I can say “we” because y’all know this day is a family affair.
This milestone – wow.
It is the toughest paradox of love: letting go and holding on.
I’m so proud of this girl. She has worked really really hard. She has hiked and sang and ran and studied. She has cried and laughed and prayed and LEARNED SO MUCH. She stumbled and fell and got up many many times. She sailed the ocean blue, was elected school leader, played Belle and freaked out over finance class (the drama runs deep :). I’m so grateful for it all.
I give thanks for a tremendous education, an amazing advisor who not only advised, but fed and loved her. I give thanks to the many fabulous teachers that not only noticed, but SAW her. Cope was born a “faculty brat,” raised on campus with 12 dorm boys until we moved off campus, and has always aspired to walk across this specific stage. The “bittersweet” cliche? Totally true.
This girl made me a mother and I’m in awe of her. There’s the other paradox: the child becomes the teacher.
Brene Brown says the etymology of the word “paradox” captures the heart of what it means to love. Greek origins joins the two words para (contrary to ) and dokein (opinion.) The Latin paradoxum means “seemingly absurd but true.”
Parenting captures that exactly – seemingly absurd but true!
It is seemingly absurd that we are here…but it’s also true. It’s seemingly absurd that my “baby girl” Cope (who was just wearing a onesie!) will not live under our shared roof this fall.
It’s seemingly absurd that I will survive this. But alas, that is true, too.
This day of graduation is a paradox of joy and grief. There is absolutely no control over either one. And I know very well that in life there is no joy without sadness. There is no sadness without experiencing that great joy.
Now excuse me while I go find my tissues. This is a happy day 🙂
“Many people have said to me ‘What a pity you had such a big family to raise. Think of the novels and the short stories and the poems you never had time to write…’ And I looked at my children and I said, ‘These are my poems. These are my short stories.'”
– Olga Masters
Happy Mother’s Day
To all the women doing the raising: you’re doing good work!
My one-word theme for the year, “Simplify” is staring at me from the wall. Personal progress is suspect.
I tell you, simplifying is hard. It means saying No to SO MANY THINGS.
I experienced further angst when reading this stove analogy by humorist David Sedaris on management: “One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work.” The gist…was that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.
Oh dear. This is likely the reason I’ve never qualified for Boston. It’s the reason my great American novel is…well, where exactly is it? On the other hand, I’ve fought very hard for to keep the family fire burning. My friends probably feel very cold #sorry.
Is there any way to keep all four burners successfully lit? By trying to “do it all,” can we ever master anything? Logistically, getting those “10,000 hours” takes much longer. We become “jack of all trades, master of none.” For the select few, like elite athletes, master painters, novelists, and craftsman, cutting off select burners is essential.
But for the rest of us mere mortals? It seems those burners are constantly competing.
Over time I’ve become very aware of this simple fact: saying Yes to one thing means saying No to another.
It’s why my garden looked like this last summer:
My good and faithful garden still delivered tomatoes without much attention
I’ve always been a HUGE proponent of balance until one day, a few years ago, I thought, No, there should not be balance any longer – I’m throwing that out the window! I should choose the most important things in my life and pursue them with a single-mindedness. Everything else should fall to the wayside.
I struggle daily to find the focus. Every night I write out the next-day schedule. I have my “Top Three” priorities. I can tell you that “Write One Hour” is always on the list. Though I’ll be honest, it’s a pitiful five minutes.
I’ve noticed this stove burner thing play out in several different scenarios. If I immerse myself in total family activities/running errands/grocery shopping, “my work” (writing) suffers. If I stay at the computer all day long writing or getting ready to teach a class, I feel horrible for neglecting my children. Most times, “the work” takes the backseat. Sometimes I wonder if that’s the best choice.
Tough choices abound daily. For instance, I want a really clean and organized and perfectly decorated house, but I’ve consciously made the decision to not use my best mental hours to clean. Sometimes this is embarrassing (for every repair and mailman…)
I refuse to get any more chickens, rarely volunteer at school, and won’t make an extra trip to school when kids forget stuff (full disclosure: I still cave.) But darn it, it’s also the reason I can’t seem to get the pictures hung on the wall.
A Personal Manifesto to Keep the Burners Burning Bright:
1. Protect the things that are most important. That means we need TO KNOW what those things are. Make an actual list.
2. Pursue the MOST IMPORTANT things FIRST.
3. Practice the art of saying No. This is particularly hard for women. We like to save the day. But why? Are we trying to be helpful or are we trying to make ourselves feel good? “I’m sorry, I just can’t make that happen right now,” is a muscle that needs to be exercised! When we say NO to something, we are saying YES to something else – like time or family or a hobby – or A NAP!
4. Remember: we choose our own level of busy. I remind myself of this when I see my name next to “feed dinner to 50 cast members.” I CHOSE to put my name there. (why, Amy, why???)
5. Make a decision and than own your choice. There needs be no battle between stay-at-home and working parents. We are all working parents. We are all doing our best to support and raise our families. Individual families require individual decisions. When it comes to one another, I think our only job on this earth is to love one another no matter what. Be confident in your choice. Haters be darned.
6. Stop being a people pleaser. Ugh, I’m such an obliger. Stop it. The End.
7. Learn to delegate. Did you know? In families, 40% of women are the main breadwinners, yet 70% of women still take on the majority of the household tasks. It seems to me that we women want and need help and we resent the fact that our families don’t help more, but if they try to help, they don’t do it the way we would do it. We feel badly when there’s resistance. “Oh no no no, let me get that for you. You sit there while I load the dishwasher, sweep the floor, and kill myself from exhaustion…” puh-lease.
We handicap our children when we don’t let them help. They become literally help-less. My first college roommate left college after a week because independence was so scary. She was scared to walk to class. “Laundry is too overwhelming.” As I sadly said good-bye I remembered scrubbing our kitchen floor as a child and I was finally grateful that I was taught to clean, cook, and wash my own clothes. I wasn’t good at it for a long, long time, but it came. Let the children fail, work and struggle. It’s a gift.
8. Seek guidance through prayer. I believe there is a God who loves us, gives us gifts, and wants us to succeed. Seek Him first and we will know what burners to light.
One last story: the other day I was at a track meet for my daughter. I took a video of another child winning a race and sent it to her mother. Her mother was thankful but I sensed she felt guilty that she wasn’t there, that she had to apologize and explain. Was I making her feel guilty by sending a video? Was I making her feel that I was the better mother because I was the one there? I wanted her to know that I’m not always the one “THERE” either. Next week, I can’t be at the track meet. Another mother or father will take a video of my child running and will send it to me. I may feel guilt but I will fight it. That No means a Yes to someone or something else. And sometimes that’s just the way it has to be.
I used to actually think that when my kids were older, life wouldn’t be so crazy – that life would be easier and might actually slow down…oh, silly rabbit.
Life is going by at warp speed. If our family isn’t incredibly intentional about scheduling time together, we are the ships passing in the night. How easy it is to lose sight of one another. How easy it is to drift.
Paige and I are still joined at the hip. Brynne is in middle school but is slowly weaning herself from my clutches (sob.)
But high school? It’s a whole new world – that often doesn’t include you. With all the wonderful activities, sports, clubs, student government, classes, musicals, and friend time, it’s more like a weekly wave. Weekends, especially Sundays, are sacred, but during the week, more often than not, I’m getting the younger girls to bed when the teens come home. We say hello, how was your day, sorry about the drama, do your homework, see you tomorrow.
In some ways it feels like high school is the beginning of the end – you send them off and just hope and pray you’ve taught them how to behave, keep their pants on, and be kind to others.
This is how I usually see Cope – bye, Mom!
Cope with the backpack I used in high school and college!
But you see, stuff has to get done. Like work applications, scholarships, scouting merit badges, emails sent, college visits, and on and on. And you, as the parent, can’t or shouldn’t do the job. What to do? Remind? Nag? Talk about it incessantly until you see action? It’s exhausting for all parties, and tremendously annoying.
Let’s just say that none of these tactics were helping our relationship.
Note: the time to remind the kids about something isn’t while they’re exiting the vehicle (um, me.)
“Don’t forget to…”
“Yep, Mom, I got it.”
But, hmm. Do they?
But ho – here’s a strategy that’s working REALLY WELL! (an idea from the fabulous Happier podcast featuring Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft.)
A weekly one-hour appointment with the teens. It’s obvious, right? Well, it’s also genius.
At first, the idea was met with skepticism. Cope said, “Uh, honestly mom? I don’t think I have an hour a week for you.” Good thing she laughed after she said it. But she was right – we were having a hard time finding an hour to even have a conversation.
But she penciled me in, and that week we refined some essays, responded to college emails, and got those scholarships sent off. Done. So much relief! And you know what? It was FUN. I also got juicy tidbits of high school life (buzzword: “bralette.”) WIN.
Experimenting with the boy was harder because what we really needed to work on were merit badges and HE DOES NOT WANT TO DO THEM. Me neither.
“Are you ready for our scouting date?” I said in my overly cheerful annoying voice. However, I know the way to the boy’s heart: MEAT.
Thanks for the meat, mom!
It’s the habit of pairing. If boy associates meat and yummy food and positive attention from mom, he’s more likely to cooperate. Total success. We only went half an hour and we got the job done.
On my calendar I now have a weekly note to self: schedule Cope and Nelson hour.
The great thing is they aren’t resisting it. (shhh…I think they might secretly enjoy spending time with me 🙂 )
Schedule a weekly meeting.
Try to be consistent with time and day, but even if it changes, set the appointment before you adjourn so it’s not one and done.
Try REALLY HARD not to nag about scheduled matters during the week. Save it for your date.
Your meeting doesn’t even need to be for things you HAVE TO DO. It could be a walk together or a pedicure, but as time is teaching me: these final moments with our kids under the same roof is Precious Time.
My boy and I didn’t get our hour in this weekend because I was sick and he had homework, but right before we said good-bye this morning he said, “I think we can do our hour tonight.” Oh good, I said, happily surprised. “Maybe you could defrost some meat?”
Check. Hey, whatever it takes, buddy, ’cause I sure do love you.
(Marriage? It also works wonders!)
Let me know how this goes, dear readers. Successes? Failures? Already doing it? I’d love to hear.
While Easter Sunday is what we ultimately celebrate, I came across this quote that made me pause and consider this day, Good Friday: “We must never forget the terrible price paid by our Redeemer, who gave his life that all men might live . . . This was the cross on which he hung and died on Golgotha’s lonely summit. We cannot forget that. We must never forget it, for here our Savior, our Redeemer, the Son of God, gave himself a vicarious sacrifice for each of us.” -Gordan B. Hinckley
Really loving mormon.org this week. So many sad, happy, redeeming, and powerful stories and videos on life and the need for a Savior.
Happy Good Friday, friends! Today’s heartache is what makes the rising so good.
Take yourself to the challenge. If you don’t, the challenge will come to you. It always does. The challenge will WRECK the unprepared.
The girl can run the hills
Do you celebrate lent? In 2014 I first wrote about my lenten experience. I was trying it 40 days before I flew to the base of the Rocky Mountains to run a marathon. Glad that’s over.
This year my brother, Patrick, and I are accountability buddies. There are no marathons in sight. He gave up caffeine: “the first week was rough but I’m feeling better now.” At the moment he’s…struggling. I refuse to accept his defeat. Get back on that Lenten train, buddy!
I gave up some of my addictive technology practices: I can only check phone/email/computer at four specific times a day. Sound easy? Well, it’s not! I’m a chronic user abuser. I get so much email! To stay on top of it, I check when I’m bored, when I’m not bored, when I’m sitting in the dentist’s waiting room, when it’s been over an hour, when I’m waiting for a play to start, etc etc. Since I like to BE PRODUCTIVE ALL THE TIME I feel antsy just sitting. So, this has been a great challenge.
It’s been life-changing, she said dramatically. YES IT HAS. Now. I check email once in the morning before awaking children, once at lunch time, sometimes after dinner, and once after I put the kids to bed. Writing this feels ridiculous because it’s still A LOT. But it’s working. My mind is less frazzled. I feel calmer. I’m getting more important writing done. I’m actually cleaning more. Hallelujah, her husband said.
I even daydream more. I no longer keep my phone by my bed so I can’t reach over and check it when I can’t sleep or want a dopamine hit right before sleeping. I feel like I have so much more time! It’s also led to me deleting emails and unsubscribing to newsletter I just don’t have time to read, leaving only the most important. It’s a really, really good feeling.
I’ve experienced some physical withdrawal symptoms. Where at first my brain was anxious and antsy, feeling the need for a phone hit, only to BE DENIED, I’m now a little more whatever. It can wait.
Thanks to KJ’s advice (of NYT Motherlode column), I installed the app Moment, which tracks the amount of time I’m on my phone (the kids also installed!) and RescueTime on my laptop. Both are free and have completely revolutionized my thinking, time, and productivity.
All because of lent!
Sometimes I’m tempted to cheat – I remember I have to write a really important email RIGHT NOW. So I do something else: I write it down on paper. And on my next tech moment, I write the email. The sky has not fallen yet.
I thought lent it was a Catholic holiday, but actually, it’s a Christian tradition that many different religions practice. I know this because I Googled, “Lent for Dummies.”
I love the idea of lent, of how it can be a holy period that leads up to Easter.
In the Christian tradition, after the great party of Mardi Gras, where everyone sins and has their riotous fun, there is to be 40 days of prayer, repentance, almsgiving, and periods of fasting.
Well, I think we’ve had some riotous fun, and wouldn’t it be nice – and doesn’t the world need – some time for the holy? My heart is breaking for Syria and the people of Allepo. The images of children…aside from donating money, what can I do? I pray mightily. There is great power in prayer. Miracles, even. I have felt them in my own life.
2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.
3 Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground. – Doctrine & Covenants 8
Lent’s significance is supposed to be heightened during the Holy Week leading up to Easter, marking the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
In our house we always celebrate Easter, but I sometimes fear that all my children will remember about Easter are addictive, sugary, pink marshmellow bunnies. Yuck.
But the spirit of lent is something I’m familiar with.
In the Mormon religion, each first Sunday of the month is designated as “Fast Sunday.” This is a time of prayer, scripture, and going without food and water for 24 hours (as health and circumstance permits.) It’s voluntary and, for a society that really likes food – really hard.
I find it most interesting that it is during these hard, hungry days, that clarity often comes.
Why, I wonder, must we suffer to come closer to the divine? All I know, is that as we descend, we are somehow lifted. It just works.
This year the calendar says that lent began on Ash Wednesday, March 1 and ends on Thursday,
April 13. I know this because The Idiot’s Guide to Lent told me.
In my 2014 post, my friend, Julia wrote in the comments:
I am Catholic, and I must say you covered the bases pretty well. We fast so that we can make more room for God in our lives. In my house, we always give up sweets/desserts for Lent. I call it detox. Now that the kids are older, they are feeling the sacrifice more. (Example: 12 year old daughter gets into van after school yesterday and says, “Sebastian brought cupcakes to school for his birthday.” Glare. “And for pi day on Friday (celebrating that wonderful mathematical construct) everyone is bringing in pies.” Another, more venomous, glare. I smile. “It’s not supposed to be easy,” I say. This sacrifice is supposed to turn our dependence back to God and away from worldly things, or worse, our own sense of accomplishment. It should bring challenges that will make us better people. I hope. The Catholic Church also encourages Christians to use this time for increased prayer and works of charity- anything that will increase the amount of love in the world. Goodness knows we need it! I’m also trying to fast from worry. Pretty hard for this mama.
Just love this.
We give up something good for something better. This is the true meaning of sacrifice. And in a world that hates to be uncomfortable and has become increasingly more self-centered, we could use a bit more sacrifice. For our family, our marriages, our neighbors. Ironically, it ultimately benefits our own selves.
So. Have you taken yourself to the challenge? My daffodils have:
2. Pax by Sara Pennypacker. Middle grade, especially recommended for the kids (and adults) who love anthropomorphic animal stories (which I don’t normally gravitate towards.)
3. Eloise Wilkin Stories. Oh, the hand-drawn and painted baby faces, the chubby hands, cheeks, and legs. Simply exquisite. I snatched this at a children’s book exchange…for myself. My admiration for Wilkin was cemented after reading her children’s tribute to their mother. Their love is palpable as they wrote of their enormously talented and creative mother.
4. On Living, by Kerry Egan. Nonfiction. Really, really good. As a hospice chaplain, Egan writes of the “spiritual work of dying.” Sound depressing? It’s not at all! So much wisdom here.
5. A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. Nonfiction. That Capote character is an intriguing chap. Capote was Harper Lee’s childhood friend (he was who “Dill” was based off of). Jealous of Lee’s success and her “little bird book,” he was a great writer in his own right. And so very very odd. Here’s a look at his rural Alabama upbringing. It’s good!
6. Still Life by Louise Penny. An adult mystery. I realized about 3/4 of the way through I’d already read it. The writing is good, but was easy for me to put down.
7. The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon. The Professor looooved this. I liked it. The year is 1968. Lynnie is developmentally slow and therefore deemed “undesirable.” Locked away in an institution, she falls in love with Homan, an African American deaf man. This is their love story. Some of our American history is so appalling.
8. Waiting for Augusta by Jessica Lawson. I LOVED this book. Favorite middle grade read in a long time. I’ve enjoyed all of Jessica’s books, but this one especially. The voice is pitch perfect, making me laugh out loud, and also want to cry (my perfect combo.) I envy her use of language and found myself dog-earring pages to study a turn of phrase. It begins: “Eleven-year-old Benjamin Putter has a lump in his throat, and he’s certain it’s a golf ball…?” With a subplot of race relations, it’s tells the story of one boy’s journey to find his father’s love.
9. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. As a lover of all thing Jodi Picoult, this ranks as a favorite. It hurt my heart, made me cry, feel ashamed, offended, offensive, uncomfortable, happy, and sad. A page-turner of a book about race in America. Destined to become a book club favorite. Read it. And may we all do better.
Are you participating in the Goodreads Challenge? It’s fun! My goal is 50 books this year and I’m on track, baby!
What I’m Watching:
1. Mercy Street. LOVE it. This series is so well-made and written, it’s got me reading about typhoid in the civil war HERE, and a Behind the Lens HERE. Mercy Street is a civil war medical drama, and it’s got it all – love, loss, betrayal, redemption, jealousy, historical complexities, race, war, amputations (we’ve come so far in the medical field). There’s blood and some seriously realistic surgeries, but it’s so clean and SO GOOD. PBS, can you do no wrong? I think not. (Free on Amazon Prime.)
1. Ed Sheerhan’s new album, Divide. What a great album! My favorites (on repeat and downloaded for my recent running race): Perfect, Galway Girl, Dive, Happier, Supermarket Flowers (sob!), Nancy Mulligan.
And now, do tell – what are you reading, watching, and listening to these days?
We are stuck in a cozy Comfort Inn in Vermont after trying to make it home in Winter Storm Stella. I love it. The Professor looked around our room and said, “we really know how to to explode into a hotel room.”
Our room smells like Chinese food and socks.
I finished reading, SMALL GREAT THINGS by Jodi Picoult. It’s an unputdownable story about race in America. Really important stuff that many of us have the luxury of not thinking about. We need to think about it.
We are now watching, Thor. It’s so bad. Or is that just me?
We went to a water park and had loads of fun. I’m trying not to think, “this will be the last time we have a get-away before Cope is in college.” Again, trying not to think!
Our friendly little basketball game turned into underwater wrestling, elbows, and a headlock. We’re not competitive or anything.
We enjoyed a lazy river while the blizzard raged outside.
We are enjoying two new games: “Oh, Snap!” and “Taboo” (thanks, Kim!)
Our dear friend, Eric, passed away today after a three-year battle with ALS. It’s a terrible disease, but he and his family battled with such optimism and dignity. There were so many times I thought, “there is no way I could let someone help me the way he is letting me help him.” Eric was always so patient with me and everyone else, whether it was helping him use the bathroom or suctioning out his mouth so he could swallow. There have been many many tears, and yet I am grateful that I was allowed to be part of the pain. The pain now is because of all the love we feel for a remarkable family. Eric never shied away from talking about the hard stuff. He knew he was going to die. He helped all of us look it right in the eye and then that great storm Stella came calling for him. The last thing I said to him was, “I’ll see you on the other side,” and he said, “Yep.” And I believe that’s true.
We are all growing up, aren’t we? The kids are getting older. Life is going by so fast, and yet “Life is long for those who know how to use it.” – Seneca. Trying to use it well. To be happy with the time we have.
This is one of the most popular recipes ever published by the New York Times, courtesy of Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery, who designed this bread as a minimalist technique for anyone who wants to bake a fantastic loaf of bread.
Let me tell you – it’s fantastic. And works every single time.
It is SO good and SO easy to make that I’ve made enough loaves to open a small bakery. Except we gobble it up too quickly to sell.
I like to do this in the morning or at night and than leave it alone for a day or two. Takes 5-10 minutes.
This recipe guarantees: soft and airy on the inside and chewy delicious on the outside.
Three ingredients: flour, yeast, salt, and water. Stir.
That’s it. The dough will be wet and shaggy. Cover with plastic wrap for12-18 hours. Here is where the science comes in. Your dough needs to rest for a long time to allow the gluten to become long elastic molecules – the reason for no kneading.
You’re going to bake using a covered dutch oven (or cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic.)
A covered dutch oven? Yes, this crust needs a lid to bake. The Professor gifted me with this beauty and I absolutely adore it. You can cook soups and stew on the stove and bake puffed pancakes and bread in the oven; it’s my most favorite kitchen item!
Unlike the New York Times recipe, I use parchment paper. The advantage is you simply lift up the paper (with the bread on it) and place in pre-heated dutch oven.
Baby loaves. Which cook more like a four-leaf clover. Package it up all pretty if you like. Deliver warm. And you’ll have friends for life.
The New York Times No-Knead Bread*
3cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4teaspoons salt
1 5/8 cups water (5/8 is just barely shy of 2/3 cup!)
In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water (warm or cold,) and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
Dough is ready when doubled and bubbly. Heat oven to 450. Place dutch oven in the oven.
Lightly flour a work surface or parchment paper. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to your fingers, work dough into a ball and onto the floured surface. Sprinkle with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Let rest about 30 minutes (OR longer – NYT lets it rest for 2 hours!) When dough is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
Remove hot pot from oven. Carefully pick up parchment paper and place in heated dutch oven. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake another 10ish minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Eat and realize that life is beautiful because of warm bread.