Expect Nothing

Expect prompt

I’ve spent a lot of wasted time expecting people to be different.

Expecting them to be thankful or honest.

Expecting them to love unconditionally or be tolerant without question.

Expecting them to be compassionate, self-less or encouraging.

Expecting them to apologize.

But mostly, I think I’ve just spent a lot of wasted time being disappointed, time that would have been better spent giving wholly of myself without expecting anything in return.

As I crossed over the 40-something threshold a couple of years ago, my perspective changed. My focus became less about being and more about doing. My mind’s eye has finally partnered with my heart’s desire, working together to hopefully leave this world a better place than I found it and without any expectation of being recognized for my efforts.

Give without getting.

Forgive without an apology.

Trust without hesitation.

Help without judgement.

Love without condition.

The more I work through my days looking for opportunities to do good, the lighter my spirit becomes and the more relaxed my body feels. Holding on to anger, disappointment and frustration is cumbersome and suffocating. It weighs heavy on your heart, puts a physical ache in your bones, making it hard to feel anything else.

Some days take more effort than others.

Some days seem effortless.

Just a month after our foster child came to live with us, I found myself saying “I love you” as I tucked him into bed at night. It felt natural, especially after putting The Tortoise and The Hare to bed. I know my words of affection carried through the house, and it pained me greatly to think of this little Peanut going to sleep at night without the reminder that they are loved. One night as I whispered “I love you” and gave a quick kiss on the cheek, arms suddenly wrapped around my neck, keeping me from pulling away.

Our eyes locked.

Our breath in unison.

“Is it okay that I don’t tell you that I love you back?” Peanut whispered.

“Of course, little one, ” I replied, “How you feel about me doesn’t change how I feel about you.”

Peanut pulled me closer, hugging me tightly.

“Is it okay that I love you?” I asked.

I could feel a smile press against my cheek.

“Sure,” Peanut said, “and you never know, if you say it enough I might even say it back one day.”

*This post was inspired by The Daily Post and Two Shoes in Texas

 

 

 

Perfect Moments

Two Shoes TuesdayI made stricter house rules this summer for the kids in hopes of keeping them from spending the next three months absently laying in front of the television, a computer screen or their phone. It was a well-thought plan, a list really, of alternatives to glowing screens. Things like being creative, reading a book, spending time with friends outside and helping out with a small household chore are but a few. So far, it has been effective for both girls, and it has allowed me time to focus on the things that get neglected during the school year. I can’t possibly be full-time teacher, chauffeur, meal-planner, event coordinator  and housekeeper from September to May. Summer is my time to re-group. Summer is my time to try new recipes or re-organize the closets. It is a great time to purge our basement and filing cabinets. These next few months help me prepare for the next school year, the next swim and gymnastics season.

However, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily tasks of life. There will always be something that needs or should get done.  Cleaning and organizing may be as much a mindless addiction for me as television and gaming is for my children. And I know, deep down, that having a perfectly cleaned and organized home is not a true reflection of our family. A clean house does not build relationships or create new memories or adventures.

hammock profileSo, between the sports camps and the vacations, between the running around to friends houses, and the chores, the most perfect moments are usually the ones completely unplanned. I am trying harder to look for those perfect moments hiding in forgotten corners of our day. Things like cuddling on the hammock with one of the kids while we both read a book or take  an afternoon nap together. When they are home, I’m trying to be diligent about putting down a broom and picking up a badminton racquet. I want them to remember music festivals and people watching rather than a long list of movies they’ve already seen. I want to fill our scrapbooks with goofy faces and unexpected giggles from days spent swimming in the lake.

nap outside in hammockAlthough I am aware that life is not perfect, I do believe that we can string together enough perfect moments to make life all the more wonderful.

“Life is not perfect. It never will be. You just have to make the very best of it, and you have to open your heart to what the world can show you; and sometimes it’s terrifying, and sometimes it’s incredibly beautiful, and I’ll take both. Thanks.”― Graham Nash

 

This is my inside

Two Shoes TuesdayI hoped Ed Sheeran would be my muse this morning. His music has been playing on shuffle for the last hour, but instead of being creatively ignited by rhythm and lyrics, I have merely been bobbing my head up and down, rocking shoulders left and right, in the midst of an imaginary crowd of musicians, surrounded by no one, but the dog.

Thunder grumbles outside the window, a grey sky threatening to unleash its summer spray. So I continue to sit inside. Waiting for the rain to fall. Waiting for the words to come, until all at once, a trickle leaks from the sky, quickly turning to a flood. The house grows dark, The dog shakes. The windows rattle and the trees start to follow the same back and forth motion of my shoulders, dancing in the rain.

I feel like I need to write a laundry list of moments to connect my last post to this one, a road map of events to neatly tie together April to July. But perhaps what happens on the outside matters very little since my inside continues to stay the same. Places I’ve been. People I’ve seen. Who I was in April, is really no different from who I am today.

Today I am contemplative. Today I am listening to Ed Sheeran and watching the rain while my sweet Luna puppy quivers in my lap. Today I am sad for all the inequity, violence and suffering there is in the world. Today I am thankful for even the tiniest bit of shared compassion, selflessness and unconditional love for humankind.

Today I play over and over the conversation DW and I had back in April over dinner.

“Perhaps it’s time to make a greater impact on the world, ” I said, “make someday today.”

“Perhaps you’re right, ” DW replied.

We have been married for thirteen years now, and for the last 10, we have talked around the idea of opening our home to another child. Strangely, it has always been a separate conversation than the idea of “creating” another child of our own.

“The world does not need another copy of me,” DW would joke.

When my eyes are closed, when I let my mind and heart mingle, I picture at least three children. I picture my daughters holding hands with another, guiding them with patience and unconditional love. I picture my whole family being a combination of shapes and sizes, quilted together by the threads of our existence, our need to be together and support one another, our desire to not leave a mark on the world, but instead, leave an impression of kindness.

Surprisingly, I have done a lot of writing over the last few months, just not for public viewing. I have had to dig deep inside, answering questions, responding to concerns, filling out forms, reassuring myself  and reassuring others that I do not own rose-colored-glasses.  I am both excited and scared to be near the end of this process. We are merely days away from being licensed as a foster care home with the intent to adopt. We are days away from potentially making one of the most dramatic changes to the dynamics of our family. However, it may surprise you that I feel like we have already received the most amazing gift, regardless if we are placed with a child. The gift of insight about the inner workings of our family. The gift of realizing my children have not only embraced, but cherish, the same world view and vision that DW and I have modeled. This licensing process has asked us to have deeper conversations about religion, values and moral vision. It has required us to acknowledge our mistakes or weaknesses and hone in on ways to improve our relationships. Our hopes and fears have been laid out on the table, with the understanding that our journey may take several detours before ever reaching our final destination.

This process has pulled everything from the inside to the surface. And I have reached a point of being more scared of staying the same than I am of the inevitable change.

*I am taking part in Two Shoes Tuesday hosted by Josie @ Two Shoes in Texas. Today’s prompt words were inside and extra.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hello courage

a small piece of art hanging above my desk
a small piece of art hanging above my desk

I’ve spent the better part of an hour letting my last cup of coffee grow cold, sifting through pounds of advice on how to overcome writer’s block, looking for that one perfect and inspiring blog prompt. It finally struck me, though, that my three-month long writing drought  is not due to insufficient inspiration or a lack of living, but more about the courage to write about the truth of my days.

Days filled with average things.

Days seemingly unimpressive or worthy of writing in detail.

Days that pass in predictable succession.

In my heart of hearts, I know there is no shame in living a life void of monumental drama, a life overflowing with family, friends and a future. It doesn’t mean there aren’t moments of frustration or loneliness. It certainly doesn’t mean that every aspect of my story is bound in happiness and success. My children often disappoint. My husband and I sometimes disagree. My friends and parents can be frustrating. My health declines and rises as rapidly as my weight and as sharply as my mental stability. And I am well aware that at times I am the same disappointment, the same frustration and most definitely, the same amount of disagreeable to others at any given time.

I am deeply flawed.

I fail as often as I succeed. Sometimes more.

“I am my own biggest critic. Before anyone else has criticized me, I have already criticized myself. But for the rest of my life, I am going to be with me and I don’t want to spend my life with someone who is always critical. So I am going to stop being my own critic. It’s high time that I accept all the great things about me.”
― C. JoyBell C.

Last month I pushed myself to go to a small writing workshop facilitated by Capital City Writers. The guest speaker was author and screenwriter Ted Kluck, focusing on writing creative non-fiction. Writing non-fiction is scary. There’s a level of fear when crafting anything riddled with truth, creative or otherwise. And there is a whole other level of fear that someone will either be offended by our truth or poke holes in the very memories we hold as truth, forever changing the way we see ourselves and the life we have built.

My intent was to slip in unnoticed, blend in with the walls and just absorb everyone else’s energy. I am not a member of this writing group, nor had I met anyone present.

I am quite foolish.

The room was small, speckled with a handful of professional writers currently working on projects. Not only did I not slip in unnoticed, but I sat on the front row, a dear friend in tow as my shield. Ted’s down-to-earth, tell-it-like-it-is, personality engulfed the room. In a matter of minutes the atmosphere ceased being thin and started filling my head with thick possibility. I sat with pen in hand and a stack of blank paper most of the afternoon. Eventually a trickle of ideas splattered the pages. I questioned everything that came to mind, catching as many words and phrases possible before they could fall to the page, fearful that somehow my thoughts wouldn’t be good enough.

Not even good enough for an audience of one. Me.

And then I went home and avoided writing some more, until I received the phone call yesterday that my domain name was expiring. There was a moment I thought about not renewing. For a moment my eyes glazed over the computer screen as I thought, “perhaps I should just let myself disappear”, questioned if it was worth the few dollars needed to ensure my identity as My Pajama Days. After all, it has been more than three months since I last wrote.

But here I am again. Renewed yet fearful.

 

 

 

 

 

Writer’s Workshop: Finding Joy in My Winter

A few berries still cling to one of our trees
A few berries still cling to one of our trees

Believe it or not, avoiding this blog has been as impossible as avoiding myself.

Not a word has been written for months. I’ve purposely found other things to do than write and yet, this blog has been on my mind, in my heart, every day. It was not my intention to disappear, but the longer the silence, the harder it was to find my voice. The deeper I buried myself in laundry, housekeeping, home school and other people, the easier it was to stop being accountable. Accountable to myself, anyway.

I could easily avoid the scale, the grey hairs popping up, the constant achy joints and lack of sleep. But the minute I thought about writing anything, I had to take a look at myself again, flaws and all. So I chose silence over honesty rather than run the risk of filling up space with ridiculous excuses.

The weight of winter is suffocating sometimes.

Joy is so much easier to find when things are going well, when our relationships are constantly blooming, when the seeds we plant seem to grow all on their own and certainly when we can physically feel the warmth of success. Joy escapes me when shadowed by dark thoughts, unexpected friction and lack of motivation. It becomes much “easier” to tend the gardens of others instead of taking care of my own. At least then, I can lie to myself, pretend I’m too busy to work towards a personal goal, and pat myself on the back for accomplishing something.

Due to large amounts of snow and bitter cold, I have not left my house since Saturday evening. School was supposed to resume this past Monday, January 6th, but our area closed schools for three days straight. For the first few days, my house was filled with extra bodies. Both the girls had friends over to celebrate the snow days. I unpacked suitcases and cleaned while listening to five girls sing karaoke, tore down Christmas decorations while hanging up wet snow pants, and studied lesson plans I already knew from front to back.

But yesterday there were no extra bodies.

Yesterday was just me and my daughters. We made a short school day out of it and finished laundry. After dinner, I found myself staring out a window, getting lost in the white canvas. Everything looked peaceful and relatively undisturbed. I was mesmerized by the nothingness.

For a moment, I felt like a blank slate.

DW was gone for the evening. I called the girls into my room, asked them to grab a book or something and declared it “quiet time”. We snuggled under the covers in our pajamas, the dog squished between blankets and robes. The heat from our bodies quickly bound us together. Sleepy heads  rested on each of my shoulders as breathing sounds slowed to a soft purr. The Tortoise reached for my hand at the same time The Hare leaned over and kissed my cheek.

“I love you,” they each declared.

“We should do this more often,” they each proclaimed.

“I agree,” I answered.

Last night, I was reminded of the joy in my winter.

Mama Kat Button