Hugs aren’t optional!

I spent the weekend surrounded by babies….and Moms and Moms to be. Surrounded by our adult children and their wives and husbands.  And that was a perfect Mother’s day!  It occurred to me as I watched our LARGE and getting larger family hanging out on the front porch together…laughing and singing and playing…just how lucky we are.  I watched babies wander from adult to adult, getting bites here and there from random plates, sitting in laps, being soothed by whichever Mom, Dad, grandparent, or adult was around. Countless times I watched young toddlers fall, shake it off and get a hug from the nearest adult. I watched young moms sharing their tips and experiences with one another.  I watched the young men and women in our family without kids, gaining experience with their nephews and cousins.  So that when they have children there will be a little less uncertainty.  It was chaotic and messy and glorious. I was completely worn out by the time all the kids were gathered, the bouncy house was deflated, and the dishes put away.

I thought a lot this weekend about the people in this world and the children who aren’t so lucky.  There are children out there who aren’t getting hugs and reassurance from adults.  Who don’t have a role model.  Adults too.  I think it’s sort of obvious just from our politics that this is true. I hear friends, and peers ask…”what can I do about it”?  And I hear… “nothing I do will make a difference”(wrong).  I think the answer is sort of obvious.   Hug someone.  Hug yourself. Hug a child. Heck…hug a tree.  Create a space in the world where hugs are the norm and not the unusual. Slow down and spend some time with your family and be in community.   Because this is what I know…Hugs aren’t optional.  They are necessary and a requirement.  And they can change the world.  True Story.

Some thoughts for my Daughters…..

Dear Daughters and Stepdaughters,

Looking at life through the lens of daughter, mother, stepmother and grandmother, I have come to appreciate how much harder it is to be a mother today than it was for my mother in the 60’s or for me in the 90’s.  Please don’t be fooled by all of the conveniences of modern motherhood – more mothering blogs, advice books, toys, electronic devices, quick foods, and gadgetry have not made your lives easier.

In fact, you are living in such a complex and fast paced world that it’s hard to keep up with the latest recall (Is your peanut butter OK?  Has your baby car seat been condemned?).  Add to that the fact that it is really challenging for you to live a life as comfortable as the one in which you were raised. And the fact that you worked very hard for your pre-children careers, which you are  financially unable to abandon easily without great hardship( and which you continue to pay for.) This despite the fact that you are inundated with the idea and philosophies that you must breastfeed( else you are a bad mother) and spend the formative years exclusively with your children. Hard to understand how you can do all that and work.  You definitely have a recipe for stress far greater than your grandmothers or I experienced.

I feel sad that many of your grandmothers’ generation, and many of my fellow baby boomers, are sometimes so harsh in their criticism of your generation of mothers.  Your grandmother can honestly declare, “In my day, children weren’t spoiled by so many toys,” or “Children didn’t watch so much television,” or “We didn’t need DVDs, smart phones, or iPads to occupy our kids,” or “Children didn’t misbehave in restaurants.” Largely this is due to the fact that many of these things did not exist in her day(with the exception of restaurants and tv).  My peers and I would have to admit that we picked up tons of toys every night and let you watch television so we could cook dinner.  We definitely would have used the DVD’s and smart phones if we’d had them and I suspect so would they.

So, my daughters, I apologize for the disapproval you and your peers feel from women who raised their children in calmer and simpler times. Here’s what I want you to know:

You are all already vastly more prepared and educated than we were as mothers.  I’ve watched each of you educate yourselves on prenatal care, postnatal care,breastfeeding,  study child rearing techniques, agonize over food choices and  childcare, weigh pros and cons of staying at home or keeping your careers. I’m pretty sure a lot of the people in my generation,  and my mom’s parented on a wing and a prayer.  I know I did.

You will make mistakes.  It’s human nature and moms are not exempt from that.  I’ve made many many.  So have your grandmothers and every other mom out there. Moms are not perfect  Learn from them and learn from their mistakes and move on.

Know that I see and appreciate what you are doing.  You are all great moms already.  I could not be prouder of each of you!  Why?  Because you love your children, and I see all of you cherishing those babies and keeping them safe and healthy.  I see the countless hours you spend planning, playing, working to ensure that your children will be happy healthy members of this world, despite being tired, overworked, and stressed yourselves.

Jessica I watched you struggle with your illness and med schedule to make sure that your babies were healthy and safe. I’ve watched the countless hours you spend with our grandsons teaching, and playing despite having little sleep. You rock,  and your patience as a Mom is amazing!

Ginger I saw your little feet swollen up like pumpkins because you worked right up until the end in order to provide for your son economically.  I’ve seen how his face lights up for you when he hears your voice and what a happy little fella he is…letting the world know that he is safe and secure .  You are a wonderful Mom!

Savanna I’ve watched you struggle with pain and illness in order to bring our granddaughter into the world safely ..any day now.   The sheer amount of planning and thought put into how you want to raise your daughter has been awe inspiring.  Truly I’m in awe of the Mom you’re becoming!

If you occasionally feel criticized for your parenting and hear the familiar, “In my day…” – please understand that people who say this have mostly rewritten the past to suit themselves. They’ve forgotten what it was really like. I know I have and they have to.   Also know that their times were far less challenging than yours.

And please forgive me for teaching you that, you have to do it all by yourself and for yourself.  I somehow took that on and most likely passed some of that to all of you in one way or another. Find a village to help you to raise your children wherever you can, and be part of someone else’s village too.  Because it takes a village.  You guys are my village and I’m proud to be a part of your village ever yday.  My world is a better place because you are in it!

Love you all!

Taking a Mother’s day Inventory….

 

Do you take your own inventory periodically?  Ok, well I do.  This is where I think about the things I’ve accomplished (or not) in my life.  Here’s what stands out for me today in thinking about Mother’s day coming up.   Could be something different tomorrow. Depends on the mood.  But this is it for today..

I most definitely have helped some children find their way.  Evan and I have six children between us.  I love them.  But.. it was a big adjustment.  You know that part in the Grinch where his heart was six sizes too small?  Each child that comes into your life causes your heart to grow. Mine is six sizes larger than it was previously.  It had already grown significantly with the birth of my two children.  So it knew how to stretch. Then it stretched some more.  Hey your heart is a muscle, it can stretch and stretch is my theory.  Being a step mom is not the easy path.  Not gonna lie.  But it is ultimately so rewarding.  Have I been perfect?  That would be a big “heck no”!. But the point is in the trying I think, and the doing, day after day.  The building up of your patience muscle (yeah, it has to match your heart muscle) is an exercise that you get to practice regularly.    It’s not often that a day goes by without someone needing me.  To listen, to witness, to advise, to mother…to pay…lol.  My family was really small and really sort of loners in some respects. In this family I’ve created and grown into…  I’m not often alone with my thoughts, especially during the summer.  You get to find an awful lot out about yourself and your abilities when surrounded constantly by younger people.  I wouldn’t change that for anything.  They’ve taught me so much about myself and mostly how NOT to be selfish ( And how far behind I am in the world of technology lol). . Ultimately it’s not about what we want….it’s about what we can do and give to someone else that makes our lives meaningful.  And they’ve taught me to question my beliefs that I somehow know what’s right for them.  Yep, they’ve taught me to challenge that belief a lot!

On top of our six children, I teach art to high risk children.  I have for about five years.  Oh the lessons that I’ve learned from this.  See…I thought I was teaching them.  Turns out I was the one who had so much to learn. Mostly I had to learn more patience, and about showing up consistently, and about works being so much more important than words.  I had to learn the hard way that not every child is open to expressing themselves.  In fact, most children who are in the middle of a struggle are not.  And isn’t that true of all of us? I had to learn to work on a subtle, below the surface kind of wavelength.  Gently gently pushing them to go a little deeper. Mostly hoping that there was a connection in the absence of all evidence to the contrary.  Yep…lots of lessons here for me.

I’m on a kick, recently,  to listen to the negative stuff in my mind and find out what the positive message is in that.  So in taking my inventory…although I may not make tons of money, drive the newest car, be the skinniest person(mainly because my heart is so dang big..lol) be as positive in some situations as I should be, have the best trained dogs, the cleanest house, make the best art,  or even make all the right decisions every day, I know that it’s ok to be who I need to be.  I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.  Finding my way, helping young people find theirs, or at least supporting them in their journey to find their way…just one positive turn around in the negative chatter.  Yay!

Where do you get your ideas?

I’m often asked where I get my ideas.  I have no idea. But here’s what I do know.  I’ve spent years trying to make sure that I get myself out of the way so that when ideas are presented  to me….I’m aware of them.  You see what I did there.?  It’s not that I get ideas….it’s just that I recognize them and am aware of them when they show up.  Subtle but very big difference.  It takes a lot of practice, A LOT, to be able to get yourself out of the way . I spent many years trying to make pretty art.  Pretty art is good.  But meaningful art is better.  For me, anyway. These days I’m all about trying to get myself out of the way and be a conduit for my subconcious.  It’s not always pretty.  Lol…as a matter of fact, it rarely is.  But, I’m getting closer to being the person I want to be, the artist I want to be. My art practice has deepened and become meaningful.  To me at least.  These days, I’m not afraid to create ugly art.  I’m not afraid that someone will think “she’s not an artist, my kids can draw better than that”(true statement made to me, no lie)  I’m not afraid to create wonky sculptures from trash, mixed media from odds and ends and upcycled crap.  The point is that I’m not afraid.  And that good buddy,  is a wonderous thing in your art practice.

Where She was Standing When She Lost The Flow

Ok, don’t judge me.  I think of my creative “flow” as a bright quirky goldfish.  She zips here and there and is generally all over the place.

Yesterday, I was in the “flow” big time.  Journaling away.  Then the kids started calling.  Our daughter (names withheld to protect me..lol) that is getting her Masters was overwhelmed and anxious.  She needed to be reminded that she could do it, and has done it and will continue to do it!  One of our other daughters texted me to check on party times for Sunday.  Our youngest daughter called to see if I would help her set up her classroom at the nonprofit where she works.  My son texted me to make sure I had picked up bread and snacks.  All within about an hour.  My flow just flew.

Once I got home from helping with the classroom….I sat down and tried to recapture where I was in my journal.  The above is all I could come up with in the thirty minutes before bed.  I can’t even remember my original idea.

I’m not complaining…I’m just stating the facts.  Sometimes/Most times when you have children, especially if you have as many as we do, your time is not your own.  And that’s ok.  I know without a doubt that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing when I’m dealing with these children.  Even though some of them are technically adults…they are still my kids.  Always will be. Evidently, I came into this world with a lot of Mom energy.

It’s a funny thing…there are lots of people out there who don’t really see raising kids as a life path, career, or even as work.  That’s ok.  But, for me, I don’t see any other way.  I kind of imagine it as being a steward of potentiality.  One of the kids we touch, teach, help along their way….may save this old world.  And I will be behind them clapping, cheering and wiping away a tear (with a paint rag most likely).

There are other colors…I’m sure of it!

Wouldn’t be nice if everyone could get that everything is not black or white?  I mean, sure…I’m a pretty black and white person when it comes to murder, child abuse, animal abuse, planet abuse…. the horrid stuff like that.   But hey, there’s a lot of other colors out there ranging from grey to white.  It’s not the worst thing in the world to try and understand someone else’s point of view once in a while.  You don’t have to adopt it.  Just stand in their shoes, momentarily,  and see of you can get where they’re coming from.

It would be so boring if everyone believed the same thing, wore the same thing, looked the same way!  Yuck!  Diversity of opinion is not such a bad thing.  And if you can’t get on board with someone else’s opinion,lifestyle, belief…… I’m saying…..at least treat the other person with some respect.  Realize that you don’t have all the answers, that we need diversity in this country in order to overcome our obstacles. Give peace a chance….be a little more moderate in your arguments today and try not to be so inflammatory.  Send some peaceful energy out into the universe.  We all need it.

The Warp and the Weft

Ugh.  Just spent about an hour writing a beautiful post and it disappeared!  so here it is as best I remember…lol

Someone told me once that we are breathing the same air as DaVinci and Buddha and even the first woman.  It made me dizzy.  Lots of things make me dizzy…quantum physics, roller coaster rides, the edge of the universe, etc. etc.  Years later I’ve begun to sort of understand this thought. It really means that we are all connected.  I am and so are you.  It’s sort of like looking at Bamboo.  An entire stand of Bamboo is really just one organism (another nifty dizzying thought).

If you follow this idea though, it means that I am connected not just with the earth and the air I breathe, but also I’m connected with the dolphins, the whales, the roses, and flowers, the birds,  majestic trees, the moon and the stars,  and with people.  Not just the ones I like, but with all of them.

It’s a thread that connects you with everyone and everything on this earth. We’re all entertwined .  The warp and weft of the thread is perfect because you are a part of it.  You,  in all your glory, with all of your faults and promise.  It would not be the same,  if you weren’t a part of it.  It’s taken me years to understand that and internalize it.  But once I know something, I find it difficult to not know it.  I really do think I have it, for now.  And this idea is simmering with me, below the surface.  So of course it comes out in my journaling.  I’m made from the same stuff as this world.  How breathtaking!

So…. hello world that I was born from and into.  Hello!

 

 

 

It’s more obvious for some than for others.

What do you do when you just don’t know the answer?  I have spent a lot of my life not knowing the answers to a lot of questions that well meaning people have asked me over the years.  I am a bona fide expert in this field.  For instance, I was always in awe of my friends and family who knew definitively what they wanted to do.  To be honest, I often wondered if they were lying.  lol.  I mean how did they know at 18 that they wanted to be a doctor or teacher or whatever? I say, good for all of you people who knew and know what you wanted to do or be.  Even better if you knew the how, and why, and wherefores.  Those of you who knew/know all that don’t need to read further.  As a matter of fact, you should probably share with the rest of us how you did that.  But for those of you who are not always sure like me….read on.

I often will look to the past to try and help me navigate the future.  But in truth, the past is just the past.  It’s not the future.  It’s not even always a good predictor of the future.  Mainly because we are not the “self” from our past.  We’ve changed and hopefully grown into a whole new person. So…strike that technique to find answers off the list.

I know people who will look to other successful people for answers.  That might be a good technique for some… but for me…. not so much.  Because,  I am not that other person.  And if I am doing what someone else says they did, well it might be okay for a minute, but ultimately I’m not going to react the same way they did forever. And it’s not who I am.  It’s not authentic for me.   So I had to strike that idea too.

So what does work?  What is the “answer” (literally and figuratively)? It took me awhile to realize that the answers are not as important as the questions.  That’s right, you heard it here.  Our society seems to be answer driven.  But what about the lessons we learn as we journey to the answer?  What about that huh?   What about the unfolding in time so that we have a chance to internalize the lesson? It seems to me that the “good” answers are the ones that show up in our lives from a lesson we learned.  Not because we skipped the lesson and went right to the answer.  I know it’s what we all want, instant gratification.  Hey, I’m right there with you.  I’m all about instant gratification.  Unfortunately, the glow from instant gratification sure doesn’t last very long.  And then, you’re right back where you started.  Lost.

What it comes down to is this, for me……I don’t know how to find the answers other than to just live the journey.  That means living with the unknown and sometimes unknowable. So, mostly my prayer is to ask the right questions, to have the strength to live with them, and to recognize the answers when they show up in my life.  TA DA!!   Pretty dang wise you say?  I have to agree.

Rainy Days for Days Weather

The last ten or so days it’s been awfully hard to remember that the sun is shining somewhere.  We’ve had buckets of rain.  And then the clouds parted and I got this.  And it struck me this morning that the weather is such a great metaphor for life.  Cliche I know but hey …you work with what you’ve been given.

When it rains for days on end, a sort of cocooning effect happens around here.  The dogs curl up and so do some of the people (not saying who).  Everyone is sort of forced into an interior life.  A life with no distractions like the yard or the orchard. And because it rained really hard….I tried not to run many errands either. So a lot of make doing went on around food, and meals. Life slowed down quite a bit.  And after awhile, I relaxed into that philosophy.  For a very short time.  Because I had no choice.

Of course, it’s occurred to me that  I do have a choice every day.  I could decide to slow down just because I want to or need to.  Good to be reminded of  that idea sometimes.  We don’t have to hurry scurry through our days.  We get to be the boss of our pace. Thanks Rainy Days for Days Weather.  I needed that!