Land Line

there comes an age where boys decide to start calling you. in that time for me there was nary a cell phone and your only option was a home phone. in my house, where i was the youngest of five children, this meant that you had a bad chance of actually answering the phone. lucky for me, my dad did the tryouts and made drastic cuts before any of them ever got to talk to me.

young male whipper-snapper: doot doot doot doot doot doot doot (dials my #)

dad: hello?

ymws: hello may i speak to christin?

dad: who is speaking?

ymws: patrick.

dad: hello, patrick. how are you?

ymws: good. thank you.

now here is the fun part because at this point my dad would stay on the phone. the young male whipper-snapper would sit patiently, assuming my father had gone to get me to come to the phone. if only there had at least been hold music on the land lines in this era, ymws may have had a clue. 

[silence]

[more silence]

[i promise you this could go on for the length of entire sitcoms]

[oh my word this could very well last until i perish and become part of my obituary]

ymws: hello?

dad: patrick, aren’t you going to ask me how i am?

ymws: excuse me sir?

dad: i asked you how you were and i was glad to hear it. aren’t you wondering how i’m doing?

ymws: oh yes how are you mr. mcgovern?

dad: i’m doing well thank you for asking. let me go get christin.

everyone that knew our family knew that if you called and especially if you picked one of the mcgovern ladies up that you weren’t even coming close if you didn’t ask my dad how he was doing. for years of my life my father would not fetch his daughters for someone who didn’t have the wisdom to inquire as to how those around him were doing.

one of the most beloved memories of my youth was after graduation when all of our friends and classmates were celebrating that we had made it through high school and were off to span the country in our future pursuits. every single one of my guys friends came over and said “well hello mr. mcgovern how are you?”.

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i like to think that my dad was training them for more than how to get to talk with his daughters. i like to think that he was teaching them to look up from their pursuits, whatever they may be, and see the people around them. one thing i learned in these 40 years of mine is to look up and see those around me. and also to run really fast to get the phone if someone you really wanted to talk to said they were going to call.

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Girl, Sing!

back in high school, while  listening to U2 in my boyfriend’s jeep and singing along (as we were prone to do) he asked me not to sing. i don’t remember the circumstances, i know there were no cell phones so it couldn’t be because he needed to grab a call. i think the intricate details were that my voice just wasn’t as good as his and he was bothered by it. img_2705-1

i didn’t sing out loud for years. it was embarrassing in the moment for sure, but hindsight being 20/20 and all, i believe that i took that seed, that idea that my voice made people want to stop hearing it, and tended it. after that i would open my mouth and lip sync rather than risk being heard and asked again to choose silence.

with turning forty and trying to pass along what i’ve learned in the years i’ve been given, i realize that the most important lesson is that you will hear a lot along the journey- good, bad and ugly- and the wisest is she who can discern which voices to let in. which words to plant in her heart and soul, and which to allow to float on the breeze from which it came.

it is okay to want someone to stop singing. good lawd we have three boisterous ladies we are trying to raise here and a solid majority of them are convinced that they should be pop stars so i have for sure asked people to take a breather on the vocal gymnastics. the crime wasn’t in the request, but instead in what i allowed that request to do to me.

i’m getting old. things i said i would never do i have done (nothing like kill somebody- just like leaning over to put my bra on). what i have learned is this: nobody is as harsh with me as i am with myself. sometimes protecting myself from a bully looks a lot like sticking up for myself against, well… myself.

i am not going to go audition for “the voice”, but i am going to sing because i love music something fierce. i am going to play my guitar and sing a little ditty because i can and it makes me smile and how else am i going to get my kids to eat their “no thank you bites” of the nasty food i slave over unless i make a catchy jingle about healthy food and how strong and awesome are those that partake of it.

every day you will get to choose whether you mold yourself into who the person you are with wants you to be or who you really are. my hope and prayer for you is that you choose each and every day to be more authentically yourself so that when someone asks you to be less “you”, you are able to giggle at the preposterous nature of the request and carry on. learn the bless your heart smile/ head tilt combo and bless them right on out of the role of a voice that sticks.

 

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The Final Countdown

there are ten days till i turn 40 and i thought we could count down these final days of the thirties together with some of the biggest life lessons i’ve got and that way we can all feel like me getting old has been somewhat worth it. shall we? germanbabe

last saturday we prepared the house for the Christmas tree. as i sat and looked at the living room with everything in a different place to prepare for my beautifully lit arbor delight with memories and tiny handmade crafts hanging from its branches, i realized this preparing of a room was much like the “prepare him room” that is spoken of in the song joy to the world.

this will be lesson one. when i was younger i believed in my heart of hearts that if i hustled and was wise in my pursuits that there was a way that i could in fact pull it off. all of it. with i’s dotted and t’s crossed i could leap into the great open fields called future and make my mark. after living through the thirties, let me tell you i have no such delusions any longer. i may have been able to do a demanding job well and keep friendships afloat on the river of awesome while simultaneously connecting with friends and family far and wide. but that ship has sailed, my friend. and let’s be honest: if you are not okay seeing me in comfy cozy soft pants then you will probably never see me again post 8pm.

i have limits and they get more pronounced the older i get like someone has picked all of my “area for improvements” in the document of my life and has put them all in bold italics. but with older comes wiser in this respect. i no longer hope to hide my limitations and “fake it till i make it.” i hope to instead be honest about what does and doesn’t fit.

yesterday i took out a long table with drawers as well as the huge leather chair from my living room. in years passed we have stuffed the drawers back where my kids get their jackets and left the chair there and just kind of squeezed it all in. yesterday we put them in the basement. some things in your life need to be moved to the basement. things that don’t fit with your current pursuits or life decor. as we close out this calendar year and i close out my thirties let’s take a moment to look around the room called life and identify the things that are simply ushering clutter into our rooms and minds and be brave enough to put it away. whether it be for a season or for good, there is simply not room for all that you wish to be a part of and all that you currently are a part of and that is okay. sometimes choosing brings clarity and peace.

some things need to simply be put in a different spot. i need to be active and move my body for many reasons. one is my undying love for chocolate and the other is that i sleep better if i have worked out and i am for sure a better mom if i have taken care of my body in the day. last year i worked out mon, wed, fri and there was much rejoicing. this year has been a total struggle and i can’t make it to any of the classes i had grown to love. luckily my scale broke at the same time so we could just kind of remember that i didn’t work out for years and settle into being lethargic, but it turns out it just needed a new battery and now we are making the space to be healthy and wise and finding that things can be moved around to make space for a priority.

the last thing that needed to be done was to gaze. after getting our tree we dolled it up with lights and ornaments and it is really quite lovely. it would be bat-poop-crazy if i never went into that room and sat for a moment and gazed at the splendor. to work to pick just the right tree, unpack all of the lovely ornaments, adorn it as best we are able, and then to pretend it wasn’t there would be crazypants. there are many things in life that we work hard for, labor intensely for, and then once they are checked off we gaze upon them no more. in my forties i hope that i gaze and delight in the things i have fought for.

let every heart prepare him room. i don’t know you. well, i know some of you, but i am not up in your biznazz. i do know this: i cannot claim to be following someone i never look at. otherwise how on earth would i know i was on the right path? one of the most important things i’ve gained from my thirties is the awareness that making room for God has been life-giving and increased the number of people fighting for love by one number. it can be so paralyzing to see people who claim to follow the one called love while spewing hate, but this decade has taught me that i cannot change their teams’ numbers, but i can change mine. make room in your life for what is most important and watch love begin to win.

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Bow You Didn’t

molly corin and hazel both take violin at their school (i know- rad, right?). MC had a problem with her violin bow as all of the hairs were coming loose so i drove to the rental store with the jacked-up bow and shared that we pay for the insurance coverage that covers any possible damage (or so it was sold to me). the clerk responded that the hairs on the bow are not covered, that if my kid would have snapped the bow in two they would replace the bow free of charge but today i would have to purchase a new bow. at this point i do not make a stink, but mentally store away what a stupid policy this is and pay the $20 to get a new bow. the order is placed and we await the brand spankin’ new fabulous bow of wonder.

this store is not close to my home, so when they called to say it was ready i should have made sure they weren’t going to suck precious moments of my life from my hands, but instead i took them at their word and went in. “nope, we shouldn’t have called you because the bow is nowhere to be found.” awesome. sweet. thanks. several days later, when it comes in i rally all three kids in the car to pick up the bow. after school the following day mc informs me they ordered a too-small bow and we will have to go back. somebody insert some wine and chocolate at this part of the story because that would require two trips: one back to alert them to the problem where they would hopefully order the right size and then another to pick up. i didn’t do such a good job with the ol’ boundaries and so i sat on it and waited and the jacked-up bow got worse.

fast forward to earlier this week: i went to the store with jacked-up bow and tiny bow and explained that jacked-up bow is no longer functional and that we would like to return tiny bow (which was never played or even rosined) and kindly get the right-sized bow. at which point the nice gentlemen tells me i cannot return the brand-new, unused, tiny bow but will need to purchase a new bow. i explain quite calmly and kindly that it was not my mistake that brought us to the incorrect bow size and while i will gladly own that i didn’t come in quickly, i will not absorb the cost for their mistake. we go back and forth and he explains the policy. they will not accept the bow they wrongly ordered (tiny bow), and if the jacked-up bow were broken in half it would be covered by the insurance, but as it is with the hairs falling out i would be responsible for buying the correct size bow.

and this is when i turn and there is a mirror magically to the side of me and i start to hear eminem’s song from 8 mile. i had gone to the gym that day so i was able to pull up my hoodie and explain that if i wanted to i could go into the parking lot and snap this bow that has the strings coming off in half and he would have to give me the right-sized bow. he says yes in theory that is correct. and laughs at me. mmmm, okay let’s give him the benefit of he has never met me before and does not know that he took the only two hours i had free on the last of day of a week with my hubby out of town. and then let’s calmly walk out of the store because we are all mature adults. “have a nice day” he says with a wee little giggle that only leprechauns and fairies can hear because it was that tiny.

i walked out to the door to a team of moms wearing capes and jumping up and down to a beat that i had never heard before. walking to the car beyonce gave me a high five and oprah told me to look under the seat in our minivan because everybody was going home with a free can of “oh no you didn’t”. then this boxing ring appeared out of nowhere and tina fey was squirting water in my mouth and amy poehler put a towel around my neck and started yelling at me, but the good kind of yell the one that makes you wanna get up and break something… but what could i possibly break in this random parking lot in Cary, NC?

as i opened the violin case i heard a layer of classical music layered as only the most masterful dj could on top of eminem’s words…

Look
If you had
One shot
Or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
In one moment
Would you capture it
Or just let it slip09

i stepped on the bow and let it ricochet like my hopes and dreams of sipping a warm beverage while collecting my thoughts during this last break from the kids. eminem gives me the nod he knew i had it in me. Beyonce, Oprah, Tina and Amy lift me up on their shoulders and carry me back to the entrance of the rental establishment. i have flashbacks to all the women who have gone before and as they dance across my thought reel I give them each the nod i have just learned from eminem. the dust settles. i take a deep breath– you know the one right after you do something hard that needed to be done but where there is one more moment of courage before the deal is done. Holding the remains of the shattered bow, i walked back in and said i have a broken bow that needs replacing, but it’s okay…

 

i have the insurance.

 

 

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Ante Up

it was just an email. it didn’t mean to make me reevaluate my entire life and the decisions before me. it was just meant to say “hey that year of this domain you paid for is up and we need another $13 to keep it going there missy”. but what i heard was something very different. img_2475

i heard “you don’t do enough with this website to make it worth it.” “you spend time and money on something that doesn’t seem to be making much of a difference for you or those popping in.” “wish you would’ve found that thing that your life was meant to be poured out for.”

let me go back… when i was little my dad had a plastic bucket that he threw his pennies in. it was deep and full of coppery goodness. this was not a bucket to be counted and sorted, placed in sleeves, and taken to the local hardware store. this was our poker money. he would pull out the bucket and the deck of cards and teach us the game and the adventure that is the game of family poker. each of us received a handful of pennies and we were told to ante up. i really cherished these sporadic times of togetherness and learning the art of the bluff. it took wisdom to assess both your hand and that of your opponent, how to calculate risk versus payoff and when to risk it all. but the lesson that was most applicable to normal life was the call to ante up.

in life we are good at calculating risk. we are good at assessing the hand we have been dealt and comparing it with the hand that those around us hold. but the part that seems to be the most elementary is that part i am struggling with here as i approach 40. can i throw in my initial penny to get a place at the table, having no knowledge of my chances or the chances of success for those around me? this year i am going to focus on throwing my penny in. of taking my seat at the tables that i want to participate in and saving my penny when it’s a table i don’t need to pull a chair up to.

as you may have guessed by the fact that you are reading anything at all i invested my whopping $13 to renew my claim on this domain name and have invested in a seat at the table. i have become increasingly aware in this past year that i love to teach, i love to write and that i love to walk the road with people and rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. so here’s my investment. where do you need to throw your penny in?

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Broken In Two

i was having a day. the kind of day that makes people tilt their head to the side and without a word hand you the wine out of their grocery carts upon realizing you are in the toddler years. with this toddler, no suggestion was acceptable. the mere mention of two options to choose from elicited screams of NOOOOOOOO and arms crossed and loud stomping in the customary hello kitty rainboots that anyone with keen fashion sense would pick on a 94 degree day. we had had a day and neither of us were singing it’s praises nor each others. we needed to retreat to our respective corners and have someone squirt water into our mouths and put a towel around our shoulders before heading into the next round.

we are potty training currently, which i cannot for the life of me figure out why the government hasn’t adopted as a legitimate interrogation technique (you won’t talk huh? well here’s your two-year old to potty train knock on the glass when you’re ready to talk), and so the flailing and emotional breakdowns are blooming like spring flowers after a thorough rain. after sitting her on the potty she began to flail and then go limp followed by stiff and throw her arms at any surrounding objects and that was when the bowl broke. this bowl, made in the pottery class my mother and i took, shot across the bathroom counter and flew into the sink splitting in two. and i just grabbed my mouth and started weeping. there were really only two substantial pieces that came out of that pottery experience- my lovely bowl and a tiny little cup that i intended to be a pot for a plant but kept getting smaller and smaller as i messed it up. after serving years as a guitar pick holder it is currently holding q-tips- like 10 of them.IMG_6886

when she saw me upset she said “awwwwwww i break your bowl?” and i said yes she broke my bowl to which she replied “mommy’s sad”. now look, i have spent at the veryleast 9 years making rainbows out of compost piles. your necklace broke shazaaaam now you’ve got two fabulous bracelets! Someone was super-rude today at school and hurt your feelings? here’s your favorite dinner ever; what a fabulous turn of events! you lost your very favorite rock? let’s take out the paints and dress up these other rocks and then send them out to find your lost friend! as a mom your heart breaks when theirs does and you can’t make everything better, but you can make some stuff better and so you give it your all.

the important lesson i am trying to impart on my lovely tiny humans in this particular season is that sometimes the only thing you can do is be with people. so i told nora may yes mommy is sad because i really liked that bowl and the memories it brought up to see it in the bathroom. she said “awwwww… momma…i sorry i broke your bowl.” and i said i forgave her and knew she didn’t mean to and that it was an accident but it was sad and i would love a hug to help me feel better. she gave a good snuggle and we read some books and headed to nap.

when you major in turning frowns upside down or bringing cheer where there is sadness it becomes a bit jarring for you yourself to walk through the hard. can i cry here at my broken bowl or am i supposed to smash it to pieces in order to make a mosaic and write some fabulous poetry about the beauty that results from being broken? well, the answer to that may change based on the day, but on this particular day i needed to cry a good round of tears out of my personal inventory and know that i can still cherish the time spent with my mom in the class and that i didn’t ruin every piece attempted and let it rest.

IMG_6887today i am going to attempt to glue the bowl. things break. bowls. people. relationships. and you are left mourning the beauty that you once enjoyed but sometimes the reality is that you need to piece back together what was broken. my bowl will not look as it once did and it will not be proof that i can make something beautiful out of pottery but instead it will be a sign that all is not lost and the new bowl can still remind me that a new beauty is always waiting to be realized.

where is your bowl today? if it broke in two and you need to weep a bit and mourn the loss then grab you some tissues and settle in. give yourself room to be sad and let someone you love in, sharing that you may need a snuggle post-tear/snotfest. or, are you holding a hammer? does this memory and experience need to be totally rediscovered in a new form? then put on your safety goggles and loud music and bust that junk up. don’t try to plan what will result, just bang away knowing that season of that bowl has passed and there can be incredible beauty in it’s new form. don’t rush the process. maybe today is smashing day and you will sit with the pieces for quite some time before recreating it. grab your gloves and smash away. when you have sat with the sadness or the pieces of what once was long enough then grab some glue and piece by piece my brave soul begin to make something remarkable. it may never be what it was, but maybe we are done with what it was and need to begin to enjoy what it will be.

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Just Keep Swimming

this week we began swim lessons. neither of my bigs know how to swim or ride a bike and for some reason that makes me feel like i should have to hand in my mommy card. anyway, swimming is a safety issue so i packed the 6,752,198 items it takes to have two kids have lessons back-to-back while a toddler tries to singlehandedly take down the ymca. it started well; there was excitement as we rode straight from school to the Y, and the girls loved putting on summer wear like swimsuits, goggles, and flip flops.

then we stepped out to the pool.

“mommy, i don’t want to do this. i am scared.”

i’m not sure what i have shared here, but our sweet middle child Hazel has been really struggling with anxiety. it has been one of the most challenging years of my life and i don’t even have the energy to explain why; it is that kind of taxing. and i love her. i love her fiercely in a way that only a momma can, wanting health and beauty for her life. in that moment i see her eyes start and then her head goes down. she starts to get frantic because the only way she sees to remedy this painful feeling is flight. and so it is there that i meet her. after validating her feelings i tell her it is okay to be scared, even mommy gets scared and everybody she knows is scared of something. this was also one of the moments i tell her that even though i know she is scared and doesn’t want to do this, i want her to try and be brave.

we left the swimming pool area and watched from the snack area upstairs because the teacher and i had talked previously and agreed that she would do better if she didn’t see me. as i looked down through the glass walls she fought everything the instructor asked of her, but she did try some things. i was proud, clapping and cheering from above. nora may was shouting go hazey goooooo. hazel didn’t hear us or see us because there was glass in between, but you would have thought we were at the summer olympics with our cumulative enthusiasm.

then the teacher asked her to jump in the pool. this is one of hazel’s no-nos, as she doesn’t want her head to go under the water. the teacher held her hand and even though hazel was protesting the teacher helped her in the pool and let her head go under. (y’all i am weeping as i write this). she came up and clutched to her instructor and wailed. she didn’t want to and it was scary and she didn’t want to do it again. and the teacher told her she was proud of her for trying and she didn’t have to do it again. after witnessing this, it took every ounce of strength within me to let her finish the lesson.

when i came downstairs with my warm towel outstretched she started crying and shaking because i am her safe place and she feels okay losing it with me. this is my honor and privilege and also part of the reason i am pretty tired at the end of most days. i told her that i was watching and so proud of her because i knew the lesson was really hard for her, but i saw her being brave and trying things that were scary to her. she said it was scary and she didn’t want to do it again. i looked right at her and i said you did a really great job today and i know you didn’t want to do most of the things you tried, but you did it! and now you know more about the water and how to be safe in it and with each step like that we can become less afraid of the water and start to learn how to enjoy it.

so what i realized last night is that this is where a lot of us are right now. we are needing to learn something new and it is scary. we have put on our learning gear, stretched out and are ready for a new season, a new challenge or a new adventure. after buying an inappropriate amount of gear for something we do not even know how to do yet and trying to pump ourselves up, like hazel we step out and see the pool. we know we want to enjoy swimming but become scared of what can happen in the learning process. we may have to put our heads under water, we may have to let go of the instructor, we may have to try to do things we really, really don’t want to do. Version 2

hazel got a warm towel, an extraordinarily long hug and kisses from her mommy, and yummy pizza for dinner. you get these words. sometimes to get to the place we see so clearly in our minds we have to do things we don’t want to do now. sometimes the one who made you and sustains you asks you to walk through the hard to the other side. this is terrifying at times and there is no guarantee that the process will even seem worth it. it could even prove to be as horrible as you expected it to be, but it is a step. and taking a step means being brave.

For all of us who are frozen in our goggles, speedo, and flops may we see the water as the beginning of a new chapter of the book our life writes and not solely as the end of the chapter on safety. It is not bravery if you are not scared. When you begin to fear that the challenge is just as hard as you feared look up. We are cheering for you from the snack deck and hope your new chapter reads…

She saw the pool. She was frightened. And then she took a step toward the person she was ready to become.

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