She never really answered the question. One day I asked her if the blank canvas made it too hard for her to begin? Was it too intimidating and asking for more than she thought she could do? Did she feel like each attempt had to be something “good”? Yes, she admitted. She was putting pressure on herself to do something good…and that pressure was resulting in doing nothing rather than just doing something.

I encouraged her to just…paint. Just put something on the canvas as practice with no pressure to have the outcome be anything at all. Just…paint.

I could empathize with her because I know the blank page of a writer can feel just as daunting. Just…write.

Ultimately and sadly, she let the blank canvases win. There was no amount of cheerleading or facilitating that could make her face whatever it was that kept her from moving from wanting to doing.

Later in her life I brought her coloring books so that she wouldn’t even have to think of the blank page and only choose the colors, but by that time she could no longer concentrate or keep her hand steady enough to stick with it for more than a few minutes. Her window of creativity was closed.

My mom’s choices in her efforts at painting are a metaphor for too many of her life choices, as well. She often chose the road of inertia rather than risk…and that meant she left a whole lot of life unlived that could have been so much more. Empty, missed opportunities instead of beautiful experiences of color and texture and joy. You may think I’m being hard in my assessment here, but trust me…I knew the woman. The metaphor fits.

This past weekend, I went through her art stuff. There were a small number of pieces that she had worked on over the years, but they were far outnumbered by blank canvases.

Stories that were never told.

And so I decided I’m not going to leave them blank.

Though writing is where I feel most at home, I am going to fill those damn canvases.

I don’t know with what or how, and I guarantee the results won’t be pretty…but at least they will indeed be.

The above photo includes all of my mom’s paintings—except for the winter scene that I mention as her initial try.

2019 – A Time to Create


I didn’t intend on being one of those “word of the year” people. They can be annoying, can’t they? But dammit if another another new year has come and another new word to help guide the year’s goals has found me. It started a few years ago with ripples, and every year since a word comes to me that makes complete sense…as it does on the dawn of this new year.

For many reasons, I want 2019 to be a year to create like never before.

As a writer, I always strive to create, but I’m not just talking about words here (though they are a huge part of my goals for creating). No…I mean create in a much broader sense…

I’ve been “responsible” since as far back as I can remember. And while being a responsible person is a good thing overall in my book, when it is the primary thing it can be stifling to other parts of life. And as my responsibilities in life shift (with my mom’s passing and my son angling toward maturity), I want to rediscover—or maybe discover for the first time—aspects of life and embrace opportunities to create.

I want 2019 to be the beginning of a way of being. In too many ways I’ve been living a “dress rehearsal” existence, but 2018 has really reinforced for me that there is no such thing.

Now is the time.

A bottle of wine makes a good analogy for this. I love wine, but I don’t have a wine fridge or cellar—just a little ol’ wine rack. On that rack, I’ve kept some bottles of wine for years, thinking they would be used for special occasions.

Over a decade ago, I brought home a bottle of wine from a trip to Hawaii that my mom took us on for her 80th birthday. I held onto it for one of those special occasions. With my mom’s passing this year, Thanksgiving was our first holiday without her, so I thought it made sense to open that bottle of wine and make a remembrance toast to her. There was just one problem. After so many years of fluctuating temperatures on that wine rack, the wine had gone bad.

I waited so long for that “special occasion” that we lost our opportunity to enjoy it.

Waiting too long for life’s special occasions means letting the wine of life turn into vinegar.

Now is the time.

So yes, the CREATE of 2019 means DO the book that I’ve wanted to for so long.

But it also means…

ENGAGE in more experiences—including having more fun.

EXPERIENCE and SAVOR more of life’s sweet specifics (ala the Weissmans in Paris, if you watch “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”).

MAKE our home a soul space for my family and me. That means getting much needed projects going as well as simplifying/purging/minimizing to lighten both our physical and mental loads.

TRAVEL – Waiting for the “someday” doesn’t work. Doing does. There are too many places to see and already too little time to see them. Better to work on the list than just pine for that “someday.”

LEARN by making more time to read and discover. Creativity stagnates without a broadening horizon.

And, as all of this is mostly a reaffirmation of the obvious, there is the continuous goal to CREATE more opportunities for positive change…for hope to spark…for hearts to grow…for love to win.

I want 2019 to be a year for all of us that begins (or perhaps for you continues) the creation of a Glorious Unfolding…

It’s true, as Andy says in The Shawshank Redemption, that it’s up to us to “get busy living or get busy dying.”

In many ways, at least for me, creativity = life. And so, in 2019, I aim to create by rolling up my sleeves and getting busy living and doing.

It’s about time.

All photos are used with permission.

Feeling More FraGEElay

This Christmas will be different for us. Partly because of life’s twists and turns, and partly by design. Life has brought us the first Christmas without my mom. It has also brought us a much smaller gathering around our table. This will most definitely result in a quieter day, and I’ve chosen to embrace these changes as a new way to experience Christmas rather than focusing on the differences as purely loss.

I’ve never had a Christmas where I wasn’t entertaining a group, and so I will cherish the opportunity to stay in my PJs longer and not rush to get things ready. Instead of trying to be the “hostess with the mostess,” I will strive to be less stressed and more relaxed. It’s all in the perspective, right?

And that perspective is also mindful of the fragility of life.

It’s true my mom is gone. But at 92, she had “the opportunity of a lifetime” and many years to experience—and now she is at peace. It is still a loss, but there is a sense of “normalcy” to her passing.

And then there are times when the fragility of life sneaks up on you in an instant and nothing will ever be the same again. Recently a beloved member of our church died at the age of 45…leaving behind her husband, two young boys, and many others who loved her dearly. In the span of less than two weeks, she went from not knowing she was ill to…dying. Just like that, she’s gone.

It may be cliché to say that our days are numbered on this earth, but the reality is that some of us, like my mom, have a number around 36,000…and others have less than one single day…or maybe more near 17,000, as our church friend had. And that may seem like a big number…until you run out of them.

We don’t know our number. At least I don’t know mine. But our days on the earthly side of this life are finite.

Life is fragile. We are fragile.

And so with our days numbered, we ought to be gentler to one another…and ourselves.

We need to choose kindness, grace, and service over hatred, ineptitude, and selfishness.

We need to forge a way, especially in these painfully divisive times, for love to win.

How we choose to use our days is all we have to work with in this fragile life.

My “fraGEElay” run began six years ago with this post. And while I have let this blog slip through the cracks of life, I am moved to once again wish you Christmas blessings…And if life, as it so frequently does, is not treating you gently, I pray you have people in your life who love you and stand alongside you…helping you pick up the pieces and create your own Kintsugi.

Merry Christmas, friends.

ALL PHOTOS ARE USED WITH PERMISSION.

Yo, Joy…Please Pull Up a Chair and Make Yourself at Home

For the last five years, a thematic word to help guide the year has pretty much magically appeared in front of me anxiously raising its hand like Arnold Horshack crying, “Pick me! Pick me!”

Each year it has made complete sense to me as to why this word this year, and…this year is no different.  Continue reading “Yo, Joy…Please Pull Up a Chair and Make Yourself at Home”

Fra GEE Lay 6.0

Wow. Six years ago was the first time I wrote a Christmas Eve remembrance to be gentle with one another. Hard to believe so many years of this tradition have passed already.

And in this surreal year of 2017, it certainly bears repeating that…we need to treat one another with kindness and love. Continue reading “Fra GEE Lay 6.0”