When your kids watch too much Odd Squad and have some time on their hands. Yay summer!
I devote very little time to reading, which means a book needs to come highly recommended in order for me to carve out the time for it. So when my favorite youth minister recommended All the Light We Cannot See, I picked up my copy that I’d bought last summer for a dollar on the best day ever garage sale-ing with friends. Then, 38 pages into the book, I put it down; already I was weepy.
A few weeks later I picked it back up and finished the thing — I read it while the kids watched movies next to me, while they jumped on the trampoline, while they made home movies.
I read about Marie-Laure fleeing to the train station with her father before the Germans arrived while “Oh it’s a good life / It’s gonna be a good, good life” played in the background on Shannon’s stereo, knowing that the fear this imaginary character felt must be close to the same fear people are actually experiencing right now as they flee ISIS and Boko Haram… it was jarring, difficult that these fears are not tucked neatly into a box, relegated to the past; they currently absorb the lives of others and I cannot figure out a tangible way to help them.
And just like the young Werner in All the Light We Cannot See, somewhere young teenage boys are being conscripted into a war, preparing to fight for a people and against a people — maybe neither of whom they know — when those boys know only Survive, all while I sit on my deck in the sunshine and the warm breeze, my children full and safe and happy inside my house.
I cried a lot as I read the book.
Mostly this book is about the beauty of love between family and friends while a monstrous reich overwhelms their lives.
Here are some of the best lines:
“And yet everything radiates tension, as if the city has been built upon the skin of a balloon and someone is inflating it toward the breaking point.”
“In the afternoon, the recruits run. They crawl under obstacles, do push-ups, scale ropes suspended from the ceiling — one hundred children passing sleek and interchangeable in their white uniforms like livestock before the eyes of the examiners.”
“Marie-Laure tries to lie very still. She can almost hear the machinery of her father’s mind churning inside his skull. ‘It will be okay,’ she whispers. Her hand finds his forearm. ‘We will stay here awhile and then we will go back to our apartment and the pinecones will be right where we left them and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea will be on the floor of the key pound where we left it and no one will be in our beds.’
“The distant anthem of the sea. The clopping of someone’s boot heels on cobbles far below. She wants very badly for her father to say, Yes, that’s it absolutely, ma cherie, but he says nothing.”
“He is quiet; so is she. Both ride spirals of memory.”
“There has always been a sliver of panic in him, deeply buried, when it comes to his daughter: a fear that he is no good as a father, that he is doing everything wrong… There is pride, too, though — pride that he has done it alone. That his daughter is so curious, so resilient. There is the humility of being a father to someone so powerful, as if he were a narrow conduit for another, greater thing. That’s how it feels right now, he thinks, kneeling beside her, rinsing her hair: as though his love for his daughter will outstrip the limits of his body. The walls could fall away, even the whole city, and the brightness of that feeling would not wane.”
On our wedding anniversary, the kids and I stood around my phone at the kitchen counter and watched Jim Gaffigan (it’s not exactly safe for kids or work but it’s highly enjoyable) and I thought, Yep, this is exactly how I wanted my life to turn out. And then each time my kids quote, “Aww, give him another fry,” I think it again: this is exactly how I wanted my life to turn out, with my husband and my Gideon and my Mia and my Daphne.
And so, while sometimes after I drop off the kids at school and I drive home to the sound of NPR I miss the exhaustion of raising toddlers, this stage of our life is really good. My kids have grown into people I genuinely want to be around.
Today is the last day of school; Gideon is headed to his first year of middle school, Mia is headed to her last year of elementary school, Daphne is out of kindergarten and headed to learn real things.
If I don’t watch myself, I’ll get weepy over my kids who are not toddlers, who do not need me every second of the day and who at one time believed I hung the moon.
But this morning my son sat at the table to chat with me just because, Mia chatted with me nonstop on our Walmart run last night, Daphne sat on my lap yesterday at school.
My kids are off to new and fun things and I thank God that Shannon I get to be the ones with the front row seat.
A full ten months after we moved into our house we finally painted the bedrooms. This is an improvement over how long it took us to paint the bedrooms in our old house, which was something like six years.
I battled painting for a while. As my husband — who, in my opinion, has too many opinions on the way he wants our house to look — stated: “I just figure the paint that’s already there is doing its job.” He was against painting just for the fact that it didn’t NEED to be done; those walls were already covered in paint and protected from the elements. I worried we were spending money on things that weren’t important. A small but important difference in each of us not wanting to spend the money: one of us was being a cheapskate and the other a guilt-ridden worrywart.
Boy, aren’t you glad I’m blogging again so that you can learn about all my strange peccadilloes that cause me to worry.
(Side story: one time Shannon finished scrolling through my Facebook feed and patted my leg. “So this is why you’re so weird.” And I thought, “Huh. He’s right.” So I went through and un-Liked all the clean eating groups I was following. Soon I will have to un-Like all the Ethical / Slow Fashion groups I am currently researching. But I have more to learn before I do that.)
Back to spending money on paint.
Spending money in the wrong areas is something I worry about quite a bit. In this case, when is my house good enough for my family that I can leave it alone already? One day I was sitting on my couch in my living room and I looked around at all the things I really REALLY liked: the blue lockers turned TV stand; the hanging light from Craigslist; the deer skull Shannon found on his family’s land; the nearly free desk from Craigslist; the pictures of my babies. And this is what I decided: I am going to enjoy them while I have them but I will not grieve over them when they are gone.
From there I thought about the paint I wanted to spend money on and I decided it’s okay; we have a line item in our budget for home improvements, we’re doing this thing once, making our nest personal to my family is not a bad thing. This also means we are doing this thing once. Repainting and refreshing and buying new things before the old thing is worn out is where it gets greedy for me. This is why none of us have oodles of clothes (except for Daphne who has oodles of hand-me-downs from her sister and friends), our cabinets are not overflowing with dishes, we drive old but reliable vehicles until the wheels fall off. New things do not bring joy and I have to remind myself of this often.
Succintly: am I honoring God with the way I spend my money?
I bet you’re feeling better about your own internal struggles and peccadilloes right about now.
So I got the crazy eyes, threatened to hire a painter to get this thing done already, Shannon took a couple days off work, and we fully painted three bedrooms, painted polka dots on the fourth, and Shannon is in the process of painting our outside shutters.
Mia walked into her bedroom and immediately said, “Now it finally feels like a bedroom.”
Oh we should have painted ten months ago.
Mia is happy, I no longer cringe when I walk into our bedroom because of dingy yellow walls, Gideon is sort of indifferent, Daphne loves her polka dots, I love pulling into our driveway and seeing this instead of mauve shutters.
This nest is about where it needs to be and then I can go on to worry about other things.
I got a job.
The five of you who still regularly read this site already know that, but 1) I need to record more of my life on here for the day I actually create some Blurb books; and 2) After that big long blog post, it only honors God by telling how He walked me through all of everything.
After that blog post back in October, my precious college friend Amy texted me and asked me all the questions to force all the answers I had jumbled in my brain.
(Also, I thank God for my friends, for these women who have known me since I was 18 and 25 and 31 and who continue to love me despite me being a huge uneven spazz, who help me to think through all the big things.)
I am a verbal processor. All the processing with my husband and my parents and my sister and my friends, all the going around and around over a part-time job, more big discussions with my husband, praying til it should have annoyed God, and He brought me here: I’m doing hair again.
As soon as I admitted it to myself I told my friends. And on a Saturday night at a friend’s fall party, another friend grabbed her phone and said, “I’m texting Shanna right now. She needs someone else to work in her salon and you need to work there.”
So on Monday I went to Shanna’s salon, accidentally stayed too long and missed my lunch date with Sami (again, I am a huge uneven spazz), and all at once I had a job in the cutest salon in town, with the nicest boss, and as I drove away I thanked God for getting me the job I wanted and for being amazingly patient and gentle with me in all my angst leading up to it. He is so good.
The hardest part about having a job is my lack of time by myself, in my own head. Apparently I — who regularly invite myself over to friends’s houses because I crave friend time, who chose a job in which I could talk to people all day long, who whines when my kids won’t go to the store with me because I don’t like to be alone — need some time without people around. There is a startingly small amount of time to be alone when I’m working, when I’m trying to soak in time with my husband and my children and shuffling children to activities and trying to get all the things done at the house. I haven’t balanced all of it that well, surprise surprise.
This song is still one I blare on the speakers and belt out when I need to get myself right with God. I play this song a lot. 🙂
Stars hide your fires,
And these here are my desires
And I will give them up to you this time around
And so, I’ll be found
with my stake stuck in this ground
Marking the territory of this newly impassioned soul
My desire that I used to give up to God was materialism; and although that is still an urge I sometimes fight, He walked me through it. I realized my desire that I needed to now give up is my desire for alone time; my unmet need for alone time turned into crankiness toward my children, which was incredibly unfair to them and to Shannon.
So God gently pointed out to me how Jesus wanted alone time, too, and His children followed Him around as well. There is a time written about in Matthew 14 when Jesus learned of John the Baptist’s death — His cousin, the man who prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry, who baptized Jesus Himself. And he was dead. So Jesus went to be by Himself, presumably to process the information and maybe grieve in quiet? But the crowds followed Him, and He had compassion on them and healed their sick and then fed the 5,000.
Gentle reminders from my Father that I don’t need as much alone time as I think I need, that I can be compassionate and present with my children, even when I’m tired.
My job is good, God is even better. I am so thankful for Him.