Thursday, July 28, 2016

Savoring Summer

"What I want to do is savor this life - my life, my children, my community, this gorgeous world God created.  That's what we all want, right?  To soak up the goodness all around us, to be aware of holy fingerprints everywhere, to walk through each day expecting and noticing those glints and shimmers of the divine right in the daily - in a hug, a tomato sandwich, a quiet moment, a text from someone we love.

That's what I want, and so often I miss it.  I lay in bed at night frustrated with myself that I allowed the minor annoyances of life to obscure the rich melody underneath it.  I rush and push and don't even see the beauty all around me.  I let my fear about the unknowns in our future or my desire to control everything and everyone around me cover over the deep beauty and grace and peace that are playing like a drumbeat under everything."

-Shauna Niequist, Savor.

On Monday, we roll the calendar over to August.  Once, a summer that was much anticipated is now just a few short weeks away from transitioning to school bags hung on hooks in the mudroom, new tennis shoes, and visions of comfort food and crisp walks through rust-colored leaves.  For the time being, I'm restlessly stuck in summer, and feel like I'm attempting to balance an arm load of lemons, trying my damnedest to squeeze as much juice from them as I can before school starts.  Some days, I sit on the porch and drink the sweetest, most refreshing lemonade, and other days, I'm stuck with nothing but sticky fingers and one big mess to clean up.  Literally.  This is the rhythm, or lack thereof, of my summer. 

Many people tell me I have a pretty great gig, working full-time during the school year but getting my summers off to spend at home with the kids.  I wouldn't trade this blessing for anything, but sometimes feel like this very temporary season of being a stay-at-home mom presents some challenges for my balancing act.  Knowing all too well how short lived this summertime season is, I attempt to put a year's worth of activity, projects, and slow time into three short months and then when the days go by and there's not enough time for it all, I let things go and feel crummy about it.  If the house projects aren't getting done?  I feel unaccomplished and stressed.  If the kids spent a good part of the day entertaining themselves or watching TV?  I feel guilty and neglectful.  If I'm not making time for slow days of no expectations and ample time to read, sip coffee, and play at the park?  Who am I kidding, this never happens!  Something always has to give and instead of being able to focus on how I spent my day, I put most of my energy in where I came up short.  Those few items that didn't get crossed off on the to-do list, the phone call I neglected to respond to, the missed opportunity when Cruz asked me to read him a story and I chose to unload the dishwasher instead.   

The week after vacation was not my proudest week.  We returned home on Saturday and after a restful and productive Sunday, I geared up for a full week at home with the kids.  And by 10:00 Monday morning, I was ready to call in reinforcements.  We were all tired from our week of travel, the kids were in need of an intervention after a week of no routine and a lot of getting what they wanted, and Beau was stressed playing catch up at work and was not able to help much on the home front.  And then there was me.  I spent most of my days not knowing where to be - catching up on vacation laundry, finishing projects that were left undone before we left, sorting through a thousand pictures, or forgetting it all and enjoying a week with the kids, painting, picnicking, and playing at the pool.  The week overwhelmed me and I became an irritable pain to be around.  I let otherwise minor annoyances plague my attitude, was impatient and short with the kids, and used the iPad as a babysitter so I could check out momentarily with junk food and facebook.  At one point last week, I put both kids in the car, drove around town for twenty minutes until they both fell asleep, then rolled up to the drive-thru window at Four Queens and ordered a chocolate chip cookie dough blizzard and ate it in the garage.  I woke up late every morning, chose to lay in bed and watch the news report on all the drama from the previous night's Republican National Convention, and failed to shower most days.  And at night, I went to bed feeling lazy and crummy, regardless of what I did happen to accomplish.  I chalked it up to a post-vacation letdown, and thankfully, had another week to turn things around. 

One thing I'm learning to get better at is to give myself some room to be human, to forgive myself for the off days (or weeks), and be intentional about knowing how to turn things around and readjust the scales when they fall a little off kilter.  So last Sunday night, I set some goals for my week and dug into a few things that inspire me and help point me in a better direction.  I set my alarm and got out of bed before the kids did, brewed some coffee, poured it in my favorite mug, and retreated to the deck to start a new devotional and journal.  Instead of the news, I turned on music, The Lone Bellows on Pandora or the new Lumineers' album, lit a candle, and committed to keeping the kitchen island clear and clean at all times.  I put my phone away for an entire afternoon, and opened a book instead.  And then I sat back and watched the vast difference these small steps had in the outcome of how I lived my days.  Instead of pressing Cruz and Mila to hurry up and pick up their toys before a meal, I watched them in their innocent and creative worlds, talk to their toys as they put them away and live so deeply in each moment.  Sometimes I forget how much I have to learn from their sweet ways.

Little things become so much more visible and the daily routines become so much more beautiful when we cultivate a life that allows us to see it that way.  Just changing a few small things, replacing the news with music, putting my phone in the other room for a few hours at a time, getting up a half hour earlier to spend some time with a new Bible study or a good book sparked monumental changes in how I went about my days.  

One afternoon last week while Mila was napping, I had finished my chores for the day and riskily sat on the couch, book in hand, while Cruz played outside with the neighbor boys.  She had been sleeping two hours and I knew if anything were to wake her up it would be me sitting on the couch in a quiet house with my book and a glass of freshly brewed sun tea!  An hour later, I heard her door creak open and watched her sweet rested face with this content little half smile make her way to the couch and up on my lap for a cuddle.  This is the divine in the daily, the holy fingerprints that exist in every day, yet often go unnoticed.  The divine in the daily - asking the kids to help me make pancakes and setting the table together instead of hurriedly preparing breakfast, feeling the refreshing rush of pool water as I actually go under and swim with Cruz, watching Cruz and Mila collide their imaginations and play all morning long, and for the first time in a long time, sitting on a quilt and truly hear the rustling of the leaves in the tree above me - all moments worth savoring in this busy, but beautiful life.


After we got home last Sunday, I commented to Beau multiple times how good it felt to be home.  Mila, whose ears pick up a lot more than I often give her credit for, has been repeating this phrase several times the last two weeks, always making me smile each time.  And fittingly so, as we sat there that afternoon, after her long nap and my uninterrupted hour of reading, she pressed her cheek up to my chest and responded, "It's so good to be home, Mommy."  Amen, sister. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Jorgensen Road Trip // Day 5

We woke up early Monday morning to sunshine and clear skies for our last full day in Vermont.  I made my morning coffee and walked out on the deck that overlooked Les and Ronnie's backyard, and for the first time all weekend I could see the top of the mountain behind their house.  Everything seemed to take on a new hue, outside and in spirit, and Beau and I were both eager to get out and see some of this beautiful state.

Their backyard view.  And did I mention that their front yard overlooks the tallest peak in Manchester? 

Our first adventure was a hike through the woods behind Lizzie and Joanna's former high school.  Their high school looks like Hogwarts Academy and sounded nothing short of amazing after listening to bits and pieces of their experience there. In addition to teaching students reading, writing, and arithmetic, they learn to ski, and have the opportunity to enroll in the "Mountain Campus Program" where they take classes in the woods we explored.  For an entire semester, students can enroll to spend their days in the mountains, participating in a multi-disciplinary curriculum that focuses on the essential question, "How do we live well in this place?" and encourages students to journey off the beaten path "to discover who you are, where you live, and what sustains and inspires you."  I had to look it up because it sounded that dreamy. 

We hiked nearly two miles through the woods, stopping fairly often so the kids could pick up a better walking stick, throw a rock (or seven) in the pond, or drop a stick in the stream from one side of the bridge and wait to see whose stick made it to the other side the fastest.  Ronnie was our tour guide and the kids enjoyed helping her navigate by spotting the color coordinated markings on the trees alongside the trails.  It was an absolutely perfect weather day, and Beau and I both commented several times how fresh everything smelled.  It reminded us of Lake Tahoe with its cold freshwater streams, fragrant evergreen trees, and dry, crisp air that felt like one big exhale.  I couldn't get enough of the smell and said that I'm pretty sure this is that mountain air smell manufacturers try so hard to bottle up but just can't get it right.

After our hike, we had lunch at the country club, a beautiful golf course once again surrounded by mountains.  While Ronnie and I enjoyed some quiet on the outdoor patio, Les carted the kids around the premises and let them tear up the putting green.  The other members, most of whom are senior citizens back for the summer from snow-birding in Florida, loved having a little entertainment while they shared their club sandwiches and whiskey sours.  Les was definitely in his element at the golf course and loved being able to show off the kids to all the locals. :)

Our third and final adventure of the day topped the cake.  All weekend, Ronnie had been saying she hoped we could get to the lake before are time was through, and in my head I was slightly disappointed over the thought of visiting a lake instead of spending our time doing more east-coast, mountain-type excursions, whatever that might be.  But by our last day in Vermont, I no longer doubted Veronica, especially as we pulled up to this breathtaking little retreat known as Emerald Lake State Park. 

Known for its fresh water that looks as green as the thick mountain trees that surround it, this lake was the perfect spot to end the first leg of our travels.  We did it all - built sandcastles and played in the water, rented a canoe and took it around the lake, ate popsicles with our toes in the sand, and did our best to take in the beauty that surrounded us.  Most of all, we were very thankful to have had this day, the weather, and a chance to see this beautiful place with the people we love who call it home.  

After the kids' were good and sacked out, we made our way back to Les and Ronnie's for one more night together.  We ate leftovers at home and gave the kids baths before bed.  Mila took a liking to a bear that Ronnie had found, a bear that was later gifted to her and became a travel companion for the rest of our trip.  The adults stayed up late, finished off the rest of the wine, and Beau smoked us all in a game of Scattergories.  And we planned our next family adventure, hopeful for a summer camp vacation a bit closer to home for the entire Jorgensen clan.  

We loved our time with the Vermont Jorgensens and missed them as soon as we got in the car.  If it wasn't so far away, I'm pretty sure I could Manchester, Vermont a place to call home.  


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