A thousand years ago, I met a boy. A guy. A man. It's hard to tell when you're 18.
I made him work for my attention because I had thick walls around my heart. Some of them are still there, but he got around them eventually. Sort of quickly, actually. He's got skills.
He won, I guess.
Well, I won.
We both feel pretty lucky, and that works out well when you're committed to living out life together.
It doesn't make life easy, but maybe richer. Free-er. When you know there's another person who will love you always, no matter what, some chains are broken.
A thousand years later, I have TWO heart-stealing guys in my life: my husband and my son. I'm pretty sure I'm the luckiest woman alive.
There was a while there when the three of us were mostly sleeping through the night and spending much of our evenings and weekends together. There was a LOT of laughing and playing and soaking up life. You guys, I loved my life. I was a big pile of gush.
(Of course there were spots I did NOT love, but I'm not here to talk about those today.)
Money was really tight (I laughed inside when I was given tips on things like how to eat out more cheaply; we couldn't eat out at all or really do anything non-essential), so we lived super frugally, but I didn't care. I had everything I really wanted: a healthy family, a job I love, great friends. I was rich, as far as I was concerned.
There is still all of that, except.
Eventually my bubble had to be popped. Because as frugal as we were, our lives weren't sustainable. We have to work quite a bit more to make ends meet, to pay bills, to avoid credit card debt.
I missed my simple, happy little life.
I really did. I wanted it back, even if it meant never getting to go on vacation or all my jeans having holes in them or having to eat mostly rice and beans and peanut butter.
I didn't get it back. I might not ever get the same life that I loved so much.
But what I did get is a stronger relationship with my husband because we had to work as a team more than ever. I learned how to better accept help that was offered and be honest about myself and all the processing I was (am!) doing- and I got some really rich friendships during the process.
Tim and I have said to each other that we know that when we get out of this particularly tight spot in life, we'll be glad to have gone through it. I don't think we're quite done, but I am already glad for it.
Last winter, I saw homeless people near my house on a regular basis.
They were far enough away that I could avoid them if I wanted to, but they were there. They stood with cardboard signs asking for help, for food. They thawed out in the local McDonald's in winter coats spotted with holes that deny the wearer to ever be completely warm or comfortable in the cold and rain.
I'm not sure when they started showing up. I'm not sure if there ever was a beginning. I saw them before, handing out a sandwich or a snack I just happened to have. I'd think of them for a couple of hours and then go about living my life as usual.
Eventually, though, they burrowed their way into my heart and took a seat, weighing it down.
I don't know their stories, I don't know if them standing out there in the cold and wind is "their fault" or not,
but I saw people I love in their faces.
What if someone I love were in their place? What if I didn't know about it, if somehow they felt they couldn't tell me, if they were too ashamed or whatever it may be?
I would want somebody to love the people I love for me.
They wiggled their way into Tim's heart, too. What we chose to do is really no big deal: we made up care packages to cover basic needs. We look for those guys until they were scared away with threats of fines (all guys; I haven't seen any girls); We wanted to get to know them and what kinds of things would be useful to them. We handed over supplies and a smile, a it's nice to meet you.
About a year ago, Tim and I started meeting weekly with 4 of our friends and their little boys. We share meals and child care. We have a "we can talk about/work through anything; you better tell me if there's a conflict so we can hash it out" policy. We work through books together and explore who Jesus really was, what loving people looks like, what community looks like.
I think the Jesus I am getting to know would have made friends with the guys with the cardboard signs, the ones who are easy to ignore and move on from, the ones who are asking for help.
Tim and I don't have a lot of money. I don't say that as a complaint. We knew when we decided I would stay home with Nolan that money would be tight. And it is tight: going out for coffee or taking Nolan to a local play place is a bit of a splurge for us. But I will tell you this:
I have never felt so rich in my life.
Just a few scenes from the day:
It was a really good day.
Yesterday was just...too tight around around my neck or something. Not bad, just ill-fitting for the most part.
I still feel a little "rammy," as my husband would call it, like I'm waiting to arrive, but I lived my day. I was there. I didn't walk through the time and then think Was I even awake? Did I notice my son? It was pretty beautiful, actually.
I woke up, after too few hours of sleep (I really need to change this not-sleeping-enough thing soon), and in yoga-speak, I set my intention for the day: I'm going to go to bed early, but until then, I'M GOING TO LIVE THIS DAY.
There were no grand gestures. Just me and Nolan, for the most part. We took our time at home in the morning and mostly read books (he hadn't had enough sleep, either). We took a walk, watched the cars, played at the playground, and then sat on the porch eating frozen pineapple and watching more cars. We visited a sweet friend.
It was good.
I've been writing more, too. I actually published a post at The Social Eater for the first time in months. I'm not sure if the published thing is going to happen anytime soon, but I'm practicing. I starting wiggling my way back into it and eventually, maybe it'll be formal (or not), but either way, this little bit feels like me.
There are cells of insecurity that still live inside of me. They show up in moments and days. Sometimes I am able to shove them aside long enough to OWN what makes me me, with no apologies, and in enough comfort that I'm not defensive or abrasive. I'm practicing.
Nolan and I have a bit of a guilty pleasure.
We watch Glee music videos and sing and dance. (Sometimes we mix it up with Macklemore. He loves the official "Can't Hold Us" video- particularly the beginning, because there is a plane in it.)
I've been finding the voice that I think I once had, the one that belts out songs, because I love it and because Nolan smiles the best kind of smile when I do.
Today, as we were watching side by side and I was singing, he wrapped his little arm around my neck and pulled me closer, beaming.
He is tearing down all kinds of insecurities in me. I can't throw or catch, but he hands me a basketball or a baseball and insists it's my turn. I'm learning to throw. I'm learning to try again because what I tell him to do.
I'm confident I'm going to learn all kinds of things I previously said I'm not good at in this life as Nolan's mama.
1. I've discovered I actually crave simplicity in my life.
2. Free entertainment is usually what we can afford right now; I've discovered it's some of the best. We explore the local trails. We go to the playground regularly. We go for walks and take our sweet time taking notice of what's right in front of us (Nolan has certainly helped us out with this one a LOT). We talk to our neighbors and occasionally make treats to deliver to them.
3. We've eaten more meals in homes (ours and otherwise). You know what? A little bit of self-made walls need to come down in order to have someone into your home. It's a beautiful thing; certainly part of the community-glue-at-the-table I'm so fond of.
4. We are at least a bit more empathetic towards people in more difficult situations than ours. We would certainly be having a much more difficult time without the help of our family. How does anyone get through tough situations or raise kids without support? Somehow they do, and they deserve my support if I can give it.
5. We discovered SWAN adoptions. Both Tim and I want to adopt our next child, but we know there's no way we can afford it. We've been introduced to some great foster-to-adopt programs that will make adoption possible for us. I'd be proud to be involved even if we did have the cash we need to bring our next kiddo home.
6. Tim and I have had to work as a team in a different way. Of course, there's been some tension and some tough spots. But I think we're continuing to grow stronger as a team.
There is good in every day. Look for it. Life is a whole lot richer that way.
We are struggling financially.
For a while, I would try to explain that when I said no because we didn't have the money to spend. I said "no" to a lot. Sometimes I would be met with a "me,too," and feel hopeful about someone who understands! I would usually end up disappointed when one of the next statements would have something to do with not wanting to take money out of savings.
Savings? We don't have that anymore. You don't really understand, I would think, and then try to change the subject.
For a while, I would worry about perceptions of our life. We said no, no, no (some of which we would say no to even if we had the money to spend), but I wasn't working at all. Now, my husband works a job and a half, and I only work part time. How does that look?
I'm a worrier; peace doesn't come to me naturally. It is a trudging forward, a falling, and trying again.
For awhile, I was trying to figure out the healthiest version of us, so I was looking around saying, "I don't want that," "I don't want that," and "I don't want that." I got a little anxious when I realized the same thoughts about us might be floating around.
I am over that.
Once in a while, I have the privilege of nudging a would-be yogi into taking their first class. I hear a lot of "well, I don't have good balance," "I'm going to look ridiculous," that kind of thing. I always reassure the person that the only ones who will and should be looking at them are the people who don't know what they are doing and are looking for some direction.
That is how life goes, right? If people are looking at our family and saying, "I don't want that," well, good for them! They are trying on their own changing life, and that is necessary.
I've been fighting for a healthy family in the middle of the strain a tight budget can put on a family. I just don't have room for worry over what we look like any more. I just don't have the option than to try to really understand a person, rather than only who they look like they are. Some amazing, not-just-like-me angels have been my strength when I felt like I was running out. They shared their stories, too, even though I might not really get it.
I'm getting better at getting to know people for who they are, instead of what they can do for me.
Maybe I could have changed like I did another way, but living paycheck-to-paycheck is how it happened for me. I am thankful it did.
I have 13 minutes to write and too many words to spill.
Be warned that I'm going to hit publish at the end of those minutes, even mid-sentence. I'm writing this for myself, because I need to.
Writing is just part of who I am. My mom taught night classes when I was 4 and 5 (and maybe older, too?). He taught me math using word problems because he knew I would be able to understand better that way.
I wanted to be a journalist.
I threw that dream away when it came time to decide my forever fate at the wise old age of 18. I didn't see how it would work, if I could really do it, if I would hate sitting in a cubicle.
Journalism might have been perfect for me, but I'm not here to talk about what maybe I should have done. That's done. I'm here to talk about now.
I'm thinking I might become a drinking coffee at 8 pm kind of girl. That's about when I crash (after work and playing with Nolan and doing house-y things and maybe making dinner. But there are THINGS I want to do. I haven't written in Social Eater for a long time, very much hear, and frankly, even though I still carry some fears, I want to get published. I want to get published several times, honestly.
My husband works two jobs right now- one full time and one part time. I work as many hours as I can get, and when we can get time with the whole fam, I want to soak it all up. I cherish my days off with Nolan, my time to catch up with friends, all of that.
I've been looking for ways to bring in more income. Maybe I'll end up working full time. Honestly, honestly, I think Nolan would miss me but he would also really love all that time with other kids. The kid just loves to be around other kids. He gets that now, but not as much as he would like.
If I'm going to be working that much, I'd prefer to be doing something I can get behind. Kimberton is that; I'm just not sure there's a place for me to climb up to just yet. I'm exploring my options and putting myself out there. I'm also thinking maybe it's time to make my decades-long dream come true. Maybe I'll work my little (big? depends on who you ask, I guess) tail off and get published, over and over until I get paid well for it. Maybe I'll stay up til midnight or wake up at 4 am to make it happen.
But I'm going to make it happen. With the help of coffee and my husband and Uncle Dave who have encouraged me to just try it already, maybe, just maybe I'm about to become an author.
Have you heard of VBS? It's Vacation Bible School. Every summer, churches host a week of themed Bible stories, games, crafts, skits. I'm not a fan of VBS for a number of reasons, which are mostly different from the reasons I wasn't a fan when I was 12.
First, I was 12. In 6th grade and not interested in songs with motions and fill-in-the-blank stories. I was interested in finding my place among my friends, in life, all of that. I was always a little uncomfortable, and I wanted someone to help me hash out tough questions.
I still went. I was still at that age when I had to go where my parents took me. I probably would have gone anyway just because I felt like I "should." I was (am still?) just like that.
Some of my friends went, too.
Ugh. My friends.
Some of my friends then just were not good for me at all. I thought they were more "popular" than me because they had more boyfriends and were friends with older kids...but they were just mean and bossy a lot of the time.
I was still trying to discover my place, so I stuck with them.
That week at VBS, there was a girl, Vanessa. She was kind of quiet and stuck to herself, but I wanted to be her friend. I mean, I was kind of quiet and stuck to myself, too. I understood. My friends didn't like it. They didn't like her for stupid reasons, and it got to the point of choosing between Vanessa and those "friends."
I thought about it.
You know what the best decision would have been right? I would LOVE to tell you I made it. That I was so wise then, so sweet and thoughtful.
I chose to ignore Vanessa for the rest of the week, and THEN. The end of the week came and I knew I made the wrong decision. I was carrying immense guilt on my shoulders, on my back, everywhere.
So to make it better, I walked up to her. My heart was pounding, and I told her quickly, sheepishly, "Jesus loves you." That was it. The end. Our last words.
WHAT. AN. ASS.
Sometimes Jesus' name should be left out of things.
My skin fit like a glove today and I wore it with confidence.
Do you know what I mean? There are those days when clothes don't fit quite right or I'm feeling less than attractive, bloated, whatever and I'm tugging on my shirt and picking on my choice of clothes because I'm just not comfortable in my own body.
I have THOUGHTS to share on body image, but that isn't to say tomorrow I won't be a little bit upset about the stomach pouch I have leftover from pregnancy or SOMETHING.
But you guys, that pouch was inflated to the size of a beach ball. I have a little pouch (and some stretch marks) leftover as a reminder of an amazing thing I did. I can deal with that.
I can. Because here's the thing: our bodies are mostly vehicles for us to LIVE life. It took me a long time to get this; sometimes I still forget it.
I've been learning to appreciate my imperfect but kind of amazing body. I've been showing it some respect by fueling it with the stuff it needs to function well. I've gone back to yoga (just this week!) to help me out with some back issues.
All of that means more living and less sidelines. I've spent quite a chunk of my life pursuing lesser things (like numbers) at the expense of greater things . I've spent too much time taking the too many negative or useless comments I've received about my body to heart, like somehow they reflect on who I really am and whether or not I'm "okay."
"Skinny" shouldn't be a compliment and "fat" shouldn't be an insult. They are statements. Neither takes away or adds to the value of a life. Neither makes a person more or less beautiful.
The most beautiful women I know are so beautiful in spirit that it's hard to tell if it's their physical appearance I think is beautiful or if it's the inner beauty that's shining through. I don't try to hard to make the distinction.
Tonight, Nolan went on his first kiddie ride by himself- the tamest one available.
He nodded in agreement when I asked if he wanted to go by himself. I'm not sure he knew what I was asking.
The ride started, my mother and I both a bundle of nerves. He yelled for me, his face turned red, and he just cried. My mom immediately asked that the ride be stopped (which it was).
It took me longer to recover than it did Nolan.
Being his mother feels like having my heart kneaded on a regular basis.
Nolan is adventurous and messy and wants to figure out how everything works. He tests his boundaries, gives out radiant smiles and the best belly laughs. He loves to work in the garden with Daddy, run-run-run!, sing, play with any kind of ball, and read. He will say he isn't hungry so he can stay outside longer. He. is. FULL of energy.
I kind of like it when I am asked how I keep up with him. It's validating.
(My answer: I played a lot with my diet. I eat a green smoothie almost every day and eat a lot of plant-based whole foods. I am baffled by moms who subsist on processed foods. WHERE do they get their energy?!)
He is my little joy.
Have I said this a hundred times? I would not be surprised.
I do pursue my own passions. I do know I am "not just a mom." All of that.
But, oh, if that boy wants to go to the park, I am out the door.
Recently, I'd had a "touch" of baby fever. We're not ready yet, but that longing was there. When I came back from a recent trip to visit my sister, I felt more...content. Calmer. A little more grown up.
Some of the people I love don't always love to be around each other.
I'm not quite sure where life is headed at the moment and if we'll EVER be ready for another child.
I can live in the tension. And I can do it with peace and joy.
There is so much good in my life.
There are so many honest, thoughtful, LOVING conversations to be had.
There is so much to explore and enjoy with my two best boys.
It's time to celebrate that a little bit more.
Tonight I celebrated my life with a (vegan!) sweet potato cupcake. I might write a list before I go to bed (which should be soon). Simple stuff.
I'm not sure I should even publish this. I mean, there's no neatly tied bow at the end. No measurable goals. But publish it, I will.
Good night to you.
I'd love to hear a bit of your story if you want to share (preferably in person, but if you can't, do share here!)