from summer to fall with a pocketful of prayer

From the outside, I may have wavy hair but on the inside, I’m sporting the Rosanne-Roseannadanna look: frizzled bushy hair standing straight out. The back-to-school factory went into full production at 6:00 this morning. Two different breakfasts, three different lunches, two fully-equipped backpacks. One bowl drawer filled only with lids. One snack drawer overflowing to the point of not shutting. Two different school uniforms all tried on -- except for one belt.

One last-minute realization that Liam had never operated a belt before left one worst-case scenario screaming through this one mother's head.

Bill left for school with Will at 7:15. I completed drop-off and flag ceremony at Liam’s school at 8:30.

One 30-minute lull before the library opened meant a cup of coffee and a heated-up omelet. In peace. That wasn’t easy, for there were two of me prattling on this morning: one wondered what I could clean-up in 30 minutes and the other told me to be still for 30 minutes.

My coffee mug has a chip out of the rim, just to the right of where I drink from it. I put up with the chip because I love the mug. Black tree branches radiate from the bottom of the handle. The branches are sparsely populated with bright red maple leaves.

We have been out on the thin end of that branch called summer. It started with a strong surge of freedom and ended with a push to the end of the branch where we splintered precariously. To get the most out of summer. Before it retreated.

With the boys both at new schools, the underlying edge is only somewhat smoothed with the first days of drop-off being behind us. The urge to swoop and rescue them from uncertainty started in my gut, raged through my heart, and stopped short of my tongue. For the last two days, at two different schools, this urge landed mysteriously as a supportive smile on my lips as they walked away. That's how motherhood flows.

As I drink my coffee, I take a walk down that branch of summer back to the stability of thicker branches at the base of the handle. And, I make a tight turn to that solid branch called fall. But my legs are still shaking from summer. Or caffeine.

I think of days when I have been strong, full of courage, and solidly grounded. Five years ago, I was moving through life with a pocketful of prayer. Today, I get that tool, use it, and put it in my pocket. Most of that prayer is still apt today. But I’ve added just a couple bits:

“Every day, may our minds grow and our hearts stay full.

And, please, let the bowl drawer, the lunch bags, and the uniforms be organized, full, and complete.”

I think He understands little things like this.

(This was inspired by Power & Prayer, written during chemo treatment for breast cancer in 2009.)


Rhododendron Droop

This morning, before going to to check the day’s forecast, I checked the vista from my dining room windows.  The massive rhododendron growing against the house is our privacy screen, protecting the room from drivers’ gazes as they zip down the hill.  Sprawling out eight feet and up ten feet, she is my crown jewel.  Landscapers want to give her a good trim, but I can’t bring myself to interrupt that big ball of green that erupts in purply-pink blossoms around Mother’s Day.

Today what I see is the Rhododendron Droop, and I know it’s below freezing.  Her leaves curl in on themselves and hang frigidly, yet the blossoms awaiting spring stand stoically, tightly clenched in the cold.  How can she withstand days like this and bloom majestically in a few months?

The Rhododendron Droop means bundling up when I go out and appreciating the warmth when I come in. The Rhododendron Droop reminds me to take a few moments to be still, mindful of the day and what I will do. Knowing in stillness there is strength.

 (Eager for spring? Check out English Garden Inspiration.) 


Carry-ons. Roll-aboards. Suitcases. Trunks. The insane lugging of stuff. Containers to haul what we need with us. I often say to Will & Liam that need is a funny word. I take two small carry-ons on board planes and put them under the seat in front of me; then I watch the frenzied roll-aboarders as they look for an empty slot in overhead bins to hurl their over-stuffed roll-aboards. And I flinch when it’s above me that they take that almighty swing upward.

We checked four suitcases to come home from England. After traveling, the sight of our bags circling on luggage delivery systems in Baggage Claim warms my heart. Even if they are ripped, bent or marred, they usually hold up well enough not to scatter dirty laundry everywhere. Reclaiming them is the last step in our travels controlled by the airline. Ahhh…Freedom.

In England, the cases were packed with new Christmas presents and our clothes, with the exception of the mud-covered white socks and underwear that Liam peeled off after falling at the swampy cricket pitch. The likelihood of mud stains coming out wasn’t good. Shoes and jackets and sweat pants were recoverable. There was liberation in throwing the socks and underwear away, in declaring “no” on what I could’ve labored on over two or three washes. No guilt. No designer-ware here.

Once home we’ll lug the heavy bags through the mudroom and to the laundry room. And sometimes we live out of the bags for days, but flying on the 31st, we have the 1st as a holiday to recover and empty the bags. Do laundry. Find homes for new Christmas presents. Get toiletries to the bathrooms. And finally, when the cases morph from heavy baggage to empty luggage, they return to the basement. Except for the one that ripped on the way to England and is now held together with duct tape and shrink wrap. It has served us well. It was a freebie, and it’s time to relinquish it.

So many vessels. As we haul them around and feel their weight, “baggage” moves to the negative realm, particularly if it’s not unpacked, and only keeps getting heavier as more is shoved inside. What good is lugging baggage around? It’s heavy. Not economical when it comes to time. If every unpleasant or challenging event results in a big old suitcase or trunk – a kind of mental scoreboard of everything bad that’s ever happened… Ye gads. Time to lighten the load. At least down-size to a roll-aboard. Keep the lessons learned neatly packed. Perhaps pare them down little by little to a small carry-on.

Baggage – whether big suitcases on wheels or trunks our ancestors used to heft along – serves us well to take on travels to new places and to old favorites.

Unpack the rest and throw away anything caked in mud.

Great to Be Alive

I’m still making my way in this “stay-at-home” mom role, not knowing what exactly that job description should entail, but striving nevertheless to be really good at it. That usually means constant movement through each day, normally to fortify the Malcolms and keep them afloat. I needn’t list the tasks, for we all have them. And perhaps like me -- no longer a farm girl who can count bales of hay put up or fields planted at the end of the day -- you have no idea where the day went or what you actually accomplished. Over the last few weeks, I’ve done things a little differently: put an “X” through two days a week to focus on writing; started a 21-day sugar detox; and exercised nearly every day. As a result I see more of what I haven’t done: 8 loads of dirty laundry scattered in the hallway and laundry room; more dishes and pans in the sink than normal; a loaded countertop of mail, packages, and breakfast dishes at 5 p.m.

After a bike ride Monday, I’m more OK with all of that today. With a goal of riding 112 miles over two weeks, I organized a bike ride for the four of us on Sunday. We rode 7 miles. Thinking I could get at least 25 miles done on my own, I drove out to the same bike trail Monday – really looking forward to knocking out a quarter of what was left. After 1 ½ hours, I dragged my pedaled-out legs and sore bum to the van, anxious for the total mileage. TWELVE miles? No. Surely more than that…

Red-faced and sore, I kicked the gravel stirring up some dust. I had parked near the bike trail in a quiet area of Groton, MA. Sunday the gravel lot was empty, but Monday several buses were parked next to a bus garage. They must have been on the road the day before. My quiet brooding over my lackluster accomplishment of 12 miles was snapped to halt when a bus suddenly revved up its diesel engine. I jumped and looked toward the roar. This is what I saw. Sometimes when I'm cussing under my breath while doing laundry, I lift my head up out of the sorting basket too quickly and catch it on the sharp, sharp corner of the cupboard. I take that as a sign: Less complaining. More grace. "GREAT TO BE ALIVE" was like that, only less painful.

I get it. Generally, most of us have been in tougher places than where we stand today. Considering three years ago this week I was focused on recovering from chemo and radiation, I would say 12 miles biked is pretty darn good.

Great to be alive. More bus ticker signs... fewer sharp cupboard corners. Please.

(Need a little inspiration? Try Baggage.)