the long hug goodnight

Last night as I was coaxing my son to sleep, there was a moment that had a deep impact on me. It was about 30 minutes past his bedtime, and he was having some trouble getting to sleep. I'd gone in to respond to the latest wails, prepared to instruct him, firmly but lovingly, to lie down. Instead, I met him at the rail of his crib and asked him if he wanted a hug. He nodded yes, and I picked him up.

In that instant between placing my hands on his waist and lifting him to my shoulder, I felt a profoundly deep sense of being...


The word grasped my throat with an iron fist and shook me to my core. You know that instantaneous, panic-induced ice-cold burst you get in the front of your chest that sends your head throbbing and your heart racing? It was like that, except instead of adrenaline it was just a sense.

I am alone.

As I stood with my child, his head on my shoulder and his body draped across mine, I thought about how I am the only one. I'm the only one who could tell by his little face that he needed a hug, not an authoritarian. I'm the only one who knows the full range of his vocabulary, or when he wants a graham cracker not an animal cracker, or whether he wants to "share" my food because he's bored or because he's hungry. It's my job, day in and day out, to teach him that he is worthy of respect, that we do not hurt the ones we love, that God is here.

Certainly there are others who know him and love him. And there are those who have stayed or come alongside me. So we aren't really alone, not really. But at 9 o'clock at night, I'm the only one who hears him sneezing on the baby monitor. No one else reads the parenting books, places a hand on his head to recite the evening's prayer, understands which insert goes with which cloth diaper. My thumb is the only one that marks the sign of the cross his little forehead every night.

So I stood there, hugging my son in the center of his room, well past bedtime and deep into my final reserves of energy for the day. Because he needed a long hug to end his day. And because I was the only one who was there to hug him.


the what-is-it humidifier

Last week I found myself packing up what is quite possibly the funniest thing I own. And that's saying something, because I have a toddler and therefore my home is full of odd toys, whimsical what-nots, some choice Sandra Boynton books, and a gem of a story called "Swim, little wombat, swim."

I'd found this humidifier several months ago at a discount grocer. I'd been looking for a humidifier that wasn't enormous and loud and smelly -- in other words, one that didn't scare the baby, who was the whole reason for having one to begin with. So it was really swell that I stumbled into this particular store in that particular week. Seriously, though, this is the oddest little thing I've ever seen. It is green and it has a face with a snout that kind of looks like a pig snout, and of course the steam comes pouring out of the animal's nostrils. The top half -- the water resevoir/animal's head -- is clear, so it's not too easy to see the features, other than the eyeball stickers, the plastic molded ears, and the nose of course. But when I look closely, I think I can see what is supposed to be horns etched down the sides of his head like a ram...

Aaaaaaaand after months of wondering, it has JUST occurred to me RIGHT THIS SECOND that this is a bull. I'd planned this whole ridiculous post to posit all the different animals it could be (looks like a cow but has the horns of a ram but it's green) and now, of course, I realize it's a little green bull. With the steam pouring out of its nose. Because I watched Looney Toones as a child, so I know that all bulls snort giant clouds out of their noses.

Well. I am enlightened. I'll be back with a photo or maybe a video of this thing in action.


friday links: right in the gut edition

Here are some things I've read recently that spoke directly to something I needed to hear:

Why your kids don't need a super mama - a gentle, breathtaking reminder to pull up out of "trying to be a good mom" and relying on God to meet you with grace instead.

On being approached by three young black men - I've long been an admirer of Shawn Smucker. The last line of this essay from him really got me thinking about my own reactions and perceptions. I might be forever changed.

All will be well - Micha's One Good Phrase series is supurb. This entry was so powerful that it stunned my mind into crystal-clear silence when I had been caught in a web of anxiety and worry.

Five reasons toddlers don't need diversion, and what to do instead - This is just a helpful parenting thing that has been really useful to add to my framework for parenting this toddler of mine.


how i crunch (and how i don't)

While I wouldn't classify myself as a "hippie" by any stretch, there are some pretty "crunchy" things I do, and that's no secret. I tend to be unconventional, if not counter-cultural. Part of it is a frugal/savings thing, part of it is an "it's just better this way" thing, and part of it is borne out of an appreciation for simplicity and tradition. In the crunchy/frugal/simple/traditional circles, there are lots of sacred cows of things you ABSOLUTELY MUST do if you're going to have a legit club membership. Some of these things, I do. Some of them, I don't. For me, it all boils down to whether the savings/value is worth the effort of doing it the unconventional way.

Here are a few things I do that might qualify me for a granola card:

1. Cloth diapers. Gabriel wears cloth diapers, it's true. For how much longer, we'll see! Potty training is on the horizon!

2. Taco seasoning from scratch. This is one of those things that may or may not be "cheaper" (I never priced it) but is definitely, in my opinion, tastier. It takes hardly any time and I know exactly what's in there. Most of the store-bought taco seasoning I've looked at has a huge amount of filler. No, thanks.

3. Soap. Yes, I make my own soap. Yes, it is awesome.

4. Laundry detergent. Yes, I still make my own laundry detergent. Using the aforementioned soap. And yes, it is still awesome.

5. Oil cleansing method. I wash my face with a mixture of olive oil and castor oil. Say what???

6. Coconut oil as moisturizer/lotion. My primary facial moisturizer actually comes from the aforementioned face washing method, but on those days when I need a little extra help, a touch of coconut oil does the trick. Additionally, I gave away most of my bottles of store-bought lotion. I've got two more remnant bottles I'm working my way through, and then it'll be 100% coconut oil for me! (A bonus: I rub coconut oil on my neck and shoulders when I dress up -- it gives this really nice shimmer.)

7. Raw honey. I have just started buying raw honey. Y'all, this stuff is good. In other news: I no longer use honey for baking (very often) because geesh, this stuff is expensive!

8. Chicken stock (though currently cheating). Usually, I make my own chicken stock. And that stuff is mad tasty and so good for you. These days, I've been cheating a lot with some store-bought organic stuff. But whenever I do cook chicken, I will make some stock. I keep telling myself that once I get a leeeetle more traction in my days, I will be back in the kitchen with gusto, and one of the first things I'll do is crank the chicken stock machine.

And just for fun, here are some crunchy things I don't do, but probably "should." The ones with asterisks are ones that I'd really, really, really like to do someday (or start doing again).

1. Grow food*
2. Preserve food*
3. No 'poo (tried and rejected)
4. Backyard chickens*
5. Raw milk (tried and rejected)
6. Bread, tortillas, naan, other breads*
7. Deodorant (tried and rejected)
8. Hummus*



Closure is something we humans like to think we can achieve at the end of something significant, whether it's a relationship with another person (romantic or otherwise) or a job or project or hobby or something else -- anything that takes up a lot of our attention and energy. Having that great cathartic moment when you hear the other person's admission, or you turn off the lights and shut the door, or you burn the letters and abandon the ashes, is something we crave.

And yet, so often the catharsis never happens. You will never know why he fell in love with her when he was married to you, or which falling domino led to you losing your job, or whether your loved one knew that you had finally come around even though you'd never made time to tell her before she suddenly fell ill and died. At those times, and they are the majority of times, you just have to find a way to cope with your lack of information or understanding. There is no closure and no hope of ever having it.

Most of us learn to cope with this, some way or another. It can be tricky, and we tend to maybe go a little bit crazy for a while sometimes, but ultimately, eventually, we move on. Some people find self-help books to be helpful. Others will smash something in an effort to release the anger or frustration. I've also heard that pawning significant jewelry or items can be great catharsis, compounded by spending the money on something that replaces the bad memory with a good one, like a nice family dinner or a new pair of diamond earrings.

Lately I've been thinking about another way that people can sort of "manufacture" their own closure, by way of a physical release of some sort or other. I've been invited to a releasing ceremony, and I'm considering whether or not it would be something helpful.

One of the guiding voices through my divorce was Elisabeth Corcoran, who was going through hers around the same time. She and the other women in an online support group she founded encouraged me, among many other things, to keep my eyes on God and to do my best to be above reproach through the whole process. Good advice. Now, she's gently coordinating a releasing ceremony for those of us in her support networks to consider. We can choose to release whatever we want, in whatever way we want, whether it's throwing stones into the lake or burning old letters or something else. Or we can just skip it.

I think for many people, something like this could be an act of closure. A lot of the women in these groups are hurting, but I'm wondering if it'd be something useful for me. Astonishing as it is, I feel like I've healed from my divorce. It was a process that began back in November of 2011, so there's been a lot of time for me to get through it. I also recently realized that I brought myself real closure in June as I relived the final days of the charade of my marriage and marked, a year later, the very real, very big steps I took out of that marriage and into a new life. I had a bunch of dear friends over for Independence Day. The cookout was ostensibly to celebrate the holiday, but in my mind it was also a big celebration of this new life.

What I'm getting at with all of this, is that I have already found closure. I began to process some of it earlier, but more and more I'm learning just how far I've come. My divorce is no longer a living, breathing, active part of my life. I don't think of my ex anymore unless something specific comes up. I don't remember the last time I collapsed in angry, overwhelmed tears, fuming "how could he do this to me?" over and over. It barely even occurs to me to refer to myself as "divorced," rather than "single." There's peace and assuredness. I can do this on my own -- I'm doing it on my own -- and I am healed and ready for what's next, whatever that may be.

So as I consider this releasing ceremony, I'm wondering what exactly I need to release. There's still time, and I may participate after all, because I do want to join with my sisters around the world who are letting go of their pain. Maybe solidarity is a good enough reason to go through with it. What do you think? Have you ever done some great physical gesture to manifest closure for yourself? Was it helpful?

If you'd like information on the release, you can learn more here. And if you'd like to be a part of the support groups, leave me a comment or send me an email and I will get you plugged in.


friday links: old stuff edition

Here are a few things I've been wanting to share, but they never quite fit my mood when it came time to update my facebook status. You know how it is.

- If I Forget You, from Shalom Sweet Home. Jessa's blog is a fascinating glimpse into living as an expat, devoutly practicing her religion (Catholicism, in this case), in perhaps the most central location of that religion. This blog reawakens my long-ago dream of living in Galilee and/or Jerusalem.

- Sanctifying Motherhood, from Small Town Simplicity. I recently found Lydia's blog, and I loooooove it. This post popped up on my reader at just the right time. Maybe it will benefit you, too.

- Aradhna. Ever listened to them? Do it. Now.


puddle water

It's storm season here in North Carolina. It's good to be in storms again. And it's also hitting me pretty forcefully, in the thinky kind of way.

In Colorado, we didn't get too many thunderstorms. That was one of my very few "complaints" about living there - I missed the thunder. I missed the puddles and the stretches of days full of rain.

Other complaints included the threat of tornadoes and the constant news coverage about the humidity during the 10-ish days it was humid each year. Humidity isn't news, people.

Maybe it's a girl thing, or a southern thing, or a gloomy-weather-lover thing, but I like to go walking in the rain. I've been on the lookout for some toddler rain boots to take Gabriel with me, but for now his crocs are getting the job done. 

And my boy, he is his mother's son. He can't get enough of splashing in puddles. I look at him and all I can think of is the many, many hours I would play in the puddles that collected on the back patio at the house I grew up in -- the first home I remember. It would rain and we'd have to come inside, and then we would go back out when the rain had passed and there'd be all this warm water to poke at and observe (and maybe slurp every now and then...)

Do you have any idea how patio puddle water tastes? I do. It tastes like concrete and parasites secrets. 

We've had a TON of rain in the past month. More than usual, and the result has been weather that hasn't felt as much like Hades as it usually does by this time of the year. With the unseasonably cool spring and the summer full of storms, it's been a gentle welcome back to my home state. 


single parenting autonomy

When coming out of a difficult marriage, a lot of women relish the thought of having a home to themselves, living peacefully in whatever ways they want. They don't have to hide from anyone, walk on eggshells, avoid being themselves, or share parenting decisions with someone whose primary concern seem to be "find the way to be the most combative."

(This is where I point out that I had a difficult marriage but that my circumstances weren't as scary as those in the link above.)

Being able to establish my home the best way I see fit is a heavy blessing. I do relish the freedom I have in this apartment and this new life. As I explained to a friend the other day, being a single mom isn't as hard (yet) as I thought it was going to be. I thought it would crush me. I thought I would be a basket-case most days, perpetually two seconds away from a meltdown. And the truth is, I'm not. The truth is, the challenges and responsibilities of caring for this child on my own are huge and unavoidable, but I find myself being grateful constantly that I have so much autonomy as a parent. I have the opportunity to create exactly the kind of home life, spiritual and otherwise, that I have always wanted for my children, and I have more freedom in doing so now than I ever would have while I was married. That is a gift, and it will be a blessing for my son.

I don't know that I will ever say I'm glad to be divorced, but there's redemption in this situation. My parenting is done on my terms, and my terms are good terms. I am a good mom, and my son is a good boy. The life we'll have -- that we're already having -- is hardly what I had ever imagined or hoped, but it's a good one. There is good here...bountiful good. Thanks be to God.