Friday, February 26, 2010

"That Was the Day My Heart Growed"

Friendship is important, even at four years old.

Ben had a rough morning Wednesday--it was waterworks for about forty-five minutes before we left the house because he wanted to stay home with me and not go to school (I was out of town last weekend and have had more evening commitments than usual, so I think he's feeling it).  I finally managed to get him in the car to go to school, but he told me he was going to be sad all morning.

When I picked him up later that morning, I asked him how his day was, unsure of what to expect.  I must have sounded concerned, because Ben gave me a look that indicated everything was fine, saying, "Quinn made me happy.  When I got to school, he said, 'Benjamin!' and that made my heart grow."  Then he chattered happily about his day all the way home.

I was touched by how profoundly he was impacted by his friend's simple enthusiasm to see him.  I believe Ben when he says his heart grew: when we are met with love in times of pain, we are changed.  We learn to trust, to reach out, to receive.  Ben experienced friendship in a vulnerable moment, and this small act of kindness reminded him of his value.  

I also love how incidental, how unassuming the exchange was.  There was no pep talk, no word of wisdom, no intentional encouragement from his buddy.  Quinn probably didn't even realize Ben was having a hard morning.  They are simply friends, and this friendship sustained Ben through a difficult morning, transformed his sadness into something good, something true.

It's interesting to me that Ben used the language of his heart growing, which I assume he borrowed from How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Ben's love for this story borders on obsession.  During the last two Christmas seasons, he requested to read it countless times and then asked approximately a million and two questions about The Grinch: why he wants to steal Christmas, why his heart is too small, why he doesn't like the Whos, why he lies to CindyLou Who, why his heart grows, why he gives it all back at the end, why, why, why.  He and Abby and Daddy would act out the story, taking as many toys from the family room into the living room as their arms could carry and then bringing it all back again.  Usually I would play CindyLou Who, asking in a squeaky high voice as they gathered their loot, "Santy Claus, why?  Why are you taking our Christmas tree, why?"  He even bought Josh Grinch pajamas for Christmas, not because he thinks Josh is a grinch but because he's simply enamored with the story.  

So we've talked about The Grinch's behavior and why he doesn't like Christmas, and we've talked about what makes people mean or small-hearted.  We've talked about what The Grinch learns about Christmas and the Whos and how that changes him.  At the end of the book, of course, The Grinch is transformed by The Whos' sincere love for each other apart from the packages and trimmings and feasts.  As his sleigh of contraband Christmas teeters on a mountain peak, threatening to fall into the abyss below, The Grinch hears the Whos singing, sees their holiday spirit glowing brightly.  In turn, we learn that "in Whoville, they say, that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day."  

Ben believes The Grinch's heart grows in response to the Whos love.  When met with Quinn's enthusiastic greeting, Ben recognized love and felt himself change.  This tiny exchange, which must have lasted mere seconds, impacted him deeply, enough that he told me the story again yesterday on our way home. 

"That was the day my heart growed," he concluded as we rounded the turn toward home.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Sweet Dreams, and Namasté

There are moments in parenthood when everything is right, when a deep, abiding sense of contentment and peace and gratitude fills the soul.  I had one of those moments tonight, and I savored it, let it linger in all its wonder, breathed deep and long the air of clarity and perspective.  It was not exciting.  It was not momentous.  But it was pure and true.  Genuine.  A glimpse of life on earth as it is in heaven.

Josh had a business meeting for the fire department tonight, so I had the kids to myself for bedtime.  We made it through the usual flurry of activity surrounding bathroom-using and pajama-dressing and tooth-brushing.  By the time we settled into Abby's big green chair for books, the kids were visibly tired.  Ben rubbed his eyes and yawned; Abby climbed into my lap and rested her head under my chin, relinquishing her usual post of autonomy next to me.

As has been the case the last several days, Ben chose his little, phonetic reader to read to us.  Now that he has discovered his power of reading, he finds delight in being able to read us a bedtime story.  His skills are becoming more fluid.  Now he stops to sound out only the occasional word.  He puts the sentences together more quickly, even adds the appropriate intonation.  He can read a whole "chapter" of four to five stories in a sitting before tiring.  I'm astounded by his growth.  He hadn't read for Abby yet, but I was confident the novelty of Ben reading would quell any impatience she might feel toward his speed.

I was right.  They both settled in, their bodies still and relaxed, their energy quiet and calm.  Abby didn't complain or grow impatient once, not even in the places Ben paused for a significant time.  She even began to point out the "I's" on the page that began many of the sentences.  Ben rested his head on my shoulder as his little pointer finger moved steadily from one word to the next, and I was torn between wanting to let Ben continue reading indefinitely for the magic of it and knowing they needed to get their heads to a pillow before they crashed.  Having them both snuggled close, sensing the absolute contentment in their spirits, feeling the drive and rush and play and defensiveness and offensiveness and exuberance and scramble to figure out their world leave their little bodies as we all sat in the security of each other's presence--it was sacred.

When Ben finished the three stories we had agreed upon ahead of time, he handed me the book Abby had chosen.  She ran into Ben's room earlier to find The Moon Shines Down by Margaret Wise Brown, the same author who penned the children's classics Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny.  It's a charming story narrated by a koala bear who imagines all the children of the world seen by the moon:  "I see the Moon and the Moon sees me, and the Moon sees the Dutch boy far over the sea..."  As he describes the many children and their homelands, the koala prays a blessing over each one, saying, "O God bless him and God bless me..."

The kids have it memorized, so they took turns reciting various pages.  At one point, Ben recognized the word "the" in the text and then saw "to," "and," and "of"--a few of the site words he's learning.  It was as if another light bulb went off in his head.  I could practically see him thinking, Hey, these books are made up of the words I'm learning and reading.  The destination of his efforts came into focus.

We finished reading, sang our songs, and prayed, thanking Jesus for each other and for the events of today, praying for tomorrow's activities.  When we finished, Ben hopped down with his Teddy and walked into his room; Abby got down to walk to her crib.  I remembered at the last second to put Aquaphor on the two scrapes healing on her face before scooping her into my arms to hug her and kiss her and lay her down.  As I set her in the crib, I said, "I love you, Abby.  You're a good girl, you're such a good girl."  She looked at me for a moment, as though contemplating my words, then leaned her head into mine and declared quietly and sincerely, "I luhf Gahd."

In one small sentence, she pierced my heart with her unadulterated, unsolicited, unscripted profession of faith.

There are so, so many theological concepts I could run on and on about here, but what struck me most profoundly was how simple it is to confess our desire for God, how uncomplicated it is to receive Grace.  There's no need to pray a special prayer, no need to understand every nuance of sin and atonement and life redeemed. Abby loves Love, and that is enough.  Faith is as effortless as sharing her two-year-old affection for an entity that, in her reality, cares enough to bless the moon and her and the children living far over the sea.

We grown people, especially those of us who've grown up in church circles, have this tendency to convolute all matters spiritual, to add a bunch of musts and should's and formulas and prescriptions to faith.  It is all chaff, no more the substance of faith than the lines in a coloring book the substance of art.  Ultimately, it all comes down to a mustard seed of faith in Love, and I think a lot more people have that than anyone realizes: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love, does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:7-8).  I know a lot of people who love--some in beautiful, sacrificial, Mother Theresa ways, others in simple, everyday, unassuming ways--many of whom won't be found in church on a Sunday morning.  Maybe because they don't find much that resembles Love in the places we talk most about God.

Tonight in the green chair, Benjamin, Abby, and I glimpsed heaven because the three of us simply rested in each other's love--without competition, without jockeying for position, without seeking attention or affirmation.  We rested, together, in Love.  Abby's precious proclamation merely put words to what we already knew and recognized.

I wish these moments with the kids weren't fleeting, didn't appear only in brief flashes of brilliance.  Often I wonder why we can't "just get along" all the time, and I grow frustrated when this expectation suffers the inevitable let-down of reality.  But I think in this world it is impossible to shed our competition, our jockeying, our attention- and affirmation-seeking for more than a few minutes at a time, let alone at the same time.  This pattern of life is so ingrained in us, so endemic to our flesh.  We are driven, enslaved in our cells, in our very DNA, to nature's law: "survival of the fittest."  Government, economies, religion, HOA's all serve to uphold this tenet.

How can I possibly expect my children to deny their flesh when I can't get over my need for people to think I have great kids?  Competition, jockeying, affirmation-seeking is my curse, too.

The only antidote, I think, the only relief from this pressure-cooker life is to stop thinking about ourselves and instead love: to help others survive, to affirm other's worth, to esteem other's accomplishments, to carry other's burdens, to shelter other's frailties--not in some self-deprecating, neglectful state of martyrdom, but in blessed freedom, resting in the knowledge that God is for us, not against us, rejoicing in the truth of every person around us.

I love the phrase "Namasté," which loosely translated means, "The divine in me honors the divine in you."  Beneath our flesh--our striving, competing selves--is an image of God.  It is in me.  It is in Ben.  It is in Abby.  It is in you.  What wonder when we get to see it without its ugly cover-up.

Tonight in the green chair, the flesh was too weary to raise its ugly head, so we got to experience Love instead.

Namasté, dear friends.

Who Needs the Fountain of Youth?

This afternoon as we drove home from Ben's school, Ben and Abby had a conversation in the back about their ages, who's big, and who's old.  At first Abby said she was old.  Great, I thought, if she's old, then we're all in trouble.  (Although her request for a laptop and her own iPod next Christmas might lead you to believe she's older than two).

Like a reflex, in true big brother fashion, Ben said, no, he was old.  This improves our lot only slightly.

Then he paused to actually think for a moment and settled the whole matter, saying, "No, Abby.  None of us are old--not even Daddy."


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oops: Reason #5,362 I Married Josh

This morning, I conceded to Josh that I am a terrible driver--at least according to his definition.

We've been having this argument for years.  He says I'm a bad driver.  I say I'm not.  My definition of a terrible driver is someone who regularly endangers the lives of other people through reckless or careless driving.  This I do not do.  His definition of a terrible driver is someone who regularly bumps into things.  Depending on how one understands "regularly," I may qualify here.

I would have argued against my qualification for this title before this morning.  But I no longer have that freedom.   This morning, I sealed my epithet by "bumping into" my garage door.  From inside the garage.  Apparently, one must wait until the door is all the way up before reversing out of the garage.  I chose to attempt my exit when the door was about halfway up.

No, really.

And you should have heard the barrage of questions from the back seat when it happened:

Me: "Oh no."
Peanut Gallery: "Mommy, what happened?"
Me: "I backed into the garage door."
Peanut Gallery: "Why?"
Me: "It was an accident.  I didn't realize the door wasn't all the way up."
Peanut Gallery: "Why?"
Me: "I don't know."
Peanut Gallery: "Is the garage door broken?"
(Pause as I push the button to see if the door moves)
Me: "No.  It still goes up and down, fortunately."
Peanut Gallery: "Did it hurt the car?"
Me: "Probably.  I'll have to go check."
(Brief interlude while I survey the damage)
Me: "It did scratch the car a little."
Peanut Gallery: "But why did you bump into the garage door?"

Ad infinitum.

It was stupid.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  I often wait until we're all in the car to put the garage door up so the kids don't freeze in our cold Colorado air while getting in.  Typically, I buckle Abby in, get in myself, and push the garage door button as Ben's buckling.  By the time he's done, the door is up.  Then, like any normal person, I turn on the car and back out.  I've done it hundreds of times.  This morning, however, I got distracted and accelerated the routine, to my utter embarrassment.

Josh called to check-in on our morning as we drove out of the neighborhood to Ben's school.  This is when I humbly and sincerely acknowledged that I'm a terrible driver as a prelude to my mortifying story.  With great chagrin, I shared my "incident" in the garage.

Here's what I love about my dear, dear husband.  When I told him I had actually managed to back into the garage door, he chuckled in an I'm-not surprised-because-I-know-you-too-well kind of way, very calmly asked me about the damage, and then said with all sincerity, "I'm sorry."  There was no exasperation, no lecture, no rant or rave about the cost of repairs or the obvious lunacy of my mistake.  We both knew I screwed up.  We both knew I made a giant mistake.  The consequence of my error was punishment enough, and he was there with humor and empathy to help me endure the humiliation.

I love this man.

This is how we desire to raise our kids, though, admittedly, I'm not as accomplished at extending grace as Josh is (yet).  Life teaches hard lessons; there's no need for us as parents to rub it in.  Instead, we can receive our little loves with empathy and a bit of humor, acknowledging their error without judgement as they feel the pain of their consequences.

What Josh communicated to me this morning is a basic belief in my goodness as a person.  He affirmed that I am far more valuable to him than a car or a garage door.  I married the right man, without question.

Abby and I returned home to play after dropping Ben off at school.  When the time came to get back in the car to pick him up a few hours later, Abby said emphatically, "Mama, dohn forgeht to open duh door!  We dohn wahn to bump it a-gaihn."  Thanks, Abby.  I'm sure I will never leave the garage again without checking my mirror at least a half dozen times.

We live.  We learn.  We grow.  And if we're fortunate, we do so in the presence of Grace.  Thanks, Amor.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Taste of Heaven

As Ben and I finished his night-night routine, I asked him which song he wanted to sing before climbing in bed.

He paused a moment, then said, "Let's sing 'Jesus Loves Me.'  That's a good Valentine's song."

Indeed.  At the age of four, Ben somehow recognizes that any celebration of love finds its origin in Love.  He's absolutely right.

So I wish to honor every exchange of love today, whether small or grand, because each genuine expression of love is an affirmation that the Eternal has entered the temporal, that the Divine is redeeming the human, that Love is conquering fear.  Every time a person sets aside insecurity and ambition to enter into someone else's world, to affirm someone else's worth, to speak truth into someone else's heart, we come closer to experiencing life "on earth as it is in heaven."

Our taste of heaven took the form of shoveling the driveway, warming up over hot chocolate and candy hearts, and sharing heart-shaped pizzas by candlelight.  It was simple, it was happy, and it was all Love.

Wishing you and yours a Happy Valentine's Day, too...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Timing and the Small Matter of Perspective

Since both kids managed to break their fevers the requisite twenty-four hours before the dog show yesterday, I loaded them up late morning to trek down the hill to see and meet the breed we've been pursuing for the next addition to our family.  While there, we met several dogs--many of varying relation to the litter of pups we're intersted in--and local breeders.  We stayed and watched and talked and pet dogs for a couple hours, our time confirming our interest in this particular breed.

Later in the afternoon, after the kids had rested at a friend's place near the complex, the three of us enjoyed a treat at a coffee shop: a non-fat, no-whip mocha for me, a "special milk" (cold milk with a pump of raspberry syrup) for them, and a pastry to share.  We sat at a small, round table and colored as we enjoyed our goodies. 

We had been there about fifteen minutes when Abby suddenly looked at me, concerned, and said most sincerely, "We forgoht to geh uh dohg, Ma-ma."

It was just about the cutest sentence I've heard her say.  Like suddenly she realized nothing had changed.  She was fully convinced that we had managed to overlook this monumental task.  In her mind, going to see the dogs meant we were finally going to bring one home after what must seem to a two-year-old like an eternity of talking about it.  I tried to explain that we went to see the kind of dog we're interested in but that the actual puppy we're going to bring home is still too little to leave its mama. I don't know that she understood, but she accepted my explanation and returned to coloring circles in her notebook.

Poor thing.  It's hard enough for Josh and I to be patient with the process as we wait for the pups to grow and the temperaments to be discovered and the timing to work out and the stars to align.  But we know how important it is to do this right, to make sure we bring the right dog into our family at the right time.  And we have an understanding of time, of process.  A few months to us is a blink, or at most a yawn, in a life that's already numbered in decades.  For the kids, however, it's a very, very long time.  And as much as we try to explain the process, I'm sure it still sounds vague and uncertain and indefinite.  Perspective is everything:  "Mama, this is taking forever.  Did you forget how much we want a dog?"

I imagine this is comparable to the way we perceive our lives in the scheme of eternity.  Everything to us feels so weighty, uncertain, vague, indefinite--and certainly takes much, much longer than we would like.  Outside of time, however, God must see our lives as a blink.  And as much as He tries to assure us that He's got it under control, that everything will work out in His time according to His plans for our good, as much as He asks us to trust Him and simply rest in the knowledge that He's handling it, we grow impatient, confused.  We assume He must have forgotten, or worse, doesn't care.

So we raise our head one day, feeling the acute absence of what we want, and say, "Hey, Creator of the Universe, Maker and Sustainer of All Things, Alpha and Omega--we forgot __________ [insert the most important thing in life at the moment]."  And I imagine He must look at us kindly and warmly, with all the fondness and empathy I felt for Abby in that coffee shop, and attempt to explain it to us, though He knows our minds can't always conceive of His plans or ways or understanding--in parables about sparrows and lillies, in miracles small and large, in demonstrations of mercy and forgiveness and grace. 

And when that fails, he offers Himself: the incarnation of Love in Jesus, so that even if we don't understand, we can trust.  We can leave the mysteries of time and longing and fulfillment in His hands and go back to coloring in our notebooks, trusting His intentions toward us are always good, believing His desire is to give us the desires of our heart.

So, sweet Abby, we have not forgotten to get a dog.  In fact, we are doing everything in our power to bring you and your brother the very dog that will best satisfy your hopes for a furry friend, because we love you.  It takes time--a seemingly long time--but we think it will be worth the wait.  Though the delay doesn't make sense right now, one day it will become clear. 

You can trust us. 


Tuesday, February 9, 2010


After ruminating on the sweetness of snuggling my sick Abby in the last post, I find the gods have conspired to remind me of the flip side of sick kids: exhaustion (theirs and mine), whining (theirs and mine), and that strange paradox of knowing they're cranky because they're sick and just not really caring after the fourth time Sibling A has intentionally goaded Sibling B into tears of tragedy and injustice.

Suffice it to say, it is days like these that remind me of why the television can be so tempting.  While the kids generally don't watch t.v., sick days are the exception, and today I've had to be especially mindful not to overuse this "wonder" of entertainment in my own desperation for a bit of peace and quiet.

The irony is that the t.v. isn't really as entertaining to the kids as I might "hope."  Attention wanders and I find  the couch emptied in favor of making "pies" in their little kitchen.  But as soon as I go to turn the t.v. off, they race back to their positions in front of the screen as though I were threatening their lifeline.

That's the thing: the box offers the illusion of fun, but so many other pastimes are far more enjoyable.  So I actually find myself making statements like, "You're welcome to watch the t.v. as long as you're sitting here paying attention.  Otherwise, I'm going to turn it off."  I can't stand the background noise of it if no one is actually watching.  And yet, secretly, I'm thrilled they'd rather occupy themselves with productions of their imagination.

If only they could enjoy said play without driving each other crazy.  Alas, impulse control is inversely related to degree of sickness.

Well, through some miracle of childhood, neither child has taken a nap though both so desperately need the sleep in their run-down, feverish, antibody-building state.  They will be appearing in a short minute, so I will need to find some activity to quiet their bodies while stimulating their minds and maintaining my sanity. 

Yes, this is motherhood, too.  And, for better and for worse, I really am a mommy.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

I Really Am a Mommy

Last night, although Abby continues to fight a fever, we put our kids to bed at the house of our dear friends, with whom we were having dinner. We arrived with arms full of pillows, stuffed animals, pajamas, books, and all the bedtime paraphenalia required by little ones. They've gone to sleep here a number of times, so the home is familiar and comfortable to them. Both kids asked all day when we'd be going to their house; both fell asleep almost immediately after we laid them down.

We had to wake them up in order to drive home at the end of the night, and though Ben simply closed his eyes and fell back asleep once snuggled into his car seat, Abby chatted with us all the way home, in spite of the late hour. In the car by the light of the moon, we conversed with her about our day and the lights on the dash and the lyrics of the music.

As is typical when Abby gets sick, her "reactive airways" have, indeed, reacted to this latest virus. In fact, the wheezing and whistling and rattling and spasmodic coughing showed up first this time, before any other symptom. She coughed frequently as we drove, and I couldn't help but say, "I'm sorry, Baby," every time. We've been treating her with albuterol every four hours around the clock, so it worked out conveniently to do her treatment when we got home. Once we had the treatment ready, she asked to do her medicine with me, so we turned down the lights, snuggled into the couch, and began.

It takes about five minutes to get through one vial of medicine. I sat against the arm of the couch with my legs stretched out in front of me. Abby snuggled into my lap, her own legs stretched across mine, her head resting on my chest while I held the mist in front of her mouth and nose. I could see only the top of her eyes from my angle, and as we sat there, I felt her body relax and watched her eyelashes droop closer and closer to her cheek. Though all energy and questions in the car, the hour caught up to her once we were home, and I held and kissed my sleepy darling while she quietly inhaled her medicine.

She coughed occasionally, this awful, congested, barking cough. Though her spirits remain high when she's sick, I know she feels crummy. During the day, she can hardly walk from the family room to the kitchen without her breathing becoming labored. So I cooed to her in soft, soothing mama tones. I held her little body close, brushed the hair out of her eyes. And I realized that I am one of two people in the world who gets this privilege, who gets to be "the one" to this precious girl--the one she wants when she is sick, the one whose lap she wants to climb into when she's exhausted, the one she asks for when she needs to be comforted. I am her mommy. No one else in the world has that title. This reality seared my heart with its poignancy.

She was practically asleep by the time the medicine was finished. I couldn't bear to disturb her by leaning over to turn off the nebulizer, so in a whisper, I asked Josh to do it. Then I carried her gently upstairs to her room and laid her in her crib, where she pulled her Froggy close and went right to sleep.

To Ben and Abby, no one else in the world offers the same comfort, respite, security, and love as me and Josh. Someday, that will change. But for now, it is a profound honor and responsibility. At times, my heart aches with love for them--like last night, when I snuggled my sick girl in the still of the night and my chest hurt with her coughs, swelled with longing to make her better.

For now, I hold her in my arms with tender affection; forever, I will hold her in my soul with love. I think this is what it means to be a mommy.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

23 Sentences, and Everything Changes

Yesterday afternoon, Ben came down from his nap cheerful, calm. He held a Level 1 Reader in his hands and asked, as I was finishing up a phone call, if he could read it to me. He has never asked this before. I couldn't have been happier to oblige him.

I got off the phone after many eager insistings on his part, and we sat together on the couch in the family room. The house was quiet and still, as Abby still snoozed in her crib. The light was warm from the afternoon sun. I propped my legs on the ottoman, Ben curled his legs under him, and he began.

The sentences were simple and phonetic: "Wag has a pal--Kitcat. Kitcat ran to a mat..."

He sounded out each word, said it again after he decoded the letters, moved on to the next word, and proceeded to the end of the sentence. When he reached the end, he reread the entire sentence aloud to comprehend its meaning. And then he beamed. I smiled and cheered. He was proud. I was proud. And he continued to the next sentence. As he went on, he recognized more quickly repeated word endings, like "-at" in "mat," "cat," and "sat." He didn't have to sound out every one.

There were times he was halting and other times he was fluid, but he had command of the process, and I could feel his confidence rising with each success, could see a world opening up to him before my eyes. When we reached the end of the third page and decided it was time to get Abby, who had woken, we both knew he had accomplished something big. Really big. He wanted some quantifiable description of how much he had read, so we counted the periods: 23 sentences he read, and he walked around all afternoon announcing it with excitement.

It was sacred to watch it come together. He's recognized the letters of the alphabet for years, has known their sounds for some time, and has been able and occasionally willing to sound out a word or two or three here or there for nearly a year. He's had all the building blocks without realizing he's had them. But yesterday, the knowledge and skills converged in his concious mind to enable him to read, really read, and my spirit lept for him.

As a child who loved to read, who spent hours and hours in book after book, who got lost in other places and times and people and events, who often finished a book a different person than I began, who preferred words to almost anything else, I revel in this feat. Because now, it is only a matter of time before he discovers he holds the world in his little boy fingertips. A universe of meaning is about to open up for him as he begins to look at the letters that surround him everyday with new meaning.

Don't worry, my expectations are in check. There's no pressure here. It's just that sitting on the couch with him yesterday felt like ushering him into another dimension. I may as well have held his hand and walked him to the moon.

23 precious is a whole new world.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I have this little stack of promise on my end table in the form of books. One is a book on cycling training, another is a book on dog training, and yet another is a book on writing that I devoured last summer and want to revisit now that I'm putting words to the page with more consistency.

In addition to these tangible, paper wells of potential, I have some virtual resources I'm eager to digest: a few sermons I want to listen to on-line from weeks we've had to miss church, a teleclass on essay writing I've been thinking about since December, and a few internet searches I need to run as I continue my preparations to make a go of freelance writing in the fall.

And then there are the more pressing tasks I want to take care of: making phone calls, returning e-mails, creating a couple more playlists and spin routines for the classes I'm subbing for over the next couple weeks, downloading my thoughts here.

Frankly, there are so many things I want to do come nap time--that precious hour and a half in my day when the house is quiet, my time is my own, and my thoughts can wander uninterrupted--that my brain goes into overload and I end up doing just the most essential tasks, unable to decide where to begin.

Is it better to read about dog training first since we're watching the DVD's that go along with the book in our spare evening hours or to read the cycling book first since it will help me learn how to add resistance training to my weekly spin regimen in addition to helping me craft thoughtful, productive spin classes? Do I read this wonderful book on writing, knowing it will inspire me as I gratefully sit down to this blog every few days or do I spend the time looking for markets that might be interested in some of my existing writing?

It's a nice "problem" to have--so many interests and goals and beginnings and possibilities and resources that I don't know where to begin. For me, the learning and preparation is as enjoyable as the actual work, so in some ways, the fun has already begun though the actual events are several weeks or months away. But the excitement isn't helpful if I'm paralyzed with the desire to do everything at once. It's time to make a plan.

Probably I should begin with the cycling book, since getting my training underway for this summer's MS 150 (a 150 mile bike ride over two days to benefit the National MS Society) will be easy to do once I have the information. I plan on adding about twenty minutes of weights or weight-bearing activity to my Tuesday/Thursday spin workouts so that I can increase my strength in addition to my stamina. I was thrilled to finish the ride last year but felt my energy and power waning toward the middle of day two; I hope to finish faster and stronger this year.

More importantly, as I watch my sister with MS do everything in her power to take advantage of the ability her body does have right now, I feel compelled to do the same. Our bodies are a gift. Our health is precious. It is a blessing to move. Now.

Once I finish the cycling book, I can finish the dog training book. We put in an application for a puppy a couple weeks ago (I know, I know: what are we thinking?!?). In the process of looking for adult dogs needing to be re-homed due to circumstances (not temperament issues), I ended up spending forty-five minutes on the phone with a kind, kind man who breeds the kind of dog we're looking for. He's been working with dogs for decades, has raised his kids and his grandkids around them, and he couldn't stop talking about what a wonderful experience it has been for both the children and the dogs to grow up together. If he was looking to place a litter of his own puppies, I might have been suspicious that he was trying to sell me a line, but he's not--he won't be breeding his dogs for several months to a year, at least. His sincere enthusiasm for the benefits of raising and training a dog in the family caused Josh and I to really discuss what we're looking for in a pet, and ultimately, we decided we'd be willing to take on the short-term inconveniences of a puppy for the potential long-term gain for all of us.

All that to say, the litter we're interested in will be eight weeks old come March, so I figure I'll finish the dog training book and DVD's and probably end up re-reading it again by then. We may not get one of those puppies or we may get it when it's a few weeks older, and that would be fine (here, Josh gasps in disbelief--his enthusiasm rivals any five-year-old's), but I want to be ready just in case Pup prances into our life five weeks from now.

And I see the writing resources as an on-going interest that serves my passion. I love to write. I love this blog. I feel almost giddy when I learn that there are others out there who enjoy my blog, too. Though there are times I spend hours on a post and then delete it or when I can't for the life of me figure out what to write about, it is always a gift, a privilege to me, to come to this space and string words into sentences and paragraphs and stories. And when Abby starts preschool a few mornings a week in the fall, I'll see if I might be able to put my craft to work, too. So I'll always be pursuing it, but there will be times when other things--like a puppy, like life--will have to take precedence.

In the meantime, I am struck daily, hourly even, by how very lucky and blessed I am to get to do these things I love: to raise my children, to challenge my body, to teach spin classes that require me to find and listen to music as I choreograph an hour of cycling to my favorite tunes, to write and read and write some more, to undertake new adventures--our latest of the canine variety, to learn.

I used to think the opportunity to do anything new ended with graduation from college. I used to envy the high school students I taught who got to take music lessons, play sports, work on the school paper, and learn, learn, learn something new every day. I'm realizing, though, that while there are seasons of stasis--here, newborn life comes to mind--I am every bit as capable of learning something new now as I was fifteen years ago. In fact, I may be better equipped now because I actually know what I like and don't like, can more readily identify my strengths and weaknesses, and, in turn, tailor my pursuits accordingly.

The horizon is as wide and as bright as it ever was, perhaps more so. With a library card, an hour in the day, and a little imagination, the world is ripe with possibility.

The trick is figuring out where to begin...and beginning.
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