Pause

Hurry, hurry. Wait, wait. Hurry, hurry. Wait, wait.

That seems to be life these days. The treadmill of hurry to get things done in the gaps. I’m all for focusing on my kids, which means that game of Candy Land, that 800th nursing session each morning, that game of tickle on the bed all take priority over the laundry, the dishes, the laundry, the blogging, the dirty floors, the dusty bookshelves and (did I mention?) the laundry. When there is a pause in the action, a blessed moment of self-directed play for peanut and nap time for pumpkin, it’s a hurried rush to accomplish something in one of those categories.

Hurry, hurry. Wait, wait. Hurry, hurry. Wait, wait.

Today, I started the morning feeling guilty. Guilty if I skipped working out to get some much needed (you guessed it) laundry done. Guilty if I skipped the laundry to get the work out done. Then pumpkin solved it for me by going down for a nap, so laundry it was. I hurried through changing the loads. I hurried through a shower. I hurried through emptying the dishwasher and cleaning the kitchen. Hurry, hurry. It’s hard to know how long these little naps will last and there was so much to get done while peanut was occupied at school.

Then, wait, wait. Pumpkin awoke. Time to eat. It’s hard to rush a kid through nursing so I let him go until the last possible moment. Putting diaper changes and mama’s own pit stop on hold, we rushed out the door, hoping to not be the last in the pick-up line like last week.

Hurry, hurry. Waiting for the traffic. Waiting for the light to change. Hurry, hurry.

Then pause.

A funeral procession was approaching in the oncoming lane. I’ve only witnessed this in the south, although I’m sure it’s not uncommon elsewhere: we stopped. It didn’t matter how many cars it would take, or how late it might make me. This stranger and their family deserved, in the midst of their grief and loss, perhaps commenting on the cliche of the drizzly, overcast skies, my respect.

I stopped.

And in that moment felt peace. Peace that in my hurry, hurry life there are still beautiful moments of pause. Moments when your priorities are clear, your distractions few and the laundry isn’t an issue. I don’t know who that procession was for, but I hope they know that they touched a harried driver on Northside Drive this morning and caused her to pause.

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The One for my Dad

It’s Valentine’s Day. That means heart shaped pancakes, cards and candy for my boys and beautiful roses and a “box of cake” from them (hey, you can’t go wrong with a “box of cake” can you? Especially when it means it came from a bakery and I don’t have to clean up the mess left behind).

It also means I owe an apology to my first Valentine: My dad. I typically send a card at least, but this year I dropped the ball. I have spent the last week sick, sick, sick. I have the worst sinus infection in the history of sinus infections that is continuing to kick my tail despite the antibiotics. Needless to say, I didn’t quite make it to Hallmark in time to mail a card to my dad. I didn’t even make it to the mailbox at the end of the driveway until Thursday.

Growing up, my dad was the typical hero every little girl looks up to. He suffered through all the dad/daughter dances, he helped with all the school projects (remember that log cabin we built that ended up being more structurally sound than the apartment we were living in and weighed about 50lbs as a result?), he stayed up until the wee hours of the night putting together my first bicycle – the blue one with the banana seat and white plastic basket on the front – then spent countless attempts helping me learn to ride it without the training wheels. He fought the county school board when they wanted to send our little neighborhood to another middle school and won. He empowered me to fight the evil Miss Jones (yes, I’m still bitter) who accused me of plagiarizing a paper my sophomore year in high school (her accusation based on it being “too good” for a student my age).

My dad lost his job when I was in the fifth grade. As a result, he decided to put up his own shingle. So started the years of dad’s home office. To be honest, I loved that time. I loved coming home from school every afternoon and having him there to talk to. By high school, I’d come in, plop down at the drafting table and offer my own ideas and insights into the houses he was designing while sharing the days’ events from school. Sometimes he’d share a snack with me as I decompressed in front of General Hospital – eventually knowing just as much of the story lines as my sister and I did.

It was my dad who drove me 13 hours to Boston College for the official tour after I’d been accepted there and ultimately gave me the best advice for choosing a school when I couldn’t decide between there and UNC. It was my dad who answered the phone the night I found out my college roommate died while I was away on a business trip, alone and scared about the new reality I faced where friends were lost forever. Although he thought he didn’t know what to say, his calming voice was what I needed until mom got home and took over.

My dad not only approved, but welcomed the hubby as one of the family (for better or worse!). He championed our moving away, understanding the need we felt for challenge, for new, for independence. He has been a surprisingly sappy grandfather, in a way I didn’t quite expect but love to watch. My boys appear to be the sons he didn’t have, but I have no doubt that if they were girls, he’d be just as silly over them.

Through our adult years, my dad has shared some of his most difficult life’s burdens with my sister and I. Burdens that I can’t bear to imagine. Burdens that shape him, but don’t define him. Just as a nick in a sculpture might make it flawed, it doesn’t make it any less beautiful. But these burdens have put our family on a different path. A path that often mires him down in the weeds and shadows forcing us to be patient. But I hope he knows that we are here, armed with weed whackers and machetes to slay those tangles away and pull him free to the sunshine, when he needs the help.

So this year, I am sorry, daddy, that I did not buy you a card (hey, it’s probably your bad sinuses that made me susceptible to this darned infection anyway!), but know that you are still my hero, my champion, my bridge, my Valentine.

I love you.

One Moment at a Time

How is it February already? I am clueless as to where the days are going. They’ve been lost in maintaining the mundane. I keep waiting for something resembling normalcy to emerge and it’s proved to be an elusive beast. Just when I think I’m inching up on it, picking my way around the squeaky floorboards, reaching out a hand to grab it unawares, it disappears and some new challenge presents itself. Last week? The hubby was away for a conference and I was solo parenting two kids for the first time. This week? Looks like I’ve got two boys with colds and am helping the hubby prepare to take peanut to Florida for another attempt at a shuttle launch.

Friday evening, the hubby asked what I wanted to accomplish over the weekend. “A shower.” He laughed and said perhaps I should aim a little higher. I wish I could. I wish I was in a place where I felt like I could power through cleaning the house, caring for the young’uns, read a book, prepare a meal and cheerfully do it all in a cute outfit and heels. I wish I was even in a place where I could cross one thing off my to do list a day that didn’t include feeding eager mouths and cleaning bottoms. But it’s just not life right now. I’m admittedly feeling a little lost in all the need. Peanut’s need for attention. Pumpkin’s need to eat. And eat. And eat. The hubby’s need for a response from me that’s more than “yes,” “no,” and “whatever.” The bathroom’s need to be clean. Our primal needs to eat. And you know, pee occasionally.

What did I end up accomplishing over the weekend, even with an optimistic aim higher attitude? A shower. Oh, and grocery shopping (hunger can be quite the motivator).

With peanut, I was able to let him dictate our routine. I was way more laid back and relaxed. If the hubby and I ate dinner at 10pm, that was okay. If peanut fell asleep after nursing on my chest, no worries. I just snuggled in and caught up on the DVR or *gasp* took a nap myself. If I didn’t make it out of my jammies some days, no worries, I’d just run errands the next day.

This time around, there are demands, preschool carpool, appointments, play dates, expectations and two kids’ bodily rhythms to balance. And I’m just having a harder time not being able to control it all the way I want to. How can I explain to a not-yet-three-month-old that he needs to just wait 15 minutes for us to pick up peanut at school? How can I make my three-year-old feel loved and attended to when I spend three hours in the afternoon feeding pumpkin, attempting to get him down for a nap, finally failing at the attempt only to have to feed him again and again try to get him down for a nap since by this point I know the poor child is beyond exhausted? How can I explain to the hubby that I’m not tired to the point of speechlessness in the evening because I didn’t sleep well (although there are still those middle of the night appointments with pumpkin) but because my brain must put down the balls its been juggling all day or risk short circuiting?

Not all days are this crazy. In fact, right this moment, at the risk of jinxing myself, peanut’s watching a movie and pumpkin’s napping and the bathrooms and laundry are patiently waiting…for now. So I’ll try to luxuriate in this quiet moment. This moment of peace and harmony before someone has to potty or needs to nurse or I realize the dinner hour is approaching. This moment where my need to vent finally outweighs everyone else’s needs. This moment where I can breathe in deep into my diaphragm and feel the me buried inside that is more than just a vessel of delivering others’ needs. If for just a moment.

Live in the moment, they say. This moment, I take for me.