Traffic jams

Last night, I encountered a Midwestern traffic jam. I suppose the phenomenon is not particularly unique to the Midwest – I’m sure if you’re from a rural community, you’ll know what I mean. I try to be patient when I encounter farm equipment on the road because it’s not the farmer’s fault the tractor (or combine, in this case) only goes 20 miles an hour. They’re just doing their jobs, after all, and it’s a very important job. We need farmers.

Besides, it doesn’t do any good to get all worked up about it – it won’t make them go any faster.

But last night…

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Tea

Tea and kluntje isn’t the same without milk, but it’s still pretty good.

We always drank tea with milk and kluntje growing up, usually at family get-togethers. Tea is comfort. Tea is family. Tea is home.

I’m drinking my tea with kluntje this afternoon and wishing I had some milk to go with it. It’s strong tea. German tea. It has a robust flavor when brewed properly, but I let mine steep too long today. It tastes almost…bitter.

Twenty-five years ago today, my mom passed away. I miss her every day. I wish that I could call her for advice. I wish that I could call her to ask about her day. I wish that I could remember her. I wish I had some milk for my tea.

It would be easy to become like my tea – dark and bitter. And for a while, I was. But as I sit here drinking my tea, wishing things were different, I’m reminded that even in the depths of darkness, there is still sweetness to be found. The cracked and broken shards of kluntje fill my mouth with sweetness. They’re strong, those remnants – they withstood the boiling tea.

The survived – and so did I.

I still miss my mom – I always will. But, like my tea, I am strong; I am robust. Like my tea, I can still bring comfort and joy. Like my kluntje, life has changed me – it has bent me, but it has not broken me. The hot water has worn me down, smoothed my rough edges, but it hasn’t melted me completely.

And I refuse to let it.

(c) 2019. All rights reserved.

On thinking

I think in other people’s words. I think in movie lines and song lyrics and passages from books. Sometimes, I even think in advertising slogans. Often, I think in sound bytes.

Why?

It’s quite simple, really. Thinking in someone else’s words is so much easier than thinking in my own. Thinking in other people’s words is safer, less painful. It keeps me from having to dig deep, from having to face uncomfortable possibilities.

Thinking in other people’s words keeps me from really getting to know myself. And therein lies the problem.

If I never dig deep enough to find out who I am, do I really exist? If  I think in other people’s words, am I a real person, or simply a copy of a thousand other selves? A clone?

To think in other people’s thoughts is to blend into the background, to be an indistinguishable part of the whole. I contain multitudes, but I don’t stand out from them.

Sometimes it’s necessary to stand out, to stand on one’s own. But by thinking in someone else’s thoughts, I keep myself chained to a pole, unable to stand on my own.

I am a sapling in a biosphere, immune to the wind…until the transparent sphere falls away. Then I will fall, for my roots are shallow and weak.

I think in other people’s thoughts, but I really ought to stop. My own thoughts have value and meaning, and it’s time I recognized that fact. It’s time I came up with a few thoughts of my own.

If I want to leave my mark on the world, I won’t be able to rely on other people’s thoughts.

(c) 2017. All rights reserved.

Burial

I bury things.

When I was little, I was obsessed with finding buried treasure. Even though I live in a landlocked state and grew up a good forty minutes by car from the nearest large river, I was certain that a trove of pirate treasure lay buried beneath the sidewalk mere blocks from home. After all, there were bootprints in the concrete. What better way to mark the spot than with bootprints that ordinary passersby would take for some construction worker’s careless mistake?

I loved time capsules back then, too. They were my own variation of buried pirate’s treasure. I’m fairly certain that, somewhere in my old backyard, maybe a foot or so down (because I’d have been too tired to dig any further), there lies a tin or ten of memories. And if my dad still lived in the house I grew up in, it would be a lot of fun to go digging things up back there, just to see what I could find. To see what I’ve forgotten.

But he doesn’t.

I buried him, too. Because along with things, I bury people.

I remember when I was five and my grandfather died. My parents drove the two hours (give or take) to my dad’s hometown to attend the funeral, but left my sister and me at home because we were so little. I was furious. We hadn’t known the man – he and my dad were not close – but in my five-year-old mind, that didn’t matter. I should have been there.

There once existed a picture of my grandfather pushing me in a stroller, though. Or maybe that was my uncle, and the picture exists only in my mind because I loved it when my dad would tell me the story about my uncle pushing me in the stroller.

I buried a niece, too. I was seven then. I cried and cried and cried when she slipped softly into a better realm. I buried a schoolmate, a great-grandmother, a friend’s little brother. I buried friendships and relationships and my mother.

I buried them with resignation and heartache and immense, unfathomable grief. I buried them with soil and flowers and kind words, the sort that reassure those who hear them. Because I bury words and feelings, too.

I bury words, way down deep, till they come surging forth, angry waves upon the shore. I shove them down, bottle them up, try to keep them contained. I bury feelings deeper still, till they come seeping out, magma leaking through my cracks. I bury words unsaid next to the words I’ve said, but they tend to bubble up within me. Their memory burns me, so I bury them deeper, so far down that I forget their existence.

That is, until I can’t. Because eventually, those words and those feelings that I thought were buried come shooting back to the surface, fireworks in a dark sky, lighting the way to a different place. A better place. A place of new beginnings.

You see, I also bury seeds. I bury them without looking, sometimes without knowing. The things I bury in pain or in anger sometimes become seeds of hope with a little time and patience. Hope is a powerful thing; it cannot be contained. No matter how dark the night, the sun always rises, and hope with it.

What things do you bury?

(c) 2017. All rights reserved.

It

Fear is more than just a dirty word.

It chills my hands, my feet, my chest. It sends shivers up my spine, ripples through my core. It freezes me.

It clogs my throat. It keeps me from speaking, from singing, from breathing. It keeps me from thinking, from doing, from being. It immobilizes me.

It radiates from my center, permeates everything around me. It destroys my confidence. It debilitates me.

Fear controls my life.

Somehow, I have to fight it. Somehow, I have to overcome it. Somehow, somehow, somehow…

With a name comes power. Now that I know the name of this unspeakable and overwhelming foe, I can defeat it.

I have the power.

Fear had better watch its back.

(c) 2017. All rights reserved.

Days Like These

Thanks to the wonders of sharing (read: Sick Kid #1 shared with big brother (and also, apparently, with Dad)), I ended up spending today at home. Okay, I thought, I’ll get him all tucked into bed and have a nice quiet day. And then I remembered that it’s spring break and, unlike last week, I would not have the house to myself.

So much for that nice, quiet day.

I had planned to finish a short story today while Sick Kid #2 slept off his headache/fever combo. I had planned to get a little revision work done on another project. I had planned to be productive, but in the end, I didn’t do any of that.

Instead, I calmed down an upset little Cricket, who wanted to watch a movie instead of going to lie down in bed. I gave him some Tylenol to get his fever down, tucked him into bed, and read him a story before turning his bottom bunk into a nice, dark cave. Then I sat down and stared at my computer screen for a little while. Didn’t really do anything, just stared (and scrolled through Facebook). Thumper played on his Leapster, which he loves, and I love that he’s so into the educational games. Kid loves to learn. 🙂

I ended up running to the store while Miss Tadpole watched her brothers for a few minutes, because Cricket wanted some 7-Up. A quick stop at the library for a print job led to an unexpected yet exciting conversation with the librarian (watch this space for details). When the caramel apple dip in stock at the grocery store proved terribly disappointing, I decided to make my own and then prayed I had all the ingredients.

I did, and it was amazing. I have my seventh grade home ec. teacher to thank for the cookbook I got the recipe from, and a longtime bestie for the recipe itself. And, thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I was able to thank them both. 🙂

Miss Tadpole and I spent the afternoon eating apples with our homemade caramel dip and watching movies. It is my considered opinion that one can never see The Cutting Edge or Emma too many times (which is probably a good thing, since I have two versions of the latter). We talked, and laughed, and it was so, so wonderful.

What I thought was going to be a less-than-fun day at home (I hate when the kids are sick because I feel so powerless and all I want to do is make them feel better, but I can’t) turned out to be pretty fan-darn-tastic. Between sick kids and bored kids and moody kids, it could have been a not-so-nice day. But with Cricket eventually content to sleep away the day and with Thumper absolutely absorbed in his animal-catching game, it was actually pretty peaceful.

In some ways, I think the teen years are even harder than the newborn and toddler years because there’s just so much going on, and sometimes it’s hard to remember what it was like to be that age. After all, fourteen was a lifetime ago. And fourteen was hard.

But I think in the end, days like this will count for something. I think in the end, days like this are what the kids will remember when they’re all grown up and struggling with how to raise their own kids. And I hope that, in the end, they’ll want to recreate days like these. Not the whole staying-home-with-a-sick-little-brother part, but the part where we had a ton of fun.

Days like these are what make family time so much fun, and life worth living. Days like these are when memories are made. Days like these are rare and special.

Days like these were meant to be treasured.

(c) 2017. All rights reserved.

Clickity Tweet

I love the clickity-clack of high heels on marble floors, especially when they’re my high heels. Wearing them makes me feel very grown up, sophisticated, important. But I also feel like a bit of a fraud. I’ve been eighteen for fifteen years and still expect someone to see through me. Any moment now, someone will see that I have no idea what I’m doing; that, despite my best efforts, I don’t have this whole responsible adult thing figured out at all, not even a little bit; that I’m just a little girl playing dress-up in her mother’s closet. And when they figure it out, I just know it will be in front of a huge crowd of people and I’ll be humiliated, exposed for all the world to see.

I love the simple joy of the sun on my skin on a warm summer day. Alone in a meadow with the sun shining down on my upturned face, it’s easy to forget about the hustle and bustle of daily life. The birds sing gaily, their song carried far and wide by the gentle breeze, and there’s peace. My doubts can’t find me here; it’s just the sun and the birds and the grass and me, and there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be.

(c) 2017. All rights reserved.

Expecting Valentines

A friend of mine posted the following on Facebook:

“Every year there are a lot of “my husband/partner gave me X today – he’s/she’s so wonderful!” on Valentine’s day*. And yes, my hubby brought home a dozen roses (and a giant penguin earlier in the week) and while those things are great, he is not a wonderful husband because of them. He’s a wonderful husband because he listens to me, even when he doesn’t care about what I’m saying. He hugs me when I’m sad, even if he has to stop what he’s doing. He wastes his day to take me pokemoning, when he’d rather be playing his video games. He works hard ten plus hours a day, without complaining (more than normal), then comes straight home. He doesn’t blow our money on booze, or drugs, or gambling, he doesn’t get into trouble. He’s monogamous. He’s smart, funny, and most of all, he tries – not just once a year, but 360 days (hey, everyone takes a few days off, right?) And for that, I am very lucky.

*I’m not knocking those posts. I think it’s sweet that the recipients are excited and grateful.”

I read it this morning and couldn’t help thinking of my husband. He really doesn’t do Valentine’s Day, which makes the fact that he brought me home a bouquet of tulips yesterday all the more surprising. Gift-giving on Valentine’s is expected, and he doesn’t like being expected to give me a gift just because society says he should.

When Seymour first explained how he feels about Valentine’s Day, I have to admit…

Frozen to the Core

IMG_20140305_084531It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

A storm rages outside my window. It’s dark, and the freezing mix makes it hard to see. Amy sounds tinny, and far away, and not at all the way I remember her in this song. In my memory, she is warm and welcoming, close enough to touch yet larger than life.

Now, though, she is tiny. A tiny woman singing a tiny song through a tin can phone.

I’m alone, and lonely, and the darkness doesn’t help.

It’s the hap-happiest season of all…

The darkness wraps itself around me, but it does nothing to ward off the chill, cannot stop it from settling in my bones, from freezing my marrow. I freeze all the way to my core, and not even my expensive down coat with its heat-reflecting interior can warm me.

I’m alone, and lonely, and the darkness doesn’t help.

img_20160107_082108It’s the most wonderful time…

I crank the heater up to eleven and then, because I can’t hear her over the road noise and the heater, I turn Amy up, too. Only it’s not Amy singing anymore, it’s Josh, and Bing, and their once-silken voices now sound raspy and grating, so I turn the radio back down. The blast of hot air from my car’s dashboard vents sears my eyes and chaps my skin, but it can’t warm my soul, and the bright Christmas tunes can’t dispel the gloom.

I’m alone, and lonely, and the darkness doesn’t help.

Oh, the most wonderful time…of the year!

(c) 2016. All rights reserved.

Champs

“Please, Lord – just let them win. Just one more game. Please, Lord.”

Somehow, I thought, if they could just win one more game, if they could have a perfect season like the basketball team before them, then everything would be okay. The hurt feelings, the bitter words, the barely-contained anger – all of it would fade away, and we would be a community once more. Whole. Perfect. Complete.

I didn’t know how it would all work out; I just knew it would.

And so I prayed. I prayed harder than I’d prayed since the day my youngest son was born, the day we very nearly lost him because of a careless mistake. I prayed when the clock stopped, I prayed through halftime, I prayed and I prayed and I prayed. “Please, Lord – just let them win. Please, Lord. Please let them win. Please, Lord…”

I cheered harder than I’d ever cheered in my life. On the outside edge of a sea of blue, I was both a part of the crowd and an observer of it. Their highs were my highs; their lows, my own. I cheered and prayed and prayed and cheered and when I couldn’t watch anymore, I ate cotton candy and prayed even harder.

“Please, Lord, oh pretty, pretty please let them win. Please, Lord, please…”

And when that blue-clad warrior plucked the ball from the sky, I screamed and cried and danced where I stood.

 

(c) 2016. All rights reserved.