Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Weeds

Cim took this picture. She's been having fun with my camera.

Today Cim and I helped my mom pull weeds from some overgrown flowerbeds. My memories of weeding hark back to trudging out at 6:00 a.m. as a child to go hoe between the corn and scrabble with dirty fingernails at the pesky weeds around the green beans before it got too hot and muggy. It's funny how something you hate so much when you have to do it can be enjoyable when it's a breezy spring day and you can stop whenever you feel like it.

Today, as I tugged at clumps of tiny purple flowers, I remembered being about five years old, and being stunned to hear my dad call the Morning Glory flowers "weeds." They were beautiful, and suctioned so nicely to your nose when you inhaled deeply; I didn't understand how they could be weeds.

I had not yet learned that anything growing where it should not steals nutrients and space from things that matter more. The minuscule purple flowers I was pulling at today were weeds not because they weren't pretty, but because they didn't belong, and they were taking over.

My mind fixated on that as I heaped my pulled weeds into a pile beside the flower bed. What are the flowers in my life that are actually weeds? The things that are pretty, and good, but not the best?

It's dangerous for me to ask introspective questions, sometimes, because I just might find answers. Today, my answers were things like this:

  • Reaching the end of the day with "exercise" marked on my goal chart but not "study my scriptures."
  • Making time to study Italian but not to read a book to my daughters.
  • Staying up researching housing options instead of going to bed early enough that I can get enough sleep.
Good, better, best--so often it's about perspective, the constant struggle to hold on to the perspective which will keep me on track with my long-term and eternal goals. Figuring out what are flowers and what are weeds. Having the determination to pull out the weeds even if they're pretty, because I can put something better in their place. And then following through and planting better flowers, or crops, in the space which has been freed.

Tonight I replaced my impulse to scroll through Facebook with writing this blog post. Picking weeds.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bed-Time Stories

Cim "crocheting a hat for Cousin Zoe" with two pieces of grass.

Lately Cim has decided she wants stories at night instead of songs. I've started telling her micro-stories, 1.5-2 minute stories which are made up on the spot, usually about animals. It's been a great boost for my creativity, and we've both been enjoying it. Lately she's begun helping me, and sometimes telling her own. Here are a couple of examples.

Me: "And then the little ballerina--"
Cim: "Jumped out of the water like a HIPPO . . . no . . . a dolphin."

Cim: "Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a mommy who told me to go to the temple. Once upon a time there was a little boy who wasn't afraid of scary monsters. Once upon a time there was a little boy, and he wasn't afraid of scary mommies. Once upon a time there was a little boy who wasn't afraid of monsters, or mom mom mom mom mom mom moms, or grandmamas, or grandpapas, or daddies, or monsters. Once upon a time, the end."






Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Happy With Motherhood


At lunch yesterday, over PB&J, I spent two solid minutes mooing with my one year old. She moos very fervently, with a guttural, punching beginning sound going into a sustained, airy "oooooooo" at the end.

I've had my share of struggles with motherhood. There are many days where I just want to get away from these adorable little crazies. Days where I had two children under age two, and envied my husband, though he was going to a job that he hated, just because he got to get out of the house. Days where I would finally see an adult face and I would jabber incessantly, horrified with myself but feeling unable to stop talking simply because I was so deprived of adult interaction.

I had postpartum depression after Cim was born, and over the last year and a half I've battled through several rounds of depression brought on largely by my husband's stressful and abusive work situation which, among other things, caused him to be gone for 14-16 hours a day for most of the last two years, and to be very mentally and emotionally run down. On top of that, I have a daughter who is just now starting to ALMOST sleep through the night at 15 months old, and lack of sleep wears me down faster than anything else.

But as I sit here now, with Cim purposefully dribbling grape juice down her shirt and Mari waving crayons and squawking like a pterodactyl; as I marched in circles around the driveway yesterday singing "The Ants Go Marching" and "Found a Peanut" with Cim; I realize I not only know this is where I'm supposed to be, I'm happy with it.

(And I decided I'd better write about it so that the next time I'm struggling I can read this and remember, haha.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Chasing Butterflies


This morning is chilly and gray. I gear up for a day stuck inside with the two girls--breaking out the crayons early--but, to my surprise and our communal delight, the sun appears and we escape the house.

I open the door, and my girls rush out, Mari pausing to go backward down the step from the door to the porch, and again from the porch to the walk.

"Chase my shadow, Mommy," Cim hollers immediately, beginning her new favorite game. Leaving Mari cackling and waving her arms behind us, we take off down the driveway and run back and forth, taking turns jumping on each other's shadow.

Mari runs in haphazard zigzags, sometimes in the grass, sometimes on the asphalt of the driveway. She examines sticks, rocks, dandelions, and purple clover, pausing only briefly with each before running on to the next new thing. That's how she's lived since she began crawling at 5.5 months old.

As I tire and begin to slow, I notice small white butterflies flitting about the fields surrounding the house. "Look," I say, holding Cim still with one hand and pointing with the other.

"Butterflies! I can catch them!"

And she's off.

Mari and I tag along, sort of. Mari staggers over the bumpy ground of the field that has not yet been plowed for soybeans or hay. She's in no hurry, at times plopping down unceremoniously to study a clump of grass, or just to whine for a moment and get a hug before wading through more of the grass clumps that come past her knees.

Cim is off in the distance, her magenta "dancing skirt" flapping as she runs, her black shirt contrasting with the  glow of her blond hair in the sun. She runs back and forth, chasing first this butterfly, now that one, laughing and shrieking, and not caring at all that I'm a small figure in the distance.

How easy it is for her to leave me behind, my mind whispers. How easy it is to go from one butterfly to the next, never looking back.

My mind hints that there's a metaphor there; something about chasing insubstantial things and not realizing we've strayed from the path; or, on the other hand, something about how a goal, even one that may change before we get there, can help us travel farther than we ever would have dared otherwise.

But today, she's small, and so far from those important life decisions for which a metaphor might be useful; as for me, my mind is fuzzy with warmth and light. It's spring. Summer and fall will come soon enough. I'm not going to question it today. Today I'm going to chase butterflies.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Craving Language

(My current desktop background, to remind me of my goal to learn Italian. Not sure who gets credit for the original pic.)

My youngest brother got his mission call last week. For those of you who aren't familiar with these, it's a letter that tells him where he will be living and serving as a missionary for two years. As part of the preliminary paperwork you tell them what languages you have experience with, or if there's a particular area you're interested in, but the call is a complete surprise and will often have nothing to do with what you've studied.

Nate is going to be serving in Tokyo, Japan. As he read those words aloud, I watched via webcam as he grinned, laughed, shouted in Japanese, and fought back tears. Nate has studied Japanese for three years--two in high school, one in college--and he has dreamed of going to Japan for even longer.

I was overjoyed for him, but in the back of my mind, I had a sudden realization: By the time he comes home from Japan, I will be the only one of my siblings not fluent in a foreign language. My older brother speaks Portuguese, thanks to being a missionary in Brazil. The next brother went to Denmark and speaks wonderful Danish. Now Nate is going to Japan. On top of that, my husband currently speaks about 4.5 languages.

Long after hanging up with Nate, I continued to be bothered by this thought of being the only one who couldn't speak another language. Part of my frustration came from the fact that I've done more formal language study than any of my brothers had before their missions; I studied Chinese for 3.5 years, one and a half of that in college and the other two a very difficult high school home-study course from a university, and I took two years of college Spanish. I studied 20 hours a week for Spanish 101--practically a part-time job--so it wasn't like I was just coasting through the classes, either. I wholeheartedly wanted to learn the languages. And then, just this year, I started studying Italian.

But my last Spanish class was 3 years ago, and while I still understand a fair amount of Spanish, I can't even form simple sentences anymore. It's been 4.5 years since I wanted anything to do with Chinese (ask me about my trip to China sometime when you have 2 hours or more to hear the story), and only recently have I been starting to pick up the pieces of that one, only to find I don't know what to do with those pieces anymore. Meanwhile, my Italian thus far consists of phrases like "Mangio il cioccolato," or "I eat the chocolate."

As I started to write in my journal about what I was feeling, I made a discovery. I wrote,

"I know that spiritual growth is the most valuable part of serving a mission, but I've never envied that, because I feel the Lord can give me that in other ways; but ever since I realized I would not serve a mission before getting married (I felt that long before I even met Ryan), I've envied those who get to serve foreign-speaking missions."

Even as I continued writing in that angsty, frustrated vein--venting my continued frustration over the dreams that were shattered during our trip to China, and berating myself for beginning multiple languages but never studying them long enough to be good for anything--I felt a small, quiet voice in my mind say, "If God can give you the spiritual growth without the mission, why can't he give you languages?"

That little thought stuck with me long after my tears and ink had both dried on the page. I had set goals the week before, some of which regarded language study; and though as I was writing that journal entry I came very close to crossing them right off my goal sheet, that little voice told me to work harder. I decided I could study Chinese and Italian, just as I once studied Chinese and Spanish simultaneously in college. I felt that it was okay if I wasn't fluent in them right away, but that I would be a better person for having worked on them. I felt that if I was consistent, eventually I would have opportunities to use languages to serve, and also the chance to simply enjoy knowing and using a second language.

I began praying for help with my goal to study languages, and suddenly, the 15 minutes a day that I had pledged to do on my goal sheet became an hour or more. My car trips are now filled with podcasts in Chinese and Italian, and my two-year-old suddenly stopped yelling at me for the duration of every car trip. My spare moments are now spent learning new Italian vocabulary instead of surfing on Facebook. I find myself repeating Chinese words and phrases in my head that I know I once learned but now can't remember the meaning for. I've started listening to conference talks in other languages while exercising.

I may not emerge two years from now fluent in a language, as my little brother will. But I'm learning. And more importantly, my heart is at peace. My time will come.