It’s 20 Minutes Either Way

i recall a moment several weeks back with hazel, the middle cherub, as i watched her hold her violin like it was a guitar, stare at me with eyes that scream, “how you like me now” and pluck the same string over and over and over and over again. when i say “ummm hazel?” she yells “whaaaaat i am practicing like you asked.” it is usually at this point that i would point out that her teacher gave her this homework and not me, or that she will not get better unless she actually practices with some sort of intention to improve, but at this point all i had in my arsenal was…

“it’s 20 minutes either way babe. you can sit there like that and pluck that one string like a champ and not get any better, or you can show up, do the work, and improve. in the end it is your choice.”

then i walked out. and i did not carry with me the burden of her getting a star on her practice chart for 100 minutes a week of good focused practice. i did not wonder if my $35 a month investment per violin would be better spent on something different or whether she would continue on in this particular musical field. i just let that be it for the day. 

since then that statement–“it’s 20 minutes either way”– has messed with me. at times i feel like just dialing something in with the bare minimum effort required. at other times i’m present without really being engaged and since then in those moments bam! on the jumbotron in my head i read “it’s 20 minutes either way.” one of the lessons that came with growing up and seeing myself as i truly am is that i now have less of a temptation to try and be everything to everyone. on the other hand, if i have committed, if i have said that i will show up and do the work, then i can play the part or actually engage.

hazel can sit the violin across her belly and pretend it is a one-stringed guitar till the cows come home and if there is ever a song written that just has that one string plucked incessantly she will totally nail it. but if ever she is asked how long she took violin and then asked to share her gift, disappointment would abound on all parties involved because what a waste. she was there for 20 minutes a day and she was holding the violin and it wouldn’t always sound good but over time it would begin to sound better and better and music would flow and she would get a grasp of the beauty of the language of music that can at times speak things that no words have been allocated to express. and she would be able to communicate in this language that everyone, everywhere can understand and embrace and delight in.

you do not have to say yes to everything that is asked of you. but if you have said yes to something that has been asked, then it is a shame to say yes with your mouth and no with your life. it’s 20 minutes either way. show up. embrace whatever it is that you have devoted yourself to, whether that be a violin and bow or a calling to heal the broken. if you have said here when roll call has been run through then may you affirm that declaration as you walk with integrity through each of your own 20 minutes that makes up these days we’ve been given.

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Active Wear

last january i decided to start working out again, but not for poundage loss or for bathing suits to be fit into. instead, i decided i was going to keep my eye on the prize of what it meant to be healthy. the goal was three times a week because if i only got there two that would still be encouraging and coincidentally two more times a week than i had been going.

i decided to work my way up to thirty minutes on the treadmill over a course of months so at first i walked for ten minutes on the treadmill. then the next week i walked 5 minutes and ran 5 minutes and then walked five minutes. i know it’s really getting exciting now, eh? i added 5 minutes to the run each week and if i felt that where i was last week was still really challenging then i stayed there till i felt good about that amount. and now i have reached my goal of walking 5 minutes, running 30 and walking 5. now i am trying to increase my speed so that i could run 3 miles in the 30 minutes. it is fun and exciting and gratifying to shoot for something and see progress made. i can’t say i remember to weigh myself much and i sure do still love ice cream and late night bowls of cereal, but when i wake up mon, wed, and friday i get in my active wear because that’s the days i go to the gym.

after reaching the inital goal of 30 minutes on the treadmill i decided to take a monday toning class because let’s start the week off right whoop whoop. “go ahead and grab a mat, a ball, and high, medium, and low weights you feel good about” was the greeting we received. the only problem being i had no idea what weights to choose or how to even keep the ball from rolling into my neighbor’s very picturesque lunges and i began to think about whether or not to simply walk out as if i forgot to fill my water bottle and never return.

i stayed and tried everything. i could do most things and was encouraged… right up until they started to do crunches on top of the bosu. the bosu is like someone stole the toupee off of an excercise ball and if you do anything on it then you strengthen your core (or so i was led to believe). the instructor said “go ahead and put your back on the center of the bosu and then simply lift your legs and put your hands behind your head.” after making this statement she immediately stood up and walked towards me. now usually when an instructor walks over to give you tips they push their mic to the top of their head so everyone doesn’t hear your biznazz. in this case that step was skipped altogether. 

she kept saying things like “could you do it like this, well try this because what you are doing is ALL WRONG.” “you are going to kill your neck.” “no that would make you kill your back.” as the silent pause between songs was lingering far too long she said (still speaking into the mic), “well, work on the right form because even if you can only hold it for a second it is better than what you were doing.”

mmmmmmmmmmk thanks. in my pride i was like, “one second? one second!” you couldn’t have said “even if you can only hold it a short while or with correct form shorter is still more beneficial than a lengthened incorrect form.” nope. hey there doo-doo if you think you could get up on this exercise tupe for one second it would be better than the ridiculousness you have shown us thus far.

but that’s the thing. i didn’t know what i was doing. and one second was actually challenging at that point. eventually, just like the running goal, one second would be a breeze as i became stronger and healthier and as my muscles woke up and remembered what they were made for. but for now a second was a good goal.

what dream can you pursue for one second today? maybe next week you will add five minutes to that second. but for now get one pure moment where you don’t shoot your ideas down before they even get to see if they can fly. get up on that tupe and stick it. and then tomorrow get in your active wear once again and pursue it a little deeper, a little longer because maybe one second of truth and risk is better than what we were doing.

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Boo Boos Words Can’t Heal

my oldest daughter and i are reading the book Wonder. in it there is a teacher i like a lot who writes things on the board for the students to think or write about. the one i have basically embroidered into my parenting is “if you have the choice between being right or being kind, be kind.”

this is really pertinent as we try to raise these three beautiful girls who i believe in my heart of hearts were made by love and for love. i get the opportunity to mold sweet hearts and minds and to teach them how to dance to joan jett, take a photograph, bake a mean pound cake, make a 3 pointer on the little tykes basketball hoop and cry with someone who is hurting. but i am supposed to mold them, not break them. it has been my experience with recent events that those who are sticking to being right have done the most damage and those who have chosen to be kind have done the most good. 

Photo by amarisphoto.com

while in college i took a class called “belief and ethics after the holocaust.” the teacher came in shortly after the students, put his yarmulke on his head, whispered a short prayer and then greeted us warmly. this man changed my life because the 19 year old evangelical Christian who was sure there was a good answer for most things if i was able to learn them was changed into someone who had a deep (dare i say beautiful?) faith that saw people, hearts, and reality not as something to explain correctly, but as something to embrace and when possible heal.

any time i tried to take the easy way out of a difficult question he would ask me if i could give that answer in the face of a burning child or to a wife who watched her husband be brutally killed. initially this made me flat out uncomfortable but eventually i saw what he was trying to help me discover. the answer is not what they needed. explaining why this is happening in our country does not actually get us a step closer to healing. you need to honor the pain, by not trying to explain how it came to be or your best guess as to how to exit it, but by sitting with those hurting and letting them know they are not alone.

the largest book of any class i took in college was one of the 7 or 8 books for this class and it was a collection of writings, art, and music that came out of the holocaust. i honored the pain these people suffered by sitting with them and taking in their experience, listening to what it felt like to be that afraid, that hunted, and the paralyzing confusion that settles in when you realize the people who could stand up for you have chosen to remain seated. to sit with someone’s story and listen and learn and honor the struggle is one of life’s greatest gifts.

it is not just a gift to the “them” but a gift to you. when you are able to sit with someone who is, at best, limping through pain that is simultaneously overwhelming and deep you are saying “it matters”. you are reminding them that they are not alone in the fight and that you see them. the problem with explaining to someone in pain how they got into this mess is that they can’t hear you over the pain. they are not helped by your “rightness”. So you leave feeling puffed up and they leave feeling left alone in the struggle and justified in concluding that they are unseen.

look, i love to be right. after a 10th grade debate assignment my teacher told me to become a lawyer and never look back. what i have learned in my almost 40 years of life is that to sit alone and be right and affect no one, and bring no hope, comfort, or love is to lose. you can be right and lose. tame the tongue, sit with someone and listen. seek to understand instead of be understood.

if you are a Christian then i believe we shoot for two things: rejoice with those who rejoice. mourn with those who mourn. and for those who claim to live in him must walk as Jesus did. if you can labor to do these two things kindness will grow, hope will spring forth, and love will saturate the roots that hold us together. any time i discuss any controversial subject with my girls i open with one question: who has been made by God?
answer: everyone. let’s remember that as we talk today.

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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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