Friday, October 3, 2014

Still Here (and trying to be present)

Ever been in a phase of life when everyone you see asks you the same question? 

"So how's the wedding planning going?" - To Every Engaged Person
"So how are you feeling?" - To Every Pregnant person
"So how's school?" - To Every person aged 4-22

"So how's Matt? When's the move date?" - To Me

I should just make a shirt with this on it...
This particular image is from THIS Etsy store
that I want to remember so that I can buy stuff from it

So to answer this question for the ba-jillion-ith time: no solid move date yet (yet hoping to solidify plans in the next few days), Matt is still looking for a job and I hope to be out there by the beginning of November. But it's still hard to say.

In the meantime, Matt is out in Portland and I am here in Wilmette. Besides being apart from my best friend for waaaay too long, I'm having a pretty good time. Not because I'm unemployed and spending much quality time with Lucia, friends and family, all super great, but because I feel like I'm really living each day at a time for once in a long while. I have lots of time on my hands and because I'm in this funny transition period, I don't really want to get involved in too much here. I have so much time on my hands that I actually get bored. What a gift. No, for real.

I like being done with being busy for a little while and having time to start the day right with mindful reading, time to be present with Lucia, time to think about eating right (I'm not actually at the 'eating right' part :), time to be outside, to go for walks, do yoga, cook food and take the occasional nap. Basically---time to detox my mind, remember that each day brings it's own troubles and refresh with peace daily.

So right about now, you're thinking "what a pompous jerk. She just has soooo much time on her hands that she takes naps, boo hoo". And I would agree with you BUT it's not actually easy to be bored. You ever tried it? Ever tried being bored and not turning to some sort of device about 3 seconds later? I don't know about you, but when I have a free moment I tend to:

A) check my phone
B) check Facebook
C) turn on the TV

And in that order. It has taken me a while to turn those tendencies off in my brain and decide instead to read a great book, be fully present with my daughter and engage instead of always trying to get something done when I'm with her or sit outside and really notice the beauty of my surroundings. The positive effects on the brain are amazing. Awareness and gratefulness are powerful tools for good. If you know anything about the science of mindfulness then you know that just being aware and grateful in the small moments of your day can literally rewire the brain towards all things good. (The bible is a testament to this but I always love when science backs these ancient ideas up as well.)

As I continue to plan for this transition of moving (by not actually doing that much to prepare for it- oops), I try to stay present here while I'm still here. And as I try to stay fully here, I've noticed something going on in my brain. Whenever I feel content, my brain says to itself something like "okay, this is good, let's remember this so we can get back here when things get rough". Which is fine, except its completely impractical. Anticipating the difficulties that will surely come, my mind wants to stockpile all the good here and bring it along. But it doesn't really work like that. In light of this, my mind jumps to ponder manna, like the manna from the Bible that the wandering Israelites gathered each day to provide for each day. In one translation of the Bible (NIV) it says about the manna that "in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor". This kind of blew my mind. I guess because I've always pictured the whole manna thing in my mind like this: the people asked God for bread and then the clouds opened up and cracker-like bread came immediately, raining down on them as they opened their mouths to catch it like snowflakes on their tongues and each day went on like this as bread miraculously fell from the sky. You know---the movie version. But as it turns out, the manna looked like something totally normal, like flakes on the ground after the dew dried. They didn't even know what it was and Moses had to tell them it was bread.

I guess the amazing thing about all this is that God provided manna every single day as He instructed them to take only what they needed for the day. And this nourishing bread turned out to be something that looked really ordinary to them. Which brings me back to trying to stockpile the good here and now to use in the future. The manna reminded me that it doesn't work like that. I have to show up everyday---meditate on the good, renew my mind, make relationships right--every day. When I show up, God does too, reminding me that sometimes the most profound peace comes in seemingly ordinary moments like reading a great book, being present and engaged with my daughter or noticing my surroundings. And as much as I would like each great moment to last, they don't. But that's a good thing, because then I can enjoy the fleeting goodness now, trusting that there will be more tomorrow...wherever I am.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

July in the Chi

We've stayed busy this month and I've *tried* to capture what I can cause you know-- time is fleeting. Soaking in the great cooler summer weather and all the special time with family and friends.

 Forth of July parade in Winnetka with the cousins. After 30 years--28 of those living in Winnetka-- this was my first time going to a parade there. We were never around for Memorial Day or 4th of July growing up. Lucia had a blast and immediately ate all pieces of candy that she acquired, using her bag for gathering candy as a trash bag for the wrappers instead.

Cam rocked a pretty sweet patriotic outfit.

Then it was off to Noah and Corries to party up on their roof.

Like usual, it wasn't long before Lucia stripped down to her diaper.

The guys were once again reliving the glory of winning the Superbowl back in February---the natural thing to do at a 4th of JULY party, right?

There was a beautiful sunset then time for some 360 degree firework gazing up on the roof. It was bittersweet since Noah and Corrie moved a few weeks later, making this the last time hanging out at their place.

Lots of good times and memories, we'll miss hanging out here. We do look forward to hanging out with the Fletchers in Seattle! Not too far from where we'll be.


I realized I don't have a picture of Noah and Corrie from that night but I do have a pic of those lovely chairs :)

Greta and Scott went on vacation, leaving us with some quality time watching their three girls. A little crazy at times with the whole gang of girls but fun overall.

Making nature soup

Wagon ride to run around on some nearby hills

Snack time for Renee

Sprinkler time

Why not fill a pirate booty bag with water?

Our church has been working hard to get a new playground and play space finished. Here were some of the kids playing for the first time on the new equipment.

At the koi fish pond at Old Orchard

At the Village Green park in Winnetka

Lucia and Naomi told me they wanted to wash their car so I got them some supplies and let them have at it.

Summer Night Live with Jim the magician at church. Lucia didn't make it all the way through, she got freaked out during the middle and we had to take a little break inside.

At the 'rocket ship park' (Sunset Woods) in Highland Park

At Indian Boundary Park in Chicago with some friends. We've found some great parks around here this summer.

One of Lucia's go-to games is asking if you want ice cream and then running off to 'get some for you', 'just pretend', so Lucia was in heaven with this little play ice cream truck.


This is a face Lucia makes a lot these days-- squinty eyes and big toothy smile. It's not like she's posing for a picture, I think it's the result of us randomly looking at her and smiling---now she's doing it back to us. This is from a special coffee date we had in the garden at Tre Kronor, the perfect Chicago summer spot.

I have been loving life with Lucia now that I am not working and have more time with her. Especially fun is to see her learn new things and see how her brain puts them all together. She can say almost complete sentences almost completely all the time. My favorite of her wrong uses of words is saying "there her is", saying 'anymore' after everything, and her over excitement to say a sentence that turns into stuttering. And my favorite recent moment was when she found a scrap of paper with writing on it. She picked it up, ran her finger over the words like she was reading it and said, "it says, I love my mommy!" 

Lucia generally is really 'bringing it' in everything she does but she can especially 'bring it' when it comes to becoming an emotional wreck after A) not getting something she wants or B) getting something she wants taken away. But I secretly sometimes love those moments too, like when she crosses her arms tightly while proclaiming "humph" over and over again, raising her arms over her head and down to chest again for further emphasis. Also funny is when she gets annoyed and lets out a throaty "ugh!", pouting her lip and stomping around. Somehow, Matt and I each think she got her attitude from the other so apparently there is enough attitude in this family to go around. 

I love it most when she is being my sweet little girl, the one who gives me a kiss on the cheek just because or instigates to help clean up her spills or takes care of her baby dolls so gently and carefully but especially when she gave me an extra, and extra long, hug last night when she knew I felt sick. Those are the best moments.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

We're Moving

And this is where we'll be...

If you know us well, you might be thinking "what else is new?" We have moved many times but this time, everything will be new...sort of. New city, new church, new friends, new surroundings and hopefully new kids someday to join us there. At the same time, we will be closer to Matt's side of our family and some long time friends but these old relationships will be negotiated in new ways which makes them new too.

In two weeks, Matt will be done with his job in Chicago and heading out to Portland, Oregon to look for a job there. Lucia and I will stay here in Chicago and join him (hopefully in the next few months) once it makes sense for all of us to be out there (aka: there is some job prospect and therefore we can pay rent). We have been talking about moving for a while now, in fact since we were married 8 years ago, so it's exciting to be making some real steps towards this move. But it's complicated.

We have moved before, and have moved much greater distances at that, but this time feels more severe. This time, after moving one million times, we would like to settle a bit. This gets complicated when half of the people in our lives are excited about this (the Northwest half) and the other half is sad about it (the Chicago half). The reaction is usually one of the three: "Yay, you're moving closer to us!" from the Northwest crowd, "I'm so jealous, I want to move back!" from the Northwest transplants living in Chicago, or "Why would you do such a crazy thing like that, moving away from family/friends and the best city ever?" from all the Chicagoans in our life. That's the complicated thing about having multiple places that your family calls home. So what do we do? We're just gonna go ahead and make another place our home. And who knows what the future will hold for us, maybe other places to call home too.

So back to that gnawing question: Why would we move away from the amazing family, friends, church community, great weather (ha, just kidding), that we have here in Chicago? You know, I can't really answer that question. It's complicated. I can tell you we are sad to be leaving everyone and everything special to us here. For me, it's home. I'll miss the unique smell of spring, the sound of cicadas in the summer, sometimes even the multitudes of snow in the winter and of course all the people here that I love. There are so many and I will deeply miss each one of you. I will miss seeing your faces. I am grateful to each person and place from my home here that made me who I am today. I was reading a book on an unrelated topic, part of it talking about leaving the familiar and how it is because of a great home, not in spite of a bad one, that we even can leave to explore new places, becoming fuller versions of ourselves in the process.

There are many reasons why we are excited about living in Portland. Some of them are practical and tangible, others are harder to put into words. Amongst all the preparations and unknowns that come along with them, I sometimes get nervous about what we are stepping into as we leave the familiar for all things new but just then--there is that still, small, inner voice simply assuring me that it will be okay. And that's all I really need right now. So we go forward to explore because life is just too short not to.

 A quote I came across today that gets me even more excited about our new adventure...

“The great affair, the love affair with life, is to live as variously as possible, to groom one's curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred, climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day. 

Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding, and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours, life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length. It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.”

—Diane Ackerman

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Slowing Down at Scott's Resort

Our annual trip up to northern Wisconsin was wonderful as usual. Most of my dad's side of the extended family were there--- grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and their spouses plus 10 great-grand kids. I think there were about 30 total but we missed those who were not able to make it. It was so peaceful to be surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of nature once again.

Before making the trip up north--- into the woods, cabins, lake, nature and bugs--- I was at home reading an email about Scott's and my mind was catapulted into thought of the sereneness I was about to enter, then back to the thought of life here at home. Sitting on the porch, taking in my surroundings--- the trees, chirps, smells of freshness, enjoying the words of my book with long, leisurely cups of coffee--- I thought, 'how much better could it get? This is all I need."

Yes, this is true, but once up there it became clear once more that the heart can become constricted in city life. And mine had indeed been tightening over time. Each noise, task, to-do list, jam packed day, stressor and 'ping', adding another constricting band around the heart. Each little task taking me further away from the moment, from myself, from thinking about the important things in life, from wholeness.

Like vines of ivy wrapping around an old brick building--- the rushing, the noise, the interruptions--- wrapping themselves, constricting the life around and within me. Sneakily, with each 'ping' and notification, taking me hostage. And also like ivy, the only solution to loosen the grip is to cut away at each branch. So as my phone reached the point of no service for the week, my first thought was "I didn't even get to say good bye" turning to "I can do this" then quickly settling on "good riddance".

The week was filled with quality family time, catching up with each other and hanging out. Much time was spent reading and listening to thought provoking podcasts with plenty of time outside (when the mosquitoes weren't driving me crazy). As I sat by the water, I was aware of all the life happening around me. Each gushing breeze, flying eagle, slow snail, rustling leaf--- slashing away at the tightness, leaving me with peace. I could breath in the silence and it was okay. Play became priority and doing nothing became easier. I didn't just read, I ingested words. And then a funny thing happened as life powered down, slowed down and became simpler; I felt more whole. In the wake of wholeness, the importance of this and that could take their proper place. Once upon a time, a few days before, I would fill 30 seconds of down time by checking something electronic, but here I space out looking at the lake, actually staying in the moment. And if I had a hard time staying in the moment then certainly each new mosquito bite brought awareness. Awareness of my hatred of mosquitoes but awareness none the less.

As I drive back, I start seeing grey over green. Concrete takes the place of trees. Quaint towns become outlet malls and sprawling manufacturing buildings. Costco comes into view and I feel a familiar, slight tightening in my chest. Which reminds me, I wonder if I have reception yet? I start checking my phone--- "an old habit" ---I tell myself. The complications of "real" life come back into focus.

But then once at home, unpacked and at ease, I'm playing in the backyard with Lucia. It's the closest thing we have to nature here. Our everyday nature fits neatly into square plots. It might be less wild and unruly but it's all here on a smaller scale--- the chirps, the majestic trees, leaves rustling, bright blue sky. I just have to work harder to connect. We may not have soaring eagles but we have singing sparrows and that's just enough.

After a heart loosening week, I'm encouraged by the fact that it's easier for me to pay attention to life around me at home as well. It comes easier for me to drop everything and play with Lucia. I forget until night that I didn't remember to put make-up on. I find myself deep in thought at random points throughout the day. I feel more at peace and for this I am thankful.

The key to these kinds of things is to integrate lessons learned into our everyday life, real life. And real life requires work, responsibility, time constrictions. But just as important is to bring awareness and breed wholeness to my life. This kind of work begins at each new day and picks up the next day right where it left off. Now if only I can do those things that come so much more naturally when in nature: to help the heart be open each morning and to unbind the unnecessary constrictions each evening.

Here are some pictures from our week...

We got to stay with Anne and Sommar, in from Washington. I loved having so much time with them and Lucia had a great time playing with Sommar.

Each evening, one cabin cooked dinner for everyone so we all ate together.

Right before the week, Lucia entered this phase of not ever wanting to wear pants/shorts/skirts, basically anything other than a frilly shirt or her bathing suit. This couples with the fact that she is now capable of taking off her own pants. Perfect-- at least were outside all week. No pants required= no extra and unnecessary toddler battles. 

"I want to take my top off" has been replaced by "I want to take my pants off", her most common phrase these days. In the mornings, Lucia insists on one of her favorite shirts, shoes on and pigtails. Other notables: she is obsessed with nail polish meaning she loves to wear it and show it off herself but also notices and compliments others' nail polish, 'frustrated' is her word for flashlight, she calls some people consistently by the wrong names (my mom is 'grandpa', Greta is 'Scott' and I am usually always 'Elsa' instead of mommy. She knows the right names but just chooses not to use them). 

I like to say Lucia is 'full of life' but this is often an understatement. Like most toddlers, her emotions are always heightened, but this little one seems to bring some extra oomph. It seems that Lucia has inherited her moms' and dads' strongest traits rolled into one tiny person, Lord have mercy. At least her biting-when-angry tendency has taken less destructive paths like forcefully crossing her arms, pouting her lips and saying "hmmmph" loudly or forcefully 'shhhshhh' us, spit barreling through her clenched finger to bring the point home. We try not to laugh, just calmly thank her for not biting/hitting/yelling when mad.

On the other side of emotion, Lucia is full of joy at times. She loves to use people's names when she sees them. She'll run up to everyone in the room, smiling and squealing their name over and over, jumping up and down to greet them. She gives great hugs, kisses and snuggle time. She loves to take care of her dollies, saying things like "You wanna sit here honey?". I love the way she checks on people when they are crying ("What's wrong with Naomi?" "I don't know, Lucia" "I'll go check"). I think this comes from the fact that when Lucia needs to apologize to someone after yelling at them or hitting them, I tell her to make sure they are okay. I feel like a forced "I'm sorry" doesn't really help or teach anything after hurting someone. Now I don't know if my method actually helps it sink in but at least she checks on others when she sees something is wrong. I hope that means empathizing is on the horizon.

Tea party with our cabin cuties, Sommar and Lucia

Lucia had tons of fun playing with her cousins and became mildly obsessed with 'Molan' (Nolan).

She was also very comfortable romping around in the water.

Pizza night at Alexanders!

Sommar and Sonja

We've taken a family picture here every year for the last four. Somehow Matt is wearing what appears to be the same shirt for the past 3 years. I guess it's his 'night-out-on-the-town-in-Eagle-River' shirt...


The outtakes

Ice cream chats with grandpa

She was one happy camper. Especially when we told her she could have candy too! She was like a...well, you know...kid in a candy store.

Then we put all that sugar to good use and let her loose in a bounce castle and slide playhouse.

Pure joy

Waving grandpa off in the boat

Then it was our turn for a boat ride and this is the best pic I could get. Blame it on the fear that Lucia would just pick up and throw herself out of the boat at any moment. This move would not uncharacteristic of Lucia to anyone who knows her at all. So I kept one hand firmly on her at all times.

Trying to take her clothes off, as usual. Another fun factoid from the week: Lucia figured out how to climb out of her pack n play. She was in her own room, so she would get out, come find us and say "I'm just awake!" A whole new beast for us who are used to leisurely waking up after letting Lucia play on her own in her crib for a while. From that to Lucia busting in on us, jumping on top of our faces yelling "I wanna eat breakfast!" At least she kissed me when she said it. Plus, she did not transfer this skill of getting out of her pack n play to her crib. Yes! More time til we'll have to deal with that one for real.


All ten great grandkids

Carson - Nolan - Lucia - Naomi - Renee
Gwen - Sommar - Sonja - Addison - Caroline

Some cute close-ups

I love how this one captured Lucia's pouty face and the interaction between Gwen and Renee

First time trying pop rocks

Grandpa's walker helped Sommar walking too!

Lucia loved helping aunt Julie make brownies

Little Miss Sunshine


Last night hanging out at the campfire

Then --- crack --- party foul! Dad's chair broke depositing him flat on the ground. Barreling laughter all around.

Gwen and Sonja hosted a dance party on the last night...tons of fun.

Those Wallgren boys think they're so cool.

A quiet eveneing at South Twin lake

Good night Scott's. Until next year.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...