Imagine a Tidier Nightstand, Among Other Things

General

I haven’t written in a minute. That isn’t entirely true – I’ve written a lot, actually, but it’s all in 3/4ths finished posts in my drafts folder. It’s not that I don’t have things to say. It’s more because there is so much to say that I can’t seem to fit it in one clean post. Or several clean posts. I staked a claim on this space to say my words, and I’m finding it hard to stand on your own and say things. I’ll get there, but probably not today.

So for this very moment, I’ll tell you that over the last several days I’ve been watching Getting Organized with The Home Edit on Netflix. I am a long time follower of The Home Edit on Instagram, and I feel like this show made them accessible to me in a whole new way. I have, since I started the show on Friday (hi, it’s Tuesday), reorganized eight drawers, all of my accessories, my closet, and the baby’s clothes. I watched the first episode of that show on Friday and mere hours later found myself at the Container Store. And I’m still working!

The thing of it is, I’m not naturally an organized person. My spaces can get messy very quickly if I’m not careful. The thing that struck me most as I watched THE’s approach was the systems. They talk a lot about creating systems that are going to work for you so that you can keep a space functional. It felt sort of revolutionary as I watched them work to think about all of the ways that my systems weren’t working, and that it was within my control to make them work again, or for the first time. I hadn’t thought to imagine that I could be a person with systems that work.

I’m realizing in my mid-thirties all of the ways that I get stuck: out of habit or, in some cases, out of a simple lack of imagination. I didn’t imagine that I could have a nightstand that wasn’t packed to the limits with clutter, I just kept shoving receipts in there. I was so used to the same jewelry organization system I’ve had since college that I didn’t realize that I hated it and wasn’t actually taking very good care of my stuff. I’m a grown woman and have literally had a Rubbermaid tub holding all of my shoes for the entire 6 years we’ve lived in this house. Watching this dumb organizational show inspired me to think outside my own boxes for a minute, and imagine something that worked better. It’s been a busy few days, and I’m loving the new order that has taken over my life/drawers.

I’m grateful for the challenge to my imagination, and for the ways that it’s opened my eyes to look beyond what is to what could be. These challenges to the status quo don’t have to be scary – sometimes it’s best to just take the leap and head to the proverbial Container Store. In another life (the last decade, anyway), I’d have watched something like this and felt some degree of shame at my own mess. I’m grateful for a perspective shift in the last couple years that has brought me to this: imagine something better, and then make it happen. Glennon Doyle says, “discontent is the nagging of the imagination.” Instead of turning a blind eye to my discontent, or letting it bore a hole in my self-worth, I decided to face it. I deemed myself worthy of imagining, then enacting, better systems. My nightstand is the most meaningless microcosm of what I’m actually alluding to here, but it’s served as an empowering reminder even so.

Anyway. This is not The Thing(s) I Want To Say, but it is something. Which for today is enough.

Sisters in the time of COVID

Mom Life

While I would never be so brazen as to assign any silver linings to the events of the last five months, I am willing to reflect on a few things I’m particularly grateful for during what I can only describe as the weirdest spring/summer ever. One of those things has been the time my girls got to spend with each other.

My children are 10 years apart, and as is my nature, I worried about that. I worried they’d grow up in entirely different childhoods, with little to no points of connection between them. (I was ten thousand percent wrong about all of this by the way, but that’s about what I’ve come to expect with worry.) When things started to get real with COVID in mid-March, my tween left school for Spring Break never to return to her beloved elementary school. The little one had been in her “school” for about a month when she ended up at home with us too. I work from home full time, and while it was a hot mess express while we finished the school year, we made it.

This summer, we cashed in on the age gap big time: my tween, with literally nothing else going on, accepted her first salaried position at the tender age of 11. She signed on for Big Sister Summer Camp, and kept the toddler entertained/alive while I worked. And while it was not perfect, the gift was this: from March to August, I got to watch my two girls bonding and growing up – albeit in totally different phases of childhood – becoming their own little selves, together.

The toddler learned more words in these 5 months than I ever thought possible. She knows all kinds of things (words, showtunes, TikTok trends) because “sissy” taught her. I’m sending her to school again this fall, knowing she can communicate her needs well, thanks to her time with her sister. And my big girl: she got very tall and became a little caretaker like I never expected. While it wasn’t the most fun summer ever, she got good at her job, and gained a kind of self-efficacy you can only get from getting good at a job. I’m sending her to school again this fall (middle school no less) with a totally new sense of confidence, thanks to her time with her sister. They bonded in a way I don’t think they will ever outgrow.

They won’t live in the same house forever.
But they’ll always remember the weird summer they spent growing up, together.

I’ve realized we carry a lot of expectations with us into adulthood. Whether it’s when we’ll get married or when we’ll have babies and how many we’ll have; and then we bring them all with us into our families. And things almost never go according to plan, in one way or another. While I grieved that my girls wouldn’t be in school together or share clothes, I’m watching how it all shook out and realizing that I wouldn’t trade any of it. All of the expectations that didn’t pan out were sad in their way, but if even one of them had worked out how I hoped at the time, we wouldn’t be here today, with exactly the family we have.

It wasn’t how we originally planned things, maybe, but it’s how things happened. And at that point, what choice do you have but to lean in? Watching these two sisters, our two girls, find each other in their own ways despite and because of their age difference is the gift that keeps on giving. My hope for them is this:

May they always find each other in the weird times,
and may no times in their lives be as weird as 2020 has been.

do better

General

This post is adapted from an Instagram story I did a couple of months ago after watching the following video:

@chescaleigh on Instagram

I still feel strongly about this, and it felt worth revisiting in written format. I’ve defaulted to Insta stories for a lot of things I maybe would have written before, so now that I have a space for that again, here we are.

First off: we ALL need to know how to apologize. It’s a hard thing to do, to put aside our pride and our particular attachment to being right, and to offer a genuine apology. It’s not unique to racism, but it’s very apropos to this moment. As you and I are joining this conversation, it’s important to be able to own your own biases and mistakes, and know how to offer an apology for harm done without doing more harm. It is possible, even with a good intention, to apologize in a way that completely invalidates that person’s experience, and focuses more on your intention being good than the harm that has been done. That is not a real apology.

I think there is a lot of temptation to hear this and say something about how we have to be “so sensitive” or so “politically correct” these days. And guess what – yes! That is true! It is now your (and my) job(s) to be sensitive and understand things that we have been a part of in the past, or are a part of now, that were/are harmful. To anyone. For any reason. Full stop.

Maya Angelou told us about this:

Do the best you can until you know better.
Then when you know better, do better.

I bet none of you would argue with that logic – it’s airtight, no doubt. AND YET.

We are living in do better days. She is talking to us, now. I’m writing as a white, cisgenger, heterosexual, Christian woman, from all of the privilege those descriptors hold. Thanks to the time I have spent listening to people outside my own cultural background – by reading their books and tuning into their Instagram lives and watching their shows, etc – I have learned a lot about what that means, for me and for them. I bet many of you have too, and I bet even if it’s just a little bit, you know better than you did a few months ago. The doing better part, though, feels hard for us to do. I get it; it is hard. But it’s not too hard. And we can’t let that stop us.

Everyone is sensitive to the things that matter to them – especially the things that threaten the emotional or physical safety of themselves or their loved ones. The things that I am sensitive about are not the same as the things you are. The things our Black friends, our LGBTQ+ friends, are telling us they are sensitive to are not the same as the things that I am, because I don’t have to be [enter: my privilege]. But now that I know – now that they have told me (or more accurately, now that I am listening) – I know better, and I can be sensitive to those things.

I take issue with the term “political correctness” used in this way, and I think we should call it what it is: asking for compassion and understanding for things that we don’t naturally understand or varies from our personal experience. Hearing that a joke you make would probably make a Black person uncomfortable should be enough to cause you to say, “oh gosh. I won’t make that joke anymore, even if there isn’t a Black person around.” Hearing that a person wants to be called by pronouns or a name that is different from the ones that you’re used to, and hearing that calling them by old names or pronouns is hurtful, damaging, and invalidating to them should be enough to convince you to learn a new name and replace old pronouns. If someone tells me that something I said or did hurt them or caused them pain, that is enough for me not to do it again. It does not mean I will never make a mistake again – but thankfully, I know how to apologize and since I will then know better, I can do better.

I take issue with the idea that any of this is too much work for us. We are hearing (loud and clear) that the culture we have created is more harmful to some human beings than others, and we have a responsibility now to stop doing the things that are causing the harm. Consider for a moment that it was your child, your spouse, you at risk, and then consider how you would hope the society you live in would respond. I also stand firm that this is what we are called to when we’re told to love our neighbor, and that the effort to do better honors God. So: take an extra minute in a text or email and make sure that you use the language you know is most appropriate. Stop when you catch yourself doing or saying something you recognize as harmful and course correct. Find another joke. Pay attention. Listen when someone tells you their experience (it’s theirs – they are right). Right your own wrongs and then speak up when you see others perpetrating harm.

For the record, I would go to bat on this for ANY OF YOU.

Anytime. Even if I hardly knew you and even if I didn’t like you very much, I would still think you deserve sensitivity and protection from harm where my privilege allows me to provide it (and even in the times when it doesn’t).

These are do better times. Let’s make Maya proud.

Finding Me in Motherhood

General

All I really ever wanted was to be a mom. If I had a vision board, it would have just been pictures of babies. It was always the goal. Get married, have kids, be the Mom. End of list.

Flash forward through my 20’s, longing for a home in the burbs and the aforementioned husband and children, reluctantly spending yet another evening singing karaoke and drinking Long Island iced teas, having no idea that in about 10 years I’d have everything I wanted and wish I could go back.

I adore my family. I don’t spend a lot of time longing for my carefree days, though I have my moments. Being a mom is, in a way almost nothing else in my life has ever been, everything I wanted it to be. It lived up to the hype (and the horror, don’t get me wrong – childbirth was a nightmare). Here I am, a house in the burbs, a husband who cooks, a burgeoning middle schooler who shares a ton of my interests and all of her thoughts and feelings, and the cutest toddler in the world who says “oh dear!” like a little old lady every time she drops something. I’m happy to be serving at the feet of two very cute if demanding mistresses.

Also – I’m very tired. I typically can’t remember when I washed my hair last. I don’t answer texts in a timely fashion (and not in a cool way), and I haven’t done karaoke in like a decade. I’ve spent the last ten years trying to get here, to exactly where I am. And as backwards as it sounds, getting what you want is actually sort of terrifying. I wanted to be a mom… and here I am. What on earth do I do now? How do I integrate the person I was, the person I spent years being, with this haggard person who barely knows what day it is?

Lest you start to worry about me, I’m honestly very happy. I could easily get lost in the monotony of motherhood – wake up, breakfast, school/work/laundry, pick up, dinner, bathtime, bedtime, repeat – and be a-ok. It’s comforting, and given my propensity for FOMO, I enjoy being present for every minute I can of my kids’ days. But I also know, as a woman, as a therapist, as an adult, a partner and friend – those parts of me need tending as well. There’ll come a breaking point where I’ll wish I’d sought out some alone time, a date with my husband, book club, what have you. I need that too, and I’ll be better off if I start putting it into action before that breaking point approaches.

And so, I made an exhaustive list, at least in that moment, of life-giving activities that would remind me of me, that would energize me to go home (not that I am currently going anywhere) to my lovely, talkative girls and my sweet, probably cooking husband, and bring them the very best me I could. And given my enhanced propensity to forget things, I scheduled the hell out of it. iPhone reminders, calendar invites, texts sent out right then lest I see an Instagram post and forget what I was doing for 7-12 business days. [This was all pre-COVID too, so I had to totally rethink it again and switch gears into Zoom book clubs and Marco Polo convos with friends and driveway dinner dates, but the sentiment remains.]

And where I thought maybe the scheduling would take some of the romance out of it all, I can tell you with certainty that it’s simply a necessity of a busy, family-filled-calendar life. Spontaneity is a walk to the park, not a night out with friends. It’s a stop at Starbucks… while you’re already in the grocery store. The rest requires explicit planning with calendar invites and also reminders to send calendar invites.

The good news is, between my newly scheduled calendar events, I am happily living my best life singing Disney songs to a toddler in the bathtub while checking my tween’s homework, and crashing hard into the couch every evening with my latest book, if I’m lucky. And literally the moment it is encouraged, I’m planning a karaoke night as a do-over for my quarantine birthday. Until then, at least I’m writing again.

It’s a small thing, yes. But it’s a me thing. And reminds me that even in motherhood, in the thick of it: I’m still me, and that is important too.

hello, it’s me

General

Hello friends. I decided to start writing again. I have no idea what this looks like yet, but I’m glad you’re here.

As far as I can tell at this moment, this is where I’ll be putting my words now. All of the old stuff still lives at i am a little church, what I have written over at Denver Moms is linked here, and since it’s been a minute, I’ve got a lot to say.

As I was reading over everything these last couple of days, I was struck by what is different and what is the same. I have lived a lot of life since the last time I wrote on my own site five years ago, and shifting into the mom-blog scene limited my subjects a bit as well. None of it’s bad, all of it is part of the story, but I felt ready now to write a new one. So here we are. Who knows what it will look like. I have two children and there’s a pandemic going on, so I make no promises.

Even though I’ve dropped i am a little church, the spirit remains. I was never sure about the legality of just slapping that at the top of my site, so my own name seemed safer. Originally I took that line from an ee cummings poem, and it is still a favorite of mine:

i am a little church(no great cathedral) – i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth’s own clumsily striving (finding and losing and laughing and crying)children whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope, and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church(far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish)at peace with nature – i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring, i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence (welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness)

I love so much about this poem, but mainly, I love how it highlights that life is not one thing, but all of them. Sun and rain. Sadness or joy; grief or gladness. Silence becomes singing. I’ve always felt comfortable in the grey, in the both, in the and. I kept finding & losing & laughing & crying because it has always felt like the most succinct way to sum things up. All of it is welcome here. I welcome humbly the light and proudly the darkness.

SO. Here we are. It’s 2020 and what is even happening at this point? I might as well write about it?

xo mg