Remember 4

We had been married for four months. We had moved three times (another memory). Marc had moved from Starbucks barista to an admissions counselor at our college. And I was knee deep in my senior year.

Part of Marc’s glamorous job responsibilities as admissions counselor was to visit and recruit from his territory – Ohio. So the time came. Our first significant time apart since our wedding.

I don’t remember feeling terribly apprehensive or nervous about this separation. We were busy enough that I imagine it must have been more a matter of course – but this is through the lens of 25 years of his travelling for one thing or another. Maybe I have forgotten. But what I do remember about this trip is spending a night or two or three with his mother and sister in the condo at Old Orchard Beach Maine. The main living room faced out into the ocean. It was fall and I think our days were surrounded in endless grays and whites in the sky and Atlantic.

I remember cooking. I remember sitting on the couches under heavy knit afghans as we all worked on knitting projects ourselves. We watched either Pride and Prejudice (BBC, 1995) or Anne of Green Gable followed by Anne of Avonlea – either way it was VHS style binge-watching.

I remember being warm and not alone. That first time Marc travelled.

Remember 3

Our college required attendance at chapel. Most of the time, this was fine. A large percentage of the community gathered together (I liked our community) and the speakers and leaders were gifted.

I remember I was in a class with Marc’s (Beloved and Revered) academic advisor that met immediately after chapel at the other end of the campus on the top floor at the end of a hallway in an old castle. And it was during this brief transition time between the chapel service and Old Testament Prophets class that Marc decided to propose.

The proposal itself wasn’t exactly a surprise. We had been talking about the direction we thought our relationship was headed, and even about the timeline. But the actual location and timing was a surprise.

Here is how it happened:
Our chaplain had been doing a series called “God’s will for your life, one wife or two’. It was a pastoral (and humorous) look at Free Will and PreDestination. There were robots and stuffed frogs involved, if I remember correctly. At the end of the chapel service, as we all rose and began collecting our things, Marc looked around and saw “All the people I want to be with me when I propose are here”. His sister, my roommate, dear friends.

So he knelt (I think on the pew, not between the pews) and pulled a blue satin pouch with Hindi lettering on it out of his pocket. (He had bought the diamond in Calcutta where we had been on a missions trip just weeks before!) and asked me to marry him. I remember saying yes. He remembers me saying “I’m going to be late for class”.

Either way, his sister screamed “I just got a new sister” and my roommate screamed “my roommate just got engaged” and the chaplain (who had been mentoring us in our dating relationship with his wife) wondered if maybe he should have done an altar call.


The tradition at our college was to ring a bell to announce the engagement to the whole campus. So after we accepted congratulations, we hustled to The Bell and rang it. (Once or more, I don’t remember.)

“The Bell”


Then we hurried me to class. Where I was late. And I have no idea what I learned that day. But I am beginning to understand what I signed up for with a yes that day and continue to be learning with my best friend over the course of the years to come.

Remember 2

I’m not sure which came first – the horse drawn surry with the fringe on top clomping through the high school cafeteria in small-town Maine or sitting in a Boston theater with my Aunt and Uncle and some cousins experiencing “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. Both happened before fourth grade. Both still evoke a gut-rooted delight showing up as a dimpled grin on my face.

I remember my first On Broadway Broadway show, when we were working on Long Island (“Footloose”, thank you Rob Wenner). Most days I could barely believe that we lived so close to NYC. And here we were going to a show that I would only have ever seen on the Macy’s Day parade. I remember taking both sets of our parents to see “The Music Man” – reliving my high school performance as an extra, and crying at the end of each performance with perfect satisfaction. And then Marc and I took an overnight to see “Phantom of the Opera” when I was 8 months pregnant with Anna, and this included my first domestic bicycle rickshaw ride.

I remember taking the kids to their first touring Broadway Show in SC – “Anna and the King”. We pulled off a total surprise going to a conversation series offered by the theater telling them it was so we could hear from some of the actors and technicians of the show. Then, we pulled out the tickets and hustled to the main theater for the whole shebang. We have gone to several more shows since that first one – each feeling like a Christmas morning surprise.

Wicked, 2020

And now I will get to remember taking the girls to their first On Broadway Broadway show in NYC. I had only ever written this desire on my secret “Wouldn’t it be amazing if I got to do this with or for my kids” list. I’m not sure if I enjoyed the performance or the act of making the experience happen more.

Live performance, live music, live theater, live musical theater fills my deep Self. A perfect blend of story, entertainment, music; an ensemble seen and unseen combining their best selves to create a Whole; exaggerated gestures, colors, conversations that lap onto the coloring page I carry with me into each performance. Professional and polished or in a high school of earnest, hopeful cast-members – I adore it.

Remember 1

This year I am challenging myself to remember and write about 52 things. I have called it a Remember52 challenge in my mind and on my to-do lists. I’m choosing #remember52 for myself because I spend so much time wondering what to write about that I just don’t. And being in a season of increasing significant transition (and hopefully self-discovery), remembering seems just write.

My Wish, 1980

I don’t hold to many possessions too tightly. We’ve moved too many times for that. But this is something I have treasured for myself at least since we got married, maybe earlier, I don’t know. It is shocking to me how this little naive wish has yet to find a peaceful resolution. My first Remember52 coincides with a tense global climate with someone being killed, some bombs being sent in retaliation, an airliner ‘accidentally’ being shot down.

As my daughter prepared for high school finals, I remember studying for my high school midterms with Wanda and her family as they heard that her cousin was to be deployed. I remember friends losing friends and family. I remember trying to get off of Long Island on 9/11 with a 2yo Caleb and a not yet pronounced but almost certain Anna within.

But of this framed piece, I remember sitting around a warm evening meal, my family holding hands. God is great, God is good, let us thank God for this food. Or some other child’s dinner prayer. We never said PS. But we always added “and please help there be peace in the Middle East”. Amen.

I didn’t know where or what the Middle East were. I probably didn’t even know East, yet. If I’m honest, I still have very little grasp of what, where, or who the Middle East are. But we prayed every night, for peace. And we still are. In fact, I’m guessing I have a pretty narrow understanding of what, where, and who Peace is, how it is brought.

Is peace captured in one of the first essays of a second grader – a midyear version of ‘what I did this summer’? I remember struggling with this assignment because I knew that it wasn’t quite right to wish for material things for myself. I didn’t want to let on that I really wanted a particular doll or book or some other toy (though I remember that that was the year I got a beautiful full series box set of Little House on the Prairie books that I still have). I remember where I sat – in a row where I could stare out the window. I remember Ms. Heal read Charlotte’s Web out loud to us that year – and she did it just right. I remember my classroom was across the hall from my first grade classroom at Ella P. Burr Elementary School. Ms. Fogg was my first grade teacher. It was her mother who penned the calligraphy piece.

All of our My Wish essays were hung in the hall. Was there a parents night or some other open house? Who were the hallway bulletin boards decorated for? They were up too high for me to see and read. Maybe elementary teachers decorate some bulletin boards to encourage and amuse themselves and each other.

I had no idea that weather patterns wouldn’t cease fighting and war. I knew that when it rained or snowed in my life, things stopped. We stayed home and were family. Sometimes treats were baked and served. It was quiet. Less interrupted than usual. Together.

Maybe I wasn’t wishing for weather patterns. Maybe I was wishing for peace.

51

I finished reading fifty-one books in 2018. 51. I know this because I counted up how many I had read on January 2, 2019. I know this because for the first time in (ever??), I kept a log of what I was reading or listening to as an audio book.

I don’t know if I read more than ‘usual’. I know that at some point in 2018 I found myself remembering how much I used to love to read, and that I thought that was a core value and rather a part of me. I wanted to reconnect with my ReaderSelf, and meet my new, more MatureReaderSelf.

booklog2018
BookLog2018

My favorite new-to-me author from this year is Ursula K. LeGuin. I read the entire Earthsea series and began her book
Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places  . I will begin reading her Hainish Cycle books this year.

I am continuing to keep a Book Log in 2019. It is a little more creative than ‘just a list’. This year I will count up how much I have read a little more often and BEFORE the new year so if I have time to read one more so that I can say ‘on average, I read a book a week’, you better believe that I will. And this year I am also making accommodation for the magazines and journals that I love to subscribe to but have a difficult time cracking open and actually reading.

This is one of the ‘habits and hobbies’ that I am exploring as we begin the long, slow transition from parents of Young Adults to parents of Older Young Adults to Independent Young Adults. While the season is traditionally seen as a time of letting go, I am also working to pursue it as a season of pulling in things that previously needed to be put down.

“Small Talk”

*** This post found it’s origin in February, 2016. Today, I am dusting it off and loving the challenge it gives me today as much as it did two, um, three years ago. ***

In Sunday School yesterday, we were talking about some of the Jewish feasts and festivals. We looked at the calendar of remembrances and were thinking about how as an agrarian society these observances would be experienced. We talked about living life along a lunar calendar. We considered how our prayers would be for the favor of weather, growing, and harvesting conditions.

In a moment of daydreaming, I was in any number of conversations I have had through life when I would criticize (to myself) how ‘all she seems to talk about is the weather’. Entirely arrogant and lacking grace in my observation, I would judge weather conversations as ‘small talk’ and puff myself up with a snobbish pride about being the deeper, more real kind of person.

But as the daydream changed mental channels, I was dressed more like Laura Ingalls and listening to Pa talk about the weather. I was a farmer’s wife listening to her husband’s concern about the rain and wet that never had time to dry out between rain storms. I was a matriarch watching her sons and grandsons toil in dust.

And I realized that for most of our days as people, weather has been anything but Small Talk. It has been a matter of survival and prosperity. It has been a topic full of hope or worry. It has been a very REAL, very important conversation.

(I recognize that there are some today who still live with agrarian reality in their back yard. But many of us don’t. And even for those who do depend on their garden, my reality is that if the tomatoes don’t grow we can just buy some, somewhere. But this isn’t a post about vegetables or gardening or first world privilege.)

I realized that our language hasn’t caught up with our daily needs or our new reality as post industrial/technological people. I don’t know what an equivalent might be – how is your internet speed? gas mileage? relationship with co-workers or boss?
Our experiences are so much more varied and individual, how do we find a common ground question like ‘weather’.

Am I going to take the risk to push into awkward vulnerability with everyone I meet? (How’s your bank account holding up? How about that retirement account?) Probably not – who am I kidding, of course not. But I will instead begin to see that conversation about weather has a much deeper root in our common history. While I navigate this fractious and frightening time in our communities, and as I seek first to understand (others and) what is our common language, I will take shelter in knowing that like a good soaking rain, sometimes those conversations that are almost always about weather, may lead to deeper unseen roots that allow for friendship to flower.

Traction

I have heard that it is a wise practice to start with your Most Important Thing each day. That usually means that you put off opening email and social media, and your first engagement in your day reflects high priority. Living with priority first not only keeps you from being endlessly lost in a loop of distracting tasks, it will also align your mind and heart for the rest of the day to support that priority.

Isn’t that a lovely idea? It is romantic and sleek all at once… a combination of Anne of Green Gables and Top Gun. I LOVE this idea.

But it doesn’t always work for me. In fact, it rarely works for me. As a 9 on the Enneagram, I have learned that it is very natural for me to be distracted easily. With this knowledge, I am working on asking myself “What is my best action right now?” So it would seem that starting with a priority would make sense for my life practice. But it doesn’t.

When I sit down first thing (after my other first things that are done in my pajamas), I spend vast amounts of time staring into space. I call this ‘I wonder’. I can wonder for a very long time about not a whole lot of things. My natural starting state (at least at this stage in my life) is that spot where there is no wind. Maybe I could rename it meditation or mindfulness.

Traction is the practice that I have developed to support my priorities while addressing my wiring toward inaction and distraction. I choose one of those non-priority to-do’s, set a timer (for 5-10 minutes, usually with Alexa) and get something done. These to-do’s range from laundry folding to paper filing. It is whatever is sitting there out of the corner of my eye or consciousness that will distract me. OR, it is is whatever will give me the satisfaction of something done or significantly moved forward. Tidying a counter, and desk top, or cutting strips of fabric – it really is an endless list.

I remember when I was a little girl, a good friend got a Big Wheel for a birthday present. We loved playing on her Big Wheel, until her parents got her driveway paved. On the new blacktop, all we could do was spin out on the slick new surface. But we learned that if we started on a grassy slope right near the driveway, if we got a bit of a head-start from there, we could have the traction that led to momentum and then the true prize of racing about as fast as we could.

This practice works to support my priorities is that it puts some traction in my day. I get some momentum and easy satisfaction that moves me into the right mindset and rhythm of accomplishment. It reinforces to me that I am making movement forward, especially when so many of my priority tasks are long term or intangible.

Cancelling 2019

I am all tied up in knots. I woke up this morning and did my morning pages and found myself writing “It is already January 4 and I haven’t even got my bullet journal set up.” So we may as well cancel 2019, friends. Because 4 days are lost forever to my new bullet journal.

I didn’t mean to become a bullet journal person. And when I bullet journal, I do it in my own very special way using a very special pencil. Last year, I adopted my own approach to bullet journaling because I am one of those that gathers at the altar of “Emily the Mother Of Perpetual List Making”. And I assumed that capturing the lists in one place that is sort of organized might be more healthy than trying to carry them all around in my heart and mind (with the full weight that the guilt of ‘oh I should of or I could of’ carries).

It surprised me how well it bullet journaling for me. And sometime in the last month, I began to believe that I could do a bullet journal the ‘right way’ or ‘for real’ or ‘correctly’. Ironically, the whole point of a bullet journal is to make it work for you, not you having to work for a pre-printed journal. And where this toxic sense of perfection (hello 1 wing on the enneagram) came from… never mind, I know.

So we have to cancel 2019 because I didn’t start it perfectly at 12:00am, January 1, when my 13yo sweetly woke me up from sleep on the couch to say Happy New Year.

I have mixed feelings about New Years resolutions and intentions. One thing I have learned about myself is that my time frame for goals is WAY less than 52 weeks or 365 days. I’m good for 4-6 weeks. Then I’m bored, whether I have successfully attacked a new goal or habit or failed miserably. And my year restarts not in the middle of a sleepy gray winter, but usually at the end of the summer with all those fall smells of new notebooks and sharpened pencils.

So where the heck the grace I usually extend to myself went to is anyone’s guess.  But hey. Here I am, writing on a blog that I took down and then put back up with the hopes that I can at least throw a few more words up here each week than I did two times last year.

So maybe 2019 can happen.

Maybe I can begin to enjoy the people and tasks in front of me more than being worried about doing it all perfectly. Wouldn’t it be something to enjoy the creative invitation of mess rather than the perfection of straight lines and military bubble letters.

I think I’ll land somewhere in the middle this year (and most of my life). But dang, I’m so excited about being back to writing here. I wonder where this renewed adventure will lead.