Archives for April 2012

For you, Mother

This morning, I visited my daughter’s classroom for the class Fairytale Showcase. When I arrived, she jumped up to hug me and said over and over ‘Thank you so much for coming, Mom. Thank you, thank you so much.’ Precious. A bit overly effusive, but precious nonetheless.

Then she said ‘I can’t believe you came.’ 
What?! I don’t think I heard you correctly, child of my womb, child to whom I read stories and sing Julie Andrews songs to at night.   
You can’t believe I came? 
May I interject here, that once, that is one time, I was unable to attend an optional sledding field trip. It was due to the fact that I was attending a mandatory meeting with her brother’s teacher the same day. And she won’t let me forget it. 
In my mind, I was putting the requirement before the optional, the must-do before the want-to. In her mind, I was not showing up, and a full year later, she continues to question my commitment to her. I prove my commitment every day in a hundred different ways, and yet she still wonders, will Mom show up? 
My heart did this funny little flip flop because it hurt to hear her say those words, to question me and my intentions. Then I started to feel a bit indignant and maybe even angry. I wanted to give her a quick run down of all the ways I show up. But I didn’t because she’s six and I’ve got thirty years of perspective and a mother’s bruised heart on her. It’s also possible I may have been influenced by the other mothers listening in on our conversation. 
We all know the saying: Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. But in some ways I think it is. Mothering is for those willing to have a faint heart. Those willing to let their hearts walk around outside of their chest where it is flayed open and its every weakness exposed. It is for those who continue to keep their hearts soft, pliable, and willingly wounded.  
I’m thinking of you today, Mother. You and your faint heart, the one with scars that tell a story that is less Cinderella and more Full Metal Jacket. It’s a battle, and you put your heart right out there in the middle of it every time you show up. So the next time one of your troops goes rogue or aims an arrow straight at your heart, know that I’m there in the thick of it with you, showing up, ready to trade secrets and scars. 

On the grass being greener

This time of year, life as an expat begins to get a bit tricky. Rumors begin to surface as to who may or may not be leaving, who is bound for home or other distant shores. Friends start selling things like popcorn makers and hair dryers. They look for new homes, ones they will purchase and decorate to their liking. They might offer you a box filled with brown sugar and Aunt Jemima syrup, and attempt to hide their smile while saying, ‘I won’t be needing these anymore.’ You, on the other hand, will fake a smile and  sort of wish that you weren’t needing them either.

A friend and I talked about how it feels to be the ones left behind, to sit back and listen to others make plans that don’t involve dubious attempts at learning German. Sometimes it’s painful because we are homesick, but I think sometimes it’s because it is hard to watch people chase new dreams. We sense their excitement, hear their plans taking shape, and we lose sight of the fact that we are right smack in the middle of living out our own. It is a case of the grass is greener, or the lifestyle is better, or the cost of living is less, or their husband will be home for bedtime stories. Don’t get me started on the shopping. I just can’t go there.

I feel this way about a lot of things. About the friend who finished last week’s marathon in 4:01, or the girl who writes books for a living, or the family with a gorgeous home in London. They are chasing dreams and when their dreams look so much like my own, I forget that every day I wake up chasing mine too. Mine happen to look like a hairy poodle and three funny kids and a husband who emails me To-do lists. They look like cultural confusion and writing in the quiet hours and friends who dream as big as I do. I am living my dream. Someday it might look like a marathon run in 4:01, but even if it doesn’t, it still looks like running. And today, that’s good enough for me.

What dreams are you chasing? Tell me I’m not the only one with dream envy.

Five Minute Friday: Together

Today I’m joining Lisa-Jo and friends at The Gypsy Mama for Five-Minute Friday. Would you take five minutes and join us there?

    1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
    2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
    3. Please visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them.

Today’s Prompt: Together

It’s beginning to look different, the ways that we connect, the way I sit in the hollowed out space on the sofa and she, long and lean, in the leather chair next to me. You think that being together will always look like her hanging on to the bottom of your leg, begging for you to pick her up. Then it starts to look like her snuggling next to you and asking for another bedtime story.

And before you can blink twice and finally get that decent night’s sleep, her ‘together’ doesn’t look like anything more than a few minutes sitting next to one another, she wishing you’d just mind your business already, and you realizing that you are the one clinging on to her leg, begging to be noticed. 

She came home and told me that she was the only kid in her class without Facebook. The only one to raise her hand when the teacher asked. One of us is calling it a character building moment, the other is calling it a blight on her social life.

Hiding behind my hand, I smiled to myself because I realize that this is how we are together now. She, pulling at my heartstrings and me, attempting to tug them back. Those heartstrings hurt for the stretching. But it’s a good kind of hurt, and I’m learning to let them stretch and see how far they can go before snapping back.

Stop.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I’m also hanging out with Sarah at her lovely website Speaking of Truth today. If you have a few more minutes hop on over there and say hello!

Success unexpected

‘If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.’ 
~Henry David Thoreau

For four years and 499 blog posts, I have been advancing towards my dream. I can’t say that I’ve always done it confidently, but I have pushed myself to write here, to spill my life across the virtual page like a can of paint tipped onto a clean canvas. It hasn’t always looked pretty, and it doesn’t really feel like art, but it is a way of walking in the direction of the life that I imagine.  It’s the life I conjure up in dreams and journals, a life of working with words and discovering myself on a page, and of discovering you there too.    


I’m learning new ways to define success in this imagined life. Some believe it looks like blog stats or followers or fans or a book contract, and there are days I agree with them. Until I look at my blog stats or followers or whatever stick we’re using to measure these days, and I realize that those particular measuring sticks have done me no good except to give me a few hard whacks. I have learned that  success comes unexpected, in the common hours. It comes in staring at a blank screen for ages until little pieces of my heart appear. It comes in the quiet, in the writing, and in the ways that you and I reach across oceans and time zones and we meet. We meet and I am encouraged. I’m encouraged to keep advancing and to keep imagining a life where I see beauty and find the words to help you see it too.

Thanks for being here, for reading, and for allowing me to walk in the direction of my dreams and take you along with me. I’d love to hear from you. Tell me, what dreams are you working towards? Where have you met success unexpected?

But wait, there’s more…

While we spent most of our time on the Red Sea, we traveled to Cairo for a day in order to see the city, visit the pyramids of Giza, and go to the Egyptian Museum. You can imagine how thrilled the kids were. Museums and old stuff. Throw in some sand and wild traffic, and it’s every child’s dream vacation.

Cairo is a riot of noise and color and movement. There is no rhyme or reason to traffic flow, safety measures, or rules. Bomb sniffing dogs, yes. Freedom from stalking and personal harassment in the marketplace, no. I have never seen anything like it.

We drove through the city, crossing the Nile River, and driving to the outskirts of the Sahara. The pyramids rise up out of the sand at a distance, and when standing in their shadow, looking in one direction you will see the high-rise buildings of Cairo, and in the other you see dune upon dune of grit and sand.

The pyramids were magnificent, and lived up to every Indiana Jones fantasy I’ve harbored since I was a kid. They are built like a jigsaw, a complex set of locks and keys. Each piece was cut by hand to specifically fit into the one next to, beneath, and on top of it. It was a glimpse into the engineering genius of that age, and as someone who still can’t cut a paper heart with any degree of symmetry, I was awed.

From the pyramids we took a short drive out into the desert, following a caravan of white nondescript vehicles full of tourists. We stopped for photos of the pyramids at a distance and then arranged to ride the camels led by a group of Bedouins. Our camels were led by three boys, children of the desert, who spend school hours walking straw-hatted rich folk in circles in the sand. I tried to get caught up in the exotic excitement of it all, but I could not stop thinking about the boys. Wondering what they think of their life, what they think of me, and if they sometimes wonder at the strange nature of it all.

They walk day after day in sun and sand, at the end of a very short leash, wandering into nowhere. I wonder if they find joy there? If, when the last straw hat dismounts their beast and the last camera is shuttered, they go joyriding on camels beneath an endless, low-lying desert sky? I don’t know. I don’t know where they find joy, or make peace with their past, or with their present. I do know this: I left there unsettled, thinking of them, of the great pharaohs of the past, and of the holy words in Ecclesiastes proclaiming that there is nothing new under the sun. The ancients gathered up their treasures under Heaven, hoarding them under blocks of lock and key, and what remains is nothing more than dust and shadows and children of the desert.

And I am left wanting to leave more than the sum of this behind.