High School

High school sucks, and don't let anybody tell you different. Teenagers are complete social degenerates. They lack social graces. They're mean, insensitive, arrogant, sneaky, argumentative, a-holes with too much energy.

Maybe I'm generalizing, but you get the point. I can look back on my life and see that those years were definitely not my best. Personally and socially, they were tough. I felt awkward and insecure. I didn't have a great sense of style and I talked a lot. Still do. I was smart but couldn't concentrate on homework. I had great friends, amazing people, but never really felt terribly close to any of them. My family didn't have a lot of money. The perpetual reassortment of the social heierarchy drove me mad. I liked everybody but felt close to nobody. Where was I?

Add to that, a bully.

In my freshman year, the popular boys decided that I'd done them wrong (it's a long story...) and one day at break, the gang of them approached me and threatened to "kick my ass out to the field." So high school, right? Well, it didn't end there. I endured taunts and insults all four years each time I passed one of them in the halls or (God-forbid) shared a class. The two names I remember best and least-fondly are "bitch" and "feminazi". The "feminazi" started when I took a stand against rising for and saying the Pledge of Allegiance in Civics with Mr. Poston. I've always been political. Mr. Poston supported my stance!  Leave me alone!!!
Moving on.

Yesterday, one of the Mean Boys sent me a Friend Request on the Facebook. Twenty year old insults and pain and fear and intimidation rose from the ashes and attacked. I panicked. I accepted? I immediately imagined the whole group of them sitting at a big, rich-guy executive desk rifling through the online photos of my life, laughing at what I am or what I am not. I hated myself a little for feeling obliged to please. God forbid I insult him, right?

I rifled through all of his photos. He had a huge wedding at his parent's estate, I think. He's been to basketball finals and the Super Bowl and his wife is a trophy and he's got two kids and an infinity pool on the beach. Then I defriended him. I couldn't handle it.

I decided to write a note. I told him that he'd hurt me. He'd bullied me. He and his friends were mean and caused me trauma and I wished him a nice life, and it was the truth.

The most beautiful thing happened 24 hours later. He apologized. He said he was sorry for hurting me, that it was a long time ago, and he didn't remember much. But he was sorry and wished my family and me well.

High school can be pretty dehumanizing. It's easy to dismiss your peers for academic, socioeconomic, aesthetic, or other completely arbitrary, ridiculous reasons when you've been together every day for seven years (as much as I try, I can't forget junior high) and you're perpetually rearranging the pecking order.

I sent the note, and he responded, and I think we both became humans again. He's got a family, kids, a spouse. So do I. We were forced to face each other's humanity. I don't see him as a mean, spoiled, jerky kid anymore. He's got more in his life. I liked the photo of him holding his new baby. He had that dopey, proud father grin. My note forced him to see me as more than a name from the past. If only for the moments it took for him to bravely write, "I'm sorry", he had to recognize me as a real human being. He didn't have to. He could have dismissed me and the note as the ramblings of a crazy woman stuck in the past. But he didn't. That simple acknowledgement fills the tiny hole he and his friends carved out of me, the piece of my happiness, my experience, my joy, they robbed me of. But that painful experience is over. Finally. Somehow, after reading a note 20 years in the making, that part of high school really doesn't matter anymore.



I work.  I write about work.  I love it more than I ever thought I could.

But something is missing again.  Not anything major like the fiasco of my life two years ago, but a void exists and I can feel it.

Physically, I'm great.  Active, happy, high energy, motivated.  Good stuff.
Emotionally, completely supported.  Dave is amazing.  Friends and family are amazing.  I lack for nothing.
Intellectually, space is not limited, but it's filling up fast.  I feel like a sponge.  No topic is off limits.

Spiritually, well, there's something missing.

I lean on the rock of my faith every day.  I feel guided and loved and confident that I'm doing what God put me on this Earth to do.  I contribute good and love into the world.  So how is that not enough?

Good question.  Let me answer it.

A couple of weeks ago Alexandria and I took a trip to a U-pick farm.  It was amazing and delicious, and I felt in-touch with the homesteader lurking in the shadows of my soul.  She liked coming out.  We picked pounds of blackberries.  I mean pounds.  I got it in my head that we were going to make blackberry jam.

The next day I lit the stove and didn't stop until I'd preserved, jammed, and packed 6 jars of blackberry vanilla jam, 6 jars of strawberry jam, and 3 jars of carrots (why not?).  It felt so good!  I loved working within a method, quietly working through a clear set of directions in order to accomplish a tangible goal.  And I looked at my beautiful finished products and thought, "Man, that was a lot of work for 12 jars of jam."  And it was.  I spent hours in the kitchen working methodically to cook, clean, sterilize, and process these beautiful jars. 

But I wasn't satisified.  I wanted to do it more.  I wanted people.  I wanted women in the same room with me chatting and laughing and telling stories as they pitted, pulled, snapped, and peeled.  I realized that I wanted to be in a different place in a different time. 

Mostly, I wanted it to be necessary.

Time with my friends fills my soul.  I feel alive and less alone.  I see reminders that I'm not the only one struggling, or thriving.  In this age of computers and grocery stores and store-bought blankets, where do women go to fill that void?  How can we have those long, necessary, fruitful conversations more than randomly if we're not forced by necessity or even desire?  I love the idea that the community would come together to preserve the harvest or sew a quilt. 

How do we do that again?  How do we fill this void in a way that is relevant to the 21st century?  I know other women feel this.  We talk about it.  We need it.  But somehow the pressures or social norms or whatever with daily life seem to bind us to a clock or calendar.  How satisfied are we?  How happy are our kids?  How filled are our lives?  What are we doing?

Or maybe it is just me.  Sigh.  Maybe it's just that I'm reading My Antonia and am nostalgic for another era.  Maybe I was supposed to be born in 1850...


Happiness - An Exercise

Sometimes life doesn't work out quite the way I expect.  In short, we were late to Alexandria's graduation.  I was mad.  Really mad.  As I read in The Artist's Way earlier this year, anger can consume you or drive you.  I used to let it consume me.  It's no good.  Living becomes miserable.  Now, sometimes anger acts to supercharge my engine.  Sometimes, fury gets me up a hill.  As I woke this morning, the sting of yesterday still stung.  I wrote.  It was still there.  Then I then remembered an exerise from The Artist's Way that I enjoyed - making lists.  Compiling a list of "things" can serve as a great reminder of what we have, what we can do, what we need, or how we can get somewhere.  This morning, I decided to create a visual reminder of things that make me happy, and why perpetual anger doesn't hold a candle to the bounty in my life.  In no particular order, here are some of the things that bring joy to my life.

family road trips  vacuumed carpeting  quiet  hot sun on my skin  a good swim  Alexandria's laugh  running effortlessly  new running shoes  Marcus's smile new workout clothes  early bedtimes  dancing  writing  compost piles  chicken coops  old dogs  rabbits  hanging flower baskets  paying bills on time  lots of moms at Stroller Fitness  holding babies  babies  a good, long sermon  church  warm cookies  my garden at dusk  good books  new books  fog  haircuts  generations  traditions  competition  races  sore muscles  jacuzzis  driving through farmland  road trips with Dave  Idaho  big puffy clouds over grassland  improv comedy  sketch comedy  being ridiculous with friends  S'mores  marshmallows  hot chocolate  fresh oatmeal  Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"  God  Jesus Christ  French  France  tights skirts  making kids laugh  friendships  Buddha  sewing  gardening  baking  singing  praying  breathing  the underdog winning  cheese,wine, and apples  snack  music  ice cream  peanut butter  hot showers  vacation  the night before vacation  sunrise  sunset  trees  deserts  dessert carts  Pixar  claymation  Broadway  health  marriage  parenthood  my bed  car games with Dave  afternoon walks  school  clean sheets  cats 

And there is more.  Thinking of things begets thinking of more things.  The bounty overflows my brain.  There is too much right in the world to focus on what went wrong.  So what's on your list?


Preschool Graduation


Today is Alexandria's last day of preschool.  Well, she had her last day on Thursday, but today's the graduation.  I'm mixed up with my emotions.  Today is one of those days that embodies the essence of my experience in parenthood.

She's growing.  And fast.  She began reading about a week and a half ago.  She's aware of her shoe sizes and her clothing sizes and has strong opinions about her unique sense of fashion.  Her generosity and sensitivity humble me daily.  The concept of right vs. wrong is beginning to make sense, and she needs less explanation for why some choices are better than others.  She's grown an inch and a half and a shoe size.

She says things like, "That's adorable" and "Oh my gosh!  I can't believe it!"

She pours her own water, rinses her own plate, makes her own snacks, packs her own overnight bag, and (usually) says "Thank you" for her meal.

Two days ago, she willingly participated in cleaning up her toys.  I daresay, she executed the task enthusiastically!  After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I lavished praise and joined in the Wonderpets "Teamwork" song.

She just woke up (without waking her brother) and wrangled Dave into some cozy morning time.  They're discussing the meaning of her preschool graduation.

I know I'm going to lose my mind and cry tears and make the ugly face.  As much joy as I take in my growing children, I mourn the real loss of the quirkiness, silliness, and sheer smallness of their little beings.  Watching their mental, physical, and spiritual development satisfies my soul, and I work hard to stay in the moment of their lives.  However, these acute moments in their lives punctuate the passage of time in my own.  They remind me that I'm growing older too, and that all these good things reach their inevitable end.  I see my own mortality in their developing muscles and growing bones.  My children's growing list of accomplishments prevent me from living in a bubble of denial.  I can't remain forever youthful and stagnant when I am inundated daily with reminders of our collective growth and maturity.  This moment is one to celebrate!  I feel washed in both loss and gratitude for bearing witness to these lives, including my own.


So today Dave and I, along with our parents, will watch Alexandria graduate from preschool.  We're a decade older than when we first met, dazed by silliness and irresponsibility.  Here we are together, enmeshed in the daily responsibilities of adulthood and parenthood.  We're celebrating these lives we've brought forth, reflecting simple graces we encounter daily.

I'm going to cry.  But I can't say I'm sad for the passage of time.  What is, is.  I accept that.  I think I'm moved less by the loss of an age, and more by the privilege of being alive to see it pass.