Stepping out the door was like dipping your toe in the pool – yikes, that's cold! Here's hoping I get used to it. I pulled my scarf up over my mouth, adjusted my earbuds and switched on my iPod, then started walking. It was almost a no-go, this brisk stroll, what with me still being tired from the action packed long weekend, and the wind howling so un-invitingly. You can still turn back, I told myself a block in, Why not just break out an aerobics DVD (Let's face it, that would never happen)?"
Trash cans, for sale signs, lawn chairs were lying prostrate in submission to the authoritative arctic gusts putting autumn in its place. We're baaaaaack, they announced in no uncertain terms – slapping my face and numbing my fingertips in the process. Already the gray and shortened days had begun wreaking their subtle havoc on my mind and body, making me hungry, sleepy, irritable. And good grief, it's still only November!
The downtown was empty, save for a few employees rushing straight from their cars into the warmth of their various storefronts. Stubbornly, I trudged on alone until I finally reached the park, where I spied a regular fixture on my walking path shuffling towards me. His bearded jowls were a little rosier than normal, and his uniform of scruffy denim overalls was covered partially by a puffy camouflage coat, but otherwise he and his smiling eyes, his jolly demeanor, were un-phased by the cruelties of the new season. Gooood Morning, he said, nodding his head once, like a gentleman tipping his hat to a passing elegant lady. Good morning, I replied in kind, like I always do – like it was perfectly appropriate and natural that I'd be out and about inhaling the fresh air, despite the fact I could no longer feel my nose and was on the verge of being swept up and blown sideways.
And so it begins, I thought then, the daily battles against the seductive lures of my cozy couch, beckoning me to stay inside, live in my sweat pants and snack away the next four months while my muscles atrophy. Heck no! I declared, suddenly horrified by the prospect of pasty skin, continuous exhaustion and ten extra pounds. I went and picked up my pace, inspired by the consistency of the cardio- committed Mr. Happy and the vigorous pumping of my blood clearing my head and jolting me into a welcome state of alertness.
Thus I find myself, on this frigid and sun-less afternoon, wide awake, game face on, gearing up for the ups and downs of this my 37th winter.Read More
What the Living Do
by Marie Howe
Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won't work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up
waiting for the plumber I still haven't called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It's winter again: the sky's a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through
the open living-room windows because the heat's on too high in here and I can't turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,
I've been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,
I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.
What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss — we want more and more and then more of it.
But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep
for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living. I remember you.
I am grateful for the work I have cut out for me today: The counter full of dishes cemented with black bean soup, my guest's dirty bed sheets, for the mundane grind that, if I don't watch it, can have me longing for more than what I've got. I am grateful for these tangible evidences of my living, breathing, eternal relationships with other human beings – the nourishing/messy ramifications of loving imperfectly my family, friends and neighbors.
I'm grateful gratitude turns logic on its head, muffles anxiety, thwarts whining and apathy. And I'm grateful for my inability to conjure up gratitude all by my lonesome. What keeps me praying, begging, for wisdom and mercy is what will ultimately save me (Oh that is so hard to swallow). I'm grateful gratitude abides in the now; it's too tiring to dwell on tomorrow. Right now I'm healthy, now I'm warm, now my belly's full, now I'm free to either choose thankfulness via the diligent stewardship of my many blessings or half-living via slothfulness and habitual dissatisfaction.
This cold, gray, sleepy Monday is the day the Lord has made. I will, I will, I will pull my head out of the sand and implore Him to help me rejoice in it.
Do you have a photo or reflection on gratitude to share? Please link to your site in the comment section below. Next week's The Way I See It theme will be: Saint NicholasRead More
Sometime after midnight, I felt a small hand shaking my shoulder. “Mom,” whispered a sleepy-faced Mary, “Priscilla needs you.” I walked, or more accurately, stumbled into the girls’ dark bedroom and found my ten-year-old in tears. “What’s going on, babe?” I asked, while running my fingers through her static-y hair. “I don’t know,” she sobbed, “there’s all these yucky thoughts in my head.”
Earlier in the day, I’d found a library book in her bag that I thought looked scary, like ghost story scary. And being overly sensitive myself to all things frightening, chilling, bloodcurdlingly suspenseful (Junior high sleepovers, which in the 80’s inevitably involved VHS tapes of Freddy Krueger or axe wielding cheerleaders, were literally nightmarish for me as a queasy twelve-year-old), I immediately suspected it had something to do with her agitated state of mind.
“Sweetheart,” I said, “Your brain is like a sponge, absorbing everything you read, watch and listen to. You and I, especially, because you’re a lot like your mama, have to be careful about what we allow into our heads and hearts. Saturday morning, let’s go to the library together and find some good mystery/adventure/fantasy books that aren’t quite so creepy. “ She nodded tearfully and laid back down. I rubbed her feet until we both fell asleep.
We Orthodox Christians are in the midst of a Nativity Fast. It snuck up on me this year and I’ve been having some difficulty getting into the less gorging, more praying swing of things. I think the fact I’m struggling so is an obvious indication I could use some serious refocusing on what is pure, lovely, noble, true. “Allow Me to nourish you,” offers the Church during Advent. And it is solely up to me to either accept or reject Her invitation.
I’m hungry. What will I choose presently, right now, to fill me? My peace is at stake and my impulses are raging. It requires effort to seize the moment. Lord, help me seize the moment! I cannot hear You when I escape into the noise. Please take from me my fear of sacrifice and silence, Oh God who lovest, and is ever merciful to, forgetful mankind.
Do you have a photo or reflection on nourishment to share? Please link to your site in the comment section below. In honor of Thanksgiving, next week's The Way I See It theme will be: Gratitude (which I will most likely post on Monday).Read More
Our poor old van was in need of some fixing, so on Monday I drove her to the auto repair shop. “Whatchya need, Hon?” Asked the ponytailed brunette at the counter when I walked through the front door looking as lost as I usually do in auto repair shops, or any kind of shop involving tools for that matter. “Um, my husband made an appointment for our Toyota Sienna,” I told her, hoping no other information about the vehicle was required. “Let’s see,” she said, looking over the notebook in front of her, "is it under Troy Sabourin?”
“Yes,” I said, then stood there blankly staring at her until finally she asked, “Well, can I have your keys?”
Once that was sorted out, I took a seat by the window and pulled out my Kindle, and the woman at the counter turned her attention back to the less than natural blonde standing across from her. It was just the three of us in the room so try as I might to not appear like I was eavesdropping, I couldn’t help but overhear every word of the colorful dialogue they were in no way attempting to keep private.
“So anyway,” said the brunette, “my dad just sits there on his fat ass watching television all day until he gets hungry and starts yelling at me to get him something to eat. Meanwhile his girlfriend never does one thing around the house. I swear to God, I’m like his freakin’ maid. I have got to get out of there. I can’t stand it anymore.”
“I hear ya,” said the blonde. I won’t have nothin’ to do with my effed up family. I’ve been in counseling for years for all the nasty crap they put me through and now I’ve got my own kid in counseling. Geesh, I mean he’s only seven years old and already screwed up because his jerk of a father rejected him. It’s too bad you can’t pick your parents – that you're just stuck with what you got.”
“Oh my boy’s in counseling too. It is so damn hard to mother on your own. And you know what’s really pathetic?” asked the brunette. “That I live in a big old beautiful house filled with nothing but depression."
“Mmm-hmm,” agreed her friend. “Depression, bipolarism, anxiety it’s everywhere.”
The phone rang then, and after speaking briefly to the mechanic on the other end of the receiver, the brunette called out, “Ms Sabourin, I think it might be awhile before your van is ready. Is there someone that can pick you up?”
“Hey, I’m on my way to Ogden Dunes,” her friend chimed in. “Do you need a ride someplace?”
“That’s so kind of you,” I said, genuinely touched by her offer, “but I live in the opposite direction. I can call my husband to come and get me.”
Looking at her watch, the blonde announced she was late for work and should probably take off. “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” she asked, while pulling on her coat.
“Me and my son will probably go to my boyfriend’s,” the brunette answered, rolling her eyes. “What about you?”
“The same. Hey, listen girl, you keep your head up, OK?”
“You too, honey. See you later.”
It was just the two of us left then: me and the heavy-laden, single-mom receptionist. “Can I get you some coffee?” she asked.
“That would be lovely,” I told her, holding her gaze and smiling as warmly as possible. We made small talk as she poured the pitcher of water into the industrial size Bunn coffee maker, until the phone rang again. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my husband’s Ford Fusion pull into the parking lot. I knew he was in a hurry. I had to go.
The receptionist, cradling the phone with her shoulder and furiously scribbling down information into her notebook, did not notice me standing up and heading for the exit, nor did she notice that she’d put too much water in the coffee maker and now coffee was overflowing down the sides of the pot. Before leaving I reached over and switched the power off, unsure of what else to do to help minimize her mess.
Grant her rest, I prayed, then joined my husband in his car and we headed toward our humble, imperfect, abuse-free, loving home. Too whom much is given, much will be required, I heard echoing in my head.
Lord Have Mercy, I have so much more than I even realize.
Well, life's gone and did it – undone me, that is, and I'm all the wiser I think for having been bowled over. This week our schedule became especially bloated with plays, basketball, indoor soccer, field trips (see photos), school projects. Last week I was organized, this week I am not.
This morning we had chips for breakfast, we're missing two winter coats, I found a burrito in the van – one we'd forgotten about apparently after having had fast food for dinner not once but twice this week. This week, I've lived in the van, no lie – this crazy week has been a blur. It's so obvious, in fact, I am not on top of "it" - "it" being the clutter, correspondance, meal planning, my patience, laundry, homework, etc. – there is no point pretending I am anything but extremely fallible.
I'm just an imperfect mom who adores her family, even when they drive her INSANE, who's completely wrapped up in her family, stumbling through one day to the next, dropping balls, putting her foot in her mouth. The good news is, these sorts of confirmations, the frequent setbacks, don't throw me off as much as they used to.
On Monday, for example, when I came downstairs to see my oldest daughter in tears because she'd accidently unscrewed the blender containing 3 cups of milk, 4 eggs, 2 cups of flour and 2 tablespoons of melted butter from its base, causing every last sticky drop of that batter to spill forth onto the floor, into open drawers, all over the counter, I didn't bat an eye. It was par for the course, really. "Get your back packs," I called to my darlings, "We're going to Dunkin Donuts!" And we did, leaving the mess behind.
I do believe there is wisdom to be found in just salvaging what you can, in rolling with it when your best laid plans fall through.
I know by now to keep an apology on my lips ( I say "sorry" quite often – because I screw up quite often), and a prayer for mercy going in my heart. This prayer especially:
Prayer for the Acceptance of God's Will
O LORD, I know not what ask of Thee. Thou alone knowest what are my true needs. Thou lovest me more then I myself know how to love. Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me. I dare not ask either a cross of consolation. I can only wait on Thee. My heart is open to Thee. Visit and help me, for thy great mercy ‘s sake. Strike me and heal me, cast me down and raise me up. I worship in silence Thy holy will and Thine inscrutable ways. I offer myself as a sacrifice to thee. I put all my trust in Thee. I have no other desire then to fulfill thy will. Teach me how to pray. Pray Thou Thyself in me. Amen
I need help. I need forgiveness. I'm right where I probably should be. It is good.
Do you have a photo or reflection on "Wisdom" to share? Please link to it in the comment section below. Next week's The Way I See It Theme will be: NourishmentRead More