{ Moments }

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 These are some of the moments of my life that I feel compelled to share.  Moments I learn from, moments I live for, moments I was most able to just BE in.

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Lessons in Change

The past eight months has brought about a lot of change for our family.  If you would have told me, “this is going to happen, and then this, and then this, and then this…” I would have asked you to space them out a bit, and to give me some time to process it all so I could respond from a place of knowing.  But.  Life had different plans.  

And it turns out, Life knew it would be okay all along.  


Here is much of what I have learned:

1.  When “lack of time” is your biggest obstacle to happiness, you have to seriously consider how to create more time.  

2.  Number 1 is actually possible.

3.  Fears can hinder you as long as you allow them to, but when the fear of staying the same is greater than the fear of change, it is time to take the leap toward change  (p.s. fear of staying the same is not easily seen as such, and disguises itself as irritability, disconnection, frustration, discontentment, resentment…). 

4.  If you are in need of change, first take a good look in the mirror.  Make the changes you need to make to your life to make sure you are taking “you” out of the picture.  Are you hindering yourself from your own happiness?  Are there things you can do better to allow for more joy, to allow for more connection with those you love, to manage your time more wisely?  And when you put these things into place, and still feel ready for change, then you will know it is for reasons other than “you”.   And these skills are ones you can take with you anyway ;)

5. Complaining doesn’t create change.   

6.  Sometimes that thing that seem impossible to do just needs to be rephrased into being that thing that will provide you the greatest relief once done.

7.  I never let myself attach too firmly to my profession, I did not want to be defined by it, nor confined by it.  But when I took a course that encouraged me to make a pie chart of where my time was being spent, I could not complete the simple assignment because of the reality it presented me with.  I was not living my values.  And it took me a whole year to summon the courage to consider doing something about it.

8.  Money is an issue, yes … but there are more ways to approach it than you initially think.

9.  Sometimes your soul leads you where you should go while your heart and your gut argue in the background.  

10.  The only permanent thing is impermanence.

11.  Change is stagnant’s only prevention.  

12.  Change is really occurring every second, not in the big chunks that we so readily want to blame it for. 

13.  Acceptance of #12 is essential to spiritual growth.  

14.  As it turns out, feeling “green” and “vulnerable” and like you are "starting all over again", is just a feeling.  It is not The End. 

15.  With a little life experience to lean on, you realize you aren’t supposed to know it all in the beginning.  Hence “practice”.  Hence “learning”.  Hence “growth”. 

16.  A good dose of nature always helps put things in perspective, and finds a way to help you arrive wherever it is you need to go. 

17.  The kids really will adapt, especially when “change” can be emphasized as “adventure”, and when Family Movie Nights can still happen. 

18.  Sometimes the “worst case scenario” morphs into a means of possibility when you are willing to look hard at your resistance around it.  

19.  Wisdom of real-estate: Things will work out as they should (p.s. turns out they’re right).

20.  Big life changes make you realize the worth of the support of family and friends around you.



Keenly Aware

As I sat in the stolen moments of quiet today and looked around the house, I was keenly aware that none of this means anything without people to share it with.  None of it.  The way the past intertwines itself into the present and how what we do today will become part of the future that tomorrow holds…to witness the process occur for my daughters as it did for me - as it did for my husband … this, I believe, is the good stuff. 


Flap - Flap - Glide




Life. 

It works in the most mysterious ways

yet not so mysterious at all

when you let it happen as it inevitably will

all by itself 

whether or not you stress about how

whether you try to orchestrate it the way you previously thought it should go

or just let it be

and unfold 

the way it would do so naturally.


***


You see, this year I bought a milkweed plant (with the stout devotion to keep it alive -this time), for the purpose of helping the monarchs.  Just like the articles said they would, the caterpillars came: seemingly out of no where, yet instead meticulously laid on its life-line-leaf.  Hatched with a purpose to eat, 

and eat,

and eat.

So much so that I ran out to buy another milkweed, only to find more caterpillars!  And then, my ego got in the way: I started to worry that there weren’t enough leaves, enough water, enough shade, enough gentle in the breezes, enough shelter upon which to “J”-hang.  And when one was found away from its mother plant, I took it as a plea for help and brought it inside, made it a shelter and sat and watched,

and watched,

and watched 

it die.

It wasn’t asking for my help; it wasn’t worried or scared; it wasn’t lost; it didn’t need me.  But I didn’t know that until I let go of my self-given and self-righteous responsibility and chose not to interfere.  


I did not stop worrying, however, until I saw the first chrysalis in my very back yard, and once I saw one — I saw four.  Far from their leafy milkweed nursery and in places I never thought to look before.  Empty chrysalis shells provided humbling proof that while I was trying to raise one on my own, many likely grew to butterfly without my even knowing.


Life. 

It works in the most mysterious ways

yet not so mysterious at all

when you let it happen as it inevitably will

all by itself 

whether or not you stress about how

whether you try to orchestrate it the way you previously thought it should go

or just let it be

and unfold 

the way it would do so naturally.



And when I saw for the first time one backyard-born monarch stretch its wings outside its chrysalis in preparation for its first float {flap - flap - glide}, uninhibited by thought or worry and driven by its preceding generations of intrinsic instinct … I knew this was yet another one of her lessons on trust. 

Ah, there it is again: TRUST. 




Only a Matter of

Some are ahead of it; others are behind it. 

Some race against it; others are in the nick of it.


We all stand the test of it at some points in our lives.


A matter of, a stitch in; crunch, borrowed, lost.


It tells.

It heals.

It flies.

It is of the essence.

It stops.


You can have a hell of it, or the best of it.

You can bide it, make the most of it.

You can waste it, be pressed for it, have a lot of it on your hands.


Take yours, don’t pass it.

Invest in it, don’t kill it.

Arrange for it before it’s up.  

It’s only a matter of time.  



The River Thames

My grandmother handed me a blue photo album recently, of our time spent together in NYC, London and Paris in 1997.  I was eager to look through it but struggled to find the right time.  

And then more time went on and I started to get irritated with myself that I hadn’t yet made the time to look through it.

One can’t think of traveling these days like we used to.  To say that out loud makes me feel old and seasoned.  But that wasn’t quite what was bothering me.  

My Grandmother is now almost 20 years older.  To say that out loud makes me realize how timeless I really think she is; in my mind’s eye she hasn’t aged a bit and yet Time is telling me otherwise.

Then one night I found myself up late in the quiet of my living room with a glass of wine and the perfect amount of solitude to take the time I wanted to spend recalling the events of those 10 days.  Guided by my Grandmother’s penmanship and impeccably detailed account of the events which she planned for us, I found myself back in the memories — some which I had since forgotten yet felt eager to recall.

Hotel Room at the Waldorf-Astoria New York; front row seats of 'Le Miserables'; the umbrella that hit my Grandma during lunch at Rockefeller Center; audience of the Today Show; lunch at Tavern on the Green and hair done at Vidal Sassoon by Joseph.  

Pictures she took of me and my Pentax Camera hanging from my neck, water bottle in my hand, khaki shorts, young soccer legs … with looks on my face that … started to … concern me.   

Did I know how lucky I was?  Did I appreciate this opportunity?  Please tell me I didn’t act like an annoyed teenager.

The Twin Towers stood tall across the waters from the ferry ride. The power of a photograph’s ability to contain something that no longer exists. 

The pictures of the Statue of Liberty — what did I think she stood for?  Were times easier then?  They simply must have been.

And then to London, the changing of the guards and my “first” “sip" of beer at the Shakespeare Pub; the Ancient City; Big Ben; the Changing of the Guards; Tower Bridge; Westminster Abbey.

Did I take this all in?  Did I appreciate what my Grandmother had planned for me?  Please tell me I was polite and courteous. 


And then I came across this picture:

on the River Thames. 

And though I don’t totally recognize the girl in this picture I recognized her joy.  And I have to trust that my Grandmother felt it from me, too.  

Please, please tell me she felt it from me.  

The Chunnel Train through the countryside of England into France; tour boat on the Seine; the Alexander III Bridge; the Eiffel Tower; Notre Dame the Louvre and Versailles. She boasted in cursive about me talking in French to the driver on the way to Charles De Gaulle Airport, boy I must have had her fooled!


Now every time I open this blue scrapbook, I see something new, I feel something different, I remember something tucked away.  

But mostly I see a young woman whom I feel somewhat disconnected from, who makes me think more of my children than I do of myself.  And maybe I can lighten up on her a little, and trust that she was capable.  And kind.  And grateful.  And fun.  And like the relief I feel when I see my kids with my grandparents — that there is no judgement, only love — maybe I can give myself some of that stuff, too.  And trust that maybe sometimes those who know me well maybe know me better than I know myself. And that maybe I can worry a little less about if I am saying enough, doing enough and showing appreciation enough … and trust a little more that I am capable of conveying that just by being me.  


Scared

I watched a PG move tonight with family

that cracked me wide open

and it scared me

am i otherwise shut off?

too busy trying to maintain some kind of routine

in order to keep sane

but missing out on something deeper?

i saw my youngest like she was made of fluorescent little polkadots

every motion she made looked like glowing streaks of something trying to get my attention

has it been this way all along yet I was too closed off to see it?

I found myself quietly crying, hoping not to make a weeping noise

family nearby might worry

I wanted to fall apart

My oldest was surprised to see me sad toward the movie’s end

I pulled her in close to me, she acquiesced, resting her head on my lap.

“I miss Daddy”, the words I knew she wanted to say.

I did too

And i knew how she felt

like something was missing

I kept feeling like I’d hear the jingle of Mo’s dog tag nearby

except we left her at home

I am scared

In the way I expected to feel on my week off staycation

But never did

Too busy, perhaps?

With planning or trying hard not to plan.

But I am scared that

in these moments, induced by caught-by-surprise-emotions

combined with brief respite from the roles I play

where I feel like I see them and understand them with such vivid clarity

that it makes me wonder

if my awareness only points to my lack of awareness otherwise

or if I am working too hard elsewhere in life that I am less aware in general

are these hints that imply there is a better way?

or just glimpses of the pureness that only reveals itself intermittently anyway?



Nightmare

I watched her breathing, her grip on my hand lessening some.  Her heart could be felt through her chest by my hand, its beating finally slowing.  Her body twitched as she drifted — it always has — as does the drifting body of the man she adores and calls Daddy. 

I sit a little longer than my practical mind would allow.  She has been needing more attention lately, when it’s time to sleep.  Inquiries about which lights might stay on, if music can be played, if we can stay with her for a little while longer, if she can just sleep with us.  This night it felt like there was something more behind the requests than what might be soothed by “I’ll come check on you in 20 minutes, okay?”.  

On this night I let myself just be with her.  My hand on her chest.  My heart winning over my mind. 

I watched her fear give way as the corners of her eyes softened; I felt her youth within her growing body, her innocence heard in each breath from her strong frame; I saw the fragility in the skin of her callused hands.  The hands that were holding mine to her chest, as if it were the most direct way for me to feel her heart.  

I wanted to tell her that one day it will all make sense, what the nightmares mean and what they really represent.  How the intensity of her love for her sister is on display in the form of the nightmare which threatens to take her sister away.  That to have something so good in life, it only makes sense that it would be our greatest fear endure its loss.  

But that intensity still means love.  

It’s okay, sweet feeler.  

The nightmare means love.   

Full



A reason cook all day 

+ a reason hang with family

+ autumn weather 

+ my favorite meal ever-refining 

+ fire in the fireplace

+ watching the girls in the kitchen 

= my favorite holiday.


I am full.  

All Right

It doesn’t have words, it’s just a feeling, and I’ve had it rush over me only a few times in my life.  

It's like a silent whisper of an exhaling thought … and the feeling it leaves behind sounds something like, “everything is going to be all right”.  


The most recent time I’ve felt this occur was a couple of months ago.  My daughters were in the car with me, and we were participating in a new routine.  One that we were all trying to be okay with, but was the end result of some changes in our lives that needed to occur.  

Some changes were ones we foresaw but resisted because it meant we saw less of the special people that made up our days.  Other changes I simply wasn’t ready for but needed to deal with anyway.  After gathering myself, that is.  One foot in front of the other, as if drawn by the braver aspects of myself despite fear and apprehension weighting each step. 


On this particular day, in our new routine, the girls and I were driving down Santiago Road and as the big grassy park that sits perpendicularly in front of us came into view, the trees parted in a way that allowed the sky to open up as if unveiling something to us. 

Two hot air balloons caught the gaze of all three of us: We gasped and pointed in synchronous unison.  

And that feeling rushed over me.     


***

The fierce support of my family and colleagues and friends.

The following words that were given to me and that I will forever cherish:

“Your emotions are real but not always Truth! When emotions and truth are not aligned it becomes our responsibility to default to TRUTH.  Truth is NEVER changing and emotions are EVER changing.  So the truth is, [everyone] will be fine, you will pursue healthy options and although your varied emotions are valid and real, the truth is where you are at and you need to move forward.” 

-KB

The fine-tuning of my morning routine to balance my self-care and the needs of those around me in a way that allows me to reprioritize, freshen up and make more efficient the way I spend my time.

The new level of intensity where I spend my professional hours has allowed me to see what I am capable of, and where I need to assert myself. 

The found confidence to do what was mentioned in the sentence prior. 

The adaptability of these amazing people whom share my home with me; because they adjust, I can too.  

The new routine the girls and I have, where we look into the sky for what is now a symbol of all that I have listed above; we still gasp and count and point.

I am so grateful.

And … everything is all right.






Tickle Me Pink

The girls were edgy today.  

They slept in a bit so their energy tanks were full.  

Their request to watch a movie this morning with breakfast on the couch was worthwhile until they went from enthralled to bored in .2 seconds.

And then the bouncing.

And then the fighting.

And then the persistent questions asking that thing that was already answered. 

We tried playing outside.  We tried coming back in.  We tried snacking.  We tried toy ponies and getting the old crutches down but only one was found and so that wasn’t cool enough … and we eventually decided to go out and pick our pumpkins at nearby Peltzer Farms.  Ponies were ridden while roosters pecked the ground for food and the gold tipped corn maizes glistened in the midday sun . They ran around while I marveled in the fact that I could see them without having to chase them anymore.  They would find their way back to me.  And they did.

Against my better judgement I decided to take them on a couple of errands, for shampoo that was needed, and a new hook system for their bath towels that always end up on the floor.  Which doesn’t seem to bother anyone quite as much as it bothers the one picking them up constantly.  That one would be neither of my daughters.

And in good judgement I decided it wasn’t worth making dinner at home when we could go to my new favorite spot, rather cheaply because they could split a sandwich while I could ponder the idea of having a good beer along with mine. 

I sat across from the two of them as they giggled and whispered about how our waiter blinked (winked) at them.  Their energy still untamed I found myself asking them too often to sit down in the middle of their chairs so they wouldn’t tip, not to play with their straws, not to point to the boy with cool shoes out the window (what does this really mean?) while filtering questions about what else we have planned for the day (uh, nothing).  I saw my oldest show my youngest how to flirt and I nearly spit my beer.  It was as if I were the audience and they were the show, and I wasn’t quite sure how I was feeling about it all.  They mentioned that it wasn't the same going out to dinner without Daddy (true) and how they even miss his farts.  They argued over ear space and elbow room and I teetered between giving them the “mom look” (as they call it) and sipping on my BooKoo beer — attempting to relax a bit in spite of it all. 

IMG_8803

They did marvelously sharing their turkey sandwich. 

Against my better judgement, I let them have some dessert.  Their behavior, after all, was not necessarily dessert-worthy.  But, I may have earned some ‘cool Mom points’, even if they weren’t awarded verbally.  I’ll take the clean plate and the quiet that occurred during its demolishing as my reward.

Against my better judgement I gave into their request to walk around Old Town.  It was still an hour and a half away from their bedtime.  Which could either feel really close or really far away, but it was a perfect temperature and it had been a thought I had myself, so I agreed to walk around the block.  

The night life was more than what I expected on a Sunday Night.  The girls were oblivious as they found stairs to run up and ramps to bring them down; they pointed out that the side rails looked like gymnastic bars while threatening half-heartedly to try a spin.  They looked in every restaurant, they stared at every passerby.  

Then we came to a wine bar where live music was being played, and they stopped at the doorway to look in.  It was a man and a woman playing guitar to spanish-style music, and it certainly caught our attention.  I watched the girls stiffen up a bit as the duo came toward us.  The girls found my side, looking up at me while the musicians jammed … just for us on the small restaurant-front patio.  Eventually the girls relaxed and stood on their own, half wanting to dance, half wanting to simply watch how they made that sound come from those instruments.  The duo asked the girls how old they were and struck up a conversation all the while playing to each other as they walked in an orchestrated circle.  The melody ramped up a bit and the female guitarist started adding percussion and harmonies as the pace picked up.  We were mesmerized and surely taking the restaurant’s entertainment away, but in my better judgement, I simply let it all take place.  

It ended in one energetic strum, I was quicker than I realized I would be to applaud, yet the applause from the restaurant quickly overtook mine.  The girls, unaccustomed to this courtesy, followed my lead and the duo smiled, waved, and headed back inside.  

We walked away with a new pep in our step and talked about how people do that for a living, which felt like a much better conversation than the one we had [stumbled through] earlier about the two women behind us standing in line at Target who joked to each other “I swear we aren’t strippers” yet left little to be argued by the statement their attire was making.  

"Yes, honey, you can be a musician when you get older, and play just like she did in a nice modest, self-respecting black suit and not-too-high heels."  

“Look at how bright the moon is, Mom!” said my youngest.  She was so right.  

In my better judgement I let them pick the music as we drove through Old Town toward home, sunroof open, windows down, music blaring to “Tickle Me Pink" by Johnny Flynn.  Lyrics which I’m sure they don’t understand (it’s a catchy tune, I swear) and which may be against my better judgement to allow them to sing along to.  But ya know … ? … I kinda told my judgement to screw off tonight and it resulted in giving us the best part of our day.  

 

… Pray for the people inside your head

For they won't be there when you're dead

Muffled out and pushed back down

Pushed back through the leafy ground ...


Tickle Me Pink, Johnny Flynn






 © Houseman 2013