Category Archives: general

saturday (exquisite)

I was getting my hair cut earlier this week, and the salon chair is always a great place for conversation. Somehow our talking turned to my grandparents – I think maybe we were talking about this post I wrote recently about my grandfather’s poetry, but at some point it turned to my grandmother’s numerous talents. Our family is nearing eight years without her, which seems both incredibly long and short at the same time. I think I assumed that the missing would fade somewhat with the passing years, but I find myself thinking of her more often lately than I would have expected.

I’ve been wondering about why this is, and I think maybe I’ve settled on an explanation. I’ve talked a lot about incorporating rituals into my life that help me connect with things that bring me joy and calm and respite, as well as celebrating the beauty around me. I’ve tried to be intentional about this practice, and most importantly – specific, and focused in my attention to them. Because I can remember times in my life when I’ve struggled with difficult transitions, or battled depression or anxiety, or felt immense and relentless grief – and during those periods I would frequently tell myself that this life – MY life – was beautiful, and that I should feel lucky and grateful and satisfied, not unmoored and untethered and bleak. It stayed in this vague, gauzy, abstract form that did nothing for the very real and tangible struggle I was mired in. It didn’t bring me comfort; it encouraged guilt, and feelings of inadequacy.

Specificity changed that, not overnight, but with time. I named those things that made life beautiful – that gave it meaning, that challenged me, that inspired me. And then I mapped out where those things could fit in – daily, weekly, with specificity and priority. I documented them with photos and words – many I share, most I don’t.

I found ways for these things to bleed into each other. I strengthened the ritual of early morning walking in the garden, first with E, now with F. I allowed the excitement around new discoveries in the garden to help motivate me to run a little faster and longer on the park trails in the afternoons. I brought those colors indoors – on my counter, in my vases and my lunches, on our bookshelves, in our art collections. I sought out inspiring people around me, and stopped admiring them from afar – I said hello, I’ve been thinking about this too, let’s talk more, grab coffee, collaborate. I tuck away all these things for now and for later, so if I’m asked to help out here or there, I can pull from all of those things just what I need. A catalog of petals and poses and pages and poetry and passions and people that I draw deep breaths from each day.

And so I miss my grandmother in this moment, because I’d like to share this all with her. Partly because I know that she would draw equal or greater joy in the collection of these things. But mostly because I wish I could share with her my thoughts on this. My grandparents loved me and my sister unconditionally, and they were passionate about everything that we were interested in. But in my memories of my grandmother, I will always be young – and so I miss these deeper conversations I’d like to have with her now. I wrote these words as part of her obituary –

Jo was a gifted artist, particularly with textiles, and graciously shared her numerous talents throughout her life with family, friends, and the many church homes served by Jo and George. She was exquisite in every sense of the word, and she leaves a lasting legacy of a beautiful life and a life made beautiful.

– and I really meant them. I just wish that I could talk to her about them now. I’d like to tell her how I squeezed up my face in thought and reflection in the quiet of my dad’s office the day after she died. I was looking for words, and had no shortage of them – but this kind of writing requires a complicated balance of both depth and brevity. It was not enough to simply acknowledge her passing and our grief in biographical form. I needed to be specific, to name what I had always thought of in a gauzy, vague, and abstract sort of way. I wish I could tell her that the specificity required of me in that moment would become a seed that I have tended now for almost eight years. That when I finally relaxed my squeezed up face and settled on those words something had changed in me. I would tell her that I look for the exquisite in every part of this life – the challenges and the setbacks and the triumphs and the mundane – and the whole of it is so very, very beautiful.

saturday (spring fever)

Last Saturday turned into some kind of vortex that sucked us into flurry of activity and decision making and financial outlay that made my head spin. We returned home just before midnight with a new car, collapsed into bed around 1:30 am, woke sometime later to a huge spring storm with intense winds and hail (that I was convinced was going to crush said new car), and we’ve been trying to catch our breath ever since. At some point midweek I realized that this blog never even crossed my mind over that weekend, but several things have been percolating in there since then. Having trouble deciding where to land. Here are a few things I’ve been bouncing around in my third story:

Food – access / planning / health / privilege

Aging – agility vs. fragility / forehead creases / privilege

Notre Dame – collective grief / architecture – history / complicated church feelings / what we mourn – what we miss / Western bias / privilege

Travel – summary of spring break trip / new history / surprises / complicated feelings about the South / privilege

Air Travel Anxiety – where I was / what I did / how it worked / (likely some privilege in there as well – can you tell I’m deep in that thread as I work my way through my current Witnessing Whiteness sessions?)

Over the course of the week, anytime I’ve had some time alone to think, I’ve been churning through a lot of thoughts on all of these things. But just when my head starts to settle into the discussion, I get distracted by all the SPRING.

My attention span is ridiculously short these days. As soon as I can get outdoors, I’m there, marveling in everything that is unraveling. A few times this week I’ve started crying while I’m running. It starts as a giant grin on my face, and the next thing I know my cheeks are wet and my eyes are watering and I just feel like a different sort of oxygen is pumping through my body.

Last night I stayed up way too late working on several things I was behind on, and then I missed my sleepy period and was wide awake for several hours after everyone else had gone to bed. This morning my alarm went off, and I was so tempted to just shut it off for good, and sleep in another hour until my yoga class.

I hit the snooze button and kept my eyes closed and thought about it some more. I convinced myself the sleep was important, and I set a new alarm for an hour later. And the sun streamed in, and I could hear the sounds of the birds outside, and I flopped around in the bed for a few more minutes until I couldn’t stand it anymore. It’s spring, and I just want to be in the middle of it. I turned off the alarm clock and rushed around to catch up on my time.

So the other items can wait a little longer. The day has caught up with me, the sun and the wind and the exercise has worn me out. I’m ready for bed, but E’s begging me to watch a Gilmore Girls episode with her. I’ll curl up next to her and drift off while we’re watching, I’m sure. M and F fell asleep while reading – we all need the extra zzzz’s.

Instead of more words I have more pictures. I couldn’t decide. I’ve uploaded almost all of them, taken over the past two weeks. I know I say this every year, but it all happens so fast. First it’s slow, until it’s not, and then who can sleep when there is so much gorgeousness out there to discover?

The words can wait. Spring can’t.

saturday (back, and older)

Preface: Most of the photos in this post are from the Nikon, and most were taken by this goofball below. She really enjoyed taking photos on this trip, and it kept her engaged (and motivated) while we walked from dawn until dusk. And honestly, as I’m looking through them tonight, I’m realizing how refreshing it is to see our trip from another perspective – and to occasionally show up in a photo or two. We’re actually a pretty silly team, and we really enjoy hanging out and exploring together – I think it shows here. I’m going to add a smattering of of them throughout this post – so get ready for more people, (and more animals)! I’ll put together a more in-depth post soon on the whole trip.


…..

Well, I didn’t plan to miss posting last Saturday – but we vacationed hard, right up until the last second of last Saturday night. I’m pretty sure we were on an airport shuttle back to our car when Saturday flipped over into Sunday. All I really remember at that point was how very cold it was compared to where we had been, and how much I longed to submerge my sore, cold limbs into a steaming body of water in the middle of our second floor. That did happen less than an hour after leaving that shuttle, and I nodded off a few times before M came into the bathroom one last time to make sure I hadn’t toppled over completely. We slept until 9:30 the next morning. Hard, recovery sleep. Deep and dreamless sleep. Own bed sleep.

The trip was great. Everything went as planned, and when it didn’t, it seemed to go better than planned. Not without moments of being tired or hungry or whiny or worried and stressed about other things, but mostly without those. We seemed like a good team, a strong one, up for most anything.

Outside of the regular, predictable beach vacation, I rarely run when we travel. I like my familiar routes and ruts along the way – they help me zone out and turn my brain off for a change. Running in a new, unfamiliar place feels like more than brain on mode – it feels like hyper on mode. I have to keep track of where I’m headed and how to get back, watch out for unfamiliar traffic patterns, try not to get distracted, take in all the visual stimuli – not to mention setting an early alarm, getting dressed, and exiting a hotel room without making a giant production.

But a few days before we left, E asked if she could get up and run with me a few times over break to stay active and in soccer-shape. That changed everything for me. All of a sudden I had an extra pair of eyes with me, and more motivation to set the alarm and get out and explore.

Because here’s the thing. I love to travel, and I also love finding great places to stay while we do. But I don’t love a hotel room. I don’t love the availability of a television, the way it’s so dark and our internal clocks get thrown off, the way we all wake and stir at different times, and the sleeping ears turn on in ways they don’t have to at home.

There are few hotel bathrooms that can accommodate more than one person getting ready at a time, and so that means the first person to get ready (usually me) is left pacing around waiting on the rest of the chain. My head is already into the new place and I’m ready to go. I usually duck out of the room a few times – to get coffee or check on something in the lobby, or walk outside for fresh air. I get really impatient.

When we’re at the beach (besides having a larger condo where everyone can find some private space), we’ve found a great balance between those of us that like getting up early (only me, and only on vacation!), and those of us that like sleeping a little later (everyone else, because they have to get up earlier than they like every other single day of the year!). I set my own alarm timed to just before sunrise, slide silently out of the condo, catch the sunrise, run and sweat for an hour or so, return back to our place, carry down the beach furniture to save a good spot, make a pot of coffee, grab some peaches, return down to the chairs, and sit for a spell. When I finally head back for a real breakfast, everyone’s eaten and is getting on swimsuits, and I have the kitchen to myself!

I’m not sure why I didn’t ever translate that idea to our other trips, but this year I did, and I noticed how nice it really was. Everyone else woke a little later, worked out in the hotel gym a bit, showered, maybe headed out for breakfast somewhere, texting me where they were headed. I’d return to the room, shower, and catch up with them and we’d start our day. Brilliant.

Later in the week, I realized how easily this new pattern fell into place. And on our last day in Charleston, as I ran ten solo miles before returning to an empty hotel room and shower, I realized how important that time is to me. I carve it out differently in real life, to the point that it feels normal and expected. I don’t take it for granted – I am completely aware of what a privilege it is to be able to set up the majority of my days in the way that I need them to be organized – and, for the most part – those days perform as planned.

But it helped me see both what a gift that time is, and how crucial it really is to balance out the rest of the craziness – regular life, or that special kind of hectic – a family vacation.

While I was running, I thought of how much support I get from a partner who bends his calendar around my own more often than not.

I thought about how both girls continually rise to the occasion on any adventure we spring on them, and how crazy enjoyable they are to have around most of the time. Even when things are a little off, they right themselves again, and we laugh so much more than we cry.

I thought about how much beauty and nature and fresh air and movement teaches me and cares for me and inspires me and restores me.

But I’m mostly thinking about this sheep that F captured in a dozen brilliant photographs over the course of ten or fifteen minutes of observation. There were a half dozen baby lambs in this area, and there was a lot of activity going on all around. And this sheep has its back up against the fence in a patch of wool-warming sun, and I am that sheep, eyes closed, deep breath, catching up with my thoughts and then moving past them.

I turn forty-four in a couple of hours, and today I got to slide back into my regular Saturday morning routine, which I treated as a sort of send-off to forty-three. I have lots of thoughts on getting older that I’d love to dig a little deeper into another time, but for now I’m still thinking about our trip – the gift of being together with (and sometimes apart from) my favorite people on earth.

(And also thinking just a little bit about E discussing the principles of a good selfie with Juliette Gordon Low.)