Turn Around

Where are you going my little one, little one
Where are you going my baby my own
Turn around and you’re two, 
Turn around and you’re four
Turn around and you’re a young girl 
Going out of the door

Written in 1959 by Harry Belefonte and recorded by many, many, more, this was a song familiar from my childhood, and even more in our days of early marriage from the Nancy Griffith album, Other Voices, Other Rooms.

From 1998 to 2009, most Friday evenings we spent sharing “supper night” with our dear friends and soul mates.  With two, three, then four, four and a half, five, six, and seven children between our families, these nights were chaotic.  Rarely was an adult conversation to be had, so we watch the kids perform, mediated arguments, changed diapers, walked with strollers, cooked together, accompanied each other on marriage struggles, picked up toys, worked together on projects, and enjoyed the fruits of our kitchens together.

Some weeks, we were too tired, but we did it anyway.  There were also some months our gatherings waned or shifted in rhythm, but then we would return, once more to our weekly chaotic-but-worth-it-supper nights.

Then we left.  The children grew.  Our friends found a different rhythm for their Friday nights.

We came home, and many of these Friday re-entry nights felt deeply lonely.  We worked to cherished the shift in routine which we had developed in Colombia: Family Movie Night.  Aaron usually picked a good flick, and I popped popcorn and cut up fruit and cheese.  We cuddled together and went to bed fairly early.  When this happens, Aaron and I look at each other, grateful for the nights we can be together in this way, knowing that before long there would be yet another shift.  And then another.

January, 2014.  It is Friday night.  Lydia has a babysitting job.  Abby is at her first dance.  Andy and Aaron are off together enjoying the Rocky Mountains at Snow Camp.  I took a bath, rented a movie, popped myself some popcorn and am cuddled up here with Mia.  The house is quiet.

It seems just a moment ago, these nights were full, full, full.  It reminded me of the Bellefonte song that was a life-moment-soundtrack then, even though we never really knew the significance it would have later.  Our rhythms change, our children grow, and we morph into the spaces that are left there for us.  Blessed be.

Cotidiana: 11-20-13

This was one of my favorite words in Spanish. I like how it tickles my tongue and rolls off at the end. And, unlike most words, I learned it in Spanish before I ever used it in English. Ironically, I craved this word when there was nothing ordinary, commonplace, or customary about my days.  I needed the word like I needed stability.

Then I met an online friend, who I later discovered was cousin.

She shared my name as well as genetic material, wholesome recipes, and parenting philosophy.

Periodically, she blogs a post called “the quotidian: daily, usual, or customary; everyday; ordinary; commonplace.” On these posts she includes photos of daily life.

They are eye candy for sure, but also a meaningful record for her family to look back and see their lives with perspective.

I am inspired by this, and so I decided to do it too.  Thanks, Jennifer, for the many ways you have been a kindred spirit to me.

Imagesing with me.

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Imagethe band

Image5:00 by the stove

Imagesteamy

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You know what I mean?

As I child, I was ridiculed for a social habit I had of ending everything I said with,

“You know what I mean?”

I remember the exacerbation of some family members and friends who would say,

“YES, we know what you mean!”

Who knows why I am the way I am, but I am a person who has always loved interaction.  Mutuality and relationships are the best things in life for me.  I have always been social, and always wanted to surround myself with friends and family. The last four years my extrovert-ism was shaken to its core, and I did feel a shift toward a more ambivert perspective after some years of adjustment. But ultimately, I still prefer to be in relationships over being on my own. And I crave feedback and information…from my friends, from my professors, from my children and husband.

As we adapted to Colombian cultural norms, we learned very quickly that personal conversation and phone calls are seriously important. The BEST way to talk to someone is in person, and the second best is on the phone.  Phone calls are never ignored.  In fact, we were stunned that so many people answer their calls even in the middle of other meetings and can carry on simultaneous conversations while the meeting proceeds.  This was explained to us by a cultural interpreter as a way for the person receiving the call to care for ALL of their relationships at the same time: that relationships were primary and were to be given the utmost priority. Not only were phone calls taken, but conversations contained longer “warm-ups” and “check-ins,” where the caller asked about everyone in your family and basically your life. We assimilated into this fairly well, though I restrained from taking personal or sensitive work phone calls during another meeting. One of our favorite Colombian traditions was when our friends tried to be the very first ones to call on our birthday to wish us a happy birthday, and their wishes showered us with love and affection.

Coming back to the United States we found that many of our friends had given up their landlines and only used cell phones.  Some of them would answer the phone when we called, but many of them just let their calls go to voice mail.  I started writing friends down as emergency contacts for my kids, not because they were our closest friends but because I thought they might answer their phone if there was an actual emergency. If we did manage to get ahold of someone, the conversations were short and impersonal. I remember calling a friend to talk soon after we got back.  She answered the phone and said, “Jen, can you text?  It is really much more efficient.”

So we learned to text. Floundering in the confusion of what to say, what NOT to say, how to read any cues, and interpret the meta-communication that we are so used to interpreting in the oral world…but it was gone.  Words were stripped down, and sometimes replaced even with symbols. I would sometimes text a friend and never get a response.  It seemed perfectly acceptable (socially) to answer that text or to ignore it for days…even weeks.  And there was also a great deal of confusion about when to answer texts.  One night sharing dinner with friends, three of them were texting during our conversation. Were they also caring for all their relationships at the same time? Did they see those interactions as more important than the one we were having?

Facebook changed too, though I felt it come on slowly during our time away. I started to receive more and more comments and “likes” from my family members, former friends, and people I had associated with, but very little from close friends. Even very recently, I asked a question to eight of my friends on Facebook and more than 24 hours later there has been no response to that question. No comment. No virtual nodding or eye contact. No acknowledgement that anything at all was said. Do I even know they got the question? Did they assume someone else would answer it? Do they find my questions pestering? This is not the first time this has happened.  Frequently, especially in online group conversations I assert a question or comment and it goes unacknowledged.

As a person who craves interaction, my truth is that this hurts.

I read a study recently stating that Facebook causes depression if you are a lurker, but if you are an inter-actor, Facebook is good for fostering community and helping people with a sense of belonging. My husband, whose profession is helping people connect more says this is called “closing the channel.” You send out a message, it gets received and interpreted, and ultimately recognized. And when there is no feedback, the channel is left open, causing the sender to question what happened.  It is also a way for the receiver to control the situation.

Culturally, we aren’t really used to doing it.  When someone gives us a compliment, we are more likely to deny it than we are to just simply say, “Thank you.”

As for me, I miss the eye contact, the nodding, the “uh huhs” and “hmmmms.”  I miss taking the conversation one more step, engaging so that mutuality and respect can be felt and heard; so that understanding can happen.  I am tired of wondering how the one-sided messages I send out into the cell phone/internet world are being interpreted, what kinds of communication I am missing, and what may or may not be talked about when I am not around.  I am just plain tired.

My work life has led me toward a weekly rhythm where I work on my own a lot. I feel a loss of regular contact with co-workers, and I miss my friends. Sometimes I take initiatives to invite them to dinner or send them a text, and some times that leads to genuine connections.  I feel lonely when I try this so often and it doesn’t work. I feel lost when the “norms” for communicating don’t foster friendships that can go deeper and mean more. I miss calling my best friend and chatting over the little things in life, which ultimately lead us to deeper issues and a feeling of connectedness.

And because of this, I want to offer a challenge.

I challenge you, (if anyone out there is reading this) to start closing the electronic channels and try to connect more authentically and fully with people in your life. Make a comment.  Look someone in the eyes. Go ahead and click that like button.  Respond to your texts. Ask an extra question, and even more importantly, answer one. Consider answering the phone. You never know, what might follow is a spark that could lead to a beautiful interaction. Take the risk and see if it’s worth it to you. It’s worth it to me to find you, to hear you, and to let you know I did. Go for it.

Noticing

I have learned through the years that there is a period of time “after-the-storm” where there is a heightened sensory state of viewing the world. In most situations, this happens well after a difficult experience. Colors become more vivid; smells and flavors more distinct and memorable; textures more comforting; temperatures hotter or cooler than one might think.

I learned this in trauma work, but I also learned it through my own experience leaving what I knew to be comfortable, integrating there, and then coming back to what I thought would be comfortable again. Circle round.

1.5

This Fall, our family is noticing more.  We are settling into routines: clinging together and facing the challenges.  There are more sleepover invitations and less tears. There are new friends, and less mourning over our dreams of how we might reunite with old friends.

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We choose what we want to do based on what fills us up.  We don’t worry about what others will think of us. We notice new people, and we notice each other…and the newness, while risky, feels good.

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I spend a lot of my day astounded at the grace and resilience my children have.  I am inspired by their integration into such a new/old environment, where some things come so naturally and others still feel quite strange. In some ways it feels like our integration started years ago, and in other ways if feels as if it is just starting.

Regardless, we keep on noticing.

-beautiful fall colors
-a warm a hug
-violin, cello, mandolin, and guitar picking
-anticipated visits with cousins and Grandparents
-cozy down comforters
-the comfort of falling into our own space together
-the cool air on our noses
-steamy hot lemongrass tea.
-harmony, wind chimes, echoes, and quiet.
-the sound of laughter
-the layers of flavor in one little square of chocolate.

Blessed be the journey.  We’re well on our way.

 

10 images of my 10 year old

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I love 10.  There is something about it that is so even, so centered, so open

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She is so curious about the world.  Most days she comes home saying, “Mama, did you know______?”  And she proceeds to tell me everything.

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These are ten things that she loves:

-parks

-animals of all kinds

-sleeping in

-being barefoot

-hotels

-singing and songwriting

-cartwheels

-Colombia

-watermelon and honeydew

-crafting

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She has a sense of style like no other. (Well, the closest is her Aunt Wendy)

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She makes us laugh every day.

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These are 10 things she does NOT love:

-bossy people

-fighting

-grapefruit

-dirty shoes

-bugs

-sweat

-people using her things

-Family Video (because of scary movie images)

-long track meets or swim meets

-dark chocolate

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I hope she is able to maintain her sense of adventure, her confidence, her ability to adapt to unpredictable situations.  She was the child who invented the game “go with the flow” in Colombia.

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People say she looks just like me.  I am grateful.  Most days, I wish I could be just like her.

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And while she misses her friends in Colombia every day, she is gradually forming a community here.  She will always have friends because she cares so deeply about relationships.  I am not sure I remember seeing anyone express such sincere and enthusiastic gratitude for each and every one of her birthday gifts.

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We love you, sweet 10 year old.  Thank you for all you add to our family!

Friend-Love

On February 14, I started my workday early at the neighborhood coffee shop.  It was a quiet morning and I was enjoying the calm.  I had no specific plans for Valentine’s Day, except for the very large box of chocolates I bought for the kids and the red food dye I would later put into crepes for supper.

My sweet friend sent me a text asking where I was.  She needed to drop something off for me.  She arrived, embraced me warmly and put this lovely little package into my hands.

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“Just a little something to show my gratitude for our friendship,”  she said, looking at me with kindness.

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I felt the weight of it, and I was intrigued by the beautiful fabric and the way it was tied together with string and ribbon.  I decided that it would be too complicated to open it and re-do the beautiful package.  So, I tucked it into my bag and saved it until I got home and could take a picture of it.  As I walked from place to place throughout the day, I noticed the weight of it in my bag.

When I got home I was excited to open up this love-gift.  I reached for my camera only to see that the batteries were dead.  So, I set it on the table, plugged in the camera, and waited.

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This treasure was on my mind all throughout the day.

The next morning, I woke up early and slowly opened this beautiful package.Image

The smooth weightyness of the stone soothed me.  I was reminded of the friendships I have had in my life that represent deep understanding, truth, and belonging.  This is one I will treasure for a long time.

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The stone now lives on my desk, and when there are moments of stress and discomfort I hold it in the palm of my hand and remember the love it represents.

Coming back home has been hard on prior relationships. When they say it’s like starting over, it really is.  People move on and form new habits, rituals, and folklore without you.  This is the way life happens.  And people who have been gone come back different, strange, and sometimes hard to read.

I am truly blessed when I find genuine kindness and efforts to really understand.  I want to remember these and hold them sacred.  I will never take them for granted.

Thank you for the love, dear friend.

Fifteen

My dear Lydia took forever to come out.  Labor pains were strong and regular during our card game Saturday night.  I was admitted to the hospital on Sunday evening, and she did not decide to turn her head and slip into the world for two more days, arriving Tuesday, March 10, 1998.  Because the process took so much out of her, her breathing was labored and they swooped her away to special care.  From her very first moments, I worried about Lydia.  In fact, if we want to be completely honest, I think I can admit I worried about her before she was even conceived.

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I am very aware that this has changed the way we parent her.  Perhaps it is the same with all first children: the newness of learning how to parent gave us immense joy and deep worry.  For the first couple years of her life she was the absolute center of our universe.  Every move we made was for her.

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My girl, the on-and-off vegetarian, who requested grapefruit for her birthday breakfast.  Incidentally, she also asked for a wombat, small house in Costa Rica, St. Bernard puppy, new house, 5, 235 oreos, and a trip to Australia (among other things).

Teenagers ARE a little out-of-touch with reality.

But they are also deeply imaginative and hopeful.

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She is a dreamer.  There is so much in her head and her heart, and only a very small percentage of it ever gets seen or heard by those around her.

In the very little moments we are together in the car she gives me little tidbits of the day.  Though sometimes she just says it was “terrible” and “fine” all at once, and that’s all I get.  I know there is so much more…that her mind and her heart are over-flowing with information that she ponders.

I know this because as a young child she came to me saying she could not sleep because her head was too full.  I gave her a pencil and told her to empty it onto paper.  After 8 pages front and back, there was still more coming.

She is so deeply connected to things that most people do not see, feel, or notice.  We get to experience her reality only when we are very lucky.

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For some reason (I don’t remember why) some of her friends call her Dory.  Maybe because the internalness of her makes her appear spacey sometimes often.  Because of her, Abby wrote in her spelling sentences “There is a lot of clumsiness in our house.”

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She is grumpy and ridiculous at times.  Aren’t we all?

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Here at this table, as I listened to her laugh with friends, enjoying exotic flavors and big flames, I realized that maybe I can finally let go of that worry.

I felt a deep spiritual understanding that all. will. be. well.

Aaron and I already feel her separating from us, coming to her own understanding of God and the universe.  We are ready to know her as she moves into adulthood, humbled by what we could have done differently and grateful for the opportunity to try again.

Thank you, my sweet girl, for small but bright windows into your world, for your quiet brilliance, and for making us laugh.  Fifteen is going to be very good, I am sure of it.