Micah turns thirteen on Tuesday.
I can hardly believe the words as I say them but it’s true.
I can remember when he was almost three. That seemed big. This seems unreal.
I have all the normal thoughts and emotions that I imagine a woman who has mothered for thirteen years of her life would have – commiserating how quickly it has passed, wondering if the next thirteen years will fly just as fast, and knowing I’m not ready for this kid to get a driver’s permit in two years, graduate high school in five, and then leave his dad and I behind as he heads off into the big bad world alone.
I was thinking about Micah this morning. How surreal it is that one second I was spending long days changing diapers and sustaining him and the next minute here he stands, teetering on the knife edge between charming boyishness and handsome manhood. I truly can’t believe it and yet I must. While coming to grips this morning with my internal hopes that I could have been a better mom these past thirteen years (mom guilt is so lame, but it’s something I struggle with), I had a light bulb thought. “I don’t regret spending the last year and a half giving him more wholehearted attention because I wasn’t wasting time on social media.”
These little thoughts are important to me right now because, after a year and a half away from social media, I often think about what it would be like to go back, to “rejoin society” in the virtual rooms and halls it provides. Lately those thoughts have gotten more complicated. When it comes to linking arms with friends and learning from those activists in matters that I care deeply about, going back seems tempting. Then again, I have noticed the tendency in all people of social media to publicly support a cause with lip service on their Facebook walls but never actually let their feet hit the pavement to sacrifice their own time, money, and efforts to see those changes through. It’s easy to feel connected and active on those spaces but it seems fewer and fewer people actually connect or act. In the wake of a devastating election, I’ve heard from loved ones this past week of a gaping hole when it comes to a skill that many immersed in social media seem to be losing – empathy.
I have regrets when it comes to the past thirteen years. And most of those just have to do with the what-if’s I have let stew in my mind into a broth-rich soup. What if I could have spent more time with him one on one? What if I could have better managed the depression that my dad’s death brought on and been a more fun mommy during that time? What if I would have chosen a more mainstream career path so he could have gotten more involved in team sports and we would have spent weekends together? What if we would have saved money consistently every month since the month he was born for his college fund? What if, what if, what if???
I have questions and regrets – some that were within my control, some that weren’t. But I don’t regret the past year and half as much as I think I would have had I stayed on social media. I remember the over-zealous way I shared and interacted with those spaces, particularly Instagram, and it was not healthy. It took up so much mental real estate, keeping up with my agenda and the thoughts and visual lives of everyone I followed. It floated around in my brain even in the moments of quiet and connection with my family. Those monologues or dialogues were always rattling around in there.
After thirteen years of being a mom, It’s still so easy for me to get caught up in self-centeredness and completely forget that these kids I am raising actually need me. They need their dad and I to tell them what it means to be a good man, a kind man, a strong man who leads with humility and respect of others. They need to know that hygiene matters and that it’s not okay to go five days without a shower because then you smell like a rotting bag of onions. They need to know what empathy looks like in the first person, how to care for others, and how to help out after dinner by doing the dishes. They need to know that they are unconditionally loved and that there is nothing they could ever do or say to lose their place in our family or to lose our love and support. They need to know we aren’t perfect, that we make mistakes, that we have regrets, and the only hope we have is that we wake up tomorrow and find the grace of God flowing into and out of us like living water.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes but being on social media the past year and a half won’t be one of them. And I’m honestly really thankful for that. For now, the positives of making that decision still outweigh the negatives. Maybe that will change someday. Maybe I will change. But for now I just have way more important things to do. For now, I am planning on wrapping some presents for my smart, handsome, book-nerdy, loving, empathetic son, blowing up a bag of seventy-five balloons we bought, and spending his birthday and the days that follow it loving him, giving my life for his in a bunch of tiny unglamorous ways, and continuing to get to know this young man who lives in my house.
I’m doing a history report.
This isn’t some project for homeschool. Truth be told, I should be grading papers instead of sitting here typing this but I’ve never been all that good at the “I should be ____” tasks of life. This history report is for me and, I hope, will overflow onto my children and the people and situations we encounter in the future.
I am coming to terms lately with a pretty sad reality – I know very little about history. And I know even less about American History as it relates to slavery, the civil war, the civil rights movement, and the confederacy / union. This is a problem, not just because I am a citizen in the country where these things happened and continue to affect life here. It’s also a problem because Jeremy and I are raising our sons in a town where “civil war sympathies for the confederacy were prevalent” and one of our sons is black.
To be honest, I didn’t know those sympathies existed until after we had bought and moved into our house here. If you take the highway twenty minutes from where we used to live in midtown, you end up here. I didn’t really expect the racial/historical culture to be any different out here. In light of those unchallenged expectations, it took several months of seeing “strange things” around town before I began to do my homework. There are things about living here that we love. But my eyes are slowly opening to the history of this town and how that history lives on in some of the actions of its residents and leaders. According to the “intriguing history” tab on the website for our historic little area of town, I find little tidbits of info like these nuggets:
“In the 1860 Presidential Election, no votes in Clay County went to Abraham Lincoln.”
“In September 1861, in the Battle of Liberty Union troops unsuccessfully attempted to stop Confederate sympathizers led by Atchison from crossing the Missouri River to reinforce Confederate position in the Battle of Lexington I. There were 126 casualties. The Union army used William Jewell College as a hospital and buried their dead on campus.”
“Southern sentiment remained in the city long after the Civil War—city hall reportedly refused to fly the United States Flag until the start of World War I.”
My ignorance can only carry my family and myself so far before I am just sick of it. My father-in-law recently told me he thought I was one of the most intelligent young women he knew, that I could have done anything with this brain of mine, that I am putting it to great use learning about zion’s medical conditions and advocating for him with his neurologists and neurosurgeons. I’m choosing, against my better judgement and lack of discipline, to believe him. If I can learn about the brain, the functions of its lobes, brain injury, surgeries, seizures, and medications, then I can learn history. I refuse to sit around in my apathy any longer.
So my history report begins. It begins because I’ve seen in this charming town I can only categorize as hateful, insane, or plain old-fashioned ignorance. I am a smart cookie, but not when it comes to this stuff. So this is going to be clunky and I may look like a jackass at times. I’m googling things like “what was the civil war about?” And “why do people still fly confederate flags?” I’m putting books on hold at the library and asking my dear friend, during a conversation a couple nights ago, “what is systemic racism?” Yeah. It’s that bad. I am considering sharing the things I learn here on this blog because I believe naiveté cannot be the answer and I am tired of sitting here alone in my ignorance. I’d rather be informed and uncomfortable than naive and numb.
I welcome your input. If you have thoughts or experience studying any of this, book recommendations, articles to read, podcasts to listen to, please send them my way. I welcome it all, and I hope that this winters hibernation allows me time to dig in and learn history.
Because there’s too much to tell, and because I’m in a season where I would rather watch Downton Abbey re-runs than write about myself, I figured it would be good to just throw some memories out here onto this space and see what sticks.
H o m e s c h o o l
It turns out we are still surviving the wild and bonkers world of homeschooling. There have been several tools, conversations, and resources I’ve encountered that have helped me gain some perspective, hand-me-down expertise, and sanity. I think I will write more about how I have structured the days and added some adventures to make it all work together, but for now I will say we are well. The brothers are intelligent and motivated, the school weeks feel manageable and productive, and I don’t feel the sense of implosion I did at first. Each day of homeschool ends with the boys going to the middle school for band, and I have seen them come alive more and more each day as they learn, play, and then go be a part of a team. It’s all quite wonderful, for the most part, and now I’m so thankful we didn’t throw in the towel after the first couple of weeks.
Z i o n
Well, I guess it’s official – Zion has epilepsy. We struggled through this summer with so many emergencies and unknowns. Now we are sitting months later, watching his seizures be managed by an affective medication, and very relieved to (mostly) have our lives back for the time being. Seizure-free days turned to weeks have lead to a resurgence of gratitude in my heart, and a slow, steady release of the ever-present tension I carried in my body all summer. He’s gotten to attend his first baseball game and he’s making great strides in his new kindergarten class. After all we’ve been through this summer, not knowing if he would ever be well again, I am so thankful. we. are. so. thankful.
T r a v e l
‘Tis been the season for travel. Now that Zion’s meds are managing his seizures, we’ve been able to get out of town quite a bit this fall.. (typically one at a time, as one parent always tries to be here in case disaster strikes). I had the joy of visiting dear friends Amy and Chris in Montana. (click here to see some pics!) We photographed a wedding together at 30 Rock in NYC. I went to Toronto to see some dear families and tell a couple of “mornings with you” stories. And Jeremy and I had the great joy of traveling to Sweden to speak at Way Up North – Europe’s most badass wedding photographer conference… as the keynote speakers. What a huge honor this was! I could go on forever about it, about the people we met, and what a gift it was to our spirits.
M o i
All in all, I find myself somewhere in between a heart overflowing with gratitude, a spirit craving the slow down and silent chill of winter, and a soul longing to dig deeper into the mysterious “more” of being alive and human. Our chickens are full-grown and laying rich, beautiful eggs. Our boys are growing up, micah almost a teenager, with one toe in childhood and nine in adolescence. I find myself incredibly grateful to have lived deep into the story of life, love, loss, and marriage with Jeremy for over fifteen years now. I’m waving an eager goodbye to a summer wrought with trials and welcoming in the cool rest of fall with open arms. (thanks to amy messenger for the b&w photo of me. I feel it so truly captures who I am. xo)
love to you all, dear ones. thanks for the ways you care for me and my family.
what do you say we write letters this fall/winter? shoot me an email at email@example.com, send me your mailing address, and I’ll send you mine!