Thursday, December 07, 2017

Holidays

I've been especially aware of the bittersweet nature of the holiday season this year. I'm thankful for traditions and memories and comfort foods and time with family, but I've spent a lot of time thinking about my dad and my grandparents and the way that time slips by. My own kids are old enough to have their own memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions. And I'm old enough (and young enough?) to remember this season at their ages. Many of the memories I have are of people no longer with us, though. I know that's the nature of life, but it's a steady pang that underlies November and December for me.

I have years of happy, loud, fun memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I also have weighty ones of funerals and numbness and a vague awareness that I was supposed to compartmentalize my feelings to preserve my cheer or gratitude. Holidays are complicated. Life is complicated. Sometimes life seems as mean as it seems wonderful. On my optimistic days, that juxtaposition enhances the joy of being with loved ones and the joy of tradition. On my less optimistic days, it makes me feel like life is a slow, inescapable march of loss.

A friend whose parent had recently passed asked me once "How long does it take to get over it?" I wanted to give a pat, satisfactory answer, but I don't have one. Is "getting over it" anything more than an appeasement of other people's expectations of the shelf life of grief and grappling with the ephemeral? I struggle with gratitude at Thanksgiving because I'm still mad at the unfairness of my mom losing my dad on Thanksgiving week. I struggle with Christmas music because so much of it is intertwined with memories of my dad. I can be picking out a Christmas tune on the piano with the kids and suddenly have to excuse myself to a different room. I can be hit by a chord from the pipe organ and want to be anywhere in the world but in a church. Not "over it," clearly.

"Grapple" is the verb I use most often to describe what I've been doing with my feelings for the last few weeks (years?). As many things do, "grappling with difficulty" makes me think of Epictetus, who said "When difficulty falls on you, remember that God, like a trainer of wrestlers, has matched you with a rough opponent. Why? So that you may become a conqueror. But it is not accomplished without sweat." I'm thankful to be here to struggle, and thankful for family and friends who struggle along with me. And I'm thankful to see this season through my children's eyes, as I find myself both hopeful and fearful for them as they get older.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Collaboration

I've gone to two meetings this week. Both were right in the middle of dinner time, and the one tonight lasted past bedtime. I'm thankful that Matt acts like it's no big thing to handle these on his own.

The meetings I attended this week were meaningful. One was a PTA Board meeting in which we discussed a proposal for a creative, innovative program. Discussion, disagreement, and, even, awkwardness ensued, but, ultimately, we voted unanimously about what the next best thing was.

The second was a focus group related to breast cancer services. I met with some thoughtful service providers and survivors, and we were able to have a candid discussion as well as make connections. The gathering had the potential to be uninteresting and formulaic, but it was anything but. It was really inspiring to meet with a group of people I don't know very well--unlike the PTA meeting, where I knew people really well--yet feel connected with them in a common purpose.

In both meetings, I felt grateful to be part of building something. Not all meetings feel this way, but these two did. This week has been full of reminders of the many connections my family has to our community. My hope is to be a constructive, collaborative participant in whatever group I'm a part of.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Fun

Having fun at the season opener. #goheels

These kids. They're fun.

Last Friday, we went to the Tar Heels' home opener. It was the first time all five of us were in the Dean Dome together--and Lauren's first time ever. The kids delighted in every aspect of the experience: riding the shuttle from the Friday Center, climbing all the way up to our seats, drinking soda, cheering as the starting lineups were announced, rooting for the Heels (who won easily over Northern Iowa), and even hearing a favorite Bruno Mars song played by the band.

No one really even complained when we had to wait for nearly 30 minutes in 40-degree weather for our shuttle back to our parking lot. In fact, Lauren and Evan spent the time running around in a grassy area, playing tag. It was a treat to be out past 9:00 without feeling like the world would fall apart.

Once again, I find myself grateful for this season in our family life. Life moves quickly, and my babies aren't as easy to scoop up and snuggle. Their personalities are familiar and also emerging/ shifting as they learn more about themselves and the world. And, increasingly, it feels more like we're experiencing life together--rather than us leading and them, following. I know there will be growing pains, but I hope they know that Matt and I are here, ready to comfort them and celebrate with them, whatever their "growing up" brings.

I'm thankful for the fun we have together and the love we share. And I'm grateful that even our youngest is able to tag along on later nights--and for the nap she could be persuaded to take earlier that afternoon.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Repairs

I had a moment of frustration the other night. I had a long day at work, and needed to get gas on the way home. The fuel door on my car wouldn't open. Because I needed gas, and tried to get the fuel door open for about 15 minutes at the gas station before slamming my doors and driving home. When I got home, I snapped at Allison and banged around the house for a few minutes in annoyance. For a few minutes, I fretted about a stretch of minor annoyances we've had at home the last few weeks: we put a new radiator in my car, I replaced the power window in the passenger door of our van, our dishwasher sprung a leak, and I had to take our microwave apart to fix its keypad assembly.

Back to the other night: I came inside and watched a couple of videos online for how to access the fuel door, I opened it, and make a quick run to the gas station to fill up. I still need to fix the release cable, but the car has gas and it's ok.

When Evan woke up last Sunday and I had the microwave mostly taken apart, he asked what I was doing. After I explained it, he said "I'm glad there are videos to help you fix things." I realized he's right. While I would definitely prefer not to have things break or malfunction, I am thankful that I have the means, resources, and ability to take on most of the minor repairs that we've faced recently. I'm also thankful that the greatest frustrations at home that I've faced this week were a microwave and a faulty cable to a fuel door. I'll repair the fuel door soon (with a little help from the internet), and try to remember that I'm fortunate to have solutions to most of the problems I encounter.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Halloween

Halloween

I'm thankful for the memories we're making, raising our kids with great neighbors. Halloween is one of my favorite nights of the year. We gather with friends for an early dinner before heading out all together. The kids still run from house to house, squealing and laughing.

My kids never coordinate their costumes. This year, we had Princess Leia, Robot Ninja, and Turtle Wizard. I love how they make their own choices. I'm thankful that Tobin still wants to dress up, even if deciding on what he wanted to be seemed a more complicated decision.

Halloween is a memory snapshot, poignant in how it feels both familiar and new. I'm grateful for traditions in how they create memories and mark the passage of time. Most importantly, I'm thankful for the people who we are sharing these experiences with on special nights and many ordinary days throughout the year.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Youth Group

A couple of weekends ago, my friend and former youth minister, Steve, treated the boys and me to tickets to Late Night With Roy Williams at the Dean Smith Center. The boys geared up in their Carolina gear and cheered loudly as the Heels raised the banner for the 2017 championship and introduced the 17-18 team.


It was a great night, but for more reasons than the basketball. We talk (and write) a lot about sports here, but part of what made the night special for me was getting to see Steve interact with my own kids. Steve was a crucial part of my life through all of high school, and has now been part of my life for most of three decades. He was an officiant at our wedding. He's on my short list of most influential people in my life. I'm thankful that every time we get to talk or see each other, it feels like we simply pick up where we left off.

This year, T started youth group at our church. Tonight, I got to spend some good time with his youth minister at a community forum. T has enjoyed his youth group meetings and events so far, and seems to be off to a great start, making friends and getting involved. I'm thankful that he and Tommy seem to have complementary personalities, and I'm hopeful that T is beginning what will be an important relationship for a long time to come.