This is where it falls apart…

It is the third or fourth day of some sort of resolution I make. Already I have exhausted myself with the effort to remember to make space for the resolution in my filled to the brim day. I was supposed to post every day for the month of March and already I have failed. So, for me, this is where it falls apart.

If I can not manage to do this new thing for a few days in a row, then how will I do it for a mere 31 days in a row? If I can’t do it for so short a time, then it must be impossible. Wait, that is not what my inner voice sounds like. More like this, “If I can’t manage to do this new thing for a few days in a row, then I must be impossible.” My irresolute self really starts in. “Well, since you missed that day, there is no real sense in worrying about today because there is no way to make up for that lost day.” Once a few lost days stack up or dot themselves across my mental calendar, then the resolution is basically over for me. It all just falls apart.

And, this is always my battle in what seems like a never ending quest to become my own best self. The only comfort in this truth is that I am not alone. So many of us bonding over trying to become better. So many of us talking about who we might be if we could just become who we wish we were. So many of us living for the not-yet-but-almost self, that we are never really there when we are together. In the end, that is no kind of bonding at all.

I need to instead see my writing resolution or any resolution as a triumph of trying. I need to stare long at each link on the chain and not obsess over empty boxes on a calendar. And, perhaps most of all, I need to know that people need me right now. In the right now, I am already my own best self. No one can afford to wait for who I wish I could be.

Least of all me.


Earning It

“Maybe you have to earn it,” Dylan said when I showed him my post yesterday.

As I read Making Bacon to him, I had teacher hopes that he would be inspired by my attempts to get words on paper. I also had writer doubts as I listened again to my writing. I could hear parts that were a “bit pitchy” and parts that were just plain flat. But, I read each part and I could see Dylan’s eyes following along, tracking the print. I hoped he was also tracking the thinking, my thinking. After all, this post was about a topic that he knew very well. His Dad. His Mom.

As I slowed down to read the post to him, I wondered when we had switched from tracking letters and words and sentences, to tracking thoughts and feelings and ideas. Even as a teacher of reading, I maybe never had as clear an image of what happens as a writer when we leave tracks, footprints in snow, for our readers to follow deep across pages and to slide wildly, hopefully into new places of their own. I wanted Dylan to follow me. As his mom, I think I was watching  him as he followed.

When I asked him what he thought, he smiled his ear-lifting grin, that little smile that doesn’t lift his cheeks as much as it moves his ears. He looked up and said, “That’s true.” Perhaps no better words needed to be said at that moment. In the rage of feedback of these teaching days, there was no mention of author’s craft let’s say. (Let me be clear though. I did try to author-craft it for sure.) There was just, “That’s true.” Dylan had followed me to the truth. As a teacher, the day after, I realize this only because I push myself to post. As a mom, in the moment, I captured the quote. My boy at that moment. That is all.

That is enough.

After, I wanted to show Dylan where the post sits, in the blog that I started. I said, “I need to work now to make my blog look nicer.” I switched to some other blogs that I admire. I showed Dylan some of what I hope to learn to do with mine. I said, “I don’t know how to do a lot of these things and I don’t really know how I am going to learn to.” And, that’s when Dylan said, “Maybe you have to earn it.”

So, another day. Another slice. Here I am earning it. Posting.

I am pretty sure that is what he meant. Hey, who is following here?!

PS Tonight we had to make a folder, just a physical folder with two pockets, for Dylan’s first comic book. You should read the blurb.

Making Bacon

One day a week I cook bacon for breakfast for the boys. I almost wrote that I make a grand fill the table with homemade choices feast for the boys. However, that would be a total lie and would not match my skill set in any way. I admire cooks, but let’s just be clear, I cook. I am not a cook.

So, one day a week I make bacon. And, the boys stand by my side waiting from the very first sizzle for the very first pieces to be peeled bubbling and crackling from the pan. I used to be scared of bacon just a little. The way the pan spit back at my hands and the wall made me too nervous to do anything but microwave that pig. Now, with Dylan sitting cross-legged with a plate in his lap and Luke on a stool teetering just a little too close to the greasy action, I am bacon brave. After all, those boys need a bacon-cooking mama at least once a week.

Their Dad is a cook. He thinks about making them food and then loves his boys that way. It took me a while to understand this fact. The time my husband spends thinking about our meals is really his way of thinking about how he might feed us. For Jimmy this feeding is about more than calories that convert into energy. This feeding is about what might make us happy. Jimmy is a cook that tries to serve happiness on the plate. Jimmy is the feast maker.

But, once a week I make bacon for my boys. If I don’t hide some slices, the two littler ones will eat it all and Jimmy will wake up to the smell of bacon only. On these mornings, I feel just a tiny bit of what my husband feels when people fill up with something I made. With crunches and slippery fingers and shiny cheeks, my boys are happy and I did that. So, once a week I will run whichever finger gets burnt under cold water for however long it takes to stop burning and for just a few minutes I will feel like a cook.

Abba’s Blessing

I am not Jewish.

“You are not Jewish,” Abba said as I headed off to mom’s car, borrowed for one last goodbye visit to a best friend, his daughter.

I am not Jewish but not for the lack of some trying. I have always been fascinated by religion. It was almost my major as an undergraduate student at Drew University, where I met Deborah, Abba’s daughter. So, when Deborah asked if I wanting to come to temple with her, I jumped at the chance. I came to love Abba during that first service. I do not remember now exactly what he said as he spoke in front of his congregation. I do remember feeling deeply connected to something bigger than myself in the place that he and his family, both then and before, had so clearly built. Simply put, I felt God in the space he filled with his words and thoughts and humor.

Abba had declared me not-a-jew when I asked him if he would please bless me before I headed off to be a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Federated States of Micronesia. All of those words, I notice now are in capital letters, so big and official looking. Brave. I felt nothing like those words. I had come to Abba’s house in those final days before the Peace Corps to hug Deborah tight. Her embrace made me believe a little in the me I always felt she could see. I had also come on that day to get just a tiny bit of God’s grace and protection from a man I could feel God coming through.

Hard to describe what that last phrase means. A man I could feel God coming through. But, I think it is just right as I reread it now. I have always struggled with religion because I sometimes felt like the people who called themselves religious were so often in word and not in deed. Abba was in deed. He made family. At home. At temple. This man made me feel connected to something larger through him. I wanted, no needed more power if I was going to do this Peace Corps thing.

So, on that day when I asked for his blessing, although Abba hugged my puffed up, totally faking it self as he would one of his own children, he said, “I can not bless you because you are not Jewish.”

That was 22 years ago.

Abba died last night.

Today, I am aching with sadness for his wife, his children, his grandchildren and his congregation. I am so sorry.

But because of and in spite of this sorrow, I need to finish the story …  Two days after the hug and the refusal from Abba, I was packing in my childhood bedroom. The packing was very non-methodical. I was scared more than I could ever remember being. A car pulled up outside and a man got out. It was Abba. He strode toward me as I was standing in the front door. He placed his hand on top of my head. I bowed it and he prayed.

I am not Jewish so I did not understand what he said because it was not my language. I still do not understand what he said, the content of his words. I wish I would have asked. In that moment, in my parents’ house, I stood with my head bowed and felt God. I know now that a Rabbi is not a priest or a minister when it comes to blessings. Apparently, rabbis are not felt to have direct connection to God in the same way. But, standing there with my head bowed, my heart stilled and I felt … peace. For my journey.

He just walked away. No words.

You just walked away dear Abba. Hear my words.

I loved you.

I am not Jewish, but Abba’s blessing helped carry me. May all who loved and learned from him be carried by the blessing of Abba too.