Friday, December 2, 2011

Simple Gifts

I threw out some traditions this year, along with ornaments and signs of the season I had felt obligated to keep for far too long. Well, I didn't throw them out, exactly. I took them to Goodwill. They will adorn someone else's trees and mantles.

My children were not keen on the idea, at first. In fact there was "wailing and gnashing of teeth" as we packed some familiar (albeit tacky) things to send on. It was slightly torturous. Why go through this at all?

Our Christmas decorations had gotten out of hand. They also did not represent,  in the least, who we are. Too fussy, too "frou frou." I was begging for simplicity.

A mantle. A nativity. A tree. That's what six Rubbermaid containers became. The tree got an overhaul. If ornaments were not handmade, or had nothing to do with art or nature, they went. The mantle is stockings, stocking holders that spell "peace," and very simple candles. Even the overdone Victorian wreath for the door was replaced by a grapevine and glitter star.

This is us. We love art, nature, and simplicity. We recognize that the holiday has gotten, like our decorations, completely out of hand.

Making our decor more humble seemed to fit the idea of a simple stable, a messy manger. God appearing in lowly human form. It also took away some of the pressure to make it all look "postcard perfect."

Maybe it was selfish. I do get the greatest pleasure out of seeing my tree adorned with glitter pine cones and popsicle stick Stars of David.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Luxury of Letting Grief in through the Crack in the Door

I swore I wouldn't start a blog and then abandon it, but this is, at the very least, a neglected blog. Today,  I write because I need something. Today, I expect it to be cathartic. Today, I am hopeful that if I blog, I may be able to keep it together a little more. I am hopeful, but not unrealistic.

A dear family friend, Christi, lost her three-year-old to cancer last night. There is no universe in which this simple fact is not completely fu&%ed up. I am angry. I am afraid. I am heartbroken for her, yet I worry that if I fully acknowledge that this happens to children, it will happen to one of mine. I am too selfish and scared to let it all in. How fortunate I am to have that option. Christi doesn't.

I start to let the grief gain entry little by little,  as I imagine what her days will be like from now on. Details like: what to do with his belongings, how to pay the medical bills. More difficult issues, such as: seeing the obvious space in the back seat where she used to look back and see him, responding appropriately to a mom at the park who says, "I see you have two children" because she can't see the gaping hole left by absence of the third.

I don't know how she will do all of this. I don't know how she will eat, sleep, breathe. She is a better person than I am. She continues to say God is good. This isn't even happening to me, and I'm practically screaming at him like a defiant teenager.

I don't have any resolution for this post. Fitting, I suppose.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Day No Laundry Would Be Folded

My sweet niece has come to visit for a couple of days. I had forgotten how precious the sound of a babbling toddler is, the intoxicating smell of silky baby hair after a bath, the sweet snuggle when she first wakes up, bleary-eyed, bewildered, and looking to you for guidance on how to start the day. It is two days I will savor, as I worry that I let this time slip by with my own three children.

When Melanie arrived at our house, we had waited, prayed, hoped, had our hopes dashed, cried, resolved to move on, then dared to open our hearts to the possibility that she really could be ours. She had just turned nine months old the day she came home. We watched her play, we watched her sleep. For two solid weeks we had very little contact with the outside world. The TV and radio were, for the most part, silent. The "guilty pleasure" novel on my nightstand went unread. Once we resumed normal day-to-day activities, a large portion of time was still devoted to being in the all-too-fleeting moments of Melanie's babyhood.

Alex came to us in an altogether different way from his older sister. He arrived with the the drama (and trauma) of labor. An emergency c-setion and horrendous bout of post-partum depression made his first few months a blur. My family stood in for me until I was able to rejoin life and motherhood, but I still feel pangs of guilt when I think of the time lost with both Alex and Melanie during those days.

Sara-Alyce came two weeks before Melanie started kindergarten, and Alex started preschool. No depression this time, but I still feel like her first few months are a blur because I was exhausted from the demands of three children, working from home, volunteering, and trying my hardest to keep my marriage and friendships going.

I blinked, and we are here. We are on the eve of middle school, fourth grade, and first grade. Sure, there were great "fully engaged" vacations, outings, special occasions. I'm not saying I missed out on it all. I'm saying that many times, I just wasn't fully present for each moment that I wouldn't realize the value of until it was gone.

This morning, when I should have been cleaning the kitchen or folding laundry, I watched my three children play with my niece. I listened to all of them laughing. I saw my almost six-year-old "baby" play mentor. I was enraptured.

Warning: It could be awhile before the dishwasher is unloaded.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chasing the Wild Goose

Where do I begin? It is so difficult to talk about without using such seemingly trite words as "awesome" and "amazing." But it was. We arrive Thursday afternoon, just as the deadline for bringing cars into the campsite has passed, so we haul all of our gear in from the car. It's steamy. The trek equips us with the appropriate amount of humility and fatigue to gratefully receive the rest of the festival, I suppose.

From the car to the campsite we pass the social justice and sustainability booths and displays being set up.  Among these: Blood Water, Amnesty International, People of Faith against the Death Penalty, The Gay Christian Network, Triangle Interfaith Alliance. It is clear we are going to be a part of a place that dares to tackle the real issues, not just the protestant "fluff" to which we are so accustomed when discussing missions work.

After setting up camp among others tents at the tree-shaded edge of a large pasture, we head to the opening ceremony.  It is a blur now as I try to recall it. We sing, dance, laugh, and spread mud, ashes and water on one another. "The trigger has been pulled on Wild Goose, " says Founder Gareth.

The next three days are full of music, talking, praying, crying, and a great local beer from the Fullsteam Brewery in Durham. I learn that Jay Bakker (yes, the offspring of Jim and Tammy Faye) is passionate about acceptance of the LGBT community in church. (On that note: I heard way too many pastors say "I believe in including these groups, but I'm afraid of what my congregation/diaconate/convention/fellowsip, etc. will think of/do to me when they find out I feel this way.  We realize it is the same argument used over and over again in the South during the Civil rights movement. Baker essentially tells all of them to grow a pair and stand up for the marginalized! Yes, my friends "on the fence" I agree. I say this out of tough love: GROW A PAIR!)  I listen to Tickle. Campolo, Mclaren. What they say fills me with both righteous indignation and renewed commitment. I learn, under the lights of a humble barn stage, that Michelle Shocked is one hell of a storyteller, and that the Psalters (kind of a Matisyahu/Mumford and Sons mashup) are incredible live. I learn that DoxoSoma brings body and spirit together in a similar fashion to yoga, and I love it. I learn that the greatest encounters with God can occur during seemingly irreverent moments like "The Bluegrass Liturgy" and "Hymns and Beer." I learn that total strangers are called to love on my children like they've known them for years and to teach them to create, and to experience love and fellowship by zooming down a 300 foot slip and slide covered with baby shampoo and water from a fire truck that has backed up to it.

Yes, I feel like I need debriefing for my re-entry to the "real world." But even though I have washed the festival dirt and grime down the drain, and have pulled two stowaway ticks off my husband, I will continue to have Wild Goose with me.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Wildly Out of Balance

As I sit here, composing a post for a blog which has lain dormant for the past few months, there are papers stacked all over the place, laundry on my bed, and far too many pounds registering on the scale each morning that I weigh myself. My first inclination is to eat a whole bag of Dove Promises, dive under the mountain of clothes on the bed and hide out until sometime tomorrow. My second inclination is to be angry with myself for even having my first.

How does this happen to me every few months? Can I really blame being a teacher at the end of the school year? My schedule? Having three children?

I see so many women accomplishing so much. I support my friends who are writers, yet I am insanely jealous. Hey! I was going to do that! They go by with their 13.1 and 26.2 stickers on their cars. Again, I am reminded of my own shortcomings. They lead women's groups, bible studies, audition for shows, and fold all of that pesky laundry so it doesn't end up on the bed. They even have time to send me a quick email from the desk of their full-time job to remind me of what to bring to my children's class  parties. Crap! The class party? I completely forgot!

Tonight, I am going to fold a lot of laundry. Tomorrow, I will wake up and go running. Baby steps. I'll keep you posted. Ok, I'll try to keep you posted.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

This is the real stuff.

So, I was running with a friend today and she was remarking on the fact that I had been married "a long time." Almost 16 years is a long time, I suppose. Danny and I have had our share of good and bad. Married life is not always pretty. It's not all passion, hearts, flowers and jewelry. It's helping you remember the "football hold" when the baby you are nursing won't latch on. It's loading a washing machine with the comforter that your child just threw up on. It's holding the hand of your mother-in-law and the hand of your  husband, as your mother-in-law takes her last breath. And, lately, it's blood pressure and colonoscopy scares. This is marriage. Sometimes, not pretty. Always beautiful.

Monday, March 14, 2011

If the Birks fit...

I will be 37 years old in just one month. The birthday itself does not upset me. What does is the fact that it took me so damn long to embrace who I am. I realized this as I caught the whiff of a sandalwood candle while browsing the shelves of the Home Economist's Market in Davidson. This was it! My happy place. Ten years ago, I tried to tell myself that a Coach Bag, the right house and a club membership were what I needed. It seems so shameful to admit to this. There's nothing wrong with any of this, but it's just not me. Show me a cute pair of shoes, and I'll smile. Show me organic, fair-trade, shade-grown coffee, and I'm over the moon! I have friends of all kinds, and yes, if you voted Republican, you are welcome at my table, even though we probably shouldn't discuss politics. But a decision has been made.  I am going to stop apologizing for not driving a mini-van, for not having (or wanting) a Pandora bracelet, and for wanting to camp instead of going to Vegas. Love and acceptance will come my way no matter what. How beautiful!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Girl Time, Dining Solo, Self-Loathing

So, welcome to February, even though it is already half-gone! I had a wonderful weekend. I spent time with my dear friend, Anne in Asheville. We have known each other for just shy of 19 years. During that time, our friendship has gone through good, bad, and silent periods. After a very long silent period, I am thrilled to say we are able to have it be "just like the old days." Except, there are gray hairs and wrinkles on the scene, now.

I finished my time in Asheville on Sunday in an Indian restaurant, dining solo. In my twenties, I never would have attempted this. I would have felt like everyone was suspecting I had been "stood up." Now, I do not mind this at all from time to time. I see it as growth, to be able to take myself out on a date.

Now, on to where I could do better.  I am angry with myself that I am not reaching my fitness and weight loss goals, that I continue to sabotage myself, that I binge mindlessly, that some nights I opt for a glass of wine on the couch instead of a run on the treadmill. I must do better with this. I am the only one standing in my way. I can blame no one else.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Loss, Emotional Eating, and Getting Back on the horse (treadmill)

This week my family experienced a loss, a friend got news that her mother does not have long to live, I didn't sleep well, and I was disappointed to learn that we only have one confirmed sign-up for Girls on Track so far. I did not work out once beyond Sunday. Bring on the pity party with balloons. Actually, it was chocolate. And wine. And donuts. And Oreos. And double decker Boca Burgers. Did I mention the wheel of brie?

I cried because life is full of loss. Then I cried because life is short. Then I cried because I don't feel like I'm doing enough with mine. Then I cried because I caught sight of my "moon-pie" face in the photo booth application on my MacBook. This resulted in the consumption of more cheese.

My friend John is the only other human (No, I do not tell Danny. It's bad enough he sees the yo-yo in pants sizes every time he does laundry) on this earth who knows my weight. I report to him each Monday via email. I asked him for a pass this week. He has graciously given this to me, along with a bootie-kickin' treadmill workout. He expects me to get out of my funk and get back to the gym. So, I will. Sometimes all you need is for someone to expect something of you.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A little of this, a little of that, and my gym rant

This week has been truly non-eventful, which, in our house, can be a very good thing. We started out with snow and ice and now are in the 50s. I took a couple of my runs outside this week, which was glorious! Days like this make me forget Spring is still far away.

We gathered with the Billups clan last night for "Christmas." I watched my father beaming as his six children and four grandchildren created the most beautiful cacophony and chaos. It really was a great evening.

The food modifications are going well, and so is running, for the most part, except when I am stuck in the gym and have to be a hamster on the treadmill. The gym. Ah yes, that reminds me. Time to rant a little.

So the "gym" is actually your typical apartment complex fitness room. For those who don't know, the Lloyd family downsized to an apartment back in June in order to save money and prepare for a house purchase in this frightening economy. Putting five people, a dog, and a cat in 900 square feet is working much better than I had anticipated. We have no maintenance, valet trash, a pool, and yes, the gym. The gym is fine, really. Nice equipment, clean, television. The television. This opens a whole can of worms which makes me do everything from silently stewing to questioning who I am and what I stand for.

Our apartment complex is filled with many families just like us, plus singles, new divorcees, and a very special breed I like to call "the overgrown frat-boy with his first real job." It is the latter, (they do realize they all look exactly the same, right?) unfortunately,  who is at the root of my fitness room television issue. I can go in at any, and I mean ANY time of the day to work out, and there one will be, remote firmly in hand, watching ESPN. Ok, so he was there first. Fair enough. He only has 10 minutes left on his treadmill countdown. I'll just wait. Just when I think I may be able to commandeer the remote and head towards HGTV or Food Network bliss, my hopes are dashed by a figure coming through the door in oversized nylon shorts and a backwards hat. The "overgrown frat-boy remote handoff" then takes place. I am stuck. Yes, I know, partially my fault. I'm a strong woman, right? Why don't I just ask for the remote instead of doing the passive aggressive eye roll? Because I am deathly afraid of losing my Polite Southern Girl membership by asking for what I want. And I really hate that about myself! Almost as much as I hate seeing entire shows devoted to Tom Brady, who I really couldn't care less about, except that's not true because now I've had so much over-exposure to him, I wish that smug egomaniac would just cut his hair!!!! Ok, I know this is ridiculous. I have an Ipod. I'll use it. If I want to watch something, I'll just download episodes of Madmen and Big Love and watch naughty TV while the renaissance man next to me sees the injury list for the Bears for the 50th time. Problem solved.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Miles to Go

This morning I attended a training for coaches for a wonderful organization called "Girls on the Run." I am  very much looking forward to coaching the middle school girls this year. I am starting to recommit to healthier living and regular exercise. The outer is coming along quite nicely. The inner needs much work, still.

"Things fall apart. The center can not hold."
-T.S. Eliot

My "center" did not hold at all today. I had to come to the realization that as of today, inner peace is not coming along so well. It will, but I underestimated the power of the things I would have to unearth to get to that stage. I simply thought I could speak it into being. I forgot how messy it can be to deal with the past. I underestimated, too, the power of issues swept under the rug so carefully each day. There is much cleaning to be done.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Back to Life, Back to Reality

Ok, so now the Soul 2 Soul song from high school is in my head. 

Mr. Lloyd, children, and I all went back to school this morning. It was an adjustment, but actually a relief to get back on a schedule.  I awoke at 5:15 and enjoyed a quiet cup of coffee before rousing the hellions. We got out the door on time for the first time in at least a few months. It's been a good day. I discovered that I really had missed my students, although maybe not as much as I miss sleeping in. 

I'm hungry. This means I did not plan well for today. Why I thought two cups of Butternut Squash soup were going to satisfy the same beast who two weeks ago killed off the entire top layer of a Whitman's Sampler in one sitting is a mystery! I will be more realistic tomorrow. Is it bad that I'm picturing the students who are staying after in my classroom as little hummus-covered Triscuits?

I will run the treadmill this evening. Probably just 2-3 miles. I know I should push harder, but since it is the first day back to everything, I'll cut myself some slack.

Three days into my least favorite month of the year, and Depression seems to be in hiding...for now. I will be looking under the beds and behind the shower curtain all month. I don't trust him.  

I am ever-hopeful that sound mind and body will continue.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Day, New Year

So here we are in 2011. I have set some very high expectations for myself. For those who care to join me, we are going to venture through this year as I try to be live better and be better. I'm under no delusions. I know I will slip up, and in some cases, outright fail. I'm looking forward to seeing what and who will impact me in the next 12 months.

I began my "vegetarian year" today at the Boone Bagelry in Boone, NC. It wasn't difficult. I ate well, all day,  and am satisfied...for now.

We drove home in a fog which seemed to belie the start of something new. We were greeted by the children with "too-tight" hugs and sloppy kisses. My mother was eager for her shift to end.  Now we resume the routine. I worry that it will be just that - routine.  I am both filled with eager expectation and apprehension about the coming year. I am not afraid that things will change. It is more terrifying to think that they won't. That I won't. That growth will be stunted. I am in my restless state again. I do this a few times a year.

At this moment,  I do what makes me feel in-control. I make endless lists, fill in calendars, map things out, and pray that this year, I will not completely lose it every time things veer off-course.