With Nana and Papa

With Nana and Papa
Family Times at Flathead Lake

Monday, October 22, 2012

More Humility

"You and Dad are in the Forties Column, right Mom?" asked the first grader last night. Trying to go with the flow of first grade math I answered that we both were indeed in the forties column. "And after 49, you would go to 50, right Mom? I mean, if you live that long."  He was alarmed at the raucous outburst of laughter that followed - both my older children and husband found the thought of my early death quite amusing. I sputtered my way through reassurances that if I did live to 49 I would certainly find 50 right around the bend.

Daniel's calm around the topic of my age and potential early demise reassured me that my summer's illness had not scarred him for life. Perhaps he has formed a back-up plan in the case that I off myself with another autoimmune high-wire act. His attitude is healthy but humbling. I've found a lot of humbling waiting for me in recent weeks.

On Friday I had a walking date with some close friends who have always been partners in crime when it comes to hiking, biking, running, etc. We planned to hike the Bluffs that morning, which lie to the south of us and present about 2.5 miles of up and down hill trails. The Bluffs have always been a fun walking and running challenge for me, but I was nervous last week that I would not make it, especially at the pace usually set by the girls. I confided my worry to one, who offered to reschedule for a flat trail. Humbled though I was, I couldn't change the route, deciding instead to hope for the best and ask for help (by way of piggy back, bungee cord, or extended rest break) when I needed it.

I was poignantly reminded of a hike we took several years ago in the Colorado mountains with a varied-ability group. Two friends and I felt the need for speed and, after a short while with the others, blazed ahead at a rapid pace to get the heart rate up and the caloric burn. I was chastised by my dear friend and mentor - a79-year-old poster person for health and fitness and strength. He reminded me that a leader always stays with the group and helps everyone succeed,  never bolting ahead in a show of strength and speed. He admitted to similar desires, which took the sting out of his words, but I don't know if I truly "got" the message until last week, when I was the loser at the back, feeling the potential to be left out of companionship and friendship and fun due to my physical limitations.

I made it around the Bluffs without setback or serious concern, but I'll think twice about my trailblazing ways if I am lucky enough to keep walking and hiking as a part of my lifestyle. The perspective from the back has changed my desire to lead from the front.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Burning Bush

There's a burning bush outside the dining room / office window and the crimson color reflects early morning sunlight so vividly that the kitchen ceiling turns pink each day after the kids go to school. The autumnal fireworks are stellar in Colorado this year, and they keep my mood from turning dark on mornings like this when digestive hemmings and hawings produced another restless night, and William's vital Webelo badges turned up missing on the morn of a big Pack Meeting.

I just went to the basement in a desperate attempt to find the Wolf Badge and the wreckage downstairs drove me screaming from the arena. If we just dragged all of the toys and props and scraps into a gigantic trash heap would the children ever miss them? I feel a strong desire to toss it all, to winnow our lives down to the things that have meaning, just as the my life has been whittled down to the basic activities that feed me and my family and keep our little house running.

If the burning bush on my right suddenly spoke and revealed truth to me, what would it say? Make the most of what you have today and be positive! Never give up, never ever give up! Be humble and accept the gift of suffering and knowledge of your limitations!  The Boy Scout badges are in the lower left hand drawer in the new cabinet (I wish)!

I've learned a few truths in the time of the burning bush for myself: we may never find the badges and pins but my husband and I made a good team in looking for them, neither assigning blame and both equally concerned for our son. That I am lucky to be out in the autumnal splendor and I can witness and give thanks for the brilliant trees and leaves much better at a walking pace than at a run. That time passes and progress occurs at slow rates but yet great gobbles of days pass by and somehow things are better.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Finding the Meaning

"If you want to find the meaning, stop chasing after so many things."
- Japanese poet Ryokan, as quoted in When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron

We recently re-designed our home, turning the dining room into an office and our office into a bedroom for our older son. In the process we went through dozens of old file folders and an entire filing cabinet full of irrelevant financial statements, outdated teaching documents, and ancient health information. In my stack of folders I saved merely two inches worth of paper, most of it related to writing and some lovely quotes on the environment and spirituality. What didn't make the cut?  Endless projects filed away under "Green Team," "Celebrate Green," "Worms eat my Garbage," "How to Run a Marathon," "Best Triathlon Times," "Museum paychecks." The past ten years seem to have given birth to a myriad of projects and classes, all short-lived. How could I find meaning in this stack of refuse?

I have been chasing around after too many things. Relieved to at least see a few themes appearing, I was still bewildered by the rapidity with which I jumped from one effort to another. Nature abhors a vacuum, and I apparently have abhorred any downtime that could have been used for thinking or pondering meaning. Family life is hard and children are hard; my solution to the difficulty was to find something else to do and run after it as quickly as possible.

Hard on the heels of this realization was the instinct to go off and find another project! As I told a friend recently, it hasn't been comfortable to sit with my thoughts in the quiet house, remembering how I drove myself into the ground and thinking of what I can do differently now. If I want to pull any meaning from the tumult and pain of the past ten months, I'll have to sit and think, yet new ideas beckon, new workout schedules compile themselves in my mind. Change hurts. And yet, in ten years I don't want to sit down with another stack of file folders, wondering where the meaning was in all of my varied pursuits. I want to know what my life is about and be aware that I have spent the majority of my time and energy there.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

James and the Boys

 
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Siblings Surround The Happy Couple

 
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A Rose in Bloom in Napa

 
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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Charm of Hummingbirds

My youngest brother, James, married the kind and lovely Molly this past summer and I haven't had the chance to write about their union. It's a tough topic for me, because when we got to Napa I was the most ill I have ever been in my life, and the struggle to stay on my feet and attend the wedding ceremonies was terrific. We stayed in a gorgeous home on a hill in Napa with two of my brothers and their families, and in all ways the setting and the events should have been idyllic for me, as they were for the rest of the crew.

One evening we sat around the porch table overlooking the valley. It was beautiful beyond belief to see across the vineyards to the sunset-tinted hills and even the faint Pacific and Bay beyond. My sister and brother and I were beset by hummingbirds, as the host family had many feeders on their porch. The whir of wings was almost too close for comfort as they darted and swooped, and my siblings started wondering what a group of the birds was called. It's a charm, of course, and this lead us into discovering that a group of peacocks was an "ostentation," a "bloat" of hippos followed, and a "murder" of crows. I didn't contribute much but was inspired by my literary and curious family.

Both ceremonies that united Molly and James were inspiring in their own way. The church ceremony saw their official union in Molly's grandmother's shawl, my father choking his way through the reading, and the cousins sitting up well-behaved in quiet through the service. Molly and James are perfectly suited in their kindness and modesty and love for friends and family. These attributes were on full display at the lovely and larger vineyard ceremony two days later. Afternoon sun came across the vineyards again and my younger sister "married" her brother and his wife in front of all the family and many happy friends. Molly's family is wonderful and kind and just a tremendous gift to all of us.

Molly and James are off on their honeymoon now and I hope they know how much they are still in our thoughts. My siblings and their families, parents and Molly's family have all been a source of love and strength for me in the past few months and James and Molly should know that that same source of love and support will be there for them always. Welcome to the family, Molly, we love you!