Bedside Manner

At the day’s end, when I’m most exhausted, our youngest still makes sure that I come to tuck her into bed.  As parents, this is something my husband and I have always been pretty good about.  No matter how the day has gone, we make sure the last thing the kids hear before they slip into slumber is some variation of “Good-night-sweet-dreams-I-love-you.”

The act of getting on my knees beside her trundle bed reminds me that it’s time to be here, now; it pulls me into the present.  Perhaps knowing that she’s about to be my sole focus, that she’s about to have my utmost attention, is what brings her to bed so giddily.  She is usually very excited and giggily, or, if truly tired, she snuggles into her pillows and covers with deliberate intention, placing her hands together methodically and tucking them beneath her sweet, plump cheek before closing her eyes.

Sometimes she beats me to it.

“I love you, Mommy.”

Are there sweeter words?  They’re like balm to my maternal soul that has been battered and wounded.  All is well.

“I love you, too, Precious,” I reply, knowing that attachment is a dangerous thing, but the Lord of the Rings reference has become a running joke around here.  She is, after all, very “precious to me,” precious to us.

Sometimes I linger a while, resting my head beside hers.  Eyes closed, I listen for her breath to slow, to deepen.  With older sister in the bed slightly above, I’ll send my love to her again, too — out oud if she’s awake, intentionally if she’s not.  I settle into this supplication of devotion.  It’s not a comfortable position, mind you.  Circulation gets cut off at one limb or another, but I stay.

My hope is, of course, that the children will remember we tried to send them to bed with our love, even on nights when we kept them out or up too late and when they had long since fallen asleep.  When they’re too big to carry, we sleep-walk them, guiding them in the right direction.  (“Honey, your bed’s this way.”)  Sometimes they need literally to be steered.

Every child wants his/her parent’s or guardian’s attention.  We all want an outward and visible sign of the love that is either said too much or not enough.  I suppose the nightly ritual we have going is like our parental sacrament.  If the kids could experience this paternal love and affection as an outward and visible sign of an inward, invisible grace of God, then it would be, indeed — at least for us.  I’m okay with that.  It replaces the worldly attachment with a greater Love, one eternal and truly unconditional.  It’s not my aspiration to make every evening sacred.  It just is when it is (which is probably always), and some nights I’m more aware of it than others (and not nearly as often as I’d like).

Maybe I should start my days on my knees or on my meditation cushion, giving thanks for all that is and for the potential that is yet to be.

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This meditation led me to  my Lenten practice of extending my maternal blessing to my children, morning and evening.  I don’t always get to touch their foreheads, but even saying “bless you” or “blessings to you” somehow carries with it more deliberate Love than our vernacular “love you!”  I’m working on it.  As I said, it’s a practice.

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Shortcuts and Canopy Roads

Darting between errands in a relatively small city, one learns the cut-throughs; there’s more than one way to get from point A to point B.  At five o’clock I’m certainly prone to taking such a route, especially when on my way to a mega-store.

The light was fading, my tummy wasn’t feeling good, and a long weekend was coming to a close.  I didn’t really want to do the shopping that HAD to be done.  I wasn’t particularly happy about being one of the motorists out at rush hour.  I should have been home making dinner, not buying the goods so I could do so.

Just as I was about to reach the straight stretch on the back road, just pass the interstate intersection, I spied a police car sitting in a drive, facing outward, waiting to catch someone like me — someone who thought they might get somewhere a little faster by out-smarting the rest of the drivers and possibly by disobeying some speed limit laws.  I see you, Mr. Officer.  Thanks for reminding me to take it easy; it is the law, after all.  I’ll get to where I’m going safely if I pay attention and slow down no matter which road I take.

So I make sure I’m going 35mph or less and enjoy this little road.  Thinking back to it, I can’t even recall if it has a center line, though I’m sure it does.  There are old farmhouses and pastures.  Barbed-wire fences with trees and bushes.  The trees grow up and over the road, forming what the kids and I call a “canopy road,” our favorite kind.

And there were deer.  Two of them.  Stopped and staring at me.  One was on the road to the right, in my lane, and the other was beside it, just off the road.  I’m sure it’s looking at the van and not me, this mama-looking deer who was out with a fellow doe.  Going slowly as I was, I slowed almost to a stop and mosied by even slower, making sure they didn’t bolt across the way I was going.  “Excuse me,” I said politely, humbly.  After all, this is their woods.  Without our intrusion and given time, our pavement and concrete and feeble structures would crumble aside.  The fauna would continue to grow and the animals to roam.  I am but a guest here.  Please pardon my arrogant intrusion.  Please bless my path.

I realize that in this small stretch of road on which for a few moments I was the only traveller, I went from seeing it as my right to take a shortcut on my all-important mission of saving time and frustration to seeing it as an opportunity and gift to slow down, enjoying what nature offers.

Then, of course, I returned to a busier road, six cars passing before I could turn into the stream.  I made it to the fluorescent-lit mega warehouse for the grocery shopping necessary for a family of six.  I went home to make dinner and then stay up much of the night with four of us working our way through a stomach virus.  The next day, we slept and rested.  One of us didn’t get sick (the older son).  You just never know.

I am pretty certain about a couple of things, though.  There’s a time for everything.  There are blessings everywhere.

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Ice & Sun

Thanksgiving Eve I found myself at the wholesale club post-dinner wondering why I waited, yet again, until the last minute to do this.  Kids to bed, cooking underway, I spent the night on the couch, falling asleep but for the grace that woke me as the boiling potato sputter burned on the stovetop and the lid rattled in low undertone.  The iPad had gone to sleep, too, but the sweet potatoes still needed time in the oven.  Potatoes drained, oven off, I figured all would be well a few more hours when I would be awake enough to conjure up the salad and casserole.

Thanksgiving morning NPR told me the Macy’s Day Parade was underway.  I grinned to myself, remembering in my childhood the warmth of the kitchen creeping into the living room where the t.v. blared the parade and I watched the floats make their way through the seemingly small streets.  It was a day of rest for me then.  Now, looking through my steamed-up kitchen window at the sink, I realize how much work we do.  But in yet another moment of grace, I realize how much I love my family.  For a moment, it feels again like this is my job.  I’m not a working mother, I am a mother, wholly and completely.  (Still, I have to consciously resist saying “just a mom.”)

I was only joking when a co-worker and I marveled at the warm weather earlier this week.  Our office felt like a sauna, and I was grateful for my layered clothing and the ability for others to open their windows in the old building to give me fresh air.  “Don’t worry,” I told her.  “It’ll probably snow next week.”  I was just joking.  But the weather forecast mentioned freezing weather.  My husband researched about chickens in cold weather, what we needed to watch out for and check into.  We got the wintry mix and a few minutes of all-out snow on our way to the relatives Thanksgiving day.  Snow is forecasted next week, too.  You just never know around here.

There’s something about the ice that coated everything around our relatives’ homes.  There was something different this year that I haven’t been able to put my finger on yet, adhere coherent thoughts to.  I do know that there wasn’t ice on our limbs at home, only 30 minutes away.  Maybe it’s just the memory, frozen in time.

Post-Thanksgiving, I slept until 8:30 or so.  It is cold.  The chickens are still alive, though their water did freeze, even in their coop.  (Husband is winterizing their coop more today, even as I write, and they are all out chasing the same bug apparently, in a frenzy.)  I skip the Black Friday madness.  Not everyone participates in that frenzy, but I mentioned to my daughter that we might stop at the bookstore and a couple of thrift stores.  It is a weekday I have off, and I actually have some energy to something other than laundry.  (Of course, tonight there are a few home projects that might be started to last all weekend.  Watch out bathroom and garage!)

I signed up on Ravelry.  I sent a sincere e-mail to a friend.  I have other calls to make.  My gratitude continues this day.

I’ll hem some pants, make a Christmas list, and fill the Advent calendar with a new list of somethings to build onto the anticipation of Christmas in a meaningful way.

Most importantly, my gratitude continues.  On this bright sunny day, no matter how cold it is outside, my heart is warm.  I am a mother, a wife, a worker, a daughter and granddaughter.  My own daughter plays, softly talking for and with her toys, sweetly singing every now and then.  Life is simple and sweet, some moments more than others.

All we ever have is this moment at any given time.  For this I am grateful.  It is a beautiful life.

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Makin’ Memories

Remember me sharing that we went for a hike a couple of weeks ago, stopping by the pottery shop afterwards?  It rained on that hike, especially hard when we actually got to the waterfall.  My kids are still residually snotty from their colds, but I wouldn’t trade that day with family and friends for anything.

This morning I made one of our not-too-frequent stops by our local bread shop, taking the younger two with me to pick up a breakfast sandwich, chocolate muffin,  raspberry scone (the raspberries make it healthy, right?), and bread, of course.  My four-year-old loves “the stone place” (it’s called Stonemill Bread), and I love the feeling of supporting our local business, sharing the morning with my little kids and eating some great food.

Both of these experiences remind me that I’m making memories each moment of my life.  Even as I’m here typing (after taking a break for nursing someone that needed a moment of attentive loving and then having a quick IM chat with my mom), I know I’m making a choice to nurture myself by writing and sharing with you.

The main point is that everything we do is significant, from helping the stranded guy at the post office by offering a jump since you have the cables (which happened last night) to taking the kids to school every weekday.  In every moment we have the opportunity to affirm life and love, to share in our abundance.

Do you have a gratitude journal?  Have you considered how blessed you are to have this day to make new memories?  The best way to assure you’ll continue to have abundance is to give thanks for all that you have.  So, give thanks and then make some new memories.

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