January 6, 2017
by Tricia
2 Comments

Without Hope

I was thinking, this morning, about 2016. I’d rather not, anymore, but given it’s largeness and also, still, its recentness, I’m not sure any of us can escape it quite yet.

A comment on my last post got me thinking about how a year cannot be all good or all bad. Before the holidays, a friend and I talked about how coloring the year with one big horrible brush is a little unfair. She talked of good memories made with family and deepened relationships as a result. I had the same last year – good family memories and deepened relationships too. It wouldn’t be fair to look back on the year and not hold onto those moments and experiences that made it particularly sweet.

I began to think, then, that what really left us so despondent is that 2016 extinguished hope.

Some of the world’s greatest geniuses left us last year, taking with them the hope they gave us in life with the songs they sang, the stories they told, the way they made us feel.

Horrific wars, terrorism, and all-out attacks on humanity decimated the hope we’ve always tried to keep that there is good in the world, that there are good people, that the world is a safe and welcoming and beautiful place to explore.

Hatred and anger erupted in ways that shattered our hearts and I, for one, lost hope that we will ever be able to slow the boil to a more even-tempored, measured place.

And, of course, we replaced a man who spoke as a symbol of hope with one who inspires everything that is hope’s antithesis. Every time I see an image of the Obamas or hear their words, I still feel the glow of good people working hard for good things. Every time I see our current president-elect or hear his words (aka read his tweets?) I feel despair.

But how long can we keep going without hope? And, if the answer is, ‘not too long,’ what can we do to build it back up?

In my New Year’s post I called hope in this moment misleading and passive. Simply feeling hopeful is not enough. Just hoping that everything will work out isn’t working for me. I think, this year, we need to build hope back up through action. We need to show up for what we’ve always hoped will be and show hope that we’re ready to commit.

How exactly do we do that? I’ll be honest and say I don’t really know for sure. But I think it’s likely scattered across a million small ways and a few big leaps. It’s probably found, in part, by pursing meaning over happiness. By not only staying true to who you are and what you believe but fighting for those things too. It’s in putting your time and your money where your heart is by supporting the good fight. On New Years day, the four of us here in my little family each chose a cause we cared about. Then we started the year by making donations to the World Wildlife Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the ACLU, and UNICEF. They weren’t large sums but they were commitments on day one that we’re in this to make a difference. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I’ll take my kids to volunteer and follow Dr. King’s example through service. We won’t change the world, but our action will put a little good into it. There’s nothing wrong with starting small. It’s far better than not starting at all.

And maybe as the year goes on and the million little actions and few larger leaps build up, we’ll start to feel the difference.

January 1, 2017
by Tricia
4 Comments

Open and Truth in 2017

us capitol

“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier.'”

~Alfred Lord Tenneyson

Good morning, 2017. Please, grab a cup of coffee, settle in, and get comfortable. We have a lot of work to do but today, let’s get to know one another.

In the bustle of holiday life last week, I read an email about starting the new year. It suggested that whatever it is you want to do with your brand new set of blank pages, that you do that thing on New Year’s Day. If you want to exercise more, get out there and walk today. If you want to read more, crack a spine on a new book. If you want to strengthen relationships, you probably have some phone calls to make and some coffee to drink. (sounds perfect to me)

It’s all about intention. Showing 2017 that you mean business by showing up on day 1.

So this morning, I woke before my children and came here to write. Later, I plan to do some yoga, drag my family out on a walk, read a little, play with my kids a little, and reach out to friends and family.

I’m starting this year with energy and a little excitement. I love a blank page and a fresh start. I love how today feels newer and clearer, like fertile ground for doing something big. I love that we’re free from thinking about 2016 as our ‘now.’ Not because I believe the year was the worst. I’ve read enough articles proving otherwise and can remember enough sweet spots to know it was not all bad. But because, along the way, those numbers began to feel like a curse that could only be lifted when one of them turned. And, finally, here we are.

But I’m not starting this year with hope. That’s new for me. Every other year, I’ve felt hope smiling in the threshold and I’ve held onto those whispers of happiness. But this year, I don’t feel much hope. Yesterday, as I undecorated our tree, tucking each ornament shaped memory into it’s box, I entertained some pretty dark thoughts about what life might be like, for me personally and for the world, when the time comes to bring them out again. In some of the final hours of 2016, my mind traveled to the worst places, where hope struggles. This year, hope feels misleading. It feels passive. It’s just not enough.

“And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.”

~Rainer Maria Rike

This year, instead, I’m feeling like there’s more I need to do actively. Less quiet intention, less thinking my way through things. More action, more engagement. Time to show up with more things that I have never done to meet a year full of things that have never been.

I didn’t choose a word last year and I didn’t take resolution making as seriously as I normally do. So, superstitiously, I’m taking it all very seriously this year. I’ve resolved specific things – more yoga, more reading, more exercise, more time with family. I’ve got some very serious writing goals too.

And I’ve chosen two words. Truth – because lack of truth characterized all of the worst parts of 2016, for me personally and the world. Because throughout the year, I saw people altering and obfuscating the truth and creating ‘new ones’ that weren’t true at all. Because truth is something that we (those of us who can see it) need to hold onto this year more than ever. In 2017, I will pursue, hold, and fight for truth.

And Open. Because last year, I closed off. I retreated and burrowed. I said a lot of ‘no.’ It served a purpose and was right for its time, but I’ve decided that time is over. This year, I intend to be open to as much as possible. I intend to say more ‘yes.’ I kind of picture myself walking around with arms open wide and every part of me open and receptive to life. Cheesy? Yes. But turns out you don’t need hope to make New Year’s cheesy.

Happy 2017 to you and the ones you love. May it be full of truth, openness, love, life, and everything you wish for it.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language, and next year’s words await another voice.”

~T.S. Elliot

December 22, 2016
by Tricia
2 Comments

A season of distraction

our home, fully decorated, Nov. 25.

our home, fully decorated, Nov. 25.

I broke a lifelong rule of mine this year.

I decorated our home for Christmas before Thanksgiving.

Four days before Thanksgiving.

And it felt really good.

So good, in fact, that I decided to do all the Christmas things as fast as possible.

Before December began, we had already walked around gardens lit up in Christmas lights complete with s’mores at the end, seen our local Christmas train display, cut out a few dozen paper snowflakes, and made a couple batches of cookies.

I’ve been done holiday shopping for weeks. Which has left time for, of course, more holiday shopping.

I’ve binged on Christmas music. Because “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer is singing loud for all to hear” I now know all the words to Carol of the Bells and I can sing it just as fast as you are supposed to. Last night we listened to a Kenny G-ified version of, well, I can’t even remember which song but you know you’ve overdone it when your search for more Christmas music makes you feel like you’re forever in an elevator.

I decorated my kids rooms for Christmas. They now have snowmen faces on their doors, complete with holly in their top hats. They have red and green pompoms woven with twinkly lights strung across the headboards of their beds.

I sent out holiday cards, for the first time since putting a family photo on your holiday card became a thing. The last time I sent Christmas cards, I bought a box from Target and addressed them while my now 7-year-old ogled the dangly animals on her newborn play mat. Since then, every year I’ve decided that filling the world with more paper, specifically paper with my family’s faces that people will toss in the recycling (hopefully) weeks after opening, was just about the silliest way to spend my time during a busy season.

This year, reaching out to friends and family in whatever way possible – actually in all the ways possible – feels anything but silly.

This year, the chaos of Christmas has felt restorative in a way that chaos shouldn’t ever be.

This year, also, the magic of the season has sparkled in our home in a way that it never has before and may never again. Every year since she could talk, I’ve worried that we’re at the peak of her belief. This year is no different except that this year, I know we’re closer than we’ve ever been. She believes so wholeheartedly right this very moment, so fully that her entire face lights up in the glow of the magic. Her childhood wonder is so perfect right now, so brilliant, that I can’t help but think of it as a star showing off in its final burst before fading completely. I’m less afraid of this now than I used to be but it has also given extra purpose to my frantic energy.

This year’s Christmas season saved me from post-election depression. It saved me from going another round with the biggest challenges and heartbreaks of my 2016. It saved me from quiet time with these things and delivered me into the blessed hustle and bustle.

But now here we are. Days from the one day whose approach sets this whole thing in motion. And I have no choice but to slow. The big events of the season are done. I’ll bake a few more batches of cookies. Continue my caroling binge. Attend to all of the details and sparkles and cherish the honor of creating magic for two of my favorite people in the world.

But I’ll also slow down. I told a friend last night that I’m afraid of the let down to come in January. That, absent a season of distraction, all the monsters I’ve been running from for a month will come at me hard.  So, slowly, as the season comes to a close, I’ll let back in the things I’ve spent a month running from. And gear up to face the world beyond my twinkly lights, with it’s challenges, heartache, and needs, with fresh eyes, a strong heart, and the energy they’ll most definitely require.

September 27, 2016
by Tricia
1 Comment

Girl at the beach

baby and mommy at the beach

She is one. Even the low tide reaches her belly button. She’s as timid as she is tiny. These days, you might say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Tiny. Timid. I hung up my adventure seeking flag right about the time I found out about her. Rewards of adventure stopped outweighing the risks, and all that. But, also, just watching her toddle across the floor overloads the adventure capacity of my soul, never mind all of the other wild, new, ever changing things she does. Tiny and timid as she is, she is an adventure-a-minute.

So I don’t mind that she doesn’t barrel into the ocean, throwing herself at the waves before she’s figured out if they’ll throw her back. She won’t know the feeling of wet sand between her toes until the last day of this trip. And then, of course, she won’t want to come back to dry sand. But for now, this morning when the sun is not yet too high in the sky and the breeze is just right, she’ll take in the ocean drip-by-drip from the safety of our arms as we barely wade in deep enough for the waves to splash her.

mommy and little girl at the beach

She is two. I’m balancing her carefully on my swollen belly while the water laps at my equally swollen ankles. The bravery she earned during last summer’s trip washed away in winter snow and spring rain. In between packing beach towels and swim suits and preparing to leave our nest at the height of my pre-baby nesting frenzy, we read Ladybug Girl at the Beach. Because although our whole world is about to change, I still have the luxury of time to spend preparing the world for her, and her for it. It may be the last time that I can meticulously plan and think and orchestrate so that things will go just right.

So we observe Lulu’s fear of the water and her ultimate, if accidental, bravery at the end of the story. We talk about the beach and the waves and how much fun Lulu has in the hopes that all this talk will prime my girl to jump right in when we reach the coast. But, once again, her feet stay dry until the last day when we drag her from the sea, brush her off, watch her sleep in the car all the way home.

siblingsbeach

She is three. A big sister with a year of preschool behind her, almost propelling her forwards. So forwards she goes, to the point where the waves kiss the shore. Still timid, still holding back, but tiptoeing into this new stretch of land. This confidence in herself and her process looks strange on a three-year-old, but she wears it well. By day two, three at the latest, she’s in up to her ankles. We brought Ladybug Girl with us this year and we let her inspire us. We rush towards the water, hand-in-hand, daring the waves to chase us. And when they do, as they always will, we run beyond their reach. Her desire to play is insatiable. The adults take turns walking her down to the edge, bringing her back when their arms or legs or, quite frankly, hearts are exhausted from keeping her safe. I miss the days of wrapping her arms around my neck to gaze out at the horizon and I also revel in the joy of her now. I ache to stand beside her in the ocean and I also want nothing more than to sit with the baby, who still can’t move, back on the blanket where it’s safe.

fancydressocean

She is four. We squeeze in a trip to the beach long after summer’s end. We’re here for a wedding and the water is freezing and we’re dressed up with fancy shoes. But the seasons didn’t wash away last year’s bravery this time and she wades right in, hiking the tulle of her skirt up above her knees. When I think of the joy that I know lives inside her, when I worry that this mood or that disappointment will take her over, when I worry that I’m not making this childhood all that it could be for her, I think of her right now. Her and the ocean and the big blue sky. And I remember that we’re alright.

She is five. Fearless. Fierce. A force. Still tiny and maybe just the slightest bit timid. But most of that has all but faded away, replaced with an eagerness that she has just started to figure out how to use. It’s as though she’s already read Thoreau and totally bought into his desire to “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” Her feet are wet before we even lay out the blanket. She wants to go in farther, farther, farther still. She refuses to hold anyone’s hand until a wave knocks her straight down. And then she gets up and goes right back again. Her confidence is a rock and it won’t be knocked loose that easily.

I think back to beach trips past, how hard it was to encourage her towards the water, and I’m amazed. What has happened in the past year or two? Where did she find this confidence, this fearlessness, this excitement? I hope that it is a little bit from me and a little bit from her and that it is a gift she’ll carry with her.

img_8861

She is six. Eager and excited from the moment she opens her eyes until the second she gives in to sleep, every day.  She wants to experience it all. She is no longer cautious but, instead, seems almost wise. As though the sensor inside her that determines whether or not she is ready for something is already so finely tuned that she doesn’t need to think twice. And most of the time she is ready. She rushes for the waves, begs to go farther,  but settles in water up around her waist when we pull her back. She balances building sandcastles and looking for shells with jumping waves with a natural ease that suits us all.

We still clasp hands and run towards the ocean, daring it to chase us. And it does. It always will. Just as I’ll always check in with the ocean, to take stock each year and admire my girl at the beach.

June 13, 2016
by Tricia
1 Comment

Where my thoughts are

kids blanket fort

I’ve been cultivating a slow Sunday morning habit, the core of which is avoiding email and social media for as much of the day as I can. Good news rarely comes through those channels. At best, the things I read on my phone steal a few minutes of space, from my brain. At worst, the things I read turn what could be a restful day into a blur of stress, worry, and sadness. I realize that those words have that power, mostly, because I give them that power. But sometimes, what can you really do?

When my willpower is strong and my phone stays away, I am rewarded with blissful mornings, complete with feelings of connection to my husband and children. When my willpower is strong, I can let the troubles of my life and the world fall away. I can let myself just be.

Yesterday, I made it to around 11am. Which means I lived in blissful ignorance longer than most.

We had ventured out to a new bakery downtown. The sky was  blue and the morning was warm but not yet brutally hot. Excited by a mini-adventure that promised sweet treats, my kids were in delightful moods, bouncing happily and sharing pieces of muffin and cinnamon bun with each other across the distressed wood table. We were together and happy and trying something new and on a late spring morning, what more can you ask for?

So it was almost noon when I first saw news about what happened in Orlando.

Except that I didn’t click.

Instead, I continued along my morning, walking alongside my son’s tricycle on the way to the park and my daughter’s new two-wheeler on the way back. I sat outside and watched my kids dash in and out of the sprinkler, admiring how my little girl, who once would barely agree to get a toe wet, now runs straight for water, leaping through the fan of sprinkles. I watched my son avoid the activity altogether and admired my own ability to be ok with that this time around, now that I know how it will all likely turn out.

When I finally gave in, read the headlines and the content below them, the tragedy had already been deemed the worst in our country since 9/11. My social media feeds bursted with images of condolence and hope and love and, then, anger and frustration at the hate.

But I didn’t join in. I put it all aside and I woke my sleeping children and we went to their swim lesson where I dipped my toes into the icy water and cheered as my daughter swam and my son splashed. I wrapped towels around my children and changed them. We came home where I gave them baths. We ate dinner and read stories and said our prayers and I tucked them in.

I went through the rest of my day and ignored yet another giant hole that had been torn in our humanity. I did not click on links to gather the additional details. I did not click to see what horrible things Donald Trump had to say. And I still haven’t. I didn’t even seek out the stories of the good that always surface in times like these. I didn’t try to catch the predictable wave of light through the darkness. I went about my small, quiet life. I closed the blinds, kissed my babies’ sleeping faces, and went to bed.

I didn’t send out an image of hope or a note that my thoughts are with those torn apart in Orlando. Because, to be honest in a way that scares me, my thoughts were not in Orlando. They were as far from Orlando as I could possibly get them which, when my three people are here with me under this roof, is satisfyingly far. After all, the point of my media avoidance is to keep my thoughts here, with my children and my husband and my life in this moment. But, also, if my thoughts were truly there, then I would not have dropped my children off at school or camp this morning. I would not have let my husband out the door to catch his train. I would not find the strength within me to sit here, alone, just typing.

I’ve been doing this more and more lately, this willful shrinking, deliberately closing out the bad out there in fierce protection of the very good in here. I rarely listen to the news. I give up scrolling Facebook. I stop clicking and so I stop talking and I stop engaging altogether. When given the choice to go out or stay in, I strongly prefer that we all stay in. I focus my attention on my kids. I read them stories, answer their questions, absorb their imagination and wonder. I talk with them about the world as I find myself building barriers between it and us. Lately, I am sticking my fingers in my ears and pretending the world reaches no farther than the cozy spot I’ve created for us here.

I have become the fear that we are warned to keep at bay, the fear that means the enemy is winning.

I am also the confusion and the disbelief. Anger turned to terror. Events that used to motivate me to think of ways to do something and inspire change now motivate me to nestle deeper into my home and my kids.

It feels like giving up.

I want to be the hope. And the love. Because if I can manage to be those two things, then my children will continue to grow as those things and maybe, just maybe, we can turn this thing around. I want to be the hope and the love because that is what we all need right now, it’s what I need right now. Hope and love work against the fear and the confusion and, if properly applied, might calm my nervous stomach and stop my fingers from shaking on the keys and allow me to keep dropping my kids off into their lives and letting my husband out the door to his. Hope and love might even bring me back to mine.

As part of my withdraw from the world, I haven’t come here in quite a while. Every so often I type a few paragraphs that I never return to and, so, they never make it out for you to read.

But today, I’m going to click ‘publish’ if for no other reason than to reach back out into the world with a little something and hope that creates within me, and you if it might, the strength to reach back out with more.

To hope, love, and light.

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