Remembering Shiloh-God's Gift

Every so often when we visit Aaron's parent's house my MIL will call me toward the front to see what she's done with Shiloh's resting place now.

It's been a gardening challenge for her, to see what will grow there, and she's changed out plants multiple times.

I'm so grateful that this is here, that I have a place where I can slip out, into the quiet and sit on the swing for a few minutes and be near to Shiloh.

I like how this little clay circle of people and blue bird have made it out here to keep Shiloh company.

Every so often I find something like this out there.

I'm so grateful that this remembering of the child we had so briefly is not something I'm alone in. I can't tell you how it blesses me to see this final resting place so lovingly cared for by so many.

Grief is hard, but it's easier in a community than alone. I'm thankful for ours.


Bam Bam is 2!

Dear Bam Bam,

Ever suave, sharing drinks with the ladies.
'cause he's a ladies man, who likes wearing their shoes.

Well, you made it. You have moved past babyhood and you are now a little boy. Of course, you're a little boy who doesn't yet say more than a handful of words and still poops in your diaper, so you have some work to do there, but that's alright. We'll celebrate 2 anyway.

front facing for the very first time
You climb, everything, all the time. Once you even tried to climb out of a window. I'm so glad I was outside just then and heard the tiny noise you made as you lowered yourself over the sill and were hanging there 5 feet or so above the ground. I have very few open windows anymore, which is a shame, since it's pretty hot around here, but I'll sweat rather than have to see you with a bashed in skull. (Actually I blocked them all so that they only open a few inches so you can't fit through them.)

I'm picking my battles though, you can walk around on the front windowsill, since it's only 2 feet off the ground, and I'll stop you from sitting on top of the back step railing. It's a good thing you're a fourth child, because you are aging me quickly.

But you are so charming, and happy, and sweet, and mischievous. Except when you're not. Then you are less than charming, and very vocal.

You can't talk so you push your face in front of mine to make eye contact before pointing or gesturing at what you want me to see/get you/do etc. You're actually pretty good at communicating for a kid who has only 6 words and uses one sign properly.

Big boys hold their own ice packs
When you hurt yourself it's very important to you that I come and see where you got hurt and what hurt you. You let me know you got hurt here by using one of your 5 words, "Ow."

The others are hot, hurt, hand, and this. Your favorite sign is "all done", and you clap for yourself when you do something to encourage me to clap for you also.

You scream when you see trucks, and butterflies, or something falls down dramatically, and when you are having a lot of fun and a sibling is chasing you.

You are funny, you make jokes already, and laugh at them. Your grasp of physical comedy is amazing. We have a 2 year old clown.

All of this reminds me so much of your uncle Adrian, my younger brother, who could entertain me for hours in the kitchen pretending he was stuck to a piece of gum. I wish he could see you.

You are just now really interested in books, and will sit and read them with me instead of squirming and climbing down after only 2 pages.

Oh, and you dance, and it's amazing. I fail at recording it but it may be my favorite thing ever.

Your birthday party was a simple affair, with dinosaur chicken nuggets and cake. Your favorite gift was either the ball from your sister or the giant staff from your brother. In the end I think the giant stick won. You really liked the other things too but there were so many and you just wanted to play with the things you already had.

Happy birthday my little boy. I'm so glad you are here.



12 years

You have no idea, if you've never been married before, what exactly it is to marry another, what it demands of you, what it takes from you, and what it gives to you all at once. It's nothing like a fairytale.

This is, in part, because the things that make a marriage work, the work that it takes to love another person year in and year out are largely invisible to the casual observer.

No one sees the choices made to hold one's tongue, the effort it took to choose to smile and get up to fetch something for another, the decision to forgive and let go of past hurts, and all the times when you decided to put kindness and love above your need to be right.

Only when you are joined to someone, and spending your days with them, do you see how herculean is the effort required to learn how to love them truly, in the ways that mean the most, and to lay down your life to serve another.

It's not an easy thing, this being married, which is why so many marriages fail, and so many avoid it.

But they don't know the gift it is to receive love from someone trying just as hard to serve as they are, to know so well a person's mind that all it takes is a twitch of an eyebrow to tell volumes, and most of all to grow into the kind of person who has the strength to be the kind of spouse they can choose to be.

I told the story here of the 3rd time Aaron proposed to me, but I don't think I've ever finished it. You see, after he asked me again to marry him again, when I finally was getting a clue as to what that meant, and what it would require, I didn't say yes right away. I told him I needed time to think about it. I knew myself well enough to know that if I didn't give myself time at this moment to think that it would be a back door for me in the future when I was unhappy. I'd tell myself that I really didn't know what I was getting into, and hadn't had enough time to make a decision and therefore was justified in backing out of it now. I didn't want to do that.

So I asked him to give me 24 hours. Only, when he came back I still didn't know what to say. I knew that if I was going to marry he was the one, but I really wasn't sure I wanted to be married at all. So we went for a walk and a talk.

What I really wanted was for God to tell me to marry this man, and then if I didn't like it later I could blame it on him, and wouldn't have to take any responsibility for my own decisions. Though I didn't put it in those terms at the time.

I told Aaron this and he was wise enough to call my bluff. "I think God is waiting to see what choice you make. Who do you want to be Carrien? If you marry me, God will be with you, you have people who love you. If you don't marry me god will still be with you, you will have a successful life with people who love you. Who are you going to be?"

I can't describe how terrifying that moment was. It was like standing in mid air with no sight of a bottom or place to land. I literally cried for at least 5 minutes, the big, horrible, painful sobbing kind of crying.

But as the fear ebbed a thought appeared to replace it. "In the end what matters most is how well we loved God, and loved others. Will marrying this man that I love move me closer or farther away from that?"

After that it was easy. Marrying someone seemed to hold far more opportunities for loving others than not marrying, so I said yes, for the 3rd and final time.

Twelve years later, here we are, and the opportunities to love, to grow, to die to self and open up to more life and joy than I knew were possible then have been abundant.

I'm startled sometimes to realize that 12 years in Aaron is still thinking about my happiness, that he gets me, more than anyone else, and he doesn't think the things I care about are silly. That part, that everyone wants out of marriage, that part about having someone who knows everything about you and loves you anyway, it's real. It's worth having. It's worth all the work it takes to get there. Really it is.

Happy Anniversary Aaron. Marrying you is one of the best choices I ever made. Thank-you for everything you do.


The Art of Life

Our peach trees have that leaf curl disease that will eventually kill them if it goes untreated. We didn't strip all the leaves last fall and spray it and it shows. Tons of little tiny peaches that drop before they are ripe and are rotten from the inside out.

But I grew up among frugal folk who don't let anything go to waste. So I picked up little peaches and peeled and cut and salvaged every bit I could out of them.

It took a whole afternoon to get enough peaches to fill one single pie.

I know I'm letting my frugal ancestors down when I say that I just let the rest of them fall after that. Because I just don't have hours a day to salvage small bits of fruit, and we're not hungry enough to need to.

But the whole time I was peeling and slicing peaches I was thinking of my dad's aunt Grace and the week one summer I spent at her house when we made dozens of peach pies and put them in the freezer for her to pull out and bake through out the year. We sat, paring knives in hand, on opposite sides of the table, talking through everything, while making those pies. What I remember most was that she wasn't in a hurry. She worked quickly, we took lovely breaks with refreshing drinks and sea breezes on the porch, and she got through what needed doing all in a calm and cheerful manner.

Mel at Actual Unretouched Photo wrote about how making potato salad connects her with an aunts memory the other week and I realized how it’s the small tasks, the domestic every day things that make me feel the most connected to some people.

I think of my grandmother every time I slice a squash, or wash tomatoes, or hang the laundry, how she would stand outside, her house dress flapping against her trim frame reaching to pin a sheet up just so. I think of her afternoon walk every day, how she knew her work so well that she knew when she was at a stopping place and took herself for a walk down by the river, stopping by the garden on the way back to the house to get the vegetables for dinner. She worked harder than anyone, and she knew when to rest as well.

Slicing a lemon is how I most often remember my maternal grandmother, and making toast.

When I fold laundry or make tea it brings my own mother to mind and when I fix something it’s most often my dad I’m thinking of.

The mundane matters. The very commonness of our everyday actions is what gives them such weight, because we repeat them so often.

In the end our memory will be held in the way our lives connect with another's life, in the most common tasks, and moments, that our children find themselves repeating again and again one day.

Some people may remember you for the great things that you accomplished. But for those who live with you and see you everyday, your children primarily, it will be the way you actually lived those every day moments that will stay with them.

Intentional or not the rhythm of our days winds itself into ritual that carries our memory with it. It becomes the framework in which those pivotal moments and conversations occur.

That cup of tea here, every afternoon while sitting down to work, this morning prayer, said together, this bedtime reading, that mealtime conversation, that point when work ended and rest began. They blur with time and what is constant is that which is repeated often.

It's on my mind again, as the start of another school year approaches, how to create that framework, that rhythm in our days.

I want to live these days on purpose. I want the ritual of the mundane to be helpful and strengthening. I want our default domestic routine to be peaceful, and full of meaningful work.

I want my kids to have those points of connection with me. I want to set an example of mindful work and play that are touch points for them in their adult lives.

So I begin my planning again with that in mind, trying to find my own rule of life that brings order to all that needs doing.

I don't know why so many despise common house work. Well, I know I once did as well. But that was before I realized how much of a unifying thread it weaves through every other part of our lives. I wash dishes along side all those millions of mothers washing dishes today. I brush hair back from small foreheads and plan our meals and the very sameness of it all, the basic humanness of this work we do is part of what connects us all to each other, and how those connections are formed in our children as well.

There is art in it, this keeping of a home, there is science too, something our grandmothers understood, something we have disdained, and something we as mothers must come back around to for the sake of those we are raising. It may look different, it probably will. But the intentional laying out of our home life is the only way I have found to turn drudgery into pleasure, necessary into art, and common tasks into touchstones.

What tasks do you find connect you with others?
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