Monday, February 8, 2016

The Stuff of my Heart

It's been exactly two weeks since my son's birthday celebration, and this afternoon I realized that I'd never set aside a gift card that was in note from one of his friends. The note was in a gift bag from another present, and the gift bag is no more. I can only assume that the bag with the tissue paper and note with the gift card were thrown out with the trash. I didn't do it, because I rarely throw things away, but I did spend an hour going through the downstairs and my son's room looking for the gift card. In the process, I found a five dollar bill with a chestnut in a Ziploc bag in his trash can, a piece of a transformer, a Lego or two, and well, trash. This lost gift card was all I could think about. I paused Downton Abbey to go searching. Certainly, I'm not going to ask his friend's mom if she happens to still have the receipt for it, but the thought did cross my mind.

My brain does this thing when I can't find something that I believe is valuable, and it won't shut off. The scenarios play in a loop, I start tossing things left and right. Heaven forbid anyone be in the house with me, or I'll yell at them to start looking with me. All other priorities fall. I'm sure my eyes are crazed. In fact, I've seen my dad with the very same mechanisms, which we referred to as his "ferret mode". Hi, I am Paige, and I too am a ferret.

While I appear disorganized, I know where most things are. For instance, there is a stack of two or three years of report cards and class pictures on top of the microwave. I still have a bins in the corner of the playroom that hold scrap fabric, half-finished knitting projects, and a box of my wedding invitation materials. I know what I've tossed and what I've kept, and what's floating in what box in what room somewhere in transition. However, when my things get moved or thrown out, I'm a mess. Once, my car keys were tossed into a toy bin. I knew all the places I might have set them. I can keep a pretty good internal trail of my movements through the house to find them, but that loose variable of kids' hands enters the equation, anything and everything is up for grabs. Fortunately, I found the keys when I though to myself, "if I were two years old, where would I hide mama's keys?" When you have a kid who is at the same level of [dis]organization, it's debilitating.

The only way I can see out of this is to simplify - simplify daily routines, simplify material possessions, simplify my emotional connectivity to inanimate objects. I like shiny things, and I think it's okay to have shiny things, but I realize that some things have an ownership expiration date. There's a red linen shirt in my closet that I've had probably eight or more years which I did not buy and have never worn. It still has tags on it. Why? Whyyyyyyyyyeeeee? My sister passed it on to me because she wasn't going to wear it, so now it's mine to hang in my closet until the day I die. I do actually give away clothes, but only after they have sat in a pile in my closet for a year, followed by a year in a pile on my bedroom floor, followed by a year in a trash bag in the upstairs hallway.

I wonder what makes me hold on so long, but I have a suspicion that it's wrapped up in identity. We are venturing far down the road from that lost gift card, but bare with me. I stitch little pieces of my soul onto the things in my home so I feel grounded, So I feel like there are threads holding me down to this earth keeping me from dissipating into the stratosphere only to be forgotten. I'm keenly aware of the trinkets I've lost. There was a round stone with black marks on it that I found around the age of seven. I colored a rainbow on it in neon crayons. For years I had an old film container that held a feather from my long lost parakeet and a tiger's-eye worry stone from my dad. These are long lost, and what strikes me now is that I don't need those items. I have the memories.

Yet I watched dementia rob my grandmother of her memories, and I think it scares me that at one point it will be just little old me in a little old chair surrounded by nothing familiar. I saw her go from the home I knew as my grandparents' home to her small assisted living apartment with a fraction of her things, to just her in a bed in hospice care. Nothing to jar awake the years of stories of love and play and hugs and discoveries. I fear losing it all, losing myself. In my mind, I occasionally walk through her old home, making note of the positions of the furniture, the layout of the rooms, the books on the wall around the tv, the can on the writing table that held the pencils, the hanging plant above her microwave. I remember the corner cabinet next to the microwave with the soup bowls and the little kid table. I remember the sounds, the framed hand prints of grand kids and the flower stitching on the kitchen wall, the desk with my parents' and aunt's and uncle's wedding portraits. I miss these things because I miss being with them, and all that is gone.

But these loved ones' legacy are not their clothes, and furniture and trinkets. Neither is mine. I am their legacy. My sons are their legacy. The legacy is love. They prayed for me, just as I prayed for my own kids before I'd even started dating my husband. Their legacy isn't just in bloodlines but in the lives of anyone their own love touched. I don't have to carry something of theirs in my arms to carry them in my heart. This legacy reaches back all the way to the beginning, "God is love." That love sustains, protects, shields, and carries me.

I don't need to tie myself down with bricks. He's not going to let me float off. It's not holy. It's not truth. It's not courage. It's not love. It's straight up fear. It's putting stock in this life which is but a tiny fleck of light on the surface of a shimmering ocean under the noonday sun. I may one day lose my mind, but I will not lose that love. I will not lose my Father.

Jesus's words: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy,and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Feeder Visitors - Nuthatches and Finches

It has been awhile since I've posted pictures of birds at the feeder. Until January's ice storm, I'd actually forgotten to put out food. Today, the feeder is especially active as the sky is spitting down freezing rain. June Kitty has made a permanent perch of the windowsill, and her tail flicks back and forth as she watches her would-be prey. We are currently trying to solve a mystery. Joe claims to have seen a bird with an all-purpose beak, a thick white stripe on its head, grayish body, a hint of yellow on the head, and it's not any of the birds I've suggested. Joe too is steadfast at the window, and if he had a tail, it would be flicking as well. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016


I am capable.

This is something I occasionally have to remind myself.

Years ago during the baby-making months, I wasn't allowed to do things like lift heavy weights, change the cat litter, eat lunch meats, float down a river in an inner-tub or stand on ladders. I also put pottery on hold during my pregnancies out of fear of the possible effects of the glaze and clay dust. Near the end of one pregnancy, I decided to install a shower hook in the bathroom using a power drill. I lost balance and smashed my thumbnail with the drill bit. I'm lucky I didn't drill right through my finger! I decided at that point I should probably avoid the power tools while pregnant too. I grew used to the limitations if not even a tad lazy, and it took maybe two years to think, "Oh geeze, why am I not helping move that heavy piece of furniture? Why am I letting the grandparents do that?" Sure, I had been toting around kids on my hip for a couple years and had never really quit laboring at the garden, but I'd forgotten that I was strong and capable.

And as the baby fog lifted, while I'd been building a honey-do list, and Joe had been chipping away at it, slowly I started building a "do it myself" list, because there is so much I can do. It sounds silly typing it, but I can fire my own kiln, I can replace the air filters, I can dig holes for trees, I can dig up and move trees, I can use the power tools to build things out of wood, I can find the studs in the walls to hang heavy things, and now, I can change out a light fixture - wiring and all. My capability doesn't diminish my husband's work around here... he is way more handy than most. He changed out the breaks and flushed the lines on our vehicles, he's replaced the capacitor on the AC unit twice, and he actually dug up and repaired the water line running to our house when it sprung a leak. I'm sure he has saved us thousand of dollars in maintenance and repair costs. All I'm saying is that he makes it easy to default to when it comes to all things with wires or moving parts, but it's good for my brain and confidence to try new things that I might just tack onto his list. It might take me longer sometimes to figure it out, but figure it out I will (thought in my best Yoda voice).

This relates back to parenting as well. It is good for kids to learn to do things that would naturally default to the parents. When they are little, the new tasks are picking out clothes and tying shoe laces. As they get older they are getting their own snacks and drinks or preparing a meal. Eventually the tasks will be changing the oil on a car or repairing the vacuum cleaner (Joe did this for his mom). This builds them into people who are responsible, empowered and capable.

I loosely follow this rule:

Once you are able to do it on your own, I will no longer do it for you.

I say loosely because acts of service can communicate love, but generally it is a greater act of love to give them room to grow and allow their need for their parents to change.

This morning my oldest snuggled into bed with me. As I wrapped my arms around him and my fingertips could barely reach his fingertips when we both outstretched our arms. He is growing so fast and lanky and very capable. Last weekend, he watched me changing out that light fixture last weekend and hollered back at me as I flipped the switches on the circuit breaker to let me know when the lights were off. He saw me put the light up, take it down. Put it up, take it down. I fumbled with the chain. I think we both knew Daddy could do this much quicker. We agreed it would be smart to wait and finish in the morning when the sun was up. Once I was done capping the wires for the evening, he told me I should come rest on the couch, snuggle and watch tv with him, which I am quite capable of.


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