Summer is (almost) here!

Spring came and went, and summer vacation is here.

Here in Minnesota, the temps reached 91 degrees Fahrenheit today, which certainly made it feel like summer.

Earlier this week the girls and I visited the scultpure garden (photo below). That day also happened to be my 41st birthday.

A short while back, Alan surprised us with a picnic to Carver Park on an idyllic spring day, and that’s the next photo. Sometime in May, Anna had her spring ballet showcase. Other memorable events from this spring are visiting my parents a couple of times, babysitting a dog, and spending a day at the landscape arboretum. Alan and I went to a lecture on sustainable lawns and are inspired to convert our lawn into a low-mow, bee friendly lawn. We considered this a date, and I realize now how nerdy that sounds.

Anna and Mia celebrated their last day of 4th and 9th grades today. In her homeschool journal entry today, Mia wrote:

“This year I learned that happiness is one lifestyle change away.”

Meaning, switching to homeschool from public school was the change that made the difference. She is happy. Anna is happy.

Life is good.

Hello

April is almost over. I got my nose pierced last weekend–a milestone of sorts. I’ve wanted a nostril piercing since I was a teen, but never thought my nose or face were “good enough” for such a thing. And then suddenly, I just did it–because I wanted to. And, I love it.

A few days ago, Anna told me that when she grows up, she wants to be like me. And I thought, “wow, what a compliment and a huge responsibility.” Then a couple of days later, Mia told me that we are boring adults and she is going to be different than that when she’s an adult. And the pendulum in my mind swung in the complete other direction.

Life is so weird. It changes all the time. One moment, your kid thinks you are the world, and the next, she’s planning her escape and realizing how much she doesn’t want to be like you.

What will life be like after the kids are grown? It’s hard to imagine a life that doesn’t revolve around the care of children. Who am I if I am not a mother? Of course, I am always going to be a mother. But it will not always be my most defining characteristic in the way it is now.

I think this is what Mia meant when she said that we are boring adults. Having parenting as a defining characteristic is not particularly interesting.

Mia has no idea the sacrifice or the commitment one makes when becoming a parent. And, she shouldn’t. The gift of childhood is being free from that knowledge–free from the knowledge that life is hard work once you’re not a kid anymore.

My sister has 4 dogs and no children. She calls the dogs her kids and calls herself a mother. She celebrates Mother’s Day for herself. And, rightfully so. She’s a mother in the best way she can be. I think often what I would be like if I’d never had kids. What would I be doing now? Would I be happier or less happy? Would I have a bunch of pets and call them my kids?

Those are my thoughts for today. Happy spring, my friends.

Here is a photo showing my new nostril piercing.

I am not an all-bad person: An epiphany from chocolate cake

Today, my mom and dad came over for a few hours to spend time with my girls.  I had a couple of hours off in the middle of the day, so I dropped by home to spend time with all of them.  My mom had baked a cake with Anna, the recipe shown below, and it was so good that I ate three pieces in a row!

My mom showed me the recipe they used for the cake and explained that I’d made this same cake back in August of 1994 as a surprise for the family.  What? That 15-year-old insecure girl who couldn’t seem to do much right with her life made a CAKE?  I remember those days painfully clearly, but no matter how hard I try, I cannot remember this cake-making that evidently occurred. As you can see by the recipe below, my mom takes very good notes! That makes them extra fun to read 25 years later.

Learning about my teenage cake-making episode transpired just at the right time–as these things often do.  Recently I’ve been processing my long-held belief that “I am a bad person.”  Memories of my mistakes and all of the bad things I have done are plentiful and easily accessible in my busy, ruminating mind.  Not so accessible, however, are the things I did that were NOT bad.  Like baking.

Back in August 1994, I was the age that Mia is now.  Through Mia and with the help of this new cake-making information, there is a surge of compassion and love for my younger self.  It’s like water is flowing into an empty cavern, filling it with life.  The cavern has been dry for a long time.

Mia is wise beyond her years, a kind and genuine soul–which perhaps I was not.  But, like Mia, I was trying to figure things out and doing the best I could.  Figuring things out when you’re 15 years old is not an easy feat.  I gossiped about people.  I talked behind people’s backs.  I went along with teasing a girl for being fat. I cheated on tests. I complained and was ungrateful, and the list goes on.  But, was I really as bad as I’ve been telling myself?  Look, I made this cake.  For my family, as a surprise that made them happy. That is pretty sweet.  That sweetness came from me.

Today, this was an epiphany: I am not an all-bad person.

20190117_223659

Another year

With just two days left of this year, my heart is contemplative and nostalgic.  2018 was a year of change and challenge for me and probably many others in the world.

I wonder what 2019 will bring for the world, for our country, for my family, for myself.  We can never know, and this terrifies me a bit. And then I remember that the best we can do is to surrender to the unknown–to God’s will.

This year the realization of my mortality and the mortality of those I love weighed heavily on my heart. I take with me into 2019 my fear of dying young and of leaving my children motherless–and perhaps will find peace with this fear in the coming year. I also take with me the dreadful knowing that if I do not die young, I will lose my parents someday, and that day looms closer and closer.

The real work of my life seems to be this inner work that I constantly feel driven by.  In recent years, this inner work has been more rewarding than burdensome and I’ve begun to embrace it more. Themes from this year’s inner work that will lead me into the new year: unconditional love, forgiveness of self and others, loyalty, generosity, the courage to be myself.

I am indebted to so many.  I have taken more than I have given in my life so far, or maybe just broken even.  I want to pay it back, pay it forward.  I want to give more than I take.

That said, I am grateful.  Grateful for the hardships and the lessons as well as the many joys.  It is all a part of life, of our common, shared, brief existence on this earth.

Love, peace, and happy new year to all.

xo

A bit of clarity and the gift of broken-ness

Mercury is direct again and with it comes a little more peace and clarity than the previous three weeks delivered.  This is a relief and has me feeling better about life and myself in general.  However, it’s not all figured out yet.  The journey goes on.

Since last night when Mercury went direct, I have been thinking about this: the gift of broken-ness.  I am not sure whether I was whole before I was born, but I think the broken-ness began with birth.  Then, like a ceramic bowl dropped on the floor, I was broken and mended, over and over.  And the cycle continues this way.  My guess is that this holds true for most living beings, too. From our broken-ness, we get to re-create ourselves and our lives. In this, there is a gift, an evolution of the spirit and a deeper awareness of the great mystery of life.

A new cat

I’ve been looking through this blog and am feeling very grateful for it. And to think that I nearly deleted it at one point!  Through this blog, I have somewhat kept track of things over the years.  While I am embarrassed by how revealing I’ve been at times and how much I’ve had to say, it also makes me feel humble and human and compassionate.

Our cat, Phoebe, was hit by a car just before Halloween.  It was shocking and traumatic and I’m still working on getting over it.  Having lost our old cat Jezebel just one year before, it was almost unreal to go through that kind of loss again.  Within 48 hours of having lost Phoebe, we adopted a new cat and eventually named her Shelly, which was the name chosen by one of Mia’s best friends, Gabi.  Shelly came from a farm in Lonsdale, Minnesota and she has had a litter of kittens and is possibly pregnant now.  She fills that void in my heart that only a cat can fill.

Here she is:

20171031_202639

Around the same time that Phoebe died, I received a letter informing me that I’d passed the national licensing exam for marriage and family therapy.  This was a very exciting thing.  This means I am now have the title of LAMFT. After 4000 hours of working with a licensed supervisor, I can take the oral ethics exam and earn independent licensure (LMFT) as a marriage and family therapist.  At the rate I’m going, this will take me about three to four years to achieve.

The job I have now is a very good fit for me and our family.  I am in charge of my own schedule.  The hours are flexible and I can take as many clients as I want, provided that I meet the minimum requirements. I work independently most of the time and spend a lot of time driving around.  I see lots of different towns and go into people’s homes.  I find it interesting and inspiring, and I am really grateful for it.  I love working with people in this way, and am grateful I followed my heart those years ago when I started down this path.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On feeling secure and being loved.

I am in a pretty good and secure place now.  My family has had a long stint of illness  this fall; the girls and Alan have had bronchitis over the last 2 weeks, and I have been well.  It’s been tiring to care for everyone but somehow I’ve managed and have met the demands of school and internship without having any major breakdowns.  I am beginning to think that I am capable of handling this thing called life, even when it throws in the unexpected.

I am also beginning to see how many people have my back.  I have had so much support over the last month, from being cared for when I was sick, to receiving words and gestures of love and support from friends, to my school being super supportive about my absences and letting me make it up, to my internship giving me the space I need to care for myself and my family–and no hard feelings or guilt involved.  I think there was an important lesson for me to learn here:

I am taken care of.  I matter.

I really, really like my work as a therapist at Park Avenue Center.  Now that I am doing individual and couples counseling as an MFT student, and no longer doing the LADC work–I just love it.  I know this is what I am called to do, and it makes me feel settled and secure.  I feel like I am contributing and no longer a burden to the center.  I know how to do a lot of things now.  I love working with the clientele at the center I am at. They need this and they appreciate it so much.  I don’t even have to be good for them to appreciate it; I just have to be present and listen to them.  Which is good, because I am nowhere near being a good therapist–but thankfully I am able to listen and genuinely care, and sometimes that is all they need.

Sometimes I feel self-conscious about this blog and how it’s “all about ME.”  It’s kind of self-absorbed.  And then again, it’s the place I can sort out all of these things I need to sort out so I can figure out my life and myself.  It’s healing and rejuvenating.  I do care a lot about other people, not just about myself.  I also know that I have to know myself and love myself first in order to be my best self.  My blog helps me with that, I guess.

I have been really crabby at home lately.  Really anxious and controlling.  I think it has to do with feeling out of control in many ways, and that my home is a place I can express some form of control.  I want my house neat and clean.  It is soothing to me and allows me to focus.  I wish my family felt the same.  They don’t.  I am still the house manager like I’ve always been, only more crabby and demanding. I’ve also felt confused in my marriage and what is ok to expect and what is not.  This goes back to my “boundaries” work I’ve been doing for a while.  It’s a new layer.  I don’t know what is ok to expect, and what belongs to me and what belongs to him.

The Sandplay training I am working on is going well, and I still feel very drawn to continuing and using it in my future as a therapist.  I think I want to eventually have a private practice with a specialty in healing childhood trauma through the use of Sandplay and other modalities.  That is what gets me excited about my future.  I think I am becoming more drawn to working with children.

Alan and I want to buy a piece of land somewhere in WI or MN.  Private and secluded, somewhere we can have a family getaway and build an off-grid cabin someday.  I think we can actually make it a reality someday soon.  It is really, really exciting and I think about it every day.  We hope it will be quiet, have some water access, either on the land or close by.  We’d like a chunk about 20-40 acres.  Maybe we could even live there someday if it would work for our careers.  We both love the country.  We also want a city close enough, especially one with a co-op so we can get our healthy groceries.  The Superior area is looking rather good right now.

Anna is not super happy about Kindergarten anymore.  We’re trying to talk about it a lot and help her with coping skills, and it seems to be helping somewhat.  We’re encouraging her to make the best of it and remember it is over in 6 months.  After that, I think I’d like to home school her for a year.  We could all use a respite from the craziness of this year.  It sure would be nice.

The other night, Anna wanted to snuggle me in my office chair.  I thought about how it was hard to get the space I needed to do the work.  But how could I resist? Then I picked her up and snuggled her.  She melted into me and I could just feel her love.  I felt how wonderful it was to have this being whom I so deeply love, right there close to my heart, loving me right back–while I do my work.  What a blessing. I love her so much. She is such a gift.

Having children is such a healing experience.  I have been thinking of that since that moment in the office chair.  For those of us who did not feel loved as children, or who felt loved only conditionally, having this unconditional love to give and to receive with our own children is such an incredible gift.  Yes, it is time-consuming and sometimes stressful to have children, and it opens us up and heals us in the most incredible ways, which makes that work and stress melt away.  I am so grateful to be a mother.  It’s such a beautiful thing.  It’s such a beautiful thing to love and be loved unconditionally.