Gather

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2020 was a few days old when I was still searching for my word for the new year ahead. I like to search for words that become motivators instead of forcing their arrival into my life. So as each new day passed, I just listened for my word to make itself known.

Then it happened. The word “gather”. That was my word for 2020! It presented itself like a new book. The cover was highly anticipated, the story inside was going to be exciting and challenging, and for some strange reason I felt like it was going to make me uncomfortable. The kind of uncomfortable that forces me to grow.

I had no clue it would make others uncomfortable too.

So without any delay, I began planning a Super Bowl party. We’re not really a sports family. We love being outdoors and active, but no one I live with has a favorite team and we definitely have never owned any sports swag.  Our Super Bowl party invites said something like…

We are the most neutral NFL house in the county, so come on over for food, drinks and a place to gather. Go team!

Our home was filled with friends, kids dropping corn chips on the floors, and neighbors. It was a great kickoff to embracing my word. It felt so right.

That was the last party we hosted and the last big gathering inside a home that we’ve been to in 2020. In March things got really uncomfortable for our county, and basically the entire north east, when everything stopped. No one was gathering. It was not allowed.

But then we unofficially decided that as humans we need to come together. We need to see the nonverbals on our faces when we talk. We crave connection. It’s in the fabric of our beings to gather together. So, we began reinventing ways to come together.

It’s August, and I have realized the word gather is still my word for 2020. We have been challenged by creating new ways of gathering. We are craving ways to still be connected while staying apart. Our lives have embraced the value to gather in ways that might have been totally missed prior to rules about social distancing. We are made to be in community. We are made to stay socially connected. We thrive when we gather.

I had no idea that my word for 2020 would become the launching pad for innovation in the way we stay human during times like these. We are going to make it through this time of false isolation, because we have adapted to new ways of gathering.

They are more pure and intentional, the times together while still being apart, are cherished in ways that words can’t describe. We are made to gather, so we will. Our ability to come together, even while distancing is an example of the adaptability of the human condition. Our need to be a part of each other’s lives has sparked innovative ways to gather while staying a part.

Who would have imagined that here, in 2020, we are being forced to reimagine something we have been doing for centuries? Gathering together isn’t ending, it’s just repurposing our innate need to be connected.

My word for 2020 was and is gather.  I’m embracing all the beautiful mess that this word has come to mean.

 

 

At Home

We focus much of our attention on the things that go on outside of our homes. Don’t we? The stories in the news, the hype of the award shows, the sports games and certificates of achievement, all these things are how we measure success in our culture. It’s really easy to forget that everyone began at home, talking and having meals, and it’s where they, we, were anchored for our becoming.

“It’s in the houses that people talk, and do things and have meals. Nothing goes on in the in-between places.” C.S. Lewis

That idea is tucked into a paragraph found on the pages of C.S. Lewis’ book, The Magician’s Nephew.  It stopped me when I read it, and I began to think…

A home is the space that gives the other places their fill. We spend so much time being cultivated and nurtured inside our homes.  Then as we grow we end up spending time in the in-between and giving our gifts and talents to the places that need it, and in a way we need those places too. Eventually a familiar desire for home challenges us to move. If we grew up in amazing homes, we imagine modeling a home to be similar to where we came from. If we grew up in a not so amazing home, we dream of the ways to make our future home better. Either way, our hearts eventually guide us away from the in-between places toward home.

Home is more than a place. It’s an arrival, within your soul, claiming “I belong here.”

Home is were there is a quiet awareness of belonging, and from belonging grows a richness to create, talk and make things better. When we know and believe we belong, we can love and have the courage to fail. We can have hard conversations because we know talking won’t make us homeless, rather it feeds the soul and inspires relationships, thoughts and new ideas. That’s the stuff that fills the in-between spaces. That’s what home nurtures.

 

 

 

Grown-up Tree Climbing

I recently began climbing a dogwood tree in our backyard. It began as a way to hang out with my kids. Then I started climbing when they weren’t even around the tree. It’s my space to look up and feel like a kid. It’s just pure fun.

The winter lets sunshine into places in our 50 year old yard that the summer closes off. Without leaves shading the usual places, the light drips onto the ground and into high up spaces. It’s in the middle, of the ground and the up-high places, where I find it relaxing. I climb up, then rest on a few branches and limbs perfect for lounging back and soaking up the winter sunlight. When I first climbed the tree it hit me: I spend way too little time looking down. I look down at my phone (too much!), I look down at my counters, kitchen sink, Legos on the floor…you get it. My kids are about three feet tall, and of course I’m constantly looking at them. But, that’s down too. So, literally looking up is a welcomed shift.  When I’m there, hanging out above the ground and between the branches, I look up and it automatically changes my mindset to follow upward.

When the air is brisk and fresh I find myself breathing slower and with intention.  Sometimes there’s a breeze moving through the empty branches all around me. Other times it’s so still there are no sounds at all. Both are life-giving in their own way. I don’t even have a picture to post with this, because I have been so in the moment when hanging out in a tree. (That picture above is from a winter hike a long time ago.)

It’s a new year, and I am desperate for new things. Climbing trees is pretty basic, free and definitely not new in anyway. For me, though, it’s new and fun. I’m keeping it in my life as a way to chill out and find simple moments of fun.

Are there ways you have fun and chill out throughout your week? Would love for you to  share in the comments.

 

 

The Messages We Consume

I’ve been thinking about something Marshal McLuhan said back in 1964 about the way we communicate. He said, “The medium is the message.” The level at which the message gets misunderstood or embraced depends on the medium it comes through.

It’s been a weird season for me and social media. I go through phases of being active and then passive and also totally ignoring it. However, I struggle with fully disengaging. Partly because I realize some greatness can come out of sharing. So, in light of that and within my recent break from FB and Instagram, I’ve grown these thoughts…

Do we believe where we are is beautiful?

When we look at staged photos of color coordinated closets, immaculate laundry rooms and a sibling tribe of perfectly dressed kids — ages 5 and under, you just wonder how we are all thriving. If we can’t gather our emotions long enough to refuse these images, how will we find the courage to teach our own little tribe to believe where we are is beautiful?

When you look up from the feed that seldom feeds you, do you still see what you like? Do you see what you are in the middle of building? After all, you are creating and feeding and building something real; something very much alive.

Does social media feed you?

Your life is in constant movement. Some days may feel stuck or derailed or like walking backwards, but that’s movement. Who says forward movement is the best? That gets redefined in motherhood. We live with so many feelings and experiences, why add to it the tension that bubbles up from too much social media.

We spend so much time looking at frozen shots or 10 second loops of points in time within other people’s lives.

We are a collection of beatutiful, plus messy with a side of momentary perfection. That all gets lost in translation in certain mediums.

Are you free to abandon perfection?

So what happens when we spend so long digesting images currated by minds who want to be perecieved as influencial and worthy of likes? Those hand-picked moments get adopted as our personal goals and uncomfortably pushed into our real world happenings. Subconsciously, they do.

It just shouldn’t be this way. When immersed in the act of creating, raising up and guiding children you need to be free to abondon perfection.

Our souls demand this of us. Our children beg us, in silent attempts, to be more than moments to capture. To be more than a post, captured in perfect light while surrounded by monochromatic fabrics and shared in an attempt to influence.

We are more than these moments. We are.

The medium is the message. Your medium, your life, your home, your messy closet, your laundry room that eats half your family’s socks, your refrigerator that houses too much cheese….this is your space. Be okay with it. Or change it. But don’t allow your motivation to change to come from another mother’s moment in time temporarily supported by 5,465 likes.

Be smart, be wise and be intentional.

Be smart, as you are already smart, about feeding your mind. The messages you spend time believing will impact how you are over there building, creating and caring for your family.

Choose wisely, as you are wise, and look around your space with freedom to build your message, within your home, far beyond the image on your screen because that is where love is growing and love can’t be currated for a post.

All the goodness and authenticity a growing family requires is found inside the hearts and minds of the people living in that family. Choose where your messages come, use them as your tools or discard them if they aren’t helping you build your family up.

Be picky. Be intentional. Be aware of your needs, then be aware of how you feed your mind and your heart.

You are smart. You are wise. You are the builder. Go and gather your tools to support your family’s growth. Make sure to vet the messages being shared with you when you scroll your feeds. Choose how you feed you mind, because the medium is the message.

Photo via Pixels.

 

 

Deep Into the Love Well

We sat together on the bathroom floor in a puddle of tears. My two and a half year old son was curled up in my lap and his head rested on my squishy postpartum belly, when he whispered between deep sobs, “I miss you, Mama.”

My first baby boy had just become a big brother. The transition was easier than I imagined, but he had his share of tantrums and I noticed his feelings were swirling deep within his growing self. Change is hard, especially when change requires someone to make more space for someone else.

I tried to teach, coach and guide him through the field of blooming emotions he seemed to be navigating every day. However, we never fully got to the root of how he was feeling about being in his home with a newborn brother, until that moment on the bathroom floor.

It was just before his evening bath when he began to freak out about nothing. Like, literally nothing. He stood like a toddler statue planted beside the bathtub with his bare feet on the soft rug, his face was electric red and drenched with tears. His lips were a deep shade of purple as they stretched over his mouth to let out all the sobs.

I was exhausted from all the simple tasks of the day, and I wanted to walk away from his unravelling. I had just held my newborn through eating an unfinished dinner. I had just wiped bottoms and served meals and have responded to all the needs. I was present and available for my boys for over 12 hours, and I wanted to be off the clock. Obviously motherhood doesn’t have clocks or an office to leave the return to after a full night of sleep. Time is different in the motherhood. At that point in time I just wanted to put on clean pajamas and wash my face then relax for a brief moment.

Instead I reached deep into my love well and I pulled up a bucket of patience. For me in that moment love looked like patience. I chose to stay there in the tension between us.

I began to speak so quietly I could barely hear myself under his crying and incoherent babbles. His words were arrested by his emotions. I sat down on the floor and I held his hands. I looked into his blue eyes, and it was like looking at the ocean floor. There below the ripple and movement of water was an entire world of happenings. I gently pulled him onto my lap hoping it was all the safety, comfort and warmth he needed in that moment.

I waited for his sobbing to slow down and for his body to be less rigid. Then I told him softly, “I love you. Everything will be okay.”

He slouched down into my lap and laid his head on my squishy postpartum belly, then whispered, “I miss you, Mama.”

I stayed there with him for a long time, just holding him.

Not saying anything. We both cried. I missed him too, but didn’t realize it. My simple act of leaning in showed me how we can be around someone all the time but still long for moments together, reminding us of how things are and used to be.

We didn’t talk, we just cuddled and cried. That was what love looked like at that point in time when I chose to stay instead of walk away. When I chose to love well.

Do you have a a time when you chose to stay and love, even though walking away would have been much easier?

Comment or email me at writeladywrite@gmail.com

Hugs,

Teresa

10 Sentences I Thought I’d Never Say

There are things I say as a mom that I never thought would exit my mouth. When the words hit the air it’s like a slow-mo scene from any Wes Anderson film. The sentence is lined up just like a cast of perfectly paired misfits moving toward their wildly unreasonable goal.

My goal, in most scenarios, is to keep my boys from hurting themselves or just being decent humans.

So, in the name of raising decent humans, these are the 10 things I never thought I’d say, but did:

1. Don’t shoot your Nana! (With a water gun.)

2. No! You can’t bite your brother!

3. Don’t sit on the sofa without undies on.

4. Please keep your feet off the dinner table.

5. We don’t paint with yogurt.

6. Take that quarter out of your mouth!

7. Never put money in your mouth.

8. Don’t put your hands in the toilet.

9. Sure, you can wear your Flash Lightning shirt for the third day in a row.

10. Ohmygosh! Are you eating a cookie in Mama and Dada’s bed? No, don’t eat cookies on our bed. (Said to my 18 month old.)

These 10 are just a few of the many, and I know they will keep on keepin on.

photo by Miley Eaton

Searching for Real Stories from Moms

So, here’s what’s up. I’ve been a mom for 4 years. That’s degree-worthy time. I feel like I’ve changed so much over the years. I’m thinking that now is the time to begin writing a book. I’ve been nesting this idea, over here, like a stubborn chicken who won’t get off her egg.
So, here’s whats up again: I’m beginning my search for real stories from real women of all ages and stages in motherhood. By real I mean don’t be all “I don’t have a funny or good or whatever adjective you want to dump in there before story-story.” I want authenticity. We all need authenticity. I want vulnerability. We all need vulnerability. Both make us better humans.
I geek out over hearing how we mother. There is always a hilarious moment or maybe a somber moment that will help us all feel more normal and less alone. Feeling more normal and less alone has always been a winning combination.
I need your voice. Your voice is brilliant and diverse. Since this book is a collection of stories from our diverse neighborhood of moms, your brilliance needs to show up.
When you figure out that you do have a funny or real honest story that fits into one of the chapters below, email me a blurb and I’ll set up a time to interview you.
Email Teresa at writeladywrite@gmail.com
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A time when comparing trapped you, and what you learned about yourself along the way?
A time when you chose to stay and love, even though walking away would have been much easier?
When you tried something daring and messy and the outcome was also messy?
Do you have personal hygiene hacks to share? (the good, bad and the ugly.)
Stories about failed or funny attempts to mom-date your way toward real life friendships.
Anything you tried and it didn’t go as planned?
A story about feeding yourself and your family that went crazy wrong or crazy right?
Stories about trying to talk and listen to your kids, to your partner, to your friends but it seemed like you were stuck in a communication breakdown?
Stories about how it used to be and why we might be glad to learn from the past. These are stories about raising kids as a parent from 1980/1970/1960s.
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Let’s tell our stories. Email me at writeladywrite@gmail.com
Thank you, and love you more than candy!
P.S. This is a staged photo of me and my boys. The truth about it is, en route to the photo shoot, I remembered I never brushed my teeth. Like, all day. No brushing. I ate a peppermint Altoid and smiled for the camera.
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5 Reasons Not to Host a Fiver Party

I’m planning a birthday party for our oldest boy. He’s turning four! This party will be his first with a guest list that includes more friends than cousins and it will be his fourth birthday party receiving gifts. I thought about hosting a fiver party. A party where his guests give him $5. He then gathers the money together and shops for the gift he really wants. We’re not going to jump on that wagon right now, and we won’t for a few more years. There are just too many amazing life lessons to learn from gift giving at little kid’s birthday party that get missed when handing over cash.

5 reasons why my little guy is not having a Fiver Party.

#1 Giving

Gift giving takes effort and a bit of outside awareness. There’s an art to giving. The giver needs to think about their friend. They need to think about what their friend likes or dislikes. Think about what they have already or might want to have. There’s also the thought about their friend and giving something he or she would seldom buy, but will really enjoy getting. Giving is a learned experience, and learning how to give needs to start at a young age. A birthday party is the perfect practice point.

#2 Receiving

Understanding the value of receiving goes far beyond a gift wrapped in a rainbow of colors and tied with swirly ribbon. Receiving is equal parts humbleness and expressed thankfulness. In the context of a four-year old’s birthday party, there will be gifts my son may not like. However, he’s going to learn how to receive that gift with a grateful heart. He’ll learn how to say, “Thank you for thinking of me!” or “Wow, this is awesome!” or “I didn’t even know about this toy. Thanks for the gift!” These are all postures we need to take into adolescence then into adult life. I view a kid’s birthday party as a fun training ground for receiving.

#3 Anticipation

Picking out a gift then wrapping it creates a tangible connection to the invitations for a birthday party. Usually there’s a simple excitement as you imagine how the receiver will feel upon opening your gift.  anticipation can be a moment by moment feeling, or it can be a feeling that’s really hard to grasp. Either way, anticipation is all wrapped up in the act of giving and receiving. She can anticipate shopping for the gift, helping to wrap the gift, and then giving the gift at the party. All those things piled on top of anticipation of the actual birthday party make for some mighty fine icing on a cake.

#4 Gratitude

Opening a present and expressing thankfulness is a foundation that needs to be built. It seems like entitlement is rooted in our DNA.  We need every moment we can to strengthen expressions of gratitude. Receiving a gift that is $1 or $15 deserves the same amount of grateful expression. We don’t measure effort or the value of things when teaching gratitude as such a young age. We just teach that gratitude matters. Having the opportunity to receive a gift from a friend is a practical and favorable way to squash entitlement and give room for thankfulness and gratefulness to take root. 

#5 Patience

Have you ever seen this video of moths flying around a light? That’s pretty much what a group of three and four year-old party people look like. It’s gift opening time and they swarm. A swarm of givers close in on a receiver, and all the kids have to see what’s under that happy birthday wrapping paper. Everyone needs to touch and grab the present while huddling around the birthday girl or boy with all their energy and intention. There isn’t a better situation than opening gifts to teach patience in the presence of anticipation. Then, they have to touch that gift like their life depended on it. But they can’t and they won’t.  Not until the birthday girl or boy says it’s okay. There’s a huge amount of patience being practiced within the gift opening time. Add to that the burning desire to shove cake into their mouths. So much goodness in gift giving.

For these reasons we’ll welcome simple gifts that can be unwrapped, because the intangible gifts are priceless.

by teresa b. duffy