Home

Home used to exist in a house on Macedin Drive in a sleepy Georgia town.

It remained there throughout my college years, throughout my various apartments. The spreading of my wings was still grounded in an old blue house and with the realities and memories of the five of us.

And then home became elusive and undefined. The blue house was sold and painted white. It became a shell of what it used to be and though I would sometimes drive by when I was in town to visit, I knew it was no longer home.

Home became different from house.

My son and I have been traveling a lot lately. A big trip to Georgia to visit family. A trip to Alabama for a wedding. And most recently a trip to North Carolina to visit my best friends.

Lost in thought on yet another long drive I pondered home.

For over the past few weeks I have found home hidden in unexpected places, slowly revealing itself to me in tiny pieces.

I mostly find home now in an old house in Richmond, VA. We’re drawn to homes with character, my husband and I. I find home in this house’s creaky stairs and funny phone nook and the yard that sprouts clover instead of grass.

I find home in my husband’s smile and in toddler bear hugs. My son gives the best ones.

And then in our travels I found home again in the Georgia air. Ten hours south of where we are now, there’s just something different about the atmosphere in Georgia. Something comforting about old familiar roads and memories.

I always find home in the company of my mom and brother and sister. They will always be the first and best parts of my definition of home.

This weekend, I found home in my best friends. In memories of being young. In recalling how we met and who we used to be in the midst of who we are now as adults and mothers.

“Home is where the heart is” seems cliche and stagnant, though drenched in truth.

Home, to me, lies in memories and the comforting security of familiarity.

Home, it seems, exists not in a place, but in a collection of pieces of who we are and who we are yet to be.

And at every turn, it feels good to be home.

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

What I Know About Writing

What I know about writing is that it’s a complex simplicity of time and effort.

Sometimes the words flow easily and sometimes they are impossible to find.

What I know about writing is that it is soothing and frustrating all at the same time. It is healing and thought-provoking and time-consuming.

What I know about writing is it is isolating and connecting. It is a solitary activity but once shared it becomes part of someone else’s awareness; someone else’s story.

What I know about writing is that it is intangible, and yet printed words hold a magical power. You can not see words, or hear them, or touch them, but when placed together in an article or a book or a story they come to life.

What I know about writing is it is too heavy and too light and sometimes just right. My silly inconsequential posts seem so insignificant when I go read an article written so beautifully that it moves my thoughts; changes my perspective.

What I know about writing is it is powerful, necessary, and, to me, the very essence of all-encompassing simple complexity.

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

 

 

In The Midst of Hard

Remember when life was easy? When everything went your way all the time and you never felt the burdens of stress or a to-do list or obligations of some sort? When you were absolutely 100 percent care free?

Me either.

But I remember thinking that in the next stage, it would be.

When I was student teaching for my degree in Early Childhood Education, my mentor teacher said something I found so profound that I still remember it to this day; “There is no harder job than the job of growing up.”

I tried to use this in my lesson plans, in my interaction with my students, in my role as caretaker. I tried to remember that even though I know that the dramas of childhood will not be a big deal later, it is a big deal then and that makes that specific part of life hard.

It’s hard to remember babyhood, and even in the carefree days of childhood we are faced with our own burdens of growing, learning, and navigating. It is indeed a hard job, this growing up.

My son already does what so many of us do; he anticipates the next stage. “When I grow up I can drive a car like Mommy and I will drink coffee.”

Isn’t that a part of childhood? Feeling lost while going through the tough stages and holding on to the comforting and hopeful thought, “I can’t wait until…..?”

This isn’t to tell you to cherish the moment because you’ll never have that time back or that kids’ have it so easy and they don’t even know what lies ahead of them, because it’s ok to live in those moments of frailty and fragileness and vulnerability and look back and know they may not have had a significant effect on your Now, but they had a significant effect on your Then.

It’s hard to find your way through growing and changing and homework and friendships and dating and extracurriculars and graduations and boundaries and responsibilities and jobs and marriages and mortgages and moving and parenthood. It’s all hard. I don’t remember a point at which it was all easy. The different levels don’t take away the presence of Hard.

But isn’t this what pushes us further?

“Next year I’ll be a 5th grader!”

“I can’t wait to go to college and have my own space.”

“I’ll be so much less stressed after these finals.”

“I can not wait to be married!”

“This job just has a learning curve.”

“Marriage is really hard.”

“Why didn’t anyone tell me how hard this parenthood thing was going to be?”

“If we had more money we could…..”

And now I’ve heard my mom say, “I just can’t wait to retire. Life will be so much easier then.”

I haven’t really found that any of this gets easier or harder, it just becomes different, but no less real, significant, or difficult.

I have stopped trying to idealize my future and my past. I am not one of those people who will tell you college is the best time of your life or kids just don’t even know what little responsibility they have because I don’t think that’s true. I think it was all hard, to different degrees, but all of similar significance for their time.

I don’t think that when my son goes to school parenting will become easier. I don’t think that my marriage would suddenly be perfect if we had more time or money. I think life is hard, and unpredictable, and nothing if not a constant exercise in the ability to find beauty in inevitable change.

So as I hang up my hat of romanticism and replace it with realism, I subscribe myself to the new task of not focusing on the ever-present Hard. There will never be a time when this is easy. But then, in the midst of the hard, there are moments, however fleeting, of perfection. Those are the moments that drive us to keep going, keep pushing on to what comes next. Because we hope that there will be moments of perfection there, too. A collection of these moments is what creates a life time, but it’s important to be honest about how they were collected. Carefully, with presence and awareness, in the midst of Hard.

I Am

I Am

I am strong and hopeful
I wonder if everything really happens for a reason
I hear laughter
I see tomorrow
I want to be happy
I am strong and hopeful

I pretend that I have it all together

I feel lost

I touch my toddler’s sticky fingers
I worry about how it will all work out
I cry when I allow myself to let go
I am strong and hopeful

I understand that life is never what we expect
I say that I can handle it anyway
I dream for all the pieces to fall into place
I try to focus on the moment
I hope that one day I will KNOW I made the right choices
I am strong and hopeful

*This poem was made with the I AM template through Mama Kat’s writer’s workshop. It’s funny the things you discover about yourself when you are given the right prompt. What would you discover if you tried?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Why I Write

It’s dark here, as the light of the moon casts shadows over the bed.

Toddler breathing and cat purrs form the soundtrack for this particular scene of my life.

It’s a nightly occurrence, the glow of the moon through white cotton curtains, the steady breath of my beautiful boy, and the contented purrs of a cat beside me.

The clock ticks, warning me of the dangerous hour it is approaching and my impending duties of mommy in the morning that will be made so much harder if I don’t surrender to sleep.

But it is here, always here, that my mind becomes alive.

I remember my past, present and future as they all intertwine into a current conversation lulling me away from rest and restoration and into questionings and ponderings.

Sometimes, I revel in this time. This time of me. Sometimes, I dread it. Often, I feel alone.

One night, in this time of me, I stumbled upon a blog. I read posts by a woman who had struggled with her birth experience. For the very first time, I knew I wasn’t the only woman who felt this way.

I spent that night, and many more, pouring over her words and allowing tears to stream down my face as I motionlessly jumped up and down and silently screamed, “I am not alone.”

So I started writing. Writing thoughts more composed than just scribbles in notebooks or notes in the memo section of my phone. I started putting thoughts on paper and screen instead of just narrating them in my mind. I started to open my heart to the vulnerability and bravery that comes with hitting the publish button.

Sometimes, I write stories about my son. I try to capture memories that I want to hold on to forever. I would like for my son to read those one day. I hope they will mean as much to him as they do to me.

But mostly, I write to sort out the collisions of past, present and future that occur at my most fragile time; when I am in the midst of myself.

One day, maybe someone will read these words and they will mean something to them. Maybe one day I will understand them all myself.

And so I write for my vulnerability, my process of grief and self discovery, and my hope that one day these words resonate with someone so that they might say, “I am not alone.”

I started writing to find myself. I continue writing to find you.

Today, I link up with the lovely Galit and Nicole as they ask the question, “Who do you speak for?”

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Get Over It

A few months ago, while visiting my mom, she brought up something she found on Facebook.

“Oh, Julia, did you see that funny picture on Facebook? Of the pumpkin in the labor and delivery unit for Halloween? Wasn’t that hilarious?” 

“I saw the picture. I didn’t think it was that funny, but I thought about you and thought you might like it.” (My mom used to be a labor and delivery nurse.)

“You didn’t think it was funny? I thought it was hilarious. I thought you would like it!”

Why is she pushing me on this?

“I guess I’m still just a little sensitive about my birth experience. That pumpkin is obviously having a vaginal birth, and not everybody gets to do that, so I guess I just didn’t think it was that funny.”

“Julia, you just need to get over it. And the sooner you do, the better,” my mother said in a tone that rang in with a combination of a sigh and finality.

I sat in stunned silence from the sting of those words. Get over it. Get over my birth experience.

Having a baby is supposed to be the most wonderful experience of your life. You are supposed to feel awe and wonder at the amazement of your child. You are supposed to fall into a complete immersion of love as soon as you give birth and lay eyes on this new little person. You are supposed to say that having a baby changed your life, was one of the best days of your life, and you can’t imagine your life being any different.

You are not supposed to say that you had a terrible birth experience. You are not supposed to say that after 7 hours of natural labor and 5 hours of labor with an epidural, that the emergency c-section you had to have made you feel like a failure. You are not supposed to say that you have no memory of meeting your son because you were so over-medicated. You are not supposed to say that you had pain in your incision for 6 months following your son’s birth, because you should be healed by then and that seems like complaining. You are not supposed to say that even though you always thought you would want more kids, that experience makes you never want to be pregnant again. You are not supposed to say that even though you love your son, the day of his birth was one of the worst days of your life. You are supposed to “get over it.”

I grieved that comment for a long time. I grieved comments made by my mom and others in my family who have been insensitive to me about my birth experience. I am aware that the end goal of a pregnancy is a healthy mom and a healthy baby, and I am extremely grateful for the amazing gift of my son. But doesn’t the experience of giving birth matter?

Having a baby is a life changing event. If you have a positive birth experience, it can be awe-inspiring, spiritual, and life affirming (I’ve heard.) If you have a negative experience, it can haunt you, dishearten you, and devastate a piece of your heart.

My mind ran through a list of comebacks, but I choose to say nothing. I chose to sit there in silence and look out the window. I choose to dismiss the comment.

There was nothing I could say to make her understand, in that moment, the impact of those words. There may be nothing I can ever do to make any one else understand the way my birth experience has affected me.

My grief over my birth experience does not detract from the joy I have for being a mother. I feel truly blessed and honored to have my little boy. But I can choose to grieve and process my experience in my own time. It’s ok for me to have these feelings. It’s ok for me to gather the pieces and process the puzzle in my own way. I think that when a profound event happens in our lives, we never really “get over it,” but rather find that it holds less intensity with the passing of time. As a dear friend once told me, “There is no time limit on grief.” I couldn’t agree more.

Pending

Do you ever feel like your life is pending?

Sometimes I find myself at that place. That place of wondering, of stalling, of waiting. Waiting for the unknown.

I have been at these places before. My life was pending at the end of my pregnancy, when I was just waiting for a delivery, but had no control over how it would unfold.

My life was pending during the match process for my husband’s residency, where we could have been placed anywhere in the country, and we just had to wait until Match Day and a piece of paper to find out how we would spend the next four years of our lives.

Sometimes I feel like some of my relationships are pending; not really that bad and not really that good, just pending, waiting to see what will happen in the future.

The hot topic issue of having another child is pending in our house, since the hubs and I disagree on this very sensitive subject.

Most recently, I have been handling pending insurance claims and financial bits of life, and even though that is extremely insignificant in the grand scheme of things, I find the stress of constantly dealing with it seeping into my contentedness.

Sometimes, I even apply that word to myself. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I was a nanny and a teacher and now I am a stay at home Mommy. But that too, will come to an end when he starts school in a few years, and I’m not sure what direction my life will go in then.

So I find myself here today feeling like I’m on hold, just waiting for the next thing to happen. My life is not bad, or overly exhilarating, it is just there….

Pending.

Reflection

My bathroom mirror was a thick fog of steam created by the shower I like to run almost scalding, so that it nearly burns as I stand under the flowing current that strips my skin of the days’ events. As I pulled back my shower curtain to reach for my white towel, a reflection of someone caught my eye in the mirror. It was someone I recognized mostly, but things had changed without my noticing. As I stared now, I watched water droplets drip from my breasts, which sit much lower than they used to. My nipples have darkened and there are stretch marks dirtying the cool white porcelain of skin that covers what used to be one of my favorite body features. Now they have become nothing more than a food source for the baby. While I pride myself on breastfeeding, I also grieve my breasts that I now no longer admire unless they are kept in an expensive bra that gives them the illusion of elasticity.

My eyes traveled down to my stomach, which used to be flat and jeweled with a belly button piercing, but is now like a map of squiggly lines leading to nowhere and a scar of a decoration of youth. I lifted my “baby pouch” with both hands and tried to remember my pre-baby body. Maybe I’ll get a tummy tuck one day, I thought. But a quick glance at my c-section scar reminds me of all the pain, and I winced at the thought of undergoing surgery ever again, for any reason.

As the steam lifted, I noticed circles under my eyes that I’m quite sure weren’t there a few years ago, and some stray eyebrow hairs. I’ve given up pedicures and waxes, and now resort to plucking when I get the time, but I’m surprised at how out of control my brows look. I guess I need to check the mirror more often, I think as I lift the tweezers for the first time in weeks.

At least I’m saving money this way. Not looking in mirrors allows you to forget that you have run out of concealer for the dark circles or chapstick for the chapped lips. It allows you the freedom to not care what you look like and not spend money on make up.

But I can not help but to feel trapped into a surprise when I can’t stop this mirror from reflecting.