Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Keeping the Love in Lent

As a child, I used to dread Lent. I'd spend the weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday stressing over what I would give up. It was a ritualistic, self-imposed spiritual insecurity. Lent was a time of best behavior, it was a time of sacrifice. It was a time of acknowledging that I could be better for the other 320 or so days and chose not to. Waves of that familiar Catholic guilt would overwhelm me until I settled on something I thought was worthy. And then I'd give up chocolate, or candy, or TV time. And for forty days I would suffer through less sugar and more time reading, only to binge on Easter candy and movie marathons, not really understanding what Lent could mean.

Because Lent can be so much more.  At it's core, Lent is about love. That's the message that Christ gave us, during His life. It's why He stretched out His arms and died on a cross, because He loves us so completely that He would die so that we might live again. Lent is our opportunity to live that love, it's a spring board into deeper holiness and deeper understanding of our faith, not just for forty days, but for the rest of our lives.

Two years ago, I prayed a daily rosary for Lent and witnessed firsthand the healing power of prayer-- not just for myself, but for those around me. Last year, I said yes and did some of the hardest and most rewarding things I have ever done. This year, as I prepare for the birth of my second son, I'm focusing on small things. I'm making the bed, every single day. If you know me, you know that this might be one of the most difficult things that I could do. And yet this small gesture, this small moment of love will bring joy. I'm limiting my social media time-- not stopping completely, but being more conscious of the time I spend and finding better ways to use that time. And I will be attending daily mass at least once a week. Little things, that can yield a great impact.

I won't be changing the world. I won't be moving mountains or rewriting the the history of mankind. But I will be learning, shutting down distractions and opening myself up to God. And I won't stop there. I want to live Lent, all year. I want Lent to be a stepping stone into greater faith, to deeper sacrifice. I want to keep the love in Lent. Not just for me, not just for my family, but for the whole world. I want to be Holy, Lord, for You.

How are you keeping the love in Lent?

Tina at Truly Rich Mom

Cherry Stems

Life had once been defined by linears and absolutes. We learned how to survive on the base knowledge that we would eventually die, fading into memory and ground into dust. We worked and lived and grew older, never considering the possibility that there was something more, something beyond the falling sand of the hourglass, beyond the slow moving hands on the clock.

And then, as if someone woke the sun, he came into town.

I was eighteen then, taking classes at community college and working at the diner in town. The first time I set eyes on Jeremy I didn't know what he was, didn't know what he could do. He came in, sat at the counter. 

"Chocolate shake, extra cherries."

"It doesn't come with cherries," I said, studying the strangeness of his eyes. They were so pale blue they were almost white. Staring into them was like getting lost in a snow storm. 

He smiled at me, but offered no other words. I added the ice cream and the milk and extra chocolate syrup, blending them together and topping the whole thing with whipped cream. And four cherries. They all shared a single stem. I had never seen cherries do that, not in all my years of maraschino-pinked fingers. He placed the cherry to his lips and sucked it in, his eyes never leaving mine.

"What if there's more?" he said.

"I have a whole jar, if that's not enough."

"No. More than this?" He opened his palm, gesturing to the diner, to the world.

"I suppose there is," I sighed. "But not for me."

He offered me his hand. "Come with me."


"Come with me."

There are moments in our lives, moments where we decide the kind of people we want to be. We get in a car after having a few beers. We say "I do" all in white. We follow a stranger out into the rain. We take that first step into the unknown, seemingly unaware of the potential consequences of our actions. We make decisions beyond our sense of self, forming new paths to follow. Touching his skin was like being lit on fire, like living all those paths at once. It was like breathing underwater and flying and learning how to be a person all at once.  It was like seeing in black and white our whole lives and then suddenly seeing in color, the blues too blue and the flowers too bright. 

And then, there was music. And the sense that I was waking up after being a sleep for too long. He led me out of the diner and into the real world, the world beyond. Life was a series of puzzle pieces we didn't know how to put back together, books out of order, shades of light too bright to stare into. Staring into his eyes-- those eyes-- I knew.

I had arrived.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Choose #fiveminutefriday

It's been a tomato soup in the carpet day, a grounds in the coffee, million things to do but never get done day. The words I've written don't seen good enough. The floor still cluttered despite several pickups, the dishes in their second run because even the dishwasher is against me. The toddler tantrums have been more than I can handle, the sky reflective of my current mood- to the point where in the middle of cooking dinner I told Paul I needed some time and went for a drive. It might have been a mistake, the city lights driving me to reflective self loathing over my raised voice and muddy carpet. Had I been brave enough to look in the mirror, I would have seen a woman I don't like.

I pulled into my driveway, anticipating the chaos I left to still be present. But when I walked in, Anthony lept up, smiling. 

"Mama come home!" 

He took my hand, leading me to the couch and feeling the softness of my fuzz pajama pants as I sat. 

"I came home. I was just sad, baby."

"Sad?" He took my face in his hands and wrapped his arms around my neck. "Mommy  happy."

And it that moment, with his arms around my neck, his head resting on my shoulder, all the failures of the day were swept away. This is the life I chose. It doesn't come with breaks or how-to manuals. It doesn't come with guarantees or promises of constant validation. But it does come with love, and plenty of it. And joy, in the smallest of moments, when a hug was all I needed.

Five Minute Friday

Friday, February 21, 2014

Writer Anxiety

I feel like insecurity is inherent when one is a writer. Writing is a communal art. We rely on the imaginations and attentions of others. That's the dream, right? To land an agent, to sell a book, to land on some sort of list that validates the years spent making up stories in black and white. For that, we need an audience. We need people to read our words, to see our books in color. We experience rejection and heartache in the process, often question our abilities, wondering if we've wasted our time trying to cross the bridge into author territory.

We over think. But then, that's part of what makes us storytellers. We examine, we analyze. We are word scientists, adjusting and experimenting with world combinations, trying to make people fall in love with characters and worlds separate from their own. It's a beautiful and wonderful thing. It's also terrifying.

I feel it every time I press "publish" on a blog post, "send" on a story, "submit" on an assignment. I feel it every time I read chapters of my work in progress out loud to my husband, or in my writer's group, or even when I talk about my story to my mom. The weird thing is, this anxiety comes in between waves of overbearing self confidence. BEADS OF GLASS is the book I'm going to sell. It's going to be the one to start my career. I feel it. I know it. And yet I feel sick when I think of someone I love reading it and hating it. I get so bloody insecure I want to shake myself.

This is what I want to do with my life. This is the person I want to be: the writer, the author. I dream about it at night. I fantasize about it during the day. I spend my free time click-clacking away at my keyboard bringing characters to life. I'm working so hard to please my seven year old self, my thirteen year old self, my twenty-four year old self.

Earlier this week I had what I call an "existential crisis." While working on a paper analyzing the works of others, I was hit with a wave of unavoidable repetition in stories, in formulaic expectations of the genre I so hope to be a part of. It was awful. I felt like I was wasting my time in grad school, in writing, in existence. But I came out of it. I'm still here. I'm still writing.  I guess that's what I'm trying to say. It's okay to have dark moments, it's okay to feel insecure-- just as long as you keep writing.

So keep writing, okay?

Photo: My writing buddy. #dogsofinstagram
I recommend snuggles to help with self doubt.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

#fiveminutefriday: Garden

He plants the seeds, making dips in the soil with his bare hands. They're rough and calloused from the years of gripping shovel handles and tractor wheels, strong from milking goats and cows and holding little girl's hands. He takes the time to relax here, after long days and the high pitched chatter at home. His seven daughters have almost deafened him to the pitches above a certain decibel. He plants, as a means to provide. He plants, because the smell of tilled earth and the sweet taste of cherry tomatoes on a summer's day are his idea of heaven on earth.

The sun sets over his garden, the patch of land he claims all his own. As his eyes adjust to the light, he covers the last of his seeds with damp soil and walks up the slight slope back to his home. It's clear enough to see the ocean today, though it's mile away, and he stops to pick a swollen tangerine from last year's tree. It tastes the way the air feels, cool and sugary on his tongue. He saves half to share with his daughters, with his wife. This is the life he has earned, the life he has worked hard to maintain. The gardener opens the door, and smiles.
Throwback Thursday, anyone

Five Minute Friday

Linking up with Lisa-Jo tonight. Whenever someone mentions gardens, I can't help but think of my dad. This is for him, the gardener, the man who taught me it takes patience to make things grow. <3