Posted in Life As I Know It

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Sometimes an offhanded remark sticks like super glue. Though the person who said it probably didn’t give it much thought, the person it’s being said to does. Continue reading “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made”

Posted in Life As I Know It

FraGEElay All Over the Place

Just a few days before Christmas…and I think if one more person asks me “are you all ready for Christmas?” I just may have to clock them upside the head. Of course, it’s a pretty reasonable question at this point, but since I’ve been getting asked that by various people since about a minute and a half after Thanksgiving, I’m a little over it. Continue reading “FraGEElay All Over the Place”

Posted in Life As I Know It

The Joy of the Journey (aka The 10 Minute Nerf War)

For weeks, preparations, planning, and discussions about design and strategy took place. Something big was on the horizon, and my son and his good buddy were afire with how they wanted it to happen. The amount of time they dedicated to preparation was noteworthy—and so was the fun they had in doing it.

The event? A neighborhood Nerf war. A bunch of boys picked a date to have a shootout to decide who was #1 in the Nerf world on our street. The last man standing would be the winner. The boys wanted to make sure they were prepared, and so they really got into it. My son wanted to buy a $30 vest that would hold his Nerf gear. After he heard a very clear and resounding “no” that definitely had the tone of “are you out of your flippin’ mind?” he realized he needed to follow his father’s and my suggestion to create what he needed. What followed was a wonderful think tank of my son and his friend. I just loved watching their imaginations catch fire. They did indeed come up with some very clever answers to their needs, and they were proud of their handiwork.

After a few weeks of strategizing and creating, they were ready. It was finally the afternoon of the showdown. This is where all of their hard work was leading…

 

Nerf

 

Ready…aim…fire!

It was over in ten minutes.

Who won is not important. (Okay, it was my kid.) They kind of giggled at how fast it all went down—but there was no regret in any of it. Not in the time they took to prepare or the speed in which it all culminated…Because all of it was fun.

As kids, so much of the fun is in the planning and anticipating. The actual thing is often secondary. I’m sometimes guilty of keeping my kid on a “need to know” basis (usually because I just forget), but he has told me that he wishes I would tell him about things earlier so that he is not only aware of it but can look forward to it, too. So I’m trying to remember not to be so scatterbrained (a bit of a catch-22) so that my son can have more joy of anticipation. And I think his desire for that is wonderful.

I can remember plenty of times when I was a kid where the figuring out and the setting up was so much of the fun—sometimes the main part. My friend Jen and I would decide we were going “camping,” so we would engineer a make-shift tent with a tarp and poles—we never much went for the store bought stuff because…what fun was that? And we would finally get it all set up and hang out in it just for a bit before it was time to take it all down and go in for dinner. And that was just fine with us.

 

a classic blanket fort
a classic blanket fort from a few years back

 

I remember one time my sister and I were building forts in our basement. There were different sections to the basement, and one of them was a nice little room with a TV and a couple sofas. She claimed she wanted that space, so of course, I wanted it, too. I felt so victorious when she gave in and said I could have it. Ah-HA! I got the great room! And so I flopped on the sofa and watched some TV…but I could hear my sister very busy on the other end of the basement. I peeked over in curiosity and saw that she had half of the Ping-Pong table down and had covered it with blankets. Light was emanating from underneath. I had to go check it out. Sure enough, my sister had built an awesome fort with its own groovy light and everything! My victory was hollow…the real fun was had in building the fort and then hanging out in it. Being the generous sister, though, she did let me look inside her fort to see how cool it was, but then she told me I had to go back to my place. Ah, big sisters…

Certainly there are plenty of times where the destination is by far the biggest slice of the pie, but even then we must not forget the journey. Yes, a long car ride to an amusement park or a nerve-wracking flight to vacation may not be the best of journeys to savor, but they still merit appreciation.

 

map

 

A life lived in the “are we there yet?” mentality will mean that only bits and pieces of life will truly be lived and enjoyed.

That is simply not enough.

If you read my recent crossroads post, you know that I am at the beginning of a journey in which I do not know the destination. Naturally, as an adult with responsibilities, this puts a ton of additional stress on me. But even during this anxious time, I know I need to be more like the kid I was who truly felt the value of the dream as the dream…of the journey as the destination.

If all I do is look and pray for the end game, then I may once again find myself quickly maneuvering for the basement TV room rather than the wonderful Ping-Pong fort.

And this time around…I really want to enjoy building the fort.

 

All photos are my own.
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Posted in Life As I Know It

It’s as Simple as Punkin  

VitoI love dogs for so many reasons.

Bad day?
I’ll snuggle up to you and we’ll exhale together.

Good day?
Awesome! Let’s celebrate!

Leaving?
Bummer, man—really? Okay…but please come back soon. Please. Soon.

Coming home?
YES!! My prayers have been answered! You’ve returned! I love life! Let’s play! Did you bring me anything??? 

They ask so little—some basic care and decent treatment—and in return, their love is amazing. It doesn’t get much purer than a dog’s love.

I’ve been blessed to have great dogs throughout my life, and each one of them has had a distinct and wonderful personality. We have so much fun watching the two dogs that we have play and interact—they are a continual source of enjoyment.

Don’t get me wrong—they can drive us crazy, too—especially when someone has the audacity to walk by our house and the dogs bark like two raving banshees on meth. Then I maybe might raise my voice a teensy bit and gently tell them to shush. Just maybe.

But by far the blessings outweigh the challenges.

Our one dog Vito is a shelter dog that I am so grateful made his way into our lives.

 

First bath with his forever family.
First bath with his forever family.

 

I’m very comfortable admitting that there are many sharper crayons in the Crayola box than Vito—but he is our quirky little boy and we love him.

One of V’s little quirks is Punkin. It’s his absolute favorite toy, and the only one that has survived over time. While other toys made it less than a week when he was a puppy, Punkin was loved but left whole.

For whatever reason, Vito treats Punkin like a child would his favorite pacifier or blanket. He actually suckles the thing. He holds onto it with his paws and his tongue nuzzles a spot that is now worn bare.

 

Punkin

 

And when Vito is extra happy, he goes and gets Punkin. When one of us comes home, inevitably Vito will run and get the toy and celebrate with a few suckles. Yea! My people are all home! I love life! I love YOU! How was your day?! Do you want to play? Have I told you lately how happy I am that you’re home?!

Punkin equals joy for Vito. It dependably lifts his spirits and helps him rejoice. To me, it’s representative of one of the great things about dogs—that easy and complete love that they are absolutely ready to give.

 

Vito & Punkin (6)

 

And so I love dogs. I love how they love with their whole hearts and forgive quickly and repeatedly. I love how they are fiercely determined to protect those they love. I love how they are thrilled to see me—even if I’ve only been gone a few minutes. I love how they will offer their bellies up as a way to say, “Go ahead—love me. I trust that you won’t hurt me.”

Dogs just bring it down to the simple. Beyond having their basic needs met, it’s pretty much all about love. What a great reminder for me day after day. I aspire to love with that same kind of openness and joy.

So while Vito won’t win any smart dog contests, he’s certainly won my heart. And I think he’s pretty okay with that.

 

Vito the Stud

 

PS–I’m totally not a fan of dressing dogs up in silliness, but Vito gets chilly when we go for walks when it’s cold, and can he help it if he looks this studly wearing his jean jacket? I think not.

Posted in Life As I Know It

He’s Beyond Me

drumEquipping for our obsolescence…isn’t that the main role of a parent? Parents strive to prepare their kids to be healthy, independent members of society. Our success means…they don’t need us anymore.

As the mom of a ten-year-old, I am obviously not there yet. Just getting him to butter his toast without showering crumbs into the stratosphere is a challenge. But I do already see flashes of the future man he will be.

When I see his caring touch with younger kids—even as an “only” not able to experience younger siblings—I see the loving dad he one day may become.

And when I see him calculate math problems that already make my eyes cross, I see the complex problem solver evolving who one day will be able to tackle the difficult issues that come his way.

Even though he’s only ten, I already see that he is beyond me in some ways, and it is both a scary and amazingly wonderful feeling.

With the math, it’s mostly because I’m more than a little bit rusty on the work he is doing, and it never came easy to me in the first place. Thankfully, I am blessed with a math-minded spouse, so I am able to say, “Go ask your dad,” but if I needed to, I’m relatively sure that I could reawaken that part of my brain and help him out. (Right?)

But there is one part of his world that he is already clearly beyond me, and it touches my heart deeply.

 

piano

 

I love music, but I don’t play an instrument. If you remember my history of faking the flute, you know I greatly respect musicians and wish I had the ability. So much so that I did try piano lessons as an adult, but after reaching the heights of “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” I knew it was time to turn in the keys. Between needing my hands to move independently of one another and follow the music, the spaz in me just couldn’t keep up. And when my beloved piano teacher added the foot pedal, well…I think I simply combusted internally.

But my kid gets it.

He is learning both the piano and drums (talk about needing to coordinate independent movements!), and he gets it.

He’s beyond me…and I love it.

 

sheet

 

Hearing him play makes my heart smile. It’s like he knows a language that I never will, and though I wish I did know it, the fact that he does…well, it’s just beautiful. A wonderful, infinite world is open to him, and it brings me great joy.

Seeing my child surpass me in something is really what it’s all about. It is just the first of many aspects of life that he will transcend my abilities and excel as the person he is—someone who is blessed by God to have an array of gifts and talents all his own. Seeing that blossom for anyone is fascinating, but when it’s my own kid, it’s enthralling.

Though right now he is still every bit a ten-year-old boy who giggles at farts and drives me crazy with his lack of focus, when I hear him play, I know that there is so much more in store for him.

 

sculpture

 

One day…I will no longer need to remind him to wipe the peanut butter off of his face.

Lord willing, I will be around to look back and recall this time with great fondness—much the way I do now when I think about his first steps or his chubby baby cheeks. I need to cherish it all because I can see that time is marching on with determination.

Some days it’s harder for me than others to remember to embrace the joys of the age while striving to equip for the future, but I am grateful for it all.

What a wonderful journey I get to be a part of. I need to keep that in mind when the crumbs are flying, the homework assignment is missing, and I am telling him for the 17th time to get into the shower.

Maybe I should just make him play a song for me. That might just do the trick.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

PS–Our world would be so incomplete and sad without the beauty of the arts to enrich our lives and help us to express ourselves in ways that science alone cannot. We need to fight for all kids to learn, experience, and grow in the arts. Please support art programs in public schools!

PPS–This is the 100th post of The Juggle Struggle. Thank you for coming along with me on this journey! Whether you are a first time reader or a long-time subscriber or follower, I greatly appreciate your taking some of your precious time to read my words…it means the world to me. And I hope you find it worth sticking around for more!

Posted in Life As I Know It

The “Yo” Man

hourglassI’m never enough. Each day passes and I feel I have not been enough in any aspect of my life. I could have done more as mother, wife, friend, daughter, sister, worker, writer…even pet owner.

Even though my days are consumed with doing, I feel like I should have done more. The “shoulds” are never-ending.

I’m thinking you might be nodding your head in understanding.

Life can be overwhelming—some days more so than others. But it is during those overwhelming times that I try hard to step outside myself and remember that just a little can go a long way.

 

Moments count. They matter. In fact, they are often what matter most.

 

When I remember my dad, lots of memories swirl in my head, but there are these little things that come to mind and mean so much more than one might take at face value.

My dad was the “yo” man. This was a greeting that he used…and one that I still use to this day. It was just a part of who he was. But my fondest memory of his use of this word was a little something that he did that my sister and I found hilarious.

We would be in the car driving with the windows down and my dad would call out “Yo!” to some unsuspecting person walking down the street, and then we would all look innocent like we didn’t say anything. The person would look all around like “who’s calling me?!” and we would just look straight ahead. Oh, my, that sent us into major giggle fits. It was silly. And small. And something that is a loving memory of the goofball that my dad could be.

Maybe we were on our way to run errands that might have taken up a great deal of our day—but it was the “yo” man that stuck with me. Not the errands.

 

driving

 

Joy in the twinkling of a moment.

We often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to carve out experiences for our kids that are momentous in a big way…when it’s often the little ways that stick around.

A few years ago we were fortunate enough to travel with some friends to Florida and go to Walt Disney World. It was a great trip and we made lots of wonderful memories, but recently when my son wrote a story about it for school, the thing that was his most powerful memory was his finding a frog, picking it up, and learning that it was petrified dead.

The Magic Kingdom? Oh, yes…we had a blast. Beach and pool time? You bet. And while he remembers all of that with a smile, his face lights up when he talks about that damn frog.

 

frog kingdom

 

And while the “big trips” of life should happen for sure, they simply can’t be a measure of our success in how we care and provide for our loved ones.

As a mom, sometimes it’s taking twenty minutes to shoot a game of Horse in the driveway, or snuggling during a Full House rerun, or even making lunch together. As a wife, sometimes it’s making sure to carve out a few minutes of real “face time” or watching our favorite TV show late at night after the rest of the world has gone to bed. As a friend, sometimes it’s texting a simple “how you?” to let them know you are thinking about them at whatever hour of the day.

 

??????????????????????????

 

That’s what I need to remember when I am in the swirl of a day that is getting away from me. A day where nothing is working the way it should. A day where my ToDo list seems to grow like the plant in “Little Shop of Horrors.” A day where I look at the clock and realize I’m way behind schedule. A day where I feel I have let everyone down once again.

Stop.

And take a moment.

To be the “yo” woman I know I can be.

Just maybe she’s enough after all.

 

ToDo Graphic2