4

Turning the page to a new chapter

My neighbor called me crazy yesterday.

She meant it in the sweetest way possible, of course. She doesn’t really think I’m crazy.

Of course.

She just thinks I’m a little bit strange because I’m sad that my baby will soon be going to school.

See, Sunday was my sweet baby’s 4th birthday. I know. I cannot believe it either. Ryan is 4! I knew it all day… I knew that his fourth birthday was coming for weeks, months. So I don’t know why it hit me like a ton of bricks but it did. After dinner, cupcakes and presents, as I sat at the dining room table breathing in the celebration, it hit me. Next year, Ryan will turn 5 (because 5 does follow 4) which means he will go to kindergarten in the fall.

WHAT?

I mean, how can that be?

How is it possible that in a year or so, I will be without little ones in my house with me?

I really was in shock. I mean, I have had little people around me for 13 years (by next year it’ll be 14 years because 14 follows 13. See how smart I am?).

My husband had no idea what I was crying about.

Because I was. Crying, that is. And I knew it was silly and stupid and that I looked ridiculous. But I couldn’t help it. I had to cry. Because I felt like I suddenly had a hole in my heart.

How silly, stupid and ridiculous is that?

I have a sign up in the kids’ room that says “A baby fills a hole in your heart that you never knew was there.” That is so, so true. But what do you do when they leave and the hole opens back up?

That’s how I felt.

Now, don’t feel too bad for me. Today is Tuesday, two days later, and I am feeling a little better. After all, I do still have 15 months or so before the gaping hole reappears.

And, as my always rational, ever logical husband told me, it’s not like my kids are leaving me. They are just going to school and coming back home every afternoon.

He asked me, “what is it exactly that you are so upset about? What do you feel like you’ll be missing?”

I don’t know. The more I think about it, I don’t know.

Will I miss walking in on Butters in the bathroom during our frantic morning dance to find her putting conditioner on her toes because she wanted to make them squishier and softer?

Will I miss coming into the bathroom (yes, the bathroom again. Great things can happen in the bathroom) to find Ryan putting the bottle of Windex back in the closet?

“What are you doing with the Windex, Ryan?

I don’t know.

Were you using it?

I don’t know.

Did you spray it?

I don’t know.

Well, then, why did you have it?

I don’t know.

Come over here so I can brush your teeth. What is that smell?

Why do I smell Windex, Ryan?

I don’t know.

What did you do?

Spray it in my hair so it could be shiny? (said with a very toothy grin)

Oh, Ryan.”

Or maybe I’ll miss having Ryan broadcast in the public restroom of Meijers that I am taking a stinky poo?

By the way, no, no and no are the answers to those three questions.

So maybe I am as crazy as my neighbor claims. Maybe she’s right that all mothers look forward to the day when all their kids will be in school…except me.

Maybe.

But I don’t care. Because I know what I will miss.

Having a picnic lunch on my bed with Butters and Ryan on a rainy, cold February day when Ryan leaned over, kissed me on the check and said, “You’re so sweet, Mommy. I love you so much.”

Or taking Butters shopping with me for a kitchen rug, seeing her find one and shout out “Throw it in the cart, Mommy. We’re done here.” My little shopper.

Or feeling Ryan’s little hand slip into mine while walking through Kroger, looking down at his face, eyes turned up toward me, as his baby voice asks, “We’re buddies, right, Mommy?”

Yep, those three I’ll miss.

But I know I’ll be okay. I do. And my husband is right when he says it will be a new chapter in my life. I didn’t necessarily want this chapter to end because I’ve loved it so much, but some things I just cannot control.

And I’m pretty sure that Butters and Ryan will not disappoint me. For even when they are in school, I am quite certain that they will continue to do things that I wish I could miss.

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1

Can things get any worse?

Why do I ever ask that question?  I should know better.  As soon as one asks if things could possibly get any worse, things get worse.  It is God playing a little game with you.  And you lose.

For months now, I’ve felt sorry for myself.  Months!  Since January of last year, I think.  So maybe that’s not just months.  That’s a year, isn’t it?  Boy, I am pathetic.

Let me back up a little.  Last year at this time, my husband had just closed his business, I was not happy in my job and I was getting sick every few weeks.  Woe was me!  I was so unhappy.

Summer came and things got better as far as my unhappy job situation.  Because I left.  Yay!  But my husband still was unemployed!  Boo!  And the bills were still coming in– even though we didn’t have any income!  Boo!

Woe was me still.

But then fall rolled in and John received a job offer.  It was very exciting.  I cried tears of joy when he called to tell me (I was visiting my brother and his family in Chicago that day).  I felt like the Lord had answered my prayers.  I had been trying so hard to trust that God would take care of us, but as the months passed by, it was getting harder and harder to believe.  When I told my dad the good news, he expressed exactly what I felt: “I will be saying an extra prayer to the Lord tonight, thanking Him for this new job.”

So, for awhile, we were floating along on clouds.  So thrilled that John would be working and we would again have an income.  But then that week finally arrived– the week when he moved to St. Louis– for that is where the job is.  Boo.

That first week wasn’t too bad.  It reminded me of the years when John worked for another asset management firm in town and had to travel to Boston or New York for a week now and then.  No big deal.

But then one week turned into two weeks and two weeks turned into three… Boo. And I started to miss him and miss him and miss him.  After all, he’s been my best friend since we met when I was 20 years old.  I’m 46 now and have never really been away from him for any extended period of time.  I just miss him.

I now stays up too late.  For some reason, I just don’t want to go to bed.  I’m tired, but I don’t want to go to my bed.  Some nights, I consider sleeping on the couch with the dog (who is NOT allowed on the couch but we find her there every morning), but then decide that I should be in my bed if one of the kids wakes up in the middle of the night and needs me. So I climb the stairs, brush my teeth, change my clothes and crawl into the bed with the dog (who is NOT allowed in my bed, but, hey, I’m lonely).

So woe is me.

And then my car started having trouble.  Dumb car.  I never wanted you anyway.  It’s just that, well, what else can you drive when you have four kids from the age of 9 years down to a newborn?  So we got you, a minivan.  But I just want you to know that we have never had a good relationship.  That’s why I banged your mirrors into the side of my garage so many times, scrapped your doors along the stone wall leading down my driveway, drove you over a smaller stone wall at the park, left your trunk door open in the garage more times than I care to mention while also opening the garage door (judging by the noise you make when I do that, you do not care for it at all!), and dropped my full coffee cup through your open sunroof (again, more times than I care to admit).

And now this year, you decided to pay me back.  Well, let me just say, your timing is terrible.  This is really the last thing I need right now.  But I really don’t think you care. You are an ungrateful little thing, aren’t you?  That’s why I will be getting rid of you when I can.  But let’s pretend you didn’t hear that last statement because I really need your dependability right now.  Can’t have you breaking down every time I drive to St. Louis .

Woe is me.

As the weeks passed, I thought for certain that my children would become adjusted to their dad living in another city.  But they haven’t.  I thought that John’s absence would be hardest on Adam.  But it isn’t.  Ryan and Elizabeth, my 7 and now 9 year olds, talk about their dad every day.  Not a day goes by that I don’t hear, “I miss Daddy. Why can’t he live here?”

Woe is me.

My mom has been sick for months now.  First she learned she has an ulcer, now, well, maybe a stomach virus.  But it has been plaguing her for months.  She can’t eat, her back and leg hurt; she’s just miserable.  We haven’t been able to spend the time with her and my dad that I had hoped we would spend because she just feels bad all the time.

Woe is me.

And then I said those words.  “Could things get any worse?”

What was I thinking?

Last week, Lauren, my 12 year old daughter, and I bagged up toys and clothes for Goodwill.  She then dragged the bags down to the kitchen and left them by the garage door.  White garbage bags with pink ties.  Bags from a box of bags that I had bought the last time I had visited John in St. Louis. I had left him a few to put in his kitchen garbage can and brought the rest home to Louisville.  This seems like very trivial information, but you will soon see the value of it.

So Lauren left those bags right by the garage door.  That way, the next time I was running somewhere, I could grab them, throw them in the back of my minivan and run them over to Goodwill.  The day that we placed the bags by the garage door, John came home from St. Louis.  It was very late when he finally arrived home– around 11– and he dropped all his luggage, duffle bags, work bags, etc. by the garage door.  He had brought home everything that he had originally taken to St. Louis because he had moved out of a corporate apartment that afternoon and would be moving into a condo when he returned.  So he brought EVERYTHING home.  Needless to say he had more stuff than he had bags, so he resorted to stuffing some of his things in garbage bags– the same garbage bags that I had purchased in St. Louis and was now using in Louisville.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

You are all so smart, aren’t you?  Far smarter than me, apparently.

Yes, I did decide to take my garbage bags full of items to be donated to Goodwill the next day.  And, yes, I did pick up his garbage bag full of every sweater that he owns (hey, it’s January– what does he need with sweaters?) and almost every pair of underwear and throw that in my trunk along with the other bags.  Please remember that the bags were identical, so why wouldn’t I just grab them all?

And away I went.  Puttering along happily in my beat up minivan to do some goodwill, completely unaware of what was about to transpire.

I discovered what I had done the next morning when John was preparing to shower and couldn’t find any underwear or a single sweater to wear.

Well, that was a fun morning.

So, yes, I get it.  Things can always get worse.

And this was worse.  For sure.  Now I was going back to Goodwill to beg for my stuff back (which, by the way, they never gave back to me although they promised they would.  Instead, they put his sweaters out on the racks and sold them) and shopping for new underwear and clothes for him.

But, at the same time that it was worse, it was also pretty darn funny.  I mean, if you think about it.  Especially the underwear part.

Maybe  it’s just me.

But the woe is now gone.  I guess I realized that, yes, things can always get worse.  But this worse wasn’t really so bad.  It was sorta funny.

And it reminded me that, although I and my kids all miss John terribly, we still have him, albeit 300 miles away.  But we still have him.  And my mom, although she has had a really difficult autumn and winter thus far, we still have her.  And she seems to be getting better.  And we still have her.  And my Aunt Sue who had a terrible auto accident in which she broke almost every bone in her body, we still have her.  She is still recovering, but we still have her.  And my car, although I still don’t really like it at all, runs and, yes, I still have it.

Life is hard sometimes, really hard.  But it’s the hard times that show me how absolutely beautiful the good times are.

No more woes ( I hope), or, at the very least, no more woes are me (woes is me?  woe is mes?)  Whatever.  You get what I mean, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

Happiness

Some things just never change.

My entire life I have loved spaghetti.  I don’t just mean like-I mean love.  It is a food without equal for me.  I have never tired of it and I don’t think I ever will.  I have to have it at least once a week, and twice a week is preferable.

I know that my love affair with spaghetti came from eating my grandmother’s spaghetti every Sunday when I was growing up.  Spaghetti with red sauce.  Sometimes rigatoni, occasionally fettucine.  Always red sauce and always some kind of meat with the sauce.

When I was pregnant with Adam, my father brought me my grandmother’s spaghetti every week. It was in a Tupperware container and so packed to the brim with her spaghetti that it usually was enough for two meals.  It was delicious, spicy and rich with pieces of chuck roast so tender they shredded when I touched them with my fork.  A little Parmesan cheese on top and I was in heaven.  It was an enormous amount of pasta and I devoured it– every week.  Hence, my 50 pound weight gain.

My grandmother is no longer around to cook spaghetti for me so now I do it, for me and for my family.  I started having Pasta Sunday for my family several years ago.  Every Sunday evening, I cook pasta for them just like my grandmother used to cook pasta for me.  It has taken me awhile but I have created some sauces which my family loves.  I, however, cannot stop trying new sauces, tweaking the recipes I’ve created.  My husband has told me to stop, to leave well enough alone.  But I cannot.  That perfect sauce is still out there, just a few spices, seasonings or techniques away.  I have to find it.

This is the story of my life.  If I find that elusive whatever, I’ll finally find happiness.  True happiness.  Not this “sometimes happy, often times discontented happy.” No, I’m looking for 100 % happy.

I’m so close.  Just like I am with my perfect sauce.  So close.

Yesterday, while driving alone to Goodwill, no children chattering in the seats behind me or shouting my name, I understood something.  And, as always, I understood it not because I am brilliant.  I understood it because of a story I heard on NPR.

I do not know the full story since I turned on the radio when the story was coming to its conclusion.  But the conclusion was enough.  I understood that it was a man’s story of a dream never reached, a dream destroyed early in life by a physical accident.  The narrator of the story explained that the man now works a factory job, getting up very early each morning to drive an hour and a half to get to his job.  He returns home late every night.  His wife left him and his children two years ago so he is now raising his two children, ages 6 and 8.  As the narrator spoke, I could hear the man and his children in the background, the sound of a television on, the children’s young voices asking their father questions about the game and players they were watching on the tv.

Then the man finished his story.

He told how happy he is.  He told how hard life is but how good it is.  He told how blessed he is that he gets to see his kids every single day.

And then he finished by saying “if I were to die tomorrow, it’d be okay because I would die a happy man.  A truly happy man.”

Wow.  That’s powerful.

Everything doesn’t have to be perfect for you to be happy.   Happiness and perfection are not the same thing.  Why have I equated them all these years?  I don’t need one to have the other.  How was this not obvious to me?

This man saw his dream of being a professional athlete shattered when he was a young man.  Now he works at a manual labor job, probably never getting enough sleep, raising two young children on his own and facing the financial struggles that many Americans face.

Yet, this man could say with such assurance that he is happy.

And why?  It isn’t fancy vacations, luxury yachts or a lavish mansion that account for his happiness.

What was it he said?  Oh, yes– “I get to see my children every single day.”

That’s it?  Yep, that’s it.  So simple.  The formula is so simple.  Happiness doesn’t need all those distractions.  True happiness doesn’t come from all those accessories.  It comes from within.  Loving those around you, feeling loved and appreciating those whom you love.

Everything I need to be happy is right here, right before me.

Why, then, do I continue to seek something more?  What makes me feel like my happiness is just around the bend?

About three years ago my oldest son, Adam, decided to delete his Instagram account one morning as we were driving to school.

“There,” he said, “that’s done.”

“What?” I asked him.  “What’s done?”

“I deleted my Instagram account. I got tired of feeling like a loser” he said.

“What are you talking about?” I asked him.

He turned and looked at me.

“I realized yesterday that Instagram makes me feel like my life is not as good as everyone else’s life.  Everyone seems to be doing so much more, having so much more fun than me. I’m tired of it.”

And then he said something that I thought was quite wise for an 8th grade boy.

“And you know what, Mom?  It’s all not true.  What kids post, the pictures they share are not true, not really what their life is.  It’s all fake.”

He was right.  It’s all fake.  And so much of what I seek is “all fake” and will not bring happiness.

The truth is that happiness is yours for the choosing.  The man on NPR could have chosen bitterness, unhappiness, anger, resentment.  But he didn’t.  He chose happiness.

I, too, choose happiness.  No more peeking around the corner for happiness.  No more seeking that which is fake and will only make me look happy.  Nope, happiness is here.  Now.  Right before me.  In my young children’s laughter, in my older son’s wise actions, in my husband’s sweet smile, in that plate of pasta with the delicious red sauce on top made by yours truly.

Pass the Parmesan.  Time to get living and time to get eating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

Whispers

As I raised my head and peered through the hair hanging down over my eyes, I saw the sparkle of them.  They were right in front of me, right before my eyes.  Tiny little crystal and silver cross earrings.  Absolutely the perfect size for my Butters who was making her First Communion the next morning. Absolutely the perfect earrings for my girl.

But I knew that they had not been there a second before.

I had looked at that rounder of earrings over and over again, turning it around and around, looking at each sparkly pair of earrings.  I saw no cross earrings at all so I had taken down ones that I thought Butters might like– butterflies, ladybugs, birds, stars and flowers. They all were very pretty, but not what she had asked for.  All she had requested were cross earrings. From me.

During the previous six months, whenever any aunt or grandparent had asked Butters what she was hoping to get for her First Communion, Butters had confidently told that person that she would be happy with anything, but she knew she was getting cross earrings from her mommy.

Yet here I was, thirteen hours away from her First Communion, and I couldn’t find a single pair of cross earrings for my little girl. I was almost in tears. I placed my face down on the cool glass top of the jewelry case and wondered what I was going to do. I said a silent prayer although I knew it was silly.

I was so disappointed in myself. I had been so busy with my job that I had put off shopping for my little girl’s gift. Now it was the night before the big event, and I had nothing for her. The other earrings were pretty, but I knew they weren’t what she wanted. I also knew that she would be asking me about the cross earrings if I didn’t get them. Butters is like an elephant; she never forgets.

I let my head rest on the jewelry case for longer than I felt I should; I was certain that I looked silly. Folks walking past probably wondered if I had fallen asleep. After all, it was 10:30 at night. The voice on the overhead intercom had just reminded me and all the shoppers of the time so that we could start bringing our purchases to the registers. But I was not ready to do that yet.

When I finally got the courage to raise my head, I saw them. There they were, right in front of me. Beautiful little crosses.

But they hadn’t been just a moment before.

I felt like I was in a dream. I reached out for the earrings and lifted them off the shelf. They could not have been any closer to what Ellie had asked for. Small, sparkly crosses. Exactly what she had been telling everyone.

I put the other earrings that I had lined up on the counter back on the rounder. Quietly and softly, almost as if I didn’t dare breathe and break the spell that was upon me, I walked to the registers to pay. I smiled at the young cashier, swiped my credit card, walked trancelike to my car and began driving home.

I didn’t turn on the car radio, wanting to drive with only my thoughts. The night sky was so dark; clouds covered the moon and stars and I felt as if my car were the only one on the highway. I couldn’t explain to myself what had just happened. I tried to convince myself that the earrings had been there all along and I had just missed them, much like when I miss the can of chopped tomatoes in my pantry that is right in front of my eyes. But I knew it wasn’t true. Those earrings had not been there. They hadn’t.

Straining my ears, I listened to the silence. I just knew that if I were quiet enough and listened hard enough, I would hear something, something that would explain what had just happened. A voice in the quiet, a thought that wasn’t my own. My whole body tingled as I waited, waited for the whisper just beyond the horizon of silence.

I listened. I waited.

But the silence resounded.

I made it home and walked into the house. My husband was watching tv. I sat down on the sofa next to him and told him what had just happened to me. He shrugged and said, “I hate it when that happens. It’s right there in front of you and you can’t see it. So annoying.”

He didn’t get it. I tried to explain it to him, that it wasn’t what he thought, that the earrings hadn’t been there and I just missed seeing them. They really hadn’t been there. He looked at me and said, ” so what do you think it was? Earrings don’t just appear out of thin air. You just didn’t see them for some reason.”

Yes, some reason. There had to be a reason. There just had to be. It’s what I needed. A reason. Maybe it’s my mid-life crisis. (Can I actually be at my mid-life?) I needed to know why.

I have always claimed that everything happens for a reason. That is so easy to believe when things are going well. But when they aren’t, and there seems to be no reason for anything that is happening in your life, then what? Doubt begins to creep in.

And that’s when you begin searching. For a higher reason.

I was looking for reasons that night. A reason for why I had taken a job that had led me to nowhere except confusion, unhappiness and hurt. A reason for why my husband’s business had closed three years ago and now his current company had also shut down. A reason for why I wasn’t happy.

Did I find my reason? Did I get my answers?

Not in a whispered voice in the night.

It’s what I knew all along. Nothing’s really changed. Circumstances maybe, but nothing else.

As I left my job, and began my new old life at home with my kids, I began to see the reason. Believe in something beyond myself. Believe that good things are coming and that life will get better. Believe that what you have is already pretty darn good.

Ryan’s giggle makes me insanely happy. He hadn’t stopped giggling, but I had stopped hearing it because I was so consumed with other details in my life.

Elizabeth’s hugs make me feel like I am truly doing a good job. The hugs had been there throughout the year, but I hadn’t felt those arms around me until I stopped worrying and started feeling again.

Lauren’s smile rejuvenates me. Her smiles had diminished this year because my smiles had diminished. But I learned that as I started smiling more, so too did she.

Adam’s joy for life will always inspire me. Every morning he says “Good morning” with a smile on his face and every night, he finds me wherever I am and says “Night, Mom. I love you.”

My husband’s belief that working hard and never giving up reassures and comforts me. If he can believe that we will be okay, then I can too.

Yep, there was a reason for those earrings appearing that night. I needed a little reminder of what I’ve always known and had.

5

She’s Still Butters

I haven’t thought about writing in so long. My new job, which will soon become my old job, has kept me very busy. I work until 6:00 two days a week, 3:30 the other three days, and spend my evenings reading teaching blogs, researching ways to teach Van Gogh, Monet, DaVinci, Michelangelo, verbs, spelling lists, Little House in the Big Woods to kindergarteners, first graders, second graders and third graders. On the weekends, I dust, vacuum, cook, scrub toilets and catch up on the endless pile of laundry. By the time the evening hours come along, I do not have a brain that thinks clearly; I certainly do not have one that can write a lucid sentence.

But, as I said, the new job will soon become the old job. Only two weeks are left in the school year, and I am counting down the days. I have loved the children at my school and am so, so thankful that I got to be their teacher this year. I cannot tell you how much I will miss them. But the position has not been easy, and I knew early into the school year that I would not be staying. The time is almost upon me, and I am not looking forward to saying goodbye to the children. They are the reason I accepted this job. They are what I will miss.

With that said, however, I can also say that I have started to feel like me again– I want to write again, I want to read again, I want to paint again. And I can see a future where I will be doing all those things again. I cannot wait.

Which also means here I am again. Back in the saddle, as the saying goes. Ready to enjoy my kids again, ready to record all their craziness again. Ready.

I became ready when spring and spring break arrived. I slept in, I played games with my kids and one night, the last night of spring break, John and I took the kids to Chik-Fil-A for ice cream. The kids all got shakes and John and I shared an iced coffee. Butters, of course, did not finish her cookies and cream milkshake and brought it with her in the car.

As soon as John started to back the van out of our parking space, a scream came from the back seat. I turned around to see most of Butters’ milkshake on the floor, cup still in her hand, the rest of the milkshake sloshing out of the cup, dripping onto the floor of the car. John had already backed out of our spot by now, so he drove forward a few spaces and parked quite crookedly in another spot.

Putting the car in park, he jumped out of his seat and popped the back door of the van open. He made a few unpleasant noises and said a few inappropriate words, then shook his head and ran back to the restaurant to gather a few hundred napkins.

He returned and began cleaning the puddle of milkshake off the floor, but Butters kept screeching about something. Finally, I recognized that she was saying something about her shoes, and I told John to take off her shoes. He reached for one, and as he tilted it off her foot, what appeared to be an entire milkshake poured out of it.

Then John reached for her other shoe, and, again, another milkshake poured from it.

And he said, “Perfect, this is perfect.”

Then he said, “what’s that smell?” and a little voice from the back row of the van said, “Sorry.”

And I started to laugh and couldn’t stop. It felt as if it had been so long since I laughed a real, true, deep, unaffected, unmitigated, un-what? laugh. And it felt so good.

The me who existed before this job and took for granted all the time she spent with her kids would have freaked out. Well, maybe not freaked, but had been very annoyed. Sticky ice-cream all over the floor of the car? Are you kidding me? Why can’t you hold on to your cup, Elizabeth?

But this me who has missed her kids just laughed. What does it matter, really, if there is ice-cream on the floor of the car? Has anyone seen my car lately? It is not a vehicle that anyone would call clean.

You know, things happen for a reason. I have lived my life believing that and I still do. This job has not been easy for me, but it has taught me so much. I always believed I could be a really good teacher to young kids (before this job I had taught only college kids) and through this job, I found that I was right.

So, if I could, if I had the chance, would I just erase this year from my life?

I know my 11 year old daughter, Lauren, would shout “yes”. She told me a few days ago that she liked me better when I was less uptight. When I balked at such a description of me, she corrected herself and said she meant “grumpy” then corrected that to say she meant “crabby” then corrected that to say “stressed out and old acting.” Thank you, Lauren, for always being honest with me.  Mom appreciates it.

I would not say yes. The kids I met and have spent this school year with? Oh, my, I cannot imagine not meeting them, and supporting them, and encouraging them, and teaching them, and, yes, loving them.

What a privilege it has been to teach and care for these children this year! A privilege to get to know them, be part of their lives, see the world as only five-, six-, seven- and eight-year old children can. I was given the chance to remember what it is like to be a young kid. How often does one get such a chance?

So, never, never would I take back this year. Hard does not mean one should forget. Giving birth to each of my four children was hard, but I certainly do not plan to ever forget those events.

Nor do I plan to forget this year.

But I do plan to look forward, not backward– look ahead, plan ahead, move ahead.

Here I go.

5

New job, New Old Pants

I know, I know.

It’s been a long, long, long time since I’ve written anything.

I’m sorry, ok? I’ve been a little busy.

And it’s not just the kids that are keeping me busy nowadays.

I’ve decided to go back to work. To become a productive member of society again.
,
I actually did this last fall, but it was only part-time. Now it’s full time.

And I am in over my head, let me tell you.

But I always feel that way when I first begin something new. I was way over my head when I had my first, second, third and fourth baby.

And look how that turned out.

Anyway, just as I think I’m getting things in line, maybe even feeling like I know what I’m doing, I always do something to bring me back down to earth. To remind me that I’m the same clumsy, kluxy goofball that I’ve always been.

Today was a perfect case in point.

Now that I am a working woman, I cannot wear the blue jeans, shorts, athletic shorts and/or yoga pants that I so love to wear every day. No, now on the days that I need to go to my office or a meeting, I dress in skirts and dresses. Occasionally, I wear pants. Today was one of those days.

Since I was going to do some work, but not anticipating seeing anyone, I chose to wear a cute pair of capris that I haven’t worn since last summer.

After taking two of my four children to my parents’ house, I drove on to my office. When I parked and got out of my car, I noticed that one leg of my pants was tighter around my calf than was the other one. Since the pants have drawstrings around the bottom, I just assumed that one drawstring was tied tighter than the other. It was something I decided I would fix later.

But later never came. As soon as I went into my office, I had emails to write, phone calls to make, questions to answer and things to read. But each time I went to the bathroom or sat down in my desk chair and my pants legs moved up or down, I was reminded of the tightness of the one leg versus the looseness of the other. While in the bathroom one time, I did try to loosen the one leg, but found the knot in the drawstring was too tight to undo. So I gave up and left it as it was. But I did notice that the pants leg had a tab hanging out of it. A peach-colored tab that I tucked back up inside the pants leg.

I didn’t really think much more about the difference in the pants legs. I arrived home around 4:30 and made dinner. We ate early so we could take the kids to a movie in the evening. I thought about changing into a pair of shorts, but remembering how chilly movie theaters often are, I chose to stay in my pants.

So, needless to say, my pants did not get removed until after the kids were put to bed and I was ready for my pajamas.

It was then that I discovered why the one pants leg was tighter than the other.

It wasn’t the drawstring.

And it wasn’t that one of my calves is fatter than the other (like I had feared).

It had something to do with that peach-colored tab that I had noticed earlier in the day when I was trying to loosen the drawstring on the one leg. When I saw the peach-colored tab, I thought two things: 1) “huh? what is this tab for?”, and 2) “I don’t remember these pants having tabs.”

Well, my memory was right.

The pants don’t have tabs.

The peach-colored “tab” was a pair of underwear. Peach-colored underwear that I’ve been missing for the past year.

Missing underwear is not something I have time to spend on. If Butters loses the ONE pony tail holder that she thinks is tight enough for her hair, I look for it. If Butters loses the ONLY pair of shorts that she will wear, I look for them. If Ryan loses his blanket, I look for it. If Lauren loses her stuffed cow, I look for it. But a missing pair of my underwear, nope. No time for that.

So there it is. My tab was just a pair of missing underwear.

Although I now have a title other than Adam’s mom, Lauren’s mom, Elizabeth’s mom, Ryan’s mom or Mrs. Prys, I am still one and the same. The same goofy woman that I’ve always been. Just now, I’m walking around with underwear hanging out of my pants.

Oh, this new chapter of my life is gonna be fun!

4

Living the American Dream

Yesterday, as I was putting on my shoes to go out and look for my wayward, forever-wandering basset hound, the thought came to me, “another day in paradise”. That is when I realized that perhaps not everyone knows what paradise looks like.

As one of the privileged few who get to live in paradise in this earthly world, I feel I should share my experience with those who don’t get this life. So here goes.

A day in paradise begins each morning with hungry, sometimes grumpy, children. Once the task of feeding them is accomplished, the day truly begins. I won’t go into details because the details are not very exciting and include many of the obligations and duties that every person must fulfill and complete each day.

You see, you often don’t realize that you’re living in paradise until something unusual happens. It is then that the thought occurs to you that perhaps not everyone lives this way, not everyone is so lucky to have such experiences, especially on an almost daily basis.

Yes, on an almost daily basis.

Yesterday was a beautiful case in point.

Lunch had just finished. My kitchen was being returned to a cleaner state. The kids were running around, going a bit crazy because they had been in the house all morning and were ready to find a swimming pool to jump in.

I was wiping off counters when three of the four kids came running up to me.

“There’s a man at the front door. We know him, but we don’t know what his name is.”.

At dried my hands off and walked to the front of the house. There was our neighbor from down the street. He smiled and waved at me as I unlocked the door.

As I swung the door open, I just knew why he was there.

“I have a dog loose, don’t I?” I asked.

“Yep,” he said. “I saw a dog wandering through yards a few streets away, and I thought, that looks like a Prys dog.”.

And so there I was a few minutes later, putting on shoes and thinking about my life in paradise. My kids were clamoring around me, talking all at the same time, upset and excited that Roxy was again loose and we were going on an adventure to find her.

And so the adventure began. Telling kids to stay home while I went out with a leash to look for Roxy. Being completely ignored by kids who just couldn’t wait to come help me find their dog. Yelling, laughing, shouting, screaming, laughing. All the emotions all at once displayed as we walked through the neighborhood for all to see (and hear).

So, needless to say. off we all trekked to find Roxy— Mom Prys and the four Prys kids.

And, of course, yet unfortunately, we found her. After about 20 minutes, in Kentucky July heat, we found her. Yay.

Covered in some kind of nasty, smelly, disgusting, sticky, crusty filth.

So then this life in paradise got even more paradisey. After dragging this filthy creature back home and locking her in the backyard, I got to stand out on the deck and wash her while the four kids worried that poor Roxy didn’t like the bath and I was scaring her.

My husband called in the middle of the bath and the children felt it was imperative that I talk with him. So I balanced the phone on my shoulder and explained to him what I was doing as I continued to scrub whatever the gunk was from Roxy’s body.

He was very sympathetic. And mentioned that since I was washing Roxy, perhaps I might consider washing Barkley (the good hound) too.

Yes, perhaps I might.

Or perhaps I might not.

I chose not.

So for all you envious folks out there who just think I’ve got it too good, that I’ve always lived a charmed life, well, you’re right.

This life is good.

Although I may be cleaning the remains of a dead animal or animal feces from around the neck of my dog in the middle of a hot July afternoon, I’m home with my kids in the summer. We get to go swimming, play at the park, eat samples at Costco, hang out at the library, get coffee from Starbucks, check out the manager’s specials at Krogers (mini cupcakes for $1.00, what?), have playdates, go to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s for lunch, get free croissants from the Senior Center my dad frequents.

How could life get any better?

3

The Perfect Moment

Recently, I heard someone say that we all have that perfect day. It can be a day from our childhood, the day we married, the day one of our children was born… but we all have it. That perfect day.

I don’t think I do.

I think I have perfect moments, not days. And the perfect moments can happen at any time, on any day, no matter what may be happening all around it. And those perfect moments are always with someone I loved. I don’t remember any perfect moments alone. They all needed those I loved to make them perfect.

For instance. The other day, I was playing Connect Four with my youngest child, Ryan. He doesn’t completely grasp the concept of four connected checkers, but he likes to play the game. I often have to stop the game to show him that if he places his checker piece where he is planning to place it, he’s going to miss a perfect opportunity to block my attempt at four of my checkers in a row.

Then he makes the same mistake the next turn and I have to stop the game again to show him how he’s going to give the game to me if he doesn’t play his piece wisely.

We were sitting on the floor of my oldest son’s bedroom playing our game. The floor of Adam’s room is messy and needs to be vacuumed. I can’t vacuum it, though, because it is full of clothes, clothes which I don’t know if they’re dirty or clean. So I leave them alone and wait for Adam to pick them up. Which, since he is a teenage boy, will not happen unless I nag and nag and nag.

His bookcase, which was right behind me, is full of dust. Again, how am I to dust the shelves when they are so full of stuff that you cannot move anything around without knocking over a stack of something else? And so I leave that too. And wait.. and wait… and nag.

And, yet, in the midst of this chaos and filth, I looked at my five-year-old boy who was smiling as he corrected his move for the umpteenth time, and I thought “I am so blessed that I get to be his mother. Thank you, God, for giving him to me to care for”.

And I thought, where did that come from?

And then I remembered something I read recently. Sometimes when we are looking for God, we miss his Voice because it is so simple, so obvious. We think his Voice will speak profound truths or messages, but instead it’s right there, speaking the everyday.

If we can learn to be still and listen, we’ll hear Him.

It was the perfect moment. Looking into my little boy’s eyes, seeing his smile light up his face, knowing that playing this game with him at that moment was so much more important than the chores that were all around me, that was the perfect moment.

And in that moment, God reminded me– He reminded me of what matters.

Just as He is always right there before me, so too what matters is right there before me– my youngest child, looking at me with chocolate eyes, and a laugh that I can’t resist; my youngest daughter with a smile that can light a dark alley; my other daughter, the one who will argue until the cows come home, but will give you every cent out of her piggy bank if she thinks you want it; or my oldest son who doesn’t know how to be mean even though he’s had plenty of kids be mean to him.

Many years ago, when I was just newly married, and living in our little starter home just a few blocks from my grandmother’s house, I decided to go see her. It was late afternoon, I was home from work, it was a beautiful day, and I knew my husband was going to be working late. So I walked the three or four blocks to Grandma’s, went to her back porch and knocked on her door.

After several seconds, the blinds on the window of the back door were parted by a hand inside the house, and then I heard her voice.

“Rene!”

She undid all the locks and then there she was, smiling from ear to ear, opening the door and reaching for me, all in one fluid movement.

It was a perfect moment. To feel someone love you like that, it was perfect.

It didn’t matter what she had been doing or what she was planning to do. I was standing on her back porch and nothing else mattered. I stayed and had dinner with her and it was one of the best times I had with her before the Alzheimer’s took over her mind. I will never forget it.

Perhaps those whom we love are not perfect, and many times, the moments with them are not either. But sometimes they are. When they are, we feel that flash of love and/or happiness. It doesn’t last and we may sometimes think that we’ve lost it. Life gets complicated and messy, stress takes over, but that flash that we felt is not gone. It’s just waiting. Waiting for another perfect moment.