I started this blog, almost two years ago, to try to find myself, again.

I wonder…Am I still looking?

Am I lost or am I found?

I read, the other day, of another writer’s re-beginning, diving in, reaching deeply for the roots.

I imagine the roots which hold us down. Which call out in whispers, or in tears. The roots which sometimes lie exposed and raw, upon the barren ground. Little parts of us, so clear to any passerby, to see, to trip upon, to re bury, or to cut away carelessly.

Was I looking for the roots too? Was I looking to uncover them and polish the edges to a brilliant sheen? Or was I looking to see if they were even there? Was there still something left of the me I used to be?

Before the children, before the house chores and parental tasks of life, before the chickens and cats and bunnies. Was I looking for who I was before I even fell in love, and broke my cocoon to emerge, here, with strong, but dainty wings. Or was I looking for the caterpillar, the egg, or the leaf upon which it was hatched?

What I have found is sometimes translucent and perfectly clear, other times a charade of camouflage. I found the busy flap and flutter and glittering of gossamer wings, almost always going, going. I found I want to fly, to soar, to dip into the beauty. I found a desire for more, a yearning to reach higher to the crystal blue sky and beyond. But also the need to constantly feed myself with the curled tongue of organized adventure.

I also found the alarm of the ever on-guard antenna, hyper-aware of the taste and scent of any danger. Ready to curl it all into a little ball, thought to be invisible to the world. This, beside the striking contrast of the giddy and welcoming sweetness of the sun, and beauty of the fruits of life. I found I am always probing the world, to see which extreme will over power the specific moments of the day.

There is still much more to find, to hear and to see, and many flowers I have yet to visit. Perhaps ones that I have seen before, but in a different form. I still have much to learn, of myself and the world. I am still learning to let go of the cocoon, which I made so well, and that has kept me safe, but also held me back from seeing what else of me there is to be. I have but now to pause, in the fluttering, to see the deeper beauty and strength that lies within, and rests upon the root.


Mother’s hands

As a child, I remember the soothingly cool touch of my mothers hands. Her palm on my forehead calmed me, made me feel it was all okay. As she smoothed back my hair, tucked me into my covers, or held my hand while we walked, her smooth, cool palm eased my little anxious soul. 

When she read to us, at bed time, I would study her hands holding the book. I remember how different our hands looked, mine were small, clear, and usually dirty, while hers had road maps of the story of her life. There was so much written there:  tending of a homestead gardens and farm, hours of writing and schoolwork, the words they said in the fluid language of ASL, her nails always cut short and clean – a small bit of self care all mothers need to remember. The backs of her hands were soft, worn, creased and lined. Yes, they were more wrinkly than my ‘new’ hands; I didn’t see that as a draw back but as a meaningful asset. Her wrinkles were love, attention, and the outcome of the value of hard work: beautiful. Her hands told her story, her hands were the well known tale of her life. She talked with her hands. 

Today, when I look at my own hands, I see the bumps and the creases, the star indentations in the skin, and the canyons on my fingers made by my rings. I see the skin shiny and stretched thin over my knuckles when I flex my fingers, and the multitude of wrinkles and creases when I flatten my hand on my lap. And I am reminded of my mother when I was young, her soft, cool, and confident hands, that soothed away my fears. Reflecting on my wrinkles, I see hands that have changed many diapers, cleaned up many toys, and folded mountains of laundry. But I also see hands that have soothed cuts and bruises and burns, fingers that have gently held tinier fingers gripped tightly learning to walk, and hands that have slowly worked out many knots and tangles.

My hands are not my mothers, though they are similar. Her hands tell the story of her life, her worries, her scars and her triumphs. My hands tell my journey; they reflect where I am in my life today. Often my nails have chipped, peeling nail polish, put on by my eight year manicurist. Dirt lingers beneath every nail that is long enough, remnants of my day working. The backs of my hands usually are scratched or scrapped from caring for the animals, bringing in firewood, or fighting rose bushes. My hands also bare the scars of my life: a deep scratch from a piece of metal in 7th grade, a small line were the kitchen knife slipped, another thicker line is a gouge from building a box with my husband for the girls Christmas present. And on each of my ring fingers, a ring of love from my partner. This is my story, my tale to be told.

In my children’s growing memories, I wonder what will be the calming, soothing, and gentle from their childhood. I hope they remember the coats zipped and mittens tucked, the tears wiped and the bandages applied, the silly stories told with extreme and elegant gestures, and the hands held while we wait for the bus or anticipation of a shot. But perhaps they will remember something different, like my smile, my laugh, my arms, or my lap. I am sure they will remember and reflect on different moments, as we all do as we grow. 

For me, in my reflecting and remembering, it is my mother’s hands that hold the memories of gold. 

Reflecting from the edge

The month proceeding my ninth birthday I was quite sure I would never actually turn the magical age of nine. I was too small, too short, too little. (I also was thoroughly convinced I was going to die from hic-ups, and I desperately feared I was in dire need of dreaded braces, neither of which came to fruition.)  

This month, proceeding my 39th birthday, I have had a similar feel of the dreaded edge of reality: it is too big, to old, to far in life to not have accomplished more. (Now, I am thoroughly convinced, there is not enough time in the day for sleep, and why, oh why, do my children pine for braces!)

Nine, the last step before the new decade, the time to wrap it all up and start over again fresh with a zero, the edge of the precipice, of the next leg of our journey through life. It is not quite as monumental as the big 10, or giant 40, of the next coming year, but still carries an immense amount of weight and pressure.

Back when I was a kid, 40 was OLD, really OLD, well not grandparent old, but really truly an adult old. Somebody at 40 was halfway to the end of their life, 40 was well into a career and heading toward retirement. Forty was gray beards, wrinkles knees, and boring clothes. Those were the responsible adults, doing boring things like reading chapter books or playing cards in the evening by lamp light, after I went to bed. 

Now, I am not the kid and 40 is not the end, or anywhere near. Forty is an adult making choices and decision that are good for the family as well as for the individual. It is no longer the crazy reckless 20s or the finding your self 30s, 40 is an adult with adult responsibilities like mortgage and car payments, jobs and children’s sporting practice schedules. 

Without really meaning to this past month, I have been making these adult lists in my head of what I have or haven’t accomplished in my previous 38.11 journeys round the sun. I have regressed to the eight year old mind and found myself lacking something needed to turn 39. I cannot quite put my finger on it yet, but there is a nagging feeling that this, this year is a big birthday (or it SHOULD be at least). 

Thirty-nine is too big, and I have not done enough, accomplished enough, saved enough, travelled enough. What do I have to show for the last 30 years? Have I lived up to my nine year old dreams of what an adult is and does? No. I have not. But, were those dreams and imaginings too far fetched, perhsps. Do I have my dream career, well underway and turning the corner towards retirement? Do I have 2 children, a dog and a cat, and live in a beautiful house with a big yard, beautiful garden and white picket fence. No. No, I do not. 

What I do have, is a wonderful family full of love and laughter, as well as our share of frustrations and fights (and more than enough eye rolling and heavy sighing, these days). Our house is a home, and well lived in at that (perhaps we could do with less laundry and junk piles). We have a good boat that runs,and cute little camper for excursions, and everyone at least, has their own space in the small house. 

But there still is something nagging me, something tugging at my psyche in the wee hours of the night. I have accomplished college, and a career or two, and gone in many directions. I have as Miss Rumphius taught “gone to far away places and come back to live by the sea…and I have made the world a more beautiful place.” So what, what is it I am afraid of, what is the sadness, the fear, the unrest about? 

Today was a particularly rough day with raging emotions (from most of the females in the house). And in the guise of shutting the chickens for the evening, I sat to contemplate this vast question at the edge of my garden and yard. (Perhaps it was the rain sprinkling or allergies acting up, as I when I returned to the house I had a red blotchy face, wet cuffs on my sweater and a salty taste upon my lip.) Coming into my house on the hill, I found two out of three children setting the table, stirring the dinner, straightening the living room, and hanging up their wet towels from tubing. The cat was fed and purring at my feet, and the bunnies were happily munching fresh grass. Things were not perfect (‘nobody is perfect’ say my three little parrots) but they were okay. There was tension, but there was life and there was love. At grace we said thank you for the love, thank you for the family, thank you for the food grown with love and prepared with love. There were still eye rolls and deep sighs, and a few tense thoughts held on back burners. But there was love.

And as we sat for a (most of the family) family game, I got it. I knew what the question was I had been asking myself. And even better, I knew the answer.

Do I know what I am doing and why? No. No, I do not. And that is okay.

Happy birthday to me.

Within the moments of a cold

Today my twelve year old was home sick with a cold. Not a flu, or a horrible illness like Scarlet Fever or Pneumonia, just a slow down your day and clog up your head cold. This means that today, I was home, not working my paying job, still working for sure, but not to buy groceries and pay electric bills. 

I remember once, when I was in high school, perhaps 17, being sick and stuck at home. I remember my mom moved me to the spare bedroom and set up a tv for me to watch. I remember feeling sad, and alone as she drove my little sister off to preschool, went to get groceries and in my mind, continued on her daily life with little regard for the fact that I lay ‘dying alone.’ (Obviously, I did not die, it was just a mild case of the either the measles or the mumps, as a reaction to my booster shot before going off to college. And I am sure, my mother was not going about her daily life ignoring her middle daughter, but in fact buying me apple sauce and cream of wheat, the only foods I would eat.)

Today, I left my eldest daughter to take her little sisters to school, to stop at a weekly moms group for a quick hello, and to go to the grocery store to buy her vitamin C, tissues, and more chicken soup. I did leave her with a tray of food, hot tea, a couple books and her iPhone. And I did check in with her electronically while I was out, several times.

Still, I felt a pang of sorrow, sadness, and remorse as I was driving home, since I was gone longer than I had anticipated. She did not mind. She did not get out of bed or need anything while I was gone. She did not want to move down stair. She did not want to accompany me to bring lunch to her father around noon. She was fine. I guess I was fine.

So I made grand plans: wash, dry and fold six loads of laundry; sort through their winter clothes and replace them with the spring ones; clean out the book shelves; rearrange the kitchen cabinets; maybe even muck out the chicken stalls and clean the bunny house. I did not. 

I did get lunch to my husband, and check in with work to let them know I will be there in full force tomorrow. I did make a pot or two of tea, and a lovely chicken noodle soup. I did put one load through the laundry. 

But most of all, I did reach out to my daughter, a second time. When I returned from my lunch duties, I went and sat with my daughter and suggested we go out to sit in the warm spring sunshine. I did bring her a fresh made salad and afternoon tea. And I did connect with her, but not in the way I thought.

She and her sisters play Mindcraft. I have tried and failed to full grasp how to move and build and create, but they build towns, farms, castles. She asked me if I could help her with what might be in a barn. I suggested stalls, a hay loft, perhaps some windows for light. She meant would I help build these things. Hmmm…

She got me set up, using her little sister’s iPod while she was on her iPhone and together we built a farm. We added three stalls and shelves for food and supplies, trap doors and a hay loft, a small side room with a bed for the stable hand (or us), we made a pig pen and a sheep coral with a lean-to. All the while laughing harder than I have laughed in a long time. I was “almost as helpful as a three year old on a real farm” she said. I couldn’t open or close doors and gates, definitely still working on climbing ladders, accidentally put holes in walls, fences and ceilings, and lost 20 sheep when I tried to plant new grass. But we had fun. We laughed. We rolled almost off the bed, tears streaming down our faces as she tried to help me, to help her. She was animated and engaged, happy and light, definitely still congested but filled also with love and contentment.

After two hours, I had to return to school to retrieve her sisters. This time, she was rather sad to see me go, and for the game  to end. But her spirit was renewed and soared for the afternoon. I returned to find her up and dressed, all packed for a dance run through scheduled for later in the afternoon, and having made herself tea and reheated the soup. She met us in the driveway with smiles and open arms. Well on the road to recovery from the food medicine of laughing with Momma.

We connected and it was good. A good day spent. 

There might be bandits

“We’re hiding under the blankets, cause there might be bandits.” Two of the  three little lumps in the biggest  sister’s bed poke their scarf covered heads out, playing they are lost on the prairie, chased to the wildness, hunting for food, orphans fighting for survival, before breakfast.

I want to wrap them in hugs and keep them together forever, just like this moment. Because yes, my sweet dears, there might be bandits. The world is big and scary and full of bandits, and bad guys, of so many types, kinds and manner. The bandits are real, but in disguise, and hard to spot until it is too late. Hiding seems like a good idea, but reality is, we must stand up and fight the bandits. We must face our fears, face the world and carve out our own valley of calmness and serenity in the big, wide, crazy world. And it is time to get up and dressed, and ready to go to a play date so I can go to work, while you play with more small friends in the cocoon of childhood.

The eldest is on the verge of the abyss of the big wide world, testing her toe here and there to judge the temperature of the ‘real world’, the world outside of this bunk, outside of this house, outside of this family. She will lead her sisters, and me as well, through mazes and tunnels, and past many bands of bandits. There will be hideouts, encampments, and many battles within our small group, as well as with the many other ‘bandits’ we will encounter.  And eventually, she will emerge on the other side, a grown woman of her own. 

The middle one walks the line between big and little, most often playing the joker, lightening the game with giggles and laughter. She follows her big sister with the unwavering pledge of allegiance of the second born to Her rules, Her games, and Her ideas. Until the days and moments  when she doesn’t want to follow ANY MORE. Then my middle lashes out on her own, forging her own path across the wide river of trials and tribulations of childhood (who will play the princess, who will be the queen, how to properly build a fort, and when to stop for snacks). The time is coming, sooner than I would like, when she too, dips her toes into the turbulent waters of ‘real life’ beyond my world of mothering protection. 

And of course, following closely behind is the littlest. Happy to play the baby, the one who needs to be carried, and dressed, and who makes horrible whining sounds in an attempt to replicate the crying baby. A strong spitfire, she does not follow for as long as the middle child, tending instead to challenge the eldest and reshape the whole game to her favor. Always near the edge of break down, especially when she is hungry, and feels so strongly wronged, (how could her sisters not see that she was really hurt and that was a real cry!!?). She is the deepest in the cocoon of childhood, but yet much less than her sisters were at that tender age of almost eight. She has the privilege as well as the burden of experience beyond her years as she tots along in the shadow of her sisters. At night, when putting her to bed, I am reminded she is still truly small, and  innocent and needing reassurance and comfort.  She still needs the calm moments of cuddles, as these bandit games perhaps are pushing the reality/fantasy border as she is still in the beginning stages of emerging from the dreamlike state of early childhood.

We will all head off for the day, toward the bandits. I will face the big  world bandits of work, bills, obligation and deadlines; and they will face the bandits of childhood: time, growing responsibilities, and the approaching tween years.

Some things never change

Several years ago, I started a web site, a blog and a home business. At the time my three children were barely in school full time. I have recently revisited this old blog and find myself laughing and completely relating. Here is one so such story which could have just been written yesterday!
Super lip gloss from Busy Bee Momma

Super Lip Gloss: 3/30/2013

Maine winters can be cold, but also dry. In our house we constantly have a wood stove chugging out heat 24/7. And at least three times a day I refill the black cast iron pot, that has made a permanent water ring on the stone stove. With three little people we also have many Chapsticks, but usually none to be found when you need it. If I thought to look in the toy box, the sofa cushions or the puzzle cupboard I might find ten. But usually I look on the kitchen counter, the bathroom accessories tray, or my purse. If I were to find one in any of these places, it would most likely not only be slightly mutilated, but also probably some very strange flavor like chocolate fudge, or strawberry-kiwi, or razzle-dazzle sparkle berry. None of which really appeals to me for putting on my face, directly under my nose, or to be seen in public with that much color or sparkly lip bling. 

After making it through one winter month with my own lips very dry and those of my children cracking and looking painful, I decided to stash a secret Chapstick in the kitchen. I found a spot nobody but me would think to look because of its height. It is slightly above the kitchen sink, on a small corner shelf that is eye level to me, and me only. It is too low to catch my husband’s attention and way out of the little people’s reach. Behind a decorative beer stein on this shelf, I stashed a plain black wrappered Chapstick. Now, when I see the children’s lips starting to dry and harden, I can sneak out the hidden stash, apply it myself to the affected daughter, and then quickly return it to the spot behind the beer stein. It is also there for those times when I might need a little lip healing before the corners of my mouth crack while trying to bite into my lunch in February. 

This has worked for most of the winter. But one day I was applying some nice plain, unflavored or colored Chapstick to my own self when I noticed the end was near. The bottom knob would turn and turn, but the top was not going to advance any further. For very selfish reasons, we made a stop at the local five and dime drug store on the way home from school that day. I bought everybody more Chapstick! There was green and red and blue tubes, enough for all the girls to each have one, and me as well. Obviously, their Chapsticks were flavored or sparkly, while mine was plain original, again. But for some reason, completely unbeknownst to my consciousness, I put my Chapstick into my jeans pocket, just like my three girls did.

Later that week, I remembered. And I needed something for my lips which were, of course, starting to dry out with a coming cold caught from one of my small germ factories. This is after many loads of laundry, many sittings on the couch, and plenty of going here, there and everywhere. Surprisingly, my Chapstick was not to be found; not in any pocket, bedside stand, kitchen countertop, crayon box, dollhouse or in any of the multitude of small purses that find their way to our house. I did find a green minty Chapstick, which worked well, but was a little spicy, actually. It did the trick for the time being, but would not replace my plain black wrapper. After using the green mint version, I left it on the living room coffee table for the children to find, and then argue over whom it actually, originally belonged to, and who was going to now lay full claim to owning and not sharing.

For the next week I fought off the mid-winter cold threatening to crack my lips. And I fought to find that replacement Chapstick I had bought. But I didn’t. Instead, I fixed several cracked teacups with superglue and loaded the whole family up with vitamin C to ward off the impending cold. The glue held, and the cups were filled with soothing tea that helped to cure the colds and the add steam to the dry winter air. 

Several weeks later, I absentmindedly reached for Chapstick in my old hiding spot. It had not magically returned itself, but I did find a tube of cracked lip sealer. The superglue.

Have I learned anything in these past three years? Have I increased the number of available lip balms in my secret spot? Have I started keeping multiple hiding spots? Have the children become more aware of putting things back  when they finish using them? Here it is midwinter once again. The season of seriously chapped lips is upon us with the bitter cold, sub-zero days. Have things changed? No, no they have not. (Although my personal choice in lip balm has changed brand.)  

local made, mom-business lip balm has replaced Chapstick

I still keep my lip balm in the same place, and just last week I found it strangely missing. This time, it was found in my jeans pocket as I had taken it to work. But today, I have once again lost MY lip balm and had to use bubblegum pink Baby Lips. And although my lips were pink and I had a strange yearning for Bubblicious, they were still dry.

But, I do now know where to look for a quick replacement or replenishment of my stash, that fourth (big) child has his own stash of Chapstick in his desk drawer at work.