49 Thanksgivings Later

After 49 Thanksgivings, I finally “get” why it did not matter to my Mom, in her later years, whether our family ate dinner together on paper plates (themed, of course) or not.  The mere fact that we were together was enough for her – and it should have been enough for me – but, alas, I needed more “road miles” in life to fully understand.

This Thanksgiving I am wildly and enthusiastically thankful for 4 Things:

CURIOSITY

PALS come to Tango Canyon
Mario’s preschool class visited our 34-acre wilderness every year for their Spring field trip – here he is greeting the bus!  It was a truly wondrous time.

To be curious is a state of willingness to allow life, ideas, people, nature and the world to enthrall and intoxicate you.  In spite of my struggle this 49th year of my life on earth to discover and maintain a healthy sobriety, I am thankful to discover that I still experience the wonder of a child every single day.  AMEN to that and keep the curiosity coming!

After all, it has been said, “interesting people are interested people.”

SETBACKS

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It has taken me 49 years to learn the slow and steady “tortoise” way – I used to prefer to hurry and get my reward or pain “over with.”

We all experience setbacks and many of them are stunning, paralyzing and utterly terrifying.  Looking back, I really am thankful for each and every setback I have experienced.  Not only am I learning humility, I am experiencing the ebb and flow of the journey and learning to take my EGO OUT OF IT.  I mean, a mortal can only do so much – the Universe is so much larger and powerful, and there is no escaping the lessons we’re each meant to learn.  To me, setbacks are just another way of experiencing mortality and human limitations.  And like Garth Brooks famously crooned, “I thank God for unanswered prayers” every single day.

ACCEPTANCE

First Recital
You’d never know it but this picture of my darling children was snapped during one of the darkest times of my life.  Complete shock and uncertainty colored my days, but they, being the curious and resilient little teachers our children are meant to be, marched onward!

My husband and I were “curious” about life in a tiny town more than 200 miles away from our home so we packed up and moved away from friends, family, professional connections, and all the lovely comforts of city life.  We stayed there 8 years.  I joke that 2 of them were happy, but I seriously mean it!  Looking back, that really is not true:  my mental state was not happy because I was fighting the flow of our new lives.  But something super cool I have discovered in mid-life:  you can actually reflect back and accept what was once unimaginable and unendurable and it has the same effect – now my memories of what I thought was a “really dark time” are mostly funny and happy!  I am so thankful for this gift.

MY TRIBE

Boo 16 mos
Becoming a Mother is just one way of earning the responsibility for tending to a tribe.  This is my first little tribe member, Isabella Bernadette.

A wise woman once told me, “Your kids aren’t always going to be this little.”  Obvious statement of fact but, at the time, I could hardly imagine a time when my life was not dictated by play dates, diaper changes, snack times, story times, intrusive “Mom friends” and never-ending messes, usually involving bodily fluids.  This is my beautiful daughter, now 16 years old, at 16 months old.  I hardly remember the passing of time.  Another wise woman, my own Mother, told me, “Honey, life will pass you by so quickly it will leave your head spinning.”  And it has.  She was right, as usual.  I am thankful for my tribe of family, starting with my husband and children and colored with many interesting friends and co-workers.  At the tender age of 49, I have learned how to assess quickly what “works” for my tribe and what needs to just go away!  THANKS be to GOD!!

Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are, and whether you enjoy it on the finest china or paper plates.  Life is a gift.

 

Grateful November Monday

A fellow blogger is asking the community to offer gratitude posts this morning, and I am more than happy to oblige.

I am ETERNALLY grateful for:

  1. The love of my “family of origin” and blessings of friendship with my Mom and 4 sisters;
  2. A warm house, food to eat, healthy children and husband, and the means to make a difference;
  3. Unwavering Guidance from my Higher Power and community of Recovering Friends;
  4. The gifts of joy and beauty that surprise and elate me every waking hour;
  5. A safe community, clean air and water, the right to vote and participate in public discourse;
  6. The gift of restful sleep and the wonder and grace of the new beginning of each day of life.
My beautiful Mom and her 5 girls. 1967
My beautiful Mom and her 5 girls. 1967

On Twist Ties, Labeled Baggies and Loving My Clutter

There is absolutely nothing written anywhere that says Moms who carry clean wipes and organize with twist ties and “label-able” baggies are better than Messy Moms.  Yet, on many occasions, I have pondered this.  Yes, life would be simpler if I were a more organized ziplock baggie-type of Mom, but would we be a happier family?  Show me the studies that prove children raised in organized environments thrive and flourish and I might consider (though at 49 I am pretty sure it is far too late) changing my ways.

Like Carrie Bradshaw, each morning I awoke to a boutiquey trail of shoes down my steps and to the front door.
Like Carrie Bradshaw, each morning I awoke to a boutiquey trail of shoes down my steps and to the front door.

I mean, it isn’t as if nobody saw this coming:  when we were dating, my husband recalls the “trail of shoes” in my little pink house – I liked it that way because I never knew what kind of “shoe mood” I would wake up in.  Some people simply need to see their stuff to feel comfortable.

This is cozy.  A bookshelf would be "cold" and uninviting.
This is cozy. A bookshelf would be “cold” and uninviting.

Ask any other Clutter Mom how they manage to run an organized household around so much “stuff” and you will get the same answer:  “I know exactly where everything is and it makes perfect sense to me.”  Just not anybody else!

To me, THIS is organized.
To me, THIS is organized.
The first time I took baby Isa to visit my parents in St. Louis, my car was loaded down with so much baby gear (to improve her intelligence at 3 months), my Dad asked "Where's the BABY?"
The first time I took baby Isa to visit my parents in St. Louis, my car was loaded down with so much baby gear (to improve her intelligence at 3 months), my Dad asked “Where’s the BABY?”

My kids are teenagers now and my family pretty much knows “I Yam Who I Yam,” and they take responsibility for organizing their own stuff.  In addition to my proclivity to create clutter, I also have disastrous handwriting.  So much so that, on many occasions, my children would come home from school claiming the teacher accused them of “forging your Mom’s signature” on papers she had sent home.  Sigh.  For years, Isa re-wrote my grocery lists for me.

Instead of making life more difficult, I think my messy-leaning-habits have created a sense of acceptance, tolerance and love in my household.  Put THAT in your labeled baggie and twist tie your opinions, ORGANIZED MOMMAS!

twisty-or-clip-294x300ziploc_bags_s

Because my children and household are F-I-N-E with their Messy Momma.  I may not be able to whip out exactly what my children need at precisely the right time from my purse, like other Moms, but my kids always understood my struggle with organization and everybody managed to get by.

If you are reading this and have perhaps been feeling badly about your lack of organization, I urge you to to think a moment about whether anybody in your family would be happier or better off but for your personal failings.  I always found the Organized Moms to be a tad boring, myself.  And THAT’s how we ROLL………..

Holding on and Letting Go

Yesterday it became official:  After 20 years of marriage, I am officially 31 pounds heavier than I was on my wedding day.  But I am too busy getting sober, raising teenagers, losing my reading glasses, finding myself, and holding on to the time I have today with loved ones to really give a damn.

Another thing became official in the last week:  my husband believes in the regular “God Winks” I am receiving from my Dad.

I have had some really awful moments in my struggle for sobriety these past 156 days - and Daddy always appears at just the right moment, in the form of a feather.
I have had some really awful moments in my struggle for sobriety these past 156 days – and Daddy always appears at just the right moment, in the form of a feather.

Mike witnessed it as we gazed outside his office window anticipating the start of the Kansas City World Series Parade last week:  out of the blue, a single feather gracefully frolicked in the wind and made its way to the pavement just beneath us.  He looked at me with wonder and said, “Dickie’s here!”.  Yesterday, I was feeling like a little kid again, preparing to meet a new friend and try a new AA meeting, and wanting to just go home and hide beneath my covers.  I ran out to my car before my friend met me for coffee before the meeting to look for my phone:  a single feather lay just beside my car door (it was NOT there when I arrived a few moments earlier).  Dad was reassuring me, “Go ahead and go to that meeting.  You need it.”

I’m holding on and letting go to everything and everyone these days, it seems:  my beautiful teenagers; my youth (and former figure!); things that used to matter but really don’t anymore; my dreams of who I wanted to be and reckoning with the reality of the time I have left to fulfill them or make new ones.

Grandma Rhetta gets a BIG hug from 5-year-old Mario for the beautiful quilt she made him.
Grandma Rhetta gets a BIG hug from 5-year-old Mario for the beautiful quilt she made him.

I am still thrilled and sometimes even enraptured by the journey of life – including the scars I carry as a mid-lifer.  It’s wild to ponder the things that matter more to me now that I know I don’t have a lot of time on this Earth.  I care more about being gentle and kind than winning, at anything.  I worry less about deadlines and more about resilience and protection (social work lingo that I love!).  We live among the wounded and I want to be a healer.

Sally Wilcox. my dear friend, passed these along to me when my family was treated unkindly in a small town. She became a Deacon in the Episcopal Church very late in life and never shied from
Sally Wilcox. my dear friend, passed these along to me when my family was treated unkindly in a small town. She became a Deacon in the Episcopal Church very late in life and never shied from “sticky” situations. I will always cherish Sally, these earrings, and the brief time I had with her.

I guess the trick to living a life of Grace after 50 is to know when to hold on and when to let go.  I cannot be in this state perpetually!  Luckily, I have had some pretty wise friends share their wisdom with me along the way.

Remember the movie, “Fried Green Tomatoes”?  I picture myself often as the character Kathy Bates plays – Evelyn – that awkward midlife woman, pathetically hanging on to a shell of her former self until she meets Jessica Tandy’s character – Ninny – the older woman in the nursing home who shares the story of her relative, Idgie, in segments for Evelyn,  and gives her the gift of strength to prepare her for old age.  I had a friend like Evelyn in Winfield, Kansas.  Her name was Sally Wilcox and she was a writer.  She volunteered to write an article about an old dairy house on our land adjacent to a neighborhood development.  Mike and I saw beauty and grace in this old structure.  Our neighbors saw blight. They wanted it torn down, we maintained it had Historic value and submitted to the City’s requirements that it be boarded up.

Who would have thought that a historic dairy house would be the
Who would have thought that a historic dairy house would be the “mountain we chose to die on” in our small town experience? We learned a lot, thanks to Sally.

The dairy house was designed and lived in by a relative of a well-known architect from the region.  Louis Caton, a musician, lived there for a period of time and was a known local artist and musician.  We romanticized the past and the things that transpired in the old dairy house  but to the neighbors, it represented a hatred they carried for the former developer of their neighborhood and broken promises.  It was ours but, in the end, it was not.  Our fight did not matter because the neighbors won the right to tear it down, after all.  Looking back, I realize the dairy house was just a symbol to Mike and me of something beautiful we had found and wanted to “tend to” for our children.  We imagined a future for them in rural Kansas and all the cool things they might get to do with this beautiful barn like structure set beside a wooded canyon that many children, including Osage Indian children and pioneer children, had played in before.

But maybe we held on to the wrong thing at the wrong time for the wrong reasons which now, ultimately, does not matter.  But I cannot stop thinking about the twinkle in Sally Wilcox’s eyes as she interviewed us and published the article in the local newspaper about it.  In all her wisdom, Sally thought the fight was worth it and she liked us, unlike our neighbors!  One afternoon before a public hearing about the condemnation of the dairy house we were forced to attend at the City, Sally gave me the earrings she wanted me to wear bearing the words:  “People are no damn good.”  I will always love her for her strength and courage and carry with me the memory of my very own “Evelyn,” who helped me confront one of my first ugly midlife battles over WHAT to hang on to and WHEN to let go.

So, here I am, almost 50, getting feathers from Dad and remembering a brilliant older friend who gave me many gifts of wisdom.  In their own ways, they both sustain me as I daily weigh what’s worth my energy and what’s not.

Perfectly Timed Endings

The year was 2000.  It was August.  Kansas City was experiencing an epic heatwave, 30+ days of 100-degree temperatures.  The air was thick with humidity and, at my house, the sound of Barney’s voice and anticipation of the arrival of my second child.  My first child was only 19 months old.  She was really, REALLY, into Barney the Purple Dinosaur.

Weighing in at 207 pounds, my 5’4″ frame was struggling to keep up with Isa, the energetic toddler in love with Barney.  We established a routine that my 3rd-trimester, overly fatigued and aching body could maintain:  Up at 7 for Barney and breakfast; Walk or play with friends until 11; Nap until 1; Drive huge Ford Expedition with Blaring Air Conditioning 1 mile South to Sonic for “in-car picnic” of grilled cheese and milk shake; More Barney until Daddy got home at 6:30.  To say it felt like hell would be an understatement.  To comfort Isa during times when Barney and Baby Bop were not on tv or Mommy could not “find” the video, she had a stuffed version that sang the infamous “I love you” song and also said “Bye Bye.”

Fast forward 6 years.  My two children, now 7 and 5 years old, are not that “into” Barney – they are more obsessed with Sponge Bob and those twins living in a hotel with their singing Mom on Disney channel.  Though he still lives, the once-cherished stuffed Barney now belongs to our boxer puppy, Tango, and lives in the backyard.

Parents everywhere empathized with our total disdain for the Dinosaur with the Annoying Voice.  One friend even told his little girl that she could not watch Barney on tv for several weeks because he had been in an unfortunate car accident and was “banged up pretty bad”!!!!

On a cool Spring evening, I was scooping puppy poop in our yard for the umpteenth time.  It had been very rainy out and Barney, now Tango’s best friend, had seen better days.  I was certain it was his time to go.  Thus, with little more ceremony than slamming his lifeless, once-beloved, purple body in the same plastic bag with my dog’s poop, I bid Barney a final, gleeful farewell.  Then something very suspicious and spooky happened:  this symbol of torture, maimed by a puppy and hugged to death by 2 toddlers, rose from the poop bag and uttered one final phrase:  “Bye Bye!”.  

Barney got the last laugh.  He is a very clever dinosaur.

Isa came running from wherever she was playing when she heard Baby Bop's band!
Isa came running from wherever she was playing when she heard Baby Bop’s band!

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Better Not to Feel Inferior Nor Superior

MIRACLES EACH DAY

“You cannot have feelings of superiority and not an enemy make. The same occurs when you would make yourself inferior, and you are always making for yourself a place at one of these extremes. And all this effort and conflict arises simply from your insistence upon being separate.” (ACOL, C:14.3)

Most of us have been caught in the trap of feeling inferior or superior to others, and we suffered as a result. Our feelings of inferiority gave us many moments of sadness and dejection. Our feelings of superiority were often compensation for the inferior feelings—when our ego had had enough of feeling dejected.

Was there any truth to any of this? Absolutely none. We are neither inferior nor superior to any other human being. All of us are, truly, created equal.

It is a particular desire on the part of those on the spiritual path to feel better than others…

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