I’m going to write.
Anniversary Chronicle 2015
The Eighteenth Year
January 4, 2015
Well, it’s been a year of finding our way in Hunt Valley, our adopted hometown…finding our way as parents to growing, energetic boys and to a girl who could take us with one hand tied behind her back.
At 12 years old Benjamin is nearly as tall as Jen, and numbers are his first language. Every day he designs something—a Lego creation, a building or room in SketchUp, a bar graph turned into art—patiently and passionately trying to master whatever challenges come his way. It’s not hard to imagine him as a young man, pursuing his interests in architecture and statistics. And if he could work the Ravens in there somehow, so much the better.[read more at A Quiet Life
On Being Organized. Or Not.
Yesterday we played a rousing game of Sardines as a family, the game where someone hides and everyone else finds them and hides with them. It brought me face to face with the state of every closet in the house, and with my own messiness. Again. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve come to accept my disorganized, messy true self. (Somewhere around Child #3, when we lost all semblance of control.)
That means I spent most of my life trying to be someone I’m not.
My life has been spent in the company of neat people. My mother is organized. My three sisters are organized. My husband is organized. My first- and last-born are organized. I’ve occasionally–for short periods–passed myself off as one of them, but the moment anyone lifts the curtain of my life just a little, I’m exposed as a fraud. So I’ve begun confessing it, even to people I’ve barely met.
What has it meant to admit my messiness to myself and others? It means I’m free to learn from all the organized people around me. I can relax, instead of running after them, trying to keep up. (It also means my house is messy, just as my room was messy when I was a kid.)
Best of all, being truthful with myself helps me be true to the person God created me to be. He knows I’m not organized, but still He chose to give me four kids with chaos in their wake. He gave me the gift of hospitality but not administration. These gifts were not accidental; they were divinely intended. That knowledge frees me to open my front door and host, despite the permanent pile that resides in one corner of the dining room. And next to my laptop. And in my bedroom.
Hospitality also spurs me on to learn what I wasn’t born knowing. It gives me a good reason to be neat, which is just the external motivation I need, so that even neat people will feel welcome and cared for here. And, I have to say, it would be really nice to uncover a few more hiding places for next New Year’s game of Sardines…
January 3[today’s creative work was editing a manuscript that can’t be published online.]
“Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand…”
Remembering laughter, poetry, tears of joy, and 70 degrees on a January day. Happy 18th Anniversary to my love, Ken Kinard!
January 5: Stream of Consciousness
tonight I read a poem and thought it was beautiful and had so much heart and then I learned the author was a man and I was shocked and I knew I had read the voice as belonging to a woman and it somehow made a difference though I’m not sure why and I signed up for his feed anyway because a melancholy man who likes beautiful words is all right too even though I didn’t know melancholy lyrics still come from the heart of man today sorry Tennyson and Eliot and Frost and Whitman and Wordsworth and all the rest of you
January 6: Five Things I Learned Today about Parenting
- Snow makes school unsustainable. The flakes cover the school table and their minds and the only thing that frees them is racing outside, sled in hand.
- A snowy hill is not as good as a snowy hill that’s been iced down for maximum danger. Never mind the thorn bush at the bottom.
- Shovel first. Sled second. The other way doesn’t work
- My expectations, carelessly voiced at the end of the day, can weigh on a child until he weeps.
- Lamentations 3 is for both of us: His mercies are new every morning.
January 7: Five Things I Learned Today About Parenting
(Still experimenting with this form)
- It’s best not to ask questions when a boy comes in the door from a walk in the woods and says, “I almost crashed to my death falling from a cliff but I didn’t.”
- Nine year olds do not get sarcasm. If I say, “He’s bothering you? Then sit on his head,” he’ll do it until his brother howls. (Did it, actually.)
- Tom Sawyer has a gruesome murder scene. Wish I had remembered that before I started reading it as a fun family read-aloud to all the kids.
- What does a 7-year-old want if he could have more of something? “Cuddling, I guess.”
- Morning chores or 31-day challenge? Creativity wins every time.
January 8: Reflections
The work of writing is largely in my head, emanating from a slow cooker stuck on low. The challenge isn’t finding the right word; it’s finding the right thought. My well needs filling, and writing every day requires the well to be filled with something other than Facebook and food blogs.
But filling the well doesn’t feel compatible with daily life. There is no place for it on my To Do list. I can read or write. I can homeschool or write. I can cook and do laundry or write. But inevitably, something suffers. For instance, I haven’t done a single load of laundry this week. More important things to do. But when my five-year-old says as I tuck her in, “Mommy? I think you need to do laundry,” it’s probably time.
Perhaps I could write something beautiful and enduring about laundry? Or inspired by Madame Bovary, which I’m currently reading? Or by Gilead, which I’m also reading? Or Tom Sawyer, which we’re reading as a family? Or Prince Caspian? Yup, reading that too. Now that I think about it, maybe the well is fuller than I realize.
Beauty is plentiful in the everyday, as my friend Jenna reminds me, and since the everyday is the one perspective I have in abundance, I draw on it first. Jane Austen and Emily Dickinson found the beauty; perhaps I will too.
January 9: Spring Couple
Shy with uncertain hope
Leaves unfurl shining, wary
January 10: Summer Couple
Rosy plump and lavish
Fruit drops from heavy branches
Love thick and close
January 11: Autumn Couple
Conversation cools then slows
Death comes leaf by leaf
Word by word
January 12: Winter Couple
Slip sliding in icy wind
Side by side silent
Never touching hands
January 14: Five Things I Learned about Parenting Today
- Within two hours of reading Tom Sawyer (assuming your readers can tolerate the gruesome murder scene), you will find your children playing pirates. Possibly naked.
- If I fall on ice, I will undoubtedly break my arm and have to rely on friends to bring us meals for the next three months. Kids, however, adore ice. Today Benjamin jumped out of the car onto ice on purpose, wiped out immediately, and got up grinning, “That was totally worth it.” Nice bruise, buddy.
- Even if they aren’t quadruplets with some weird telepathy going on among them, kids have their own language and jokes, mostly created while naked and singing in the shower. Naked helps. (See #1.)
- The more a seven-year-old cuddles with mommy, the more cuddling is needed.
- A five-year-old may or may not include “same hair color as mine” in her list of top 3 qualities of an ideal spouse. And he may or may not sound disturbingly like her brother.
January 15: Dreams
I used to dream that I showed up at school wearing only my underwear.
That I missed the bus and couldn’t find the school.
That I never began the research paper we were supposed to be writing all semester.
Now I dream that I’ve forgotten my son’s camp forms and they won’t let him in.
I dream that I’ve told a friend I will meet her, but I go shopping instead.
I dream that everyone else’s children are ready for the show but mine.
That I am too late.
That I forgot to get a babysitter.
That I forgot a child.
That I forgot the entrance pass for the Ravens practice my sons have been desperately awaiting.
That I forgot a pen for the autographs.
That I met Joe Flacco in the pasta aisle but had no pen for him to sign my tattered grocery list.
Oh wait. That actually happened.
Now I dream that when I grow up, I will be organized.
That I will miraculously but very definitely pull myself together.
That I will say the right thing at the right time, putting the whole room at ease
As I stand in front of them, poised, graceful, and a bit mysterious,
Reading (in my compelling voice)
From my latest book of poems.
January 16: About Us
My Day 16 writing was the About Us page for our long-neglected blog…
January 17: Flashback…a conversation with Gigi
This is an old unpublished post that I began writing back in 2011, part of a series of interviews with Gigi (with a grand total of two posts). But now Gigi can speak for herself, so any future interviews will be her actual words, probably lots of them.
Geneva, now 2, recently stood still long enough to answer a few questions…as long as they were all about her.
Q: Geneva, now that you’re fully mobile, where do you like to go these days?
GG: Mostly wherever other people are. I can’t stand being by myself, unless it’s a private moment with a tube of lipstick or a Sharpie.
By Mary Bruns January 9, 2015 - 3:54 pm
Day 7 gets a hearty, “Amen!” and a belly laugh from me!
By Mary Bruns January 17, 2015 - 11:40 am
I can envision your seasons poem in four delicate golden frames side by side on the wall.
And I can see you up before us with your welcoming warm smile putting us all at ease
and sharing from your labor of love, your poems of the heart, as we all settle in
and enjoy knowing you and being known.
I have similar dreams of forgetting my locker combination, forgetting the senior book
report due in two days when I plan to graduate but I haven’t read the massive book,
and realizing there’s a French test today but I forgot I was even in French,
haven’t been to class in weeks, and can’t even find the classroom.
Your writing helps put words to things in my heart – thank you for sharing your gift with us.
By Barney Kinard January 17, 2015 - 5:44 pm
Jennifer, I sure enjoy the realism of your writing. Your charm, wit, emotion and candor are all on display in your work. Love you and your heart. Papa
By Barb January 30, 2015 - 2:52 pm
The couple poems are lovely – very moving! Thanks for sharing. While I have been writing, my husband, bless him, has picked up some of the laundry slack!