Strangers in the Flight.

To be honest, I just spent the last hour sobbing. It’s a wave that comes over me from time to time. It’s not just a hormonal thing. It is the depth of my soul crying out for all things good and broken too.

“So what part of your trip are you looking forward to the most?” asked my father-in-law.

“Other than seeing my brother… that’s easy, meeting someone new on the airplane. I love meeting strangers and becoming friends.” I replied.

We were headed to visit my brother who was working in Yellowstone. I’d always had a love for talking to Jane Doe and realizing she was my schoolmate’s cousin… or, you know, something like that. I’d always loved how small the world really is. This most certainly came from my parents. I’ve blogged about this before – my parents have more stories of mutual friends they’ve met in various states, piano bars in which they’ve ended up randomly playing, or unlikely dinner companions than anyone I know. I guess it’s in my blood.

So, maybe it shouldn’t shock me as much as it does that we just vacationed with people that we’d only met one time before. For one day. In another country.

Last June, we visited Quebec City. (Let me add that it was all thanks to Jeff’s grandparents who generously lent us a week of their timeshare! Merci beaucoup!!!) It was our first time there and it fueled my love for all things French, all things quaint and charming. On the last day of our stay, we connected with another family staying at the same resort while at the swingset. We were on our way back to Indiana and made one last stop at the basilica in Beaupre, Quebec. We ran into this family again. For whatever reason, we couldn’t stop chatting and the kids couldn’t stop playing. The wife spoke Polish as her native language, then English, then French. While she was fluent in all three, it was comfortable for us to speak French (seeing that it wasn’t her most rapid speak) with one another… thanks to her patience with me.

Well, long story short, we stayed in touch all year. Our kids were all the same ages – almost to the month. We had both chosen homeschooling – after we’d had our kids in the public school first. This entire post could be filled with things we have in common. So, we decided (after that “chance” 1-day encounter) to meet them in Quebec again this year and vacation together. Is that crazy or what?!?

We just got home from our trip. It was nothing short of amazing. Kindred spirits, our families are. We went dancing together, dining together. Swam and cooked together. Sipped wine and swatted mosquitoes together. Pushed our kids on the swings and went grocery shopping together. Talked exclusively French and taught our kids at times and pushed through the heat and fatigue of pushing six young children through Quebec City together. Watched our children bond and then hold each other’s hands together.

It was a true gift to have connected with “strangers” at such a deep level.

And then we had to say goodbye. There were laughs about how often we’d Skype; there were promises to make it back next year; and there were tears upon saying goodbye.

McHusband told me tonight that while he was driving us home and the rest of us were asleep in the car, he felt a suffocating heaviness after saying goodbye to them. He felt, simply put, bleak. We talked tonight of what that goodbye represented. Another summer vacation gone by where we’re saying farewell to the people. We’re saying ciao to those experiences. Mostly, I’m going to go all existential (or maybe Marty McFly???) on you… we’re saying goodbye to that version of us fully knowing that even if we came back to that same place with the same people the next summer, the kids would be a little older. Things would be the same, but very different.

That thought rabbit trailed us on to a deep heaviness tonight. A few hot topics…

- my friend with the damn cancer that has been told that nothing else can be done and the 6 boys she leaves behind
– the thought of our three grandmothers, now widowed, sitting alone most evenings before crawling into bed solo
– our friends who are overwhelmed with moving an ailing parent into their home for full-time care

After all of this, we had the awesome terrible idea to look at pics of the McBabies from last summer’s vacation. I might as well have asked for a tear duct and snot explosion. The ugly cry happened.

“I am 37. If the Lord lets me live until a normal life expectancy, that means I’m almost halfway there. I feel like I can do it.” McHusband said.

I knew exactly what he meant. Sometimes, life just feels so weighty. We’re aware of our own brokenness, the brokenness of the world too. It feels hard to know that this is a lifelong bag to carry.

And so, we did the only thing that we know how to do. We prayed. And then we each told 10 things we were thankful for. And we chuckled at some of them. And God worked in our spirits and psyche somehow. And I feel a little better.

And just to seal the deal, I think I’ll watch something funny before bed.

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Just a little baby.

It could’ve been the wind in my hair or the sound of the waves. It could’ve been fatigue (see yesterday’s post). It could’ve been the excessive amounts of chocolat and biere/vin we’ve had this past week. But, for whatever reasons, watching the people next to us on the ferry boat made me sappy and nostalgic.

McHusband and McBaby #1 & #2 were running around the boat we’d just embarked (to a beautiful little island off of the Charlevoix region’s coast). Because McBaby #3 was taking a long overdue nap, I decided to stay in the car with her. The young couple in the car next to me kept looking at me. I couldn’t figure out if they were just being friendly or what. I kept glancing over and smiling back. Finally, the husband jumped out of the car briefly and I noticed the woman’s familiar pose and gauze-y blanket. This young mother was just finding a convenient place to nurse. I realized they had probably been watching me to see if I was watching them. Been there, done that.

The husband jumped in quickly to check on them, took the little baby and burped and smooched her so lovingly. The baby was covered with a teensy sun hat. The car seat was nice and clean and had cute play things on the handle for baby to look at. It seemed very first-kid-ish. You know, the clean car seat, the right sun protection, the helpful daddy for pass-off.

I feel a little more third-kid-ish wondering if I remembered to feed the baby while hoping that McHubz knows where the other (and their sunscreen/hats/shoes for that matter) are. There is beauty in this too. We are a well-oiled machine in many ways. We know that McHusband is the bath-giver, the trash-taker-out-er, the scary-story-teller. We know that I am the milk-maker, the clothes-packer, the last-bedtime-smooch-giver.

I feel that each season with the kids gets better and better and better, but I got weepy seeing that precious new life and missing my own little forms of my McBabies. I was also moved to tears at the new life that couple was experiencing. They had their own rebirth; the same kind that McHubz and I have had and continue to have. Thank God for this day.

I’ve been thinking about writing a book.

The thought has crossed my mind and people have asked; so this is something I’m working on. This is a very rough draft, but just a concept. Might as well let y’all in and see whatcha think. My aunt would refer to her kids and say “the horns hold the halos up”. I’ve always found that funny and true. As I’ve entered this season of parenthood, I also think it goes for the parents. There are many things that make us saints and sinners. Forgive how snarky this may sound right now… first drafts can be that way…

The Horns Hold the Halos Up

Chapter 1 – Vacation

I watch my kids play in the sand. They’ve successfully built a tower at the playground with two small Poles and a little Scot. As we are on an international trip, no one speaks the same language while simultaneously all speaking the same language. Though my children have had three baths today, there they are in the sand again. I laugh at the thought of this, feeling carefree. It is very Norman Rockwell of me to watch this unfold and feel this way. Then they come asking me to refill their water bottle – the makeshift tool for creating packed sand. That requires me to get up. I envision the getting up which means putting down my book, walking in the condo, dropping sand in said condo, risking waking up the baby, looking at the dishes to be done, permitting the kids to play longer, thinking of the fourth bath that will ensue, the potential meltdown and fight that will probably come, the drink of water that will be needed to quench the thirst that comes when it’s bedtime and, suddenly, I’m angry. It is very Kathy Bates in Misery of me to feel this way.

A friend once told me that there are three types of vacations: (a) vacations with/to see family; (b) vacations with children; and (c) vacations without children. All of them are, indeed, “get-away”s. They are also “go-to”s. In (a), you realize that you may get away from your town and your normal routine and you go to see many other dysfunctional people while sleeping in an either too-hot or too-cold house on a too-hard or too-soft bed while getting too little sleep. In (b), you get away from everyone else but your spouse and children and, again, leave your normal routines and you go to a place where you’re anonymous. This is nice until you realize that you don’t know any babysitters in this newfoundland and being with your kids all day, every day, feels strangely like every other day of your life… all while getting too little sleep. In (c), which happens to be my favorite kind of vacation, you, again, get away from your normal routine, normal responsibilities, and (ab)normal people and you go to a utopia where you remember what it’s like to read a book uninterrupted, take a sh*t undisturbed, and eat a meal without standing/bouncing/rocking through half of it. Fooling yourself, you think you’ll be able to sleep in without tots around and you end up, wait for it… getting too little sleep. You quickly go to a default M.O. of being guilt-ridden as you think of the old ladies at church who remind you that your days with your children will go way too fast and you’ll miss them (the days and the children). You cry because you actually don’t want them to go fast. In fact, you want them to go more slowly but can’t figure out for the life of you how to recalibrate your pace. You just want to know how to concurrently enjoy the little people you adore who are a pain in the @$$ at times.

This is the cycle and this is the tension. Gratitude. Chaos. Frustration. Guilt. Grace. Gratitude… and so on. If you are a hamster on this wheel or a rat in this race, you are not alone. I am here drinking out the same cloudy water sippy-thingy in the corner and standing on the same nasty wood chips that you are. It’s okay to know that the old lady is right and what she says is true but also wanting to tell her to go to h-e-double-hockey-sticks because she has Gramnesia.

Welcome to vacation.

Dexter.

It’s not every day that you hear an elderly black man speaking Mandarin. More specifically, a native Yankee cracking up a group of Chinese tourists.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Niagara Falls. Wow. This is the third time I’ve been, but it still is still magical. McHubz and I loaded up the McBabies, covered them with the cheap ponchos that accompany your ticket to the Maid of the Mist, and got on the boat to head into the center of the ring of falls. McBaby #3 was only slightly interested and was increasingly aggravated at the plastic hood on her poncho. McBaby #2 was curious and aware while simultaneously clinging to our legs or the handrails. McBaby #1 asked why we didn’t bring her bathing suit and promised to try to stay in the shallow end if we’d let her get in. Apparently she was unafraid by the massive amounts of water coming down and the thunderous roar they made.

What we left talking about more than anything though was a man we met on the elevator on the way down to the gorge where the boats departed. His name is Dexter. He is probably in his 60’s. When we got on to ride down to the entry, he greeted everyone (there were probably 20 on each elevator) with a smile and salutation. In our lift was a large group of Chinese tourists chatting amongst themselves. Dexter jumped in speaking in Mandarin and they responded with shock and laugher, then applause as he continued conversing with them. He then spoke Spanish to another gal. On the way back up the elevator, I greeted him in French… my little experiment, I suppose. Of course, he replied in French and continued the conversation.

When asked how he had learned so much, he said with a huge smile that he’d just picked it up while riding up and down chatting and listening to the fine folks on the elevator. He laughed when he spoke. It’s a laugh that will stick with me. I certainly don’t mean to say his job isn’t a great job, but, simply put, his job requires few tasks daily. He takes a group down, then up, then down, then up, then… you get it. He presses perhaps a couple buttons.
As the jazzers say though, “t’aint what you do, it’s the way that you do it.”

Thank you Dexter for the best trip I’ve ever had to Niagara Falls.

Since there is a piano here… I thought I’d add the little ditty. :) I’m in my blogger uniform – geek glasses, knotty bun, and pjs. Forgive me. Here is “T’aint What You Do, It’s the Way that You Do It” on YouTube. below…

PS – if you’d like to join the almost 3,000 others (THANK YOU!!!) that are following this blog, you can just subscribe on the upper right corner area to get an email each week or so when there is a new blog post. Thanks!!

 

 

Stainless Steel

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Here we go. On the inside of my brand new “Sit With Me” CD are some liner notes. On them is an invitation to check out my blog for the stories and experiences behind the songs. I’m not sure if that was a good idea or a bad one. I, for one, love when I get to read about the meaning behind a song or anything the songwriter has to say about it. Second, a bunch of people have asked me to do this.

The downside is that it’s (a) one more way to be vulnerable and (b) it maybe steers the interpretation toward the songwriter’s bent when it could be applied to your own life in a different, or maybe even greater way.

Depending on how risky you are, keep reading. ;)

I decided to start with “Stainless Steel”. Picking which tune to start with feels tricky in and of itself. I’ve chosen this one because I feel like it’s one of the most honest and raw tunes. It seems to fit my blog, I suppose.

I don’t want to point any fingers at anyone with this tune; we all have our sh  crap. At the same time, this is crap that has particularly hurt over the last few years. Simply put, we’ve seen people walk out on their families in various ways. It’s devastating for all involved – the bystanders, the extended families, the spouses, and, mostly, I believe, the children. It’s heartbreaking really.

You’ll hear plenty of house/kitchen references in this song – stainless steel, island, home, handprints of children, painted doors, polished floors, etc. That’s because I felt most hit with this crap while standing in the heart of someone’s home. I know from walking alongside plenty of friends in this season of life, that something new and shiny looks enticing. It looks invincible. It looks independent. In truth, it seems that the stainless appeal wears down; that new place isn’t independent, but lonely; it is a house of cards; and no matter how much you paint and polish, there are knicks that just won’t buff out of the story.

These stories bring me to my knees – desperate to pray and weak with sadness.

“You know that this ain’t home, this ain’t home… this stainless steel.”

May you know your home. May you choose your home.

Greece lightning: To which music do you dance?

As a college student, I traveled with an international program (Tri-S program at Anderson Univ) to various countries. The motto the organization asked us to carry with us on trips was this: “be infinitely flexible.” If you’ve traveled internationally, you know that this is key. (The Greek key in this case… wocka wocka…) It unlocks an ability to relax with logistical changes (which are inevitable), willingness to try new foods and truly experience the culture, and, mostly, to possess a pliable heart.

So, I left Noblesville on Sunday morning right on time – 6:30am. No stranger to bribing my children for their timely obedience, I really should’ve given myself a treat. (Actually, I couldn’t because I’ve already swiped all of the chocolate out of their Easter baskets.) We stopped by my parents’ house, which was right on the way to the airport and gave smooches and prayed together. Then we (McHusband, all of the McBabies, and myself) drove to the airport. I tried not to take it personally that my kids were so eager to stay at their grandparents that they were reticent to come with me to the airport. On my way there, I texted my travel companion and said “see you soon!”

She said, “We are boarding first class.” My first thought was – Cool! We got bumped up to first class?!? No, no. She meant that our flight was actually boarding first class already and leaving in 30 minutes. “What?!?”

I had checked my itinerary multiple times – 9:55am departure. While I did see a list go out a few days before with the list of people leaving from Indy– and my name was on it – I did not know that we all had the same itinerary. So, I reviewed my own itinerary and figured I’d be meeting up in New York. I had not received the standard text from Delta or the email or anything stating that the time had changed. This is, I believe, the 21st country I’ve visited – this ain’t my first rodeo. Yet, still, I knew something had gone awry.

Sure enough, I got online and saw that I had missed my flight. Bleepity bleep bleep. $%@&. I started to feel my default panic mode begin and then I told panic to get thee behind me as the Lord had gone before me.

I spoke with the scrooge helpful lady at the Delta counter and showed her my itinerary. Of course she said that my flight had been changed and had just left. Then she searched and searched and said that she wouldn’t be able to get me to New York until the next day due to the very full flights. I can’t say that I always – or even normally – pray this way, but I knew with all of my heart and soul that God wanted me on this trip. I prayed that the Lord would work out the details right away, right on the spot and alert this stoic kind woman to a helpful solution. I asked her where things stood. She said that she could get me to La Guardia airport where I’d pick up my luggage and I could then figure out transportation over to JFK.

Great news. So, I had about 15 minutes to get down to my gate to make that first plane. It was no problem on a Sunday morning in Indy. Normally a terrible airline passenger, I was completely at peace. I got to La Guardia and opted for a van shuttle to JFK. Because I had my luggage in tow, I had to go through ticketing and security again at a very busy airport, but whaddya know? I ended up beating everyone there by 2 hours.

I had time to get my magazine. My baby sis had given me money to buy magazines before my flights knowing it was one of my favorite my simple pleasures. I had time to eat, just sit alone, and think about the trip on the forefront.

Fast forward… met beautiful Greek people with whom I sat on the way to Rome, had 2 more flights, a shuttle, and then we were finally at the hotel in Thessaloniki in the late afternoon. Opa!

 

We forced ourselves to stay awake though we’d been awake since 5am the day before. Oh, the exhaustion. It’s just part of international travel.

 

I could go on and on and on about flexibility, but I just want to give you the context of getting to this beautiful place.

 

There are plenty of things that I could write about even in the one day that we’ve had here, but I want to focus on Philippi and, more specifically, the place where it’s believed that Paul was imprisoned.

 

About a year and a half ago, I posted a video on You Tube and on my FB page of my precious McBaby #2 at age 3 reciting the story of Paul and Silas in jail from his children’s bible. He had memorized 4 pages worth of the story and loved to “read” it to us. He has always had a love for Scripture, even in these early years. He would tell the story with such enthusiasm. “They sang so loudly that the chains fell off!”

 

Isn’t this the way it is? When we worship, when we surrender, when we call out to the Lord, when we yield to His presence, when we come open-handed, the chains fall off! We are free! We march to and sing our songs of freedom!!!

 

Today we visited the tomb of Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great. While there, we saw remnants of burial items in glass cases. They’ve been preserved from the early 300s! One of these items was an ivory carving of Pan. Pan was believed to be the Roman god and demon – half man, half goat – that would cast fear over enemies in war. His presence in a tomb accompanied the shield and weaponry that would be with a king. This name tells us the root for our word panic.

 

I spoke of panic earlier. And the absence of it. Perhaps it can be considered the opposite of freedom in many ways.

 

Seeing the place where Paul was imprisoned, where he was shackled and bound, was unbelievable. To put this story in a tangible, historical context and see the spot where the gospel was fleshed out was incredibly powerful.

 

We all must choose the rhythm to which we march. Pan’s flute can be intoxicating, but those of us who worship God know that He will bring even earthquakes to break our shackles and set us free.

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“I survived the Indiana Snowpocalypse” or “The post about the mother who left and moved to Tahiti” or “We just had our Christmas this week and other reasons I’ve already failed 2014”

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  Ok, so maybe that’s a little overdramatic. Snowed in.  Thank the Lord that we have power, heat, and food to eat.  I realize this is a very dangerous time for many folks, so I don’t want to take that lightly. Still…

The week started out with a very “Little House on the Prairie” feel.  I imagined us reading “Anne of Green Gables” by the fireplace, playing the piano and violin – potential virtuosos by week’s end, and cooking doubles and triples of recipes in hopes to have a freezer full of prepared meals.

We did have our moments of glory (talks of giving and receiving and playing Charades, piano, Scrabble, Guess Who,  and snowball fights before the arctic temps, etc.)…

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Thankfully, McHusband’s school was cancelled for 5 days straight – something I can never remember happening since we’ve been married.  That, of course, brought out new challenges for the McBabies – ones that mostly revolved around them pitting us against each other.  While McHusband enjoyed the domestic duties that come with the home turf (not that he doesn’t do a ton around here all the time), he began, with this extra time home, to tangent into fantasies of watercress soups, natural yeast extracts, new organization systems, clean closets, and other impossibilities scenarios with which to keep up.  He whistles while he works and says things like “isn’t it so beautiful today?”

By day four though, Martha Stewart (McHusband) was being met with Martha Stewing & Brewing (me).  I was sick of recipes and cleaning up.  That’s my job every other day.  I was having fantasies of crafting, organizing my pictures on my hard drive, and even going to the bathroom alone long hot baths.  While I was feeding the McBabies their second breakfast, McHusband asked what I thought it would be fun to prepare together for dinner.

“Seriously?” I asked.  Then I continued, “We haven’t even mopped up breakfast yet! I’m sick of this.” It could’ve been my tone, it could’ve been the fact that I looked like I hadn’t been out of the house in 4 days (because I hadn’t), or it could’ve been the way I was wiping down the farmhouse table with a belt-sander-like effect, but he responded with “I feel a blog post coming on.”  “Yes”, I continued, “The day I left this family and moved to Tahiti. Alone.”

The truth is that I love my family.

The truth is that I need to get out of this place with them.  Sometimes even without them.

The truth is that “Anne of Green Gables” is one of my favorite stories.

The truth is that McBaby #1 thinks it’s dumb and boring right now.

The truth is that we got out the Chopin and it was beautiful for 4 minutes.

The truth is that we adults are both rusty and added with McBaby #1’s violin, McBaby #2’s drum set, and McBaby #3’s sitting on our lap and banging, it is, well, no longer Chopin.

The truth is that it’s natural to get cabin fever.

The truth is that McBaby #3 actually has a fever.

The truth is that we’re 5 days “ahead” in our homeschool schedule.

The truth is that we were a month “behind” before that.

The truth is that we celebrated Christmas all over this country and loved seeing our extended family.

The truth is that we didn’t have our own Christmas with the 5 of us until this week and that meant explanation on top of explanation of why we weren’t having Christmas yet.

The truth is that we don’t really “believe” in Santa around here.

The truth is that when you want your kids to clean crap up, you throw all convictions out the window (that is, if you could freaking unfreeze it) and tell them “Santa” is watching, won’t come if they don’t get in their beds, and you threaten with the naughty list.

The truth is that I succeeded at many things this week.

The truth is that I failed many others too.

The truth is that we are grateful for all of the beautiful gifts and times together this season.

The truth is that it has taken an entire week to put away the gifts because putting away the gifts means cleaning out the play area shelves which means going through the giveaway pile which means cleaning out the garage which means rearranging the whole house which means cleaning underneath everything which means I need to move to Tahiti. Alone.

If you have survived the IN Snowpocalypse, cheers.  You deserve a strong drink or even a Starbucks.  In 10 years when you’re missing all of the afore-mentioned things, enjoy it.