As I walk into our son’s room this morning to welcome the new day by opening the blinds to the bright morning sun, I am struck by the surprise of seeing a small, red, felt cowboy hat lying on the floor next to him. A deep smile from within pours through from the core of my being as if to say “ah.”
Recently we’ve been studying the westward expansion of the United States. During our history periods, we’ve been putting on our prairie hats – this old red hat for our son, and the Laura Ingles Wilder prairie bonnets for the girls. To see that this hat has made it to his bedroom is to know that our son has connected with the history lessons – and the spirit of play. He’s almost 8 and has rarely dresses up anymore.
The crux of the emotional pull from the depths of my memories comes from its history. This is the cowboy hat I was given at the age of four by my paternal grandparents when our family moved to Arizona. To me, this hat embodies the sweetness of my own young childhood. There is a red suede vest that goes with it, too, and when the kids could fit into it, they often did.
It’s quite amazing that after over 20 moves in my life time, this hat and vest are still intact. Most of the other parts of my sweet life at four are gone. Perhaps it’s the connectedness from one sphere of life, one generation to the next that I feel as I see our children fill out these hats. I am reminded of my own child – of the uninhabited joy she felt and the love she had for life – and the significance of consistently being surrounded by family and extended family members.
Sadly only me, my mother, brother and aunts survive this expanded family. The family I knew then – that gathered often, shared stories of my lineage (and the wars!) doted on me are all but gone. While my mother is truly devoted and available to me in all the ways she can be for which I am richly blessed, the truth is I painfully miss the joy, laughter, and togetherness we shared when my grandparents were alive. (A release of tears blurs my eyesight as I write.) Once more I realize how much it was my two sets of biological grandparents who made our family what it was – and who largely shaped me!
As the depths of profound yearning for the family life and freedom I had at the young age of four (until nine) are unleashed with the writing, I profoundly see the significance of hope this red hat has represented to me during my lifetime. I’ve held on these precious items as I’ve held onto the hope of knowing this deep joyfulness, the magic that comes in young childhood, with our own children.
Seeing our son enjoy this unshaped cowboy hat is to realize that dream come true. In actuality our children have been playing with these cowboy accessories for the last eight years. Perhaps seeing our kiddos in my own childhood cowboy ensemble has always struck a cord on a deeper, quieter level. Today I capture it here, in the most earnest gratitude possible. Thank you God for blessing me with our healthy, happy, creative, silly, adventurous, curious, joyful and lovely children. Thank you God for the privilege of passing on this hope of true love, which never fails.
A month ago when the snow began to melt away, grass began to pop through the very wet earth in the garden along the house. My instinct told me to begin tending to the new grass and weeds right away – while the ground was soft and the weeds had shallow roots. And, with an agenda of home schooling and many external commitments such as sports and music, my head always said “later, after these things are done.”
A month has passed and my garden bed is almost over-run with grass and weeds! The ground is has become hard because there has been very little moisture (although lots of cloudy, cool days). Now instead of being a simple task, cleaning out the flower bed will be more labor-intensive.
Has it really been a month of daily “later” messages told to my inner self that has so wanted to get into the dirt and begin planting? How can I feel so spent on living my life and yet be surrounded by a garden unattended to?
For me today, I am deeply humbled by the lessons spring is giving me….deal with the weeds early or become entrenched in them. And of course at the end of the day, we all know everything in life boils down to priorities. Certainly one of my challenges as a mother is feeling like everything is a priority at the same time – esp. at the end of the school year.
We’re blessed with travel opportunities this summer. But that also means the garden won’t get much attention. So maybe it’s about different priorities this year – maybe that’s all. In the mean time, I will gather up the gardening tools and children and see what we can do in a 2-3 hour time span this week. We’ll plant some seeds and watch what grows – from a distance.
Spring and children teach me to be in the moment now, to listen now, and to realize that all I have is the present. They also teach me the value of fifteen minutes – a lot of fun can be shared and a few plants can be planted. Thank you, inspirational teachers, for helping me stay connected to what matters most.
While I capture a few minutes on my little notebook during our oldest child’s softball practice, I see two living room tables that look exactly like what I bought when I first when to college. One is a side table and the other is a coffee table. The styles match – cherry wood, with bear-claw feet. I swear, if I weren’t in Alaska (since I attended college in the SW), I’d think they were mine. To see them is to be reminded of the more traditional American style of furniture I was drawn to at the young time in my life. At 19 I was wanting to create a sense of home in my college apartment – away from home and bought these two tables along with a sofa bed as my main living room furniture – for the majority of my 20’s.
At the time of my purchase, I bought nicer furniture than any other of my peers had in their college apartments. My mother said me, “Your tastes will change. Why do you want to spend so much money on something you probably won’t like later?” At the time I remember feeling discouraged by her comments, as if she were only judging my choices and not celebrating them with me. Granted most of them had parents buying stuff for them, but still most had more temporary furniture, while I had classic cheery wood tables. And, I did enjoyed them during the time I had them, regardless of what my mother said.
When I finally had decided to follow a child-hood dream to New Zealand, I sold these tables and the couch for about half of what I paid for them. I have never missed them. Now as I sit, perched near these look a likes, I have to chuckle at the thought. Because – my mother was right. I don’t like them – at all. My tastes have changed quite a lot. Mom, you were right. I give you credit for this wisdom now. And ironically, I am now about the same age my mother was when she offered me this sage advice. Ah, the wisdom of aging. Oh yeah, Mom you were right about the pacifier, too.
Mom, thanks for being candid, honest and loving with me all these years. Thanks for hanging in there, even when I’m stubborn and push forward in the manner I feel drawn. I love you.
It seems just as quickly as I write on my morning journal page “one thing I am confident about is that our daughter will do first grade at her current school (which is 15 miles away from our house), my happy plan is affected. Whew, there is nothing like change to show us where we are most attached.
Moving. Our friends and car pooling neighbors are moving to the town about 7 miles from us and will no longer be available to share in the daily one-hour return trip to their school. Not only is this a very practical loss, but it’s also a loss of sweet friendship that has buffered many a grumpy mornings – and been a highlight many afternoons.
Living a mobile life means that there are periods when we don’t have enough information to plan for our life, or so it seems. And I thought that we finally had a one-year window in which we could make some reliable plans. Today that seems like a lie. I am quickly reminded that change is the only thing we can count on – and that God is the only unchanging force in our lives. Surely, as soon as we rely on man, or in this case, neighbors, to be a part of our plan, things change. That being said, we are most grateful for the quite unexpected gift of this year with our neighbors – it all came to us quite suddenly and without any planning.
Ah, the reminder – great things happen when we don’t have plans, too! Oh yeah, I forget that sometimes. But (but the underlying truth is) I feel more secure in plans. There is a momentum that carries us forward when set our intention with some choices, anyway.
When it comes to our children’s education, it’s critical we make grounded choices that support a solid foundational growth. We have this for our youngest child at this school. However, the two-hour commitment to driving there every day seems out of proportion to our life in Alaska. And, it feels like it’s in conflict with the homeschooling of our oldest two children. In the least it challenges by energy levels and availability for other things.
Such a quandary this is. And this situation dredges up the uncomfortable muck of the unknowns in our lives….and the call to make decisions based on what we know to be true today.
So I began today believing I had a cohesive plan loosely laid out for our life during the course of the next year. Now I’m wrapping up the day turning it all over to you God, and asking for your divine hand to guide us in the most obvious ways.
In closing I am thankful for how beautifully we’ve been supported this year in school and in our life. I am thankful that we have good choices to make – and that we have freedom in our choices. I am thankful for the opportunities we have today and upon us. I am thankful for where we are right now.
This Sunday we declared to the children that we were honoring the Sabbath by being “unplugged” (except for music we said). They learned about this upon immediately asking with sleep in their eyes, “Can I play WII?” They were not pleased with this decision.
“What will we do?” was their reply. My husband and I were quite amazed at how quickly the children have forgotten the true pleasure of playing – unplugged. While the children could easily live without TV and movies, it was their favorite computer game and the WII that they felt quite cut off from.
To make matters more interesting, our oldest decided to “outsmart us” a.k.a. sneak her favorite computer game. Well when she was caught like the fox with the feathers in her mouth, we were all forced to come to terms with new depths of honesty and with what this Sabbath declaration meant to each of us. It was hard.
During my “QII” time (coining a S. Covey phrase), I had my laptop to write on and I had such an urge to write. However, doing so required I be plugged in. So, to be in good standing with the agreement of our day, I chose not to get on-line either. But it’s business, a voice fought to justify in my head. No, I decided that I must maintain the same standards I am requiring of our family members – and be honest about this – even they are not around. And, it was hard at first. Then, in the end, I was grateful I made this choice – because it was in the same vein of integrity we’re teaching our children.
I’m astounded at how insidious the electronics are in our lives. Choosing to go unplugged on Sunday brings to light how connected we are to our electronic devices much of the time. More than the physical connection is the mental one. Especially with our children, we were amazed to discover how quickly our kids seemed to have forgotten how to dig into their toys and games and just play.
This was the day we decided to clean out a pile of collected stuff in the basement. And the project turned into a true treasure hunt. Suddenly all three children were having a picnic of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches around their play kitchen and pretend castle. Soon after that our son discovered that the astronaut suit we bought him two years ago fits perfectly – and joyfully added the helmet to complete the uniform….all to plant himself in the biggest reading chair of our home with a book! To see him in his glory – dressed up to go to space, and reading – was priceless!!! It’s been months since he dressed up in anything besides dirty clothes.
Minutes afterwards, the girls were happily playing with the dolls and clothes great-aunt Linda gave them during our move in 2009. The girls dressed the dolls and packed them up for a pretend trip – and were on their way throughout the house with the dolls in their arms. It was the most action those dolls had seen in months. And it was the most sweet, natural fun I’d seen the sisters have in a long time, too.
As our Sunday dinner was cooking, my husband took the kids out for some good old-fashioned baseball! Our oldest was thrilled to discover how well she is catching now. They all had a lot of fun playing with Dad.
Uncomplicated, peaceful, joyful and pure fun was our unplugged Sunday – once we got past the lesson in honesty. Yes, this is a Sabbath tradition we’re keeping. It’s one choice we can make that helps us stay connected to the truer gifts God has given us – in the present – with each other. At the end of the day, we had smiles on our faces for a day well spent in , joyful togetherness.