A bottle of champagne has been sitting in our fridge. First, I was saving it to celebrate when my husband got the new job he applied for. The job was offered to someone else. Next, I was saving it for when our daughter got into the elite school for gifted children, where she was in the final round. A few weeks ago, we found out she was not offered a spot. And the list goes on: each time an opportunity arose, I secretly planned to open the bottle to celebrate once things worked out in our favor. The problem was that nothing worked out. And so the bottle continued to lie at the back of our fridge.
One of the more disappointing “no’s” came this week, and ever since I’ve been fighting to maintain a broader perspective, remember that God cares more about my life and my family than I can possibly imagine, and cultivate an attitude of patience and gratitude as we wait for whatever comes next. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster – at 9am I find myself content and thankful, but by 10:30, I’m sad, disappointed, and discouraged. Again. My head knows all the right truths to preach to myself, but my heart just can’t seem to consistently get in line with the teaching. Continue reading
One of the things that I dislike the most about motherhood – and there are a lot to choose from (cleaning up during and after a family stomach bug is definitely high on the list, for example) – is brushing and flossing my oldest son’s teeth. Every time, he pitches a fit. He wiggles and squirms and cries. He tells me I’m “horrible at” brushing his teeth and he hides under the bed. And yet, I persist. I do my very best to brush the teeth of a child who is screaming, crying, kicking, and resisting. Brushing the teeth of a dog or an antelope or a gorilla or pretty much any other creature suddenly seems more appealing. And this happens every day. Theoretically, twice a day.
At the dentist this month, we found out that he has two cavities. Two cavities that need expensive and painful fillings. Two cavities, despite my very best efforts and attempts and all the persistence I can muster. Continue reading
Lately I’ve been trying to simplify my schedule, opting for No over Yes; looking for ways to streamline and pare down. It’s not just that the holidays are busy, or that family is busy, or that applying to schools in New York is busy – although all of those are true. I am realizing that my longing for less is a sign that should not be ignored. It’s not laziness and I’m not in danger of becoming bored if I take a day off. My brain cells are not all going to wither away and dissolve into nothingness if I say No (to the contrary, that’s when I will finally have the time to think and to create again).
But. I said Yes to something this past month. I almost dismissed the idea altogether – without even considering it – and then, hesitantly, opted in. And it has been surprisingly, refreshingly wonderful.
I said Yes to writing a poem every day during Advent. Continue reading
I want to remember it. Every time I hold your hand.
Earlier this month, my family visited some acquaintances who own a small home and cottage in the Hamptons. They had invited us to stay in their cottage, and we accepted. After a slightly harrowing drive out of Manhattan, we arrived late morning on a Tuesday, spent some time relaxing on the property listening to the sound of lazy lawn mowers and chirping birds, and then walked the 400 yards to the “bay beach” at the end of their block.
As per usual, I carried the family backpack and had a little hand in each of my own. Jacob scampered about, holding my hand for a few yards and then running up to his dad and then back again. Hannah Grace, as per usual, clung tight, my fiercely independent girl who always likes to have a hand to hold (as long as she can choose to hold it). Our host caught up with us and fell into step with our slow pace. Hannah Grace immediately requested her hand as well: “I hold your hand?”
Anne seemed both pleased and surprised. “Of course!” she exclaimed, and eagerly shifted her bag to the other arm. “It’s so nice to have someone who wants to hold my hand,” she remarked casually. Continue reading
This summer, my kids participated in our church’s “Vacation Bible School” program (aka, VBS). Every day for a week, we left the house early to trek down to the church’s building, where the kids attended the opening and closing assemblies and rotated through crafts, music, Bible, snack, and movement classes each day. I mostly volunteered in the preschool Bible class, performing various roles in Bible skits for over 100 little ones. The whole week was exhausting for me.
Despite being surrounded by Bible verses, memory points, smiling people with what seemed like boundless amounts of energy, and energizing pop songs about God’s love and forgiveness, I felt spent, exhausted, and alone. The transition back to New York City after over three weeks away was a difficult one, and I realized in hindsight that I had not prepared myself or the family well for the adjustment. (I actually made lists of things to do differently next time. I love lists.) And to make things more difficult, it was a hot week in New York, my husband was working out of town, and I was 7-something months pregnant. And my kids weren’t sleeping.
Each day I’d show up, feeling beaten, and run into dozens of people I knew, some fairly well, most acquaintances I hadn’t seen in a year – and everyone was all smiles and “it’s great to see you!” and “how wonderful that you’re expecting!” and hugs. I didn’t feel like smiling, and I didn’t feel like it was great to see anyone, and I didn’t feel like it was wonderful to be expecting. It all felt like hard work. Continue reading
I walked by a shuttered restaurant recently – not an unusual sight in New York City, a place that’s always on-the-go, always changing, always moving. This particular restaurant was not an amazing eatery, but it was one filled with memories for me. It was close to my first two apartments in New York, and I’ve had dozens of conversations there. I’ve shed more than a few tears at its tables and gotten into at least one noteworthy fight. I’ve been there with friends, with guys I was dating, with my boyfriend-then-fiancé-then-husband. I’ve been there with one of my kids. And now it’s gone. The old is being replaced by something new. Continue reading
In the Aftermath,
the water is still and the mist hangs heavy in the air,
a memory of earlier rain.
On the periphery, the trees are motionless.
Lake and sky are gray:
a monochrome world.
Two ducks paddle slowly across the water.
I take it all in: the water, the sky, the ducks, the trees –
the heaviness of the air, the gray stillness of the world –
but feel nothing.
Just the wet of the tears as they slip down my cheeks.
They come slowly, at first, but soon are a silent downpour.
Grief weighs heavy on my heart.
I grew up in a home that valued work. My sister and I learned not to waste time, and that working hard was one of the most important things we could do. Following the examples of my hard-working parents, I believed I could achieve anything—as long as I worked hard enough.
When my son was born, I was not ready to return to my previous job after just three months off. So I took a new job: motherhood.
I had worked hard building my career as a professional musician and arts administrator. Yet I believed spending time with my son during his most formative years was important—even if it meant leaving a job I loved and had worked hard to achieve. I now wanted to work hard to train up my child in the way he should go.
However, I often found myself longing for a different life. I grew jealous of friends and colleagues as they achieved professional success, some even having children of their own along the way. The past three-and-a-half years have been a struggle to find my place—as a mom, as a freelance writer and musician, as a Christian, as a driven and hard-working woman.
I’m delighted to be writing again over at the fabulous website Off the Page this month. Won’t you join me there to read the rest?
long to hurt more.
they sear and want to sear deeper.
they long to cry out into the darkness:
is anyone there?
long for comfort.
they seek it in food and drink, listlessness and frenzy, silent tears and screams of pain.
We all have our ways.
One hurting heart,
while hurting for us all,
while abandoned and without hope,
while crying out in the agony of torture,
can we, too?
I don’t know how to respond to these last few weeks. To the tragedy, the terror, the suffering, the injustice. To the knowledge that the ugly headlines represent just a fraction of the terrible-ness in the world.
I don’t know how to respond to my friend, who should have been celebrating her son’s first birthday this week. I don’t know how to respond to my mentor, whose husband had an unexpected heart attack. I don’t know how to respond to my children, who are growing up – too quickly – in a world filled with so much sadness. Continue reading