Limiting our Limitlessness

Hi.

Let’s talk a little this morning on how we limit ourselves. We all do it. Whether we are limiting our food portions, our snack options, our children from activities, ourselves from being who we are–we limit ourselves.

Here is a song that talks about being limited from the first line:

Now, I agree with speed limits (usually) and age limits (at least I do now, as a teen, I wasn’t too keen on them), and sometimes a good time limit serves a purpose (like when my children need to do their chores or eat a serving of unfavorite veggies off a plate). But, what I want to talk about is how we limit ourselves.

Have you ever said one of these phrases?

  • I can’t do that.
  • I can’t do that (because you are so good at it).
  • I can’t pull that off.
  • I could never _____________.
  • I could never do what you are doing.
  • I didn’t get enough sleep to do that.
  • I can’t deal with that today (or any day).
  • I’m done.

I’m totally guilty of the last one. I say it often…but thankfully not as often as I once did. If you are saying one or more of these phrases, will you stop? Do you know how to stop? Do you want to stop? Can you fill your mind with positive, “I can” statements?

Many of you know that I have half-a-dozen children. I do. They are really cool, and I don’t exactly take credit for them. People sometimes ooooo and ahhhh over my abilities. But they didn’t come into my home all at once. (Two of them came together–and that was one of the most difficult experiences of my life, but that’s another story.) As I had one–or two–at a time, my capacity increased to be able to take care of my children. I was blessed with more insight and patience.

I am undertaking another stretching and creative experience right now. This experience, along with trying to manage my family’s increasingly hectic schedule, has been difficult. But, I have also been blessed to grow and learn with each new undertaking. With the traumas we experienced last fall, my capacities grew again. Right now, I’m working on community outreach with a Writing for Wellness program. With each new endeavor, I learn and grow and become more developed as a human than I was yesterday, or last week, or two months ago.

Certainly, life calls for times of rest and recuperation. Sometimes we are stretched beyond what we are able and we need to ask for help or let some less important tasks go. (Don’t ask me how clean my house is or when the last time I folded laundry was….) But sometimes we need to say YES to stretching ourselves beyond our current abilities. Once we decide to do this, we will have people and opportunities placed in our path where we can work “For Good.”

Will you do it?

A Week of Years – prose poem or flash fiction?

Thanks for all the feedback and love from yesterday. Finishing April (National Poetry Month) with one more:

A Week of Years

I don’t care if I have any sweat left inside me. My body feels wet and dry, hot and cold, purple and pale.

I can’t do this.

After being up through the night with contractions, I’m repeating that phrase.

I can’t do this.

I want it to be over, but I don’t even know what “it” is.

A nurse dabs perspiration from my forehead with an already-moist washcloth, and I try again.

Push.

I can’t.

You can, the doctor says. But I don’t believe him. You can. Push.

The white ceiling tiles with little black specks resemble a reverse sky. If I could push though the floors above me, I could see real stars, celestial bodies to comfort my own trembling.

I tighten my core, encapsulating him into a cocoon-hug, but the baby I’m supposed to be delivering isn’t little and isn’t moving. Fatigue is taking over and I want to give in to sleep. To drift away into nothingness—a subconscious world of flying clocks and living in houses that are prettier than my own. But I am back in this room, this bed, feet pulled toward my chest and a baby crowning between my legs.

Push. Push. I don’t remember how to pull strength from somewhere. Bare walls, shined floor, a bright light replacing one ceiling tile all remind me that I’m still here.

Push. Push. Push.

I can’t hear him. He’s not crying. I can see his blue body in the doctor’s arms, and I feel like it’s over.

I want to rewind the last minutes, hours, days, to when he kicked under my ribs, when he pressed his foot against my stomach and I rubbed the heel through layers of skin, uterus, and amniotic fluid. When he was alive and we worked together. When we felt like one.

Then, his cry slices through the room, a sound sweeter than anything I’ve ever tasted.

Love Changes Everything

This morning, when the house was quiet and I was doing some research online, my husband switched on the white-noised vacuum. It interrupted my thoughts. As he approached our computer area, he asked me to move. I pulled my chair away, and the vacuum sucked up the dirt, dust, and crumbs under the computer desk. In an instant, he kissed my forehead as I scooted my chair back into its home…and I beamed. (I think I am still smiling.)

A young boy, a little hesitant, entered a classroom with walls plastered in bright colors. He didn’t know what he would find inside the doors. A teacher greeted him with outstretched arms and a welcoming smile, an opposite experience from his past year. Happiness followed.

A little girl looked up at her mother with uneasy eyes. She knew she had made another mistake to add to her already-too-long-to-enumerate list of mistakes. Instead of a forming a frown, her mother swept the girl into her long arms, encompassing a little body filled with worry and a little heart filled with sorrow. Her mother whispered into her ear, “I love everything about you.” The little girl’s furrowed brow released its hold as if her brain and heart were releasing fear, worry, and regret. Vector-Valentine-Heart-of-Hearts-10-by-DragonArt

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Love changes everything.

Just Because We Do It…

Life gets crazy sometimes. Some things we can control; other things we cannot. Like, I couldn’t control my little guy waking up early last Saturday morning. He came in my room, full of morning exuberance as I groggily rolled over to check the time on my phone. The glaring white numbers read 5:47.

5:47 a.m.


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On a Saturday.

WHY?

Well, with a packed schedule for the day, I knew that going back to sleep wasn’t an option. (Now, I’m a believer in early morning productivity…just not that early…on a Saturday.) We cuddled in the warmth of the covers and discussed dreams and the lack of school for the day. Eventually, I rolled out of bed to get dressed.

And, I happened to wear heels–these great heels from my friend–with my brown pants and pink tshirt/sweater combo. I was happy with the outfit as a whole and was prepared for a busy day.

(Did I mention I was wearing these great heels?)

So, we were off to two appointments that went well, then to an activity involving doughnuts at church (how could you go wrong with doughnuts?), and out to visit some neighbors. Of course, we also had to drop kiddos off at parties, hit the library and a couple of other errands, and pick up some milk. (Yes, we were on our last gallon…how did that happen?)

As my handsome husband pulled into a parking space at the local grocery store, my feet were throbbing. Screaming. Aching.

UGH.

I asked him if I could just sit in the car. He asked me why I would choose the shoes I wore that day. I told him the reasons (they go with my outfit, I was trying to look professional, I didn’t think I’d be on my feet so much, etc.). I got out of the car and started walking in to the store. He said, “I think you just don’t like going to the grocery store.”

I thought about his statement. (Can I call it an accusation?) I didn’t want to go to the store in that moment. He was accurate about that. But, on “normal” days–whatever those are–do I really hate going to the grocery store?

I followed that train of thought through shopping. Do I hate to shop? No. What about cooking? Do I hate to cook? No. I actually enjoy cooking. Do I hate walking around the store and greeting fellow shoppers? Nope. I like to chat through the store. Hmmmmmm…. What is it, then?

Actually, I hate planning meals. If someone would provide a menu that worked for my schedule each week, then I would happily follow it, buy ingredients, and cook. I do my best with planning, but I don’t enjoy it. I don’t even like it. In fact, I kind of hate it. But I do it anyway.

As part of our conversation, I had this thought: just because we do it doesn’t mean we like it.

Do you like having little people wake up at 5:47 (A.M.!) on a Saturday? Do you like having to form cognitive thoughts that early? Most days I don’t. But I do it. I do it because that’s what I signed up to do when I decided to have children–whether I knew it then or not.

Why?

The bottom line for me is love. I do what I do because I love my family and I want them to feel loved.

Red Love Heart Full HD Wallpaper Wallpaper
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Last night, we had a beautiful meal together. My oldest and I spent the morning in the kitchen preparing a crock pot with roast, potatoes, and carrots (which I picked up, incidentally, at the grocery store on Saturday). We also made a baked dish of macaroni and cheese along with rice. After church, we made gravy from the drippings in the crock pot and also threw together some delicious rolls. We had family dinner together which filled our tummies and our spirits. My kiddos even went back for seconds (which is rare), and the evening which followed went smoothly because our hearts were happy.


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As I put myself out there by planning and preparing a meal that I didn’t really want to plan (I would’ve been okay with having something like frozen pizza), I was blessed with a wonderful evening…and part of me began to like the planning aspect of cooking. (Shhhh…don’t tell anyone!)

What do you do that you don’t like to do? What would have to change for you to like it more?

A little fiction: “Something Beautiful”

Most days upon waking, my mind drifts in and out of consciousness, wondering whether or not I will ever feel passionate about anything again.  I marvel back to sixth grade, when Mrs. Schneider gave us “passion” as a vocabulary word.  I sat there, next to Bobby Newenschwander, who, as a typical sixth-grade-boy, snickered incessantly at the word as Mrs. Schneider’s chalk scraped white letters across a golf-course-lawn colored chalk board.  I copied the list down into my vocabulary notebook, reached into my desk for my copy of A Student’s Dictionary and found the word right between “passenger” and “passionate.”  I noted a small n. next to the word and copied, “a strong feeling or desire, enthusiasm.”  I couldn’t help but read the next entry—“adjective, ardent in feeling or desire.”  I wondered then, in my eleven-year-old-self, if I had ever felt passionate about anything.

My mother was working on dinner when I tossed my backpack across the table, poured a glass of cherry Kool-Aid and sat at a bar stool across the counter from her bowl of cornbread stuffing and sliced chicken breasts.

“How was school today?”  And then, “did you copy your vocabulary list?”  This question was always part of my Monday interrogation.

“Fine, Mom.  Thanks.  And yes, I have my vocabulary list with definitions.”  Even though I hadn’t missed any words the past few weeks, I had spent the first quarter missing several words…okay, more like half the words…on the list each week.  Doing better lately didn’t erase the concern from her brow, though.  “One of our words this week is ‘passion.’  Do you know what that is?”

My mother’s hands stopped stuffing moistened bread bits and seasonings into the open breast as she looked into my face.  “Yes.  Did you look it up?”

“Sure, but I just wondered what you thought about it, and what I could do with it for my vocab. sentences for homework tonight.”

“Well,” she began, as I could see her mind working between handfuls of stuffing, carefully placing the prepared chicken into the casserole dish and just as carefully placing words, “people can be passionate about lots of things—like politics,…sports,…hobbies.  Sometimes people use the word in reference to feeling strongly about a relationship.”

I remembered looking for that relationship many years later as a college student at Emery.  Back during a time when we had no classes on Wednesday, I would wander through the tree-strewn campus, walking up and down paved hills, reciting formulas for OChem and wishing I could find that feeling of passion for someone.  Sure, I’d dated lots of guys—frat guys, athletes, intellectuals—all without a glimmer of that “strong feeling or desire” I wanted.  I became passionate about searching for passion.

Then, one Wednesday, I saw this guy driving a golf cart with lawn tools in the back as I was out for a morning run.  I waved to him, as I had grown accustomed to waving to everyone I passed, and his eyes looked eager as he returned my wave.  The tips of his hair stuck out in dark tufts under his Red Sox cap as his eyes met mine.  I passed him to feel a drop from somewhere in the vicinity of my chest cavity to my abdomen (I was pre-med at that point), and I decided to circle around and see where the golf cart was travelling.

About a mile of up and down the grey stripe of pavement dividing a sea of green, I noticed the Red Sox cap turned backwards on a body, stooped over some type of planting area.  I saw rhododendrons and azaleas, which I recognized, but he looked to be planting some type of annual as a border plant around the edge of the bed.

“Good work,” I remarked, keeping up a stationary jog.  He startled a bit, turned, and stood to face me.

“Uh, thanks.”  I watched him dust his shirt with his dirt-stained hands, hands which would later arouse feelings within me I didn’t know I could have.

“What are you planting?”

“Madagascar periwinkle.”

“Oh, it’s very nice.  I love the color.”

“Would you like one?  I have more than I need.”  He took a step toward me with flower in hand.

“I have to finish my jog now, but maybe I could catch you later,” I offered as I continued a stationary jog.  “When’s your lunch break?”

“Oh, I just have to finish this bed and two more.  I should be done about 11:30, and then I’ll need to shower.  Want to meet up at the cafeteria?”

“Sure.  I’ll see you there—a little less sweaty—around noon?”

“See you then.”

I jogged back toward my dorm with a smile all the way. We met for lunch (where he gave me a flower), and so began our two-year courtship, eight-month engagement, and twenty-seven-year marriage, filled with moments of passion so indelible…moments of support, love, and companionship mixed with anger, frustration, exhaustion, and the act of passion that would land me here.

I opened my eyes to look up at the tall ceiling.  My lovely orange suit (I look much better in red) hung over my delicate bones, my small hands that once performed surgery to sustain life were calloused and swollen from manual labor, my lovely size 6 feet that used to slide in and out of Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo were now lacing into something more like generic Converse—and I didn’t care.  I had a momentary flush of feeling as I remembered that Clara and Angelique were coming for a visit today, but it did not last long.  A pang of guilt filtered from my bed-headed hair to my bulging cotton socks, but that didn’t last long, either.  “I guess I have finally shut down, after all,” I muttered to an open cell, with no one around to hear.  If I cared anymore, I think I might try to get out, to appeal, to kill myself, but I don’t.

So I sit here, and lie here, and eat here—well, I eat sometimes—and pay my debt to society.  Never mind all the lives I saved once upon a time (which, I recorded once in med school alone to be around 27, 28 if your counted that little girl who I Heimliched in the cafeteria), but I guess that was another life…another feeling of passion.  Passion for life.  My passion for him was different.  He needed me, and I needed him.  Together we fit in ways I could not describe with words in any language I knew (which included six conversational, two dead, and one more just reading since I never learned to pronounce correctly in German).  But then, he needed me to help him leave.  And I didn’t want to; I really didn’t.  I fought against the need for the better part of a year.  But I loved him.  And he was in so much pain.  So much suffering.  “I save lives; I do not take them away,” was my mantra each day.  But he would look at me with his dark, undiscerning eyes, which reminded me of his dark hair sticking out of a Red Sox hat one spring day in Atlanta.  I put Madagascar periwinkle by our bed, but he didn’t notice.  At that moment, I realized that we could leave—like a dream—together.  He would leave his body and I would leave my emotions and we could survive in some other sphere of existence where passion filled our days and nights, where we only existed for each other.  So I did it.  It was an act of mercy as much as it was to save what we had—to save our marriage, our passion, our daughters.  And no good or great attorney could get me out of what I started, and no good or great therapist could help me live again the way I lived with him.

I guess eating really doesn’t matter anymore.  I’ll see the girls today and tell them that everything is fine, remind them to put fresh flowers over his stone.  Spring must be right around the corner.  I don’t feel as cold right now.  Or as warm, either, come to think of it.  Maybe I don’t feel anything.  I wonder what death feels like.  Cold, or warm, or like walking or running or singing or dancing or praying.  Maybe it feels like the moment you release all that energy from a lifetime of learning and going and doing and working and saving.  Some of my patients would talk about a light, bright like the sun.

I loved our honeymoon.  We spent four glorious days on St. Pete Beach at the Don.  We swam out as far as we could to the buoys each morning and ran along the beach in the evening sunset.  He wandered the gardens, with hands and nails cleaned for our wedding, but I knew he longed for the feeling of earth, of planting, of growth.  He went on to teach landscape architecture at Purdue for fifteen years, but still he was happiest with soil under his fingernails and the smell of earth imbedded in his skin.  I could see his shadow, over me, his face filled with love, then excitement, then relief.  I remember each spring, he would bring me a small pot of something new, mixed in with Madagascar periwinkle.  He would often ask me, “What if I had been planting geraniums that day?”

“You weren’t.”  I would smile back at his teasing.  “Geraniums stink.  We were both sweaty and smelly enough that day—so you needed to be planting something simply beautiful.”

And we were.  Together.  Somehow.  Simply beautiful.

I Used to HATE Valentine’s Day

I used to HATE Valentine’s Day…but, for the past several years, along with having a husband and sweet kiddos to share in the celebrating, I really do enjoy the day (and days leading up to it, as you probably imagined…hence the week-long posting of love-related songs and topics).

Here are some of our fun traditions:

on our normal, weekly family night, we share the story of our courtship/engagement/wedding with our little people
we have a dance party with love songs
we make homemade chocolate fondue and dip marshmallows, bananas, cookies, strawberries, etc. on long skewers
my husband and I share a quiet evening out (but NOT on Valentine’s Day…ever)
we listen to more love songs than normal that week 🙂
we make homemade Valentines for friends and classmates
I make (or add to) a playlist of love songs (prep for my anniversary playlist later in the year)
etc. etc. etc.

What are your Valentine’s Day traditions? What will you do to spread some love around to those in your circle of influence?

Love Heart

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Always Teaching

Whether actively or passively, we are always teaching: teaching others about ourselves, teaching others how to treat us, teaching others about our ideals, teaching principles to govern life, teaching faith or the lack thereof…simply teaching.

Maybe you have not considered this possibility. I really didn’t until I had several of my own children in my home and I watched the way younger children would mimic behavior of an older child. At that time, I coined this phrase in our home: “You are always teaching.” I have tried to help our children learn that they are always teaching others in every interaction (or even in the lack thereof) each day.

I teach them, too. Though I am not part of the homeschooling community, I do agree that what children learn at home–the most basic of lessons–helps to shape and mold their lives in myriad ways. My parents were teaching us Robert Fulgum’s Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten lessons before we ever set foot in a formal school, and I have tried to do the same for our children.

I find that sometimes the most passive teaching can be the most effective–words passed through daily chores together such as clearing a table after breakfast or cooking dinner together. I find conversations come up in queries regarding song lyrics or film topics, school happenings or world events.

We take time to formally teach, too, through a time set aside on Monday nights for a specific family evening of lessons and music and activities and a treat. We have a goal to create moments of discussion with our children, individually, regarding each one’s concerns and triumphs.

We are always teaching!