Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Here Comes the Sun...

Autumn arrives in early morning, but spring at the close of a winter day.
Elizabeth Bowen

Does anyone else notice the light changing? I was looking back through some summer photos and observed the 100-watt bulb quality of the afternoon sun: strong shadows, a yellow-white light that makes you want your sunglasses, even looking at photos late at night.

Early in the morning (I am so well acquainted with the early-morning sun right now!), before my eyes have fully opened I am aware of the golden quality of the sunlight. Its liquid gold pours through my east-facing windows, glowing in my terracotta laundry room like treasure in a red velvet bag. The summer light was more of a hyper-shiny platinum, urging you out into the day, spurring you on to activity and accomplishment. The autumn sunrise is less... activity oriented. It invites you to take time with your coffee, to savor the warmth of the day, to enjoy wearing a sweater with your shorts that afternoon.

the view through my laundry room window

This fall light is gentler, cozier. 'Mellow' is the word the poets keep tossing around. To me it feels more....nostalgic. The afternoon sun has a regretful quality to it, as if it were urging us to get outside while we can. The light seems to apologize for its nearing departure, and as it prepares to go it lingers in the rosy skin of apples, in the golden sheen on the pumpkins - I swear you can even taste it in the cider from our local farm.

Youth is like spring, an over praised season more remarkable for biting winds than genial breezes. Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.
Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh

Fall isn't the hyper young Spring, gamboling on the lawn, it isn't the glamorous and impossibly gorgeous Summer wearing nothing but a bikini. It is the slightly older Autumn who has seen enough to know she doesn't know it all, who is more forgiving for that knowledge, who has the wisdom to treasure the fading light. This makes her gentle, and ineffably, more beautiful.

It's Thursday, my readers: a gorgeous fall day in which we may all gain in fruits. Enjoy.


This is a repost from October '08, but just so perfect for this morning I wanted to share some Samuel Butler all over again. Apologies to the 2 readers who've been reading since then.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Being a Hater

If you read any so-called mommyblogs - heck, if you read any new media whatsoever - you are bound to come across an essay here or there about how us moms need to be gentler with each other.  More gentle, less judgmental. Usually the article will make some version of the point that all of us are doing our very best, and needless criticism, holier-than-thou opinions, and general negativity isn't helping any of us parent any better.


But I have this problem.  No matter how supportive, affirming, and positive my mom friends are, there is always going to be that one person who will pronounce the icy words of judgement on my most recent parenting efforts.  When at the end of the day I review the high and low points and, let's face it, start to obsess over the 'distinctly low',  there is always the one individual I can count on to remember every profanity [accidentally] uttered, every pointless accusation I threw at my small offspring, even my failure to provide nutritious and/or balanced meals. Remember?  Remember how you served mac n' cheese TWICE today? With HOT DOGS?!?!

That reliable individual is always me.

There is a simple name for what I pour upon the ash-heap of my day's failures:  condemnation.

What a loaded word, condemnation.  When I say it out loud I can't escape instant associations with over-zealous televangelists, with loud pronouncements from an anonymous pulpit, with memories of The Scarlet Letter in the 10th grade.

Fascinating, that I instantly have such, well, condemnatory associations with the word condemnation. Doesn't stop me from doing it. Honestly, I wouldn't dream of judging others in my community with the same words I use for myself.   Not others in my church, not others in my neighborhood, not even the mom I see in Target hauling off and smacking her two year old upside the head.  (Okay, I don't have kind words in my heart for this woman, but at the very least I have an element of compassion for what I perceive to be her 'limited disciplinary toolbox.'  Me? I know better.)

It has to stop, this judging.  As I said at the beginning:  none of this negativity is helping me parent any better.   In the immortal words of Yoda:  Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.  Condemnation encompasses all of that fear, anger and hate, and yes:  it leads to pointless and unproductive suffering.

Condemnation is the absence of compassion.  Can I really justify withholding compassion for the mother of my kids? When you put it that way.... I guess not.


I've written about Condemnation today as part of the One Word at a Time blog carnival, and I am grateful that I waited to write it until having read some of the other posts on the subject.  It wasn't until I read other posts that I realized just how damaging my thought patterns are, how limiting my judgement is, and how universally all the bloggers who've posted seem accept that to live in love, we cannot live in a spirit of condemnation. For anyone. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Those Pants

No, don't shake your computer, or tap at your screen. Nothing's wrong with your Google Reader. I have in fact posted two days in a row. Outrageous, I know.

Well I'm just popping in this afternoon to tell you about a nifty little guest-post feature I did over at Mommypants. Cheryl hosts a Monday feature called 'Mommypants Moment', and so today I'm there talking about the first time those Mommypants dug into my postpartum flesh.

Ever worn something that fits you so perfectly that you forget you have it on? Something that you love so much that you wear it to death, but every once in a while you look down and can't believe you've still got it on?

Those are Mommypants. They're standard issue, and you can't be a mom without 'em.

So go check out the guest post, and then while you're over there you could look around - Cheryl is so damn funny that her incredible talent as a writer is almost taken for granted. If you visit, you'll definitely be back, so be prepared to bookmark a new fave!

Thanks y'all - I'm just going to go scrub the pizza sauce off the knees of these here pants.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Run Like a Mother...

Way back in January I told y'all I'd bought a pair of running shoes. Told you I wanted to be a runner again: not to lose weight, not to look better, not even to run fast. I just wanted to be the person who had the shoes to lace up, who had the willpower to roll out of bed at 5.30 on a summer morning to run through the steamy silent sunrise.

I wasn't sure, when I posted that here, whether I'd keep my word. Whether I'd grant myself my wish. Because life is crazy - I am up late in the night attending to details, adult details of my life that get ignored all day. I have three busy kids, one hardworking husband, and a million little things that demand my attention.

Well I have big news.

Yesterday morning I ran like a seven year old. I ran with abandon - up the hills and down the hills and around the lake and around the potholes and... I ran with unfettered joy.

I ran in a marathon relay: I was the fourth leg, with a run of 7.2 miles. This was the first race I'd run in 20 years. The longest distance I've raced ever. I ran and ran and ran and smiled the biggest goofiest smile you've seen on a mom of 3. I had a blast.

And guess what. Turns out, running for joy - for the sheer fun of it? Makes for a smoking fast time. Well, smoking fast for a girl who was planted firmly on the couch watching CSI reruns last fall.

What I felt yesterday goes beyond proud. Beyond 'accomplished.' Beyond happy. What I felt yesterday was Joy.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It Feeds Me

The phrase was uttered quietly, that Thursday morning, without flourish. I am here, a fellow student told our class, because this is what feeds me.

That simple sentence has resonated all week. I am here because it feeds me.

The question started niggling around in my head as I ran, as I sorted laundry, as I spent an hour online. What feeds me?

I thought about McDonalds. I thought about how you can order an entire family's worth of food, have the crowd swarm around the table, stuffing french fries and picking breading off chicken nuggets and dripping Special Sauce from their chins and at the end of the meal feel ... unfed. I may feel bloated, greasy-fingered, maybe even full, but without fail, when I leave a table at a fast food restaurant I feel unfed.

Conversely, cooking does feed me. The act of sourcing ingredients, of methodically chopping the vegetables, of remembering that thyme tastes better in this soup than basil, of simmering beans and tomatoes and garlic and onions in a cast iron pot all day: this is feeding myself. The warmth of soup in my throat, the melting parmesan on top, the crusty bread to dip in, the appreciative humming of my companions: this is feeding my people.

Writing feeds me.

Cleaning does not.

My Thursday morning class feeds me.

Filing papers does not.

Teaching feeds me.

Running feeds me.

Sit-ups do not.

Connecting - genuinely connecting with people - it absolutely feeds me.

Funny: once I started asking the question, the answers came thick and fast. This feeds me, that does not. This feeds me, that........ meh.

Saturday morning dawned a beautiful autumn-y gold. There was so much on the schedule: tight timeframes, a lot of shuttling back & forth, parents juggling duties to fit it all in. I finally rolled up to the sidelines of the soccer pitch, coffee in hand, thinking This day won't feed me. It won't feed any of us. I said as much to Torbjorn.

So we ditched the day's agenda.

I made our apologies for unmet commitments, and we took off for the country, for a day in the fall sunshine. There was some time spent on our backs in a Virginia meadow watching clouds, there was some spiced cider and kettle corn, there was art and music and... simple. And there was soup at the end of the day.

Is it so much to ask, that your occupations will feed you? I'd argue that no, it isn't much to ask of your life, that you pursue those things that will make you full, sated, content. And yet easy, so easy, to navigate your days, mindlessly ordering the spiritual equivalent of Happy Meals, constantly 'consuming', and never ever feeling fed.

So let's do a little experiment, shall we? How 'bout you go through your day today and ask yourself what feeds you - ask if what you're doing feeds you, or if might be filling your life with psychic Big Macs.

I'd love to hear what feeds you.

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