Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rubbed us the Wrong Way

Yesterday afternoon, we drove over the hills and through the woods to Grandmother's house, 500 miles away.  It was a long day.  About 10:30, somewhere north of where we started and far too south of where we were headed, it was time to gas up the van.  

Of course, stopping the van meant various individuals stirred and needed trips to the bathroom.   When it was finally my turn to rush through the freezing whether in my thin, Southern clothes, the three-year-old also needed to go. I scooped her up and we hustled into the gas station.  She was all sweet and sleepy and disoriented.  

She and I finished our business and approached the sink area.  There were about five basins and I paused when I didn't see soap anywhere.  At last, I spied dispensers on the walls at boths ends of the counter.  As I reached toward the closest wall, I noticed two dispensers.  One was closer to the outside of the counter and bigger.  I decided it was obviously installed later as some sort of greater convenience for the customer.

I pushed the lever and got a palmful of soap.  Cote held her hand up as I swiped some of the soap onto her hand.  She knows the drill.  We do this all the time.  I rubbed my hands together and then stopped.  

I looked down at my hands, finally registering the gray color and the bizarrely gritty feel.  In my hesitation, I glimpsed Cote's tiny, innocent face looking, for all the world, like Cindy Lou Who catching the Grinch stuffing the Christmas tree up the chimney.  She tentatively slid her palms together, jaw clenched against the confusing, abrasive sensory input. Her head tilted ever so slightly as she pulled them back apart and gazed at the liquid concrete I had put in her hands.  In silence, she pondered what must have become of this once familiar ritual of hand-washing.  

I slowly tore my view from the messy-haired preschooler and back to the soap dispenser which read, "Super Cherry heavy duty hand cleanser."  I looked back at her and commented matter-of-factly, "Oh, I don't think our hands were quite dirty enough for this kind of soap."

I rinsed my hands for a seemingly ridiculous amount of time to remove the sludge and dried them with paper towels while Cote just dutifully waited, hands slightly apart elevated above her waist.  I scraped the paste from her hands under the never-hot water.  She dried and placed the paper towel in the bin.  Like so many other times, she turned and placed her tiny hand in mine and we walked out of the bathroom in a travel weary, pumice-assaulted daze.

The spell broke when we entered the gas station store.  Her little, freckled pixie face tilted to look up at me. "Mommy," she said, "that was weird." 

I agreed.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Welcoming Committee

I left Theo and the three bigger children for a week to visit a friend in another state.  First time ever.   It was a much needed momcation.  I relaxed and recharged and got motivated about coming home to spend more time doing things that matter with my family.  It was a chance to breathe and gain perspective, to be inspired by another family's evening worship time, to cook with renewed creativity, to tincture all the herbs.  

So it was with a stirred spirit I deplaned and walked through the terminal with my fellow passengers.  I caught a glimpse of my family standing together.  My heart swelled.  My smile widened.  My six-foot-tall teenager was holding a bouquet of flowers and my little girls were holding homemade signs.  I sighed happily and walked a little faster.

Then, I noticed their faces were decidedly apathetic.  They looked bored, almost.  At first I thought I must be too far away for them to recognize me.  My husband made eye contact and encouraged me with a thin, weary smile.  The children's faces remained stony.  

No one broke free and ran toward me.  No one shouted a gleeful, "Mommy!"  They stared me down like I was an unwelcome invader, while they held flowers and signs.  I considered turning around and hopping the next plane out of there.

Flowers were thrust in my direction.  They deigned to hug me.  I raised my eyebrows at Theo in question and mentioned my thoughts of fleeing the country.

He said he understood as we took the escalator to baggage claim, my preschooler's tiny hand matter-of-factly holding mine as if it were her assigned chore.  John began telling me loud stories while standing too close.  Hannah ran around in manic circles.  Cote repeatedly pulled on the baby carrier, trying to get Zane's attention.   

Later, Theo told me that Hannah had made the signs and the girls had bickered about them and other things all day.  Hannah had held all four signs and the flowers at one point and they decided that she should spread the wealth.  Theo explained that I wouldn't even be able to read the signs all piled up in her hands.  He doled the flowers to John and asked the girls to divide the signs.  Since the three-year-old had gotten distracted with other things, all four signs had been made by the seven-year-old.   She chose to keep the two she made with popsicle stick poles.  

Hannah was mad she had to share.  Cote was mad she didn't have sticks.  John was upset he was holding the flowers because he felt like he looked like he was waiting for his "Long-lost Hunny Bunny."  Theo was exhausted.  

Yep.  Reality.  It didn't land quite as easily as that American Airlines regional jet.  We scraped the belly all the way in and got sprayed with fire-retardant foam.  The ice finally cracked and we enjoyed a nice dinner and evening together.  We didn't crash.  We just came in a little hard.  

And I think despite the trauma, we were all relieved to be safe and back together again.  I only regret that I didn't whip out the camera and take a picture of my welcoming committee.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Exploring mediocrity and thinking aloud.

I think maybe my sentiment didn't quite get through on my last post...  ;).    What I was saying is that my perfectionism is sometimes a little crippling and gets in the way of even doing things I love, like writing.  I enjoy blogging, but when I get good responses, I feel pressure to make the next entry awesomer and awesomer.  I've got a real hang up with performance.  

I tend to think if I can't do something all the way, I shouldn't do it at all.  Mediocre isn't meant to be self-deprecating but freedom from comparing myself, freedom from performance anxiety, freedom from perfectionism.  To experience the extraordinary, one must be familiar with the ordinary.  Practice is mundane.  To be better and have a chance at some epic posts, I need more time producing work, period.  

Learning the violin is fabulous for me.  I treasure the fact I've started as a mom of four in my late thirties.  Why?  Because the chances of my becoming a virtuoso is pretty much non-existent.  I can play and enjoy it and share my progress with others without ever feeling the pressure to have it become more than a joy for me.  

There was so much "I can't wait to read your first book" early in my life that the pressure took the wind out of my desire to write.     Even my successes were evidence I had only gotten older and had not yet written my first book.  

With Mary's comment today, I realized my writing could be like playing my violin.  It doesn't have to be virtuosic.  If a book gets written, woohoo, retirement money!  If not, I won't be a failure, and I will have had the joy of the process.  

I can use my writing to extend myself and share in a dialogue and connection with others.   I think believing I can be extraordinary while giving myself permission to be mediocre, means I can focus more on the task at hand, than on some extrinsic trophy.   I can hone my craft, rather than serve my critics.

I know the word mediocre is a challenge for many.  It was intended to be provocative.  It means it's ok to say I had a day that wasn't good or bad.  Nothing remarkable happened except that I am still alive, which is, in fact, as remarkable as the sun rising each morning.  I love and have been loved.  It is well with my soul.  

Guess what, I'm Mediocre.

I am having a great time visiting a very dear friend.  We help each other see ourselves for what we are sometimes and it's a beautiful thing, this friendship.  The more we get to know each other, the more we find we have in common and the more we find we have differences.

It's what I love about relationships.  Each one is a connection that changes and challenges and reaffirms me.  I'm here on this planet with billions of people, I must be meant to know some of them, right?  Out of all of the people alive right now, I only really know a few, which means those friends are even more special than one-in-a-million.  

But that's all beside the point.  This is about what my friend said to me this morning.  It was an aside in the middle of a wandering, meandering conversation.  

"By the way, you need to blog more." 

 I grimaced. I know.  I want to.  And then I confessed I haven't found a way to integrate blogging into my life, to successfully manage with my other activities and priorities.  When I get a bee in my bonnet, I'm not terribly patient with the kids and I get too focused for too long on trying to make a post.

Very pointedly she said, "Not every blog has to be epic."

Crap.  Bullseye.  

Then relief.  No pressure.  Like Facebook, I can just live, share, be real.  I can be mediocre, which is a relief.  And sometimes, I can be epic, which is exciting.