The Balance

Cold rain fell from the sky as I navigated the dark road home. I felt mostly alone, though city lights and distant cars passed in a blur through my peripheral vision.

“Maybe it’s too much” I thought.

I have not had an evening at home since Saturday, and will not have one again until next Sunday. That’s over a week of missing bath time splashes and stories with my son. A week of missing night-time cuddles and sleepy prayers. One of these weeks that is so busy and moves so quickly that you might just miss it.

I am in an opera. Just writing that sentence is amazing to me. It’s new and familiar at once to have performance take a prominent place in my life again. Our performance is this weekend, so this week is tech week; a week of run-throughs and dress rehearsals and polishing.

I sometimes wonder what it would have been like if I had pursued this when I was younger; if I had made performance my profession. But then I remember that there’s no point in looking back when the only accessible direction is forward.

I love my job as a stay at home mommy but there is something magically intoxicating to me about being able to perform. I wonder if I can pull off doing both.

Is it too much to miss the night-time cuddles? Is it too much to spread myself out in these diverse roles; the stay at home mommy, the Parent Council Chair, the writer, the performer?

Sometimes it is. And sometimes it’s all exactly what I need it to be.

This week’s too much will be evened out by some week’s not enough.

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I arrived home just before midnight to a quiet house lit only by the lone light from our entry table lamp and a note:

I smiled and ate a midnight dinner in the quiet. This balance isn’t too much. It’s just right.

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I woke up this morning to rain, ice, and thundersnow. “Look Mommy! It’s snowing!”

My son and I snuggled up in the big bed and looked at as we watched the rain turn into snow and accumulate on the branches just outside the window.

Texts and emails came in slowly. School is closed. Rehearsal is cancelled. Take caution while driving or stay at home.

The day was cancelled. In the midst of busy there would be an entire day of home.

I smiled again, because this reprieve in the midst of juggling chaos was exactly what I needed.

My son and I are embracing a day of pajamas, movies, and snow watching as we sit curled up on the couch downstairs.

And at once my world is right.

“happiness is the settling of the soul into its most appropriate spot”

~ Aristotle, philosopher

Valentines and Memories

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today, I am linking up with my very favorite link up, Memories Captured, which encourages us each month to capture the moments that catch our hearts and hold our memories. This will be the last Memories Captured link up until June, so instead of sharing just one memory with you, I want to share a few of my recent favorites.

Most of my heart belongs to this sweet little boy who I am honored to make memories with daily. I absolutely adore this most recent picture of him that I just captured Tuesday. At three-and-a-half years old, this little guy is mischievous and sweet all at the same time, and I think this exactly captures his current complexities.

(And the love between a boy and his ice cream.)

A boy and his ice cream

Then there’s this one from January, when just enough snow came to Richmond to build a small snowman and bring this grin to my sweet boy:

playing in the snow

I adore this picture of my son and I riding a children’s train during a weekend afternoon winter visit to an outdoor mall.

Mommy and Noah

And this very rare occasion of a date night at the beginning of January, when my husband and I went to dinner and a movie for the first date we had been on in 6 months.

date night

So this Valentine’s Day, I am cherishing these recent memories and so many memories from the past, and thinking about all of the amazing people that may not be in these pictures, but are always in my heart.

I did something a little crazy for Valentine’s Day this year…I entered a boudoir photography contest and have been selected as a finalist. If you would like to vote for me I can promise I will reward you with a probably hilarious story of how embarrassing it was to take intimate pictures. Voting ends February 14th at 5 pm PST. Thank you!

Update: February 15th: Thank you so much to all of you who voted for me! I did not win, but another one of the deserving finalists did. Thank you again for helping me try to make that silly little idea a reality! Maybe one day…. :)

Finding My Voice

Last night, I was stuck in a downward spiral.

I was trying to coordinate holiday plans with family that lives far away, and heard news of a trip to Paris and some pregnancies. I started to go down the path one should never go down; a path of self-depreciation.

We have no trips to Paris on our schedule. Whenever we have free vacation time we use it to go visit relatives. There is no exciting baby news here. Our lives are inundated with work, running a household, and taking care of a toddler.  There are no major accomplishments or life changes to celebrate here. Basically, it is just plain boring.

As I spiraled into a negative thinking pattern that involved questioning my worth and my path in life and wondering what I would ever amount to, I packed my son’s bag. I was getting ready to take him to childcare so I could attend a rehearsal for my lead role in a Christmas production.

After getting my son settled, I walked into the rehearsal area and busied myself with rehearsing lines.

After a few minutes, one of the older men in the production approached me and asked my name, and followed up by saying, “I didn’t realize that was your real voice.”

So here’s the thing if you haven’t met me in real life…I have kind of a unique voice. One that has been made fun of, drives comments from cashiers at check out lanes, and sometimes even receives a compliment. But it is noticeably a different thing. And it lands me lead roles on the stage.

So sometime towards the beginning of rehearsals in October, this older gentleman had complimented me on my theatrical voice. Last night when he approached me, he said he didn’t realize that was actually my voice. I responded by saying, “This character isn’t me, but, yes, it is my natural voice.”

And then the most amazing thing happened.

This man stood there and inspired me. He asked if I had ever considered performing professionally.

“Well, yes, that’s what I always wanted to do. I was even a voice major in college and I used to perform a lot in community theater. But then, you know, I got married and had a baby, so now I’m just a mom. This Christmas show is just for fun.”

He stopped me from my spiraling as he said, “I’m not saying this to be nice, I’m saying this to be true; you are very talented. You have a gift. God gave you that. Is this something you want to do?”

“Well, yes, it’s always something I’ve loved doing, but you know, now I’m just a mom and…”

“No, it doesn’t matter what anyone says. If this is something you want to do, you need to do it. If your husband loves you, he will support you. This show isn’t just for fun. This show is your starting point.”

He continued to tell me about how much he enjoys watching me perform. How unique my voice is.  How he loves this character I’m bringing to life. He quoted scripture to me. He made me cry.

And then he said, “This is my mission. Because I was meant to talk to you tonight. And you are meant to do something great.”

As I wiped tears away from my eyes, I said, “Thank you. That is something I really needed to hear tonight.”

He left with a smile and a “See you on stage.”

*****

 It’s a prayer I say often, “Dear God, You gave me a voice. Please show me how to use it.”

And then it was answered with a speech from a man at rehearsal and an email about a new writing opportunity…both on the same day. (I’m telling you, fives are significant!) (And I can’t wait to tell you about the new writing opportunity..more news on that soon.)

 *****

Late last night, after my son and I returned home safely from rehearsal and my husband got home from his 12 hour shift, I began to recount my encounter to my husband as we stood in the kitchen, him eating leftovers and me sipping a cup of hot tea. Our toddler was eating a late night snack near by and we were all winding down to head to long-awaited bed.

“I guess I just thought that part of my life was over, you know? I mean I made a choice between pursuing performance or getting married and having a family. And now I’m just a wife and a mom and this show was just something to do. But tonight, this man inspired me. He reminded me that maybe I could be more than that. People used to say things like that to me all the time, but no one has said anything like that to me in a long time. I don’t know, it just really meant a lot for him to say that. And then there’s this writing opportunity  That’s one of the reasons I started blogging  right?  To become open to possibilities.  Maybe I could still be somebody.”

At this point, somehow my husband and I had wandered over to the refrigerator (I tend to pace when I talk.) My husband hugged me and gave me a kiss as he said “Of course you’re somebody.”

And then, on perfect cue, the cereal boxes on top of the fridge fell down and hit me on the head, spewing a few Apple Jacks and Frosted Flakes around.

My husband, toddler and I all erupted into hysterical laughter that was just as much from the humor of falling cereal as it was from exhaustion before finally heading upstairs to bed.

Maybe there’s a greater purpose for me somewhere out there. Maybe I can use my voice for writing and performing in some capacity. But at the end of the day I will always be a Mommy, finding humor in spilled cereal and beauty in slobbery kisses.

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Speaking of using your voice, today is election day! I was thrilled to take my son to vote today and loved how proud he was to participate. Did you use your voice and vote?

We voted! Presidential Election 2012

 

 

All Birds Go To Heaven

“Oh no, Mommy, look!”

I turned in his direction and I followed his gaze down to the bird with flies buzzing around its head. I pulled him away quickly.

“Oh no, don’t touch. It’s a dead bird.”

“Uh oh, Mommy. Now it can not go to his family.”

“No, he can not go to his family.”

“But why, Mommy?”

“The bird is hurt. It looks like a kitty cat or a ruff ruff got him.”

Our feet pattered on the concrete as we continued walking down the road.

Should I tell him? Are we ready for these conversations?

“Now the bird is in heaven with God.”

“With God?”

“Yes.”

But why Mommy?”

“When things die, they go up to heaven to live with God.”

A long pause filled our conversation as we both pondered the validity of my statement. Can we talk about this yet?

“Mommy’s Daddy lives in heaven.”

Gentle feet pad on the cement. I look down at the top of his head. I can see his eyelashes and his brow slightly furrow as he grips the flowers he has collected tighter.

“Does your Daddy take care of the birds, Mommy?”

Surprised tears threaten my eyes as I smile and reply, “Why, yes, I guess he does.”

Chirping birds and a distant train combine with the sound of our shoes on the ground as the background track to our poignant conversation.

We observe fallen branches and white lines painted on the road. They were meant for traffic but they make a perfect balance beam for my son to follow as I walk beside him. His concentration is on the line; the steadying of his feet one in front of the other.

My concentration is on him.

As the line fades and we near the next cross street he says, “Mommy? And your Daddy will say, no no kitties and ruff ruffs we do not hurt birds.”

“Yes,” I realize and speak out loud, “that is probably something he would say.”

The rest of our walk is speckled in conversation about looking both ways and not throwing trash on the ground. We stop to admire flowers and bugs and I watch as he delights in walking down into a shallow ditch and climbing back out.

As we near our house, he breaks into a big grin and runs to the driveway. “That was a good walk, Mommy. Now I am thirsty.”

It was a good walk, love. A very good walk.

The Lullaby

“Will you sing me a song Mommy?”

A smile flirts across my lips as I begin to sing a song I knew from long ago:

Toss a penny in a well

Make a wish,  you never can tell

Trust your heart and believe come what may

That anything can happen, 

If you let it happen

Anything can happen today

His eyes begin to flutter. His blinks begin to get longer.

His breathing begins to deepen and he curls up closer to my side.

Don’t be afraid to take a chance

Don’t look down each time that you dance

True romance comes right out of the blue

So anything can happen 

If you let it happen

Anything can happen for you

Heavy eyelids and peaceful breathing begin to fall into a sleepy rhythm.

Who knows maybe right around the corner

Your future is waiting for you

Don’t be afraid to take a chance

Don’t look down each time that you dance

Letting go is the only thing to do;

Then anything can happen

If you let it happen

Anything can happen for you

oo oo ooo oooooooo

He sighs as he moves in a bit closer and I watch as his final blink turns into closed eyes.

He is sleeping.

And I hope he is dreaming of hope and possibility and his very own happily ever after.

Good night my sweet little one.

*This song is called “Anything Can Happen” by Linda Eder from her album entitled “It’s No Secret Anymore.” I sang this solo my junior year of high school. There are many of my old performance pieces I have long forgotten, but this one has stayed with me. I must have been meant to remember it all these years so that I could sing it to my son every night.*

Goodnight Words

Sleepy kisses were handed out as we all adjusted covers and nuzzled into pillows.

The toddler still sleeps here snuggled in the middle most nights, even though we all know babyhood has past.

My little boy is at peace here with Mommy and Daddy and though we do the sleep-in-your-own-bed thing, we really like him here, too.

Darkness surrounds us but we gaze at a battery-powered stars and moon that cast a sky on our ceiling.

“Goodnight little family,” I say.

“I love you,” says my husband.

“Mommy, Daddy?”  questions the toddler.

“Yes, sweet boy?” we respond.

“You guys are taking good care of me.”

It is dark, but I could still feel my husband and I lock eyes. I can feel his heart swell in rhythm with mine and make out the dimples of his smile in the moonlight as it mirrors my emotion.

“That’s such a nice thing to say, buddy,” says my husband with a smile.

“Thank you so much. You are such a sweet boy. I love you,” I reply, struggling to find words to convey my emotion.

“I love you too, guys,” says our sweet boy as he cuddled his Curious George lovey close and snuggled in to sleep.

And so we drifted into slumber, falling asleep to lullabies of sleepy breathing and toddler validation. Goodnight husband, goodnight little boy, goodnight words that have warmed my heart and filled my soul.

Goodnight.

A Weekend of Blessings

This weekend was full of moments that took my breath away. I was very aware of their presence, their simplicity, and their significance. I am incredibly blessed. I found myself moved when I was:

  • Laughing at 7:30 in the morning on Friday, because my son was being adorable. I usually barely function at that hour, let alone laugh.
  • Watching my son perform in his end-of the-year school assembly. He sang “This Little Light of Mine” with his fellow two-year-olds. Except he didn’t sing, he lifted his shirt up and showed his belly and then covered his ears. But it was precious.
  • Holding my son in my lap after his performance while we watched the older children do their songs. I got teary at the 5 year olds. I became very aware that it is only a few years before my son will the big kid in the 5-year-old class, giving his last performance before he graduates from preschool. I hugged my son even tighter in my lap and tried to stop tears as I had a flash-forward mommy moment.
  • After the assembly (does anyone say that word anymore?) we went to the youth room to throw a surprise baby shower for Mrs. P, the teacher assistant in my son’s class. All of the moms and the lead teacher had been collaborating for weeks. It was a great success. Mrs. P was so moved, she gave a teary speech about how blessed she’s been to have our children and this sweet class and us as parents. She is due in just three weeks, so she’s been pregnant almost the entire time we’ve known her. She said that she didn’t want to sound corny, but her baby has felt the energy of that class and our children and she thinks the gifts and energy our children gave to her she will carry with her the rest of her life. Beautiful moment. All the mommies were crying and all of the toddlers were happily engaged in running around the room and squealing.
  • Leaving my son’s school to realize I only had enough gas to make it to the nearest gas station. Where there was a line. And the toddler was crying because he was tired and a very elderly man in front of me was taking FOREVER, and then told me I better find a different pump to wait at. I was mad and flustered, and finally got a pump. As I was pumping, the old man asked me to come to his car. I was annoyed. But then he gave me a gold coin (a real one) and told me to give it to my little boy for his piggy bank. I was immediately humbled and honored. I graciously thanked him and reminded myself of what’s really important.
  • Pulling into my driveway to see that my hydrangeas, that have not bloomed in two years, have decided to present themselves.
  • As did a yellow rose.
  • And a peaceful sleeping toddler who was lulled by the car ride home.
  • The invigorating sense of community and life that going to the Farmer’s Market early on a Saturday morning brings me. (And the amazing goods we brought home.)
  • The peacefulness of laying in a hammock on a Saturday afternoon.
  • The joy and laughter I shared with my little boy when we went to Music in the Park on Sunday afternoon to hear my neighbor’s band play. We shared peanut butter and honey sandwiches, listened to music, I pushed him on a swing, and we danced and laughed and threw his hat. (I forgot to bring a ball.) It was perfect.
  • The excitement my son had over a bath I ran for him with yellow colored water. Yellow is his favorite.
  • Waking up Monday morning to my son curled by my side and my two cats nestled at my feet.

This weekend was filled with moments that made me stop and pause and see the beauty mixed into the simplicity of my life. And I’m oh so glad I noticed.

Dancing in the Wind

The sun showered down on us in slivers through the leaves; its brightness muted by the blossoming greenery.

Gentle breezes came and went and gracefully carried the kite with it as it blew, then gently placed it back on the ground when it stopped.

I watched the green kite dance in the wind as my little boy ran delightedly behind it, laughing and shrieking with joy at its flight.

A small let down in his face presented every time the breeze stopped and picked up just as quickly as it began to once again trace its steps in the wind. I watched as he trailed behind it and smiled, occasionally distracted by the flowers or rocks beneath his feet.

Cars on the road and the chirping of birds provided a background soundtrack to our moments of beauty.

I wish I had been able to capture this in a picture. This day of sunshine and breezes and the bright green of the kite contrasting with the bright red of the shirt my son picked out to wear this morning. Capture the exuberant smile on his face as he watched the kite dance in the wind and the way his hair ruffled with the same rhythm. The way the sunlight cast highlights in his hair and caught the sparkle in his eyes. Capture the playfulness of his laughter.

But there was no time for a camera and no way a camera could capture all of that anyway, so I stayed there in that moment, trying to narrate in my mind the beauty I was witnessing. I held the kite. I heard the laughter. I felt the breeze blow the kite, my son’s hair, and my body. I delighted on the pull of the kite string and the vision of my son running after it, and then sitting, perched in position for the gathering of flowers and rocks we would later take home.

I tried to encapsulate this moment in my mind. This view. This laughter. This dance of love happening in the wind. This brief moment of perfection.

He began to tire, and the breeze began to fade. It was time to go home. Whining and fussing would quickly take over if we did not go home for rest.

But in that moment, my life was a fairy tale. A picnic at a park on a random Tuesday, where my joy was encompassed in the dance of a kite and a boy’s laughter floating in the wind.

*Today, my little guy is 33 months old. Where, oh where, is this time going? 

Inspired

I tentatively placed my hands on the keyboard and willed myself to let go of the story that had been hiding in the recluse of my mind for months.

I watched as the letters under my fingers transformed into words on my screen, pouring out thoughts and telling a story I had never before shared.

I dared, much like I am now, to let the story unfold on its own, and present itself in its own way. Even I was not fully aware what direction it was taking.

I edited slightly, because when my mind speaks is doesn’t always remember to spell.

I published. I linked. I waited.

I held expectations no higher than a hope that this would be a prequel to my whole story and that it might allow me to connect with more readers in this wonderful blogging world.

And then it came. The brave. The transparent. The inspiring. The different perspectives. The outpouring of responses on a story I thought was my own.

I was amazed and humbled to discover that this story is not just my story. Parts of this reality had been experienced and felt and endured and coped with by many. People shared pieces of their own times of loss, their own times of difficulty, their own perspectives. People came here, to this small little corner of the internet, and shared their hearts.

To say I am honored is an understatement. I never knew that a simple post with a picture of a pumpkin would open the amazing dialogue created on that page. I cherish these bits of your lives you so generously intertwined with mine and savor them as though they are a decadent dessert. (Of chocolate, of course.)

This blogging world is still new to me. I am not even aware of all the things I do not know, as I have just started to climb this ladder and do not have the vision to see more than the next step in front of me. I am in awe of this community.

I have been lucky enough to find bloggers whose words float over the screen like a melody, whose descriptions entrance me, whose honesty both surprises and compels me. I have been lucky enough to read stories of people who break down the barriers of convention and instead allow the private of their lives to dance freely into the public. I have been lucky enough to find bloggers whose kindness surpasses many of those I know in “real life.”

Everyone has a story. It is what makes life so tragically beautiful. There is such artistry here in the intertwining of these hearts and voices. I see slivers and pieces of diverse stories slowly thread over each other as they weave their way into a part of the tapestry of shared experiences.

One of the reasons I started a blog was to finally share the birth story that I have never told, in full, to anyone in the past two and a half years since it happened. I have carried it, mostly alone, as I have walked this path of new motherhood. I started a blog to find you. To hear these stories. To know that I am not alone.

And to tell you that you are not alone either.

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share a brief overview and summary of my story. Thank you for not making me feel like I am crazy to have these musings. Thank you for giving me the courage to begin to share my birth story. I will tell you all of it one day.

Thank you for making me feel inspired.

UETju: Love in Letters

UETju he spelled with multicolored refrigerator magnets, and exclaimed excitedly, “I made a word!”

I smiled and showed my excitement and then he read it to me. “It says ‘love Mommy,'” he explained while pointing his fingers over the letters, left to right, just as if he were really reading.

I scooped him up in a hug and told him it was beautiful and I was so proud of him. Because it was, and because I AM.

He was thrilled at his accomplishment and thrilled at my approval and I was honored to be his word.

I could have held him there forever but there were more brightly colored letters to be arranged. There, in the middle of the refrigerator, UETju turned into XmEO. And so began another story, arranged by little fingers, told by a little voice, and adored by a nearby Mommy.